Tag Archives: double standards

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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“Hey, Look! Professor Chung Has A Painting In The Exhib—-WHAT THE HELL?????”

While we’re on the topic of  “hate speech”…how about “hate paintings”? At public universities? Painted by faculty members?

An art gallery at the University of Alaska-Anchorage this month displayed the painting above, depicting actor Chris Evans as Captain America and holding  the severed head of President Trump while Hillary Clinton grasps Cap’s  legs like she is a slave girl and he is Conan the Barabarian.  The artist is UAA Painting Professor Thomas Chung, who  created the masterpiece as part of a faculty art program. Naturally it was accepted, just as it would have been if he had painted Thor holding up President Obama’s severed head. Of course it would have been accepted. After all, art is art. Academic freedom. Right?

Chung explains the artwork as something he chose to paint because he was upset at the results of the 2016 election. “I spent days just weeping,” he has said. Campus Reform quotes him  explaining his decision:

“I was really torn about putting this piece up at a faculty show, because I would never talk about my own political beliefs to my students. But I realized that I feel very strongly about this, and I think even students that might be pro-Trump supporters could benefit from having a conversation with me about why I feel this way—why I painted this.”

(By the way, the actual painting shows Evans/Captain America’s sex organs. None of the versions on the web do, though. Sorry!)

Random ethics observations, since I fear that painting may have caused some brain damage and I can’t seem to organize a coherent paragraph: Continue reading

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Sexual Harassment, Victim Blaming, Toxic Corporate Cultures, President Trump’s Defense and Other Ethics Notes On Bill O’Reilly’s Fall (Part II))

The Ethics Alarms audit of the Bill O’Reilly canning by Fox (okay, technically it wasn’t a firing, but it was) continues…

9. One problem with the Left’s thinly veiled joy at getting O’Reilly is that it encourages the Right’s narrative that O’Reilly’s only crime was being conservative. Also not helping were President Trump’s interview statements about O’Reilly to the New York Times, in which he said in part,

“I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person… I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally I think he shouldn’t have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”

Stupid, stupid, stupid; irresponsible. Maybe two stupids and two irresponsibles. Do otherwise good people engage in sexual harassment? Of course: good people do bad things. But when a prominent individual says publicly that a sexual harasser is a good person, it sends a message that sexual harassment, like all abuse, doesn’t create a rebuttable presumption that someone is not a good person. Add to that Trump’s last statement, “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong,” and the toxic messaging is complete. Either that statement means that the President is, based on nothing, claiming that the allegations against O’Reilly are untrue, or worse, he is saying that there is nothing wrong with sexual harassment. Based on his infamous exchange with Bill Bush, there is good reason to believe that this is exactly what he means.

10. That interview, in turn, led inevitably to this fatuous and offensive article by conservative blogger Roger Simon. Sure, Roger, you dummy, O’Reilly did nothing wrong except support Donald Trump. Count the rationalizations in this piece of offal by one of the shimmering stars in the Pajama Media firmament of conservative thought-leaders.

The sad truth is the many conservatives—most?—really don’t think sexual harassment is a big deal. It is one of many ethics blind spots.

11. One conservative who lacks that blind spot—though she has lots of others—is Sarah Palin, who had this exchange yesterday with CNN’s Jake Tapper: Continue reading

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Sexual Harassment, Victim Blaming, Toxic Corporate Cultures, President Trump’s Defense and Other Ethics Notes On Bill O’Reilly’s Fall (Part I)

As you probably know by now, Twenty-First Century Fox Inc ended its relationship with Bill O’Reilly at Fox News following what are being called allegations of sexual harassment, the revelation of them in the news media despite Fox’s pay-out of over $13,000,000 to the women who were involved, and a subsequent wide-spread boycott of his high-rated show “The O’Reilly Factor.”

Ethics Observations:

1. Good. Long, long overdue, but good. Fox News should have fired O’Reilly after the first sexual harassment episode which was years ago; it is a firing offense in ethical organizations for most employees, and the fact that Fox allowed its most influential and most profitable star to skirt accountability and survive to harass again was a classic example of the rationalization known as The King’s Pass, or The Star Syndrome.

2. The fact that Fox News creator, leader, and boss Roger Ailes was also jettisoned after a sexual harassment scandal showed at the time that the organization had developed an unethical culture that was hostile to women….as Ethics Alarms pointed out last July. (“There seems to be a culture of sexual harassment at Fox, coming down from the rotting fish head in charge, Roger Ailes.”)  This was the other shoe dropping.

3. O’Reilly issued a carefully crafted statement composed with the assistance of a “crisis consultant”:

“Over the past 20 years at Fox News, I have been extremely proud to launch and lead one of the most successful news programs in history, which has consistently informed and entertained millions of Americans and significantly contributed to building Fox into the dominant news network in television,” O’Reilly said in a statement. “It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims. But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today. I will always look back on my time at Fox with great pride in the unprecedented success we achieved and with my deepest gratitude to all my dedicated viewers. I wish only the best for Fox News Channel.”

I would say the Bill is lying through his teeth with the “unfounded” part, but sexual harassers often don’t think they have done anything wrong. They think they were just being “nice,” or they think their advances were misunderstood, or they believe that the harassment accusations are a cover for something else. Ailes also denies that he did anything wrong. This is typical. It would have been a wonderful thing if O’Reilly could admit that his conduct was wrong and apologize to the victims while sincerely promising to change, but like most harassers, he couldn’t mount the character and the acknowledgement of hard reality to do it.

4. What is more damaging, perhaps, is that so many of O’Reilly’s fans and followers will believe his self-delusion because they also don’t “get” sexual harassment, and think the whole issue is manufactured feminist nonsense and political correctness. Boys will be boys! Everybody does it! 

5. If there is anyone who is informed and intelligent and still followed Bill O’Reilly without constant cognitive dissonance, they should be ashamed of themselves. If one was alert, Bill constantly revealed himself as a blowhard who was convinced he was smarter than he was, or perhaps more accurately, knew he was faking it and adopted a assertive, intimidating and self-righteous persona as cover for his own insecurities.  Continue reading

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Is “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told” Being Produced By The Most Unethical Theater Company There Is?

Atlanta’s Out Front Theatre Company’s production of “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told”  opens on April 27, but Paul Rudnick’s 1998 silly comedy that recasts Bible stories with all gay characters is being protested as blasphemous. The outraged in this case is the conservative Catholic group America Needs Fatima, whose members are particularly offended by the spoof’s portrayal of the Virgin Mary as a lesbian. It has an online petition demanding that Out Front’s Artistic Director Paul Conroy cancel the production.

Sure. Like that’s going to happen.

“I fear God’s wrath will fall upon us if reparation is not made,” the hysterical screed concludes. Over 40,000 hysterics have signed it. Yes, I’m sure that God has nothing better to do than to punish humanity for a theatrical production of a 20 year-old comedy in Atlanta. The group then threatens to oppose the play “loudly, peacefully, and legally in as large a protest as we can help make possible” if the production goes forward. Idiocy, of course. Last I heard, nobody is forcing anyone to go to see the play, and the First Amendment is pretty clear about the ability of the law to censor performances based on content. The contention from the religious right in this case mirrors the Left’s fervent efforts at the moment to censor speakers they don’t agree with and “hate speech.”

If you don’t think that you will enjoy a play, the remedy is not to go see it. Simple as that. Trying to interfere with the production in any way, or to prevent those who want to see a production in which Adam and Eve become Adam and Steve, is unethical. It is also directly contrary to the principles the United States was founded to ensure.

Okay, that settles that.

Now about Out Front Theater Company….

Continue reading

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U.S. Journalism’s Continued Unraveling, And CNN’s Unprofessional, Unethical, Destructive Disrespect For The President Of The United States

And the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck’s carnage continues…

The degree to which the Post 2016 Election Ethics Train Wreck has engulfed the news media has shocked even me, and readers know that Ethics Alarms had  swamp-level regard for U.S. journalists long before the 2016 campaign. It has obliterated any legitimate trust a citizen could have in the mainstream media’s news judgment, objectivity and competence, and with the exception of tiny pockets of professionalism here and there (Jake Tapper comes to mind), has declared itself a partisan foe of the electoral system, and the Presidency. The double standards applied regarding Democrats and Republicans as well as the smug shamelessness with which the media has applied them cannot be condemned too harshly. Naturally, the equally corrupted members of the so-called “resistance” see none of the harm and betrayal in this, since it suits their own ends.

Ethics Alarms  can’t catalogue all of the worst examples of this; there isn’t time. Last month, for example, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who once had a conscience and a mind even as you or I, authored one of the ugliest and most disgusting pieces I have read in any reputable publication. In the disgrace titled “There’s a Whiff of Treason In The Air” Kristof issued a conspiracy theory that would be at home in the archives of Alex Jones,  Mike Cernovich, or Donald Trump in his birther days, except that so many hopeful Democrats endorse it. The column is one long, vicious smear, claiming that President Trump engaged in treason, while citing absolutely no evidence whatsoever that supports such an inflammatory accusation. I considered flagging all of the slimy, dishonest, hypocritical rhetorical techniques Kristof brings to his efforts to undermine his nation’s President, but I decided to do so would insult my readers’ intelligence: it is so obvious, particularly when one considers the Russian “ties” the Clinton campaign had to Russia. Why do the business dealings of Trump campaign personnel with Russian figures spell TREASON to the Times columnist, and the more ominous ties between Russia and the Clintons get a pass? Simple: he wants Donald Trump to be proven a traitor; his readers want it; and he, the Times and the Democratic Party that has sold its integrity and soul intends to push the accusations as long as they can cripple and delegitimize the government they oppose. Continue reading

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Ethics Note To Bill Maher: Be Funny Or Be Accurate, Otherwise You’re Just Being A Divisive Asshole

Stop! Stop! You’re killing me!

I used to watch Bill Maher regularly during his Comedy Central days, before he decided he was such an insightful political pundit that he could afford to eschew comedy and just engage in full-time conservative and Republican smearing. On his HBO show Bill is only useful now to remind us of the ugliest tendencies of the Young Angry Left, as Maher will engage in such “comedy” as calling Sarah Palin a cunt, while his audience of fawning dim bulbs clap and bark like hyper-active seals. All Maher does is try to fan the flames of societal division and hate, and HBO is apparently satisfied with that, since there are enough progressive fans of societal division and hate that being funny isn’t deemed essential.  Maher’s weekly partyist ranting has even spawned imitators on other networks, like Samantha Bee and John Oliver. Both are funnier than Bill.

Still, millions of people see this poison and spread it around the internet, so I guess it’s past time to point out how Maher is either ignorant or determined to spread stupidity via confirmation bias. We can stipulate that he’s no longer funny, and seldom even attempts to be.

At the end of last week the latest episode of “Bill Foams At the Mouth” debuted, with the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch the primary object of Bill’s wrath, I mean “wit.”  He began with his monologue.

If anyone senses a joke, raise your hand.

“I don’t know why you’d be happy today. Today is a day Republicans are happy. They got their two favorite things — a right-wing asshole on the Supreme Court and Trump finally blowing some shit up.”

Please note:

  • Bill assumes that only one side of the political divide watches him. He’s right, but it’s not healthy for the culture, and he’s one of the reasons comedy and the arts now divide rather than unite us.
  • Maher calls a dedicated jurist and legal scholar an “asshole” simply because he’s conservative. This is bigotry. Denigrating, stereotyping and demonizing whole categories of people based on their priority of values is no different ethically from denigrating them based on their religion or ethnicity. It’s unfair, disrespectful, irresponsible and undemocratic.
  • Did you raise your hand? Maher, a professional comedian, gets laughs by using words like shit, asshole, and cunt. There was a guy I knew named Larry who did that quite successfully too.

Of course, we were in the 5th grade…

Then Maher, as usual, moved on to calling Republicans racists.

In 2013, 98 Republicans signed a letter saying bombing Syria in response to a chemical attack was unconstitutional without congressional authorization. But this is different because Obama was President then. That would have involved bombing while black, and you can’t — can’t do that.

In the wake of the embarrassment and the exposure of President Obama by President Trump’s decisive handling of an issue that his predecessor made into a trademark display of his weakness, fecklessness  and dithering, the desperate Obama Fan Club has virtually made Maher’s spin a talking point. Almost all media accounts bolstering their narrative leave out the actual sequence of events, which was… Continue reading

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