Tag Archives: “The King’s Pass”

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/10/18: Tony, Bob, Woody, And Charles

Good morning!

1. Tonys Ethics. I’ll be skipping the Tonys again this year, and if I wasn’t already in the habit of doing so, the fact that Robert De Niro was being promoted as a presenter would have done the trick. Inviting De Niro is one more example of show business anti-Trump aggression. The actor has been unrestrained in making ugly, profane, vulgar attacks on the President in inappropriate venues. True, he hasn’t called the President a cock-holster or a cunt  yet, but that’s about the only mitigation.

Here was his public rant  in January at another awards event:

“This fucking idiot is the President. It’s The Emperor’s New Clothes – the guy is a fucking fool. The publication of the Pentagon Papers was a proud moment for American journalism. The Times and the Post challenged the government over critical First Amendment issues. And the press prevailed. Our government today, with the propping-up of our baby-in-chief – the jerkoff-in-chief I call him – has put the press under siege, trying to discredit it through outrageous attacks and lies.’

Here is De Niro just last week at a student writing award ceremony:

“Our country is lead by a president who believes he can make up his own truth. And we have a word for that — bull shit!  So what about the truth? What does the truth even mean today? I mean, if you’re Donald Trump it doesn’t mean anything,”

If you invite Robert De Niro, you are deliberately announcing that your event is going to be politically divisive and include an attack, probably uncivil, on the President—and while he will be engaged in crucial international negotiations. The President has nothing to do with the Tonys, nor does politics—the main contenders for top musicals are “SpongeBob” and “Mean Girls,” for heaven’s sakes—nor does De Niro, who is just one more movie star being used by Broadway to attract a larger TV audience.

2. Tales of  #MeToo. What would you do with John Lasseter? Disney just fired him, thus risking  diminished  brilliance of future Pixar projects, meaning less happiness, less enjoyment, fewer immortal film classics, and, of course, fewer profits. He was jettisoned because—I can’t believe I’m writing this—he has a habit of hugging people, it was unwelcome, and the hugging became alleged sexual harassment because it was unappreciated by some or many female employees.

Lasseter is a Disney-style genius, the creative force behind “Toy Story,” “Cars,”  “Frozen,” “Saving Nemo” and many other wonderful works of art and popular entertainment. He was the chief creative officer of Pixar Animation Studios, which he helped found, and the separate Walt Disney Animation studio.  This appears to be his problem, from the Times story:

“A self-described Peter Pan, Mr. Lasseter has long been known for his jolly public persona and tendency to greet anyone in his proximity — subordinates, stars, fans, reporters — with lengthy bear hugs. In 2011, The Wall Street Journal published a photo slide show of his frequent squeezes, saying he had handed out at least 48 of them in one day at the office.”

On one ethics hand, it certainly seems like a waste to lose a major artist over innocent hugging (if it was innocent, as some accounts maintain)  and the sexual harassment is still officially “alleged.” On the other hand, as someone who hates hugging and always has, I regard Lasseter’s “innocent” habit as something that could easily create a hostile work environment.

It is unconsented touching, pure and simple. If an employee was made to think that the only way he or she could work at Pixar, he or she had to be prepared to be hugged daily, then that’s workplace abuse. No, it’s not as abusive as what Bill Clinton, Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, James Levine, Kevin Spacey or Charlie Rose subjected subordinates to, but that’s  just Rationalization #22 talking: “It’s not the worst thing.” As to the natural inclination, expressed by my wife this morning, to lament, “The man’s a genius and they are willing to lose his talents over hugging?,” there is no getting around it: that’s the King’s Pass.

I do not understand why this was not addressed before it got to this stage, unless Lasseter really has a screw loose. What could be so hard about, “John, stop hugging people at work. A lot of people don’t like it. Do it again, and you’re gone”?

In the end, Lasseter has nobody to blame but himself.

3. Krauthammer’s farewell. As you may have already read, Fox News pundit and longtime conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer penned a graceful and dignified public letter to announce that his death is imminent. He wrote,

I have been uncharacteristically silent these past 10 months. I had thought that silence would soon be coming to an end, but I’m afraid I must tell you now that fate has decided on a different course for me.

In August of last year, I underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in my abdomen. That operation was thought to have been a success, but it caused a cascade of secondary complications — which I have been fighting in hospital ever since. It was a long and hard fight with many setbacks, but I was steadily, if slowly, overcoming each obstacle along the way and gradually making my way back to health.

However, recent tests have revealed that the cancer has returned. There was no sign of it as recently as a month ago, which means it is aggressive and spreading rapidly. My doctors tell me their best estimate is that I have only a few weeks left to live. This is the final verdict. My fight is over.

I wish to thank my doctors and caregivers, whose efforts have been magnificent. My dear friends, who have given me a lifetime of memories and whose support has sustained me through these difficult months. And all of my partners at The Washington Post, Fox News, and Crown Publishing.

Lastly, I thank my colleagues, my readers, and my viewers, who have made my career possible and given consequence to my life’s work. I believe that the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument is a noble undertaking. I am grateful to have played a small role in the conversations that have helped guide this extraordinary nation’s destiny.

I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life — full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.

Observations:

  • The final line is as ethical an attitude to aspire to at the end of one’s like as I can imagine. It is also a remarkable thing for Krauthammer to say, as someone who was put in a wheelchair permanently by an accident in his twenties.
  • “I believe that the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument is a noble undertaking.”  Perfectly stated.
  • The last thing I remember about Krauthammer was his commentary after the first GOP candidates debate in 2015. He was disgusted with Donald Trump, and proclaimed that his candidacy had been exposed as a fraud and “not ready for prime time.”  Trump’s hopes of winning the nomination were dead, he said—and I heartily agreed.

 

15 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Workplace

The Controversial Birthday Toast: If Artists Have An Obligation To Avoid Harming Their Art By Being Jerks (Or Worse) In Public, Does The Same Principle Apply To Scientists?

The title refers to this post, which preceded the surprising development of iconic movie mensch Morgan Freeman being exposed as a workplace harasser (alleged, that is) and suddenly seeing his image degraded to Dirty Old Man, and his movies devalued as “Ew!”  Now even his voice-over work is in peril.

A famous scientist is a different kettle of fish, however.

At a genomics meeting at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York,  the attendees gathered to listen to the keynote speech in an auditorium, where a large painted portrait of  scientist James Watson–who lives in Cold Spring Harbor— hung. It was also Watson’s 90th birthday. Eric Lander, the director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, lifted a glass of champagne in hand to toast the famous co-discoverer of the DNA molecule.  Watson has “inspired all of us to push the frontiers of science to benefit humankind,” he said in part.

You would think, would you not, that simply recognizing a giant of science and a crucial and transformative figure in these scientists’ field would be able to escape political correctness and social media controversy, wouldn’t you? Nah, why would you think that, silly? This is 21st century America.

Watson, to catch you up quickly, began tarnishing his reputation years ago with a series of gaffes. Notably, he opined that there was no way to avoid the conclusion that African-Americans weren’t as intelligent, on average, as whites. The furious public backlash sent him into retirement. But he still couldn’t avoid inserting his foot in his mouth: speaking before he was to receive an  Honorary Doctorate from University College Cork (in Ireland) in 2010, Watson told journalists that cancer research was being unnecessarily held back by an obsession with ethics.

So the man has some theories in common with Josef Mengele and David Duke. He also has made some jaw-droppingly sexist comments in his dotage….some that even Morgan Freeman might blanch at.

After the meeting, Caltech’s Lior Pachter  led a furious repudiation of Eric Lander’s toast with a series of tweets documenting various sexist and racist comments by Watson. He later told industry reporters, “That people are willing to celebrate this individual in public was a moment of truth for me of what things actually look like in our community and what might be then happening in nonpublic venues behind closed doors when hiring and other important decisions are being made.”

Lander, since scientists have no more backbone than actors, politicians, comedians and bakery owners, immediately capitulated and grovelled for forgiveness. In an email addressed to the Broad Institute community, Lander wrote that  his brief  comment about Watson being ‘flawed”  to introduce the toast “did not go nearly far enough.”

“I reject his views as despicable,” he wrote. “They have no place in science, which must welcome everyone.”

An article about the foofaraw in the The Scientist amply demonstrates why scientists are no more adept at drawing ethics lines than junior high school students. In the various accounts and arguments, Watson’s legitimately offensive statements are conflated without distinction with more ambiguous ones. For example, he once said, “Should you be allowed to make an anti-Semitic remark? Yes, because some anti-Semitism is justified. Just like some anti-Irish feeling is justified. If you can’t be criticized, that’s very dangerous. You lose the concept of a free society.” What is that? Is he talking about criticism of Israel’s policies, or is he supporting the First Amendment? As I reviewed the debate over Watson along with his own statements, one conclusion was unavoidable. A lot of scientists, including Watson, don’t communicate very clearly. Is that a surprise? They didn’t major in Literature and English for a reason. They are about as skilled at clear, unambiguous expression as I am at quantum physics. Continue reading

10 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Character, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Professions, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology, Workplace

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/18/2018: The Bad, The Beautiful, And The Stupid

Good morning, everyone…

1. Tales of the King’s Pass. Fox News put out a statement saying that Sean Hannity had its “full support.” We can assume that means no punishment, no sanctions, not even any public regrets, despite the fact, and it is a fact, that the right-wing talk-show host-turned-Trump propagandist went on the air and defended Trump’s fixer, Michael Cohen, without mentioning the fact that Hannity was Cohen’s client. Thus Fox is announcing, in effect, that undisclosed conflicts of interest are just fine and dandy if your ratings are good enough. This also means that Fox News is admitting that it really doesn’t care about candor, honesty, and objectivity, since it will ignore blatant violations of all three if the profit is sufficient.

In fairness to Fox, Hannity’s blatant biases toward all things Trump are no more egregious than the open Obama bias displayed across the mainstream media’s full spectrum of journalists and pundits; it just stands out more because he has less company. However, this is a specific conflict of interest, with Hannity having undisclosed connections to a newsmaker that could reasonably affect his commentary. The closest parallel would be ABC’s George Stephanopoulos reporting on the Clinton Foundation’s dubious activities without telling viewers that he was a $75,000 donor. ABC didn’t discipline him, either, but at least he made a public apology on the air.

To make the King’s Pass case even stronger, after Politico reported this week that dinnertime news anchor Bret Baier played nine holes of golf with President Trump over the weekend, Fox News acknowledged that Baier was admonished by the president of the network.  I don’t agree with the reprimand at all. The opportunity to spend that kind of time with a President is invaluable, a rare opportunity to acquire insight and access over an extended period of time. The idea, I assume, is that it creates the illusion of chumminess. It’s a dumb illusion. If I were a journalist,  I would play golf with anyone if it allowed me to learn something. If I were president of a network, I’d reprimand a reporter for turning down such an opportunity.

2. The Virtue-Signaling Hall Of Fame. Starbucks is reacting to the PR nightmare arising out of the arrest of two black men for refusing to order anything while waiting for a companion in a Philadelphia Starbucks by a grand gesture: it will close all U.S. stores and corporate offices on the afternoon of May 29 for “employee racial bias training.” I suppose this is good crisis management, though cynical and non-substantive. It also permanently tars as a racist the Starbucks ex-manager, who says she was following a locale-specific company policy in an area that had experienced problems with loitering. Continue reading

30 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Marketing and Advertising, Race, Rights, Workplace

Ethics Observations On The Astounding Yet Predictable Hypocrisy Of Connecticut Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty

The abuser and his enabler, who is also a devoted champion of protecting women in the workplace for male predators unless the particular predator is useful to her.

Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn) was quick to demand the Rep. John Conyers resign when the facts surfaced of his habitual sexual harassment of staff and other women. She backed the shaming and eviction of Minnesota Senator Al Franken, another Democrat, based on allegations of sexual misconduct. She has been a vocal  champion of the #MeToo movement on Capitol Hill.

But it has all been posturing, for Esty doesn’t embrace the actual principles of It’s Time or #MeToo. Like so many other employers, businesses and cultures, like NBC, CBS, Hollywood, the Weinstein Company, the Metropolitan Opera, the Trump White House, and, of course, the Catholic Church, Esty believes  that sexual harassment and sexual abuse are unacceptable and a reason to point fingers and level accusations when someone else does it, enables it or ignores it, but when the abusive employee is your own and is a “high performer,” as in “a star,” it’s different somehow.

When she learned that her own valuable Congressional aide, chief of staff Tony Baker, had engaged in harassment and abuse of Esty’s own female staff members, Esty moved to protect Baker rather than the women. He was not dismissed from his position until three full months after his wrongful and illegal conduct was known to her, continuing to work with the same women he had threatened.  Then she signed a non-disclosure agreement and paid him $5000, while also writing a glowing recommendation so he could be free to harass women someplace else. Baker got himself employed  by Sandy Hook Promise, a gun control group, which dismissed him after the full story of the reasons behind his leaving Esty’s staff came out last week.

“You better fucking reply to me or I will fucking kill you,” Baker had said  in a voice mail message to Estes aide Anna Kain. Kain was granted a restraining order against Baker after she signed a sworn affidavit that the Esty chief of staff punched and threatened to kill her. This and more was still not enough for Rep. Esty to see her way to firing him. Woke is apparently not the same as “awake.” Or sincere. Continue reading

7 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society, Workplace

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

54 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, Popular Culture, Workplace

Tales Of The King’s Pass: The Rainmakers

Are you also an asshole? Because if you’re enough of a rainmaker, you can be as big an asshole as you want!!!!

Wow. You don’t get much more cynical than this.

Here’ s Karen Kaplowitz, the founder of The New Ellis Group, and a business development strategist and coach for over 20 years, essentially denying the existence of ethics and integrity in law firms as a business necessity.  In a piece on the ABA Journal titled Abuse of power within law firms: The rainmaker dilemma, she begins,

Despite their obvious economic value to their organizations, Bill O’Reilly, Matt Lauer and Harvey Weinstein were quickly sacked. Law firms by contrast have often tolerated bad actors who are major rainmakers. Can law firms tolerate abusive rainmakers in the current business climate? Do firms need to be more aggressive about confronting abuses of power?

Can they tolerate abusive rainmakers, in this or any other business climate? Sure they can. Should they? Absolutely not. “Do firms need to be more aggressive about confronting abuses of power?” What? Does this question have to be asked?

Kaplowitz goes on..
Continue reading

21 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Professions, Workplace

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/9/2018: Plan O, Bad Punditry, Racist Trash Talk, And Disrespecting a 101 Year Old Star

Good morning, World!

1 Golden Globes hangover I. Following up on a point made in yesterday’s Golden Globes post, presenter Natalie Portman’s much-praised but unfair innuendo that the directors nominated in the “best director” category were there because of gender bias rather than the quality of their work was an example of shooting the bystander rather than the villain. The fact that women don’t get the opportunities to direct major films that men do–as a result of many factors, none of which relate to the relative directing abilities of the two pools–is not the fault of the male directors who get the jobs, nor does the fact of discrimination make the films that women do get to direct inherently better and more award-worthy than they are.

That said, the bias against female directors is real, and dumb. Here is an excellent article about it.

2. A Nation of Silly People. I warned that electing Donald Trump as President would eventually turn us into a Nation of Assholes, and that has come to pass with unexpected rapidity. I did not see the development resulting in the US becoming a nation of silly people, though that process was well underway already. The rush to anoint Oprah Winfrey as the savior of the Republic based on a speech at an entertainment awards show, however, is new evidence of the damage done to the nation’s values by the Trump trauma. Oprah is a cult, pop culture figure; a democracy deteriorating into a society where celebrities and cult leaders become political leaders was one of the fears expressed by our Founders. For the Left to embrace Oprah is stunning hypocrisy, after more than a year of (correctly) accusing Republicans of nominating a Presidential candidate with none of the qualifications traditionally required to be taken seriously as a contender for the office. Many unhealthy trends of long standing pointed to this eventuality,it is true: celebrity obsession, poor civic education, ignorance of history, and new age gibberish, plus the stunning absence of legitimate leaders in both political parties. Having followed O for a long time, since her days in Baltimore as a rising lief-style reporter, I recognize a lot of warning signs regarding her ethical instincts, such as her addiction to talking about “personal truths,” which is just a sneaky way of endorsing “alternate facts,” her troubling anti-vaxx statements, her promotion of fake experts like Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil, her race-baiting, and more. There will be plenty of time to elaborate on these if and when her candidacy becomes more than a twinkle in E!’s eye. I doubt that we’ll get there, but as President Trump proved, you never know in the United States of America.

3. A “Nah, there’s no media bias against Trump” note: During the Golden Globes broadcast, NBC, that paragon of journalism integrity, tweeted this:

4. Fake news in irresponsible punditry.  I have been meaning to write about this op-ed by New York Times “contributing opinion writer” Kashana Cauley for more than a week now, and the task has seemed so odious that I have avoided it. It is as bad an op-ed as I have ever seen, full of false assertions, misrepresentations , rationalizations and racial hate. I wonder when the New York Times editors reached the point where they would regard such trash as fit to be published under its banner. Rather than dissect the ugly thing as I originally intended, I’ll let you do the work, with me just pointing out some, but far from all, of the features that make this such unethical op-ed page content. Continue reading

31 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Race, Social Media, U.S. Society, Workplace