Memorial Day Weekend Ethics Warm-Up, 5/25/2019: Julian, Conan, Naomi, and Ousamequin

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

It’s going to be a Sousa weekend here. The piece above is one I bet you haven’t heard before. President Chester A. Arthur ordered Sousa to compose a replacement for  1812’s   “Hail to the Chief,” which had announced Presidents since John Quincy Adams, although it went in and out of fashion. (President Polk, it is said, always had “Hail to the Chief” played because he was so physically unimpressive that nobody noticed when he entered a room without the fanfare!) After Arthur left office, Presidents returned to to”Hail to Chief,” and Eisenhower made it the official tune of the office in 1954.

1. A First Amendment stretch. Julian Assange has been indicted. Good. He conspired with a weak-minded and troubled soldier to prompt him, now her, to steal U.S. secrets so he could publish them and promote his anarchist website, Wikileaks. The act almost certainly got U.S. agents killed and did other irreparable harm. Assange isn’t a journalist, and publishing stolen classified information isn’t journalism. Naturally journalists are lining up to defend Assange, especially the New York Times, which was the beneficiary of the Pentagon Papers ruling. They see a conviction of Assange the way abortion zealots see bans on late-term abortions: a camel’s nose in the tent, the slippery slope.

The use of journalistic publications as illegal document laundering devices has always been the least compelling aspect of First Amendment protection of freedom of the Press. I have never believed that it was a wise and fair protection, and if Assange’s just desserts weaken the right of newspapers to publish troop movements,  private citizens’ tax returns, and grand jury proceedings, good.

2. Did Conan O’Brien steal a writer’s jokes? You decide! Here is a joke Robert Kaseberg wrote on Twitter on June 9, 2015: Continue reading

Cleavage Ettiquette


The husband of the President of Finland is being widely ridiculed in the news media after being caught by a journalist’s camera as he plainly ogled the cleavage of  Princess Mary of Denmark and was seemingly caught in the act by the Princess as well. Unfair. He allowed his gaze to linger a bit long, perhaps, and one’s manners are supposed to be somewhat elevated, theoretically, in the presence of royalty, but Pentti Arajarvi was mostly a victim of the sad reality that being discrete, once the primary etiquette requirement of men relentlessly drawn to a woman’s comely assets, is no longer possible in public and often in private as well. President Obama, you will recall, was caught doing a classic male turnaround to catch the spectacle of a perfect female butt passing by.

Even more unfair, and ridiculous, are the opportunistic women’s rights warriors who use such incidents to show how women are still treated as sex objects by men in the workplace and elsewhere. Continue reading

Why Students Lose Respect for School Authorities, Case Study 309,456: “The Red Scare”

Inappropriate, Thomas!

It is not directly relevant to Natalie Munroe’s complaints perhaps, but when students today seem less than in awe of those adults who claim to be qualified to guide them to wisdom and success in school, they often have good cause to be wary. Take the example of Stephanie Plato, a sixth grader at Cobb Elementary School in Houston’s Channelview school district.

Stephanie was suspended from school because the red and blonde highlights her mother let her get died into her hair as a 12th birthday present violated the school’s code of conduct.

You read that right.

We are not talking electric orange here, or anything strange and disruptive. Just a few red highlights in her naturally brown hair. But the school dress code bans “inappropriate hair color”…such as red.  Don’t ask me why. It doesn’t matter why. It is stupid. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week: Alessandra Stanley

“The rule that newer shows need a break should be bent in one case: Conan O’Brien’s ill-fated stint as the host of “The Tonight Show” wasn’t the best of the year, by a long shot. His nomination for outstanding variety, music or comedy series is a little like President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize — political, premature and meant mostly as an affront to his predecessor.”

New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley, properly tweaking the Emmys for nominating “The Conan O’Brien Show” for reasons that have nothing to do with its quality, which was spotty at best. Continue reading

The Emmys, “South Park,” and Integrity

The Muslim extremist threat that cowed the Comedy Channel into censoring South Park has certainly spawned a bumper crop of unethical attempts at protest. First we had the juvenile “Let’s Insult Islam Because We Can Day” protest, better known as “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day,” which made a lot of completely innocent and law-abiding Muslims upset without accomplishing anything else—not even a good laugh. Now the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, admittedly never a bastion of fairness, honesty or integrity, has made its incoherent protest by nominating the two “South Park” episodes that were censored for. Neither has been viewed intact on Comedy Central, nor are either viewable online. Nonetheless, the Academy says these episodes are among the “best animated programs,” despite the fact that the programs, in the forms that supposedly warrant the honor, have never been seen. Continue reading

Conan on “60 Minutes”: Failing His Own High Standards

Conan O’Brien went on CBS’s “60 Minutes” this week, and managed to carefully trash NBC and Jay Leno without crossing the boundaries laid out in his agreement with NBC, which prohibited him from “disparaging” the network that treated him so abysmally and paid him 30 million dollars in the bargain. I sympathize with Conan. A “60 Minutes” softball interview (CBS is a competitor of NBC, remember, so it likes Conan, an NBC casualty and victim; “60 Minutes” only does tough interviews with people they don’t like) is good for Conan’s image, helps him publicize his national comedy tour and his new deal with TBS, and best of all, allows him to stick it to the people who did him dirt. This would be hard for anyone to resist, and obviously Conaa couldn’t. Still, it would have been better if he had. Continue reading

Ethics Notes on a Busy Week

  • Sen. John McCain, who had well-earned credibility on military matters,  released a statement after the State of the Union address saying that “it would be a mistake” to repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell” as President Obama pledged, and added…

“This successful policy has been in effect for over 15 years, and it is well understood and predominantly supported by our military at all levels. At a time when our Armed Forces are fighting and sacrificing on the battlefield, now is not the time to abandon the policy.”

John, John, John. You have, in other interviews, stated that you served with many gay soldiers who performed their duties with distinction, so the current policy continues a form of bias and discrimination without any  justification. The fact that it may be “successful” is not sufficient reason to continue a practice that is unethical, unfair, and a violation of the principles of civil rights. Success is no excuse for violating core ethical principles; one of the primary justifications for the U.S. allowing torture, an outright violation of the Declaration of Independence, was that it was “successful,” an argument you properly rejected. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Conan O’Brien

I know I just used one of Conan’s farewell comments as the Ethics Quote of the Week, and I know saluting him again risks my being called a Conan booster, which I am not. (Full Disclosure: Conan and I graduated from the same college, and my mother thinks that should matter to me. It doesn’t.) I have also been accused of not having enough Ethics Heroes, and it is a fair beef. I would be remiss not to give Conan that designation for a segment of his “Tonight Show” farewell that I left out of the earlier post. It was this: Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week

“Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”

—-Former “Tonight Show” host Conan O’Brien, bidding farewell in his final show. O’Brien was shabbily treated by NBC, beginning with its bait-and-switch game that kept him behind Jay Leno even after his “promotion” to the prestige late night show,  and ending with its making him the scapegoat of a ratings  debacle entirely caused by the cheap and incompetent management of the NBC brass. Conan still managed to preserve his dignity and integrity while keeping his justified anger in control, and exited “Tonight” as gracefully as humanly possible.