Tag Archives: Professor Paul Butler

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/22/18: Nanoo Nanoo, And The Oxford Comma

Good Morning!

1 . From the “Oh, Come on!” files. As I have mentioned here several times, Georgetown Law professor Professor Paul Butler decided to ambush me with a cheap shot on NPR last year, interjecting “Oh come on!” as I was explaining how a celebrity or prominent man’s inappropriate sexual advances could be initially welcome to a female subordinate, and then later, after, say, the same celebrity is regarded as toxic by that woman’s peer group, what were originally “welcome” (or not unwelcome) attentions could become retroactively unwelcome, prompting an accusation of sexual harassment. I was 100% correct. Last month, in an email exchange on ten topic with the NPR host, I was told that both she and the professor thought I was making excuses for Donald Trump.

Thus does Trump hate and bias make intelligent discourse increasingly difficult. If I had used Al Franken as my example instead of the President, I presume my commentary would not have been kneecapped. But I digress…

In jaw-dropping revelations in a new book coming out in May, actress Pam Dawber and others describe how co-star Robin Williams often treated her and other actresses on the set of “Mork and Mindy.” The book discusses Williams’ “improvisations”…

[M]any of these additions were sexual and directed at the women in the cast, such as when he goosed the actress who played Mindy’s grandmother with a cane.

[Director Howard] Storm said: ‘I’m standing there watching this and I’m thinking, “oh my god” and I just laughed. I thought she was going to turn and say: “How dare you stick a cane in a woman’s ass?” That sweet old lady.’There was nothing lascivious about it, in his mind. It was just Robin being Robin, and he thought it would be funny. He could get away with murder.’

Other times Williams would grab Dawber’s bottom or her breasts simply because he was ‘bored.’ 

‘He’d be doing a paragraph and in the middle of it he would just turn and grab her ass. Or grab a breast. And we’d start again. I’d say, “Robin, there’s nothing in the script that says you grab Pam’s ass.” And he’d say: “Oh, ok,”‘ Storm added.  

Garry Marshall, the producer of the show, said: ‘He would take all his clothes off, he would be standing there totally naked and she was trying to act. His aim in life was to make Pam Dawber blush.’

But Dawber remained unfazed, she admits: ‘I had the grossest things done to me – by him. And I never took offense. I mean I was flashed, humped, bumped, grabbed. I think he probably did it to a lot of people…but it was so much fun.

‘Somehow he had that magic. If you put it on paper you would be appalled. But somehow he had this guileless little thing that he would do – those sparkly eyes. He’d look at you, really playful, like a puppy, all of a sudden. And then he’d grab your tits and then run away. And somehow he could get away with it. It was the Seventies, after all’.

Wait: if it was the 70’s, does that mean that in the parallel universe where Robin Williams has conquered his demons and is running for the U.S. Senate as a Republican (those parallel universes are funky, let me tell you), Dawber couldn’t come out and destroy his candidacy by describing his outrageous behavior? Does it mean everyone would say that she was being unfair, and that she wouldn’t be lionized as another #MeToo hero?

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Ethics Quote Of The Week: Lee Smith, Making It All Clear

“Yet for its advocates, the questionable veracity of the Russiagate story seems much less important than what has become its real purpose—elite virtue-signaling. Buy into a storyline that turns FBI and CIA bureaucrats and their hand-puppets in the press into heroes while legitimizing the use of a vast surveillance apparatus for partisan purposes, and you’re in. Dissent, and you’re out, or worse—you’re defending Trump…In other words, there’s the truth, and then there’s what’s even more important—sticking it to Trump. Choose wrong, even inadvertently, …no matter how many times you deplore Trump, and you’ll be labeled a Trumpkin.”

Lee Smith in his essay, Who Believes in Russiagate?”

Later he adds,

“What unites [critics of Russiagate on the Left and the Right] obviously isn’t politics—rather, it’s the recognition that the Russiagate campaign represents an attack on American political and social institutions, an attack on our liberties, an attack on us. Russiagate is a conspiracy theory, weaponized by political operatives, much of the press, as well as high-level intelligence and law enforcement bureaucrats to legitimize an American election and protect their own interests, which coincide with those of the country’s larger professional and bureaucratic elite.”

You might wonder why I chose to highlight the first quote  rather than the second. The second tells me nothing I don’t know, or that readers of Ethics Alarms don’t know: I’ve made it a theme here since early in 2017. I learned something from the first quote, however. This is the phenomenon I have been experiencing on Facebook, where periodically pointing out unfair and intellectually dishonest attacks on President Trump and pointing out the news media’s horrific bias increasingly get me labelled as a Trump supporter, apologist or enabler. Meanwhile, I recently had a follow-up exchange  with NPR over my objections to Prof. Butler’s “Oh, come on!” outburst when I was correctly pointing out what was ethically dubious about late accusations of sexual harassment against political figures.  Oh, no, I was told. He wasn’t saying “Oh come on!” because I misrepresented sexual harassment law. He was saying that because he thought I was making excuses for Trump. Continue reading

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NOW Monica Lewinsky Says She Was Abused And Sexually Harassed

 

I called it!

Remember in December when I had this exchange on NPR during a panel about sexual harassment and political figures in the early states of #MeToo?

ME : A hostile work environment means that the recipient of this has to feel hostility. They don’t like it. So, for example, if somebody – I have a hypothetical that I’m sure has happened, where someone is grabbed by Donald Trump back when he’s a celebrity, and she comes home. And she’s kissed, and she tells her roommate, “That was cool! Donald Trump kissed me.” And then when everybody she knows detests Donald Trump, she suddenly says …”I was harassed.”

BUTLER: COME ON!

HOST MICHEL MARTIN: OK. Yeah, I think we’re going to go to a different…All right. All right, Jack, you’ve had your say on that. And I think there are a lot of people who would want to argue with – I’m going to let Paul speak his piece on this. What do you say to that?

But the professor didn’t go beyond his interjected cheap shot, and went on to his own agenda, leaving the impression that my exposition on the strangeness of sexual harassment law was off-the-wall. It wasn’t, though. I was 100% correct, and NPR listeners, thanks to a grandstanding law professor whom I suspect wasn’t up on sexual harassment (he’s a criminal law professor who concentrates on race issues), were left less-informed than when they tuned in.

My point was and is valid: nothing stops an object of sexual attention in questionable propriety and taste from treating it as welcome at the time, then choosing, months, years or decades later, when there are non-ethical motivations to vilify or harm her one-time suitor, to withdraw her consent and “welcome,” and claim, retroactively, that she was harassed and abused.

This is exactly what Monica Lewinsky has done. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/19/2017: ‘Due Process? We Don’ Need No Stinkin’ Due Process!’

Good Morning!

(Lights on the tree about 30% done, and the prickle wounds aren’t infected so far..)

1 Now, now, let’s not forget the wisdom of Joseph Goebbels...More questions about the objectivity, professionalism and fairness of the Meuller investigation are roiling D.C., even though the President isn’t about to fire the Special Counsel, though the mainstream news media went out of its way last week to make you think he was.

For example, were you following the Bruce Ohr fiasco? The former associate deputy attorney general, who was supposed to appear yesterday before the leaky Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday but didn’t, was demoted by the Justice Department when it was revealed that he had not disclosed that he had met with with officials from Fusion GPS, the people who prepared the salacious and discredited “Trump dossier.” Ohr had been part of the Meuller investigation too, but then it was learned that that his wife not only worked for Fusion GPS,  she worked on the anti-Trump opposition research that was apparently paid for by the DNC and the Clinton campaign. Is it partisan to question  how Meuller allowed people like Ohr and Strzok to be on his team in the first place? No, it’s not. In fact, it’s partisan NOT to ask that.

Meanwhile, Trump’s lawyers have challenged Mueller’s grab of transition team e-mails as a likely breach of attorney client privilege. (This will be in my next year’s Government Lawyer Ethics seminar for sure.) Writes attorney Robert Barnes, in part, on LawNewz:

According to published reports, Special Counsel Robert Mueller engaged in a mass seizure of all emails of the Trump transition team without even a warrant or a subpoena. In my opinion, a mass seizure – as is alleged here against Mueller – cannot conform to either Fourth Amendment standards or attorney-client privilege protections. The questions boils down to this: was there a reason for the individuals communicating by email, including with their lawyers, to believe their communications were private or privileged? Or, did the individuals forever waive or “implicitly consent” to any future search or seizure of their emails?

…The Mueller search runs afoul of many…established court precedents and Fourth Amendment privacy and privilege principles. First, it appears Mueller searched and seized every email, without any kind of categorical or keyword search. This is exactly the kind of search the Supreme Court made clear was not allowed under the Fourth Amendment. This means Mueller can only prevail if he didn’t seize a single email of a single individual that the individual could have any expectation of either personal privacy or attorney client privilege in.

The primary excuses proffered so far for the broad seizure is the faulty assumption the use of a government server waived all privacy and all privilege of every email ever made over that server. As identified above, that has never been the law…

These are legitimate issues, yet the media, as usual, is soft-peddling them and spinning them as mere Trump obstruction. Worse, however are the multiple Democrats, including a Senator on CNN yesterday, who I have heard repeat a version of the despicable statement that recently earned New York Times editors a collective Ethics Dunce: “If he’s innocent, he has nothing to worry about.”

Please, please reassure me that we don’t have a major political party that is circulating that motto of despots, grant inquisitors, dictators and the Salem witch trial judges as a talking point. Please!

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/16/ 2017: A Kiss, A Blacklist, A Mystery, And President Frog

Good Morning!

It’s tree decorating day!

1 Fact. Last night, TCM was showing “Holiday Affair,” starring Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh, and Wendell Corey. After the film, as is his wont, host Ben Mankiewicz returned with some inside trivia. He said, “Janet Leigh was not prepared at this point in her career to be on a set with such pranksters as Mitchum and Corey. At the point in the film where the actress was supposed to be kissed by Mitchum, Leigh wrote in her autobiography, instead of getting the expected movie kiss, she got a genuine Robert Mitchum kiss while the cameras rolled. The script called for her character to react with surprise, and there is no doubt that’s what audiences saw!”

This was exactly what Al Franken’s first accuser alleged he did to her in a skit rehearsal a decade ago. Now, was that “prank kiss” sexual harassment? Since that kind of “prank” by male movie stars was hardly uncommon, Mitchum was a bigger star at that point than Leigh (who was 22), and he was considered a dreamboat, and this was 1949, Leigh was a good sport about it, and presumably wasn’t uncomfortable for the rest of the shoot. Yet if the film was in made in 1999, she could hold a press conference today and accuse Senator Mitchum of sexually harassing her, and there would be evidence on film.

She could do this a) if she had shrugged the off then as an initiation to the World of Bob Mitchum, but newly “woke” realized it was sexual assault; b) if her career was flagging and she needed to get back into “Variety” headlines; c) if she had been seething all these years and waiting for a chance at revenge; d) if Senator Mitchum were a pro life conservative and her liberal daughter Jamie Lee Curtis called her up one day and said, “Mom, you know that story about Robert Mitchum slipping you a tongue during “Holiday Affair”? You can take that right wing SOB down with that!”

And there would be nothing Senator Mitchum could do about it.

Go ahead, Prof. Butler. say “Come ON!” I dare you.

2. On the other hand...Yesterday, director Peter Jackson (“Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “The Hobbit,” “King Kong”), told reporters how Harvey Weinstein, he now realizes, made good on his threats to exact revenge on young actresses who didn’t “cooperate” with him:

“I now suspect we were fed false information about both of these talented women [Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino] – and as a direct result their names were removed from our casting list…My experience, when Miramax controlled the Lord of the Rings… was of Weinstein and his brother behaving like second-rate Mafia bullies.”

Sorvino tweeted in response, Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/6/17: An Ambush By John Oliver, An Insult From John Conyers

1 It’s a tradition, but  still an embarrassment to democracy...Why isn’t this res ipsa loquitur, as in “so indisputable it ought to be embarrassing”?  Rep. John Conyers, whose proclivity to engage in sexual harassment in full confidence that neither left-leaning reporters in the know (like Cokie Roberts ) nor his party’s leaders nor the victims themselves, would blow a whistle on a “civil rights icon” like him, is finally announcing a forced retirement. But he is attempting to anoint his oldest son, John Conyers III, as his successor. III has no special qualifications for elected office. He is a hedge fund manager and a business consultant whose  famous father is part of his appeal to clients. The original John Conyers was used  as a stepping stone to power by another unqualified family member using his name, III’s’ mother, former Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers, was sentenced to 37 months in prison for bribery. She was released in 2013.

In a profanity and vulgarity-laced video III posted last year, he said in part,

“Third and fourth generations of Conyers running for office. It’s really crazy. My grandfather did an incredible job, man. Fuck. A lot of people stand on the sidelines of their own lives. It’s like you just watch that shit go by like, no, I don’t think I’m going to get in the game – that shit is short, man. Whatever you do, make sure you vote….Voting feels so good, like even if your person doesn’t win, like, it feels good. The craziest part about it all is that my dad really walked with Martin Luther King and got arrested for this shit, like, damn this shit is deep fam. I casted my vote and I was hype as shit, like, I voted, like, this is awesome and I am really thankful for people that died for that for me. Any race, whatever, it’s important to vote but I mean, like, especially African-Americans man, go vote because people really died for this shit. If you don’t know shit about a candidate, man, and you just want to vote like you can write your own name in there, but like the action of going to vote is so important.”

Or just vote for someone with a last name you recognize! He sounds like a winner to me! One hurdle: Democratic Michigan State Sen. Ian Conyers, the congressman’s great-nephew, announced his intention to run for the open seat.

This is a long, long blight on American democracy that makes me wonder if we’re really up to it. The number of voters in both parties who are so shallow, lazy, and foolish as to assume that merely being related to a famous or popular leader is sufficient reason to elect him or her is disgraceful, but it has always been thus. Among those who never would have made it into a high office without this factor are Mary Bono, Jesse Jacskon, Jr. (currently in prison), Lindy Boggs, Lurleen Wallace, Margaret Chase Smith, Robert Taft, George W. Bush,  Bobby Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, Robert Kennedy Jr,  Joseph Kennedy III,  Joe Kennedy II, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend—anyone named Kennedy, really—current Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Cal.), Al Gore, and Hillary Clinton. There are many, many more.

A last name is not a qualification for office. Why should that even have to be pointed out in a nation founded upon the rejection of royalty?

2. Unethical virtue-signalling via ambush. I admire John Oliver’s intellect, verbal dexterity and talent, but as with Stephen Colbert, David Letterman and others, he is so clearly a mean-spirited jerk that I find it difficult to watch him. Signature significance arrived for Oliver this week when he ambushed actor Dustin Hoffman  during a panel discussion commemorating the anniversary of the film Wag the Dog.

The topic of the evening was fake news and government manipulation of it, as the Clinton era film about a phony war being launched by a President to distract from a scandal is a fascinating one to ponder through the rear view mirror. Hoffman, one of the stars of the film, recently became one of the few dubious victims of a #MeToo-er, as he was accused of groping and sexually harassing a 17-year old woman on the set of another film in 1985. Unlike most of the celebrities and power-brokers run over by the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck, Hoffman has not had other accusers surface. He denies the woman’s characterization of what happened, and so have others, like the director of the movie in question, the filmed version of Hoffman’s Broadway turn as Willie Loman in “Death of  Salesman.”

I have read fans of Oliver saying that Hoffman should have assumed that Oliver would grill him on the allegations, to which I say, “Only if Hoffman realized what a knee-jerk progressive creep Oliver is.” I think the actor assumed that Oliver was an honorable professional, and as a moderator wouldn’t hijack the discussion to embarrass Hoffman and burnish his feminist creds.

To Hoffman’s credit, he stood up to the abuse of position by Oliver and defended himself. At one point, there was this exchange:

HOFFMAN: “Do you believe this stuff you read?

OLIVER: Yes. Because there’s no point in (the accuser) lying.”

HOFFMAN: Well, there’s a point in her not bringing it up for 40 years.

OLIVER: Oh Dustin…

I would have said,

“Don’t “Oh, Dustin” me, you arrogant, posturing ass. The fact that a complaint isn’t made for that much time automatically makes it dubious. It places the accused in an impossible position; evidence has evaporated, and memories have faded. There are many reasons to lie. To get publicity, To get revenge for some real or imagined slight. To bring down someone famous or powerful. To join a mob—and regardless of the fact that the post-Weinstein focus on legitimate sexual misconduct in the workplace has created needed awareness and exposed long-time abusers, it is a mob, with all of the capacity a mob has to harm the innocent in its self-righteousness. You are playing to the mob right now, and willing to unjustly smear me to do it. You’re a disgrace.”

John Ziegler quoted a Hollywood writer who knows Hoffman and is convinced he is innocent, who said,

“Someone should tell John Oliver he’s the true heir to Joe McCarthy!Sex abuse baiting has replaced red-baiting. The ‘Sexual Blacklist’ reigns supreme. Guilty until ruined!”

Let me also remind readers that my hypothetical illustrating how a woman might retroactively decide that what she did not regard as sexual harassment years ago was harassment now was mocked by both the moderator and a Georgetown law professor during the NPR panel I participated in last week.

I am right, they are biased.

The more I think about that exchange, the more ticked off I get….

 

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/2/17: Hackers, My NPR Panel, An Unethical Journalist Actually Faces Consequences, And God Bless Us, Everyone!

 

GOOD MORNING!!!

1  Actually, it’s a terrible morning. I began what has really been a hideous morning at 5 a.m. with a hacking alert on my computer. I eventually, with the help of some technicians, identified the usernames of 27 hackers who were accessing my data, apparently.

I should have written this before, I guess, but hackers, all of them, every single one no matter what their motives or what they do, are the scum of the earth, ethical black pits, and blight on civilization. Yet the popular culture loves them. There are young hackers, male, female, black, white, Asian, Indian and Hispanic, handicapped hackers…no old hackers,of every type all over the TV fare, usually as part of the heroic team on procedurals. (There are no old hackers.) What power they have! How smart they are! Often they are ex-criminals, who managed to acquire an exciting, lucrative job by displaying their hacking skills to law enforcement in the course of committing crimes. Usually, they are the funny members of the team, or the cute, like Matthew Broderick in “Wargames.” No wonder our young see these shows and think hacking is cool. In “Jurassic Park,” Lexi, the young girl who almost gets her feet bitten off by a raptor, proudly calls herself a hacker.

“Hacker” means asshole, kid.

And I was rooting for the raptor.

2. Marley was dead. One of these days I will have to do an overview of the links to your left. They are there for their value in stimulating ethical thought and discussion, not because some asked for a link exchange. Under the “Inspiration” category—you have to scroll down to see it—is “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, arguably the best and most accessible ethics story ever written. I have directed four staged readings of the classic and three “radio” versions through the years, and I don’t know a better way to get into the proper frame of mind—an ethical one– for the holiday season.

Last night I watched actor Paul Morella perform his one man “Christmas Carol” at the Olney Theater in Maryland. Paul is a long-time friend and collaborator: he has been playing Clarence Darrow in a one-man show we created together for 17 years, and we launched a continuing legal education seminar about Darrow’s legal ethics at the D.C. Bar this year. If you live in the D.C. Metropolitan area, I can not recommend the Olney show to you more enthusiastically. As Paul points out in his notes, this is how Charles Dickens himself presented the story in front of Victorian audiences, and he did not have the benefit of the evocative sound and light effects Paul employs. Charles was also not in Paul’s league as actor, I bet.

3. One down, 102, 568 to go… Brian Ross went live on ABC last week and announced  the fake news story that then-candidate Donald Trump had instructed Michael Flynn to make contact with the Russians, thus triggering a massive stock market sell-off. Seven hours later, ABC sheepishly admitted that it was President-elect”Trump who had made the request of Flynn.  ABC News  announced last night that  Ross would be suspended for four weeks without pay. Said the Disney-owned network:

“It is vital we get the story right and retain the trust we have built with our audience – these are our core principles. We fell far short of that yesterday. Effective immediately, Brian Ross will be suspended for four weeks without pay.”

Observations:

  • Good.

It would be very good if this became the routine response when a mainstream media reporter misinformed the public through bias, negligence or incompetence.

  • Raise your hand if you think that this action only occurred because the Dow Jones crashed.

My hand is up.

  • “Retain the trust we have built with our audience…” What trust? Anyone who trusts the news media after the past two years, not to mention the past ten, is foolish, gullible, or a Democrat.

4. A pause for levity since I am so upset…Here is the Celebrity Perv Apology Generator.  This “guide for new celebrities” is also mordantly amusing, on the same topic. Continue reading

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