Category Archives: Literature

Unethical Quote of the Week: Dick Cheney

Hello, I'll be your torturer today. Now, if you are innocent, please understand, on balance this works.

Hello, my name is Skug, and I’ll be your torturer today. Now, if you are innocent, please understand, on balance this works.

“I’m more concerned with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that, in fact, were innocent.”

—Former V.P. Dick Cheney, giving his reactions on “Meet the Press” regarding the Senate’s critique of the Bush Administration and the CIA’s interrogation methods.

I try to be fair to Dick Cheney, whose character has been distorted beyond all recognition by his partisan foes. Sunday, however, he was apparently attempting to validate all the most terrible things anyone has said about him, as well as providing future students of ethics real life examples of ethical fallacies.

The one quoted above is the pip: so much for the jurisprudential principle that It is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer.”   Chuck Todd reminded Cheney that 25% of those detained were apparently innocent. The Cheney variation: “It is OK if some innocent persons are unjustly punished as long as the bad guys get what they deserve.”

It is hard to pick the most unethical assertion, however; there are so many horrible statements to choose from. Such as: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Literature, U.S. Society, War and the Military

The Wall Street Journal’s Uncultured Culture Critic

Joanne Kaufman was here...

Joanne Kaufman was here…

In a jaw-dropping essay for her employer, The Wall Street Journal, alleged culture critic Joanne Kaufman proudly and candidly disabuses readers of any misconceptions they might have had regarding her qualifications for her job. She is not merely unqualified, but willfully, shamelessly, spectacularly unqualified. In a smug screed in which she admits to habitually walking out on Broadway shows at intermission, Kaufman reveals herself as lazy, arrogant, disrespectful of artists, and most crippling of all, to be afflicted by the attention span of the average Twitter addict.

“Don’t ask me what happened during the second acts of “Matilda,” “Kinky Boots,” “Pippin” and, reaching back a few seasons, “Boeing-Boeing” and “Billy Elliott, ”  Kaufman boasts.  “Really, I have no idea. But I am nothing if not cosmopolitan in my tastes, or distastes—French farces, English musicals set in gritty industrial cities, and American entertainments involving Charlemagne ’s Frankish kin.”

You can read her entire piece here; if the Journal doesn’t fire her, it is run by fools. “I’m of the “brevity is the soul of wit” school and of the belief that only a few bites are required to determine that you just don’t like a particular dish,” she happily admits. “My ideal night in the theater runs 90 minutes without an intermission (it is best not to put temptation in my path), which means that Shakespeare and I don’t tend to see a lot of each other.” This is the culture writer, remember. Yet she is admitting to membership in the lazy, sound-bite, bumper-sticker, multi-processing, distracted, ADD-addled public that has caused writers, playwrights, producers, book publishers, film-makers and song-writers to dumb down, redact, trivialize and simplify entertainment in an accelerating death cycle: plots don’t make sense, explosions start early, subtlety is forbidden, and no issue, thought or topic that can’t be fully explored in the time it takes to do a load of laundry is going can find its way on stage or screen. The Journal’s culture writer doesn’t have the time or interest to sit through King Lear, Hamlet, The Ice Man Cometh, or Death of a Salesman,  or to view all of “Seven Samurai,” “A Man for All Seasons” or “Gettysburg”—hey, a movie about one of those short Civil War battles for Joanne, please: she’s got a 15 minute segment of “Robot Chicken” to catch. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Journalism & Media, Literature, Professions, Workplace

For You, Dad.

Jack Marshall Sr Army portraitI lost my dad, Jack Marshall, Sr., five years ago today, and for some reason the loss feels especially sharp right now. This has been another miserable birthday, but not so miserable as that one, and I found myself once again revisiting my father’s favorite poem, which was a personnel credo for him and which has often served me well in hard times too. It is linked in the “Inspiration” section on the  Ethics Alarms home page, as well as quoted in my post here on the day my father was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Nonetheless, I am going to post Rudyard Kipling’s “If” once again. My father’s favorite line was…

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
That was Dad to the core. He never looked back, never cursed his luck, never thought too highly of himself (or anyone else), always believed in tomorrow, and that no victory was final, and no defeat was forever. And I know he was right, though it doesn’t often feel like it. So this is for you, Dad. Thanks for everything.

“If”

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs, and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait, and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet, don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two imposters just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves, to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop, and build ‘em up, with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn, long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—

You’ll be a Man, my son!

 

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Filed under Character, Family, Literature, Love

Ethics Dunce and Unethical Facebook Post of the Month: Elizabeth Lauten, Spokeswoman for Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tennessee)

Elizabeth Lauten, communications director for Republican Congressman Stephen Fincher, decided that she is authorized to give parental advice to First Offspring Sasha (13) and Malia (16) Obama. She was deeply troubled by the young ladies looking bored in photographs she saw online, so she posted this jaw-dropper on Facebook:

Facebook lecture

Wow. What a Thanksgiving feast of unethical features! Let’s see: Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Family, Government & Politics, Literature, Professions, The Internet, Unethical Blog Post

Comment of the Day: “Make Voting Compulsory, Because We Can’t Let THAT Happen Again”

Maybe Ruth Marcus would like this system better...

Maybe Ruth Marcus would like this system better…

Theories of democracy and political science, Robert Heinlein, minimizing bias from self-interest, scientist suspicion, GIANT BUGS…okay, it doesn’t quite get to the bugs. But what’s not to like about texagg 04’s reflections and exposition sparked by the post on Ruth Marcus’s plug for compulsory voting? Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Make Voting Compulsory, Because We Can’t Let THAT Happen Again: Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Literature, Popular Culture, Rights, Science & Technology, U.S. Society, War and the Military

“Bang The Drum Slowly,” My Old Friend, and Me

The American Century Theater's "Bang the Drum Slowly"

The American Century Theater’s “Bang the Drum Slowly”

I haven’t mentioned it here, but we are ending the 20 year adventure of my intentionally out-of-fashion theater company, The American Century Theater, after next season. One of the things I will miss most about it is that working so closely with the great works of stage literature we produce causes their wisdom and life observations to stick with us. Since I tend to choose works that involve ethical dilemmas, this has had professional as well as personal benefits.

I was thinking about the Mark Harris play (and novel, and movie) “Bang The Drum Slowly” in May, when I wrote about the kindness shown to Pasco High School student Vanessa Garcia, who was dying of cancer, because we were performing it at the time.  The story involves a baseball team and how it responds to a third-string catcher who is dying of Hodgkin’s Disease. It is about kindness and the Golden Rule, and the ways the impending death of someone in our life often brings into sharper focus the importance of kindness and our shared obligations on this perplexing journey to oblivion we all must travel together. But I really wasn’t thinking about “Bang The Drum Slowly” yesterday. Yesterday, I was just having a wonderful time talking about baseball, politics and family with my old friend from law school, who happened to be in a hospice. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Daily Life, Literature, Romance and Relationships, Uncategorized

Oh, NO!!! “The Mikado” Ethics Again (Political Correctness Division)!

[Here…listen to this while you read the post.]

I am apparently the official protector of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado” from ridiculous accusations of ethics offenses, so once again, I will charge into the breach. No thanks needed, Mr. Gilbert, Sir Arthur—I owe you debts that can never be repaid.

In a brain-endangering op-ed for the Seattle Times, expresses the opinion that the operetta is a “racial caricature,” and thus “every snap of the fan was a slap in the face.” The nature of the complaint has old origins: the original show in 1885 nearly caused an international incident, as Japan registered an official complaint to Great Britain claiming a grievous insult to its people. W.S. Gilbert, who was skilled at such things (a few years later he stifled French indignation over a song in “Ruddigore” that pretended to make fun of the French while actually ridiculing British bravado), explained that “The Mikado” in no way ridicules anything about Japan or its people, but is entirely a witty and original satire on everything British. This was true then, and is true now. Then, however, people, including the Victorian era Japanese, were able to see distinctions, and were not seeking victim status and leave to play public censor under the authority conferred by political correctness. Today, people like Ms. Chan are not so easily calmed.

Thus is art harmed, entertainment stifled, laughter stilled and music forgotten. A good argument could be made that “The Mikado” is the greatest musical comedy entertainment ever written.* It certainly caused the biggest international sensation (the closest rival is another Gilbert and Sullivan classic, “H.M.S. Pinafore”): it is estimated that by the end of 1885, at least 150 companies in Europe and the U.S. were producing the satire. As recently as the 1960s, it was credibly claimed that a “Mikado” was going on somewhere in the world every minute of the day.

The show is fun in every respect: comedy, music, lyrics, satire, characters. It is also fun to act in and produce, for children as well as adults. Unfortunately, several factors have led to the gradual scarcity of productions in recent years, from the cyclical (Gilbert and Sullivan go out of style, but always come back) to the ridiculous ( it seems like every production has to cope with some absurd controversy, like the 2011 Montana production that was accused of threatening Sarah Palin’s life). Political correctness aversion has been the biggest factor in making the very best G&S show rare while productions of Broadway musical junk flourish, however. Since the characters are supposedly “Japanese,” shouldn’t all the singers be Asian? Isn’t Asian make-up offensive like blackface? Oh, hell, let’s just do “The Pirates of Penzance.”

From Ms. Chan: Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, History, Journalism & Media, Literature, Popular Culture, Race, U.S. Society