When Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring: The Michael Bublé Video

International singing superstar Michael Bublé has  been joined by his wife, Luisana Lopilato, on Instagram Live every day during the pandemic, entertaining his homes-bound fans. However, as you can see in the video above, a moment last week in which he elbowed Luisana with a hint of malice during a recent video livestream had creepy vibes, and it disturbed many viewers. The moment took only a second: as she started speaking over him, he made deliberate contact with her in a flash of anger, and she apologize to him. The celebrity news media, always eager for a scandal, publicized and criticized the incident, as the singer was flamed on social media.

I heard about the episode, and approached it assuming that it was a #MeToo over-reaction, with the singer becoming an innocent target being prepared as q sacrifice  for the greater good of womankind. Then I saw the clip, as well as some of the others shown in the  video above. Boy. I don’t know.

What I saw would make (and has made, in the past)  me very nervous if I observed the same kinds of interactions and body language between any couple I engaged with socially. How hard should it be to display good manners and not engage in questionable conduct like that on a live TV broadcast? The fact that the singer reacted instinctively in such an ugly manner strongly suggests that this is normal conduct for him, or worse, that he was restraining himself. Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Barbara Harris (1935-2018)

“Everyone gets acting mixed up with the desire to be famous, but some of us really just stumbled into the fame part, while we were really just interested in the process of acting.”

—Actress Barbara Harris, who died last month at the age of 83.  The statement was quoted in he New York Times obituary from an interview she gave in 2002.

If you didn’t know Barbara Harris had died—indeed, if you didn’t know who Barbara Harris was—it is a measure of her integrity that she would have been pleased. I knew Harris’s work well (though I found out she had died just recently), but only because I have long been dedicated to show business history. Indeed, she was one of my favorite actresses who was a welcome accent to any movie she deigned to appear in, striking, but not beautiful, versatile, but not flashy, funny when the role required it, powerful when the challenge was dramatic or tragic, always a bit off-center, always surprising, never predictable.

She was an off-center ethics hero too, by rejecting the malady not only of her era but of her chosen profession as well. Barbara Harris rejected celebrity as a career goal or a life value, sneered at fame, and believed that it was what you accomplished in life that mattered, not how well-known or admired you became by accomplishing it. Harris often chose her projects according to how obscure she thought they would be, and actively avoided recognition. What a marvelous obsession! In her case, it was also an ironic one, because the most quirky and unpromising projects often became viable because she elevated them.

Her entire career was proof of the wisdom of Harry Truman’s great observation, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” Harris did not care about the credit, but she accomplished a great deal. As a young teenaged actress who loved the process of improvisation, she was a founding member of the Second City improvisational theater in 1959, planting the seeds that gave our culture too many comic geniuses to count, along with Saturday Night Live and everything it spawned as well. Harris was the very first performer to appear on stage for Second City, in fact.  From there it was stardom on Broadway, often with her more famous Second City pals Alan Alda and Alan Arkin. She starred in a the musical  “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” (Harris could sing, too); “Oh Dad Poor Dad Mama’s Hung You In The Closet And I’m Feeling So Sad”; and “The Apple Tree” (and won a Tony Award in 1967). Her movies included a classic Harris turn in A Thousand Clowns (1965), Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? (which got her an Oscar nomination in 1971), Nashville (1975),the first Freaky Friday (1976) opposite Jody Foster, Hitchcock’s last film, Family Plot (1976), the cool, clever nostalgic spoof  Movie Movie (1978) that I bet you have never seen, a seering performance as the betrayed wife of a Senator in The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979), and her final film, Grosse Pointe Blank  in 1997. Then she retired from performing to teach acting.

During Harris’s career, she did none of the things actors typically do to keep their name before the public—no talk shows, few guest appearances on TV, no celebrity cameos on “Murder She Wrote” or “The Love Boat.” Somehow she instinctively understood that it wasn’t popularity or fame that defined her worth, or any human bieng’s worth, and refused to allow our society’s corrupting elebrity obsession of  warp her values or dictate her needs.

For me, Barbara Harris’s defining moment occurs at the end of the perfect movie for her, Robert Altman’s rambling, improvisational film “Nashville,” which is, among other things, about the sick obsession with fame and fortune that Barbara Harris rejected. Harris has few lines, and plays a runaway middle-aged wife who is determined to be a Country Western star. Her efforts are desperate, pathetic, and darkly comic, but at the film’s climax, when a famous singer is shot at a political rally for a renegade Presidential candidate, she grabs the suddenly open microphone of the fallen star she envies, and begins to sing in the chaos.

Let’s watch it now, and remember a woman and an artist of unshakable integrity and dedication to her art, and only her art.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/27/18: Everything Is Spinning Out Of Control!!!

Good MORNING, everyone!!!

(And good morning, little Louie..)

1. The state of American journalism, CNN’s Headline News quadrant: A recent poll claims that 50% of Republicans regard the news media as “enemies of the people.” Just because it is actively manipulating the news to try to topple the President of the United States? How unreasonable! No, I am beginning to believe that the 21st Century U.S. news media is really the Enemy of the Cerebral Cortex. On HLN this morning, James Comey’s disastrous interview on Fox News yesterday (among about 400 other stories of more relevance to Americans) was deemed newsworthy, but not one but two royal family stories were: the wedding dress for the American woman whose name I can’t remember who is going to marry the British prince who doesn’t matter on a date I don’t give a damn about, and, again, what the new royal great-grandchild’s name will be. The breathless reporting on these two world-altering events took over 10 out of the 40 minutes the network devotes to news rather than pharmaceutical commercials, a full 25%.

But that’s not all. HLN newsbabe Robin Meade emulated “Best in Show’s” Fred Willard’s cruelly hilarious send-up of Joe Garagiola’s embarrassingly lunk-headed turns as a “color man” at the Westminster Dog Show by asking the dumbest question, I think, I have ever heard on the air. If you haven’t seen “Best in Show” a) What’s the matter with you? and b) here are typical questions asked by Willard during the fictional dog show’s broadcast as “Buck Laughlin,” an ex-pro athlete, to his British dog expert  (“Trevor Beckwith”) co-host and others:

“Now tell me, which one of these dogs would you want to have as your wide receiver on your football team?”

“Doctor, question that’s always bothered me and a lot of people: Mayflower, combined with Philadelphia – a no-brainer, right? Cause this is where the Mayflower landed. Not so. It turns out Columbus actually set foot somewhere down in the West Indies. Little known fact.”

“Now that looks like a fast dog. Is that faster than a greyhound? If you put them in a race, who would come in first? You know if you had a little jockey on them…”

Robin, however, against all odds, topped Buck, asking the British reporter, after learning that the new total would be named, “Louis,”

“Now in American, when we hear that name we immediately think, “Louie Louie, oh no, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, baby.” Is that the way it is in England too? “

Continue reading

The Disgraceful Exploitation Of Ken Bone, With This Ethics Note: Ken Is 100% Correct That Trayvon Martin’s Shooting Was Justified, While Journalists And Pundits Who Criticize Him For Saying So Are Big Lie Purveyors

ken-bone

I’m glad I could clear that up.

Poor Ken Bone, the man in the red sweater who was chosen as a designated undecided voter to ask a question at the last debate, embodies Andy Warhol’s “15 minutes of fame” comment because, apparently, the news media has to come up with trivia to write about so it doesn’t have to inform the public about substance they actually need to know about. The perfectly unremarkable man chosen to ask a question at this fake “town meeting” should have been allowed to do his job and then go back to his normal life, but no. Silliness demanded that he be lionized and bestowed with celebrity status. Even the usually rational Jake Tapper got into the act, telling his viewers…

All day long, my staff and I, we’ve been pondering this important question, “What makes Ken Bone so awesome?” …Why do we all find him so charming? Is it the red sweater? That was actually his backup outfit after he says he split his pants to his olive-cover colored suit. Maybe it’s the mustache? Perhaps it’s the disposable camera he used to snap pics after the debate. Ken Bone’s name started trending online during the debate. Now, Mr. Bone is making the TV interview rounds. He told CNN earlier today about his new following on Twitter…. He’s even more awesome than ever, just watching that clip. [His Twitter following]  is more than 30,000 now, and the Ken Bone memes are everywhere. There’s Ken Bone with the 90s rap group, Bone Thugs-n- Harmony. How about the Ken Bone Halloween costume?

How about stopping the condescension and tongue in cheek mockery, Jake? Yeccch. It is nothing less than cruel to throw someone into the maw of celebrity like this, a throbbing neon target to social media bullies and the Twitter Furies who have nothing more productive to do in their mean, measly, pointless lives than mock, ridicule and attack a citizen who tried to participate responsibly in an irresponsible election. Now he is under national scrutiny for his clothing, his weight and his moustache. What is wrong with these people? Is the Golden Rule extinct?

Don’t blame Ken because he accepted invitations to appear on TV after his big moment. He’s never been a celebrity before. If he had done some research, he would have discovered that most ordinary Americans thrust into the celebrity machine come to regret it, but for him this is different, this is exciting, this is fun! He gets flown to places he’s never been, and put up at nice hotels, and treated like royalty. Some ad agencies will try to recruit him for a disposable commercial or two: who turns down money? Who turns away from their 15 minutes, if it comes? Would you? We can’t blame him, because he is a good person, and good people often make the dangerous mistake of assuming that the people they deal with, like the news media are also good people. Unfortunately, they cannot be trusted.

Thus what has happened to Ken Bone was completely predictable. Having been built up by irresponsible journalists like Tapper into something he never asked to be—National Puppy of the Month would be a good name for it—it was inevitable that other irresponsible journalists would see cheap columns and clicks from tearing Bone down. Even though Bone had told the media that he was leaning toward voting for Clinton, vicious  progressives—the mistreatment of Ken Bone comes entirely from the left—dissected his comments when he  participated in an “Ask Me Anything” forum on  Reddit, using them to denigrate him. They also went back to check other statements he had made on the site. What they found was virtually nothing; I find myself imagining what these cruel, unethical people would do with everything I’ve written online. Never mind: it was enough. In response to “Truth or Dare” style questioning, Ken…

  • Admitted that he watched porn and peeked at Jennifer Lawrence’s nude photos when they were hacked.
  • Admitted to forging insurance documents so that he could keep a pizza delivery job. This, despicably, was headline on some sites as “insurance fraud.” It is not insurance fraud. It is lying. Insurance fraud occurs when someone collect insurance payments based on false representations, not when someone falsely claims to be insured.

“Worst of all,” we were told, and thus most publicized of all, Bone opined months ago that Trayvon Martin’s shooting was “justified.”

The Horror.

It is part of the current politically correct narrative to keep Black Lives Matter from being properly recognized as the racist propaganda organization that it is for the progressive community to preserve and protect the Big Lie that George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin because he was black. The lie persists on liberal websites; it was enabled at the Democratic National Convention when Martin’s mother was allowed on stage in a mass pander to the victims of police shootings; it is advanced every time Martin’s name is included in the litany of young black men supposedly killed by a “systemic racism.” Whatever other cases may show, Trayvon Martin’s death only stands for racism and murder because unscrupulous, dishonest, and on occasion ignorant activists, politicians and journalists want it to.

There has never been any evidence that George Zimmerman profiled Martin, who was a stranger walking through a gated community at night. MSNBC even altered a 911 tape to make it sound like this was the case, and a Big Lie was born. There has never been any evidence that prior to the tragic encounter, Zimmerman had  expressed racist views. The evidence that is available shows that Martin confronted Zimmerman, not the other way around. Finally, investigators established that Zimmerman was being beaten by Martin and reasonably felt in mortal danger when he shot the teen. Those are the facts, and based on those facts, a jury properly acquitted Zimmerman of murder applying the doctrine of self-defense, which made the death of Martin a legally justified killing under Florida law and all criminal law going back centuries. Bone’s comment on Reddit…

bone-tweet

…is entirely accurate, fair, and reasonable. Continue reading

Ethics Alarms Presents A New Category: “Trump Of The Month” And Congratulates The First Recipient, Kelly Osbourne

From this day on, “Trump of the Month” will recognize those individuals who are accorded the benefits of celebrity, public attention, trust and credibility despite  demonstrating beyond any shadow of a doubt their lack of  the character, judgment or acumen to justify such status.

With that important announcement, Ethics Alarms now designates its first Trump of the Month, the daughter of elderly British rock star Ozzie Osbourne, Kelly Osbourne. She is described these days as a “television personality,” the rocking-chair career also occupied, at a slightly higher level, by Osbourne’s opinionated wife, Sharon. Both Osbournes owe their millions in dollars and fans to the fact that they are related to Ozzie, and nothing else—and Ozzie was a drug-addled, half-forgotten has-been when some bright TV executive, inspired by his name and the idea of doing a reality show parody of “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” the sine qua non of unfunny whitebread Fifties family sitcoms, gave him a second bite at fame.

Kelly’s got nothing, and I am being generous. She is not especially attractive, has no talent, has never uttered a perceptive comment in her life, and should fall down on her knees and thank providence that she is not living in a two room apartment in Gary trying to make ends meet as a temp. Because, however, she acquired that most important of all assets, at least to star-struck Americans, fame, by appearing weekly in a long-past reality show about the dysfunctional family of a mumbling boob with a lot of money (that would be Ozzie), she has been tapped to deliver verdicts on everything from fashion (Kelly herself likes to dye her hair lavender) to the administration of Barack Obama. Why are so many citizens ill-informed and eagerly embracing the dubious leadership abilities of Trump, Clinton or Sanders? Paying attention to “authorities” like Kelly are part of the reason. Compared to Kelly Osbourne, the Kardashians look like the Algonquin Roundtable.

Kelly Osbourne earned the initial Trump of the Month by engaging in the kind of slimy conduct that in a sane culture would ensure permanent obscurity and antipathy. Her parents recently announced that they were getting a divorce because Sharon found incriminating e-mails that proved Ozzie had been fooling around with  Sharon’s hairdresser. In response, pundit Kelly tweeted this classy tweet to her FOUR MILLION followers on Twitter:

kelly-osbourne-tweet-

Continue reading

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.

KABOOM! The University of Houston Is Paying Matthew McConaughey $135,000 To Give A Commencement Speech

head blowsThis isn’t just your usual, run-of-the-head Kaboom! where my brains go everywhere after a story makes my head explode. This is an angry Kaboom! where I kick my brain chunks around in disgust before the clean-up.

There is no possible excuse for this. The University is taxpayer funded, and if I lived in Houston, I’d be picketing graduation. The University announced in January that the 2013 Academy award-winner was speaking but avoided revealing his fee, until the persistent  the Houston Chronicle got the word on March 31. The paper said that the Celebrity Talent agency tried to block  the Chronicle’s Freedom of Information requests, arguing “that if UH tells the public how much it plans to pay McConaughey, a ‘reporter or someone’ might create ‘unfair negatives online.’ Yes, I think that was a reasonable assumption.

Scattered thoughts as I clean up the mess: Continue reading

Remembering Another False “Memory”: The Rosenblats, Oprah, and the Holocaust Love Story

Herman and Roma

Herman and Roma

Somehow I missed this story, because if I had noticed it, I know I would have written about it. Maybe you missed it too.

Herman Rosenblat died on Feb. 5, and his death was noted in several publications, not for his life, which included surviving the Holocaust, but because of a charming story he told that turned out to false. He had written in a memoir about a mysterious young girl on the other side of the barbed wire fence who help kept him alive as a starving teenage inmate at Buchenwald. As recounted in another book:

“He saw her pull something from her pocket. An apple? She squinted, gauging the distance between them, swung her arm in a few practice throws, then hurled the apple with a force that surprised him. The fruit flew across most of the distance between them before it dropped to the ground, rolled under the fence and landed just inches beyond the wire on Herman’s side.”

Day after day, the same mysterious “angel,” as he thought of her, risked her life by throwing apples to him over the fence.

Twelve years after the war, he had a blind date in Coney Island. His date told him about her experiences in Europe during the war, and how she wondered what had become of a young boy she remembered throwing apples to in a German death camp.  Stunned, Herman said that he asked, “Did he wear rags on his feet instead of shoes?”  When she answered that he did, Herman exclaimed, ‘That boy was me!” They were married, and it was a loving union that lasted 56 years. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: On Cosby, Clinton, And An Ethics Dunce Convention In Melbourne, Florida

Why can't a serial rapist be funny and cute?

Why can’t a serial rapist be funny and cute?

Frequent commenter aaronpaschal weighed in with this rich post on the Bill Cosby matter. I will hold my response to the end, because there is much to consider here, and much I disagree with. However, aaron has articulated well the thoughts many are having about the Cos, and I am grateful for the exposition. Here is his Comment of the Day regarding the post, On Cosby, Clinton, And An Ethics Dunce Convention In Melbourne, Florida.

I don’t know if I fully believe the allegations. I don’t know if the girls and women involved should bear some responsibility for choosing to become impaired. I don’t know if Cosby’s career will long survive this uproar – Netflix is dropping all of Cosby’s works in response, and that’ll cost someone a pretty penny.

But I do know that I don’t feel completely at ease with the notion that he faces ruin. That there is no evidence, no words, nothing he could present in his own defense. No courtroom, no trial, no lawyers. That the man who allegedly committed these acts did so a lifetime ago. I’ll admit that the women who have come out don’t have much tangibly to gain – but I also know all too well that revenge, hatred, defending existent lies, even merely time in the spotlight can be powerful motivators for some people (bearing in mind that pursuing justice, speaking the truth, and protecting the innocent are well – it could be any of them, all of them, or more.) There must, however, be SOME motive somewhere, or they would not be stepping forward – if there was truly nothing to gain.

But I do know that his works have always made me laugh, and I will appreciate them for years to come. I know I’ve heard wisdom from him, and these crimes don’t change the wisdom, either. I might not choose to leave my daughter alone with him. And I know that the court of public opinion makes very few wise choices, it is a terrible thing to be tried by it, guilty or innocent, and true justice is rarely found there.

Continue reading

On Cosby, Clinton, And An Ethics Dunce Convention In Melbourne, Florida

Cosby billboard

It is kind of funny, isn’t it, to hear and read the shocked reactions of pundits to the fact that probable serial rapist Bill Cosby got a standing ovation from his concert crowd of 2100 in Melbourne, Florida last night? “What could this mean?” they ask. Does this mean that Cosby’s popularity will survive the onslaught of women reporting that he drugged and raped them years ago? Well, no, it means that 2100 people who paid premium prices to see Bill Cosby and attended his concert even after hearing more than sufficient evidence that he is a sick hypocrite like Bill Cosby.

Wow.

What a surprise.

Nor should it be any surprise that that many people will adopt rationalizations and tortured logic to avoid confronting the cognitive dissonance resulting from a self-styled moral exemplar having a spectacularly immoral, indeed criminal, past. After all, the Democratic National Convention, with a lot more that 2,100 in attendance, cheered serial sexual harasser and sexual predator William Jefferson Clinton as he spoke to a throng protesting Republican attitudes toward women, as progressive journalists and pundits from MSNBC to the New York Times nodded in approval.

Unrelated, you say? Wrong. The phenomenon is exactly the same, and therein lies a serious problem for Hillary Clinton. The rationalizations used to rescue her husband from accountability for his decades long abuse of women are exactly the same as those being used now by Cosby’s desperate fans to try to keep laughing at the wise humor of the icon who includes in his storehouse of wisdom such nuggets as… Continue reading