Tag Archives: celebrities

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/16/2018: “Ozark,” Slandering Irving, And Language Showdown At Taco Bell [UPDATED!]

Good Morning!

1. Call me an old ethics fogey, but I don’t think these kinds of TV series are culturally healthy. I’ve been watching the Netflix series “Ozark,” and hating myself for it. The show is well acted and even has its ethics dilemmas, but like “Breaking Bad,” which was obviously its inspiration, there are no admirable characters, and the “heroes” are criminals. In the Golden Age of TV, there were unwritten (and sometimes written) rules that shows could not rationalize, trivialize or romanticize illegal, immoral or unethical behavior, and needed to reaffirm positive values. In “Ozark,” “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul,” the latter’s spin-off, as well as “House of Cards,” and “Shameless,” among others, there are virtually no admirable characters at all. I have been watching “Ozark” in part because I like the actors, in part because there’s nothing I want to watch anywhere else except baseball, and, yes, in part because of voyeurism. Still, it makes me want to take a shower, and I fell that the increasing tendency of Hollywood to portray everything and everyone as corrupt makes a “the ends justify the means” rationalization seem like a matter of survival.

2. Post-mortem slander, again. This is a recurring theme here: a famous person is deliberately misrepresented in a dramatic depiction, and legally there is nothing that can be done about it. The First Amendment protects the practice, but it is still wrong, it still leads to public misconceptions, and it still sullies the reputations and legacies of important figures in history who deserve better.

In a recent one-man show Off- Broadway about American song-wrting legend Irving Berlin, writer-performer Hershey Felder portrays Berlin in his dotage as ” a miserable fossil so twisted with rage and zonked on Nembutal that he shooed away carolers who came to his Beekman Place window to serenade him with ‘White Christmas’,”  shrieking “They don’t deserve it,”  meaning the gift of his iconic song. That’s not what happened, however; not even close, according to the Times review of the show:

When he was 95, Berlin not only let those carolers into the house on Beekman Place but also kissed and hugged them and (according to some reports) poured them hot cocoa. “This is the nicest Christmas gift I ever got,” he said.

UPDATE: I relied on the New York Times review for this comment, and not for the first time, trusting the Times to play straight may have been a mistake. Reader Eric Herrault has a very different view, and I am appending his comment here:

In a website however that discusses ethics I think it is important to call attention to the real serious problem here. The quoted “review” in the New York Times of The BERLIN piece, was some kind of personal grudge hatchet job against the performing artist. This brainless reviewer does not describe the show I saw, or in fact the show at all. This is easily provable by seeing the show itself, or having a look at every other New York outlet, major and minor. Nowhere does anyone suggest this twisted and bizarre take on Irving Berlin. The one place it is suggested however, is by the reviewer himself, as he links to and then lauds a review of the book As Thousands Cheer about Berlin, that calls Berlin terrible things and worse. And yet, somehow this neanderthal supports that utter nonsense. The show is full of joy and laughter from beginning to end, with a sad feeling lived too long and the world having passed him by. The ethics violation here is that this disturbed reviewer (for whatever reason) is allowed to write in the first place.

Continue reading

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“Authentic Frontier Gibberish” Of The Year: Stevie Wonder

“This thing I just feel that all these various diseases that we have and all these things that are happening in the world in part is because there are those who don’t believe in global warming, don’t believe that what we do affects the world. what we eat affects the world. and affects us.And I just hope that people will grow up and grow out of the foolishness and know that we all by how we think how we do how we treat others we will never unlock the key until we truly let go the hatred the bigotry the evilness the selfishness when we do that then we can unlock some of those things that keep us in this place.”

—Pop legend Stevie Wonder, explaining why Aretha Franklin died, or something, on “CBS This Morning”

Why is this unethical? It’s irresponsible for celebrities with the education of prunes and the critical thinking facility of  baby ocelots to make their fans and anyone else afflicted with the delusion that being famous equates  to being wise dumber than they already are. Shut up and sing, Stevie. Aretha died of pancreatic cancer, and if you can prove that this deadly disease is linked to global warming, let’s see your research data.

It is also unethical for any TV news host who listens to a guest utter incoherent nonsense like this not to respond, “What the hell are you babbling about?” or words to that effect. Opinions are fine, and, withing limits, can be endured without rebuttal. Non-factual crap, like global warming causing cancer—actually, Stevie literally said that people not believing in global warming causes cancer, like not believing in fairies kills Tinkerbell.—has to be fixed, on the air, immediately. If you have dolts like Wonder on camera, you better be prepared to clean up the messes they leave.

Sad to say, Gabby Johnson made more sense than Stevie Wonder.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/21/18: Road Trip Edition

Good Morning!

We’re just about to hit the road and return home, with a 6 hour drive ahead and a car that periodically flashed “TRANS FAIL PROG.” at  us before the engine stops. Gotta get that checked! Thanks for bearing with me during the past few days. Now that I have my little laptop charged, I have less than a n hour of access to the hotel internet. I hate road trips…

1. What exactly are the #MeToo rules? Obviously they are too complicated for me. I’m going to devote a whole post to this soon, but I wouldn’t mind some advance feedback. Pretty clearly, whatever the rules are, they are ripe with double standards. How can the Democrats and feminists justify standing behind DNC co-chair Keith Ellison, for example, who has been credibly accused of domestic violence? How can feminists and scholars still support Avitell Ronell, whose situation I wrote about here? 

It seems pretty clear, does it not, that race, gender, and political orientation change the rules, right? Of course, the King’s Pass is also in play, as it usually is. I wonder how Al Franken feels right now. Will Bill Clinton be “in” again? Is the new standard that women should be believed when they accuse men of sexual assault as long as their alleged abuser is white, Christian or Jewish, or a Republican? It is particularly peculiar that Ellison’s denials are being taken seriously, since his record of candor is shaky at best. Senator Gillibrand, who led the charge to run Franken out of office, hasn’t exhibited any similar indignation regarding Ellison. Why is that?

2. Wait, I thought President Trump was a Nazi…Jakiw Palij, who claimed he was working on a farm and in a factory during World War II when he applied for U.S. citizenship, had that citizenship revoked in 2003 by a federal judge, and he was ordered to be deported a year later. His appeal was denied in 2005. But he stayed..and stayed…. in the United States until now, because, as we know, the Obama Administration didn’t think deporting people who have no business being here should be a major priority, and the Bush administration, as was often the case, wasn’t paying attention. The  problem was, we are told, that no nation would take Palij, even Germany, which has the ethical obligation to be accountable for all Nazis, living and dead. It appears that Germany relented because this President was willing to go to the mat on the principle.

Trump deserves credit for pushing to do what the previous administrations didn’t care enough about to do. He’ won’t get it, except on Fox News, the hacks. Continue reading

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First They Came For The Baseball Players: The ‘Hader Gotcha’ Catches On…

Sonny Gray, who should be punished today for a Twitter joke he made six years ago….

I’ve written about this new blight on the American scene three times since a creep trying to embarrass Milwaukee pitcher Josh Hader tracked down some offensive tweets he made in high school, causing Major league Baseball to sentence him to re-education. Not content with the MLB over-reaction, pompous, social justice warrior thought-control purveyors in the sports media like NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra and Bill Baer declaimed that he must be made an example of, shunned, cooked, and eaten, or something.  Hader’s pathetic grovel to the mob was so amusing that two more baseball players were quickly subjected to The Hader Gotcha–that will be the Ethics Alarms label to this poison—with similar results (and more obnoxious virtue-signaling by Calcaterra and Baer). Atlanta Braves starter Sean Newcomb had his Twitter history searched by some resentful Dodger fan while he was  pitching a near no-hitter  against LA, with the result that  Newcomb had to deny that he was a racist and a bigot. Next, some Washington Nationals hater did the same to shortstop Trea Turner, posting old Turner tweets from his college days at North Carolina State University. [The third time I wrote about the phenomenon was in a non-baseball context, when “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn was fired by Disney because a conservative hit man did a twitter dig and found some of his old tweets.]

Isn’t this great? You can be a sad and lonely schlub with  a trivial, insignificant, powerless, witless existence, and yet bring a successful, rich, popular baseball player to his metaphorical knees!  Just  find and publicize some ill-considered,  impulsive  tweets sent when fame and fortune weren’t even twinkles in the future star’s eye, and the nascent athlete was trying to make do with the under-developed brain of a typical male under the age of 25. Why, it’s even better than dropping rocks on cars as they go under an overpass, or releasing computer viruses! What a rush! Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady

Hear me out, for I am, as regular readers here know, far from a Brady fan, despite my Boston bona fides. In fact, I think he shares the atrocious ethics values of his coach, which can be fairly summed up as “the ends justify the means” and “it ain’t cheating if you can get away with it.”

This, however, is a completely different area,  the toxic, values-rotting narcissism and obsession with surface beauty and impossible ideals in appearance that has made the nation sillier, more trivial, meaner, neurotic, insecure and less productive.

After the above photo of the 40 year-old quarterback with his model wife, Gisele Bundchen, surfaced online last week, the Patriots super-star was beset with social media snark attacking his “dad bod” and declaring him out of shape.

Whether it is intentional or not, Brady is to be thanked, admired and praised for appearing in public absent ripped abs and bulging muscles, and even some healthy fat visible in moderation, and doing so without shame. This is how normal people look, and should be allowed to look without comment or criticism. Once upon a time, not so long ago, before Nautilus and health club chains, celebrity athletes and he-men were judged on what they did, and not how chiselled and bulked-up they looked off the field or between films. This now extinct attitude was known as rationality and proportionality. Thus Joe Louis, the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time.. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/18/2018: Moral Luck, Non-Hypocrisy, Hypocrisy, Thomas Jefferson And WKRP

Good morning, Monticello, everyone…

1 The Inspector General’s Report and Tales of Moral Luck:  Stop me if you’ve heard this one: FBI staffer Peter Strzok, working on both the Hillary Clinton email investigation and the Russian collusion investigation, received a text from Lisa Page, Strzok’s co-worker and adulterous lover, that read, “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Strzok replied, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”

 September of 2016, the FBI discovered that Clinton’s illicit emails had somehow ended up on the laptop of disgraced former Congressman. Anthony Weiner, who is married to Hillary’s top aide and confidante, Huma Abedin.  Strzok, we learn in Michael Horowitz’s report, was instrumental in  the decision not to pursue the lead, arguing that the Russia investigation was a “higher priority” at the time.”We found this explanation unpersuasive and concerning,” the report concluded. The laptop was available from September 29 until October 27, when “people outside the FBI” finally forced  the FBI to act on the evidence. “The FBI had all the information it needed on September 29 to obtain the search warrant that it did not seek until more than a month later,” the IG report stated. “The FBI’s neglect had potentially far-reaching consequences.”

“Comey told the OIG that, had he known about the laptop in the beginning of October and thought the email review could have been completed before the election, it may have affected his decision to notify Congress,” the IG report says, and also states,

“Under these circumstances, we did not have confidence that Strzok’s decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over follow up on the [Clinton] investigative lead discovered on the Weiner laptop was free from bias.”

Got that? The IG believes that anti-Trump, pro-Hillary bias led Strzok to delay the Weiner laptop investigation, and it may have backfired, helping Trump and hurting Clinton rather than the reverse. But the fact that moral luck took a hand and foiled his intent doesn’t change the fact that this is strong evidence that partisan bias DID infect the Clinton investigation, and probably the Russian inquiry as well. This makes the media’s spin that the IG report dispels accusations of bias even more unconscionable.

That Strzok’s biased and unethical tactics to help Hillary intimately failed spectacularly doesn’t change or mitigate the fact that a prime FBI staff member was intentionally trying yo manipulate the investigation for partisan reasons.

2. The Web thinks you’re an awful person.  A tease from a “sponsored site” in the margins of my NBC Sports baseball feed  says, “Jan Smithers starred in hit sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati.” Try not to smile when you see what she looks like now!” Wait…what’s that’s supposed to mean? Is she a circus clown? No, these and similar come-ons apparently assume that normal people love mocking formerly beautiful young stars when they no longer look young. “Heh, heh..well, Jan Smithers, I guess you’re not so hot now, are you? What kind of person takes pleasure in the physical decay of others just because they were once gorgeous?

Actually, the photo of Jan Smithers did make me smile, because unlike, say, Jane Fonda,

…who at 80 has allowed plastic surgeons to make her look like one of the fragile immortal female ghouls who shatter into pieces at the end of “Death Becomes Her,” Smithers (who is younger than me and a decade and a half younger than Hanoi Jane) has allowed herself to age naturally, and by my admittedly biased lights, is lovely still: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/3/2018: Katie’s Rationalization, Teachers’ Extortion, Rudy’s Zugswang, And Kanye’s Influence

Goooood morning!

(I thought it was time for “Singin’ in the Rain” again. Of course, it is always time for “Singin’ in the Rain”…)

1. And that’s when you know…When alleged sexual harassers are accused, the way you know whether they are guilty or not often depends on whether the floodgates open, and large numbers of other women step forward. This was Bill Cosby’s downfall. Now we learn that 27 more victims of Charlie Rose have raised their metaphorical hands. Sorry, Charlie!

The mystery to me is why  current and former colleagues of outed abusers and harassers so often rush to defend them, even post #MeToo, and even women. I suppose is cognitive dissonance again: the defenders have high regard for the harasser, and simply can’t process the fact that they may have been engaged in awful conduct. Katie Couric’s defense of Matt Lauer, however, is especially damning.

Variety reported that Lauer’s office had a button that allowed him to remotely lock his office door when he had female prey within his grasp…

“His office was in a secluded space, and he had a button under his desk that allowed him to lock his door from the inside without getting up. This afforded him the assurance of privacy. It allowed him to welcome female employees and initiate inappropriate contact while knowing nobody could walk in on him, according to two women who were sexually harassed by Lauer.”

Yet on “The Wendy Williams Show” this week, Couric “explained”…

“I think the whole button thing, you know? I think — NBC — a lot of stuff gets misreported and blown out of proportion. A lot of NBC executives, they make it sound like some kind of den of inequity. I don’t know what was happening. A lot of NBC executives have those buttons that opened and closed doors… They did. I mean, it was really just a privacy thing. It wasn’t..Honestly I think it was an executive perk that some people opted to have and I don’t think it was a nefarious thing. I really don’t. And I think that is misconstrued….”

Wowsers. First, Couric is intentionally blurring the facts, using “open and close” as a euphemism for “unlock and lock.” I guarantee that no button would cause the office door to swing open or swing closed, as Couric suggested. I’ve searched for such a device: all I can find are remote office door locking mechanisms. Second, while it is true that other NBC execs once had that feature, it appears that Lauer was “was one of the few, if not the only, NBC News employee to have one,”a senior NBC News employee told the Washington Post.

Second, Couric is engaging in The Golden Rationalization: “Everybody does it.”

2.  Extortion works! Arizona’s governor signed a 9% pay increase for the state’s teachers, because the teachers engaged in a wildcat strike, kids were missing school, and parents couldn’t go to work without their state funded child-sitters. I’m not going to analyze whether the teachers demands were right or wrong, because it doesn’t matter. The teachers’ tactic was unethical, just like the Boston police strike in 1919 was unethical, just like  the air traffic controllers strike in  1981. In the former, Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge (what happened to that guy?) famously fired all the striking cops, saying in part that  “The right of the police of Boston to affiliate has always been questioned, never granted, is now prohibited…There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.” President Reagan quoted Cal when he fired the air traffic controllers and eliminated its union.

Striking against children and their education is also a strike against the public safety. What now stops the teachers, in Arizona or anywhere else, from using similar extortion tactics for more raise, policies they favor, or any other objective?  What was lacking here was political leadership possessing the integrity and courage to tell the teachers to do their jobs during negotiations, or be fired.

This precedent will rapidly demonstrate why public unions are a menace to democracy Continue reading

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