When The Incompetent Meet The Corrupt: The U.S. Postal Service vs Lance Armstrong

Left to right: Lance Armstrong's lawyers, the U.S. Postal Service, Lance.

Left to right: Lance Armstrong’s lawyers, the U.S. Postal Service, Lance.

The U.S. Postal Service, virtually insolvent and incapable of doing anything about it, wasted $31 million in 2000 on a four-year contract sponsoring Lance Armstrong and his cycling team. Why? Search me. Still, it was , the Service says, paying to endorse champions, not cheaters, which is what Armstrong and his team were. Now Postal Service is joining a false claims lawsuit, claiming that Armstrong and the team defrauded the government and violated their sponsorship contract by using performance-enhancing drugs. The Postal Service filed the suit shortly after Armstrong finally admitted that what had been alleged for over a decade, what he had denied and sued over and attacked and protested and postured indignantly in pained and defiant terms was, in fact true. He had used illegal and banned substances and methods on the way to his epic success, hero status and world fame.

Armstrong is also a crook, taking millions from the Post Office and other sponsors who believed he was a real champion rather than a phony one. It would be nice, inspiring even, if just one lying, cheating miscreant voluntarily returned the millions he acquired through dishonest means, rather than using those millions to hire super-lawyers to allow him to keep the ill-gotten gains. Lance, however, bottom of the ethics barrel-scum feeder that he is, would not be my most likely candidate for such a noble display. Indeed, he is living up to my low expectations. Continue reading

“Lookism” And The Plight of the Borgata Babes

"Uh...Desiree? We need to talk..."

“Uh…Desiree? We need to talk…”

Atlantic City’s Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa calls its waitresses the “Borgata Babes,” and makes its hiring decisions accordingly. The cocktail waitresses’ job description requires part fashion model, part beverage server, part hostess, and entirely eye candy for the male of the species.  When the casino  hires a new BB, it weighs her. If her poundage increases by more than 7 percent, the casino reserves the right to suspend her until she’s back in flirting trim.

Anyone could see this lawsuit coming a mile away, and sure enough, twenty-two newly-portly babes lost a lawsuit against the casino in which they claimed sexual discrimination. (There are no male equivalents to the Borgata Babes, just the usual ugly, flabby male waiters and bartenders.) New Jersey judge Nelson Johnson ruled last week that the Babes are paid sex objects, and that the Borgata’s requirements were legal because the women were aware of them and accepted them as a condition of their employment. Johnson wrote, “Plaintiffs cannot shed the label ‘babe’; they embraced it when they went to work for the Borgata.”

Slate, in writing about the case, sees the ruling as an endorsement of weight discrimination that could spread like the flu, putting corpulent women and men on the breadlines. ” Says Slate:

[T]he ruling also raises questions about the role of babes in workplaces across the country. It’s conventional wisdom that male gamblers will keep pulling away at the slots as long as they’re lubricated by strong drinks served up by babely women. But wouldn’t some female patrons prefer to be served be hunky pieces of man candy? And couldn’t most workplaces argue that its jobs are better performed by babes, regardless of the venue? Is it OK to require that strippers be babes? Casino waitresses? How about investment bankers?”

Now there’s a slippery slope argument if I ever saw one. While it is true that physical attractiveness can be an employment asset in virtually any job—note #2 on fired TV reporter Shea Allen’s “confessions”— there are some jobs for which it is the primary, or at least a substantial and thus legitimate requirement. Strippers, of course. Fashion models. Cheerleaders. Actresses. Personal trainers. Fox newsreaders. Hooters girls, and pretty obviously, Borgata Babes. To say that a business can’t make a decision to have fantasy sex objects as part of its appeal is an excessive use of political correctness grafted to state power. Essentially, the suing Babes are arguing that they can pull a bait and switch—use their well-toned beauty to get hired, agree to maintain the high standard of visual perfection that they presented to their employer, then go to pot and sue if their employer objects. Beauty is an asset in the workplace and a tangible one: the pressure on the culture to behave as if that asset doesn’t exist (the pejorative labeling of a preference for the lovely over the hideous as “lookism” is the weapon of choice) and to prohibit employers from ever hiring on that basis in jobs where it is a substantial and relevant qualification is as unfair to the fit and comely as requiring an investment banker to look like Kate Upton.

Since the law will require, and should require, clear standards, there will need to be a legislative determination of what kind of jobs for men or women can justify termination when their occupants become unsightly. The law should also, however, permit a job applicant’s appearance to provide a legitimate and legal edge when all other qualifications are equal even when the job itself does not have any beauty or fitness requirements. I do not deny that this is an ethical and emotional minefield, implicating age and race bias, and that there are some contentious battles to be fought. I do deny that the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa is the place to fight one.

One place where the appearance discrimination battle does need to be fought is Iowa, where the case I wrote about earlier, in which a hen-pecked dentist sought to fire his attractive and competent assistant because he found her “irresistible” and his wife was jealous, had the same ridiculous resolution last week. Yet another Iowa court ruled that her impeccable appearance was a legal justification to can her. That’s as outrageous as firing a dental assistant because she’s put on a few pounds, but being a “babe”—or not—should be irrelevant to one’s skill in flossing teeth.

It does give some hope to the ex-casino waitresses. I hear they are hiring unsexy dental assistants in Iowa.


Facts: Time

Sources: Slate, UPI

Graphic: YouTube (Yikes!)

Lauren Green vs Reza Aslan Aftermath: Attack Of The Spinners

spinningThe interview Lauren Green of Fox news inflicted on her guest, Reza Aslan, was bad journalism, bad television, and just plain wrong–unfair, unreasonable, and biased. In a sane U.S., nobody would defend such a dull-edged hatchet job, which appeared to be crafted, by Green or her Dark Lords at Fox, to make the network’s conservative Christian viewers happy by accusing a scholar of religious bias for simply challenging the historical accuracy of the New Testament. But this is an insane, crazily partisan U.S., where every perceived defeat in the culture wars is cause for garment rending, so such niceties as being honest when one of your allies misbehaves is considered tantamount to surrender.

Thus along comes conservative religious scholar Matthew J. Franck, who on his blog First Thoughts hands the Christian Soldiers of the Right just the ammunition they need to rehabilitate Green. (Note: Green revealed herself as a shameless hack, and doesn’t deserve to be rehabilitated.) Naturally, the strategy is to discredit Aslan, and this he tries to do with gusto in not one, but two blog posts. His accusation: Aslan misrepresented his scholarly credentials, when he was trying repeatedly to challenge Green’s idiotic contention that a Muslim isn’t qualified to write about Jesus. This means, concludes Franck, that Aslan can’t be trusted, so Green was right all along. His book should be ignored.

Ironically enough, this calls to mind another one of Bickmore’s Laws (His First Law of Being Biased was featured in the original post about Green’s interview) , Bickmore’s Second Law of Being Biased:

Nitpicking others’ arguments is not the same thing as “critical thinking.”  That involves nitpicking your own arguments.

This applies nicely to Franck’s attack on Aslan.

Aslan said, off the cuff and while being badgered by Green, Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Critic Ethics

How I love critics...

How I love critics…

This is a delicate one for me; the names have been omitted and details disguised to protect…well, for a lot of reasons.

Last week I posted about the mixed-gender version of “I Do! I Do!” I directed for The American Century Theater, which I co-founded and where I am the artistic director. The show met all my objectives and expectations, even surpassed them, and until today, all of the reviews have been raves.

Today, though, a non-rave came out on a local theater website. It is the kind of review I detest, where the standard of the critic is “why didn’t you do it this way? That’s what I would have done.” The answer to that is, bluntly, “Direct your own damn show, then.” Snap judgments from one-time viewers, even extremely sophisticated ones, about what they would do if they were the author, actor, director, or designer of a stage production—when if truth they never have been or could be—are inherently unfair, incompetent and also obnoxious. After considering and experimenting and testing various artistic approaches to any problem over months of preparation, meetings and  intense rehearsal with a large production and artistic team, any production deserves the respect of being assumed to have considered and rejected for cause other solutions, which for various reasons didn’t work.

This is not, of course, a professional reviewer, though a reader could only know that from the quality of the review. Among other tells, the critic misidentifies which performers sing what, and the whole concept of non-realistic sets seems to be alien to him: yes, dear, we could have afforded a four-poster bed; the director felt the show would be better without one, and in fact, it is. Okay, the reviewer is a boob: that’s fine; most theater reviewers are.  I would not make an issue about one sloppy and badly reasoned amateur review, because if I did, I’d be in a padded room.

However, after the review was published, I learned that our company had a prior experience with this reviewer: he had been on the crew of a show last year, and we had to fire him. In 17 years and over 80 productions, he is the only person to be fired from that particular job.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz with a theatrical bent:

Does a critic who has a past relationship with a theater company whose production he or she is reviewing have an ethical obligation to disclose it as part of the published review? Continue reading

Lauren Green, Fox News, and Bickmore’s First Law Of Being Biased

Watch this, if you dare.

I have been using the phrase “Bias makes you stupid” for many years, but only recently learned that a Utah climate-change scientist has claimed the observation as his own. In fact, Barry Bickmore has a lot of useful, perceptive observations among “Bickmore’s Laws” ( Example: Bickmore’s First Law of Being Reasonable Reasonable people understand that good arguments can sometimes lead to false conclusions, and bad arguments can sometimes lead to true conclusions ), though they all were apparently devised to help him debunk the arguments of climates change skeptics. Most of them have general applicability. and that includes his version of what I once called “Marshall’s First Law”: Bickmore’s First Law of Being Biased: Bias makes you human.  Unchecked bias makes you stupid.

Which brings us to Lauren Green, and Fox News.

I have no idea whether Ms. Green is really stupid or not. I do know she is a former beauty queen, and that Fox (other networks too, but Fox is blatant about it) clearly values pulchritude over journalistic acumen and skill when making their on-air talent decisions not involving Y chromosomes. This itself is stupid, unprofessional, sexist, insulting to women, unfair to better journalists with smaller bra cups and courser features, and I must admit, when it leads to an epic live embarrassment such as Green’s, I take some satisfaction that Roger Ailes is getting exactly what he deserves for such a cynical, reckless, ratings ploy.

If Lauren Green is not stupid, then her frantic efforts to play to the core Fox audience’s presumed bias in favor of Christianity of the literal variety and related bias against non-Christians, especially Muslims, sure caused her brain to take a holiday. Or, perhaps, her own unchecked Christian biases—she is Fox’s “religion correspondent” these days—triggered a classic display of Bickmore’s First Law of Being Biased. In either case, I think her credibility is permanently shot, even at Fox. She might want to consider a different line of work. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Braless, Blogging Reporter

Too much information?

Too much information?

Shea Allen, an investigative reporter for WAAY-TV, a Huntsville, Alabama, ABC affiliate,  was fired from her job despite what had been considered sterling work because of a post she made on her personal blog.

Titled “Confessions of a Red Headed Reporter,” it was a light-hearted list of, she thought, minor quirks and trivial transgressions.

The fateful list:

1. I’ve gone bra-less during a live broadcast and no one was the wiser.
2. My best sources are the ones who secretly have a crush on me.
3. I am better live when I have no script and no idea what I’m talking about.
4. I’ve mastered the ability to contort my body into a position that makes me appear much skinner in front of the camera than I actually am.
5. I hate the right side of my face.
6. I’m frightened of old people and I refuse to do stories involving them or the places they reside.
7. Happy, fluffy, rainbow stories about good things make me depressed.
8. I’ve taken naps in the news car.
9. If you ramble and I deem you unnecessary for my story, I’ll stop recording but let you think otherwise.
10. I’ve stolen mail and then put it back. (maybe)

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz:

Was it fair for the station to fire her? Continue reading

Let’s Be Clear: President Clinton’s Conduct Was WORSE Than Anthony Weiner’s

This won’t make some people happy, but it is true.

Who's more unethical? It's no contest.

Who’s more unethical? It’s no contest.

I always feel like Michael Corleone at times like these: just when I think I am finally through with having to point out the miserable ethics record of Bill Clinton, he (or his shameless supporters) puuuull me back …

The New York Post is reporting that…

“Bill and Hillary Clinton are angry with efforts by mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner and his campaign to compare his Internet sexcapades — and his wife Huma Abedin’s incredible forgiveness — to the Clintons’ notorious White House saga…’The Clintons are upset with the comparisons that the Weiners seem to be encouraging — that Huma is ‘standing by her man’ the way Hillary did with Bill, which is not what she in fact did,’ said a top state Democrat…’The Clintons are pissed off that Weiner’s campaign is saying that Huma is just like Hillary,’’ said the source. “How dare they compare Huma with Hillary? Hillary was the first lady. Hillary was a senator. She was secretary of state.'”

My reaction to this?


Karma’s a bitch. Continue reading

Don Lemon For President

Ethics Hero.

Ethics Hero.

Bear with me: I’ll get to Don Lemon eventually.

In a mature, rational, respectful democracy with an objective and competent news media, difficult and contentious issues would be thoughtfully debated with open minds and fearless honesty, without the toxic influence of rigid ideologies, partisan loyalties, group identification, or biases. The objectives: reach the truth, identify problems, begin solving them.

This process is difficult under the best of circumstances, and in the United States, circa 2013, it is nearly impossible on any issue, and dangerous on the issue of race, with both the media and elected officials actively seeking to exacerbate racial divisions and misconceptions. A recent poll suggests that the perception of racial divisions in America has worsened by 25% since Barack Obama was elected President, following decades of steady improvement. Why is this? There are many reasons, but the cynical pandering to misconceptions in the black community is one major suspect.

President Obama, had he been fair and responsible, might have used his remarks about the George Zimmerman trial to point out that neither the incident itself nor the verdict of the jury were relevant to race issues, or created by a “stand your ground” law that has been a lightning rod for accusations of racism in the justice system. Instead, he talked about how he “understood,” and apparently agreed with, an interpretation of the events based on past African-American experiences with racism. This was irresponsible and wrong. It was as much an endorsement of irrationality, ignorance and bias as it would be to explain that current day racists see blacks through the prism, “those sets of experiences” in Obama’s words, of their region’s history of culturally acceptable slavery, and we have to respect their views as a result. The President has not, as would be a far more justifiable statement, explained that opponents of same-sex marriage are not bigots, but see the issue through the ” sets of experiences” of their religious upbringing. Serial rapists may also see women through the prism of their childhood abuse—those are rather damaging “sets of experiences”— at the hands of their mothers.

There are always powerful reasons why people have hatreds and biases, and reasons why hatreds and biases cripple their ability to interpret reality and act responsibly. We can all understand that, but it doesn’t justify distorting the facts. Blacks are not inferior to any other race, no matter what the “prism” says. Gay marriage poses no harm to society, and gays deserve the same rights as anyone else, and the Bible doesn’t change those facts. Rape victims are not responsible for the misogyny of rapists, no matter how their distorted thinking came to be.

And the acquittal of George Zimmerman was not evidence of rampant white racism, regardless of the African-American experience. The President had a duty to say that. He had a duty to say, “I understand, but you are wrong on the facts.” He did not. Instead, he encouraged and supported a distorted and biased narrative that is harming race relations and respect for the justice system, and far too many in the news media—which is to say, anyone in the media who is stooping to this—are trying to continue the process. For example, Abbe Smith, in the Washington Post this weekend, had an article on a topic I have discussed here more than once: the challenge of a defense attorney representing a guilty and heinous client. It was an excellent piece, but the Post headline writers and editors unconscionably and unethically decided to pander to the city’s  predominantly black population’s bias by publishing it under this:

“What motivates a lawyer to defend

a Tsarnaev, a Castro or a Zimmerman?” Continue reading

“It’s A Cook Book!”

Nobody listens to me...

Nobody listens to me…

The issues at the core of the Anthony Weiner debacle—which is not the conduct of the ex-Congressman/absurd NYC mayoral candidate/sick puppy, but the fact that so many, like Dan Savage, Huma Abedin (Weiner’s wife, Hillary’s apprentice, carrier of the Clintonian ethisc virus),  Andrew Sullivan, and apparently 16% of New York Democrats still argue that his conduct doesn’t disqualify him from elected office—-are ones which I am especially passionate about, because they are the very issues that launched this blog’s predecessor, the Ethics Scoreboard:

1. There is no division between private unethical conduct and public unethical conduct. It is a false construct designed to assist scoundrels in getting elected. Private conduct is as reliable an indicator of trustworthiness as other prior conduct.

2. Leaders in a democracy should be held to an exemplary level of conduct, not the average or common conduct of those they seek to lead.

3. Some instances of unethical conduct have “signature significance“for the individual involved, meaning that contrary to the common rationalization that “anyone can make a mistake,” there are some things that ethical people never would do even once, and thus the fact that an individual does do it is persuasive evidence that they are generally untrustworthy.

Thus I believe Weiner’s story is more important than the mere sordid political drama involved: if people pay attention, if people learn, if people can get by their partisan biases and convenient ethics misconceptions, maybe we can begin establishing a better, more sensible, beneficial standard for our elected leaders, who, perhaps you have noticed, are, as a group, an embarrassment to the legacy of July 4, 1776. I don’t have illusions that I have any influence, and it is unseemly to say “I told you so,” but sometimes I feel like one of the doomed heroes in science fiction/horror scenarios who end up screaming “They’re already here! You’re next!” or “It’s a cook book!” to unheeding crowds blithely proceeding to their own destruction.

Yesterday the news surfaced that should be the smoking gun on Anthony Weiner’s corrupt character that readers of this blog, at least, did not require to render a verdict—that Weiner’s conduct was not just an irrelevant personal quirk, that his initial lying about it was proof of a corrupt character, and that he is no more trustworthy than John Edwards, Lance Armstrong, Ryan Braun or anyone else who lies to the public to keep its trust. Maybe it will convince Dan, Huma, Andrew and the rest that Anthony Weiner is too corrupt—never mind sick—to lead. If it doesn’t, I think that is signature significance about them. Continue reading

The Halliburton Plea Bargain: Why We Have To Start Sending Corporate Executives To Jail

"BAD company! BAD! Now go feel sorry while you count your money."

“BAD company! BAD! Now go feel sorry while you count your money.”

The news media and pundits were too entranced by Anthony Weiner’s package, the royal baby, whatever it was, and President Obama’s  third or fourth promise to make the economy his primary focus every waking hour between fundraisers and expensive junkets to notice that the old villain of the Left, Halliburton, once again got away with corporate villainy of the worst kind. You see, Halliburton executives engaged in ethics accounting, essentially balancing the possible penalties that might arise from illegal and unethical conduct against the benefits, and decided, sure, let’s destroy evidence that shows that Halliburton had more to do with the deadly and ecologically devastating Deepwater Horizon explosion that created the Gulf oil spill than regulators and the courts currently know.

The company’s crime—remember, Scooter Libby was sent to jail for obstructing justice regarding the investigation of a crime that didn’t exist—was discovered, so it made a sweet deal with the Justice Department: it agreed to pay the maximum allowable fine of $200,000 ( perspective: this would be considered a joke of a fine for steroid use by a major league baseball star) and will be subject to a three year probation; the company continue its cooperation with the government’s criminal investigation (which is its duty anyway), and to really show its contrition and yummy goodness, Halliburton made a voluntary contribution of $55 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to clean off those oil-covered sea birds and otters, and that kind of thing.


Disgraceful and outrageous. Continue reading