Monthly Archives: February 2014

Ethics Hero: Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert

Laser Klan

Putting the jester’s privilege to great use, Comedy Central comic Stephen Colbert not only defied his corporate masters, communications giant Viacom, but mocked them in the process. He was officially warned of the corporation’s “concern” about “Laser Klan,” his planned animated riff involving the Klu Klux Klan during Black History Month. Colbert aired it anyway.

I have to wonder if he would have done the same if Viacom had been concerned about offending Muslims, rather than, hmmmm, let’s see, being worried that some racial victim-mongers would decide that making fun of the Klan, sworn enemies of blacks, Jews, and, oh, so many others, was somehow disrespectful to  blacks in February because only they could…oh, I don’t know what the complaint would be. I can’t blame the suits at Viacom…I bet someone at MSNBC and the NAACP are working up a political correctness offense theory right now, so Colbert will have to humble himself and beg for forgiveness.

Before that happens, though, let’s give Colbert his due. What he did takes principles and guts…and high ratings. Just be careful your numbers don’t fall off, Stephen.

And remember the Smothers Brothers.

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Graphic: YouTube

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Heroes, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Race

Seth Rogen’s Celebrity Hissy Fit And Congress’s Celebrity Cynicism

"How dare the Senators not take me seriously?"

“How dare the Senators not take me seriously?”

Actor Seth Rogen, who specializes in playing likable, though often stoned, shlubs in Hollywood comedies (except when he was cast as the Green Hornet, which everyone would rather pretend never happened), came to Capitol Hill to testify about the need for more research into the causes and prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease. His testimony was to the point and heart-felt—his late mother began showing symptoms of the illness in her fifties—and read from prepared text in a flat and formal tone rather than actorly flair. Rogen, however, was apparently seething was anger: after he was introduced, only two Senators on the committee stuck around for the show. Later he tweeted peevishly:

Rogen Tweet

Get the hook: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Citizenship, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Leadership

Twelve Post-Veto Ethics Observations On The Arizona “Religious Freedom” Bill

veto2

1. As we now know, Governor Brewer vetoed AZ SB1062, the so-called “religious freedom” bill that was widely (and accurately) interpreted as support for discrimination against gays. In the previous post, I suggested that her delay in doing so sent a message that was as hostile to gays as the law itself: if she felt the law was ethically wrong, then she should have and would have announced that she would not sign the bill long ago. Instead, she waited to see how much economic damage the law would do to the state, and then vetoed it, not because this was the right ting to do, but because it was the pragmatic thing to do. (As the satiric Borowitz Report put it, “The state of Arizona found itself in the middle of a conundrum today as it awoke to the awkward realization that gay people have money and buy stuff.”) USA Today noted that, to the contrary,”Some political insiders believe Brewer has allowed furor over the legislation to build to thwart social conservatives’ attempts to push a similar bill later.” I doubt it, but if so, Brewer allowed her state and her fellow Republicans to be represented nationally as homophobic for as long as possible to spare herself the inconvenience of vetoing a second bill.

2. Despite the extravagant debate over the bill, almost no commentators actually published the bill’s text in the commentary. The reason appears to be that since the bill is really an amendment of an existing law, it takes a modicum of intelligence to figure out what’s going on. Here it is (the original law is in black; the new text is in blue; what has been removed in the amended version is struck through): Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

The Perfect # 22: Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo

jogger-arrestedI’ll grant you that Ted Nugent’s asinine efforts to minimize the unethical nature  of his uncivil words about President Obama by tweeting his views on 44 “more offensive” forms of conduct were a pretty good example of my least favorite rationalization in action. That rationalization is #22, the Comparative Virtue Excuse, or “There are worse things.” (There are always worse things, of course.) Never mind: Ted is playing in the minor leagues. Art Acevedo, Austin’s excuse-master  police chief, really knows how to swing a #22.

A bystander took a video of Austin police detaining and ultimately arresting jogger Amanda Jo Stephen after she crossed an intersection at a red light and failed to obey orders from an officer after he saw her jaywalking, because she was wearing headphones and couldn’t hear him. My view: the police over-reacted and used excessive force (she pulled her arm away when the officer stopped her, and he treated is as resisting arrest), but wearing head phones that make it impossible for you to hear what is around you is 1) dangerous, 2) stupid and 3) obnoxious. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, Quotes, The Internet

How Can Lawyers Be Shockingly Unethical Without Breaching Any Legal Ethics Rules? Meet Styles & Pumpian

"Let's have a moment of silence for Ira, our troubled friend, partner and colleague, a fine lawyer who left this world too soon....Ok, now that's over, how can we keep his fee from his family?"

“Let’s have a moment of silence for Ira, our troubled friend, partner and colleague, a fine lawyer who left this world too soon….OK, now that’s over, how can we keep his fee from his family?”

Ira Bordow, a partner in the Wisconsin law firm of Styles & Pumpian, had been handling a family’s dispute with an insurance company. Successfully too: he negotiated a $250,000 settlement, and the company sent him the check for that amount, to be divided among the plaintiffs and Bordow’s firm. Bordow, as a partner, was going to get a $41,666 share.

The 54-year-old lawyer, however, had problems of his own that money could not solve, and committed suicide. His brother found the quarter of a million dollar check on the seat of Bordow’s Lexus coupe, and properly and correctly sent it on to  Styles & Pumpian.  Bordow had already earned his cut of the settlement at before he took his own life, for he, and the firm, were working on a contingent fee basis. The representation was at an end. Apparently, however, once the firm had the check in hand, the brilliant legal minds at Styles & Pumpian applied their craft to thinking of ways they could avoid paying the grieving family of their tragically demised partner any of the loot. They thought of one too, at least one they felt was worth a shot.  The firm is refusing to pay the Bordow estate the late lawyer’s $41,666 cut, arguing that Bordow’s suicide in his River Hills home negated his partnership agreement with the firm. It was a breach of contract, they say, and thus, even though he would have received the money if he had lived, the firm can keep it now.

Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Law & Law Enforcement, Workplace

More “Is We Getting Dummer?” Horrors

dictionary

I was having a quick sandwich before my flight at Reagan Airport and could not avoid hearing in excruciating detail the conversation next to me. It appeared to be some kind of staff meeting among business colleagues traveling to a common destination. One of the young professionals, a man in his early 30s, must have said “That’s incredulous” or “I find that incredulous” four or five times. Nobody corrected him; maybe none of the other four mature, supposedly educated people at the table knew that he was misusing a high school vocabulary word, though that’s a horrible thought.

For a moment I entertained thoughts of pulling him aside, like old Biff in “Back to the Future 2” encountering his younger self, whom he told “It’s ‘make like a tree and leave,’ not ‘make like a tree and get out of here’—you sound like an idiot when you say that!” Except that I would have said, “It’s incredible, not incredulous! People will lower their opinion of you when you misuse words. Pay attention! Read! Learn to speak properly!”

If schools won’t or can’t educate competently any more, and the culture is determined to make us dumber by the day, then it is up to us to help each other out. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Daily Life, Education, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunces (Bigotry Division): Arizona Republicans

Message received.

Message received.

I don’t know what Arizona Republican legislators are running from now: they have accomplished their mission. They’ve made it abundantly clear that they don’t like or respect the rights of gays, bi-sexuals and transsexuals, and want to leave no question in the minds of anti-gay bigots (or good and gentle religious people  across the state who want to discriminate against gays because they thing doing so is “moral”) that the nationwide cultural shift to approval of gay marriage, a.k.a, equal rights under law, hasn’t changed this: Arizona Republicans back your dislike of these perverts’ sinful, corrupting lifestyle, whatever the law is.

The disingenuous and offensive argument being made by Republican supporters of the modifications of  an 1999 Arizona law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is, in essence, that Arizona businesses can already discriminate against gays, and so can those of lots of other states. This isn’t an anti-gay law! It’s a religious freedom law! Yes, and the Civil War was about States rights. The new bill’s clear motivation—Timing! Timing!— is to strengthen the hand of businesses, organizations, corporation and non-profits that object, allegedly or actually on genuine religious grounds, to serving, employing, or dealing with gays. More than that, however, the goal is to line up the legal, moral and ethical authority of the state behind those who want to treat gays in this fashion, whatever the reason, rather than behind the rights of the LBGT community to be treated like all other citizens. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, U.S. Society