Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/1/2019: May Day! May Day!

Good morning to you,

me, not so much…

I’m ticked off at myself this morning for being cripplingly anxious. I have a looming appointment with a specialist later today regarding a medical issue that could be minor or, in a worst case scenario, could be “curtains.” My father taught me better than this: my anxiety is completely irrational. If I dropped dead tomorrow, I would have no basis for complaints; as Clarence tells George Bailey, I’ve had a wonderful life. Regrets? I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention….

1. About the cultural literacy test...To be fair, I’m going to put up a second test that requires recognizing the name and significance of various figures rather than identifying photographs. They are indeed two different kinds of knowledge, although some of those in the current test are also iconic images. I tried to include some visual clues when I could: the guy with the cigar was famous for his cigar, and that basketball player is an iconic basketball player. The complaints about the figure holding the gun are fair, but literally every other photo I could find of him gave his identity away. Commenter Zoltar’s scoring method of taking half the points when he knew why the person was famous or important but couldn’t fetch the name was justified.

I checked the score of the photos I felt culturally literate Americans ought to be able to identify, and the total was 40. Let’s check the most recent poll…ah! 21 of the 46 results so far met that benchmark. And someone score a perfect 125! My score was only 118…

I felt a little guilty about including the old movie star, but she was the inspiration for the test. Her Academy Award-winning turn was on TV, and she has always been a favorite of mine, as well as legendary with film buffs for her comic technique. I wondered how many Americans recognize her today, for once she had one of the best known faces in the nation. And what a face it was! Continue reading

Ethics Dunce, And Cowards Too: The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation

The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, named for the journalist beheaded in 2014 by ISIS forces, had announced that at its dinner Tuesday night at the National Press Club, Secretary Of State Mike Pompeo would receive the “2019 Foley American Hostage Freedom Award.”  The award would recognize Pompeo and the administration’s success at  freeing Americans-held prisoners around the world.

The honor was posted online, as you see above, and Pompeo was duly invited to receive his award. However, the group’s “media sponsors” objected to a member of the Trump Administration being honored, even when the honor was well earned, and prestigious journalists, not that there are such beasts except in their own fantasies, threatened to boycott the event. Why look! There’s Christiane Amanpour as the keynote speaker! Surely she would never engage is such despicable behavior. Surely not.

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Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/16/18: As Bing And I Dream Of A White Christmas, Pre-Holiday Ugliness

Good afternoon!

[For some reason, Bing’s version of the song that begins the film “White Christmas”–accompanied by a music box–is completely off-key. This has bothered me for decades. How could this happen?]

1. Our trustworthy news media. How many news outlets reported this story? In 2016, Tribune Publishing Co. owner Michael Ferro met with corporate leaders from within his news empire, including chief news executives from the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and The Baltimore Sun.  During the meeting, he engaged in old-fashioned Jew-bashing, railing about the “Jewish cabal” that ran Los Angeles. In 2018,  Tribune Publishing made the first in a series of secret extortion payments that totaled $2.5 million to avoid a threatened lawsuit filed by a fired newspaper executive who had been in that room, thus keeping Ferro’s anti-Semitic slur out of the news.

Yes, a news organization paid millions to suppress the news. The rest of the story is similarly disturbing.

2. KABOOM! This article made my head explode. Therein, CNN contributor Kate Anderson Bower attacks the First Lady, saying that “she doesn’t understand what it means to be first lady.” The article is perfect 10s all across the board: for arrogance, for bias, for Trump-bashing, for incompetence and historical revisionism. The accusation arose from statements Melania made in an interview with Sean Hannity, stating that the hardest part of her job was having to deal with her and her family being personally attacked by “comedians to journalists to performers[and]book writers.”  Bower writes that Melania was

“again making the job about herself and her family instead of taking the opportunity to talk about the challenges she sees other people facing…The entire moment was a lost opportunity to put attention on the families of struggling Americans she’s met in her role as first lady, especially since she spent time the very next day reading to children at Children’s National Hospital, some sitting in wheelchairs with IVs attached. And the Hannity interview took place on USS George H.W. Bush, a trip the first lady made to support members of the military and their families. Wouldn’t it have been heartening to hear her use that moment during the interview to talk about the women and babies she’s met struggling with opioid addiction, or the children who she has met as part of her “Be Best” campaign who have been bullied at school, or the people whose homes were destroyed in the California fires?”

I’ll tell you what, you presumptuous hack: when you’re First Lady, you show us how it’s done.

There is no job of First Lady for Melania to “understand.” Bower is imposing her values and priorities on the job, and claiming that she knows the job description, which has always fluctuated with the occupant and the times.  The job of the First Lady, to the extent there is one, is to do whatever is possible to help the President of the United States be successful and succeed, using whatever talents she has. There is no obligation for a First Lady to be Eleanor Roosevelt, nor is it written in ink or precedent that the President’s spouse has to concentrate on “the challenges she sees other people facing.”  Jackie Kennedy’s primary project was renovating the White House, where she lived. How did that help the poor and under-privileged?  Lady Bird beautified the shores of the Potomac. How was that a boon to the poor in Appalachia?  Nobody criticized their priorities. I wonder why? Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/1/18: Ethics Is Like Making Hamburger…[UPDATED]

Hello September!

1. More fake news, future news, and “if you hate Trump, you’ll like this” news. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!

Ann Althouse performs an expert take-down of an inexcusable piece of hackery by Megan McArdle in the Washington Post titled “Poll by sinking poll, Trump inches toward impeachment.”

[The wrong link to Althouse was up yesterday: it’s fixed now.]

How I love it when other do my work for me: Ann has been getting increasingly eccentric, but here she is at her best. Read both McArdle’s trash and Ann’s defenestration of it, but here are some key points from Althouse:

  • “what made me want to blog this is the first line of the column, “By any metric, Trump is in trouble,” which is followed by:

A poll out from The Post and ABC on Friday shows that 60 percent of voters disapprove of the job he’s doing as president, a new low. But that’s just one poll; the polling average at statistician Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight shows Trump with a mere 53.4 percent disapproval rating, which is better than its 56.8 percent peak last December.

So there’s an obvious “metric” — the famous Nate Silver metric — by which Trump is doing better than last December, but “By any metric, Trump is in trouble”?!

  • But a presidency is not in good shape when the best spin on the new poll is “It’s an outlier! Only 53 percent of the country thinks the president is terrible.” The poll is especially ugly for Republicans with midterms looming in two months.

No. 53 percent didn’t say “the president is terrible.” They said “disapprove” when asked whether they approve of disapprove. And they might disapprove of other options too, such as impeachment or even (if it could be magically possible) Hillary for President.

  • More McArdle:

It’s all too easy to imagine a similar scenario for Democrats intent on impeaching Trump as they come up short looking for Republicans to help them make it across the finish line. But it’s not entirely impossible to picture a few Republicans going along….

We’ve gone from “by any metric” to “it’s not entirely impossible.” Come on! Were we not supposed to read this far into the column? WaPo is all headlines and first lines these days. Get your hit, and maybe you can face another day with Trump as President.

Ann’s last line is spot-on, and describes exactly what social media is like these days. Oooo! Trump flew the White House flag full-mast a couple of days early! What a monster! …What? People say Trump doesn’t like Jeff Sessions’ accent? He’s horrible!Hey! The Trump Administration is doing pretty much exactly what the Obama administration did, but it’s Trump, so now it’s wrong!”

2. More Aretha Franklin Ethics. Even a funeral of a beloved pop star can’t proceed without manufactured outrages, controversies and PC offenses. Bishop Charles H. Ellis, III, felt that he had to apologize for touching singer Ariana Grande like this after she performed during the funeral service for Aretha Franklin…

The funny thing is that this could indeed constitute sexual harassment in a workplace setting, if the singer decided that the touch—unconsented, arguably a mini-grope–was “unwelcome.” So the Bishop had to grovel, which he did, saying,

“It would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast. … I don’t know I guess I put my arm around her,” Ellis said. “Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize….I hug all the female artists and the male artists. Everybody that was up, I shook their hands and hugged them. That’s what we are all about in the church. We are all about love. The last thing I want to do is to be a distraction to this day. This is all about Aretha Franklin.”

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On Boycotts, Vendettas, Grudges And Principles: The Unethical Theater Group And Me

Over the weekend I attended a local theater production at the behest of an old friend who was involved in it. I did so with great hesitation. You see, several decades ago, I directed a show for this company, an old and popular community institution. Not only was I treated as miserably as I have ever been treated by an organization in my life; my cast and staff were abused as well. I encountered perpetual arrogance, nastiness, pettiness and hostility, all of which is common in the theater world and especially the amateur end of it, but not on this level.

I would enjoy itemizing the particulars of my indictment against this organization, but it would be an indulgence, and would necessarily lengthen the post. I’ll just note that the fact that an African-American member of my cast and her family were harassed more than once by the venomous seniors running the company like their own private East Germany was not an indispensable part of my conclusion that the company was  a special gift from Hell. I would have come to the same conclusion even if the group hadn’t been racist as well as venal, exploitive, dictatorial, mean, incompetent, vindictive, and stupid.

So I attended the show, which was not bad at all, though I felt like Jeff Goldblum making a visit to Jurassic Park. (The tickets were comped: it I had to pay a cent for them, I would not have gone.) My last time in that building—the group owns its theater facilities–I vowed not only that I would never return, but that I would take every opportunity to undermine the company’s strength, viability, reputation and existence. I had, too, until I attended the show. I take pride in the fact that I have warned many previously naive artists away from getting involved in the group, and I have kept many theater-goers away as well. It is my theatrical Moby Dick, I suppose: to the last I’ll grapple with it; from hell’s heart I’ll stab at it; for hate’s sake I’ll spit my last breath at it.

During the performance, which had its boring and annoying features, I found myself reflecting on this state of mind. Is it ethical to hold a grudge that long and that strong?

It certainly can be, to be sure. In cases like this, however, I believe that staying the course is a matter of integrity. Continue reading

Let’s Boycott Companies That Don’t Have The Guts To Stand Up Against Boycotts

The novel “A Confederacy of Dunces” comes to mind.

WalMart has an online open market where third party sellers can offer merchandise to the public. Good! That’s a public service. It’s like a farmer’s market, online. Aspiring entrepreneurs can get started. Consumers can find products that they might not have known about.

One of its third party sellers offered a T-shirt with the message, “Impeach 45.” Oh, fine. It’s a moronic sentiment, and an ignorant sentiment, but so is “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” “Abolish ICE,” “What would Jesus do?,” “Bush lied and people died,” and “Go Yankees!” Personally, I think any messages on clothing is prima facie evidence that the wearer is intellectually deficient.Imagine someone who walked around saying “Give peace a chance” all day long. You’d have to commit him. Wearing a T-shirt with messages on it is basically like that. Nonetheless, if people want to parade around wearing some slogan, virtue-signaling to fellow “resistance” members and Maxine Waters fans, that’s their dumb choice. This is America. We get to make dumb choices. And I, for one, am grateful when idiots label themselves. Continue reading

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