The Cancel Mob Comes For Kirk Douglas

I nearly wrote a tribute post for Kirk Douglas, the seemingly indestructible Hollywood Golden Age star who finally passed away at the age of 103 this week. He certainly had some impressive ethics moments. When Douglas’s production company set out to make  a big budget film version of “Spartacus,” the actor-producer not only hired blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo  to do the screenplay, but also allowed Trumbo to use his own name name in the credits. “We all had been employing the blacklisted writers,”  Douglas wrote in his 2012 memoir, “I Am Spartacus!: Making a Film, Breaking the Blacklist.” “It was an open secret and an act of hypocrisy, as well as a way to get the best talent at bargain prices. I hated being part of such a system.” Some have speculated that Douglas’s defiance of the blacklist cost him one or more Oscars.

Later, after his film career had waned, Douglas worked with his wife on a project to build 400 playgrounds in Los Angeles. Together they established the Anne Douglas Center for Homeless Women, the Kirk Douglas High School for at-risk  students to get their high school diploma, the Kirk Douglas Theater. In 2015, the Douglases donated $15 million to the Motion Picture & Television Fund in Woodland Hills toward the construction of the Kirk Douglas Care Pavilion, a $35 million facility for the care of people in the industry with Alzheimer’s disease. Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms Archives: “Forgetting What We Know”

This post, one of the very first on Ethics Alarms, was written on Halloween, 2009. The blog had essentially no followers then. I judge it an excellent post (if I do say so myself) but just a handful of people read it. There were four commenters: King Kool, who traveled over from the old Ethics Scoreborad site and who, I am happy to say, still weighs in now and then; “Ethics Bob” Stone, who commented her last year,  and a friend I met through my connection with child star advocate Paul Petersen and with whom I am still in touch.

I found it extremely interesting to review–I wouldn’t change anything substantive in it, though I made three small edits—in light of what has happened since, and the theme of the post, which was how ethics evolves.

The post was written before the #MeToo upheaval. For all I know, Harvey Weinstein was forcing an aspiring starlet to have sex with him and Bill Cosby was drugging a young woman as I was posting it. It references several  rationalizations before the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations list had been launched.

I wonder, though, how much out society has really learned since it was written.  Roman Polanski is still living free and directing films in France. Six women have accused him of sex-related crimes, the most recent last November.

Bill Cosby is in prison for one of his rapes: Harvey Weinstein is standing trial right now. Bill Clinton appears to have finally been reduced to persona non grata status among progressives and his former defenders, but his complicit and unapologetic enabler, Hillary Clinton, is still treated as a feminist icon, and even harbors dreams of running for President again. The Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, Justin Fairfax , has been convincingly accused of rape by one woman and sexual harassment by another, yetremains in office, and the local and national media have stuffed the story in the proverbial memory hole.

Six years after this post, David Letterman retired from “The Late Show” hailed as comedy legend, with Barack Obama and three former Presidents appearing on his farewell show. He continues to be sought after for interviews and as an MC, as in the USO event pictured above.  In 2016, Letterman joined the climate change documentary show Years of Living Dangerously as one of the show’s celebrity correspondents. In 2017, Letterman gave the induction speech for Pearl Jam when the group was inducted into the  Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. That same year, 2017, Letterman was feted on Turner Movie Classics with Alec Baldwin—don’t get me started–as he  co-hosted “The Essentials.”  Letterman and Baldwin introduced seven films for the series.

Wisely, “Rosemary’s Baby” was not among them.

In 2018, Letterman began hosting a six-episode monthly series of hour-long programs on Netflix called My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman. His old friend, patron, and feminist hero Barack Obama was his first guest.

The second season premiered on May 31, 2019.

This  is “Forgetting What We Know.” Continue reading

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t…

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An Oregon woman, Kristine Johnson, is suing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (that’s the Mormon church) for $9.54 million because Timothy Samuel Johnson, her husband, confessed to church leaders that he had sexually molested a child, and he was reported to law enforcement authorities, leading to his arrest, conviction and imprisonment. The lawsuit alleges that local church leaders breached confidentiality and the “priest-penitent privilege. Timothy Johnson had confessed to  clergy that he had repeated sexual contact with a minor. Local clergy’s actions “totally violated church policy,” says the woman’s lawyers. “It’s been devastating on the family,” plaintiff’s counsel told the press. “They lost a husband and a father, and local girls lost a reliable source of gifts, friendship, and excitement.”

OK, I’m kidding about the part after “father.” Continue reading

Assorted Ethics Thoughts In The Throes Of Insomnia, 8/17/2019: The Foot-In-Mouth Edition

Started as a Morning Warm-Up, then it was a Mid-Day Update, then a Late Night something or other.

1. From the “Steve King is an idiot” files: Rep. Steve King, a Republican from Iowa whose avocation is sticking his foot in his mouth, told the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale, Iowa that the unborn who result from rape are no less lives that other fetuses, and should not be subject to any “exception” to principled exception to abortion. “It’s not the baby’s fault,” he said.

So far, so good: King is right. Then he had to go and say this:

“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape or incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that? Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages that’s taken place, and whatever happened to culture after society, I know that I can’t certify that I’m not a product of that. And I’d like to think every one of the lives of us are as precious as any other life.”

So when you really think about it, rape and incest are a good things, right, Steve?

That’s certainly how Democrats and progressives took his comments, and to be fair, his infuriatingly ham-handed rhetoric made it easy.  The position that unborn children are just as deserving of life regardless of how they were conceived is a powerful and greatly misunderstood ethical argument. It is not necessary to rationalize rape to make it; in fact, King’s dumb argument just muddles the issue. It’s also bad history and anthropology.

NBC has an article up claiming that King’s words show the “misogyny” at the heart of white supremacy. No, they just show that King is a moron, and we already knew that.

2. Nice. Here’s the title of a Gail Collins op-ed in yesterday’s Times: “How to torture Trump.” Continue reading

OH! The Teen Who Raped A Drunken Girl And Sent The Video Of Him Doing It To His Pals On Social Media “Has A Good Family!” That Changes Everything, Then! [UPDATED]

A New Jersey Appeals Court has reversed a decision of a Family Court judge who has a claim on the title of “Most Incompetent Judge Ever.”

The facts showed that  a drunk 16-year-old boy raped an even more drunk  16-year-old  in the basement during a party. The boy recorded a video of  himself penetrating her from behind, and then shared it on social media among friends along with a text that said, “When your first time having sex was rape.” The victim could barely recall the incident, and when she confronted her attacker, he denied that he had raped her  even as he continued to circulate the video. When the victim, known only in public records as Mary, an alias, because of her juvenile status, learned this, she had her mother contact authorities.

The Monmouth County prosecutor’s office wanted the boy to be tried as an adult. They applied for a waiver of his juvenile status, arguing that the alleged assailant’s actions were “predatory and sophisticated.”  “At the time he led ‘Mary’ into the basement gym, she was visibly intoxicated and unable to walk without stumbling,” the prosecutor wrote. “For the duration of the assault, the lights in the gym remained off and the door was barred by a foosball table. Filming a cellphone video while committing the assault was a deliberate act of debasement.”

In criminal law, the defendant’s lawyer always tries to get a “good judge,” and in this case, the accused rapist teen hit the jackpot. Judge James Troiano of Superior Court was the ideal judge for this defendant, because he apparently leads his profession in rationalizing idiocy. “Good,” in this case, meant incompetent. Continue reading

Now THAT’S An Unethical Judge!

But perhaps a potential Democratic Presidential candidate…or Virginia Lieutenant Governor maybe?

Judge Scott Gallina of Asotin County in Washington was arrested at the courthouse last week and charged with second-degree rape. He was also charged with fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation and indecent liberties, as described by  a press release by Washington’s attorney general.

Eleven women claim that Gallina subjected them to varying degrees of sexual misconduct including unwanted touching and inappropriate comments. The  women even adopted a buddy system so that no one would risk being alone with the judge in his chambers.

The rape charge involves a woman who  told investigators that she didn’t report Gallina’s alleged conduct  because she  feared she wouldn’t be believed. She did complain to Judge Gallina, who said he “could not help it because he liked beautiful women.”

And it gets creepier. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/3/2019: “Thing’s Are Seldom What They Seem…”

Good afternoon!

1. Today’s source of maximum irritation. Remember those California wildfires at the end of last year that the news media kept reporting as proof of climate change and that prompted Democrats and talking heads to sneer in disdain at anyone, especially President Trump, who suggested that electrical equipment just might have been the cause? From NPR:

Pacific Gas and Electric says it’s “probable” that its equipment caused the Camp Fire in Northern California, the deadliest and most destructive in the state’s history.

California has not finished its investigation into PG&E’s culpability in last November’s fire that killed at least 85 people, destroyed about 14,000 structures, displacing tens of thousands of people and destroying the town of Paradise. However, the state’s largest utility, which filed for bankruptcy last month, said Thursday it expects the investigation will find that its damaged infrastructure sparked the fire.

Please let Ethics Alarms know how many of the news shows this morning mention this development.

2. Spring Training ethics note: Good news! Ethics Alarms has been campaigning for robo-umps at home plate to call balls and strikes for several years. Now MLB announces that it has finalized a three-year deal with the independent Atlantic League to have the league test rules innovations and equipment for the Show. This will include computer calling of pitches. Not so good news: it will also reportedly include moving the mound back, which is heresy.

3. Concern for Popehat’s Ken White.  There is not a smarter, more passionate, better blogger on the planet than lawyer Ken White, and while we have had our disagreements, his commentary on law and justice especially is a blessing for all Americans, even though most don’t have the sense to benefit from it. One of many reasons I admire Ken is that he has been candid about his battle with depression, a killer illness that too many people don’t understand. That malady runs in my family (or as Mortimer Brewster says in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “Runs? It practically gallups!”), and has been responsible for more than one suicide. Popehat once was a collective, but now it’s almost entirely Ken, with occasional drop-ins from the acerbic Mark Randazza. The blog’s last entry was January 4, almost two months. I’m worried, as are most of Ken’s fans I’m sure, and I am officially sending Ethics Alarms best wishes and love to one of the really good people in multiple roles: lawyer, blogger, public educator. Get back as soon as you can, Ken. We need you. Continue reading