Category Archives: Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/3/18: Museums And Victims And Brooks, Oh My!


Good Morning, bad night…

(and thank goodness it’s Saturday…)

1 Programming young victims to lie. In my mailbox today is a message from the, which, I must note, has ignored multiple requests to stop sending me their hackery. I have unsubscribed: it apparently makes no difference. This is both illegal and unethical, and only reinforces my previous conclusions about the House of Clinton, Perez, Pelosi, Wasserman Schultz, et al.

The message is allegedly authored by Sarah Imam, who announces herself as Parkland shooting survivor and writes in part,

On February 14th, I lost 17 members of my community in a mass shooting at my school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas. But we, the survivors, refuse to let their names be forgotten. We refuse to let their deaths be in vain. We have decided to take action to ensure that an event like this will never happen again. We are calling for stricter gun laws. We are calling for change.

Now, is Sarah lying, or is someone lying to Sarah, or to us? There is no “change” that will ensure that no mass shooting, in a school or anywhere else, will ever happen again. This is a false promise. Does Sarah know that, or is she just a puppet, being used to promote a dishonest message? Then we must ask, is Sarah smart enough to know that the only “change” that could even theoretically “ensure that an event like this will never happen again” is to ban and confiscate all guns. Is that what she means? Is that what Democrats really want to do, but can only express it that desire in code, and through the willing, naive mouths of grieving teens?

2. David Brooks doesn’t get it. Again. New York Times Stockholm Syndrome-addled formerly- conservative op-ed writer David Brooks nicely encapsulates the central delusion of “the resistance” and others, arguing that the gun control battle will be the tipping point for a progressive victory in the culture wars because…

“Progressives could be on the verge of delegitimizing their foes, on guns but also much else, rendering them untouchable for anybody who wants to stay in polite society. That would produce social changes far vaster than limiting assault rifles. Two things have fundamentally changed the landscape. First, over the past two years conservatives have self-marginalized. In supporting Donald Trump they have tied themselves to a man whose racial prejudices, sexual behavior and personal morality put him beyond the pale of decent society. Second, progressives are getting better and more aggressive at silencing dissenting behavior. All sorts of formerly legitimate opinions have now been deemed beyond the pale on elite campuses. Speakers have been disinvited and careers destroyed. The boundaries are being redrawn across society.”

This is essentially a Cognitive Dissonance Scale argument by an elitist who can’t distinguish between the public’s scale and his own. Donald Trump is President of the United States because he was elected, despite what Brooks calls his racial prejudices, sexual behavior and personal morality. Can’t Brooks see that he’s essentially making Hillary’s deplorables argument? He is saying that nobody who voted for Trump is a member of “polite society’! Incredibly, he’s also saying that supporting the President of the United States is marginalizing. Wow: get out of that echo chamber, David—RUN! No, you idiot, refusing to support the institution of the Presidency and the integrity of elections marginalizes Democrats, the “resistance,” the New York Times, and YOU. Then Brooks writes that progressives will win because they are getting “better” at totalitarian methods, like suppressing speech. Nah, this isn’t self-marginalizing, not at all! Americans love to have their freedoms disrespected, and to be told that only pre-approved opinions and viewpoints will be allowed when Democrats are in power. Continue reading


Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, Rights, U.S. Society

Cutting Government Support Of The Arts

Among the productions I was most proud of during the 20 year run of The American Century Theater: June Havoc’s “Marathon’33”, brilliantly produced by Rebecca Christy with negligible government funding…

 President Trump’s proposed budget for the 2019 fiscal year includes deep cuts to public arts and media funding.


Perhaps my reaction surprises you, given that I co-founded and for 20 years helped run a non-profit professional theater company.

The proposal cuts the Institute of Museum and Library Services and reduces the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s budget from $445 million to $15 million. It also cuts the funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities by almost 80 percent as prelude to phasing them out. As an aside, it will be interesting to see those suddenly emergent national debt hawks who were in cryogenic sleep during the Obama administration manage the trick of bemoaning the deficit created by the GOP tax cuts while fighting to the death for the superfluous federal expenditures on the arts. If we can’t cut these programs, we literally can’t cut anything.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, if it was ever necessary, is no longer. There were just three TV channels when it was launched: there are now hundreds. PBS is no longer commercial-free television: have you watched it lately? That doesn’t even take into consideration the constant fundraising. It is true that the commercial network fare  now completely eschews any but the lowest culture, but increasingly so does PBS. The theory, as it has been for years, is that if a TV show is British, it is high culture. It isn’t. “Father Brown” is junk. There are better mysteries on CBS.  “Midsummer Murders” is so slow you want to rend your garments. “Downton Abbey” was fun, but it was a soap opera. Taxpayers should not have to underwrite shows like this.

I confess to enjoying NPR, and it has been good to me professionally and personally. But it is partisan, and a publicly funded news station should not be. It is also flagrantly elitist to its core. If NPR is really popular, then some foundations and its wealthy listeners should be able to fund it.

Fox’s Tucker Carlson, a rich kid himself, has called arts spending “welfare for rich, liberal elites.” I agree in the sense that the government is paying for what the wealthy in a community should devote more of their own funds to pay for. The performing arts are now too expensive for anyone but the wealthy. Movies are half the price of a typical community theater show, and movies are seeing their box office numbers dropping. Opera? How many middle class Americans go to the opera? Symphonies? Ballets? Same thing. The entertainment industry doesn’t even pretend to care about keeping their product affordable for anyone not driving a Lexus. Look at the prices to see “Hamilton” or Bette Midler as Dolly on Broadway.

The New York Times unwittingly gives away the real reason they feel we need the government funding the arts, however. It’s indoctrination and propaganda:

[T]he National Endowment for the Arts  amplifies the voices of Americans who aren’t the so-called coastal elite, or the aristocratic, or the advantaged. It seeks to diversify the stories we tell and the lives we see. This diversity can take many forms. It can be seen in racial difference and regional difference, in terms of gender and in terms of class…. Over the last 50 years, through Creative Writing Fellowships alone, the endowment funded the work of Tillie Olsen, who wrote stories about the deep fatigue of working-class mothers; Philip Levine, a Detroit-born poet and the “Whitman of the industrial heartland”; Ernest J. Gaines, the descendant of sharecroppers who wrote fiction about rural Louisiana; and Bobbie Ann Mason, a short-story writer from rural Kentucky who, along with Carver, brought “dirty realism” into vogue — a working-class counterpoint to the fictional worlds populated by rich, liberal elites.

Bingo. When the government funds the arts, it cannot help itself from funding artists and art that advance the government’s agenda and those of its agency administrators. What this means, and what honest artists will admit, is that artists change their projects and messages to attract dollars, not to express themselves. My theater company encountered this constantly. It was made clear that we would have a better chance at grants if we did more works by women, about minorities, and exploring gay issues. I am proud of our eclectic and diverse choice of seasons, projects and artists.We also kept our ticket prices lower than almost all of the other small professional theaters. Indeed, we suffered for that: since we charged about what the amateur theaters did, a lot of people assumed we weren’t a professional company. As a company run by straight, white lawyers that attracted older citizens with advanced degrees and explored American stage works 25 years old or older, government funders had steadily decreasing interest in our work, even though it was the only professional theater in the area that admitted children free of charge.  What mattered most was whether our art supported the government’s objectives. The quality of the art was secondary.

I don’t fault them for that: they were  giving out money, after all, Nonetheless, the power to fund is the power to control, warp and destroy.

Artists will always be with us. So will the performing arts, but new structures, systems and funding needs to be found that does not involve the government, whose participation pollutes art and make integrity impossible and innovation difficult.

Trump may not be seeking to cut government funding of the arts for the right reasons, but it’s still the right thing to do.


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Government & Politics, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity

The FIRE’s Ten Worst Colleges For Free Speech, 2018

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (The FIRE) is the heroic non-partisan, non-profit that does a lot of the work the ACLU should be doing, but doesn’t. The list (those with links are the colleges covered in 2017 Ethics Alarms posts):

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, N.Y.)

Drexel University (Philadelphia, Pa.)

Harvard University (Cambridge, Mass.)

Los Angeles Community College District (Los Angeles, Calif.)

Fordham University (New York, N.Y.)

Evergreen State College (Olympia, Wash.)

Albion College (Albion, Mich.)

Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.)

University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, Calif.)

Texas State University (San Marcos, Texas)

The whole, awful story of each is worth reading, especially in light of yesterday’s “Ethics Quote Of The Week.” FIRE does not rank the unethical colleges, but I’ll say this: Evergreen may be the worst of the worst, but Harvard is the most shameful.

The FIRE is one of the great ethics organizations in the nation, and deserves every citizen’s respect, support, and gratitude.


Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Education, Government & Politics, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, Rights

Ethics Hero: Texas Ranger Pitcher Cole Hamels

This has been a terrible year for Ethics Heroes. No, I don’t consider a sexual harassment or sexual abuse victim who comes out and accuses a man ten years after the alleged incident a hero. A hero would risk her own interests and welfare to protect all the potential victims over those ten years, by blowing the whistle before the harm to others, not after it. No, millionaire football players who engage in pointless and incoherent protests to turn what should be a unifying public event into a divisive one aren’t heroes either.

Maybe I need to do a post on all the phony “heroes” of 2017. There were a lot of them.

Cole Hamels, however, is a real ethics hero.  The 33-year-old Texas Ranger pitcher and his wife Heidi are donating  their 32,000-square-foot mansion and 100 acres of land in southwest Missouri to Camp Barnabas, a charity that provides camps for children with special needs and chronic illnesses. The Hamels’ gift is valued at $9,418,400.

In the statement,  the athlete said that he became committed to the mission of  Camp Barnabas as he learned about the charity. “Seeing the faces, hearing the laughter, reading the stories of the kids they serve; there is truly nothing like it,” he said. “Barnabas makes dreams come true, and we felt called to help them in a big way.” Continue reading


Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, U.S. Society

Re Met Conductor James Levine: I Know, I Know, “The King’s Pass”…But What’s The Matter With People?

The Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck took a cultural turn and visited the New York Metropolitan Opera yesterday. James Levine, the Met’s legendary conductor for four decades, allegedly molested a teenager in the 1980’s. The allegations were described in a police report that was filed in 2016. A man stated that he met Levine as a 15 year-old child when Levine was a conductor at the Ravinia Music Festival in Illinois. Beginning the next year, when Levine was 42 and the boy was 16, the conductor  touched the teenager’s genitalia and masturbated in his presence. The sexual relations involved hundreds of incidents and lasted for years, according to the allegations. Levine also served as a mentor to the teenager, wrote a college recommendation essay, and gave him tens of thousands of dollars of cash.  The man says he is straight and that  he was “confused and paralyzed” by Levine’s actions.

Now the Met says it is investigating. But I have more…

Today I attended a performance of an opera, and by chance happened to chat with one of the opera company’s board members. I asked him if he had heard about Levine. He said he didn’t know what I was talking about. After I summarized the story above, he said (I’m paraphrasing):

“I hadn’t heard about that, but it’s no surprise. I performed in the Met  chorus in the Eighties and Nineties when I lived in New York. Everyone knew that Levine fooled around with teenaged boys. I’m pretty sure the Met paid off some of them.”

After I heard this–at the time, there was only one man making one accusation—it was reported that the Met suspended Levine, because three more men came forward saying that they had been abused by the conductor as teens. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/20/17: Harvard Hypocrisy, Homely Actors, Horrible Apologies, And The Head Of Apple’s Diversity Program Lands On A Pike

Good Morning.

1 And The Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck rolls on…The Harvey Express ran over several more notables in various ways last week (like Lena Dunham…). Although Senator Al Franken got most of the publicity. One was actor Jeffrey Tambor, the long-time character actor turned star of the streaming show “Transparent,” about a transgender woman. Tambor’s former assistant, eager to pick up her #MeToo brownie points even at the risk of throwing the entire “Transparent” cast and staff out of work (this is another reason why these matters are more ethically handled privately), accused the actor of lewd comments and in one case “pressing up against her.” Now Tambor, and almost certainly the hit show, are, as Jeff Flake would say. “toast.”

This weekend I crafted the apology Franken should have offered, but as bad as the one he actually offered was, it was arguably better than what Tambor came up with:

“For the past four years, I’ve had the huge privilege — and huge responsibility – of playing Maura Pfefferman, a transgender woman, in a show that I know has had an enormous, positive impact on a community that has been too long dismissed and misunderstood.

I know I haven’t always been the easiest person to work with. I can be volatile and ill-tempered, and too often I express my opinions harshly and without tact. But I have never been a predator — ever.

I am deeply sorry if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone as being sexually aggressive or if I ever offended or hurt anyone. But the fact is, for all my flaws, I am not a predator and the idea that someone might see me in that way is more distressing than I can express.”

On the Apology Scale, this combines the worst features of a #9, a “non-apology apology,” with #10, an “insincere and dishonest apology,” with some other obnoxious features thrown in for bad taste.  Tambor begins by patting himself on the back–-I’m the star, and it hasn’t been easy, but look at all the good I’ve done!—then moves on to Rationalization # 19. The Perfection Diversion: “Nobody’s Perfect!” or “Everybody makes mistakes!”

Next, he engages in deceit, stating that he’s never been a predator, which is like saying he’s never been a race car driver or an antelope. He’s accused of sexual harassment and one incident of sexual assault. What his statement amounts to a non-denial denial: “I never did what she’s accused me of doing more than once!”


2. “Because sometimes they say yes…” It is no coincidence that Tambor, Franken and Weinstein all come from the performing arts world and all are very homely men. I have observed in my own theater experience that the most aggressive violators of the boundaries of restraint and decorum in interactions with women in a theatrical settings are frequently the guys who are unattractive and feel  that it they don’t take chances, they’ll die a virgin. It is astounding how aggressive some of them are, and how resilient they remain after rejection and even physical abuse. If they fail a hundred times and succeed once, that’s positive reinforcement enough. If, through talent, hard work and luck, such individuals reach a level of power in the performing arts profession, sexual harassment is an established behavior pattern that doesn’t set off their ethics alarms at all.

3. It’s NOT OK to be white? Denise Young Smith, Apple’s first vice president of diversity and inclusion and an African-American, was part of a  panel discussion on fighting racial injustice eat the One Young World Summit in Bogotá, Colombia. At one point she said,

“Diversity is the human experience. I get a little bit frustrated when diversity or the term diversity is tagged to the people of color, or the women, or the LGBT…there can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blonde men in a room and they’re going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.” 

Apple fired her, six months into her new role after 20 years successfully running Apple’s international Human Resources department. Smith did not have the integrity to stand by her words, and instead tried a desperate Pazuzu grovel, apologizing and saying that her words “were not representative of how I think about diversity.”  It didn’t work. Continue reading


Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Comment of the Day, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, Popular Culture, Quotes, Romance and Relationships, Workplace

The IRS Scandal: “I’m Sorry!” Is Not Enough, But That’s Apparently All Our Battered Democracy Will Get


I’ve been holding a draft of this post for two weeks until I calmed down. You should read the first version.

The Treasury Department  agreed to  a “very substantial” settlement covering damages to hundreds of tea party groups following a class-action lawsuit over the obstructive, discriminatory IRS scrutiny they received when applying for tax-exempt status leading up to the 2012 election. According to court documents,  the IRS admitted wrongdoing and apologized for its conduct. The IRS stated,

“The IRS admits that its treatment of Plaintiffs during the tax-exempt determination process, including screening their applications based on their names or policy positions, subjecting those applications to heightened scrutiny and inordinate delays, and demanding some Plaintiffs’ information that TITA determined was unnecessary to the agency’s determination of their tax-exempt status, was wrong. For such treatment, the IRS expresses its sincere apology.”

That’s nice. Isn’t that nice?

The department did not disclose the amount of money handed out to over 400 organizations: “The [Internal Revenue Service]’s use of these criteria as a basis for heightened scrutiny was wrong and should never have occurred,” Attorney General Sessions said in a statement.  “It is improper for the IRS to single out groups for different treatment based on their names or ideological positions.”

Ya think?

The scandal began in 2013, when an IRS official admitted the agency had been aggressively scrutinizing groups with names such as “Tea Party” and “Patriots.” It later emerged that some liberal groups had been targeted, too, but in less aggressive ways and although in far smaller numbers. I hate to be suspicious, but if a Democratic administration’s tax agency agency in advance of an election wanted to hobble Republican and conservative groups, picking out some progressive groups to harass would be the smart move. In “Jack Reacher,” a sniper who wants to kill one target shoots five, so it looks like a random mass shooting. Same theory.

The IRS accelerated its special treatment of conservative groups around 2010, as the election approached, and Tea Party applications for tax-exempt status surged. Some court decisions had eased the rules for tax-exempt groups to participate in politics. Something had to be done, and some obama loyalists in the IRS apparently decided to do it. Or it was all one big misunderstanding.

After the scandal broke, there was a mass exodus from the IRS’s management. Conservative groups sued. Congressional Republicans launched  years of hearings, amid allegations the Obama White House had ordered the targeting. It was a futile effort. In earlier administrations, the news media would have been asking questions. A non-political Justice Department would have investigated hard, but Obama’s Justice Department was entirely constructed to protect the President and Democratic interests. The situation screamed for a Special Counsel. This wasn’t a matter of speculation: Something was rotten in Washington, D.C. A supposedly apolitical agency of the US Government, in advance of a national election with a Democratic President in office, used its power to interfere with the rights of conservatives to organize and participate in the democratic process. If the IRS employees involved were sufficiently partisan—and they were–no explicit orders from the White House were necessary. They knew what to do. Continue reading


Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity