Tag Archives: proportion

Flipping Off The President, And Proud Of It (With A Poll!)

Remember Julie Briskman? She flipped off the President’s motorcade in  November, and was so proud of that eloquent statement that she posted a photo of her gesture on Facebook. He company, A government contractor, promptly fired her. I wrote at the time,

Flipping a middle figure to the President’s motorcade is protected speech. Flipping said finger to the President when one works for a company dependent on government contracts and plastering photos of one doing this on social media is not what I would call wise, and Julie Briskman should have reasonably expected her employers to admonish her to keep the company’s public image in mind the next time she was tempted to bite the hand that feeds it. Akima LLC, however, a Virginia-based company, fired her.

They have every right to do this, but it was a gross and cruel over-reaction. Worse, the company wasn’t even honest about its rationale,telling her that company policy forbade an employee having  anything ‘lewd’ or ‘obscene’ on your social media. Sure. “The finger” is undeniably rude. Obscene it’s not.

But Julie doesn’t read Ethics Alarms (obviously!), and sued for wrongful termination. Last week, Virginia judge Penney Azcarate judge dismissed Briskman’s wrongful termination claim. Her lawyers had claimed that Briskman’s employers violated public policy by forcing her resignation.

As I said, I don’t think the company was particularly fair to Briskman, who is young and like most of the resistance, lacks judgment and proportion. I doubt that anyone would take it out on her employers that they employed a rude and immature jerk as a marketing analyst. It need not have fired her. Still, Virginia is an employment at will state where you can be fired for having an obnoxious laugh. As Ethics Alarms has held here frequently regarding professors who post racist rants on social media and episodes like that of Adam Smith, the so-called Chick-Fil-A Video Vigilante who verbally abused a Chick-Fil-A employee and posted the video of him doing so, companies have every right to regard an employee whose public behavior embarrasses their employers as a liability, and to treat them as such. It isn’t kind, and it isn’t compassionate, but as I wrote about Smith,

“I can’t blame anyone who doesn’t want to be represented by a man whose judgment was this wretched and who is best known for bullying an innocent minimum wage employee because he didn’t like her boss’s take on gay marriage. Actions have consequences, and while the cumulative effects of the foolish and damning video have been excessive, no individual component of it is. Someone should be kind, obey the Golden Rule and give Smith a shot at redemption, but no one individual is ethically obligated to do so. Smith’s sad fate, which extends to his family, is still his own doing, and he alone is accountable.”

Continue reading

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Morgan Freeman, Cultural Shifts, And The Dirty Old Man’s Dilemma

I wondered how it was that Morgan Freeman, black, progressive, a Barack Obama enthusiast and the owner of a squeaky clean image, was hit with career- and reputation-endangering accusations of “inappropriate conduct” that were on balance far, far less alarming than the borderline or outright criminal offenses claimed by the victims of most of the #MeToo targets. Now we know: Morgan Freeman, then 79 , was interviewed by a young, attractive CNN reporter before the Harvey Weinstein story broke. The actor made creepy, sexually suggestive comments to her, and they bothered her as she continued to consider them during her maternity leave, which began soon after the interview. When she returned, Harvey Weinstein had been exposed, #MeToo was in full swing, and the reporter, Chloe Melas, had a new and unexpected male celebrity to investigate and perhaps take down.

This does not appear to be another example of a vicious abuser whom the Weinstein story allowed to finally meet justice after years of victimizing those who came within his sphere of power. All of the claims against Freeman are garden variety dumb, blundering sexual harassment without malice, almost exclusively by the spoken word. Although the news accounts mention “unwanted touching,” the only description of such touching involves Freeman touching a woman’s skirt and threatening to lift it. There have been no “groping” accusations, at least not yet.

Never mind. The allegations so far have already harmed, probably irreparably, the Academy Award-winning actor’s career. Visa has dropped him as its long-time spokesman. Honors he has received are being reconsidered. More penalties are sure to come.

Freeman issued a clumsy, non-apology apology, saying,

“Anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows I am not someone who would intentionally offend or knowingly make anyone feel uneasy. I apologize to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected — that was never my intent.”

It’s a poor apology, but I believe him. He never intended to make anyone uncomfortable, and it didn’t occur to him that any woman would make a big deal out of being—from his perspective—flirted with, even naughtily, by a very old man and iconic movie star. In this, he falls not in the ugly Cosby, Harvey, Kevin, Matt and Charlie category but into the sadder George H.W. Bush class, which I will call “The Dirty Old Men Division.” Continue reading

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What Is Fairness, Justice And Proportion For Aaron Schlossberg?

“He’s a jerk. Let’s squash him like a bug…”

Surely by now you know of Aaron Schlossberg, the latest cultural villain.

He was the star and author of a bizarre incident at a restaurant in Manhattan. Schlossberg, who is a midtown Manhattan lawyer, freaked out beyond all reason when a customer began conversing in Spanish with employees at the restaurant. “Your staff is speaking Spanish to customers when they should be speaking English,” he protested. “Every person I listen to — he spoke it, he spoke it, she’s speaking it. This is America! “My guess is they’re not documented, so my next call is to ICE to have each one of them kicked out of my country.If they have the balls to come here and live off of my money — I pay for their welfare, I pay for their ability to be here — the least they can do is speak English…I’m calling ICE.”

Naturally, this was captured on a phone video. Naturally, it was posted to social media. Once upon a time a person could behave like a jackass and only have the immediate witnesses to his conduct know about it. No more. Now, thanks to omnipresent cell phones, everyone is under more or less constant surveillance, and a bad moment, a sudden outburst or an ill-considered word can and will be wielded by steely-eyed social justice enforcers to destroy a miscreant’s life to the maximum extent possible.

Is that the kind of society you want to live in? It would be wise to consider the fate of Aaron Schlossberg.

Somehow his name became known. The news media picked up his tantrum: the Daily News put it on its front page! The New York Post reported that he has been evicted from his office by Corporate Suites, the company that held his law office lease.  His firm’s associate quit, with a nice virtue-signaling tweet. A petition demanding that he be disbarred has more than 10,000 signatures, and there is a GoFundMe effort to a  hire a mariachi band to follow him around New York.

That’s kind of funny, I have to admit. Continue reading

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Another White House Closed-Door “Gotcha,” Another Chunk Gouged Out Of Our Liberties

The icky ethics category of private or limited audience statements that get unethically publicized by malign third-parties to embarrass and harm the speaker has been explored here many times, notably in the case of Donald Sterling, the NBA owner and billionaire who lost his franchise, millions of dollars and his reputation over a remark he made in his own bedroom that was surreptitiously recorded and released by a treacherous girlfriend.. The position of Ethics Alarms on these incidents, which also includes spurned lovers sharing private emails to the world in order to humiliate a correspondent, the Democratic Senators who leaked the President’s course rhetoric about “shithole” countries that took place during a meeting that was supposed to be private and confidential, and Donald Trump’s infamous “pussy-grabbing” statements, is simple. One the embarrassing words unethically made public, they can’t be ignored, but neither can the circumstances of their making.

There is not a human being alive who has not made statements in private meetings or conversations, whether  those statements be jokes, insults, rueful observations or deliberate hyperbole, that would be horribly inappropriate as public utterances. Thus the feigned horror at such statements by others is the rankest kind of Golden Rule hypocrisy. In addition, the opprobrium and public disgrace brought down on the heads of those whose mean/ugly/politically incorrect/vulgar/ nasty/insulting words are made public by a treacherous friend, associate or colleague erodes every American’s freedom of thought, association and expression, as well as their privacy.

The most recent example of this unethical sequence occurred after Kelly Sadler, a White House special assistant, stated in a closed-door policy meeting that Senator John McCain’s opposition to Trump’s nominee for CIA director “doesn’t matter” because “he’s dying anyway.” Some saboteur in the meeting, determined to harm both Sadler and her boss, leaked this small moment in a private meeting, in which participants reasonably assumed they did not have to be politically correct, nice, kind, civil or careful because everyone in the meeting had tacitly agreed that the meeting was confidential. That, and only that, is the ethical breach here. (Nah, there’s no “deep state”…there are just nefarious moles in the White House who coordinate with the news media to undermine the President. That’s all!). Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Month: The French Anti-#MeToo Letter

This translated open letter received a lot of publicity last week, in part because the famous French actress Catherine Deneuve signed it (that’s her, above, with Harvey Weinstein) , along with writer/psychoanalyst Sarah Chiche,  author/art critic Catherine Millet, actress/writer Catherine Robbe-Grillet, journalist  Peggy Sastre (author/journalist) and writer/journalist Abnousse Shalmani. It was signed by over a hundred other women.

The entire letter is important, and should be read by anyone interested in this issue—and everyone should be interested. All of the letter is ethically dead on, except one crucial element: workplace harassment is not trivial, as the letter mistakenly suggests. The letter states near the beginning:

“This summary justice has already had its victims: men who’ve been disciplined in the workplace, forced to resign, and so on., when their only crime was to touch a woman’s knee, try to steal a kiss, talk about “intimate” things during a work meal, or send sexually-charged messages to women who did not return their interest.”

The French just do not get this. I have seen it, fought it, and trained companies about it: supervisors using the workplace as a dating bar harms women, even when the particular target is receptive. It is a crucial component of the glass ceiling and fuels sexual discrimination, every one of those behaviors mentioned above can create a hostile workplace. Men who engage in such conduct, if the conduct can be proven, should be disciplined, as a matter of policy and ethics.

The rest of the letter is excellent.

Rape is a crime. But trying to pick up someone, however persistently or clumsily, is not — nor is gallantry an attack of machismo.

The Harvey Weinstein scandal sparked a legitimate awakening about the sexual violence that women are subjected to, particularly in their professional lives, where some men abuse their power. This was necessary. But what was supposed to liberate voices has now been turned on its head: We are being told what is proper to say and what we must stay silent about — and the women who refuse to fall into line are considered traitors, accomplices!

Just like in the good old witch-hunt days, what we are once again witnessing here is puritanism in the name of a so-called greater good, claiming to promote the liberation and protection of women, only to enslave them to a status of eternal victim and reduce them to the defenseless prey of male chauvinist demons.

Ratting out and calling out Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/7/17: Al Franken’s Day That Will Live In Infamy [UPDATED]

Battleship USS West Virginia sunk and burning at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. In background is the battleship USS Tennessee.

Good Morning, Bad Memories…

1 The duty to remember…The most amazing thing about Pearl Harbor was perhaps how lucky the United States was that the sneak attack by Japan, as devastating as it was, didn’t permanently cripple our ability to defend ourselves. Two links lead to explanations why. Here is a letter written by Admiral Nimitz, then in his eightieth year. to Admiral David L. McDonald, the present Chief of Naval Operations. The National Review provides the tale of how a forgotten Georgia Congressman, Democrat Carl Vinson saved the country and probably the world.  An excerpt:

For nearly a decade before Pearl Harbor, Vinson had schemed and politicked in brilliant fashion to ensure that America was building a two-ocean navy larger than all the major navies of the world combined. Vinson had assumed in the mid-1930s that fascist Japan and Germany posed existential threats to the United States. For America to survive, he saw that America would need mastery of the seas to transport its armies across the Pacific and Atlantic.

This is Thank You Carl Day. Read it all.

2. ‘I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t smart enough, and doggone it, nobody likes me!’ This appears to be the end for Senator Al Franken. If it’s not, the end is near and inevitable. His seventh new accuser was the tipping point, for some reason, though her story Franken denies—especially the part where the anonymous woman claims that after she ducked his attempt at a spontaneous kiss in 2006, he  protested, “It’s my right as an entertainer! ” The soon-to-be-former Senator told Politico,

“This allegation is categorically not true and the idea that I would claim this as my right as an entertainer is preposterous. I look forward to fully cooperating with the ongoing ethics committee investigation.”

That “It’s my right” comment sounds to me like a desperate attempt to save face by making a joke out of an awkward situation, not a serious claim. If I’m right, then Franken’s statement is deceit: he’s saying that he would never claim such a right, but he isn’t saying that those words never came out of his mouth. Al’s slippery, mealy-mouthed, not-quite apologies are a large part of why he’s in this mess, as I wrote here. 

Still, no one should be presumed guilty or face negative consequences for a public accusation by an accuser who refuses to go on the record. This is basic fairness and due process. Never mind: the Democratic women in the U.S. Senate are less interested in due process and fairness than grandstanding and standing for the proposition that women must be believed in cases of sexual assault, unless they were assaulted by Bill Clinton. I think that’s the rule, right?

They led a coordinated attack on Franken yesterday by 16 U.S. Senators, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York—you know, the one who championed “Mattress Girl”?–who  wrote in a 650-word statement,”While Senator Franken is entitled to have the Ethics Committee conclude its review, I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve.”

That’s right, Senator, it’s better to send the message that due process is just a sham to make doing what you want to do look fair.

For example, how do you like this (from Politico):

Two former colleagues of the woman independently corroborated her version of events, including Franken telling her he had the right to try to kiss her because he was “an entertainer.” The first former colleague interviewed by POLITICO said she was told of the incident in 2006, shortly after it happened. The second former co-worker said she was made aware of the encounter sometime in 2009 or 2010.

What? Those women didn’t corroborate the the accuser’s “version of events”! How can any journalist write such junk? How could an editor let it pass? All they can do is corroborate that the woman said this happened, not that her account is accurate or true.

But again, never mind. This is The Terror. Al’s a man, Democrats have been caught in the web of hypocrisy they started spinning when Clinton was President, and his metaphorical blood must cleanse them. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “The ‘Unacceptable Word’ Fiasco: OK, Now I Really Want To Know How Many Progressives Seriously Endorse Stuff Like This?”

I don’t know if anyone regularly commenting here cares about the punishment of the acting student for his politically incorrect choice of words in an improv exercise as much as Curmie (above) and I do, but we care about it a lot.  As with the Ethics Alarms baseball ethics posts, the various theatrical ethics posts here sink quickly in readership, which, I’m afraid, speaks to a regrettable narrowness of vision. Ethical issues are seldom restricted in their applicability to the specific area in which they arise. I’m especially sensitive to ethics issues others might miss in certain areas where I have a lot of experience and expertise. The same is true, obviously, with Curmie.

Incidentally, I again urge readers to check on Curmie’s blog routinely. He has been through a light writing period of late, but when he speaks, as they once said of E.F. Hutton, people listen, or should. And maybe we can get him writing more again. I know of no more thoughtful, fair, and eloquent blogger, regardless of the topic.

See Curmie? The pressure’s on now!

Here is Curmie’s Comment of the Day on the post, The “Unacceptable Word” Fiasco: OK, Now I Really Want To Know How Many Progressives Seriously Endorse Stuff Like This?:

I am not an acting teacher by trade, but I have taught about two dozen sections of various college-level acting courses over the years. I’ve also taught directing maybe 15 times, and I’ve directed about 40 full-length plays (and a bunch of one-acts)—I’ve used improv techniques in the classroom and in rehearsal many times, although perhaps fewer than some of my colleagues of equivalent experience may have done.

It is remotely possible that the professor, Craig Rosen, imposed some restrictions on the exercise. I’ve done this. For example, if a student is working on a period piece and the language is, shall we say, less explicit than that of a work by David Mamet or Neil Labute or Sarah Kane might be, that young actor may be having trouble finding the anger a character feels if the verbal expression of it seems mild by 21st-century standards.

I’m reminded of working on a book chapter about an Irish version of Chekhov’s Three Sisters. The translator/adapter had Masha, one of the title characters, refer to her sister-in-law as a “bitch.” I happened to have access to a good friend and native Russian speaker, who also happened to be a scholar of dramatic literature. No, she said, Masha’s expletive doesn’t really translate that way… but for her expression of class-driven disgust to have the same effect on a modern audience that Masha’s line would have had in Tsarist Russia, she’d have to call Natasha a “fucking shopkeeper.” Continue reading

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