All of a sudden, a post from 2011 is attracting more views in the last four days than it did in the previous four years. Odd are you missed it too, so so to avoid the anomaly of non-Ethics Alarms fans being more attuned to a post here than the loyal throng, I’m going to point the way to the link. The essay is titled “Clark Gable, Loretta Young, and the Betrayal of Judy Lewis,” and told the heart-breaking story of how Clark Gable denied his parenthood of his own daughter (that’s her to his left) to avoid a career-damaging scandal, while the child’s mother, Loretta Young, lied to her as well. It was and is an interesting and disturbing chapter in Hollywood history, and my commentary generated some furious defenses from fans of “The King,” who marshal every rationalization imaginable to try to justify a rich and famous father neglecting his only child, even after she became aware of who her father was. That phenomenon is as illuminating as the sad tale itself. Here, for example, is “Seeker”—see how many rationalizations you can find. I see at least four: Continue reading
Category Archives: Character
Every now and then a comment out of the blue reminds me of a post that I had forgotten. That was the case here. Reading it again for the first time in five years, I was struck by how the crux of the post is still relevant today (that crux has nothing to do with baseball), and indeed how the intervening five years have made what I thought was a bad trend a genuine political and cultural malady.
And the World Series is going on, and I feel badly about the Red Sox having such a miserable season. This post, which few read when it was first published as the blog was attracting (let’s see…) less than 200 views a day as opposed to nearly 4000 a day now, is a good one, and I enjoyed it. That “self-professed ethicist” has his moments…. Continue reading
Reene Zellweger, the squinty-eyed, chipmunk-cheeked actress who achieved fame in such films as “Jerry Maguire” and “Bridget Jones’ Diary,” emerged from a period of relative seclusion this week looking like someone else entirely. The consensus was that the 45-year-old had undergone radical cosmetic surgery—not the face destroying kind that actresses like Meg Ryan or Priscilla Presley inflicted on themselves, but the “I don’t care if my mother won’t recognize me, at least I don’t look old” kind. When an actor or an actress does this, since their faces are their trademarks, it is bound to make an impression, and it has.
It is a tragic spectacle illustrating the degree to which American culture elevates looks above accomplishments, individuality, integrity and character, especially for women. Zellweger, whom I foolishly assumed was immune to this sickness since she was so unconventional looking, is obviously a victim, but now she is part of a cultural contagion. A fish doesn’t know that it is in water, and culture is like that water, completely constraining our attitudes, culture and choices without our knowledge or control. When celebrities, who have influence far beyond what their wisdom, virtues and value should rightfully support, and who are seen as being experts in the matter of appearance, send the message to the young and contemporaries that even the forfeiture of one’s identity is a fair price to pay to avoid the signs of natural aging, that pollutes our water.
And poisons the other fish. Continue reading
President Obama was speaking at a Democratic fundraiser in Chicago on Monday, and you know how he is when he goes off his teleprompter.
He was talking about returning home to Chicago, and said
“One of the nice things about being home is actually that it’s a little bit like a time capsule. Because Michelle and I and the kids, we left so quickly that there’s still junk on my desk, including some unpaid bills (laughter) — I think eventually they got paid — but they’re sort of stacked up. And messages, newspapers and all kinds of stuff.”
The White House, however, removed the “unpaid bills” part from the official transcript which was sent out after the event, so it now reads “there’s still junk on my desk, including some — newspapers and all kinds of stuff.” Associated Press reporter Josh Lederman noticed the deception and alerted another reporter who was at the event, who sent out an email alerting her colleagues and everyone else who receives reports from the White House press corps. Continue reading
Forgiveness can only go so far, even in a church, and even for its pastor.
In Alabama, Rev. Juan McFarland revealed to his Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church congregation, in three consecutive sermons beginning with Sunday Sept. 14, that he had sex on the grounds of the church with several church members, used illegal drugs while serving as pastor, stealing some of the church’s money and being HIV positive, which he did not disclose to at least one of his sex partners.
With all of this, he expected to stay on as pastor; after all, he had confessed his sins. It took a court order to remove him.
It never ceases to amaze me what individuals used to power and influence think they can get away with as long as they eventually confess and say they are sorry. (Of course, they all have the shining example of Bill Clinton…) How much misconduct did McFarland think his flock could and should forgive? If he admitted that he was operating a terror cell from the church? That he was a serial killer? A cannibal? “Never mind, my son: we believe in redemption. God is merciful and forgiving”
When trust so abused can be reinstated with just a pro forma admission and an apology, it becomes nothing more than a tool for liars and manipulators to prey on the forgiving and gullible. Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church and its leadership are to be congratulated for refusing to fall for the con.
Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur
[Jumbo: a Jumbo is a special Ethics Alarms award for conduct that emulates the gag from the Broadway musical and film “Jumbo,” in which Jimmy Durante, as a circus clown trying to steal an elephant, is caught red-handed by a sheriff, and asked, “Where are you going with that elephant?” “Elephant? What elephant?,” Jimmy replied.]
As readers who travel here often know, I really hate, hate, hate obvious lies. They are cowardly, they are insulting, and when they are authored by public officials, they recklessly foster public cynicism and distrust. You can’t do your job right, and you don’t even know when it’s pointless to lie? Why should we trust you to be able to do anything right?
Of course, we shouldn’t.
You will seldom see a more blatant and embarrassing example of the desperate, immediately apparent lie than this one from the District of Columbia Board of Elections after it mailed out 305,164 copies of the official D.C. voter guide with the D.C. flag on the front cover printed upside-down. This immediately provoked much local media, pundit and social media hilarity and mockery, but no, announced the Board. This was no lazy clerical error from the government famous for them. This was intentional! A devilishly clever strategy!
The election board’s spokeswoman, Denise Tolliver explained that the upside-down flag was a deliberate move—an upside-down flag is a distress signal, after all—to grab the attention of voters and “see how many clicks we can get.” “People are responding, aren’t they?” Tolliver said. “They’re paying attention. It’s working!”
Nobody believed it, of course, because the only idiot in the conversation was her, and, by proxy, her superiors. Eventually the board’s executive director, Clifford Tatum, confessed. “No, this is an error,” he e-mailed a D.C. Council member. Continue reading