Tag Archives: cashing in

Morning Ethics Warm-Up Overstock, 5/15/ 2018: It’s Use Them Or Lose them…

This is perplexing. I have a backlog of ethics stories and issues that I feel are better mentioned in the Warm-Up format, then that post run long, and the items in my basket of deplorable often get superseded by new issues, and are never seen here at all. The collective approach saves amazing amounts of time, so if I have to post each of the leftovers individually, that will preclude doing the work necessary on potentially more significant issues.

Well, today, at least, I’m posting on some of the morning issues that didn’t make the cut.

And this is why Royals used to avoid marrying commoners.

What an Ethics Dunce, and worse,  soon-to-be Royal father-in-law Thomas Markle is! Your daughter is unexpectedly in the middle of a world event (not that it should be that), and she is approaching the most exciting day of her life. One of your two duties is to be on hand to walk her down the aisle, and your other duty is not to screw things up for her and embarrass her. Markle couldn’t do either, because, it is evident, he is a low-life, the real equivalent of  Eliza Doolittle’s father in “My Fair Lady,” who after years of neglect has to try to cash in on his daughter’s good fortune.

The father of the soon-to-be royal bride couldn’t resist cashing in, doing several photoshoots with a paparazzi agency ahead of the wedding. The news reports of this provoked a negative reaction, predictably, except Tommy Boy was too greedy or dumb to predict it, and now he says that he will not attend because he does not want to embarrass Meghan or the royal family.

Too late!

Are there really people who think this is legitimate criticism?

I suppose there are, but wow.  A politically active genealogist named Jennifer Mendelsohn—she’s an idiot, by the way—spends her time digging into the ancestry of critics of illegal immigration and illegal immigrants to prove they are hypocrites, or something. Her latest target is Fox News’s Tomi Lahren (I am not a fan) and Mendelsahn really seems to think she has uncovered a “gotcha!,” tweeting…

Except the 1930 census says Tomi’s 3x great-grandmother had been here for 41 years and still spoke German. Her 2nd great-grandmother had been here for 10 yrs. Spoke no English. Her great-grandfather’s 1895 baptism from MN? Recorded in Norwegian…But as long as people like Lahren continue to push a specious agenda that suggests today’s immigrants are somehow wholly different from previous ones, I’ll keep showing just how alike they really are.

I really do think the wretched quality of thought here is more characteristic of most illegal immigration activists than people are willing to admit. I’m sure you can do this analysis yourself, but…

  • Illegal immigrants are not the same as legal immigrants. That what was once legal is no longer doesn’t make what the legal immigrants did in 1900 wrong, or what illegal immigrants doing now right.
  • There is nothing hypocritical about a citizen with immigrants in their lineage condemning illegal immigration. Indeed, there would be nothing wrong with someone with illegal immigrants in their family doing the same. If my great, great grandfather was a pirate, I can still oppose piracy. If I exist because my great-grandmother was raped, there is nothing wrong with my opposing rapists.
  • Did I mention that Mendelsohn is an idiot?

Just wanted to make sure.

Best rejoinder to her tweet: “Now do Elizabeth Warren!” Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/10/17: A Creep Places A Bounty On Hillary’s Hair, And More….

GOOOD Morning.

1 My weekly assessment of anti-Trump mania based on the New York Times Sunday Review shows mostly petulant complaining. The front page is Trump-less, as is the second. After that respite,this issue is notable for some of the best illustrations yet of a journalistic phenomenon unique to Trump coverage, the “this is so horrible and sinister because it’s taking place under President Trump, even though it is neither unique nor noteworthy, being a condition that has existed for decades or even centuries.” Frank Bruni, for example, gets an entire page to tell us that White House aides who leave the Trump White House cash in, what Bruni calls “the ethos of enrichment.” You will be surprised, or maybe not, to learn that the essay about this new and venal trend under Trump never once mentions the name “Clinton,” the family that made cashing in on White house residency a family business, or do you have another theory why Chelsea Clinton is rich? You see, if Trump/Republicans/Conservatives do it, it’s disgusting because it’s Trump/Republicans/Conservatives doing it. What “it” happens to be doesn’t seem to matter much.

Then there is a “I can’t believe how stupid Trump supporters are” essay by NBC’s Katy Tur that contains this tell: “On election day they trusted his judgment more that they trusted any of us.” Wait: who’s the “us” that is being set up as opposition to a Presidential candidate, Katy? Journalists aren’t supposed to be telling citizens who to vote for, who is trustworthy or who will be a worthy leader. That statement is why so many voters don’t trust you, and also why they shouldn’t.

My favorite, though, a true classic in spin and how to present an issue in distorted terms to mislead the public, is a sob piece by a Yale grad student—yes, if you can write a sufficiently biased and critical essay about the plague that is the Trump administration, you don’t have to be a journalist. Your political biases are enough. In this case, the author is an illegal immigrant, as is every member of her family, so the Times believes that she is the perfect objective commentator on Trump policies regarding illegal immigration. Her theme: “Spreading fear is part of the administration’s plan.”

That plan is called law enforcement and deterrence. The government making life uncomfortable for law-breakers and ensuring that the guilty never feel comfy enough to think, “Well, the heat is off! They’ll never catch me now!” has been an uncontroversial and effective means of ensuring a safe and fair society for centuries. It was the Obama administration that endorsed the novel, bizarre and corrosive policy of telling illegal immigrants, “No problem: just make sure you don’t rape, kill or rob anyone, and you’re golden. Welcome!”

It is the indignation that comes through these essays that is so infuriating. How dare the government demand accountability for our law-breaking! tells us that her family has lived here illegally for 30 years.

If a newspaper is going to publish flagrantly manipulative junk like this, it would be responsible journalism to include a rebuttal along side it. Opinions are one thing; intentional distortions of the principles of civilization come unacceptably close to disinformation. Continue reading

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Ethics Q & A On Obama’s Speaking Fees

Former President Barack Obama received a $400,000 speaking fee for an appearance at an A&E Network event  yesterday, just as controversy was building over Obama accepting the same fee to appear at a Wall Street firm’s conference.

What’s going on here?

The ex-President is cashing in, that’s what’s going on here. This has become standard operating procedure for former POTUSes, beginning with Gerald Ford, who was showered with criticism by Democrats and the news media for signing with the William Morris agency and picking up what was at the time considered obscene speaking fees from corporations and foreign governments. Ford’s fees are dwarfed by Obama’s, but then Barack is a much better speaker than the late President Ford was. (Almost anyone is.)

Jimmy Carter showed admirable restraint by not devoting his post-Presidency to enriching himself off of his years in office, but Ronald Reagan took some mega-fees to speak abroad. The Clintons, as we know too well, instantly went from rags to riches by selling their celebrity, an exercise that was especially dubious because Hillary was on the rise. Obama’s speaking fees are just one more step along the cashing-in path that both he and Michelle had already begun traveling with the astounding 65 million dollar deal the couple signed to write their biographies.

Some questions and answers on the ethics of Obama’s payday:

1.  Is Obama ‘s acceptance of all this money ethical?

In a vacuum, it’s hard to argue that it isn’t. He set a fee, and someone is willing to pay it. Hillary’s fee was $250,000; if she can get that much for her dry-as-toast delivery as a former Senator, Secretary of State and First Lady, Obama’s a bargain at $400,000. As a private citizen, he has the same right any of us do to sell his books and speeches at whatever the market will bear.

I, for example, get $37.56 for an hour long speech, and am glad to get it..

2. But it isn’t in a vacuum, right?

Right. Obama still has power and influence; he still promises to be a voice in the Democratic party. He’s not exactly a private citizen, and no ex-President is. Taking such a large payment from a Wall Street firm, after all of Obama’s rhetoric (and that of Bernie Sanders, the non-Democrat now being paraded as a leader of the Democratic party) condemning Wall Street has the decided whiff of hypocrisy about it. Not only, that, but as with Hillary Clinton and Bill, the payment of such jaw-dropping amounts for minimal service natural raises questions of pay-offs. Obama’s administration famously sought no criminal sanctions for Wall Street executives despite their  role in what Obama called “driving the economy into a ditch.” How do we know this wasn’t part of an installment payment to Obama for services already rendered, a quid pro quo? We don’t.

It is also hard to make sense out of those fees if they aren’t paying for something more than an hour long speech.

3. So these fees create “the appearance of impropriety?” Continue reading

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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

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Scott Brown And The Slippery Slope To Distrust

Stay classy, Senator...

Stay classy, Senator…

Who started our elected officials down the slippery slope to the point where the public viewed them as indistinguishable from any other celebrity? Was it when  Richard Nixon appeared on “Laugh-In” in 1968? Was it when ex-Speaker Tip O’Neill allowed himself the be shown in a commercial for Quality International Budget Hotels, popping out of a suitcase? Was it a decade earlier, when washed up song and dance man George Murphy won a U.S. Senate seat for California? There were critics who sounded the alarms loud and early about the dangers of our leaders trading on their visibility and power like any pop singer, athlete or actress; such critics were inevitably told to “lighten up.” We assumed, did we not, that our leaders, being responsible and respectful of our institutions,  would know what lines not to cross, and when their self-mockery, playing around and hucksterism would risk harming the credibility of democracy and the public trust.

Why would we assume that, especially as cynical politicians increasingly sought to win the votes of even more cynical young voters?

Ronald Reagan explained to an interviewer that while it would be fun to return to acting—playing a Bond villain, maybe—after leaving the Presidency, it would be unseemly. Is anything unseemly now? Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped out of a Governor’s mansion back into cyborgdom without blinking. Rudy Giuliani appeared in drag on Saturday Night Live while he was still mayor. Senators and House members eagerly grabbed cameos in sitcoms and dramas. Some were even good at it: Senator John Glenn’s guest appearance on “Frazier” is one of the highlights of the whole series. Did any of these eager publicity hounds consider that the more our leaders behaved like every other celebrity, the less reason the public had to believe they were any better, smarter, or more honest than the politically vocal and usually ignorant celebrities who supported them?

A public office is a public trust, and therefore the honor of that office is a gift that the temporary occupant should not trade upon for crass commercial gain and ego fulfillment.  It is bad, and corrupting, enough that the simple fact that they held high office is usually enough to guarantee former officials private sector employment in lobbying firms, universities, law firms and other lucrative enterprises. Still, the institution and positions a former elected leader leaves behind are still deeply affected by the conduct and the reputation of former occupants.

When I first studied Presidential leadership, the consensus among political scientists was that the public perceived the office of the Presidency according to the conduct, reputation, image  and character of George Washington.  Today, thanks to constantly sinking precedents, the public expects lies, excuses incompetence, and shrugs off greed, with the ugly example of the Clintons now reaching depths never envisioned even when Gerald Ford became the star client of the William Morris agency.

Yet somehow I didn’t think it would come to this. I didn’t foresee a former U.S. Senator following the lead of Marie Osmond and Kirstie Alley, and becoming a shill for a diet supplement.  I am so damn naive sometimes. I assumed that an ex-Massachusetts Republican Senator would no more follow that seedy path, no matter how much he needed the money,  then Sarah Palin would pose nude for Playboy. Yet here is Scott Brown, serving as spokesperson for AdvoCare products, which resemble Herbalife in their marketing plan and likely legitimacy.

His acceptance of such an undignified and dubious role harms every U.S. Senator, the institution of the Senate, and the republic itself. It further obliterates all pretense of superior character and respect for the institutions they serve from our politicians, and makes every single one of them appear less worthy of office, respectable or dignified in the eyes of citizens and voters. There are essays all over the web right now asking why slimy Donald Trump is polling so well, given that he is boor, a bully, a clod, a huckster and a self-promoting fool.

Scott Brown and the trend he represents is a big reason. “How is Trump any worse that the rest?” Trumps fans will ask. “At least he doesn’t pretend to be something he’s not.”  Dignity and respect for the privilege of public service have always been vital tools of leadership, and prerequisites for attaining it. This was understood for so long that our leaders forgot why those qualities were important.  Now they have neglected both for their own selfish, short-term gains in money, celebrity and ego-gratification, leaving a distrustful public that can no longer distinguish between statesmen and con artists….perhaps because there is no distinction left.

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“Ick Factor” At Its Worst: No, The Bystander Who Took The Video Of Walter Scott’s Shooting Isn’t “Cashing In”

Q. "Oh, ICK! Why would you take money for THAT?" A. Because it's valuable, they want it, and I own it, you idiot.

Q. “Oh, ICK! Why would you take money for THAT?”
A. Because it’s valuable, they want it, and I own it, you idiot.

Slate Magazine’s Josh Voorhees seems to think there is something unseemly about Feidin Santana, the bystander who recorded the film on his smartphone showing North Charleston police officer Michael T. Slager shooting and killing Walter Scott on April 4, seeking payment from news outlets who use his video.

In an article revealing that Santana’s lawyers are making the case that he is entitled to compensation, Voorhees writes, “While it may seem opportunistic to try to make money off a video of someone’s death…” and later,

“Regardless of how you feel about Santana trying to cash in, if nothing else it provides another incentive—albeit a less noble one—for bystanders to whip out their phones and start filming when they see a police confrontation.”

Let me be uncharacteristically blunt: anyone who sees anything unethical, unseemly, ignoble or opportunistic about Santana seeking fair payment for his property when it is being used by news outlets all over the country as if the video was shot by their own employees is either… Continue reading

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Case Study In Cultural Ethics Rot: “Bin Laden Shooter” Robert O’Neill

Dead, but still helping to corrupt our culture...

Yes, dead, but still helping to corrupt our culture…

Do you remember all those World War II, Korean War and Vietnam veterans who published books and gave interviews taking personal credit for the successes of the United Armed Services? No, neither do I, because there weren’t very many. The ethical culture of military organizations has always been that the unit is what matters, not the individual. For a soldier to seek credit, accolades and celebrity through his own disclosures was regarded as disgraceful conduct, and a betrayal of military honor and tradition.

Those values, and the important larger cultural values that they reinforce, are crumbling rapidly. Former Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill, one of many U.S. special forces members to storm Osama bin Laden’s compound on May 2, 2011, confirmed to The Washington Post that he was the unnamed SEAL who fired the fatal bullet at the terrorist leader. His decision to make himself an instant celebrity and speaker circuit star comes nearly two years after another Seal in the mission, Matt Bissonnette, published his account of the raid, “No Easy Day.” The Post says that O’Neill has endured “an agonizing personal struggle, as he weighed concerns over privacy and safety against a desire to have a least some control over a story that appeared likely to break, with or without his consent.” There is no struggle if O’Neill accepted that fact that his ethical obligation is to shut up, and not dishonor his colleagues, his profession and his country by choosing celebrity over preserving a vital ethical standard.

Will future Seals jeopardize the success of their missions as each tries to deliver the “money shot” that will literally result in millions? Why wouldn’t they, now that soldiers are absorbing the American culture’s obsession with cashing in and becoming famous as the primary objective of human existence? Like all ethical standards, the tradition of soldiers neither seeking individual credit nor wanting it had strong practical reasons for its existence. A military unit is the ultimate team, and no team can function at maximum efficiency if the members regard themselves as competing for glory. Continue reading

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