Donald Trump is apparently testing yet another piece of political conventional wisdom. Having already conquered such long standings assumptions as “A Presidential candidate shouldn’t talk and act like a sixth grader” and “A candidate shouldn’t embarrass his party every time he opens his mouth,” Trump is now setting his sights on the classic, “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up,” but with an impressive extra challenge.
He is now trying to cover up the fact that he grotesquely mocked the disability of a New York Times reporter in a public appearance that was videotaped.
Trump actually is denying that he did what he was obviously doing. Very bold, very intrepid. It will be fascinating to see if he can pull it off.
Here’s Trump, after the Times excoriated him for ridiculing reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis, a malady that limits flexibility in his arms:
“Serge Kovaleski must think a lot of himself if he thinks I remember him from decades ago – if I ever met him at all, which I doubt I did. He should stop using his disability to grandstand and get back to reporting for a paper that is rapidly going down the tubes.”
Odd that Trump didn’t remember him, since before doing his “man with weird arm movements” bit he said quite clearly, “Now, the poor guy — you’ve got to see this guy…” One doesn’t normally call a reporter “a poor guy” for no reason, nor does one say, “You’ve got to see this guy” if you aren’t going to show the crowd what it is they have to see.”
Never mind, Trump is going for it: the full “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”, or as Jimmy Durante put it, in the show that gave the Ethics Alarms category it’s name, “Elephant? What elephant?” Continue reading
Ethics revelations lurk everywhere, even in the obituaries pages:
The Surprising Integrity of “Big Al”
Al Molinaro, the rumpled, large proboscused character actor best known as “Murray the cop” on TV’s “Odd Couple” and the proprietor of
the diner on “Happy Days,” where he mastered the world-weary catch phrase of “Yeeeaaahh, yeah-yeah-yeah…,” died last week at the advanced age of 96. In his Washington Post obituary, I gained new admiration for Al. (I was always an Arnold (Pat Morita) man, myself, and if you don’t understand that reference, good for you. You ignored “Happy Days.”) At the end of Al’s obit, there was this…
“In 1990, Mr. Molinaro told the Chicago Tribune that Marshall, who went on to direct hit films including “Pretty Woman,” tried unsuccessfully to recruit him for big-screen work.
“I can’t work in movies with Garry because I’m so square that I won’t be in a movie that has four-letter words in it,” Mr. Molinaro said. “That puts me pretty much totally out of films these days. . . . You get to a point where you don’t want to do just anything for the career. You gotta live with yourself.”
Now that’s integrity, and in show business, of all places. Our culture remains civil and benign only if we are willing to fight for it, or at least withhold our assistance as it deteriorates. Molinaro had the courage and integrity to accept this civic duty, Few among as do, and actors—especially specialty character actors like Al, almost never do. I remember that Mel Brooks harbored dreams of getting John Wayne to play “The Waco Kid” in “Blazing Saddles,” and said that he ran in to the Duke and talked him into reading the screenplay. Wayne called him the next day and told Brooks that he loved the script, but that he couldn’t take the role. “It’s too dirty,” he said. “I’m John Wayne!” But he said he laughed all night as he read it, and promised to be “at the head of the line” when it opens. Continue reading
George Takei, the Japanese-America actor permanently enshrined in pop culture history for his role of Sulu in the original “Star Trek” TV series. He has essentially lived off that one felicitous part for forty years, recently acquiring less moldy, non-sci-fi following by being a gay rights advocate.
Takei recently skimmed, or just didn’t comprehend, Clarence Thomas’s audacious dissent to the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling and Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion declaring same-sex marriage to be a fundamental right protected by the Constitution. Apparently he also does not comprehend that Supreme Court dissents are both stimulating and useful to legal scholars as well as those, unlike Mr. Sulu, possessing an open and curious mind.
Thomas made the unusual but provocative argument that human dignity is innate:
Human dignity has long been understood in this country to be innate. When the Framers proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” and “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” they referred to a vision of mankind in which all humans are created in the image of God and therefore of inherent worth. That vision is the foundation upon which
this Nation was built.
The corollary of that principle is that human dignity cannot be taken away by the government. Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them. And those denied governmental benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because the government denies them those benefits. The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away.
Thomas was expressing his disagreement with the majority that the government withholding the right to marry from gays robbed them of human dignity. I think it is a rather pedantic argument that has more validity in the abstract than in reality, but the position that rights come from creation rather than the government is a core concept in the Declaration of Independence, and one that statists, as in “modern Democrats,” like to ignore. If individuals are born with rights, they cannot be truly taken away. If citizens must look to the government to have their rights granted to them, then government is granted too much power in exchange. Thomas’s philosophical argument is classic conservatism. Naturally, that means, in Takei’s intolerant and partyist world view, that he deserves abuse. Continue reading
Principle Stenner giving David McCullough’s speech. You can’t see that his pants are on fire from this angle…
[NOTE: the original post’s headline ended with the creative word, “defeinitely,” I know not why. My demon proofer caught it yesterday, but I just read his alert. I’m sorry.]
Principal Mark Stenner delivered the commencement address for the May 22 graduation ceremonies for West Boca High School. It may have sounded faintly familiar to some of the those in the audience; after all, Massachusetts’ English teacher David McCullough, gave virtually the same speech to the class of 2012 at Wellesley High School. That speech went viral on YouTube with more than 2.5 million views. Known as the “You Are Not Special” speech, it got McCullough, the son of Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough, a book deal. Principal Stenner repeated this famous, extensively circulated speech almost word for word, never mentioning McCullough. He did make slight word changes and altered locations examples when necessary, but it was the same speech, and the plagiarism was noticed almost immediately.
Stenner has insisted that he didn’t plagiarize the address from the son of Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough. “I liked his idea. I should have said this was in part taken from him, ” he said. “In part,” in this case, means cutting some of the original, but including details like referencing ‘batty Aunt Sylvia” and the “maternal caped crusader,” and citing the same philosophers as McCullough, like Sophocles and Thoreau, but not crediting the man who wrote almost every word of the speech.
The manners of society appear to be heading south at an accelerating rate, with our up and coming generations being increasingly sent the message from the culture, celebrities and even elected officials, that manners and civility in public conduct and speech is for snobs, nerds, dorks, and goons. It’s cool to be vulgar! I admit, I’m in at least two of those three categories, so I really don’t get it. Ethics dictates that one communicates with respect for anyone within hearing distance, and unless ugly words serve a material purpose, using them is not the mark of a good citizen, a good neighbor, or a trustworthy human being. Nor is spouting vulgarity witty, and unless you are 11, and employing obvious code words that sound like curses, epithets and obscenities isn’t especially funny either, since we pretty much exhausted the possibilities at summer camp. I have no idea why anyone would want to recast the culture as a place where professionals curse like sailors and the words “fuck” and “cocksucker” are as likely to issue from a debutante’s lips as those of a hip hop artist, but that seems to be the objective now. President Obama, the Fish Head, signaled his approval by repeatedly using the word “bucket” in a televised event when he obviously meant “fuck it.” First President ever to use fuck on TV! Yes, Obama continues to burnish his legacy. Small wonder that CNN’s John Berman thought his audience wanted to see him snigger over a colleague’s “big stones,” a testicle joke that always has them LOL-ing in the 7th grade. Making sure that there is nowhere for the civil and well-mannered to hide, all the other TV stations happily accept money from advertisers using code words for “ass” (Verizon), alluding to sexual intercourse (Reese’s), and evoking the word “shit” (K-Mart and DraftKings). Continue reading
If you set out to defend ethically indefensible conduct in print, you better be able to do a better a job of it than this.
Alexandra Robbins, in an op-ed causing quite a bit of controversy in the Washington, D.C. area, attempted to not only justify the despicable conduct of medical professionals deriding and ridiculing their unconscious patients, but to sanctify it, arguing, lamely, that doctors and nurses are mocking the unwitting and vulnerable human beings who have placed their lives in their hands in order to “rejuvenate [the medical personnel] and bond them to their teams, while helping to produce high-quality work. In other words, the benefits to the staff — and to the patients they heal — outweigh occasional wounded feelings.”
Robbins’ protests of virtue amount to a desperate raid on the Ethics Alarms Rationalization List, which, as always, operates as virtual Rotting Ethics Detector, or RED. If you find yourself thinking these corrupting self-delusions, you’re on the verge of unethical conduct; if you find yourself saying them, you’ve applied for membership in the Dark Side, and if you are so rationalization-polluted that you proclaim them in print, like Robbins, you shouldn’t be trusted to mail the water bill, much less to cavort in the operating room.
Rationalizations aren’t the only ethical problem with her loathsome essay. The entire thing is a Jumbo, denying the blatantly undeniable. “Oh, no!” readers are told. “We aren’t being disrespectful to patients when we mock their weight, sex organs, or the maladies that placed them in pain, peril and in our care!” Robbins expects us to believe that insults constitute “non-destructive coping measures” that help nurses and doctors “provide the best possible care, even if those methods might seem unprofessional outside of the health-care setting.”
They seem unprofessional because they are unprofessional. Continue reading
Batman is ashamed of you, Ben…
Once a secret is out, it isn’t a secret any more. Once privacy is shattered, it’s gone: that egg can’t be put back together again. I wish Sony’s e-mails hadn’t been hacked: everyone who isn’t operating under a policy that mandates that their communications must be archived and available for media and public examination, like, oh, say, Hillary Clinton, has a right to have private business and personal communication.
Julian Assange is a fick, and an uncommonly arrogant one. He encourages, aids and abets the theft of proprietary information in the interests of world anarchy, which is in the interests of nobody. So let’s see now…North Korea hacks Sony to chill our First Amendment rights, and Wikileaks helps magnify the damage by spreading private e-mails and documents far and wide.
But it’s all out there now, and there is no virtue in averting our eyes and plugging our ears. There is a lot of unethical conduct exposed in those 30,000 documents and 170,000 emails hacked from Sony, and while the means by which it was exposed was illegal and wrong, we should still learn from what is now public information.
The fact that PBS and Harvard prof Henry Louis Gates Jr. can’t be trusted, for example, is good to know. Continue reading