Tag Archives: marriage

Wait, WHAT? Alimony Is Deductible? Why?

Family law attorney Corri Fetman received a lot of publicity—much of it bad— when her all-female law firm ran the above cheeky advertisement to spur business. No, it’s not exactly unethical to encourage people to break up their families because there is better sex to be had, it’s just sleazy. (Funny! But sleazy….) Now, however, marital-dissolution lawyers are engaged in due diligence and meeting the ethical the  of communication by telling their clients–particularly the wealthy ones— that if they want out, the clock is running.

One of the features in the new Republican tax law that the news media didn’t tell you about while it was trying to get you angry about it will eliminate the tax break for alimony payments. I didn’t even know that alimony was deductible, but you can bet Donald Trump did.  Now, they won’t be if they are finalized after December 31, 2018.

Under the new law, Americans who finalize or modify divorce agreements in 2019 or later will no longer be able to deduct alimony payments from their taxes. The IRS says that about 600,000 taxpayers claim the deduction each year, and the cost to the Treasury is not chump change. The current, soon-to-be-ended system allows those paying alimony or so-called unallocated support, which are payments  meant to help a divorcing spouse and children at the same time, to deduct all of it from their income before calculating what they owe in taxes.

I’d like to know why alimony was ever deductible. Deductions are supposed to encourage conduct and expenditures that benefit society, like buying a home (domestic stability, the economy) and giving to charity. Why would the government want to encourage divorces, and reward the guy who is paying alimony because he cheated on his wife and got nailed in the settlement? Why should I be paying part of Donald Trump’s/ Tom Cruise’s/ George Clooney’s/ Harrison Ford’s alimony payments?

Analysts suggest that the absence of the deduction may lower divorce rates slightly. Good.

I have to find out what else is in that tax law, which was generally irresponsible, since it adds to the national debt. Apparently there are some silver linings…

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Filed under Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement

The NBA Coach, The Secrets, The Loving Wife, And Twitter

The Colangelos (though she goes by the name of Barbara Bottini)

This isn’t exactly a social media ethics story, not entirely. Yes, it reinforces the Ethics Alarms position that Twitter makes you stupid, and that it is an ethics disaster waiting to happen for the impulsive and the unwary. The main ethics lesson, however, lies elsewhere,

Bryan Colangelo resigned as the president of basketball operations for the Philadelphia 76ers two weeks ago despite leading his perennially doormat team to the NBA play-offs this season for the first time in many years. He resigned in the middle of a Twitter scandal. The Ringer, a sports website,  received an anonymous tip from someone who claimed that he  or she had linked five anonymous Twitter accounts to Colangelo. The accounts had all tweeted about internal matters relating to the 76ers players, personnel and business, even, in one tweet, defending Colangelo for his eccentric shirt collar style, which had been the topic of some social media mockery.

The Ringer contacted the 76ers, but only told the organization about two of the suspicious accounts, not all five. Colangelo informed the team that one of them, @Phila1234567, was indeed his, but insisted that he had never posted anything using it. Coincidentally, or probably not, the other three accounts that the Ringer had not revealed were suddenly switched from public to private after the  76ers had their little talk. After the Ringer published The Mystery Of The Insider Tweets,  the 76ers  hired a large New York law firm  to conduct an independent investigation. Over the course of a week, the firm collected several  suspicious laptops and mobile phones (well, it was the owners who were really the suspected ones; you can’t blame the devices), and retrieved text messages and emails. Investigators also analyzed the involved Twitter accounts to try to determine who was behind them. Continue reading

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Thanksgiving Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/23/17: All About Turkeys, Metaphorically Speaking

It’s Thanksgiving Morning!

1 It’s also my wedding anniversary. I am very thankful , and proud, frankly, that I am one of the very few people among my pretty large and diverse community of friends, acquaintances and colleagues still married (after 37 years…yes, I married at 13) to the same person I pledged to make a life with “til death do us part.” It’s not easy, for anyone, and determination and commitment, forgiveness and contrition, are a large, crucial, indispensable part of it. A lot of the journey is based on ethics, in other words.

2. Surprise! More accusers of both Rep. John Conyers and Senator Franken surfaced yesterday. Conyers’ new alleged victim is Melanie Sloan, formerly the head of CREW, the left-wing D.C. ethics watchdog that somehow manages to see unethical conduct by Republicans about five times more often than it fingers Democrats. Sloan says she was not sexually harassed, but alleges that Conyers called him into his office to verbally abuse her while being dressed in his underwear. Uh, Melanie? If your boss is ever berating you in his underwear, that is per se sexual harassment. This is a hostile work environment; I don’t care if your superior is built like Batman…well, like his costume.

The predictable proliferation of accusers was why, in the hypothetical apology I authored for Alternate Universe Al, I included the part about mistreating other women. It was a sure thing; harassers harass, and if you are going to pretend that the first accuser was “just a mistake,” you might as well skip it and head for George Bailey’s bridge. In the sexual harassment training field, nothing is more certain than the fact that with the real harassers and predators, if there’s one victim, there are many. This is why the narrative about Anita Hill amounts to a Left-driven, media-driven smear of Clarence Thomas for the crime of being a black conservative.

An unanticipated horrible consequence of this leg of the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck, which also includes new allegations about the Democratic Party’s keynote speaker when it was accusing conservatives of a “war on women,” as well the revelation that the GOP President who selected Thomas emulates his favorite magician, “David Cop-a-Feel,” is that it very well might elect Roy Moore, who is worse than any of them. Meanwhile, most analysts think that both Franken and Conyers will have to resign. ( I would eagerly vote for a mad scientist-make hybrid of Conyers and Franken—Frankenconyers!—before I would even shake Roy Moore’s grubby hand…and really, who knows where it’s been?)

Republicans have been incredibly lucky with their choices of foes, luckier than they deserve. Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce: Bill Maher, As Usual

Bill Maher, the star of HBO’s “Real Time,” was hosting comedian Joy Behar of “The View” to talk about her new book when they got on the subject of Bill O’Reilly and his  $32 million settlement of a single sexual harassment claim.

Maher observed that many of the recent powerful men of Hollywood accused of sexual abuse always seem to be married.  Behar expressed puzzlement regarding why that was.

Now, I could answer that question for Joy, as could anyone else smarter than she is, which is to say, almost anyone. Joy, you will recall, earlier this month excused sexual harassment by progressives like Weinstein over harassers like Bill O’Reilly because, she said, at least the liberals weren’t hypocrites. (She didn’t explain the pro-feminist/misogyny contradiction, but then Joy is, as I just noted, an idiot.)

Rich and powerful men are almost always older, usually middle-aged, in Hollywood, and everywhere else for that matter. See, Joy, it takes a while to become rich and famous. Nobody heard of you when you were 25 either, and let me tell you, I was much happier then.

The older a man is, the more likely he is to be rich and powerful—sexual harassment doesn’t require power, but power inequity helps—and also he is more likely to be married, especially in Hollywood, where executives  start wondering whether you are gay if you aren’t married and 40. Not that they care if you are gay—after all, more than 50% of Hollywood men probably are— but they care if the public cares, because then you won’t be as marhetable as a romantic lead. Thus even gay middle aged men are usually married by the time they are powers in Hollywood. This has been true since the 1920s.

Another reason is that it takes a while to accumulate hundreds of victims, as in the case of  James Toback.

Maher, however, had a different, if predictable, answer:

“Because they have shitty sex lives.”

Oh, was that a joke, Bill? Hilarious! Except Bill wasn’t joking. He’s a well-documented misogynist, not that this would stop a hypocritical feminist dimwit like Behar from sucking up to him since he is on the right side of history, and Maher has always made it clear that he thinks marriage is for chumps. Maher defended Bill Clinton’s sexual harassing/assaulting ways by arguing that he “earned it,” and has extolled his own lifestyle as a play-the-field, aging bachelor like Sam Malone on “Cheers” as Man Heaven. It should surprise no one that Bill  believes that if married women were good little submissive spouses and eagerly cheered while their fat, disgusting husbands masturbated in front of them like Weinstein or humped their leg like James Toback, men wouldn’t have to force young women looking for jobs to do it instead. Continue reading

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The Alabama U.S. Senate Republican Run-Off: The Worst Choice Ever [UPDATED]

And you thought having to choose between Hillary and Donald Trump was bad!

The upcoming Republican run-off for the special election to choose a successor to Alabama previous GOP Senator Jeff Sessions, now U.S. Attorney General, is as bad as it gets. Whoever wins is certain to be elected in super-red Alabama over Democrat Doug Jones, but one GOP candidate is corrupt and absurd, and the other is absurd, a fanatic and a habitual scofflaw. Both can be counted upon to immediately lower the ethical and intellectual level of the U.S. Senate, and normally I would assume that only electing a horseshoe crab or some other lower species could do the latter, while nothing short of sending Hillary Clinton back there could accomplish the former. That Alabama voters would allow their state’s seat in the U.S. Senate to depend on a run-off between these two examples of the worst of the U.S. politics bestiary doesn’t merely show that the state is backwards, it shows that its voters deserve one of these jerks. The rest of us, however, do not.

Let’s look at the two contestants, shall we? First current Senator Luther Strange, whose best feature is his name. Allow me to save you a click by re-posting a substantial section from February’s post about him:

When the Senate confirmed Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General in hearings that may be best remembered as the time Elizabeth Warren earned the fawning admiration of feminists by behaving like a mean-spirited jerk, it meant that Alabama’s Republican governor got to appoint his successor. There wasn’t much discussion in the news media about who this might be, because it’s hard for journalists to inform the public properly when it is concentrating on bringing down the President, per the orders of their Eldritch Progressive Masters—sorry, I’ve got Dr. Strange stuff rattling around in my brain now—but there was some interesting speculation in Alabama.

You see,  Republican Governor Robert Bentley is fighting to avoid  impeachment as the result of a sex scandal, and one that called his honesty into question as well.

An official fired by Bentley alleged that the Governor had engaged in an extramarital affair with his senior political adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. An audio recording surfaced in which Bentley told a woman named “Rebekah” that he “worr[ied] about loving you so much” and that “[w]hen I stand behind you, and I put my arms around you, and I put my hands on your breasts […] and just pull you real close. I love that, too.” At a press conference, Bentley apologized for the comments but denied having an affair and stated that his relationship with Mason was purely platonic.

Sure.

Bentley invaded the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations List, saying that  he “had made a mistake” by saying “inappropriate things” to his aide, and apologized to Mason , her family and to the people of Alabama. On April 5, 2016, an impeachment resolution against Bentley was filed in the State Legislature, which appointed a special counsel to lead an investigation into the impeachment charges. Then, in November, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange asked that the investigation be halted pending “related work” by his office. This was widely interpreted to mean that Strange, also a Republican but not an ally of Bentley’s, was overseeing his own investigation of whether charges should be brought against Bentley.

Trump was elected President on November 8, and ten days later he announced his intention to nominate Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General. On December 6, 2016, Strange announced that he was a candidate for the soon to be vacant seat, meaning that he would run in the 2018 election, if he wasn’t appointed to fill the vacancy by Bentley.

With the wolves gathering at  his door, however, that’s exactly what Gov. Bentley did. He appointed the man who was overseeing his current impeachment investigation to the U.S. Senate, thus creating a vacancy in the Attorney General’s post. Then he appointed a new AG named Steve Marshall (no relation), who many doubt will vigorously pursue an indictment against the governor.

Can you say, “Appearance of impropriety”?

I can’t imagine a better example of how the law can’t anticipate everything, making ethics indispensable.   There is an Alabama law prohibiting a governor from appointing himself to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy, but nobody foresaw a situation where a governor facing impeachment would interfere with the investigation by appointing a political adversary and the Attorney General overseeing the investigation to fill the slot. This is entirely legal, and spectacularly unethical.

Some in the state wonder if Strange’s request to the legislature wasn’t part of a deal with the Governor, in anticipation of a Sessions departure.  “He definitely slowed down the impeachment process, which put the governor in a place to actually appoint him. That’s the problem we have,” said Ed Henry, the legislator who brought the original  impeachment motion to a vote.  “He stopped an impeachment process and then in turn accepted the nomination to the Senate. I believe the damage is already done.”

For this to have been a pre-arranged  quid pro quo would have required that Strange and Bentley both believe that Trump would win, however. Hmmmm. Maybe they were in league with the Russians too…?

Yet it requires no conspiracy theory to conclude that for Strange to accept Bentley’s appointment makes him complicit in a sequence of events  that appears corrupt. It is too redolent of the Roland Burris affair, when now jailed former Illinois governor Rod Blagojavich was caught selling a Senate appointment. Burris swore in an affidavit  that he had no contact with the governor prior to his appointment to a Senate seat he had no qualifications for, and then as soon as he was safely on office, suddenly remembered that he had met with “Blago.”

The newly minted Senator Strange, had he been an ethics hero—and shouldn’t we be able to expect our elected officials to be ethics heroes?—could have foiled Bentley, inspired Alabamans, and proved that he would be a worthy Senator when he ran in 2018, if he had simply turned down the appointment, saying,

‘I am grateful and honored that Governor Bentley felt that I was qualified to represent the citizen of Alabama in the U.S. Senate. However, I feel I would betray the trust of those same citizens if I were to accept the post under these circumstances. As the lawyer for the people, I am obligated to undertake and oversee a fair and objective investigation of serious allegations against the Governor, and this raised a conflict of interest for me, pitting my personal political ambition against my duties in my current position. Moreover, should I accept the Governor’s offer, it would raise doubts regarding the functioning of the legal system as well as my personal integrity. Therefore I must decline the appointment.’

Nah.

Now, however, the Senator has proven himself unworthy of his new job by accepting it.

Strange!

Now normally I would say that anyone—Kathy Griffin, Jimmy Kimmel, Dormammu—is a preferable U.S. Senate choice than this shameless, ambitious hack. Roy Moore, however, is a piece of work. The one-time kickboxer and full time fundamentalist Christian fanatic first warranted Ethics Alarms notice as an Incompetent Elected Official in 2014, and his recognition came that late only because I viewed his stand-off over displaying the Ten Commandments in his court room and trying to turn Alabama justice into a theocracy too ridiculous to write about (and Ethics Alarms didn’t exist then.) Continue reading

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Carolyn Hax Sides With Bobby Darin, And Dazzles With Her Ethics Advice Again

Syndicated relationship advice columnist Carolyn Hax is as trustworthy an ethicist as I know. She doesn’t call herself an ethicist, and probably doesn’t think of herself as one, but she is far better qualified in the field than many with advanced degrees and tenured teaching positions, not to mention the corporate compliance hacks who write Ethics Codes for the likes of Enron. Carolyn Hax is an ethicist and a superb one because she has an innate, instinctive, nuanced and perceptive understanding of right and wrong, as well as remarkable skill at ethical analysis.

She proves this routinely in her weekly columns, but occasionally special attention should be paid. That was the case last week, when she was asked her blessing by an annoyed fiance on a decision to exit the relationship because her betrothed had decided to reject an offer to enter the world of high finance in favor of pursuing a career as a carpenter, concluding:

I’m seriously considering walking away because I think he is being really selfish given the long-term prospects. I am a professional and have supported us through his two-year master’s program. I am at my end here — what do you think?

In as nice a manner as possible, Hax nails what is wrong with this, saying in part: Continue reading

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Now A Judge Is Punishing Innocent Citizens Because He Doesn’t Like Gay Marriage

atherton

Meet Hamilton County (Tennessee) Chancellor Jeffrey Atherton, a local judge who is throwing a high-profile tantrum to show that he doesn’t agree with the U. S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision. Atherton denied a divorce petition last week, but not really because of the case at hand.. After hearing from seven witnesses and going through 77 exhibits, he rejected the requested divorce by Thomas Bumgardner and his wife, Pamela, stating that the Supreme Court’s ruling declaring gay marriages a right destroyed Tennessee’s ability to determine what constitutes marriage or divorce.

No, it doesn’t make sense.

 

Atherton said the Supreme Court must clarify “when a marriage is no longer a marriage”  and until it does, Tennessee courts are unable to handle  marriage and divorce litigation.  “The conclusion reached by this Court is that Tennesseans have been deemed by the U.S. Supreme Court to be incompetent to define and address such keystone/central institutions such as marriage, and, thereby, at minimum, contested divorces,” Atherton wrote.

 Or the short version: “I am an asshole with power!”
Continue reading

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