Category Archives: Government & Politics

Ethics Observations On Beyonce’s Super Bowl 50 Halftime Performance

beyonce-superbowl-x-cbs

On the eve of her Super Bowl 50 half time show performance, Beyoncé released  “Formation,” a video full of references to Black Lives Matter tropes and propaganda, including “Hand Up! Don’t Shoot!”  (You can view it here. The earlier version of this post had an unofficial version: I apologize for the error.) Then in her portion of the Super Bowl 50 halftime show, the pop star gave the sold-out stadium and world-wide audience a live version of the video, including  backup dancers wearing Black Panther berets who formed  an X, apparently alluding to black Muslim activist Malcolm X, and raised their fists in the “black power” salute. African-Americans activists wrote that they saw the performance as a tribute to the 50th Anniversary, not of the Super Bowl, but to the Black Panthers.

The halftime show was part of a marketing plan messaging across multiple platforms, from social media to mainstream media. Once the show was seen in the context of the more explicit video, a controversy emerged, just as Beyoncé ‘s marketing geniuses hoped it would. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani was among the vocal critics, calling the show “outrageous” said telling Fox News,”This is football, it’s not Hollywood, and I thought it was really outrageous that she used it as a platform to attack police officers who are the people who protect her and protect us, and keep us alive.”  Protests are planned at NFL headquarters.

What’s going on here?

1. Stipulated: Beyoncé’s sole intentions are to sell, make money, and get buzz. If she has a genuine political motive, and I doubt it, it is secondary to the good ol’ profit-making motive that has made her a mega-millionaire. She and her husband Jay-Z have been linking their brand to Black Lives Matter because they see profit in it, that’s all. Is it crass and ethically inert? Sure it is…just like the music business and the rest of show business. Is it particular disgusting, at a time of dangerous racial division in this country heightened by liars, crooks, complicit activists and cynical politicians, to try to make money by glamorizing it? Yes indeed, but the Julie Principle needs to be applied here. Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly, and if you are paying any attention to people like Beyoncé, you can’t be shocked or overly angry at them when they show that their motives are purely non-ethical at all times. Yes, Beyoncé’s conduct was culturally irresponsible and unethical. “This is my shocked face:”

shocked face

2. That said, hijacking the Super Bowl halftime show to make a race-baiting, divisive, anti-police demonstration out of what is supposed to be a unifying, fun, family-friendly cultural event, by extolling the racist Black Lives Matter, the criminal and racist Black Panthers, and destructive lies like “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” is indeed outrageous. The stunt deserves every bit of criticism it has recieved and more. Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: Japan’s Official Apology To The Korean “Comfort Women”

comfort-women

Before and during World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army forced an estimated 400,000 women and girls from occupied territories, primarily Korea, China, and the Philippines, into sexual slavery for the convenience and “comfort” of Japanese soldiers. That the women were kidnapped, raped, and in many cases murdered is not in dispute, but for cultural and political reasons the Japanese government has never accepted full responsibility for the nation’s mass crime, or acknowledged its true nature. To the contrary, Japan has protested memorials to the Comfort women in various locales, including the United States. Japan officially maintains that the women were ordinary prostitutes, and that no crimes were committed toward them. This is a long, bitter controversy between South Korea and Japan particularly.

Pressure from the United States on both Japan and South Korea to resolve the issue had been building, and on December 29, 2015, the two nations reached an agreement by which the Comfort Women issue was considered “finally and irreversibly” resolved. Under the agreement, the Japanese government issued this negotiated statement:

The issue of comfort women, with an involvement of the Japanese military authorities at that time, was a grave affront to the honor and dignity of large numbers of women, and the Government of Japan is painfully aware of responsibilities from this perspective. 

As Prime Minister of Japan, Prime Minister Abe expresses anew his most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women who underwent immeasurable and painful experiences and suffered incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.

As part of the resolution, the Japanese government pledged to contribute one billion yen (about $8.3 million), out of the Japanese government’s budget to a foundation established by the Korean government dedicated to assisting the surviving Korean Comfort Women. Forty six survive. They had no part in the agreement discussions.

The deal is unpopular in South Korea. Critics immediately complained that the agreement is inadequate. Of course it is. $8.3 million would be moderate damages in the U.S. for a single woman who was kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery. Japan is not going to accept full responsibility for the war crimes, and that should be obvious after so many decades and such stubborn denial.

The ethics question that is a bit more challenging is whether the apology is worth the paper it is printed on, or even a true apology. After the agreement, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe  stated: “there will be no future reference at all to this issue [the Comfort Women issue]. We will not raise it in the next Japan-Korea summit meeting. This is the end. There will be no more apology.” Many Koreans feel that an official apology followed immediately by a statement that says, in essence, “There, that should shut them up!” is cynical and worthless. As a Korean issues website put it, “If an apology is not followed by contrition and self-reflection, but instead by gloating—-does that apology mean anything?”

Good question! Let me rephrase that as the Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is the official Japanese apology for the crimes against the Korean Comfort Women ethical?

Continue reading

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New Hampshire Reflections: Let’s Leave Aside The E-Mail And The Lies For Now: Hillary’s Reaction To Adversity Shows She Is Unfit To Lead

I freely admit that it is unfair to use unflattering photos like this, which Drudge is featuring today. But it made me laugh, and maybe it will brighten someone else's day.

I freely admit that it is unfair to use unflattering photos like this, which Drudge is featuring today. But it made me laugh, and maybe it will brighten someone else’s day.

Preface: I’m not going to bother pointing out the obvious about Trump and his supporters, nor harp on the fact that the man used both “fuck” and “pussy” in recent speeches. Nothing has changed regarding the national embarrassment of his ugly candidacy, nor the utter idiocy of anyone who would be willing to have him by the face of the United States of America. If there are any readers here who support him, they have the good sense to sit silently in the Ethics Alarms cellar with Justice Scalia’s metaphorical bag over their heads. This post remains the verdict on Trump here. It’s five months old, and nothing has changed. Please circulate it to your dumbest friends.

Most of the Ethics Alarms posts about Hillary Clinton’s atrocious ethics and untrustworthy character have focused on her influence peddling, her conflicts of interest, her hypocrisy and her dishonesty. I keep hearing and reading desperate Democrats nonetheless rationalizing their supporting Clinton because of her alleged competence. We are seeing, right now, how she responds to adversity, stress, competition and crisis. What we are seeing isn’t competence by any definition.  Hillary is showing the nation  that under pressure and in crisis, she becomes angry, stonewalls, jettisons principle and ethics, and makes panicky, ill-considered statements and decisions, and defaults to “the ends justify the means.”

Exhibit #1: The Wall Street Speeches Defense.

We won’t know unless they turn up, but it’s pretty clear to everyone—isn’t it?— why Clinton’s $600,000 speeches to Go9ldman Sachs are a problem, and why she hasn’t turned over the transcripts. Companies don’t pay that kind of money to have their employees told that they are evil and their business is a blight on humanity. They do pay money to curry favor with a woman then assumed to be on an unstoppable path to the White House. The Washington Post’s Chris Cilizza connected the dots…

“My guess is that in the speeches, Clinton acknowledges her various friends and acquaintances at Goldman Sachs (and other Wall Street firms) and praises them for the work they are doing. “You guys get a bad rap but . . .” Yes, it’s standard-issue small talk. But it could look really, really bad in the context of the campaign. Imagine a transcript of Clinton speaking to some big bank or investment firm, thanking a litany of people she’s “been friends with forever” and praising the broader enterprise for “all you do.”

Of course. Cilizza minimizes it, saying that it “would look bad,” but in fact it is bad. Hillary can’t make the sweeping statements she has (in order to imitate Sanders) about how she will be tough on Wall Street villains, when she not only accepted huge speaking fees from the same people she says she will fight, but also fawned all over them when they were face to face. Already one attendee of a Goldman Sachs speech has supported Cilizza’s thesis. Maybe he’s wrong, and there’s exactly one way to find out. A confident, honest, competent and transparent leader would release the speeches, and explain the discrepancy between what she told the Wall Streeters then and what she says now, being ready and to answer the obvious question, “If you’ll lie to them, why wouldn’t you lie to us?”

Instead, Clinton sent her #1 surrogate,Bill, to make the hilarious accusation that Sanders was hypocritical to attack her Wall Street speaking fees. After all, Bill told one New Hampshire audience this week, Sanders, has given paid speeches too! This is the level of respect with which President Clinton, the female one, would treat the public. In 2013, Sanders received speaking fees totaling  $1,500, which he donated to charity as required by federal law. In 2014, he got $1,850 for paid speeches. Hillary Clinton made and kept over $21 million during the same time period.

A competent President has to be able to spin better than this. That aside, this shows us that a Clinton Administration would be, if possible, even less transparent than the current one.

Exhibit #2: Race-baiting and Division Continue reading

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Gloria Steinem Makes A Dishonest Apology For Telling The Truth

Steinem

If Gloria Steinem had integrity at all, she would have greeted the criticism over her undoubtedly accurate remarks about young women and politics by saying, “Oh, please. Isn’t feminism past the stage of treating reality like heresy yet?”

But no.

Steinem was discussing Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Sanders. When Maher noted the Vermont senator’s popularity with young women, Steinem responded with her theory that women get more “radical” as they get older.

“When you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys?’ The boys are with Bernie,” she said. “Now if I said that… you’d swat me,” Maher replied,to which the “Ms.” founder insisted, “No, I wouldn’t!”

Of course, she was desperately making excuses for Hillary, who rots everyone she touches. Steinem disgraced herself  when she chose  to make excuses for Mr. Clinton, reversing her previous support for women who yielded to greater power and succumbed to predatory bosses. When then-President Clinton’s sexual harassment habits finally got him in trouble, Steinem denied that it was harassment at all. On Maher’s show, her intent was to avoid saying that young women quite appropriately reject the cynical feminism of Hillary, who now claims to champion the cause of victims of sexual assault while she knowing rode the coattails of one to power.  Once again facing the dilemma of having to choose between her alleged beliefs and a Clinton, she again threw women under the bus, though this time, she had some truth on her side: yes, there are times in most normal young women’s lives that boys are more important than politics. What a shocking revelation.  And now, a musical interlude…

Where was I?

Oh, right, Gloria…

So not being able to give the real reason a lot of women are supporting Bernie, silly as he is, rather than lying, tired, fake-feminist Hillary, and somehow extracting herself from the politically incorrect observation in radical feminist circles that girls like boys, Steinem spun a sort-of apology of stunning mendacity:

“In a case of talk-show Interruptus, I misspoke on the Bill Maher show recently, and apologize for what’s been misinterpreted as implying young women aren’t serious in their politics. What I had just said on the same show was the opposite: young women are active, mad as hell about what’s happening to them, graduating in debt, but averaging a million dollars less over their lifetimes to pay it back. Whether they gravitate to Bernie or Hillary, young women are activist and feminist in greater numbers than ever before.”

Let’s unpack this monstrosity, shall we? Continue reading

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The Final Ethics Verdict On Ted Cruz

Check enclosed

See that official-looking envelope above? That’s from Ted Cruz’s campaign: it’s been arriving in mailboxes all over the country. See what it says in the lower right corner? “CHECK ENCLOSED.” This is to entice you to open it. But here is the “check” enclosed:

Cruz check

It’s not a check. It looks like a check, but it isn’t one, because checks can be cashed. It’s a fake check not made out to the recipient of the envelope, but to the Cruz campaign. This is a fundraising appeal, you see, but it has employed two lies: Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce: Jeb Bush

Donald-Trump-Jeb-Bush

Poor Jeb.

I do sympathize. It must be so humiliating to enter a race for President as a presumed frontrunner, after both your father and brother have won the office, only to fail spectacularly. These people thrive on admiration; rejection is death to them. “Please applaud,” Jeb had to plead with a recent sluggish crowd. To make it worse, there is Donald Trump, someone Jeb has no respect for at all (nor should he), insulting him, mocking him, denigrating him like a schoolyard bully. It has to hurt. It has to make him furious.

Sinking to Trump’s level, however, is not the answer. Trump may get away with it because his supporters are cretins, but name-calling and twitter pissing-matches are not suddenly civil, ethical, responsible or right. It degrades the process and coursens the culture. “He started it” and “He deserves it”  are rationalizations for emotional retaliation that shows weakness, not strength. I assumed that Jeb Bush understood this, and if he was going to lose, and he is, then at least he could hold his head up high at the end knowing that he didn’t violate his principles just because a boor like Donald Trump goaded him into it.

Then today, Jeb tweeted this:

Jeb Tweet

Guess not.

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The Seventh Annual Ethics Alarms Awards, Part II: The Worst of Ethics 2015

Donald and Hillary

Ethics Corrupters of the Year

(Awarded to the unethical public figure whose prominence, popularity and success most corrupts the public’s ethical values)

A Tie: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  Nobody else is close.

I’m sorry that these two are so dominating the awards. They also dominated the posts last year. If they dominate the awards next year, God Save The United States of America…

Double Standard Of The Year

The deference accorded to anti-white protesters on dozens of college campuses, not just by spineless administrators but much of the news media. Similar protests, conduct and rhetoric by white students would be immediately condemned for what it would be: blatant racism.

 Lie of the Year

Hands Up! Don’t shoot! The lie was uttered in 2014, but acquired new status after the Justice Department unexpectedly and definitively determined that the evidence did not support the inflammatory myth that Mike Brown was shot dead in Ferguson while trying to surrender to Officer Wilson. Never mind: the lie is part of the manifesto of Black Lives Matter and similar groups; it is still alluded to by activists and shameless politicians; it still divides the nation and focuses hate on police departments; and it has contributed to getting police officers killed while making communities more vulnerable to crime. It may be the Lie of the Decade.

Uncivil U.S. Official of the Year

Justice Antonin Scalia, who crossed all lines of judicial restraint, collegiality and civility when he excoriated his colleague, Justice Kennedy, who was the fifth vote in the majority of SCOTUS’s ruling  that same-sex marriage was a Constitutional right no state could deny, with this comment in a footnote:

“If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.”

——U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia,

 

The Jesse Jackson Award 

(For the Year’s Worst Amateur Diplomat)

Barack Obama.  I know, this is snarkier than I like to be in these awards, but the signature diplomatic measure of the past year, the astounding, one-sided, dangerous and Munich-like deal with Iran, could only be the product of an ideological tyro placing wishes and hopes over diplomatic responsibility, and not for the first time. For most Presidents, trading dangerous terrorists for a deserter would be nadir. History has seen many tragedies seeded by world leaders with no diplomatic skills: the disastrous Treaty of Versailles,  Potsdam, and the treaty that this one most resembles, negotiated by the hapless Neville Chamberlain. We can only hope that the worst case scenario doesn’t materialize, but if it does not, it will be moral luck.

Most Unethical Sports League

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady speaks at Salem State University in Salem, Massachusetts, May 7, 2015. REUTERS/Charles Krupa/Pool ORG XMIT: BKS06

The NFL, for the third year in a row. “Concussion,” Tom Brady, Deflategate, more evidence that NFL players are slowly killing themselves with brain damage, Johnny Manziel.  What a great sport pro football is.

Sports Cheat of the Year

Tom Brady, New England Patriots ball-deflating quarterback.  Brady eventually avoided punishment because the NFL botched both its investigation and its imposition of penalties, but his smirking, cynical comments about the incident made it clear that he thinks cheating is no big deal, and most of his fans agree.

Not surprisingly, Brady supports Donald Trump.

Unethical Lawyers of the Year

Law Firm Division:  Lawyers Stephen Diaco, Robert Adams and Adam Filthaut of the Florida firm Adams & Diaco were found to have “maliciously” set up the drunken-driving arrest of their opposing counsel in a  high-profile defamation trial. The plot involved a comely paralegal and a cooperative DUI cop. Last I checked, it looked like all three lawyers would be disbarred for life.

Scary Lawyer Division: California lawyer Douglas Crawford  held a can of pepper spray a yard from the face of the opposing lawyer saying, “I will pepper-spray you if you get out of hand.” Then the lawyer pointed a stun gun at Traver’s head and said, “If that doesn’t quell you, this is a flashlight that turns into a stun gun.” To show he wasn’t kidding, Crawford discharged the stun gun the startled lawyer’s face.

Hard-working Lawyer Division: Massachusetts lawyer,  Karen Andrade, was  charged with prostitution after a police investigated a report by a suspicious neighbor and  found online reviews of both the lawyer’s legal services and her escort services

Celebrity Lawyer Division: Michael Cohen,  one of Donald Trump’s lawyers, told the Daily Beast that it was legally impossible for a man to rape his wife. He was only a couple of decades and many court cases behind on his research. That piece of legal scholarship came after he had threatened the website’s staff in language usually associated with loan sharks and pimps.

Unethical Prosecutor of the Year

Mosby

Baltimore’s City Attorney Marilyn Mosby
Continue reading

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