Category Archives: Arts & Entertainment

Top Ten Reasons Why Giving Chelsea Clinton A “Lifetime Impact Award” Is Unethical [UPDATED]

Next month, Variety magazine will host its annual “Women in Power” luncheon, and will give “Lifetime Impact  Awards” to several women in the fields of entertainment and public service.Among the honorees will be Chelsea Clinton. Here are the Top Ten Reasons the ridiculous award starts ethics alarms sounding:

1.  The award is incompetent and misleading. Chelsea has done nothing on her own to justify any award. She has been hired for a series of jobs based solely on the prominence of her famous parents, and is on the board of her family foundation, which has funded various humanitarian programs. These are passive achievements that any child of the Clintons would accumulate.

2. The award to Clinton immediately renders worthless Variety’s past and future “Lifetime Impact Awards”  to deserving and worthy recipients. It destroys any claim the award has to integrity and sincerity.

3.  The award is a lie. Chelsea Clinton is in her thirties, and hasn’t accumulated a lifetime, much less a lifetime of laudable achievements. It is grossly premature, contradicting its own title.

4. The award is cruel. It compels focus on the pathetic, privileged, exploited and exploitative existence of Chelsea Clinton thus far by proclaiming it to be something it obviously is not. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Marketing and Advertising

From The Ethics Alarms Cultural Illiteracy Files: “A Streetcar Naked Desire”

On Wheel of Fortune, an unfortunate contestant named Kevin was confronted with the board above, and had only to name the missing letter to collect his prize.

He guessed “K.”

1.  It is fair to say that he had never heard of the Tennessee Williams drama, easily one of the top ten plays in the classic American theatrical canon.

2. Does this amazing gap in Kevin’s basic education prove that American schools are failing our children and society? No. It shouldn’t fill us with confidence, either.

3. What else does this mean Kevin has never heard of? “Stella!!!”?  Brando? Elia Kazan? The House Un-American Activities Committee? Naming names? Guilt by association? “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”? “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’?

4. What does it say about U.S. society that someone this ignorant of basic culture feels confident going on a nationally televised game show? I think it suggests that not only are too many people ignorant and uneducated, they don’t even know how ignorant and uneducated they are.  Worse yet, it may mean that such people don’t think that there is anything wrong with being ignorant and uneducated.

5. Though Kevin is being widely mocked on social media, I bet there are more adults who wouldn’t be able to solve the puzzle that we would like to think.

6. This is why I started a professional theater company dedicated to producing great American plays that theater companies didn’t produce any more. “A Streetcar Named Desire,” however, was on the list of plays so common, so frequently taught in schools and so well-known that we would never mount them.

Oops.

[I’m still sick, by the way, and have been sleeping most of the day. This story made me sicker.]

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, History, U.S. Society

The NBA’s Unethical, Unavoidable, “Bait And Switch”

For a second consecutive Saturday, ABC’s  Saturday prime time NBA game was a pre-rigged dud. The LA Clippers blew out the supposedly star-studded Cavaliers, 108-78, as chants of “We want LeBron” echoed through the arena. The three super-stars that make Cleveland an NBA powerhouse,  LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, were all kept out of the game, not because they were injured,  but because Cleveland coach Ty Lue had decided to rest his “Big 3” in the first of back-to-back games. Sure enough, all three played against the Lakers the next day.

It has become standard practice in the NBA for play-off bound teams to rest stars for “strategic purposes,” meaning that in a league where more than half the teams make the play-offs and the regular season is little more than an exhibition for most of them, it makes no sense to blow out the stars until a championship is on the line.  The NBA, in short, has no integrity. (Neither does the National Hockey League, for the same reason.) The previous Saturday, the San Antonio Spurs blew out the Warriors, 107-85,  as Golden State fielded a  JV team, with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson all on the bench. Yet NBA’s new nine-year, $24 billion media rights deal with ABC, Disney and Turner Broadcasting included Saturday Primetime along with  the TNT Thursday Night NBA game and ESPN’s Wednesday and Friday night broadcasts, to showcase the best of the NBA. (Most of the NBA teams never make it to the Saturday ABC game.)

Shouldn’t that kind of money guarantee that the teams put their best players out on the court? NBA fans also typically shell out three figures for tickets. Doesn’t the league pull what is in essence a bait and switch by allowing a game to be treated as a virtual forfeit? Continue reading

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No, A Democratic Senator Attending A Party In Honor Of A Trump Appointee He Opposed Isn’t “Hypocrisy”…It’s Called “Statesmanship,” “Sportsmanship,” And “Professionalism”

To be fair, we see so little of either now that many may no longer be able to recognize the two traits any more.

The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news source wrote,

A Democratic senator who couldn’t “in good conscience” vote for Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross still attended a ritzy cocktail party welcoming him to the nation’s capital.On Wednesday, Georgetown socialite and Washington Post editor Lally Weymouth, daughter of the paper’s former publisher, Katherine Graham, hosted a “Welcome to Washington, D.C.” party for Ross at the Georgetown mansion of former Republican diplomat C. Boyden Gray. West Virginia’s Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin attended that party, according to Politico Playbook, rubbing shoulders with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein.

Manchin’s attendance marked an about-face for the Democrat, who attempted to block Ross’s cabinet appointment.

In February, Manchin said he could not “in good conscience … give Wilbur Ross a promotion.” The senator credited Ross’s career as a billionaire investor—which earned him the nickname ” King of Bankruptcy”—and his involvement in the West Virginia mining industry for his decision to oppose the appointment along with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“Following my extensive vetting, meeting with him, watching his nomination and reaching out to West Virginians who have worked with him directly, I cannot in good conscience look the families of the fallen Sago miners or the Weirton Steel workers who lost their jobs in the eye knowing I voted to give Wilbur Ross a promotion,” Manchin said in a statement at the time….

Steven Law, president of the GOP Senate Leadership Fund, criticized his attendance as a sign of “Washington hypocrisy.” “Apparently Joe Manchin’s ‘good conscience’ waits in the car while he stops in for cocktails on the Washington D.C. party circuit,” Law said in a statement. “Senate Leadership Manchin thinks he can fool West Virginia voters with his Washington hypocrisy, but we believe they are catching on to Manchin’s worn-out act.”

So it was principled, then, for Rep. John Lewis to boycott President Trump’s inauguration? It’s principled, then, for Democrats to refuse to respect the office of the President, because they didn’t vote for Donald Trump. Is that what Steven Law is saying?

Do Republicans think before they make statements like this? Continue reading

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Chicago Justice, Rights, And Pop Culture Malpractice

Dick Wolf, the “Law and Order” creator, is in the process of taking over NBC prime time. He now has four linked dramas dominating the schedule—“Chicago Med,” “Chicago P.D.,” “Chicago Fire,” and the latest, “Chicago Justice.” (Soon to come, at this rate: “Chicago Sanitation,” “Chicago Pizza,” and “Chicago Cubs.”)

Yesterday was Episode #2 of “Chicago Justice.” The story in involved a “ripped from the headlines” riff on the Brock Turner case, where a woman was raped while unconscious and the rapist received a ridiculously lenient sentence. In Wolf’s alternate universe, however, the judge was murdered, and the rape victim and her ex-husband were suspects. There was another wrinkle too: one of the prosecutors had a close relationship with the dead judge, and was with him right before he was killed. She was going to have to be a witness, and her colleague and supervisor, prosecuting the case, asked her if she had been sleeping with the victim. Such a relationship would have been an ethical violation for the judge, and at least a pre-unethical condition for the prosecutor, requiring her to relocate to a Steven Bochco drama, where lawyers have sex with judges all the time.

The female prosecutor indignantly refused to answer the question. After the case was resolved—I won’t spoil it, but the name “Perry Mason” comes to mind—the two prosecutors made up over a drink. She said that she would have never slept  with “Ray” (the dead judge–when he was alive, that is), but that she remembered reading “in some old document” that we all had “unalienable rights,” she believed one of them was “the right to be respected by your fellow man.”

There is no “right to be respected.” The Declaration of Independence, the “old document” she referenced, lists three rights only, though they are broad ones: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. None of those encompass a right to be respected. The speaker, Anna Valdez (played by Monica Barbaro, a Latina dead ringer for Jill Hennessey, who played the equivalent “Law and Order” role for many years), is a lawyer, and should understand what a right is. It is a legally enforceable guarantee of an entitlement to have something, seek or obtain it,  or to act in a certain ways. As a lawyer, she must understand that this is different from what is right, just or honorable. Her statement, coming from the mouth of a character with presumed expertise and authority, misleads much of the public, which is constantly getting confused over  the difference between Jefferson’s use of “rights” and what is right. So do journalists and, sadly, too many elected officials. Continue reading

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I Can’t Resist: Another Restaurant Ethics Tale

I’m sitting here in my office waiting for an important call from a potential client, so I don’t want to start a major post (as in “Trump’s Wiretapping Accusation”), so I’ll just note this strange episode from last night.

It was along day for ProEthics, so Grace and I decided to order out from a terrific Mediterranean place that delivers. We love their fattoosh, which is a salad that includes little pieces of dried pita bread. That was an item in the order.

When everything arrived, the fattoosh was missing the little pita bits. Now, this had happened once before, but I didn’t bother to make a big deal out of it. Still, fattoosh without the pita isn’t fattoosh. Now it had happened  again, making it 40% of the times we had ordered the dish that it was incomplete. I decided to call up and complain.

The owner said that I was right, but that the selection in the menu doesn’t specifically list the pita as an ingredient. Sometimes, he said, people don’t know what fattoosh is, and complain that is does have the pita bits.

Yes, I said, but fattoosh without the pita is just a salad.  To wit:

Fattoush (Arabic: فتوش‎‎, also fattush, fatush, fattoosh, and fattouche) is a Levantine bread salad made from toasted or fried pieces of pita bread (khubz ‘arabi) combined with mixed greens and other vegetables, such as radishes and tomatoes.

“Right! Right!” he said, “But people who don’t know that complain. So sometimes we leave the pita out. Sometimes we put it in.”

“You do know that if the menu says fattoosh, and fattoosh means “salad with pieces of pita bread in it,” you don’t have to specify that the pita is included?” I queried.  ” The name says that it’s included. Are you telling me that if I want fattoosh, I have to make a point of saying that I really want fattoosh?”

That’s right, he said.

I could not make the man see that there was anything wrong with this.

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Washington Post Writer Stephanie Merry Has A Devastating Metaphor Right In Front Of Her, And Can’t See It. Three Guesses Why…

oscar-mix-up

In an essay recounting the Wrong Envelope Oscars Disaster, Washington Post writer Stephanie Merry lionizes  “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz, who after learning that his movie was not, in fact, the actual “Best Picture” winner, took charge. Faye Dunaway was dashing for cover, MC Jimmy Kimmel was wishing he was in an undersea paradise, and in general everyone was losing their their heads and blaming it on Warren Beatty, but the producer took the microphone and said,“‘Moonlight’ won. Guys, guys, I’m sorry, no. There’s a mistake. ‘Moonlight,’ you guys won best picture.This is not a joke. Come up here.

Then he held up the card just pulled from the actual award envelope, so that the cameras could zoom in.

“Moonlight,” he said. “Best picture.”

Merry seems to think this was some extraordinary act of improvisation and heroism. True, Horowitz did what ethical people do when in a position to: he fixed the problem.  Still, his actions only seem remarkable in light of the incompetence all around him. Ah, but Merry has an ulterior motive, you see, because the Post, like the New York Times and so many other news sources, apparently pay a bounty for every story that can somehow betwisted into a attack on the President. That’s the full time mission now, and journalists really, truly think that’s responsible journalism, and responsible citizenry, though it is neither. So she wrote:

He told the truth even though it was difficult and awkward and embarrassing, because he had just stood in front of the world and thanked his friends and family for an award that wasn’t his. But that didn’t stop him from admitting that he was wrong, even though he was a victim of circumstance. He could have slunk offstage and let Jimmy Kimmel and Warren Beatty continue to fumble through an explanation. Instead he did the dirty work with what looked like pride.

This behavior shouldn’t be all that exceptional, but truth has been hard to come by lately. We’ve all just come off an election in which politicians have happily danced around facts, and the president continues to make false or misleading claims. When the truth is inconvenient, a lot of people spin it or bend it to their will. But that’s not Horowitz’s style.

What, holding on to the Oscar like grim death and screaming, “I WON! I WON!” and running into the wings cackling maniacally isn’t his style? I should hope not! What possible alternative did he have in that situation? He didn’t have to “tell the truth,” he just had to submit to it. Yes, he was gracious. But the episode had no lessons for President Trump, except in Merry’s fevered, Trump-addled mind.

Yet she had laid out a very useful and germane metaphor, so good and timely that I will give her credit for it even though Bias Made Her Stupid, and blind to boot.

Here, let’s see if you get it; it isn’t hard:

“La La Land” had been conceded the Best Picture award for months. Virtually every critic and prognosticator predicted its victory, even when one felt another film was more deserving. The film’s cast and crew had to be very confident entering the theater that night, though the film’s failure to win some of the lesser awards was ominous: the predicted sweep wasn’t happening. Still, all the polls said the movie was a lock.

Then, just when victory seemed certain, it was gone. An underdog competitor took the prize, and not cleanly, either. After all, the deck had been stacked in favor of giving black artists more recognition. And what the heck was going on with the alleged guardians of the voting results?

Remind you of anything? Continue reading

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