Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 5/4/2019: No Trump, No “Resistance.” Enjoy!

Good Morning!

This song, the only “hit” (kind of) by “The Carpenters” sung by Karen’s brother Richard, matches my conflicted mood today. Richard’s teasing and criticism played a part in killing his sister, who possessed one of the most wonderful voices of any popular female vocalist in U.S. history, but who was doomed by anorexia. I am also both perplexed and amused that someone with a lisp would choose a song that repeats “Saturday” as his break-out solo. I wonder if Karen teased him about that?

1.  More on high-testosterone competitors in women’s sports. As I recently wrote here, I am floating in an uncharted sea of uncertainty on this issue, especially regarding Caster Semenya, the intersex South African track star. I do know, however, that I applaud her defiance of the recent court order dictating that she will have to take testosterone-lowing medication if she wants to compete. After a race this week, which she won, as usual, Semenya was asked if she would take the drug. Her answer:  “Hell no.”

Athletic organizations are treading through a mine field here. If they regard taking performance enhancing drugs as cheating, as they should, demanding that certain competitors with natural physical and genetic advantages should take performance-handicapping drugs seems like a double standard.

2. Stop making me defend Woody Allen! I have been unable to watch an Allen movie, even old favorites like “Bananas,” “What’s Up. Tiger Lilly?,” and “Annie Hall,” without gagging since the comic/director cheated on Mia Farrow with her adopted teen-aged daughter, to whom he was a virtual father, and then married her. Thus I have watched none of his films at all. I didn’t need to make a judgment about his daughter’s claims that he sexually molested her, which Allen denies, and since I have no more evidence than the she said/he said (and my certainty that Allen is a certifiable creep), I can’t. However, once Dylan Farrow and her vengeful mother Mia renewed their accusations against Allen while #MeToo was raging,  virtually all of Hollywood turned on Woody, even actors who had worked with him well after Dylan first made her claims. What changed? Nothing, really, except that now they are afraid of social media retribution, so they are pretending to be horrified at what didn’t bother them previously and assuming Woody’s guilt because “believe all women” is the “woke” place to be.

Well, Woody is a creature of Hollywood: this is unethical and unfair, but as Hymen Roth would tell him, “This is the life you have chosen.” Translation: if you voluntarily spend your career in (and benefiting from, and contributing too) an ethically warped culture, don’t expect a lot of sympathy when it turns on you.

This is more troubling: apparently Woody has a completed manuscript of his memoirs, which would have once sparked a publishers auction and an eventual multi-million dollar advance. Now, however, no publisher will pay a cent for it, because “while he remains a significant cultural figure, the commercial risks of releasing a memoir by him were too daunting.”

That means that the publishers are afraid of boycotts. How courageous. Allen is a significant cultural figure as well as a talented humorist. His memoirs have cultural importance, and they belong in the historical record, loathsome as find the man. Easily as loathsome are William Jefferson Clinton and his wife, yet both of them managed to score 7 figure book advances for memoirs they didn’t even write themselves.

Essentially what is happening to Woody is human statue-toppling. He is being erased from the culture despite never having been charged with or tried for a crime (unlike Bill Cosby and O.J. Simpson) because it is a sign of virtue among sufficient numbers of people with social media access to assume he is guilty. The boycott and progressive bully culture is a direct threat to basic freedoms. I’d regain some respect for Woody Allen if he would say so. Continue reading

Welcome To My World

Suicide jokes, however, are fine...

Suicide jokes, however, are fine

In the ethics CLE (Continuing Legal Education) world, seminar attendees rank presenters. Ethics is a much-detested topic; if you can crack 3 (out of 5, the best), you are doing well. My scores are usually between 4.6 and 4.9.

Attendees are also invited to write comments. I recently received the survey summaries from an out-of-state seminar I taught to a section of that state’s bar. The response during an immediately after the seminar was terrific, so I expected my usual ratings. The coordinator sent me an e-mail stating that my scores were “very good overall” (4.7, in fact) but that there were “concerns about a rape joke in my presentation.”

There was no rape joke in the session. I don’t make rape jokes.

I had been talking about Donald Trump’s lawyer, in an incident I posted about here, incompetently saying that “you can’t rape your spouse.” “You can rape your spouse,” I said. “I have this image of hopeful spousal abusers reading this idiot’s comments and saying, “This is great!”

I wrote back to the coordinator and said that I wanted my objection to this characterization in my files and on the record. I know how it works. All that is remembered later is the complaint, and groups, even bars, are controversy averse. Next year, when they are deciding whether to have me speak, all that has to happen is for someone to say, “Wasn’t there some rape joke he made that we got flack for?” That would be enough; nobody would check, nobody would investigate. I would be eliminated as a potential speaker, probably for all time. They might even tell another bar association about the episode when they are called about whether to use me. “Well, his seminar was popular, but there was some problem about a rape joke he told.”

I asked to see all the surveys. The “concern” about my “rape joke” consisted of exactly one anonymous comment out of a hundred attendees.

I would estimate political correctness hyper-sensitivity by single attendees cost me about a client a year. The other members of their groups have to be saddled with boring ethics seminars because one lawyer had to prove how vigilant he or she was in being properly offended.

(Now THIS is a rape joke...and I would never tell it.)

What A Surprise: Donald Trump Has An Unethical Lawyer!

One of these guys is Donald Trump's lawyer. Maybe both...

One of these guys is Donald Trump’s lawyer. Maybe both…

I realize I run the risk, by publishing this opinion, of Donald Trump’s thuggish, boorish, dolt of lawyer trying to “mess [my] life up … for as long as [I’m] on this frickin’ planet,” to put it in his well-measured, restrained and professional parlance. Well, so be it. Seldom do we see any lawyer befoul the image and dignity of his profession like Michael Cohen, Esquire, one of Donald Trump’s lawyers, did yesterday responding to a Daily Beast story about the dirty linen aired during Trump’s divorce from Ivana Trump over 20 years ago.

Ivana then compared a sexual encounter with her husband to sexual assault and rape,  and The Daily Beast wrote about it, as if Trump wasn’t doing enough already to make any decent American head to the loo at the sight of him. So Trump appointed Cohen as his media spokesman on the matter—just think: he was the best and most professional of the candidates for the job!—and he said this to The Daily Beast… Continue reading

Rape, Consent, and the Unconscious Lover

unconscious

Maybe Republicans should just keep their mouths shut whenever rape is being discussed. You know, just to be on the safe side.

Utah is considering legislation designed to protect the incapacitated from having to prove they did not consent to sex. The bill, an amended version of current law, was introduced after a 2013 case in which a man was charged with raping an unconscious neighbor on her porch. Republican state Representative Brian Greene prominently stepped into the Todd (“Legitimate Rape”) Akin Zone when he questioned the measure as too broad, saying,

“If an individual has sex with their wife while she is unconscious … a prosecutor could then charge that spouse with rape, theoretically. That makes sense in a first date scenario, but to me, not where people have a history of years of sexual activity.”

This, as you might imagine, ignited quite a bit of criticism. Greene appeared to be saying that it was okay to have sex with your spouse if he or she were unconscious. (He later issued a classic non-apology apology. I rate it a #7 on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale) Continue reading