Category Archives: Arts & Entertainment

Ethics Dunce: Bob Dylan

As everyone knows by now, the Nobel folks awarded iconic folk/rock troubadour Bob Dylan its prize for literature, setting off an international debate and also cementing Dylan’s status as a cultural giant, whatever you decide to call him.

Dylan, however, has not deigned to respond to the committee, or to acknowledge the honor in any way other than a brief reference on his website (“Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature”) that he  removed once it was noted in news reports.

What a jerk.

Dylan fans are making excuses for him—he’s shy, he’s always been strange, he doesn’t like honors, it’s a mark of integrity, and so on—-but there is no excuse for such rude and gratuitously arrogant behavior. All they really want to  do, Bob, is be friends with you.

You could say “thank you.”


Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Literature, Popular Culture

A Brief Follow-Up Note On Pop Culture, “The Walking Dead,” Civility, And Related Matters…

Stay classy, AMC...Chris Hardwick...America...

Stay classy, AMC…Chris Hardwick…America…

Last night, at exactly 11:02 PM EST AMC’s “Talking Dead”  host Chris Hardwick had his live audience scream out in unison “Suck my nuts!,”  a quote from the just completed premier episode of  the seventh season of “The Walking Dead, apparently the most popular TV show right now. This occurred slightly after an animated discussion about an actor having to cope with a tick on his penis, or a “dick tick” according to Hardwick (to BIG laughs).

Boy, that Donald Trump sure is vulgar when he doesn’t know he’s being recorded…

I am reasonably confident that this cheery gutter level discourse would have been deemed unacceptable as recently as last year. This is how fast basic levels of decency, restraint and civility are declining, although I give AMC credit for not having another “Flip another man’s meat”commercial during the breaks: maybe that’s just for baseball games.

I eagerly anticipate the explanations of why this nosedive in public decorum is unrelated to having a Presidential candidate talk at length about his penis size (I didn’t intend to have it come out that way, but hell, I’ll leave it; it’s 2016, man!) during Republican debates (you know, the conservative, family values party).

Heck, why not? Here’s that link again.

You see?

Just the campaign was enough…


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Popular Culture, U.S. Society

Why The World Doesn’t Work: The Case Of Jackie Kennedy’s Chef

hustebookThe world doesn’t work, and Ethics is always struggling to avoid losing ground. I collect stories that show why this is. Here is one from the obituary page, the saga of  the departed Annemarie Huste, who was Jacqueline Kennedy’s private chef.

In 1966, the former First Lady moved to New York from Washington, D.C., and in need of a private chef—rich person, you know— hired Huste, a young German immigrant whose previous employer, theater impresario Billy Rose (of “Jumbo” fame!), who had just died, rendering her skills superfluous. Huste did the job to Mrs. Kennedy’s satisfaction,  feeding the occasional hoards of family members who came to visit,  accompanying the Jackie, Caroline and John-John to the Kennedy compound Hyannis Port,  in the summers and playing with the children of JFK.

Then, in 1968, Weight Watchers Magazine approached her about cooperating in a feature called “Jackie Kennedy’s Gourmet Chef Presents Her Weight Watchers Recipes.” Huste dished about Jackie’s diets and dress sizes in the article, never asking for her famous employer’s permission or consent. Jackie Kennedy was horrified, and even tried to stop publication, something the Kennedy family was and is very good at. This time, it didn’t work.

A few weeks later,  Huste gave an interview to Maxine Cheshire, then the “beautiful people” gossip columnist for The Washington Post and syndicated nationally. In return for  inside-the-Kennedy-home details, Cheshire made Huste sound like the coming star of gourmet cookery, hinting that a television show, a cookbook, wealth and fame were just around the corner. What was really around the corner was unemployment: Jackie fired Annemarie Huste, who deserved it. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, History, Journalism & Media, U.S. Society

Note To The Over-Forty Crowd: The Obligation To Be Culturally Literate Has No Age Limit, And The Duty To Be Aware Is Forever

ignoranceIn the Washington Post’s weekly crank section “Free For All,” a reader chastised the paper for not quoting more extensively from Bob Dylan’s works in its piece about his Nobel Prize, writing:

“It may come as a shock to the young people who now write and edit the paper, but there are many of us who are not familiar with the lyrics of “popular” music.”

Granted, in respect to Dylan, the complaint makes no sense. “Blowin’ in the Wind” was written in 1963; I’d expect “young people” to be more unfamiliar with Dylan than seniors. How old IS this guy? Still, the letter raised a crucial ethics point related to life competence, an ethical obligation for all of us. Being willfully ignorant of current popular culture is as much of an ethical lapse, and as great a threat to societal cohesion, as young people not bothering to learn about “Moby-Dick,” minstrel shows, Will Rogers, Stephen Foster, Babe Ruth, Charlie Chaplin, Fred Astaire or Lee Harvey Oswald.

In 1987, University of Virginia English professor  E.D. Hirsch wrote “Cultural Literacy,” making the argument that nations require common cultural reference points for generations to communicate with each other. He argued—correctly— that teaching this cultural vocabulary was a primary duty of the schools, in part because cultural literacy is an inextricable element of individual autonomy and power. Since then, the problem of the fracturing of society and the breakdown in communications between segments of the population has worsened considerably, its deterioration propelled by the loss of common information sources and the rise of the internet. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Citizenship, Education, History, Literature, Popular Culture, The Internet, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day: “Unethical Quote Of The Week: Martina Navratilova”


Chris Marschner has weighed in with an exposition on social media’s impact on public opinion and society, sparked by the post here about a tennis icon’s claim that other sports stars had an obligation to use their fame to push their own often half-baked opinions on their fans.

Here is his Comment of the Day on “Unethical Quote of the Day: Martina Navratilova”:

…Social media is built on the construct of group think. That is why I think it is more dangerous than anything Trump or Clinton may do. The medium is the message.

It is not surprising that every platform uses similar concepts such “followers”. The psychology is that the larger the number of followers the higher the relative credibility. Facebook started this charade by placing a “Friends” counter on the person’s time line. “Likes” are another tool for the message makers. “Likes” are a reinforcement mechanism. Just click the thumbs up sign to validate the idea- don’t add anything- just positively reinforce the thinking. Ever wonder why there is not a dislike icon – thumbs down? Yes there is a means to comment but be prepared to have many weigh in against you if you challenge the group think. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Ethics Dunces, Popular Culture, Social Media

Don’t Feel Too Bad, Americans: Ethics Alarms Aren’t Ringing In Canada, North Korea Or Japan, Either

It’s an International Ethics Dunce parade!


1. Ontario, Canada

The Windsor-Essex County Humane Society in Ontario thought it would be really clever to use the Donald Trump phrase that many believe disqualify him to be President in an ad to adopt kitty-cats. It featured a photo of Trump and said, “You don’t have to be a star to grab a pussy … cat.”

Amazing. Not one person in the chain of custody of this—I would say obviously, but when so many people miss it, I guess it’s not—offensive ad had an ethics alarm sound.  Nobody had the sense, prudence or guts to say,

“Uh, guys? Hello? You do realize that this is using a phrase describing sexual assault while alluding to the one who used it to describe sexual assault? You do realize that “pussy” alluding to female genitalia is vulgar and uncivil, right? No? Here, let me explain it to you…or hwo about this: there is no way this won’t spark criticism. Is that what you want?”

Sure enough,  the ad promoting cat adoptions this week for $50, was taken down shortly after it appeared this week.

The society offered a pathetic apology. Melanie Coulter, executive director of the humane society, “explained” it was an attempt to make light of the U.S election campaign, though it also “made light” of sexual assault, contemptuous attitudes toward women,  and obscene rhetoric.

“We are obviously sorry if people are offended by the ad — that wasn’t our attempt in the least,” Coulter said. “Our attempt was to find homes for cats that need them.” She also added that the shelter took in more than a hundred cats in the last week.

For the record, the rationalizations here are…

3. Consequentialism, or  “It Worked Out for the Best”

13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”

19A The Insidious Confession, or “It wasn’t the best choice.”

It also suggests that I need to add “We meant well” to the list as a sub-rationalization to #13.



2. Kuroishi, Japan

Continue reading


Filed under Animals, Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity

More Clown Ethics: The County That Banned Bozo


An alternate title was “The County Run By People So Ignorant Of The Constitution That They Think You Can Tell People How To Dress And Who Will Be Easy Pickings When The Democrats Decide To Ban What They Decide Is “Hate Speech,” but I thought it was a little too long.

The mass Ethics Dunce in question is Mississippi’s Kemper County, which in response to the evil clown hysteria embarrassing the nation almost as much as the evil Presidential candidates hysteria, enacted a clown ban this week, forbidding people from dressing as clowns until after Halloween. Anyone caught in public wearing a clown costume, mask or makeup will face a $150 fine.

This is, of course, ironic, since any elected officials voting for such a ban are, by definition, clowns themselves.

County supervisors president Johnny Whitsett justified this overly broad law and per se violation of the Constitution as a matter of public safety because, he said, people “could react badly if they get scared by a clown in their yard.” Wait: how does my wearing clown shoes and a red nose in my yard scare someone in their yard?

Boy, I can’t wait until I am retired, rich, and at leisure to go down to future Kember Counties and get arrested for being dressed like Bozo.

In these tiny, trivial, stupid examples of elected officials proving themselves ignorant of our rights and protections are the seeds of the destruction of American liberty.

Meanwhile, non-government entities, which are legally free to reject the principle of free expression but not ethically free to get away with it, at least on this little corner of the Internet, have revealed their own censorious clown DNA. Target, for example, has removed clown masks from its stores and website. “Given the current environment, we have made the decision to remove a variety of clown masks from our assortment, both in stores and online,” the Big Box chain announced through a spokesman.

This is consistent with the current reasoning of the increasingly totalitarian left on guns and other commodities, that if a small minority of citizens abuse a product or right, the rest of us have to do without. Again, I look forward to my future career as the Ethics George Soros, funding nation-wide Scary Hair Dryer User  hoaxes to see if Target will ban hair dryers too.


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Rights, U.S. Society