Category Archives: U.S. Society

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

Ethics Dunce: The Smithsonian Institution


The new Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is intended to celebrate the two aspects of African American influence on the nation mentioned in the title, and that includes honoring  influential and historically significant African American leaders. Among the figures ignored by the museum’s displays is Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, only the second black member of the Supreme Court. The museum does, however, celebrate the “heroism” of his last-minute accuser at Thomas’s confirmation hearings, law professor Anita Hill.

This is another and particularly sad reflection of the petty partisan bias and lack of integrity demonstrated by the Obama Administration at so many levels. It is stuffed with so many intractable ideologues, and often incompetent ideologues, that objectivity, respect and fairness are frequently too great an effort to muster. The museum honors Hill, who was recruited as a last ditch effort by Democrats to block President George H.W. Bush’s nomination of a black conservative judge to the Supreme Court and whose accusations of sexual harassment were never verified except by the confirmation bias of Democrats and Thomas’s enemies. It chose to snubThomas, which all involved had to know would be seen as an insult to the Justice, and a calculated one.

By all logic and reason, Hill should be, at best, a footnote to a Thomas display. Mean-spirited bias from the empowered Left under Obama has extended even to museum curating, which should be non-partisan. Continue reading


Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race, U.S. Society

Presenting Rationalization 13 A. “The Road To Hell”


The post earlier today regarding three examples of ethics duncery (or worse) in foreign lands included three examples of Rationalization 13A at work. All could be, and in one case was, excused with the claim that “we meant well.” I checked: this infamous rationalization wasn’t among the seventy plus rationalizations on the Ethics Alarms list, which proves just how sinister these little buggers are. As its name suggests, Rationalization #13A is named after the famous quote, “Good intentions pave the road to hell,” or, alternatively, “The Road to Hell is paved with good intentions,” which nobody seems to know who was the first to utter it.

It was a major omission, and I’m thrilled to rectify it.

13A. The Road To Hell, or “I meant well”

This sub-rationalization to the Saint’s Excuse is related to its parent but arguably worse. Rationalization 13 is one of the really deadly rationalizations, the closest on the list to “The ends justified the means”:

 The Saint’s Excuse is that the ends justify the means, because the “saint” has decided that the ends are worth any price—especially when that price will have to be paid by someone else. 

But while the wielder of the Saint’s Excuse typically at least has a beneficial or valuable result to claim as justification for unethical and inexcusable acts, the desperate employers of 13A only have their alleged good intentions, which may be the product of emotion, misunderstanding, ignorance or stupidity. How a bad actor intended his unethical conduct to turn out is no mitigation at all. The underlying logic is that the wrongdoer isn’t a bad person, so the wrongful act shouldn’t be held against him or her as harshly as if he was. The logic is flawed (it is the same logic as in The King’s Pass, #11, which holds that societally valuable people would be held to lower standards of conduct than everyone else) and dangerous, encouraging the reckless not to consider the substance of a course of action, but only its motivations.

The Saint’s Excuse attempts to justify unethical actions that accomplish worthy goals The Road to Hell attempts to justify unethical conduct even when it does undeniable harm, just because it was undertaken with admirable intent.



Filed under U.S. Society

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

Debate Ethics: Trump’s “Breathtaking Repudiation Of American Democracy”


Substance, of course, is officially irrelevant to the 2016 Presidential election. This is a bitter “be careful what you wish for” realization for Ethics Alarms and its author, as I have long argued that leaders’ values and character are more important and should be given more weight in any choice of candidates than their political affiliations or official policy positions. I did not foresee  a race in which both candidates have definitively proven that they are unfit for office and corrupt beyond repair or redemption, and one of those candidates is so unfit that even the epic dishonesty and democracy-corroding conduct of his opponent cannot begin to justify a vote for him by anyone with the sense of a bivalve mollusk.

Thus, once again as in the first two debates, the leading story coming out of last night’s snark-fest relates to character, not substance. In this case, it doesn’t even relate to practical reality. Donald Trump was asked by debate moderator Chris Wallace,

Your running mate Governor Pence pledged on Sunday that he and you, his words, will absolutely accept the result of this election. Today your daughter Ivanka said the same thing. I want to ask you here on the stage tonight, do you make the same commitment that you’ll absolutely accept the result of the election?

..and after talking around the question interminable, as usual, Trump finally answered,

What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense, okay?

Hillary Clinton immediately pronounced the answer “horrifying,” and her assessment is currently being echoed on editorial pages and by pundits and analysts as if Trump announced that he was raising an army of NRA members to take the White House by force. Gasped the Washington Post this morning, in an editorial titled, “Trump’s Breathtaking Repudiation of American Democracy,” “Respecting the will of the voters has since the end of the Civil War allowed for a peaceful transition of power that has made this country the envy of the world….[Clinton’s flaws] fade to the status of trivia in the face of an opponent who will not accept the basic rules of American democracy.”The New York Times, in its editorial titled “Donald Trump’s Contempt for Democracy,” pontificated,

Mr. Trump’s meltdown in the closing weeks could be dismissed as a sore loser’s bizarre attempt at rationalizing his likely defeat. But his trashing of the democratic process, in service of his own ego, risks lasting damage to the country, and politicians of both parties should recoil from him and his cynical example.

It in no way excuses Donald Trump to take notice of the “breathtaking” dishonesty here.

Continue reading


Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, U.S. Society