Ashley Judd, Hillary Clinton, and Celebrity Malpractice

Mount Rushmore

I had hoped to have my “Celebrity Code of Ethics” complete for this post, but it isn’t, so I’ll just allude to some of its likely provisions.

I like Ashley Judd, I really do. I’m not sure why she never became the reigning female light drama star of her generation; she’s every bit as good as Sandra Bullock or Julia Roberts, and that voice! Now she’s routinely relegated to repetitious action movies and will be playing Jennifer Lawrence’s mother any day now—oh well, that’s show biz. Judd is also more articulate and intellectually curious than the average celebrity, so it was with great pain and disappointment that I learned that she had recently said this, in an interview with Larry King, about the presidential prospects of Hillary Clinton:

“I think she might be the most overqualified candidate we’ve had since – you know, Thomas Jefferson or George Washington.”

Now, I don’t expect celebrities to be historians or experts on anything  other than their profession and areas of specialty. However, one tenet of celebrity ethics is the same as that of doctors: “First, do no harm.” That means, for someone like Judd, a celebrity has an ethical duty to recognize that a disturbing number of people think that because she is rich and famous, she is necessarily  informed, responsible and wise, as well as a role model, and therefore, unlike the usual drunk on a barstool, when that celebrity says something outrageously ignorant, stupid and misleading, hundreds of thousands of people believe it and align their own beliefs accordingly. That’s harmful, and doing it is unethical. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, Professions

Ethics Quote of the Week: Senator Rand Paul

Senator Paul, forever young.

Senator Paul, forever young.

“I think that’s the real hypocrisy, is that people on our side, which include a lot of people who made mistakes growing up, admit their mistakes but now still want to put people in jail for that. Had he been caught at Andover, he’d have never been governor, he’d probably never have a chance to run for the presidency.”

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky), in reaction to Jeb Bush’s admission that he smoked marijuana heavily as a student. Bush currently opposes the legalization of medical marijuana.

Oh, great: Rand Paul is 16 years old.

The chip off the old libertarian block Ron Paul (who would legalize heroin, ecstasy, LSD, you name it) now proves that he has no idea what hypocrisy is. It is troubling: Senator Paul is an MD, and can be an articulate and powerful speaker;  he can take bold strategic political steps that his Republican colleagues are too timid to try, like correctly charging Hillary Clinton with complicity in her husband’s sexual predation,  but he repeatedly conveys the impression that he’s just not all that bright. This quote is a sterling example. Continue reading

11 Comments

Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Professions

Watching The Super Bowl Is Unethical. You Know That, Right?

Super2015

I was going to call this post “Ten Reasons Why Watching The Super Bowl Is Unethical,” then “TOP Ten Reasons Why Watching The Super Bowl Is Unethical.” Ethical people should only need one good reason though, and while you can rationalize it away to slave your conscience and to avoid having to renege on that RSVP to tomorrow’s Super Bowl party, it is there, undeniable, and ugly.

So you don’t even have to argue that the fact that the most successful NFL team for more than a decade is also the one repeatedly caught cheating is irrelevant because “everybody does it,” or that the large number of felons, thugs and spouse abusers the teams employ (one ex-player—why, a Patriots’ ex player, in fact!—just went on trial for murder) doesn’t matter because the players aren’t really role models, or that the fact that the NFL corrupts and warps our universities by turning them into football’s minor leagues is overstated because such scandals as the University of North Carolina conspiring to let athletes take imaginary courses aren’t really the NFL’s fault. All you have to do is accept the fact that when you support the NFL, it’s TV ratings and the companies that profit from them, you are not merely killing people, you are cheering while you do it.

Disgusting.

What the hell’s the matter with you?

Yesterday I rewatched the 2013 PBS Frontline documentary, “League of Denial.” (That’s the link to the video; the transcript is here.) It was more horrifying the second time, especially in view of how the NFL has managed to stonewall, tap-dance and delay its way through another season without seriously admitting the extent of its head injury problem. One could even argue that the Ray Rice fiasco and other scandals helped the NFL by deflecting attention away from its biggest ethical deficit. Today, CNN, which is duly promoting the Super Bowl all weekend, reported on Roger Goodell’s “state of the NFL” press conference. It didn’t mention the concussion issue at all, just spousal abuse. It’s working, Roger!

As thoroughly and irrefutable shown by the documentary and the book it was based on, football causes dementia and death. The earlier you start playing it, the worse the effects are. The NFL has systematically waged a public relations war of denial and deception, taking carefully calculated half-measures that will not address the problem, relying on America’s love of the game to allow the industry to continue making billions by paying young men to maim themselves. In hearings before Congress, U.S. representatives compared the NFL to cigarette manufacturers denying that cigarettes were addictive and that they caused health problems. The comparison is fair, but once the truth was known about tobacco, the non-smoking public quickly realized that it shouldn’t be cheering lung cancer on. Cigarette ads on TV were banned; programs that children watched were pressured to avoid showing characters smoking. But then, nobody gets a visceral rush watching human beings slowly kill themselves by puffing away: is that the difference? As long as you get a kick out of the process of athletes turning themselves into future drug addicts, depressives, neglectful fathers, abusive husbands, drooling imbeciles and suicides, it’s okay to keep watching and cheering?

Keep telling yourself that. It’s intellectually lazy and ethical abdication, and that’s all it is. Watching the Super Bowl can’t be wrong because so many people do it, right? You know, since you’re here, what’s the matter with that argument.

You can also try the argument that the players are accepting the risk, so it’s OK for you to encourage them, in fact help pay them to liquify their brains for your amusement. That would be employing three more rationalizations on the Ethics Alarms Hit Parade: Continue reading

23 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Train Wrecks, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Sports, U.S. Society

Ethics Quiz: Is It Time For A “Let’s Tweet Insults About Chip McGee Day”?

Meet Chip McGee!

Meet Chip McGee!

At Bedford (New Hampshire) High School, several students were not pleased with Superintendent Chip McGee’s announcement via his Twitter feed that classes would resume the day following the school’s cancellation for snow. They responded with tweets of their own, some that were not especially pleasant. McGee, as one would expect a mature adult to be, especially one overseeing the education of children, was philosophical. saying, “Kids said some very funny, clever things. And some kids stood up and said, ‘Hey, watch your manners.’ That was great. And some kids — a few — said some really inappropriate things.”

Yes, kids will be kids. McGee then suspended those latter students for up to four days.

“It’s been a really good exercise in issues of students’ right to speech, on the one hand, and students’ and teachers’ rights to an educational environment that’s conducive to learning,” McGee explained to the Constitutionally ignorant. “Kids have the right to say whatever they want about me [and] The First Amendment right means you can say what you want, (but) it doesn’t mean that you are free of repercussion. It can’t disrupt what we’re doing in school … If something disrupts school, and it (occurs) outside school, we not only can take action, we have to.”

McGee  hopes that the punished students will learn from this incident about “the line” of decent and appropriate commentary. “You only learn that by checking where it is, and having something happen when you cross it,” he said.

Good ol’, wise ol’ Chip McGee. He has no idea what the hell he’s talking about.

The students are absolutely guaranteed of speech without “repercussion,” if the speech is off school grounds and the repercussion is from a school official who takes offense. The school has no authority to punish students for what they post on Twitter, from their homes, none at all, unless it relates directly to action at school itself, such as organizing a school disruption. A student opinion of the superintendent or his decisions? That’s 100% protected speech. I can find that right to free speech Chip mentions right there in the Constitution, but search as I might, I can’t locate in the Bill of Rights the provision describing the “students’ and teachers’ rights to an educational environment that’s conducive to learning” that extends to what a student says and writes outside of school. Where is that “right,” Chip?

Chip speaks in the measured tones of a caring educator, but he acts like a petty tyrant who is eager to abuse his position and power to punish anyone who dares to displease him in what they say or think.

No merely insulting or uncivil tweet is going to disrupt school, and if that’s Chip’s claim, he has a rather tough burden of proof to demonstrate it. Nor does a public school—that’s the state, you know— have the right to effectively censor speech by punishing content. If the speech isn’t libelous or a credible threat, Chip McGee’s reasonable remedy consists of asking to speak with the Tweeter and express his hurt and disappointment, or perhaps consulting with the student’s parents, who do have a right to limit online speech when their children are the speakers.  As an educator, he might explain to the student that insulting authority figures who you must relate to by flaming them on mass social media is neither wise, civil, nor a good habit. He might even  suggest that an apology is in order. He may not, however, abuse his power and position to constrain the free speech of those students and others by inflicting punishment. Chip McGee, who has the young minds of children within his power to lead or mislead, needs to learn this basic civics lesson, as do other tin god educators, and I’m sure there are many, who similarly itch to punish students for exercising their speech rights in the privacy of their homes.

Thus this somewhat atypical Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz question to ponders:

Should we declare a “Let’s Tweet Insults About Chip McGee Day”?

Continue reading

15 Comments

Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Rights, The Internet

Unethical Ex Of The Month, Paige Dunham: Hell Hath No Fury Like A Ventriloquist’s Wife Spurned…

The ventriloquist and his spouses. Can you guess which is the ex?

The ventriloquist and his spouses, past and present. Can you guess which is the ex?

I suspect there’s a sad story behind this one that many a betrayed spouse can identify with. Did Paige Dunham stand shoulder to shoulder with her husband, Jeff Dunham in the lean years when he was struggling ventriloquist (and really, what could be worse, struggling accordion virtuoso?) only to have him toss her away like an old shoe once he hit the jackpot and became a rich and famous celebrity, as he sought and won a flashier spouse to match his flashier lifestyle? It sure looks like it.

Nevertheless, what Paige Dunham did to her ex-spouse’s Shiny New Model Audrey Dunham can’t be justified ethically. It is also apparently illegal. Continue reading

19 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, Love, Romance and Relationships, The Internet

Ethics Alarms Mailbag: Is Arguing In The Alternative Unethical?

No, it isn’t, but I understand why it might  seem that way.

 “I didn’t do it, no one saw me do it, and you can’t prove anything!”

“I didn’t do it, no one saw me do it, and you can’t prove anything!”

An email from ethics issue scout Fred calls my attention to the case of  transgendered female Leyth O. Jamal, 23, who filed a sexual discrimination suit in September claiming that managers at a Saks store in Houston  referred to her as a man, made her to use the men’s restroom and pressured her to dress as a man despite being aware of her transgender identity. She also claimed a male colleague repeatedly asked her whether she was a prostitute in front of customers and colleagues, and threatened her. Saks fired Jamal after she brought a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In federal court this week, Saks withdrew its Dec. 29, 2014, court filing asserting that transgender workers are not covered by the gender discrimination ban in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The company  still denies that it discriminated, and has made statements about how it “believes that all persons are protected against sex discrimination under Title VII” of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination by employers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. It had argued, however that the plaintiff had based her case not on sex discrimination but on the issue of gender identity and transgender status, which Saks believed fell outside of Title VII’s mandate.

Now Saks is only disputing that there was any discrimination, not that such discrimination was legal. The question posed to me: does this U-turn this look bad for Saks? Is it cynical and unethical? How can you simultaneously argue that what the client alleges isn’t actionable because there’s no law against discriminating against someone for gender identity, and that you didn’t discriminate on that basis, or any basis, anyway? Continue reading

19 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, Workplace

Brief Notes: Healthcare.gov’s Contractor, Netanyahu, and Charles Blow

life-preserver

I am drowning in important ethics topics and short of time, so I’m reluctantly employing the rarely-used (here) flotation device of briefly noting three stories that would normally warrant full posts. I’ll reserve the right to change my mind and fully explore one or more of them later.

1. Wait: who’s the journalist here?

Six days after Ethics Alarms noted the ridiculous fact that the IRS has hired—for about 5 million dollars of taxpayer money— the same group of incompetents who botched their 800 million dollar job of getting Healthcare.gov up and running, the Washington Post ran the story (on page 18). The new contract itself dates from August: I regard my nausea over it as late, but I regard the Post’s failure to report the story until now a) suspicious, b) incompetent and c) indefensible.

2. Netanyahu lobbies Congress Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership