Category Archives: language

BREAKING NEWS: Hollywood And Broadway Declare War On The Presidency, Elections, Democracy, Decency And Civility. NOW What?

“I’m just going to say one thing. Fuck Trump! It’s no longer ‘Down with Trump.’ It’s ‘fuck Trump!’”

—Actor Robert De Niro on live TV at the Tonys last night.

Then he pumped both fists in the air, as a large contingent of the crowd of Broadway glitterati at Radio City Music Hall stood and gave him a standing ovation, endorsing the gutter insult.

I believe such un-American conduct creates an ethical obligation on the part of fair and reasonable American to demonstrate their contempt and opposition, in as strong and decisive a manner possible.

What that means is beyond my ability to suggest right now. I don’t like to write when I am angry, and I am angry. But this must not stand.

Yesterday, commenting on the unethical Tony Awards scheduling  of De Niro, who has used other appearances to make vulgar, hateful, ad hominem attacks on the President, I wrote in part,

“If you invite Robert De Niro, you are deliberately announcing that your event is going to be politically divisive and include an attack, probably uncivil, on the President—and while he will be engaged in crucial international negotiations. The President has nothing to do with the Tonys, nor does politics—the main contenders for top musicals are “SpongeBob” and “Mean Girls,” for heaven’s sakes—nor does De Niro, who is just one more movie star being used by Broadway to attract a larger TV audience.”

Naturally, CBS allowed this to go forward, because it was in search of ratings for the perpetually viewer-starved awards show. The network either knew or should have known that this meant that it would be broadcasting some kind of ugly episode. The network was accused of  conspiring with Janet Jackson to flash her breast during the supposedly family-friendly Super Bowl half-time show—you know, back in those halcyon days when games didn’t include NFL players symbolically calling the US. racist as a prelude?—and swore that it had no idea anything inappropriate was going to happen. Well, it can’t make that claim now about De Niro. De Niro’s outburst is like the breast-bearing if Jackson had been flashing at every public appearance. CBS knew he was going to insult the President. It wanted him to insult the President. Continue reading

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Weekend Ethics Warm-Up, 6/9/18: PART I, Bee’s “Apology”

Hi!

1  Bee gets an Eff. If I didn’t find Samantha Bee so loathsome and her transparent grab for headlines and attention by the cynical device of intentionally violating all standards of public civility and fairness, her on-air apology might warrant a full post here. “Where does it fall on the Apology Scale?,” I have been asked. She really does richly deserve to be shunned and ignored, however, not that she didn’t before. Her act is monotonous, obnoxious (Is there anything more revolting than someone who aggressively  presents themselves as smart and clever who obviously is neither?) and divisive. Like others, she exists to constantly reassure the “resistance” that they are justified in acting and talking like assholes because they lost an election.

Boy, they must need a lot of reassurance.

But since her apology on her show was an abomination (distinct from her apology on Twitter, which was a lie), I have to talk about it. What a crappy way to start a weekend. I’ll save time by commenting as we go. Yes, this is as long as a full post; it’s as long as a long full post. I know it’s silly, but even if it’s just a technicality, I refuse to give someone as contemptible as Samantha Bee more than Warm-Up status.

She said:

“You know, a lot of people were offended and angry that I used an epithet to describe the president’s daughter and adviser last week.”

In other words, “some people” were offended, not you, team member, because you LIKED me calling Ivanka a cunt, but we still have to deal with “those people,” who might be sponsors. Essentially Bee makes it clear immediately that this isn’t an apology  at all. The “you know” is a verbal shrug, and signals, “I don’t think this is a big deal, but I have to say something.”

This sentence, like the whole apology, is signature significance for a terrible human being. If she were my employee, I would stop her and say, “Start again.”

“It is a word I have used on the show many times..”

First rationalization in the second sentence! This is a subset of “Everybody does it”: “I do it all the time.”

“…hoping to reclaim it. This time, I used it as an insult. I crossed the line. I regret it and I do apologize for that. The problem is that many women have heard that word at the worst moments of their lives.”

Doubletalk. The word she used was “cunt.” It has never been anything but an ugly gutter word. What’s to “reclaim?” How it might have been used at other times is irrelevant, making this theme a flagrant act of misdirection, which is itself the theme of the whole phony “apology.” Imagine a male comic under fire for calling one of Obama’s daughters a “bitch”  saying “I have used that word many times–as a dog breeder, to describe swishy men, and in the phrase ‘son of a bitch’…” So what?

Bee’s bait-and-switch also cleverly reframes the issue. The offense was describing Ivanka Trump, on television, using a denigrating, misogynist word. Bee is now declaring that her offense was the rhetorical mistake of  misusing “cunt” as an insult. That was the line she crossed, according to her. Then: “The problem is that many women have heard that word at the worst moments of their lives.” Oh, the problem is when they heard it, not the use of the word itself.

Imagine a comic trying to weasel out of calling, say, Barack Obama a “nigger” making that argument in a parallel “apology.”

“A lot of them don’t want that word reclaimed. They want it gone, and I don’t blame them. I don’t want to inflict more pain on them.”

Wow—I hadn’t read this atrocity for a couple of days. It’s even worse than I thought.

Now Bee says the problem is that her using the word to denigrate the President’s daughter (who had done absolutely nothing to inspire such an attack) inflicted pain on other women—the good ones, you know. The ones who hate President Trump and his family.

“I want this show to be challenging and I want it to be honest, but I never intended it to hurt anyone, except Ted Cruz.”

Translation “You all know Ivanka IS  a cunt, but I didn’t want to hurt any other women by saying so, at least none who voted for Hillary.” Continue reading

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Ethics Observations On The Roseanne Tweet Fiasco

1.  It is possible, after all, to revile Roseanne Barr’s gratuitously vicious “joke” about Valerie Jarrett, and to question the extended reaction to it. I feel especially emboldened, perhaps because you couldn’t have forced me to watch that show or anything associated with Barr had you been credibly threatening to blow up Fenway Park unless I tuned in. One of the ways the enemies of free discourse and thought further their agenda is by setting up these dilemmas, where to even suggest that a genuine miscreant’s punishment has exceeded reasonable bounds is to risk shunning and other serious cultural consequences—it’s the Cognitive Dissonance Scale again. “See, then we make them defend someone who would tweet something like that, and we’ve got em! Then they look like racists too! Bwahahahahaha!

2. No, I don’t think ABC and Disney were looking for an excuse to cancel “Roseanne” 2 because it was perceived as pro-Trump. The show was making money, and corporations place money above politics. However, there is no doubt that a conservative show has less margin for error in today’s biased media environment. It was up to Roseanne to understand that and moderate her conduct accordingly. This recent post is relevant.

3. I was not aware, until ethics alarms reader  Sue Denim pointed it out here, that Barr may have physiological reasons for her lifetime addiction to ugly humor: Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up Overstock, 5/15/ 2018: It’s Use Them Or Lose them…”

Good things can even come out of really dumb ethics episodes, like the effort to silence critics of illegal immigration by pointing out that they had legal immigrants in their lineage, a non sequitur if there ever was one.

This good thing is Greg’s Comment of the Day, on Morning Ethics Warm-Up Overstock, 5/15/ 2018: It’s Use Them Or Lose them…:

The notion that immigrants in the 19th and early 20th centuries assimilated much more quickly than today is largely untrue. In fact, most Americans in the early part of the 20th century believed that the failure to assimilate by Lahren’s ancestors and millions of others like them was a matter for grave concern. These days, we read over and over again that the laws passed in the 1910’s and 1920’s restricting immigration were motivated primarily by racism. But that is a gross distortion. If you read political commentary at the time when those laws were debated, you will certainly find discussion of race (usually referring to what we would now call “nationality,” not to what we now call “race”), some of it quite offensive to modern sensibilities.

But the most important concern expressed by immigration restrictionists was that too many immigrants were failing to assimilate. Most immigrants were not becoming citizens. Consulting my grandfather’s trusty, albeit brittle and yellow, 1924 World Almanac, I see that in 1914, the last year before the first restrictive immigration act was enacted, the Census Bureau reported that there were 1.2 million immigrants to the United States but only 0.1 million naturalizations.

The vast majority of immigrants moved to a few large cities in the North. Census figures in 1910 revealed that in most major northern cities, Americans born of parents who had been born in America (as shorthand, in order to avoid wordy repetition, I’ll call them “American-Americans”) were outnumbered by immigrants and their children. In many cities, the number of immigrants was more than twice the number of American-Americans, and the number of immigrants and their children (about two-thirds of them born to two immigrant parents) was often three to four times the number of American-Americans.

Moreover, most immigrants clustered in insular ethnic neighborhoods where they continued to speak their native languages and follow their native customs, standing largely outside the broader American society. In the 1910 census, the population of the United States was 92 million, of which 33 million were immigrants and their American-born children. Of those 33 million, 23 million told the census that English was not their primary language, with 3 million admitting that they did not speak English at all (although the actual number was generally believed to be much larger). Those heart-warming Italian, Irish, Jewish and other ethnic neighborhoods that you see in countless movies and books? There was a widespread conviction that those neighborhoods were a serious social problem. They were viewed, not unfairly, as encouraging their inhabitants to maintain dual loyalties or primary loyalty to their native countries, perpetuating European ethnic hatreds that imported from their native countries, breeding ethnic criminal gangs (Irish, Italian, Jewish and others), fomenting anti-democratic political tendencies, and most of all, undermining America’s sense of itself as a people joined by common values and purposes. Most Americans believed that something should be done to induce people in those neighborhoods to assimilate into the mainstream of American society; and that this necessary assimilation would never happen if immigration were not curtailed. Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Month: New Mexico Congressional Candidate Pat Davis (Guess What Party!)

“Fuck the NRA!

—-Albuquerque City Council member Pat Davis, in a TV ad promoting his candidacy for Congress in the upcoming Democratic Party primary.

Nice.

That’s what we really need more of in the government: more incivility, vulgarity, cretinous rhetoric, and hate-mongering. Go Pat!

I suppose Davis is taking his cues from potty mouth DNC chair Tom Perez and putative Presidential candidate and California Senator Kamala Harris, both of whom have decided to jettison dignity and professionalism in pursuit of the rapidly devolving progressive base. These people are all ethics corrupters. I don’t care who they say to fuck, or what. If this their idea of leadership, they are a disgrace to the nation and whatever office they seek.

Of course Davis’s message is idiotic, regardless of his terminology. He says that the NRA’s ” pro-gun policies have resulted in dead children, dead mothers and dead fathers.”  If politicians like Davis want to repeal the right of citizens to own guns, then let them have the honesty and integrity to say so. Blaming the organization that is an advocate for the Second Amendment for crimes committed by those who abuse the right is intentionally dishonest as well as cowardly,  like blaming the ACLU for the proliferation of lowest common denominator demagogues who think “Fuck the NRA” is responsible political discourse and not merely the equivalent of a primal scream.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/26/18: Sorry Trump-a-Phobics, It’s A President Trump Morning!

Good Morning!

1. Wake up with President Trump! By sheer chance, I surfed by Fox and Friends just as the three goofs (or two goofs and a random blonde from the stable in a tight party dress) on the sofa were having a spontaneous phone interview with President Trump, just like in the good old days in 2015, when CNN and NBC let the crazy old reality star and eccentric real estate mogul blather on while they smirked and nodded because it was great for ratings and  might even saddle the evil Republican Party with a Presidential candidate that Hillary Clinton could squash like a bug, finally leading to the Great Progressive Awakening in America, with open borders, no more guns, free college, a ban on fossil fuel, and Harvey Weinstein as a White House regular.

Observations:

  • Say what you will about Trump, this was just after 8 AM, I could hardly utter a coherent sentence, and the President was sounding like Harold Hill doing “Trouble in River City.” Either he had 20 cups of coffee or was hooked up to an electric generator.  I have a lot of energy, but Trump is older than I am, and he was energetic, engaged, and, for him, articulate.
  • His performance this morning highlights how disgusting the “Trump has dementia, let’s use the 25th Amendment to get rid of him” plot was, with the news media in full complicity. It made it hard for me to focus on what the President was saying on Fox, frankly. That particular post-election, anti-democratic attack—it was Ethics Alarms’ Plan E on the alphabetical list of “the resistance’s” ongoing efforts to overturn the election, if you recall—makes me furious every time I think about it.
  • Nevertheless, I will never get used to having a President who talks like he does.  It isn’t statesman-speak, or even demagoguery. It’s pure salesman patter, again, like Harold Hill,  or any infomercial spokesman. It’s almost hypnotic. What Trump-Whisperer Scott Adams would say, indeed has said many times, is that this is a talent and a skill, and we aren’t going to see it become commonplace among Presidents because most people just can’t do it well. No, it’s not Presidential, and will never be. But it works.
  • I also realized, once again, how much class bigotry is involved in the extreme hostility to President Trump from the “elites,” and yes, I count myself in that group. Never mind what schools Trump went to: he’s Fred Trump’s son, and unlike the Kennedy boys, never polished off the rough spots passed along to him through his humble, street-smart, back-alley forebears. I just watched the film of “My Fair Lady” again after many years, and found myself thinking about Henry Higgins’ theories while I was listening to Trump: if he spoke like Barack Obama, how differently would the news media and his adversaries treat him? Yet how many of his supporters would then regard him as just another one of “them”?

Why can’t the English teach their children how to speak?
This verbal class distinction, by now
Should be antique
If you spoke as she does, sir
Instead of the way you do
Why, you might be selling flowers, too!

An Englishman’s way of speaking absolutely classifies him
The moment he talks he makes some other Englishman despise him! Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, April 11, 2018: Caesar’s Wife At The EPA, Idiots On The Air, And Dreamers Demanding Discounts [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

1. Forgetting to heed the “Caesar’s wife” Principle. Whatever one may think about EPA head Scott Pruitt’s controversial policy directions as head of the environmental agency, all ought to be able to agree on this: he’s an idiot.

Here is a cultural literacy test: How many Americans under the age of—what, 45? 60? 104?—know what the term “like Caesar’s wife” means? When you have a target painted on your back because you are taking positions that are guaranteed to be anathema to powerful critics, like the news media, you are “like Caesar’s wife.” This should communicate something to you. In 63 BC, Julius Caesar, a man on the rise, was elected to the position of the Pontifex Maximus, the chief priest of the Roman state religion. The next year, his wife Pompeia hosted the festival of the Bona Dea (“Good Goddess”) in which no man was allowed to participate, at Caesar’s official residence. Publius Clodius Pulcher, a  rash young patrician, snuck into the celebration disguised as a woman, allegedly to seduce Pompeia. He was caught, prosecuted ( not for trying to shag Caesar’s wife but for the crime of sacrilege), and ultimately  acquitted. Nevertheless, Caesar divorced Pompeia, saying, “My wife ought not even to be under suspicion.”  Thus was born the saying, once well-known to educated individuals, that “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.”

Either Pruitt doesn’t know the reference, or doesn’t understand it. He has made himself vulnerable and a political liability to the Trump administration by the kind of grubby ethics violations so many of the administration’s recruits from the corporate world have engaged in. (And what does this tell us about that culture?)

David J. Apol, acting director of the Office of Government Ethics, sent  a letter this week to Kevin Minoli, the EPA’s  top ethics official,  asking the agency to take “appropriate actions to address any violations.”

Among the issues raised were Pruitt’s $50-a-night rental  of a Capitol Hill condominium from the wife of an energy lobbyist (This may not have been market value, the letter speculates, raising the question of whether it was a gift, aka “bribe.” Ya think? You can’t rent a decent garden tool shed for 50 bucks a night…), Pruitt taking an excessive number government-funded flights home to Oklahoma and back (He’s about the 78th Trump official to be caught doing this kind of thing—do these guys read the newspapers?), and worst of all, reports that agency staff members who raised concerns about these and other actions creating “the appearance of impropriety”  found themselves transferred or demoted.

“The success of our government depends on maintaining the trust of the people we serve,”wrote Apol. “The American public needs to have confidence that ethics violations, as well as the appearance of ethics violations, are investigated and appropriately addressed.”

Why yes! And anyone who holds high government office is supposed to know that. Anyone holding high government office in this administration, which is in the position of the thug sprung from police lock-up on a technicality to which an angry detective says before he strolls out the door, “If you so much as spit on the sidewalk, I’ll be there to pick you up,” should know that especially. When they are gunning for you, you have to be like Caesar’s wife.

The President should fire Pruitt for these flagrant abuses. He won’t, because he literally doesn’t think ethics matter. I wonder if he thinks stupidity and unrestrained arrogance matter… Continue reading

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