Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/24/2019: More Wild Animal Ethics, And Wild Al Franken Follies

Good Morning!

That’s called “morning rush hour” in Yellowstone…

1. Child services, please! Recalling the scofflaw fool who was kicked in the cajones by a wild horse he was supposed to avoid touching, we have this story in the Washington Post, about a bunch of tourists who defied Yellowstone National Park rules until this happened…

Wow! That’s the gold medal in the Bison Olympics “Little Girl Toss” for sure. She was treated and released, but her parents should be prosecuted. In the category of Rationalization #22, “There are worse things,” here’s a comment on the Post story, flagged by Ann Althouse:

I grew up about an hour outside of Yellowstone and have spent many happy years in the park. I now live on the east coast, but try to go back every few years. Every single time I’m in the park, I see people doing the stupidest, most dangerous things. The last time, I was leaving the Old Faithful Inn after supper and noticed a small herd of bison hanging around. (A very common sight) Not being a complete idiot, I decided to take a different path back to our campground, a path and would not take me near the bison. Then I noticed a man with his small child heading toward the herd. I stopped him and warned that he might want to stay away, particularly with his child. He told me to f-off and kept walking. I watched as he got very close to the first bison and then saw him pick up his child and start to try to put the kid on the back of the bison. A bunch of other people started shouting and I ran for a ranger. Thankfully, the ranger managed to stop the idiot before tragedy. Unusual? Not really!

2.  Can #MeToo survive progressive hypocrisy? Personally, I hope so. Sexual harassment is a massive problem; I keep telling my legal ethics audienbces that the legal profession’s Harvey Weinstein will be exposed any time now, and probably will lead to many Harveys-at-Law. However, the more the movement is weaponized for political expediency, the less credibility it has. Continue reading

What Is Justice For Kevin Spacey?

 Prosecutors in Massachusetts this week dropped a sexual assault charge against the actor Kevin Spacey, in the only case against the alleged serial sexual harasser to be brought to trial. Mr. Spacey was accused of fondling an 18-year-old man at a Nantucket restaurant three years ago, one of the few of the accusations against him that wasn’t too old to try and that involved criminal conduct. The accuser’s lawyer said that a smartphone being sought as evidence by the defense  had disappeared, then the accuser invoked the Fifth Amendment after being warned that he could be charged with a destroying evidence, a felony if he had deleted contents on his phone. When the young man continued to assert his right against self-incrimination,  the Cape and Islands district attorney announced that it was dropping the prosecution “due to the unavailability of the complaining witness.” There wasn’t much choice.

Spacey’s far from out of the metaphorical woods. Around the same time as the Nantucket accusation, the Old Vic theater in London announced that 20 people had  accused Spacey  of inappropriate behavior  during his 11-year stint as the theater’s artistic director. There is another investigation in Los Angeles.

So now what? None of the allegations against Spacey have been proven, though, as with Bill Cosby, the sheer number of them leave little doubt—but still some— that he is a serial sexual predator. Spacey’s own house of cards began falling when actor Anthony Rapp gave an  interview to BuzzFeed accusing Spacey of assaulting him at a party when Rapp was only 14.  The accusation was never proven, but suddenly more stories of sexual misconduct in the workplace and elsewhere started surfacing regarding Spacey. (There is a lot about Spacey’s conduct and problems on Ethics Alarms, here.) Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/25/2019: The Greatest Morning Warm-Up Ever Blogged!

The movie “The Greatest Story Ever Told” was far from the “Greatest Movie Ever Made,” as the Duke’s casting as a Roman soldier demonstrated vividly.

OK, not really, but it better be good after yesterday’s potpourri never made it off the launch pad due to a series of unfortunate events. I’m using “The Greatest Legal Ethics Seminar Ever Taught!” as a title for an upcoming program I’m writing now, so the rhetoric is on my mind. My teaching partner complained that the title really puts the pressure on us to be outstanding. And that’s the point…

1. Harvard’s new President punts. Of course. The Harvard alumni magazine this month was notably light on criticism of the Ronald Sullivan fiasco, with only two critical letters on the topic, one of which made the suggestion that it might be a “conflict of interest” for someone who is defending a #MeToo villain to also serve as a residential faculty member (what was previously called a “House Master,” but that triggered some delicate students who felt it evoked slave-holders. No really. I’m serious. I don’t make this stuff up. Organizations capitulate to these complaints now, like Major League Baseball changing the name of the “Disabled List” because disabled rights activists complained). It is assuredly NOT a conflict of interest, though, by any definition but an erroneous one.

Deeper in the magazine, we learn that new President of Harvard, Lawrence Bacow, was asked during a faculty meeting about his views on the episode. His response was essentially a Harvard version of Ralph Kramden’s immortal “huminhuminahumina” when “The Honyemooners” hero had no explanation for some fiasco of his own engineering. Bacow said he would respect “the locus of authority,” meaning College Dean Rakesh Khuratna, who fired Sullivan after joining in student protests over the law professor and lawyer doing exactly what lawyers are supposed to do.

So now we know that, not for the first time, Harvard is being led by a weenie. What should he have said?  How about “I am firing Dean Khuratna, and offering Prof. Sullivan his position back. Any Winthrop House students who feel  “unsafe” are welcome to transfer to Yale”?

Most news media gave inadequate coverage to this story, and none, in my view, sufficiently condemned the university’s actions or the un-American values they represent. At least the New York Times is keeping the episode before its readers by publishing an op-ed by Sullivan titled Why Harvard Was Wrong to Make Me Step Down.”

2. Insuring the life of a son in peril. Is this unethical somehow? It honestly never occurred to me. When I had to give a speech in Lagos, Nigeria, one of the most dangerous cites on Earth, my wife tried to take out a policy on my life with her as the beneficiary. I thought it was a good and prudent idea. But in Phillip Galane’s “Social Q’s” advice column, a son writes that he is still angry, decades later, that his late father did this , writing in part, Continue reading

This Is Sexual Harassment, And Until Hollywood, The Media, And the Public Realize It, The Harvey Weinsteins (And Joe Bidens) Will Roam The Workplace Like The Buffalo Once Roamed The Plains

Frasier now and then. Psst! Brendan! You can’t ambush actresses with kisses any more! At least not unless you’re running for President as a Democrat…it’s complicated. Give me a call.

This drives me crazy. I’m preparing a sexual harassment training seminar for an association, and this story just went into the introduction.

A nice cheery puff piece is up at E!On-line. about reminiscences by actress Leslie Mann (make that feminist, woke, #Me too-supporting actress Leslie Mann)   about the time she shot a movie with actor and one-time stud-muffin Brendan Frasier. A sample:

“Every morning before work we were in the hair and makeup trailer getting ready. And he would come in and kiss me on the lips,” she tells host Busy Philippswith an ear-to-ear grin. “Just like, ‘Good morning!’ And kiss. You know, like he’s European or something.”

Leslie got used to those morning smooches—earlier in the clip, the actor cheekily notes that since her character was supposed to fall for Brendan’s onscreen, she just went ahead and “fell in love with him in real life”—so it was pretty jarring for her when the kisses stopped suddenly one day.

Frasier didn’t ask permission for these spontaneous kisses, which #MeToo emphatically calls sexual assault in principle, just not when they like the assaulter. It is sexual assault, just like this is… Continue reading

And Harvard’s Ethics Death Spiral Continues: The Lampoon’s Anne Frank “Gag”

Talk about ethics alarms malfunctioning.

Fortunately, I had already disavowed my Harvard degree before this surfaced, so I am only mortified rather than trying to figure out how to flush myself down the toilet.

Above is an allegedly  humorous gag from Harvard’s student-run humor magazine, which once gave us Robert Benchley, Al Franken, and “Animal House.”  [Full disclosure: I was rejected by the Lampoon when I competed to join the staff as a student. ] The magazine has often championed sophomoric humor as well as bad taste, but there are limits to everything. I’d say using the image and memory of a brave and iconic Jewish girl who died in a Nazi concentration camp for a cheap, spectacularly unfunny photoshop gag is over the line, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t just about anyone with an atom of common sense and decency?

Fortunately, some Harvard students erupted in anger over the photo of Frank’s head grafted on the body of a pumped-up busty bikini girl and the “ Add this to the list of  reasons the Holocaust  sucked” punch line. So did the New England branch of the Anti-Defamation League,  which condemned  the cartoon as a “vulgar, offensive & sexualized” meme that “denigrates [Anne Frank’s] memory & millions of Holocaust victims….Trivializing genocide plays into the hands of #antisemites & Holocaust deniers.” Continue reading

I Hereby Repudiate My Undergraduate Degree, As My Alma Mater Has Rendered It A Symbol Of Hypocrisy, Ignorance, And Liberal Fascism

No, I’m not kidding.

I probably should have done this much earlier, as when Harvard announced that it would defend its policy of discriminating against Asian-American college applicants in exactly the same fashion that it discriminated against Jews well into the 1960s. I would also have been justified in tearing up my alumni card when the College announced that it would punish students for belonging to single gender off-campus clubs, a decision that was their choice to make and that concerned the school not at all. An analogous policy would punish students for supporting Republican candidates, which I now realize may be Harvard’s next step.

When that off-campus club policy was announced (students are suing, and GOOD), I rationalized that this was a short-term problem resulting from a regrettable (and soon departing)  college President, feminist Drew Faust, who regarded enforcing progressive agenda items at metaphorical swordpoint as a greater priority than such minor matters as giving students the liberal education they were paying for. Now I see that it was the canary dying in the mineshaft. How I wish I had been giving a lot of money to Harvard (which needs money like Hawaii needs sunshine) so I could now stop.

This is the final straw:

Harvard’s Dean of the College, Rakesh Khurana, has announced that he is firing Winthrop House faculty dean, Ronald Sullivan, because he is defending Harvey Weinstein against his New York prosecution, and the Winthrop House students are upset about it, poor dears. (I wrote about this controversy here.)

Also upset is Dean Khurana, who, shockingly, joined a sit-in in protest of a Harvard lawyer doing exactly what ethical lawyers are supposed to do: give all citizens access to the best legal representation possible. To be clear about how serious this is, by firing Sullivan, Harvard is endorsing and engaging in liberal fascism and directly opposing core democratic values, and even more revolting for an alleged “prestige institution of higher learning”, this is really, really stupid.

Lawyers don’t endorse the acts, beliefs or opinions of the clients they represent. I’ll publish this for the umpteenth time, from the Massachusetts Bars’ ethics rules… Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/24/2019: Big Brotherism At The Ballet, And How Hillary Sicced Mueller On Trump

Good morning…

Depressed and discouraged today, about many things…time for Jimmy…

1. Another angle on the the topics here...arrives courtesy of Michael West, who pointed me to this article. about the psychology of unethical behavior. Mostly, it frames in slightly different packages familiar themes on Ethics Alarms, beginning with who people often don’t speak up and actively oppose unethical conduct that they witness or are a part of. Ethics Alarms has examined this phenomenon (and will continue to) many ways. One example was a two part post in 2015 on the duty to confront. (Part II is here) Other posts can be found by clicking on the tags below, such as the duty to lead, the duty to oppose evil, the duty to warn, and the duty to fix the problem.

The wonderfully named author Merete Wedell-Wedellsborg identifies several concepts in her essay, including omnipotence, cultural numbness, justified neglect, and looking out for signs of moral capture.

Ethics Alarms uses different approaches: omnipotence is essentially “The King’s Pass” and “The Saint’s Excuse” in the rationalizations list. Cultural numbness describes how “the Big Yellow Circle’s” gravitational pull influences the Green Circle, encompassing personal values and conscience. Justified neglect isn’t really justified: she is talking about how non-ethical consideration freeze ethics alarms. “Looking out for signs of moral capture” is the topic of Philip Zimbardo’s “rules” to avoid being corrupted by peer groups and organizations. I would assume that the author has studied these, since “Dr. Z” is one of the leading writers and researchers in the area.

Inevitably, the article delves into leadership, concluding,

“The reality is that, for many leaders, there is no true straight-and-narrow path to follow. You beat the path as you go. Therefore, ethical leadership relies a lot on your personal judgment. Because of this, the moral or ethical dilemmas you experience may feel solitary or taboo — struggles you don’t want to let your peers know about. It can sometimes feel shameful to admit that you feel torn or unsure about how to proceed. But you have to recognize that this is part of work life and should be addressed in a direct and open way.”

I disagree with that description of leadership technique, and I’m tempted to say that its the claim as someone who has not done much leading. It does seem typical of so-called “female leadership models,” which emphasize consensus and transparency. Traditional leadership theories hold that a leader’s followers don’t want to know how conflicted a leaders, and learning that a leader is “unsure” is the last thing they want to know. Effective leaders learn to keep their doubts and insecurities to themselves—one more reason leadership isn’t for everyone. Continue reading

No, Ann, The Fact That The Accusation Against Joe Biden Was a “Hit” Doesn’t Mean It Wasn’t Necessary And Right.

Ann Althouse has fallen into the Biden harassment rationalization trap.

How disappointing.

She writes,

“I’m not a Joe Biden fan. I thought he was loathsome in the 2012 VP debate with Paul Ryan (live-blogged here (“Ryan is speaking earnestly about preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons, and Biden is chuckling toothily, his body shaking like Santa Claus”)). And I’m a longtime opponent of sexual harassment (and kept true to the position even when Bill Clinton, the first person I ever voted for for President who won, got accused of it). But this hit job has made me sympathetic to Joe. I’m surprised how distinct and strong my emotional reaction is.”

So am I.

As regular readers here know, Althouse is one of my most quoted commentators here, because she is objective and usually perceptive.  Her mistake in sympathizing with Biden, however, betrays some kind of ethical blind spot. This is the common confusion of motive with conduct.  If the conduct is objectively ethical, then the fact that there may be less than ethical motives behind it doesn’t change anything about the ethics verdict. No doubt about it, the first of the accusations against Biden for sexual harassment and misconduct (There have been more since ) came from a Bernie devotee, and was, as Ann says, a political hit. Continue reading

On Biden And Sexual Harassment, The Left, As Always, Is Hypocritical, But The Right, As Usual, Is Stupid

Ah, the good old days, when men were men and in charge, and women knew they were there to hug…

The question of the ages is, which is worse?

It’s a close call, but I vote for the conservative side.

It is true, transparent and pretty embarrassing (I hope) that so many progressives, the Walking Woke, and even feminists are tying their own brains and ours into knots by trying to defend Obama’s long-time happy-go-lucky serial toucher/ hugger/ kisser/ sniffer, nuzzler and groper. We’ve seen this integrity vacuum from them before, as when Gloria Steinem, after successfully selling the undeniable concept that when a man has superior power over a woman, that woman cannot meaningfully consent to being mauled (with love, of course) in the workplace or even boinked after-hours, changed her position so Bill Clinton could escape the consequences of his own sleazy and illegal behavior.

The hypocrisy,is especially egregious now, as I already discussed, because sexual harassment law has been around for over 30 years, because we are two decades past Monica Madness, because Al Franken is watching old Saturday Night Live videos somewhere in Minnesota, and because #MeToo was supposed to have made sure that America “got it.” How is the world can Biden pretend that this doesn’t apply to him? In a 2017 appearance at George Mason University, he defended the Obama “guilty until proven innocent” approach to campus sexual assault allegations, saying: “Guys, a woman who is dead drunk cannot consent — you are raping her! We’ve got to talk about this. Consent requires affirmative consent! . . . If you can’t get her to say ‘yes’ because she wants to, you ain’t much.” And Joe, a woman who is within feel-up distance of a Senator or Vice-President can’t give affirmative consent to touching, hugging, kissing, sniffing, nuzzling and groping, either. This isn’t hard. Continue reading

The Absurd Media, Feminist And Progressive Hypocrisy Regarding Joe Biden’s Sexual Misconduct, PART II: “The View” Weighs In

(Part I is here.)

Some additional observations:

  • Jazz Shaw and other conservative pundits are writing that Joe’s handsy act “isn’t sexual harassment.” Wrong. If it was unwelcome, it was sexual harassment, and even if it wasn’t and made others in Joe’s workplace proximity uncomfortable, that was “third party” sexual harassment. To his credit, CNN’s Jake Tapper reached down deep and accessed his recently slumbering common sense and integrity to correctly point out that  other men who behave in the same way would get “reprimanded” or “potentially even fired” from their jobs.
  • Shaw and others are also harping on the timing of the harassment allegations. Are they politically motivated? Sure they are, just as Anita Hill’s sudden realization that she had been harassed after more than a decade was politically motivated; just as the sudden appearance of women claiming Donald Trump harassed them coincidentally occurred while he was running for President. In a word—well, two—so what? Biden belongs to a party that has taken a strict liability, no-tolerance, “believe all women” stance following the #Me Too eruption. He knew it, and progressives with eyes knew that Biden was a serial toucher/hugger/groper/nuzzler/sniffer/fondler. Given their professed position, it was hypocritical that Joe got away with his Dirty Uncle bit for so long, and arrogant (or stupid—it’s Biden, remember) that he thought he could get away with it forever.
  • My head had a  serious aftershock when the enabler and apologists for Joe settled on the “that’s just the way he is”; “he doesn’t mean anything by it”, and “he’s a decent man” talking points.

KABOOM!

See, there’s another one; even writing about this is dangerous.

If “that’s just the way he is,” then what he is is a serial sexual harasser. “He didn’t mean anything by it” has been a lamer than  lame rationalization for misconduct and criminal activity since the Madison administration, usually to excuse the mentally challenged. Finally, if he keeps fondling/touching/sniffing/nuzzling/ and kissing when all of his political kith are shouting to the skies about men being sexual predators, he’s not decent. Like the late George H.W. Bush, who told young women with his grasp that his favorite magician was “David Cop-a-Feel,” he’s willing to use his position and status to abuse women. Continue reading