Tag Archives: “Ick factor”

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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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Finance, Government & Politics, Leadership

Ethics Quiz On A Story I’m Betting Is A Hoax: The “Identical Twins” Married Couple

I have now read three accounts in borderline news sources about a Mississippi married couple who went to a fertility clinic and discovered to their horror that they were “identical twins.” I’m assuming it is a fake news story, perhaps planted through collusion with the Trump campaign by Russian government operatives, and not just because identical twins cannot be different sexes. (Hey! Maybe one of them had  gender reassignment surgery! Now that would be a story!)

I suppose it’s possible; Robert Ripley found odder coincidences for decades, but never mind: let’s assume for the sake of ethics problem-solving practice that the story is true. (I’ll be stunned if it is.)

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

What is the couple’s most ethical course now that they know they are siblings, or is there one?

Key question: Is this ick rather than ethics?

Trap: I’m not asking what’s moral.

It’s all yours…

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Filed under Bioethics, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Quizzes

“Rogue One” Ethics: Peter Cushing Returns From The Grave

He's baaaaack!

He’s baaaaack!

Hammer Films horror icon and Christopher Lee foil Peter Cushing died in 1994 from prostate cancer. That couldn’t stop the makers of the latest “Star Wars” movie from bringing his image back from the grave.  The gaunt-faced British actor—an early “Doctor Who”!—played Grand Moff Tarkin in the original “Star Wars,” a bad guy, Cushing’s specialty. Since “Rogue One,” the current addition to the series, is a prequel, Tarkin is alive again (he went down with the Death Star in Episode IV). Instead of recasting the part, the producers decided to recreate Tarkin/Cushing using CGI technology. Lucasfilm-owned digital effects house Industrial Light & Magic reanimated Cushing’s likeness so that a recognizable Tarkin could make a convincing  appearance in “Rogue One.” The results are not perfect, but it is still one step closer to allowing future movies to cast avatars of long dead stars to interact seamlessly with live performers.

We have recently seen actors like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jeff Bridges and Anthony Hopkins digitally youthened, but forcing a dead actor’s image to perform is a different matter entirely. The use of computer animated images of dead performers to do the bidding of their director masters evokes memories of “Looker,” a science fiction film directed and written by the late Michael Crichton of “Jurassic Park” and “Westworld” fame. In that 1981 movie, a corporation transferred the images of living models to a computer program that could use the new cyber-models to do and say anything more effectively and attractively than the models themselves in television ads. Then the company had the models killed—less residuals that way.

The emerging technology raises many ethical issues that didn’t have to be considered before, but when it comes to using a dead actor in a new role, the ethics verdict should be easy. It’s unethical, unless a performer  gives informed consent for his image to be used post mortem in this fashion. Presumably, the consent or the lack of it will be part of future negotiations and standard contracts. Actors who agree to have their images used as cyberslaves will also probably want to limit the uses of their names and images. No porn films, for example. No uses of an actor in a role he would have never agreed to playing while alive. Don’t make John Wayne shoot someone in the back. Don’t show Fred Astaire as clumsy on his feet; don’t make Jimmy Cagney a weenie.

Allowing another actor to use a dead one’s face and body, like Andy Serkis wore his cyber King King suit, is a closer call. If it is clear that the dead actor isn’t the one doing the acting, and that digital technology is being used as the equivalent of make-up, maybe that practice is just icky rather than unethical, provided the credits are clear.To make Cushing’s Tarkin live again on screen, “Rogue One’s “film-makers hired Guy Henry, a 56-year-old British actor who resembles Cushing. Henry played the part of Tarkin on the set, then the tech wizards transformed him into a Cushing clone. Continue reading

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Don’t Feel Too Bad, Americans: Ethics Alarms Aren’t Ringing In Canada, North Korea Or Japan, Either

It’s an International Ethics Dunce parade!

donald-trump-humane-society

1. Ontario, Canada

The Windsor-Essex County Humane Society in Ontario thought it would be really clever to use the Donald Trump phrase that many believe disqualify him to be President in an ad to adopt kitty-cats. It featured a photo of Trump and said, “You don’t have to be a star to grab a pussy … cat.”

Amazing. Not one person in the chain of custody of this—I would say obviously, but when so many people miss it, I guess it’s not—offensive ad had an ethics alarm sound.  Nobody had the sense, prudence or guts to say,

“Uh, guys? Hello? You do realize that this is using a phrase describing sexual assault while alluding to the one who used it to describe sexual assault? You do realize that “pussy” alluding to female genitalia is vulgar and uncivil, right? No? Here, let me explain it to you…or hwo about this: there is no way this won’t spark criticism. Is that what you want?”

Sure enough,  the ad promoting cat adoptions this week for $50, was taken down shortly after it appeared this week.

The society offered a pathetic apology. Melanie Coulter, executive director of the humane society, “explained” it was an attempt to make light of the U.S election campaign, though it also “made light” of sexual assault, contemptuous attitudes toward women,  and obscene rhetoric.

“We are obviously sorry if people are offended by the ad — that wasn’t our attempt in the least,” Coulter said. “Our attempt was to find homes for cats that need them.” She also added that the shelter took in more than a hundred cats in the last week.

For the record, the rationalizations here are…

3. Consequentialism, or  “It Worked Out for the Best”

13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”

19A The Insidious Confession, or “It wasn’t the best choice.”

It also suggests that I need to add “We meant well” to the list as a sub-rationalization to #13.

****

contest-winner

2. Kuroishi, Japan

Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity

Hey, At Least Donald Trump’s Foundation Is Unethical In Unequivocal And Straightforward Ways!

trump-check

It is unethical for charitable foundations to serve as tax-free conduits to personally benefit one of its officers. It’s also illegal. The Donald J. Trump Foundation can certainly give a grant to a cause that Trump himself approves of and supports. If, however, that otherwise legitimate cause is an organization that employs his mistress (just hypothesizing here), or one that is chaired by a major contributor to his campaign in what looks like a quid pro-quo deal, or is a cause favored by a Senator who then votes for a bill favored by President Trump, these are all unethical abuses of a charitable foundation’s integrity. They are also common abuses that personal foundations regularly engage in and get away with. Another unethical use of charitable funds is to allow the foundation employ relatives and friends of foundation leaders at high salaries. Again, this is business as usual for many foundations, and is, while unethical, very difficult to stop.

If, however, a foundation that has tax exempt status uses funds that by law must only be used for charitable activities in ways that directly profit an individual connected to the foundation’s management, that’s a version of money laundering and a fraudulent use of charitable grants. There are no nuances there, none of the spin, legalisms and rationalizations used by the Clintons to justify their foundation’s unethical machinations. It’s just plain, unvarnished, unethical, illegal abuse.

That’s what Donald Trump has used his foundation for:

  • In 2007, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club had to pay  $120,000  fines from the town of Palm Beach, Florida. Palm Beach agreed to waive those fines, and avoid litigation challenging their validity, if Trump would make  a $100,000 donation to a charity for veterans. Instead of making the contribution with his own money, or the club’s money, Trump had his foundation make the contribution (above), which was primarily composed of tax-deductible gifts to his foundation  from others. Trump’s business’s fine was essentially paid by the foundation, and the beneficiary was Trump.
  • One of Trump’s golf courses settled a lawsuit by making a $158,000 donation to the plaintiff’s favorite charity. Again, the Trump Foundation, gave the money, according to tax records.
  • In 2013, Trump directed the Trump Foundation to pay $5,000 for  advertisements touting his chain of hotels in programs for fundraising three events organized by a D.C. preservation group.

Finally, In 2014, Trump’s foundation  paid $10,000  at charity fundraiser for a portrait of himself. Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: “Hot As Hell” Bikinis For Toddlers

We haven’t had a good “Icky or Unethical?”  issue for a while. Here is one to start off your week…strangely.

Last weekend, as I’m sure you all know, commenced Miami Swim Week 2016, which runs though July 19. During the  swimwear fashion and trade show (now in its 12th year!), designers, buyers and models from around the world come to Miami Beach to promote the latest in swim wear.

This year, the brand Hot As Hell featured adult-style bathing suits for little girls. Tiny models walked down the runway, strutting their stuff. Often they were accompanied by full grown models wearing similar out fits, like this…

Hot as Hell2

or this…

NINTCHDBPICT000252438834

Many observers were horrified, and  pronounced the bikinis, the line, and the runway display disturbing, child porn, titillation for pederasts, child abuse, and another dangerous step into the societal abyss of sexualizing childhood. Others have responded with “Aw, they’re so cute!”, “Oh, get over it” and “You’re the one with the dirty mind!”

Hmmmm.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz to begin this Republican National Convention Week of Shame is…

Are the kiddie bikinis unethical, or just icky?

Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Marketing and Advertising, U.S. Society

Boy, You’re Gonna Just Hate THIS Ethics Quiz…

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, the quiet, Ivy League-educated manager of the struggling Detroit Tigers in the American League, snapped in frustration during last Monday’s game. He cursed, he raged, he threw dirt, he threw his cap,  he took off his hoodie and draped it over home plate. Some of his X-rated remarks were captured by microphones and broadcast to the nation. Naturally, such conduct is frowned upon by MLB umpires, so he was thrown out of the game, suspended and fined.

Now he is auctioning the hoodie and cap from his tirade on the web. Here’s part of the description:

” Neither item has been washed since the May 16 game and both items show dirt consistent with being placed or tossed on the field.”

Bidding is approaching  $5000. The auction website adds: “Neither item has been washed since the May 16 game and both items show dirt consistent with being placed or tossed on the field. Both items feature the #7, as seen in the photos.” Bidding will close on Wednesday.

Your annoying Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is….

Is auctioning the items used by Ausmus in his on-field tantrum as unethical, more unethical, or less unethical than George Zimmerman’s auctioning the gun that he used to defend himself against Trayvon Martin, resulting in the teen’s death?

Continue reading

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