Category Archives: U.S. Society

Ethics, Fish, “The Twilight Zone” and Renee Zellweger’s New Face

Rene 1

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

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Gender and Sex, Popular Culture, U.S. Society

Supplemental Comments On The President’s Ordered Kiss

I’m in NYC for a law firm seminar, and expect to get back to Ethics Alarms late if at all, so I want to make a couple of clarifications lest the comments on yesterday’s Ethics Quiz go astray.

I am not blaming the President for what is a standard, culturally embedded demonstration of male dominance, presumed female submissiveness and abuse of power. He is part of the culture that tolerates this, and while it would be immensely beneficial if he used his influence as a role model to move us away from this conduct that is a major, if under-recognized, way that the glass ceiling is kept intact, I recognize that this is a lot to ask, and that he has other pressing matters to deal with.

Make no mistake, however, that the male power-hug, power-kiss is a stubborn remnant of the patriarchy. I know that astute feminists (and others, like me) know this, and the fact that they don’t have the integrity or the courage to condemn the conduct when it surface’s in  a political ally is disappointing if not surprising.

To those who (absurdly) claim that the woman’s response in the video was consensual, I only ask them to speculate what her alternative to submitting to the POTUS ordered smooch was. She knew the incident was on television. He is the leader of the free world, she is, by comparison and to the public, at least, nobody. Should she have embarrassed him by refusing? Should she reject the President of the United States when he his being “nice,” thus instantly making herself the center of a controversy? Of course not. This is why the position the President placed her in was unfair.

It is, however, incredibly, disturbingly common. From Richard Dawson’s mandatory kisses from female contestants on the original “Family Feud,” to the old lions of the plaintiffs bar trying to cop a feel with my young female staffers at an association convention, men in power, and men generally, feel they have a right to this culturally accepted invasion of a woman’s physical person, and women feel obligated to permit it. Every time they do, they do their little bit to keeping men in a step ahead of them.

That’s the real issue here, not sexual assault.

 

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Leadership, U.S. Society, Workplace

Ethics Quiz: A Sexual Assault By The President?

"Kiss me, you saucy wench!"

“Kiss me, you saucy wench!”

I owe blogger Ann Althouse big time for this:  What an alert and accomplished troublemaker she is!

This seems like a “gotcha!” and it is certainly that. It is more, however, and raises both illuminating and difficult issues. Here is the video of Obama’s encounter while voting in Chicago today:

Here is Althouse:

“I thought only “yes” means yes: Did Obama get true, verbalized consent from that woman before he kissed her?  No. He did not…Obama orders her to kiss him: “You’re gonna kiss me. Give him something to talk about. Now, he’s really jealous.” As you see in the video, he makes that declarative statement and immediately grabs her and kisses and hugs her. Why is that acceptable? He’s using her in an effort to regain dignity and to humiliate the man who humiliated him. It might all be dismissed as play humiliation and play counter-humiliation. But the woman’s body was used as an object of that play, a means of communication between men.”

When I ran an all-female staff for a mostly rich old guy association, I gave a standing order that no staffer would submit to a kiss from a member, no matter how “playful” and no matter how high-ranking the man was. There can be no consent in such situations, and a man saying “You’re going to kiss me” and doing it a) without free and open consent and 2) under the duress and the compulsion of superior power (Gee, do you think the President of the United States automatically carries that with him? Not sure? Ask Bill Clinton.) has engaged in textbook sexual assault and battery. This conduct, which has been the subject of a major initiative by the Democrat feminist base this year, counts encounters just like the one in the video as the kind of campus sexual assault that gives them the “one in five women are victims” narrative to stoke this skirmish in the “war on women.” So your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz—and I suggest you reflect a while before you answer—is this:

Is what Obama did in the video ethical, in the sense that it was responsible, respectful, fair, acknowledging autonomy, not an abuse of power or position, and most of all, meeting the strict standard of male-female interaction that is being aggressively and pugnaciously advanced by his feminist supporters?

Continue reading

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Filed under U.S. Society

How Trust Dies, Part II: A Trivial White House Cover-Up With Signature Significance

Yeah, but this is little Big Brother stuff, so why worry?"

Yeah, but this is little Big Brother stuff, so why worry?”

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

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, U.S. Society

On Forced Acceptance Of Same-Sex Marriage: The Slippery Slope Stops Here

Hitching-Post-Idaho

Donald and Evelyn Knapp, pictured above, are ordained ministers who conduct weddings at their for-profit chapel in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, called “The Hitching Post.” After this year’s ruling by an Idaho federal judge that the state had to recognize  same-sex weddings, a City of Couer d’Alene deputy city attorney went on  local TV to say that for-profit wedding chapels could not legally turn away a gay couple without risking a misdemeanor citation. The Hitching Post, he noted, “would probably be considered a place of public accommodation that would be subject to the ordinance.” The Knapps say the the City Attorney’s office has made the same assertion in telephone conversations with them.

Now, the Volokh Conspiracy reports, the Knapps have moved for a temporary restraining order, arguing that applying the anti-discrimination ordinance to them would be unconstitutional and would also violate Idaho’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

They have to win. As Professor Volokh, a First Amendment authority of fame and renown, explains, Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Love, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

Ebola, Trust, Competence, and “The Only Thing We HaveTo Fear Is Fear Itself” Ethics

On the 4th of March, 1933, newly elected President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, taking over the Presidency in the teeth of the Great Depression, intoned his famous words, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself!”  It was bravado, of course, and in essence a lie: there was a lot to fear. Roosevelt knew it, and the public certainly knew it. The whole economic system seemed to be falling apart. Anti-capitalist evolutionaries were looking for an opportunity to revolt. Nobody was sure what to do.

The statement was effective, however, in focusing the nation on the challenges at hand and riveting the pubic attention on solving problems rather than cringing in terror in fear of them. Roosevelt was a magnificent speaker, warm and charismatic, and that contributed to the force of his rhetoric, but what was most important is that he was trusted. Every new President  can draw on a full, newly-replenished  account of trust, or at least could, in FDR’s time. A new President’s promises haven’t proven to be air; his political skills and talents, honesty and character have not shown themselves to be inadequate or a fraudulent pose.  In rare cases, and FDR was certainly one, they never do. The President, for good or ill, is the human face of the U.S. Government. If he is trusted, it is trusted. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, History, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership, U.S. Society

Esurance Wants You To Know That Old People Are Ignorant And Pathetic

It was the Candy Crush commercial that did it. I nearly red-flagged Esurance for its commercial earlier this year showing “Lucille,” an elderly, technologically clueless auto insurance consumer whose version of a Facebook wall consisted of posting photographs on an actual wall in her home, but decided, “OK, maybe that’s just Lucille. After all, the ad shows another senior trying to put her straight.”  The recent Esurance ad featuring an elderly idiot who plays “Candy Crush” by hitting hard candies with a hammer was too much, though.

The dirty little secret of the political correctness culture is that the groups most associated with political conservatism—males, seniors, whites and Christians—are acceptable targets for bigotry, denigration and ridicule. Add to that the overweight, who are always fair game for derision today, and the double standard in mockery is clear. Continue reading

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