Category Archives: Character

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

Unethical Donald Trump Quote Of The Day


“Oh, I’m sure she’s never been grabbed before…”

—-Donald Trump,  responding to the most recent accusations of sexual assault, in this case from Jessica Drake, a porn star who became the 11th woman to claim Trump assaulted her in a press conference over the weekend.

I suspended the Ethics Alarms Unethical Donald Trump Quote of the Day, or UDTQOTD,  feature a couple of months ago when I realized that pretty soon there would be no room for anything else. This one, however, is special, and can’t be ignored. It perfectly encompasses so much of what is fatally wrong with Trump, his character and his campaign.

Here and elsewhere, desperate Trump rationalizers have defended voting for him over the horrible  Hillary Clinton by reducing his abundant deficits of character to a couple of adjectives, essentially representing him as acceptable by strategic omission. As I recently replied in part to a commenter who argued that Trump may be “narcissitic and crude” but...gotta love that equivocal “may”:

“And no, you cannot get away with “narcissistic and crude” here. …Take out crude and narcissistic, and that still leaves ignorant, lazy, corrupt, arrogant, a fantasist, a liar, a misogynist, a fool, a political incompetent, a terrible delegater, a poor judge of character, lacking in any relevant experience, literally unable to comprehend what ethical conduct is, governed wholly by rationalizations, unaccountable, feckless, incompetent, cruel, mean-spirited, devoid of common sense, self-control, prudence, compassion and decency, and, on top of all of that, inarticulate and dumb as a brick. No responsible voter can risk making such an individual President, and doing so is indefensible.

Let’s see…18, 19, 20…today’s quote embodies 21 of the characteristics on that impromptu list, and in only seven words, which is impressive. Continue reading


Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics

Presenting Rationalization 21A: The Criminal’s Redemption or “It’s Just A Small Part Of What I Am!”

I have to get this one in before I forget.

"See? The bad part is that little light blue section at the top! What are you making a big deal about it for?"

“See? The bad part is that little light blue section at the top! What are you making a big deal about it for?”

In the interest of non-partisanship and fairness, I resisted the temptation to call 21A “The Planned Parenthood Excuse.” It was a close call, for it was a Planned Parenthood debate that made me realize that this rationalization was missing from the list.

Opponents of Planned Parenthood who want to see the organization defunded believe that abortion is morally and ethically wrong. In 2013-2014, Planned Parenthood performed 327,653 abortions. Arguing that this should not cause even abortion opponents to seek to defund the organization, its defenders inevitably argue: “Abortions are just a small part of what Planned Parenthood does.”

The Washington Post’s factchecker examined various claims about what proportion of Planned Parenthood’s activities involve abortions, which misses the ethical point entirely. If abortion is wrong, indeed unnecessary homicide in most cases, then it doesn’t matter what else an organization does in addition to 327,653 abortions, or what proportion of its total activities taking 327,653 innocent human lives is. “Abortions are just a small part of what Planned Parenthood does” is a ridiculous defense, except to those who believe that abortions are nothing to get upset about, and the equivalent of removing a polyp. That is not, however, the perspective of those who oppose abortion, so the argument isn’t an argument at all.

For someone who accepts that abortion is a legal but unnecessary and therefore unethical taking of life, “Abortions are just a small part of what Planned Parenthood does” is a pure rationalization: a lie that makes people feel better about their own wrongdoing, or the wrongdoing of someone else.

In the interests of not getting social policy mixed up with the rationalization, however, we’ll describe the new entry without reference to abortion.

Rationalization 21A. The Criminal’s Redemption, or “It’s Just A Small Part Of What I Am!”

Continue reading


Filed under Character

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

Gee, I Wonder Why Republican Voters Might Worry About The Election Being “Fixed”? It’s A Mystery!


It began with this story: A Wikileaks leaked email, from Donna Brazile to the Clinton campaign, started with the subject line “From time to time I get the questions in advance.” Brazile, then vice chair of the DNC and a CNN and ABC contributor, included a question that was later asked of Hillary Clinton at a subsequent CNN “town hall,” word for word.

CNN anchor Jake Tapper, probably the closest thing to a fair and ethical journalist that exists in the current broadcast media, told an interviewer regarding the episode in part,

It’s a very, very troubling… look, I have tremendous regard for Donna Brazile. She’s a good person and a nice person and I like her a lot but whatever took place here… and I know I had nothing to do with it… and I know CNN, we were so closely guarding our documents… they weren’t emailed around….It’s horrifying.  Journalistically it’s horrifying and I’m sure it will have an impact on partnering with this organization in the future and I’m sure it will have an effect on… Donna Brazile is no longer with CNN because she’s with the DNC right now, but I’m sure it will have some impact on Donna Brazille.,,People at CNN take this very, very seriously and to have somebody who does not take it seriously and to have us partner with that person and then they do something completely unethical and share it with Donna Brazile who then shares it with the Clinton campaign… it’s horrifying and very, very upsetting and I can’t condemn it any more than… I condemn it in no uncertain terms, it’s awful.

Democratic operatives using their chummy, insider relationships with alleged legitimate news organizations to assist their candidates with undisclosed, under the table, tips? Who wouldn’t call that awful? Well, interestingly, most of the rest of the mainstream, Hillary-recruited media, which has mostly left this story to  Fox, the Daily Caller, and “conservative media” while suggesting that the e-mail from Wikileaks was somehow fake.

Enter Megyn Kelly on Fox, who was persistent in trying get Brazile to give an explanation in an interview. What she got instead was incredibly guilty-sounding evasion and Authentic Frontier Gibberish: Continue reading


Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, This Will Help Elect Donald Trump