Category Archives: Character

Ethical Quote Of The Week: GOP Senator And Presidential Candidate Lindsey Graham

lindsey_graham

You know what, I’m not your candidate. I don’t want you to vote for me. I couldn’t disagree with you more.”

-South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham during an election event in Des Moines, Iowa, after an Iowan Republican in the crowd.suggested banning Islam.

Later Graham said, “He’s got a right to say whatever he wants to say, but I have an obligation to the Republican Party, to the people of Iowa and the country as a whole to be firm on this. I’m not buying into that construct. That’s not the America that I want to lead.”

I will await the first Democratic Party candidate who demonstrates similar integrity with an equivalent reply to a supporter who advocates banning hate speech.

I suspect I will wait until the stars turn cold.

1 Comment

Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy, Rights

Scott Brown And The Slippery Slope To Distrust

Stay classy, Senator...

Stay classy, Senator…

Who started our elected officials down the slippery slope to the point where the public viewed them as indistinguishable from any other celebrity? Was it when  Richard Nixon appeared on “Laugh-In” in 1968? Was it when ex-Speaker Tip O’Neill allowed himself the be shown in a commercial for Quality International Budget Hotels, popping out of a suitcase? Was it a decade earlier, when washed up song and dance man George Murphy won a U.S. Senate seat for California? There were critics who sounded the alarms loud and early about the dangers of our leaders trading on their visibility and power like any pop singer, athlete or actress; such critics were inevitably told to “lighten up.” We assumed, did we not, that our leaders, being responsible and respectful of our institutions,  would know what lines not to cross, and when their self-mockery, playing around and hucksterism would risk harming the credibility of democracy and the public trust.

Why would we assume that, especially as cynical politicians increasingly sought to win the votes of even more cynical young voters?

Ronald Reagan explained to an interviewer that while it would be fun to return to acting—playing a Bond villain, maybe—after leaving the Presidency, it would be unseemly. Is anything unseemly now? Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped out of a Governor’s mansion back into cyborgdom without blinking. Rudy Giuliani appeared in drag on Saturday Night Live while he was still mayor. Senators and House members eagerly grabbed cameos in sitcoms and dramas. Some were even good at it: Senator John Glenn’s guest appearance on “Frazier” is one of the highlights of the whole series. Did any of these eager publicity hounds consider that the more our leaders behaved like every other celebrity, the less reason the public had to believe they were any better, smarter, or more honest than the politically vocal and usually ignorant celebrities who supported them?

A public office is a public trust, and therefore the honor of that office is a gift that the temporary occupant should not trade upon for crass commercial gain and ego fulfillment.  It is bad, and corrupting, enough that the simple fact that they held high office is usually enough to guarantee former officials private sector employment in lobbying firms, universities, law firms and other lucrative enterprises. Still, the institution and positions a former elected leader leaves behind are still deeply affected by the conduct and the reputation of former occupants.

When I first studied Presidential leadership, the consensus among political scientists was that the public perceived the office of the Presidency according to the conduct, reputation, image  and character of George Washington.  Today, thanks to constantly sinking precedents, the public expects lies, excuses incompetence, and shrugs off greed, with the ugly example of the Clintons now reaching depths never envisioned even when Gerald Ford became the star client of the William Morris agency.

Yet somehow I didn’t think it would come to this. I didn’t foresee a former U.S. Senator following the lead of Marie Osmond and Kirstie Alley, and becoming a shill for a diet supplement.  I am so damn naive sometimes. I assumed that an ex-Massachusetts Republican Senator would no more follow that seedy path, no matter how much he needed the money,  then Sarah Palin would pose nude for Playboy. Yet here is Scott Brown, serving as spokesperson for AdvoCare products, which resemble Herbalife in their marketing plan and likely legitimacy.

His acceptance of such an undignified and dubious role harms every U.S. Senator, the institution of the Senate, and the republic itself. It further obliterates all pretense of superior character and respect for the institutions they serve from our politicians, and makes every single one of them appear less worthy of office, respectable or dignified in the eyes of citizens and voters. There are essays all over the web right now asking why slimy Donald Trump is polling so well, given that he is boor, a bully, a clod, a huckster and a self-promoting fool.

Scott Brown and the trend he represents is a big reason. “How is Trump any worse that the rest?” Trumps fans will ask. “At least he doesn’t pretend to be something he’s not.”  Dignity and respect for the privilege of public service have always been vital tools of leadership, and prerequisites for attaining it. This was understood for so long that our leaders forgot why those qualities were important.  Now they have neglected both for their own selfish, short-term gains in money, celebrity and ego-gratification, leaving a distrustful public that can no longer distinguish between statesmen and con artists….perhaps because there is no distinction left.

10 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Leadership, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture

An Open Letter To America Ferrera In Response To Her Open Letter To Donald Trump

America, America...

America, America…

Dear America (It’s really neat to be able to write a real letter to America on Independence weekend—thanks for that),

I can see why you called your open letter to Donald Trump “Thank You, Donald Trump!” The Donald did indeed do the supporters of illegal immigration a big favor by attaching his obnoxious face, words and character to the proposition that the United States has an obligation to control who comes into the country, like every other responsible nation. It is easy to pretend that any assertion by a big, loud-mouthed jerk is wrong, even when it is right, because most people can’t distinguish a message from its messenger. Similarly, a dishonest and dangerous message communicated by an attractive, Hispanic American celebrity and actress is typically accorded more legitimacy than it deserves, especially since the historical and political acumen of professional actors tends to be limited.

Well played. But that’s not the same as being right.

Your letter begins with a multi-layered lie. “You’ve said some pretty offensive things about Latino immigrants recently,” you say. In fact, Trump said nothing about immigrants. Did you read a transcript of his remarks, or just the portion clipped out of it by news organizations because this is Donald Trump, rich Republican buffoon, and fairness and ethical journalism don’t matter. My guess is that you didn’t read the transcript, which makes your open letter incompetent and irresponsible. Or, if you did, it is intentionally misleading, and an attempt to increase the ignorance of people who take policy screeds from actresses seriously. Continue reading

33 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Character, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society

Why Yes, Krystal, There IS A “Candidate For Congress Who Is Photographed Sucking The Phallic Red Nose Worn By Her Reindeer Attired Husband At A Christmas Party Principle,” And It Isn’t A Double Standard At All, As You Will Learn As Soon As There IsA Male Congressional Candidate Photographed Doing the Same Thing. Now Shut Up, Please.

Krystal-Ball

I’m sorry, I can resist this.

In 2010, Krystal Ball was a 28-year old, almost credential and experience free Democratic Party nominee for United States Congress in Virginia’s 1st congressional district in the 2010 election. She lost to Republican incumbent Rob Wittman. During the campaign, old photographs surfaced of Ball and her then-husband at a college Christmas party, showing her dressed as “bad Santa,” leading her husband, dressed as a reindeer, around S and M style by a leash, and sucking on his long, fake, phallic red nose.  Like this:

Krystal Ball 5Krystal Ball 1

(By the way, I had mentioned this episode very briefly in 2010, and promptly forgot about. Ball is the one, as we say in the law, who “opened the door” again.)

Although she lost by a 2-1 margin, Ball made the rounds of various TV talk shows exploiting the salacious aspects of the photos (for this is what the programs were interested in) and playing the victim, arguing that the photos were used against her because she was a woman. The exposure, combined with the fact that she is physically attractive—this sexist standard doesn’t bother her, oddly— launched her current career as a pretty talking head, if not an especially enlightening one. (Naturally, she roams on MSNBC.)

Krystal was on Fox News yesterday whining yet again about her 2010 defeat and blaming it on the photos and a “double standard.” “I think that we should look at the example of Scott Brown,” she told a sympathetic Megyn Kelly. “He had pictures from the same age as those pictures of me, only he was completely naked, in the centerfold of a national magazine, and it was not even a bump in his campaign; in fact he has even said that it helped him a little bit in his campaign. And I’m not holding anything against Senator Scott Brown… that’s as it should be, in my view, because those kinds of things to me are not relevant to the campaign trail. And I do think there’s a double standard.”

Baloney. Continue reading

12 Comments

Filed under Government & Politics, Gender and Sex, Character

The Girl Scouts Face Corruption By A Rich, Cruel, Horrible Person

batman_arkham_origins

Fortunately, they knew what to do.

Last May the Girl Scouts made news when they announced a new policy of acceptance for transgender girls.  The policy was reasonable and case-by-case based, but the policy is secondary to the story. What matters is that the organization adopted it as consistent with its mission.

Last month, a $100,000 donor sent the Queen Anne offices of the Girl Scouts of Western Washington a note demanding that the chapter “guarantee that our gift will not be used to support transgender girls. If you can’t, please return the money.” The $100,000 was about 25% of the group’s yearly fundraising goal, and would have been used to send about a 500 indigent girls to camp.

Council CEO Megan Ferland returned the donation, telling the donor “Girl Scouts is for every girl. And every girl should have the opportunity to be a Girl Scout if she wants to.” Of course she did. A non-profit organization cannot put a price tag on its mission and its integrity. This would be like St. Jude’s Hospital accepting a huge donation in exchange for allowing a black child to die of cancer. It would be like a a women’s college’s board of directors cutting a profitable deal with an outsider to close the school down, just to pick a wild hypothetical out of the air. It is the equivalent of treason, selling out one’s nation, or taking money to betray a family or a friend who trusts you. Continue reading

79 Comments

Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity

Ethics Takeaways From Donald Trump’s Reply To Jake Tapper’s Question About “Traditional Marriage”

TrumpBoorish, arrogant blight on the American landscape that Donald Trump is, he has his uses.

Trump is that amusing if tragic anomaly, the low information Presidential candidate, kind of like Michele Bachmann. On Friday, right after the SCOTUS gay marriage decision was announced, he sent out a tweet blaming Chief Justice John Roberts for it, even though Roberts was one of the dissenters. Today, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked him to explain his stated support for “traditional marriage” by explaining Trump’s own non-traditional marital conduct in that context:

“What do you say to a lesbian who’s married or a gay man who’s married who says, ‘Donald Trump, what’s traditional about being married three times?’”

Trump’s marvelous response….

“Well, they have a very good point. But I’ve been a very hardworking person. And actually, I have a great marriage, I have a great wife now. My [first] two wives were very good..I really don’t say anything. I’m just, Jake, I’m for traditional marriage.”

….is a cornucopia of ethics-related information:

1. “Well, they have a very good point.” Translation: “I haven’t actually thought about this issue very much, I’m just asserting a position that seems to the one I think Republican voters who have thought about this as little as I have will agree with. Don’t expect me to be consistent or profound.”

Take-away: Trump has no respect for the public, his party, the office he purports top be running for, or the people who care deeply about the gay marriage issue, so he has literally devoted no time or effort to understanding the issues of the day, including this one. That attitude is, of course, an insult to all of us.

2. “But I’ve been a very hardworking person. “ The King’s Pass! Continue reading

29 Comments

Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

The Case Of The Trash-Talking Doctors, And The Price Of Trust

So, did you hear the one about why surgeons wear those masks?

So, did you hear the one about why surgeons wear those masks?

When I first heard about this case, I thought the jury award of $500,000 was ridiculous. The more I think about it, the more I begin to think it was appropriate.

Before his colonoscopy, a Vienna, Virginia patient pressed record on his smartphone, not intending to record everything that was said but ending up with the entire proceedings anyway. That was a half-million dollar stroke of luck for him, and the confirmation of dark suspicions for the rest of us. The resulting recording revealed that the surgical team amused itself by insulting and demeaning the semi-conscious anesthetized man throughout the procedure.

The anesthesiologist, Tiffany M. Ingham, was the ringleader and the primary offender.  Among her inspired bon motsContinue reading

65 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions