Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 3/23/2019: Hypocrisy, Rationalizations, Spin, And Things Your Facebook Friends Will Hate To Pieces

Good Morning!

Doesn’t Barbra sing beautifully? Does knowing she’s ethically dead inside ruin her singing for you? (see #2)

1.  How arrogant and incompetent is this? UNBELIEVABLY arrogant and incompetent. Apparently Jared Kushner and the President’s daughter, Kushner’s wife, have been using private email accounts for official business. It’s against the law. it’s absurdly hypocritical, after the (deserved) criticism the President leveled against Hillary Clinton for her private server shenanigans. The Justice Department should prosecute both of them, and if the President had anyone else competent that he could trust as a close advisor—he fear he doesn’t—he should fire them both.

2. Wow! Barbra rationalizes sexual child abuse! Will this mean that Babs will no longer be welcome at Democrat fundraisers? Doubtful. Progressive never met a double standard they wouldn’t use.

Here is what the singing icon said to the The Times about Michael Jackson’s recent accusers (via documentary and lawsuits), Wade Robson and James Safechuck, and hold on to your heads:

“His sexual needs were his sexual needs, coming from whatever childhood he has or whatever DNA he has. You can say ‘molested,’ but those children[ now grown-up Robson and Safechuck] as you heard, say they were thrilled to be there. They both married and they both have children, so it didn’t kill them.”

Should I rename the infamous Rationalization #22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things” after the Funny Girl? Her statement is a perfect example: a child being raped by a grown man isn’t a big deal if the kid doesn’t die. Then there is #42. The Irrelevant Mitigation: “He’ll/She’ll/They’ll get over it”:

” #42 is pure callousness mixed with consequentialism, and thus beyond redemption or ethical application.. It holds that wrongful conduct is somehow mitigated by the fact that the wound heals, forgiveness is granted, or time breeds forgetfulness. It isn’t. How and whether victims recover or get over their anger does not alter the original misconduct, mitigate it, and certainly does not erase it. Those who cite this rationalization are shrugging off accountability and are signalling that they will repeat their unethical conduct or worse, counting on their victims to give them an opportunity to harm them again. Anyone who employs The Irrelevant Mitigation cannot be trusted”

The despicable suggestion that Jackson’s alleged victims consented to being raped, however, because they wanted it, is really revolting. This is #48. Contrived Consent, or “The Rapist’s Defense”, which…

…aims to cleanse unethical conduct by imagining that the victim consented to it, or secretly sought the result of the wrongful act. The most infamous example of this rationalization is, of course, the rapist’s defense that the victim either was inviting a sexual assault by flirtatious conduct or provocative dress, or secretly “wanted it.”

It is, perhaps, the ugliest rationalization of all.

The good news is that these idiotic comments, signature significance for someone whose ethics alarms have turned to moldy cheese, are attracting appropriate condemnation. Good. [Pointer: Other Bill]

3. Here’s some dishonest leftist spin for the Mueller investigation, as the impeachment hounds try to somehow make the facts consistent with their delusions. From ThinkProgress:

“Mueller’s team has filed dozens of indictments and secured convictions and guilty pleas in the conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 election: Six of Trump’s close associates and employees have faced charges. George Papadopoulos, a former campaign adviser; Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chair; Rick Gates, a campaign aide and longtime Manafort business partner; Michael Flynn, a former foreign policy adviser; Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer; and Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser, have all been charged by Mueller. Manafort and Cohen have been convicted and sentenced to prison.”

That’s multiple lies framed by a lie. None of Mueller’s indictments involve any conspiracy to interfere with the election except the symbolic charges against Russians,  and if there had been any evidence of such a conspiracy, an American would have been inducted on those grounds. Manafort was indicted for his own crimes, not any related to the campaign. Flynn and Cohen had no involvement with Russia either. The others were charged with process crimes: lying to law enforcement, not “colluding” with Russia.

4. “Worst Nazi Ever!” That’s Instapundit Glenn Reynolds gag tag for Trump actions like declaring that Israel should  have sovereignty over the Golan Heights, ending decades of U.S. policy of tip-towing around the issue. It also fits here: The President issued an  executive order directing federal agencies to “take appropriate steps” to “promote free inquiry” at institutions that receive federal research and education grants, including thorough compliance with the First Amendment.  F.I.R.E. approves.

5. Surprise! Your Facebook friends are wrong, and don’t know what they are talking about...It is overwhelmingly likely that the supreme Court will approve the use of emergency powers to build “the wall.” Richard H. Pildes, professor of constitutional law at New York University, wrote a convincing article, “How the Supreme Court Weakened Congress on Emergency Declarations,” in which points out…

  • The National Emergencies Act (NEA), passed by Congress in l976, never defines that an emergency is, largely leaving that assessment to the President.
  • Presidents have used the NEA 58 times. In every case–every case!— the President spent funds not appropriated by Congress.
  • In no case did the Supreme Court overturn the action.
  • The Supreme Court decision in Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha, which declared that “legislative vetoes are unconstitutional,”  including vetoes of Presidential actions under the National Emergencies Act.
  • Absent Congress overriding Trump’s veto of the bill designed to stop his declaration of the emergency at the border, a result that is unlikely, there is no legal way to block the Trump as he acts on the authority of the NEA.
  • Trump neither violated the Constitution nor violated the separation of powers. His unilateral action was a constitutional power ceded to him by an act of Congress
  • President Obama used the act to transfer funds without congressional authority to his health care act.

I didn’t think there was a chance that the President’s power to do this would not be upheld, and the article makes me more certain than ever.  I also agree with Ronald Trowbridge that if the Justices were capable of ruling only on the law rather than partisan politics, the decision would be unanimous.

 

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/1/2019: Mania In Pennsylvania

Hello from Cannonsburg, PA.

Mr. Adams, but Mr. Adams
The things I write are only light extemporania
I won’t put politics on paper, it’s a mania
So I refuse to use the pen in Pennsylvania

—-Ben Franklin, in “Mr. Adams,” 1776

(But Ben didn’t have a computer…)

1. Like watching a zombie outbreak. Predictable, embarrassing, scary, disgusting, and hilarious. The comments on my Facebook feed by Trump Deranged friends and friends of friends really does begin to make me wonder if protected Trump Hate is mental illness. Multiple people were willing to go on record as saying that they believed Michael Cohen, and—get this—that they found him to be a sympathetic character! Now it’s true that these same people believed Jussie Smollett, Nathan Phillips, Bill Clinton and Christine Blasey-Ford based on nothing more than ideological bias and anti-Trump animus, but even these four are paragons of honesty and trustworthiness compared to Cohen. It is also amazing that these Coehn fans are so confident of the Facebook echo chamber that they don’t hesitate to write something so mind-numbingly stupid.

2. Petty perjury. The Republicans who are trying to prompt an investigation of Cohen for alleged perjury before Congress are abusing process, and worse, they are  imitating the bitter Democrats who argued that Bret Kavanaugh committed perjury by giving his recollection of an innocent definition of “boofing.” Among Cohen’s alleged “lies” is that he said he never wanted to work at the White House in the hearing, but said elsewhere that he did want to work there. The man is inately unbelievable (but sympathetic!) He’s a criminal. He has violated too many legal ethics rules to count. He betrayed his client’s confidences. He has lied under oath. He’s been disbarred. It is literally impossible to have less credibility than Michael Cohen. There is no point in proving petty perjury, except to be vindictive.

3. Testing the tolerance, determination and gag reflex of those who believe in innocence until proven guilty. Michael Jackson’s family is out in force to condemn “Finding Neverland,”is out in force to condemn “Finding Neverland,” a documentary debuting on HBO this weekend.  It purports to chronicle the King of Pop’s alleged serial child abusing, featuring two former kiddy pals who slept in Michael’s bed, all in good fun, according to the Jacksons. No jury ever found Michael guilty, though one has to wonder if the result would have been the same if he looked and sounded like Vin Rhames. On the other hand, Jackson was so, so strange that virtually anything is believable, including the theory that he really was just a big, famous, harmless, case of arrested childhood whose motives were pure as the driven snow. The Jacksons say his now grown playmates are just seeking money and book deals. That’s certainly plausible. What isn’t plausible is that the Jacksons say they never thought Michael’s obsession with young children was suspicious or troubling, and that they see no reason why anyone would have expected them to advise their brother not to act like a pedophile, whether he was one or not.

4. Selma Blair. Selma Blair never became a big star; I remember her best in “Hellboy.” She was talented, though, and now we know she’s gutsy, appearing on the Oscars red carpet using a cane. Blair has multiple sclerosis, which has disabled a career already shot by another crippling malady for movie ingenues–getting older. Blair announced her illness on Instagram, saying, “I am disabled. I fall sometimes. I drop things. My memory is foggy. And my left side is asking for directions from a broken gps. But we are doing it. And I laugh and I don’t know exactly what I will do precisely but I will do my best.” Now she is defying typical Hollywood vanity to appear in public, giving invaluable support to the million-plus Americans who suffer from MS. Wrote Ed Tobias on the MS support website, MS News TodayMS News Today:

“If a photo is worth a thousand words, then the video of Blair and her cane, as she slowly made her way along the red carpet at the Oscars, is worth a million. It shows pain and persistence. Caution and class. It shows what many of us have to handle each day. And Selma Blair showed an audience of millions how to do it. Bravo!”

Agreed.

5.  Now let’s see how many acting jobs David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel get after this. An arbitrator awarded $179 million,awarded $179 million, much of it in punitive damages, to the two and one of their partners in the long-running hit TV show “Bones,” holding that Fox executives lied, cheated and committed fraud at the expense of the show’s stars and executive producer Barry Josephson. That creative Hollywood accounting robs stars is the third worst-kept and longest running secret in show business, #1 being that directors and producers use their power and star-makimg ability to force actresses to have sex with them, and #2 being that an awful lot of actresses take advantage of that illicit entree. James Garner was one of the few big stars to challenge the swindle in court, and he did so more than once. He won, too, but he also paid a price in lost roles. Most stars just put up with the cheating and take their paychecks, which are pretty big anyway.

Maybe Boreanaz, a latter day Garner who may have sensed that he has maxed  out his career as he enters his fifties (surely you remember him as Angel, Buffy the Vampire Killer’s tragic true, un-dead love?) and Deschanel, who has always been oveer-shadowed her younger, cuter, funnier sister Zooey, may have decided that there was no downside in fighting for their fair share. Or maybe—just maybe—they are making a courageous stand for their profession. Either way, it is good ethics news any time the Hollywood moguls get foiled in this game.

A Law Student Creates A Dishonest List Called “100 Times A White Actor Played Someone Who Wasn’t White” And Begins Another List Called “Times The Washington Post Published A Race-Baiting Piece Of Lazy Research And Sloppy Reasoning By Someone Who Looks Like She Will Be A Terrible Lawyer”

I didn’t set out to make the news media’s tolerating unethical race arguments the theme today, I really didn’t. While I was researching ESPN’s decision not to hire whites on its new website, to which the Wall Street Journal shrugged and said, by not saying, “Wait….WHAT?” in effect, “Sure, go ahead, discriminate!”, I came upon this piece of journalistic offal called “100 Times A White Actor Played Someone Who Wasn’t White” on the Washington Post website. It was authored by Meredith Simons, a law student and freelance writer. Well, Meredith, free-lance writers get away with these miserably researched and unfairly gathered articles a lot, but if you try to sneak this kind of crap past a judge or a senior partner, you’re going to have a rude awakening.

The fact that her article is incompetent and unfair in myriad ways doesn’t mean that Hollywood has been an equal opportunity employer throughout decades past. It hasn’t, but it has reflected the society and tastes in which it operates, and often has been a leader in race attitudes, as in the film “Imitation of Life.” There is work to be done, but careless articles like Simons’ just causes ignorance and confusion.

The immediate impetus for her hit piece on Hollywood casting was apparently the controversy over the casting of white actor Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson in a planned biopic. Simons calls him “African American icon Michael Jackson,” which is the lawyer’s trick of framing an issue to rig the debate—good one, Meredith—but skin-bleaching, child-molesting, whitebread pop star Jackson is hardly an “African American” icon: he’s a national pop icon who went out of his way to reject race and racial labels. That is what the song “Black and White” was about, right? Sure, the casting was a gimmick, but it’s a clever and legitimate gimmick that I would guess Jackson would have approved of enthusiastically. When they make “The Rachel Dolezal Story,” will Simons complain if a black actress gets the part?

So based on a phony race controversy—two, in fact, with the Oscar nomination spat included—Simons comes up with an even more phony list. “Despite decades of protests over racially inappropriate casting and the recent protests over the lack of diversity among Oscar nominees, filmmakers continue to cast white actors as minority characters on a depressingly regular basis,” she writes.

(A tip  for Social Justice Warriors: don’t write about the performing arts and casting if you don’t know a damn thing about either. The purpose of the performing arts is 1) to make a good product and 2) to make money. Anything that in any way interferes with either is irrelevant. There is no such thing as “racially inappropriate casting” if it furthers either of these objectives, or ideally both. It is not Hollywood’s job to eradicate racial inequality in the U.S. If it helps, that’s responsible and ethical of the movie-makers. This is, however, neither its art nor its business.)

Simons’ list is the epitome of the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy done badly. The fallacy consists of cherry-picking facts that support a predetermined argument and “drawing a circle around them” as if they are the sole relevant facts, while intentionally or mistakenly omitting equally relevant facts that would tend to disprove it. Bad lawyer that she is, she draws a metaphorical circle around “facts” that don’t even support her argument. I’m not going to go through the entire hundred  (say “thank-you, Jack!”) but I’ll point out some of her most egregious botches.

To begin with, either she didn’t see the movies on the list, or intentionally misrepresents them. My favorite, and typical of her terrible research: Continue reading

Three Breasted Ethics

Three_breasted_woman

UPDATE: Snopes, the urban legend and hoax website, now thinks that this is a scam. As I noted in the post, that would not be a surprise and in fact would be a relief. In such cases, I suggest that the post be read as a hypothetical, since the ethics issues raised by the three-breasted woman remain interesting, even if the story itself turns out to be fiction.

A 21-year-old woman being identified with the alias Jasmine Tridevil ( don’t over-think it) says she paid $20,000 to a plastic surgeon to  give her a realistic third breast. She wants to  become a TV reality show star. Jasmine has hired a camera crew to follow her around Tampa, Florida, documenting the challenges she faces as a three-breasted woman.

I know what you are thinking.

I HOPE this is a hoax.

“Jasmine” was rejected by more than 50 doctors who believed they would be violating professional ethical codes. Scot Glasberg, president-elect of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, condemned the surgery as ‘worse than unethical’ and ‘harmful to society’. ‘This violates every ethical principle not just in surgery but in medicine as well. We look to enhance the norm. This is not the norm. Nothing speaks louder than the fact that the surgeon required the patient to sign a non-disclosure form.” Continue reading

Tucson Aftermath: Don’t Let The Barn Door Close On Freedom, Please

In the wake of Jared Loughner’s attack, the “barn door fllacy” is in full operation as intensely, and foolishly as I’ve ever seen it. Everyone from social reformers to yellow-bellied Congress members are proposing changes and suggesting “dialogues” aimed at stopping Jared Loughner’s completely unpredictable conduct, which, they seem to forget, has already occurred. Almost always, when everyone rushes to lock the metaphorical barn door after the horse is gone, they make the barn and everything around it uglier, less useful, more expensive, and less respectful of basic human dignity and freedom: witness the TSA’s outrageous new pat-down procedures, designed to stop 2009’s exploding underpants terrorist, who was unsuccessful. Continue reading

“True Grit” Ethics

I haven’t seen the remake of “True Grit,” but I know I will, and like many other fans of the original 1969 version, I’m trying to conquer my biases. The latest effort by the usually brilliant Coen brothers creates ethical conflicts for me, and I am hoping I can resolve them right now. Can I be fair to their work, while being loyal to a film that is important to me for many reasons?

The original, 1969 “True Grit” won John Wayne his only Oscar for his self-mocking portrayal of fat, seedy law man Rooster Cogburn, 

who is hired by a young girl to track down her father’s murderer. I love the film; I saw it on the big screen nine times, in fact. Remaking it with anyone else in the starring role feels like an insult, somehow, as if the Duke’s version was somehow inadequate.

Intellectually, I know that’s nonsense. Artists have a right to revisit classic stories and put their personal stamp on them, and they should be encouraged to do it. Every new version of a good story, if done well, will discover some unmined treasure in the material. Why discourage the exploration? Continue reading

Isolating Corey Haim: Child Star Deceit and Disinformation in the Media

It is clear that the news media, and especially the entertainment and pop culture media, don’t want to lose their cuddly child performers. Thus when a former kid star like Corey Haim perishes at a young age, the victim of a dysfunctional childhood turned fatal by addictions to fame and drugs, the sad story is usually told as a cautionary tale about how one young actor’s early promise and talent turned to dust and destruction because of his own weaknesses and missteps. A responsible media would use such events to examine the larger, serious, and mostly ignored problem of child abuse and exploitation in the entertainment business, and its terrible toll of casualties.The media is not responsible on this topic, however, and in the case of Haim, seemed to go out of its way to falsely represent his fate as the exception, rather than the rule. Continue reading