The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2014 (Part 3)

ellen-selfie

2014 Conflicts of Interest of the Year

  • Conflicted Elected Official: Philadelphia State Senator LeAnna Washington. This is always an entertaining category. Washington was convicted of using her tax-payer financed staff to organize a yearly campaign fundraiser around her birthday party. When one staffer complained that this was illegal, she reportedly replied, according to his grand jury testimony:

“I am the fucking senator, I do what the fuck I want, and ain’t nobody going to change me. I have been doing it like this for 17 years. So stop trying to change me.”

  • Conflicted Journalist: CNN sent Jay Carney, fresh off his assignment as President Obama’s official spokesman, defender and spinmeister, to cover his ex-boss’s speech.
  • Conflicted  “Non-partisan” Watchdog: CREW. The Center For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and its chief, Melanie Sloan, finally came clean (after falsely claiming non-profit status as a non-partisan organization for years) by making David Brock, head of the openly partisan, foaming-at-the-mouth anti-Republican media watchdog Media Matters its Chairman of the Board, essentially merging the two groups.
  • Appearance of Impropriety Award: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La), Republican Whip. It is not certain yet whether Scalise knowingly spoke to a group of white supremacists in 20o2, inadvertently spoke to the group, or just spoke to another group meeting in the same venue before the David Duke-affiliated group of racists started comparing sheets. It isn’t even clear that Scalise knows, but everyone should agree that it looks awful no matter how you categorize it, making the fiasco a classic appearance of impropriety situation. If the Republicans were smart, they would dump him.

Unethical Attire of the Year

Offensive shirt

This.

Unethical Political Candidate of the Year

Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, whose campaign materials were largely plagiarized from the materials other candidates.

Ethically Clueless Voters of the Year

New York’s 11th Congressional District, which contains Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn. These alert and ethical citizens sent back to Washington thuggish and crooked Rep. Michael Grimm (R), then facing a 20-count indictment by federal authorities for fraud, federal tax evasion, and perjury, having earlier distinguished himself by threatening to kill a reporter and being recorded doing so.

  Unethical Advertising of the Year

Lawyer Division:

Public Service Announcement Division:

TV Program Division:

The Discovery Channel’s campaign for “Eaten Alive!” which did not, in fact, feature anyone being “eaten alive,” or at all.

Private Sector Product Division:

Halos. Or perhaps this is the Child Abuse Division:

Political Campaign Division:

Wendy Davis, Democratic candidate for Texas Governor, offered an ad attacking her wheelchair- bound opponent that 1) appealed to bias against the disabled 2) misrepresented the duties of a state attorney general 3) misrepresented the facts of the cases the ad referred to and  4)  deceived the public regarding the ethical duties of lawyers, which Davis, a lawyer, presumably understands. Continue reading

Darling Ellen’s Deceptive Tweet For Samsung

Taken completely spontaneously using a

Taken completely spontaneously using a Galaxy S5 by Samsung. Get yours today!

Ellen DeGeneris is adorable, and as ideal a public face to place on the image of gay acceptance and same-sex marriage as you could concoct in a marketing strategy meeting. She’s funny, she’s friendly, she’s nice: to be threatened in any way by Ellen is to be the epitome of an irrational homophobe.. Her accumulated good  largely insulated her from the negative criticism she earned with a shockingly inept performance as this year’s host of the Academy Awards ceremony. She didn’t exactly make one long for Seth (“We saw your boobs!”) McFarland, last year’s oppressive MC,but watching her—any experienced performer could see the signs of a comic who knew she was bombing and had no idea what to do about it—was uncomfortable when it wasn’t deadly boring.

The one routine that seemed successful was DeGeneris’s successful effort to create the “most re-tweeted tweet of all time,” which she accomplished by dragooning Bradley Cooper, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lawrence  Lupita Nyong’o, Kevin Spacey and Jared Leto in to take a selfie with her. It garnered over 3 million retweets at last count. But it was a set-up. This was not just a fun party stunt with friends, which is how it was represented to the audience and indeed to the stars themselves. No, the selfie was part of a very pricey deal between the Academy and Samsung, which sells the recently enhanced Galaxy S5 Ellen used to take the picture.

From the Wall Street Journal: Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Matthew McConaughey

Matthew-McConaughey

It happens but rarely: an Oscar acceptance speech with something of substance to communicate, other than a list of thank-yous. Yet last night was one of those rare occasions, as actor Matthew McConaughey used his well-deserved award for Best Actor to express his views on how to lead an ethical life:

Here is the text of his speech—much thanks to reader Phil Kraemer, who located it:

Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you to the Academy for this—all 6,000 members. Thank you to the other nominees. All these performances were impeccable in my opinion. I didn’t see a false note anywhere. I want to thank Jean-Marc Vallée, our director. Want to thank Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, who I worked with daily.

There’s a few things, about three things to my account that I need each day. One of them is something to look up to, another is something to look forward to, and another is someone to chase. Now, first off, I want to thank God. ‘Cause that’s who I look up to. He has graced my life with opportunities that I know are not of my hand or any other human hand. He has shown me that it’s a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates. In the words of the late Charlie Laughton, who said, “When you’ve got God, you got a friend. And that friend is you.”

To my family, that who and what I look forward to. To my father who, I know he’s up there right now with a big pot of gumbo. He’s got a lemon meringue pie over there. He’s probably in his underwear. And he’s got a cold can of Miller Lite and he’s dancing right now. To you, Dad, you taught me what it means to be a man. To my mother who’s here tonight, who taught me and my two older brothers… demanded that we respect ourselves. And what we in turn learned was that we were then better able to respect others. Thank you for that, Mama. To my wife, Camila, and my kids Levi, Vida and Mr. Stone, the courage and significance you give me every day I go out the door is unparalleled. You are the four people in my life that I want to make the most proud of me. Thank you.

And to my hero. That’s who I chase. Now when I was 15 years old, I had a very important person in my life come to me and say “who’s your hero?” And I said, “I don’t know, I gotta think about that. Give me a couple of weeks.” I come back two weeks later, this person comes up and says “who’s your hero?” I said, “I thought about it. You know who it is? It’s me in 10 years.” So I turned 25. Ten years later, that same person comes to me and says, “So, are you a hero?” And I was like, “not even close. No, no, no.” She said, “Why?” I said, “Because my hero’s me at 35.” So you see every day, every week, every month and every year of my life, my hero’s always 10 years away. I’m never gonna be my hero. I’m not gonna attain that. I know I’m not, and that’s just fine with me because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.

So, to any of us, whatever those things are, whatever it is we look up to, whatever it is we look forward to, and whoever it is we’re chasing, to that I say, “Amen.” To that I say, “Alright, alright, alright.” To that I say “just keep living.” Thank you.

You have to wonder about the various tweeters and pundits who objected to McConaughey’s candor about his inner compass as “bizarre” (Time) or egomaniacal (several). Yes, by nature and necessity actors are unusually self-absorbed; the latter complaint is akin to faulting a dog show winner as inarticulate. What was admirable and inspiring about  McConaughey’s speech was his exuberant explanation of how his personal hero is always who he will be in the next ten years.

I doubt that this is an original formula, but I have never heard it before, and it is the essence of ethics: we strive to keep learning, getting better, and aspiring to be the best people we can be, or life is pointless. Ironically, this was also the lesson of “Groundhog Day,” the comedy masterpiece of the late writer-director Harold Ramis, whose name and career were evoked more than one during the Academy Awards broadcast. Having other people as heroes doesn’t accomplish much, unless we aspire to and learn from their values and conduct, and eventually  capable of similar heroism ourselves.

As for all those who are criticizing the actor for his religious sentiments: back off. Religion has played a major role in minting some good and remarkable human beings, and McConaughey seems to be one of them. If he chooses to thank God in his moment of exhilaration and triumph, that should be beyond reproach.