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?

Continue reading

The Naked Presidential Candidate’s Wife Principle

melania

I must confess, I didn’t see this variation of the Naked Teacher Principle coming.

That long-running topic on Ethics Alarms involves teachers who allow naked or sexually provocative photographs of themselves to become available to their pre-college age students. The verdict here is that such teachers have no basis for complaint if their employers subsequently judge them to be fatally diminished as role models and authority figures, having traversed into the category of sex objects, at least for some students. There are many variations of the principle that have been explored here, some requiring substantive exceptions, like The Provocatively-Clad Bodybuilding Teacher Principle. Some are slam-dunks, like the Online-Porn Star Teacher Principle.

Today the question raised is how we should feel about potential First Ladies who have left naked photo-shoots in their wake. Melania Trump, now the  speech-writer trophy wife of GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump, was previously not a role model, but just a model, and occasionally a naked model. The tabloid New York Post somehow got a hold of some of her more stimulating photos and published them, the first batch with the typical Post headline, “The Ogle Office,” and the second, showing Mrs, Trump in some girl-on-girl action…

Melania Post 2

…headlined, “Menage a Trump.”

Is this unfair of the Post? Is this below-the-belt, attacking Melania to get at her husband? Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: The Huffington Post, Which Is Having A Really Unethical Week

KKK assestance

“The photo has gone viral this weekend as netizens praise the officer’s extraordinary show of professionalism and grace under such trying circumstances.”

The Huffington Post, commenting on the photo above, showing black police officer Leroy Smith giving a feeble white supremacist assistance during the Ku Klux Klan rally held at the South Carolina Statehouse over the weekend.

Does the Huffington Post have any idea what professionalism is? Ethical conduct? Increasingly, I have my doubts, and this is just the latest example.

We already know the average “netizen” doesn’t know ethics from shinola, but the Huffington Post is a news and culture commentary site. One would think a basic comprehension of such concepts as duty, fairness, justice, responsibility and ethics would be essential. Well, let me rephrase that: they are obviously essential. One would think the Huffington Post would know that without them, its analysis of pretty much anything is worthless.

Look, you ethics dolts: Smith was doing his job, that’s all. The fact that he personally may have objected to the beliefs and words of the protesters is completely irrelevant to his professional obligations. He must treat all professionals the same. To do otherwise would un-professional, un-ethical, and wrong. Dominique Mosbergen is  apparently  of the opinion that the normal, professional thing to do is to refuse to help people whom you don’t like, agree with, or whose views offend you. Wait—isn’t this what the jerks who refuse to sell cakes to gay couples do? Somehow I don’t think Dominique agrees with those anti-gay marriage zealots or that she feels to just treat such customers as human beings would constitute an “extraordinary show of professionalism and grace.” Why does she think a black cop helping a distressed racist like he would a similarly needy  NAACP member because they are both citizens and as a public servant he is duty-bound to treat them both exactly the same is an “extraordinary show of professionalism and grace,” then?

It is because she is incompetent and ignorant. It is because she doesn’t comprehend what professionalism is. It is because to her, “White Racist Lives Don’t Matter,” so she is just bowled over when an African American acts without employing her biases.

Leroy Smith behaved like any professional would, and should. Nothing more, nothing less. Most cops do their jobs, and do them professionally. There is nothing newsworthy or extraordinary  about the photo, except to people who believe that the primary motivating factor for most people is hate.

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Pointer: Fred

Betrayal of Trust: The Turncoat Virginia State Senator

Senator Puckett and daughter: 'Anything for little girl...even screwing over my constituents...'

Senator Puckett and daughter: ‘Anything for my little girl…even screwing over my constituents…’

Virginia Republicans are preparing for a show-down with Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe over the state budget and the expansion of Medicare to handle uninsured Virginians under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Unfortunately for them, Democrats hold the majority in the state Senate, or did, until some smoke-filled room maneuvering persuaded a conflicted Democratic state senator to resign, giving the GOP control of the chamber, at least for a while. Democratic Sen. Phillip P. Puckett ’s unexpected departure gives Republicans a 20-to-19 majority.

The Washington Post reported that Puckett (D-Russell) will announce his resignation from the Virginia Senate, effective immediately, paving the way for his daughter to continue as a district judge and for Puckett to take the job of deputy director of the state tobacco commission. Rationalizations for the move are flying, particularly as it affects Puckett’s daughter. Martha Puckett Ketron is already a Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court judge. Circuit Court judges in Southwestern Virginia gave her a temporary appointment last year while the General Assembly, which approves judicial appointments for the state, was in recess. The Virginia House of Delegates approved her appointment to a six-year term when it reconvened earlier this year, but the Senate rejected the appointment because of its standing policy against appointing the relatives of active legislators to the bench. (It’s a good policy.) Thus, you see, Daddy’s resignation directly benefits his little girl, though it stabs his party and his constituents right in their backs.

This is known as a conflict of interest. The soon-to-be ex-senator needs to bone up on the concept and its ramifications.The ethical way to handle this conflict would be for Puckett to refuse to do anything to influence the resolution of his daughter’s appointment whatsoever.

“It [that is, the resignation] should pave the way for his daughter,” said Republican Delegate Terry Kilgore, who sure looks like the architect of this smelly deal.  “She’s a good judge. . . . I would say that he wanted to make sure his daughter kept her judgeship. A father’s going do that.”

Not if he’s ethical, he won’t. The spin Republicans are putting on this is that Puckett is resigning for his daughter, and after that decision was made, Kilgore, who serves as the chairman of the state tobacco commission, offered him the post of deputy director. Not as a quid pro quo, mind you. Because he was qualified for the job.

Right.

Even if this was the actual sequence, and I doubt it, it has the appearance of impropriety and undermines public trust. That makes it the kind of transaction legislators are bound to avoid. The Huffington Post’s headline on the story is “GOP Straight Up Bribes Democratic Senator In Effort To Block Obamacare,” which is stating one interpretation of an ambiguous sequence of events as fact….lousy and unethical journalism, but as I said, this is the Huffington Post.

It could be that Puckett, on his own or even at the behest of his daughter, resigned so he could stay a judge, and then, realizing that Republicans would benefit and that he would be a pariah in his own party, negotiated the deal that got him his new job. It could also be that the Republicans, seeking a Senate majority, cooked this up, offered Puckett a package he couldn’t refuse (because he’s a corrupt and disloyal public servant), and thus it really was a quid pro quo deal. Note that Huffpo, biased as it is, frames this so the GOP is the villain.

This is not technically bribery, which is a crime. This is slimy, nauseating politics, but classic sausage-making: the Affordable Care Act owes its very existence to these kind of deals and worse. The question isn’t whether these maneuvers are ethical–they are not— but whether politics can exist without them, and whether one can have a functioning adversary party system without them. My guess is no. If you like the results of such old-fashioned hard-ball politics, then this is utilitarian: “Lincoln” showed how the 13th Amendment was passed by Lincoln’s operatives and lobbyists picking off weak and conflicted legislators like lions targeting wounded water buffalo. If you object to the results, well then, it’s dirty politics, and an unethical display of “the ends justify the means” at its worst.

But one man, had he integrity and proper respect for the job he had been entrusted by his constituents to do, could have made the whole matter academic by just performing the job he had been elected for, and subordinating his daughter’s career aspirations to his duty. Instead, Phillip P. Puckett betrayed his party, his post, his constituency and his state.

And one more thing: if his daughter were ethical, as judges are supposed to be, she would refuse to keep her judgeship this way.

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Sources: Washington Post, Huffington Post

Ethics Dunce: Beau Friedlander

Beau Friedlander is a contributor to the Huffington Post who decided it was time to show just how vicious, uncivil and unhinged a committed progressive could be, there being ample evidence of these qualities on the other side of the political spectrum. So…

1. Friedlander wrote an angry and hate-filled rant slandering Tea Party members, Mormons, and Republicans and the American public generally;

2. He included, as the piece’s centerpiece, this:

“I hereby offer to negotiate a $100,000 payday to the person who will come forward with a sex tape or phone records or anything else that succeeds in removing Glenn Beck from the public eye forever. I am not offering the cash myself, but I will broker the deal and/or raise the money for what you bring to the table. (And it better be good.) If you have the goods, or if you want to contribute to a slush fund to buy more takedowns (probably not tax deductible), please contact me at: glennbecksextape@gmail.com.” Continue reading