Ethics Nosegay,2/14/20: A New Ethics Train Wreck For Happy Valentine’s Day!

Love to all!

What does the Easter Bunny sing on Valentine’s Day? Every bunny loves some bunny sometime…

1. Yes, I think the Roger Stone sentencing mess is an Ethics Train Wreck now. As usual, several cars have been reserved by the President, whose dumb tweeting raised the appearance of impropriety and fed his ravenous critics, who will read anything he does in the worst light possible. Good for AG Barr for saying that such public White House word-barfs make it difficult for Barr to do his job.

The President really and truly does not seem to understand how his own job works: if he makes it known what his personal policy desires are, that’s potentially going to influence policy-makers who are supposed to be independent. Why is this so hard to grasp? True, it would be beyond moronic, if the President wanted to interfere with Barr’s handling of the Stone matter, for him to use Twitter rather than to pick up the phone. Also true: Trump has done things equally dumb.

Do you think the President knows the story of Thomas Becket’s murder, triggered when  King Henry II’s shouted out, to no one in particular, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?” Two knights decided to make King Henry happy, though they had received no orders. Imagine if President Obama had tweeted—we know he would have been smart enough to just have an aide whisper in Lois Lerner’s ear— “Boy, these tea party groups are a scam! How do they warrant non-profit status?” before the IRS scandal unfolded.

Nonetheless, as is usually buried in Trump Derangement Enabling articles like this one, there are no knights in this case who can do Trump’s wish-fulfillment. “Just as he used US government power to smear Joe Biden in the Ukraine scandal, he succeeded in getting favorable treatment for a friend in the Stone case — though the final sentence will be up to a judge,” the CNN article reveals (let’s see) eight paragraphs in.  Trump can stand on his head shouting “Free Stone!” through a megaphone; he has no leverage with the judge. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/13/2020: I’m So Sorry I Missed Your Birthday, Mr. Lincoln.

I am awash with shame.

Yesterday was Abe Lincoln’s birthday, and I didn’t remember until late last night. This is the inevitable result of Presidents Day, the lazy combination of Lincoln and Washington’s birthdays into one floating holiday that lumps all our Presidents together as if they were equally laudable. (They are all laudable, but not equally.) Thus Franklin Pierce gets as much love from our calendar as Abe and George, which is ridiculous. ( President Pierce’s birthday I remember, because it’s the same date as my wedding anniversary, November 23.) In the old days before the blight of Presidents Day, school children would spend both February 12 and 22  learning about and doing projects related Lincoln or Washington. Without either of these great leaders, we probably don’t have a nation today, or if we do, it would be a vastly diminished one. Our first and Sixteenth Presidents tower over the rest in leadership ability, vision, and impact on our history and culture. Both deserve their own holiday, because every American should take at least a day out of every year to remember these two icons and honor their essential contributions, at great sacrifice, to the existence of the United States of America as well as the welfare of all of its citizens, past, present and future.

Today, most Americans couldn’t describe what Lincoln said at Gettysburg, and that’s not a recent phenomenon. In the classic movie “Ruggles of Red Gap,” a barroom full of Americans in a Western frontier town are unable to recall Lincoln’s message, but the very British butler, recently immigrated, can. Charles Laughton, who played the butler, continued to deliver Lincoln’s masterpiece throughout his career after that scene became the highlight of the movie. You can watch it here—I’d embed it, but there is no YouTube version.

1. Self promotion dept. I’ll be participating in a live podcast later today, discussing the ethical implications of nepotism. Details to come.

2. Still more developments in the Houston Astros cheating scandal. Earlier this morning I watched a live press conference from the Astros Spring Training camp about the sign stealing scheme. From a public relations standpoint, the spectacle made the Astros problems worse.

Stars  Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve spoke for a grand total of 90 seconds, sounding for all the world  like American prisoners of war in North Korea. Owner Jim Crane did most of the talking, which was unfortunate for the Astros and baseball. He  took no responsibility at all for what went on in 2017, though he was at the top of the organization chart: this is called the “Ken Lay excuse.” Worse, Crane repeatedly refused to acknowledge that using a secret camera to relay to the Astros dugout the opposing catchers’ signs telling pitchers what to throw, which were then relayed to  Astros batters by players banging on trash cans, constituted cheating. All Crane would say was “We broke the rules. We can argue about what you want to call it.”

Worse still, Crane said that it was impossible to say whether the team’s full year of sign stealing, including the playoffs and the World Series (which the Astros won), gave his team a competitive advantage. “Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t” he said. “Our opinion is this didn’t impact the game. We had a good team. We won the World Series and we’ll leave it at that.”

In later interviews with the players after the press conference, it sounded like everyone had been prepped to keep saying “2017” over and over, because there are lingering suspicions that the Astros scam extended into 2018 and 2019. As commentator Matt Vasgersian mused afterward on the MLB cable channel, if the Astros had won a championship cheating all the way through 2017 and hadn’t been caught, why would they suddenly stop the next season? Continue reading

Friday Evening Ethics Nightcap, 1/24/2020: Special Dim Bulb Edition

 

Good evening.

1. You know, Chris, keep doing things like this and “Fredo” likely to stick. Incredibly, CNN dim-bulb himbo Chris Cuomo tweeted,

What a stupid and unethical tweet! 1) The term “Trumper” is per se evidence of bias, in the same category as calling Republicans “Repugs.” 2) The tweet endorses the cynical and unethical progressive practice of recruiting children to be your mouthpieces (if anyone can find an example of Republicans doing this, please alert me), so you can attack any criticism as punching down at a child. Thunberg has presented her self as entitled to insult and impugn adults in adult fora, like the U.N. She has waived any special consideration, ethically and logically.

Best of all, however, Cuomo’s employer, CNN, just paid a legal settlement for falsely attacking teenager Nick Sandmann, as many Twitter users gleefully reminded him.

Surely he knew this.

Maybe Chris just didn’t understand it.

2. Speaking of idiots...Are the Democrats really going to nominate someone who says things like this out loud? Heeeere’s JOE!…speaking about “Dreamers” at a campaign event. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/9/2020: As Fact Begins To Imitate Outrageous Fiction, For Some Reason

Be careful out there…

People appear to be going nuts….in many cases, the exact same people who have, in the recent past, pressed Impeachment/Removal Plan E, ”Trump is mentally ill so this should trigger the 25th Amendment.” Ironic.

This week I stumbled across a comedy now playing on Netflix starring Stephen Yeun, most memorably seen on “The Walking Dead” with half his head caved in and his eyeball hanging out. The movie is called “Mayhem,” and is about a kind of flu that removes people’s impulse control, causing them to do and say whatever they feel like doing or saying, no matter how inappropriate or illegal. The illness strikes a BIgLaw firm, which is quarantined and locked down while its employees go bananas. It’s an excellent metaphor for what is going on right now, but much funnier.

And so far, at least, bloodier.

So far.

1. And now for something completely stupid...Even after being warned at the Golen Globes by Ricky Gervais that they know nothing about the real world and should avoid making political pronouncements, Best Actor winner Joaquin Phoenix announced after the award show that in order to help save the planet from climate change, he would wear the same tux to all the awards shows this year. He really said that. No, seriously, he really did, and he was not engaging in satire (but if the Babylon Bee used that as a story, everyone would assume it was satire.) Then designer Stella McCartney company, also apparently seriously, tweeted (because that tux the actor will be wearing is one of theirs), “This man is a winner… wearing custom Stella because he chooses to make choices for the future of the planet. He has also chosen to wear this same Tux for the entire award season to reduce waste. I am proud to join forces with you.”

I’ve worn the same tux for ten years. Phoenix doesn’t even pay for his tuxes (I pay for mine!), like his female colleagues who get their designer gowns free. There have been some funny jokes about the actor’s ridiculous virtue signaling, many involving underwear, but never mind: what I want to know is, how can anyone take people who think like this seriously, or respect anyone who solemnly nods when they hear about such pompous nonsense, “Hey, right on, man. Save the planet”? Yet a substantial chunk of an entire political party appears to be this far gone.

2.  Wait—are they trying to make our heads explode like those robots and computers that Captian Kirk would destroy by making them think about a contradictory statement? Is that their plan? I admit: I don’t understand this at all. A “Saved by the Bell” reboot, sequel, whatever you want to call it, is on the way. Starring original stars Mario Lopez (who now hosts celebrity gossip shows) and Elizabeth Berkley (whose career never recovered from her starring in the camp classic “Showgirls,” the plot sounds nauseatingly ‘woke,” as it involves now California Govetnor Zack Morris (the gown up character in the original played then by Mark Gosselaar, who actually has a career and doesn’t need to stoop this low) being criticized for closing too many low-income high schools, so he announces that the affected students will be sent to the highest-performing schools in the state, including  his old stomping grounds, Bayside High. Hilarious! I smell a hit! But here’s the beauty part: playing the role of the cutest, most popular cheerleader at Bayside, the role originally played by Tiffany Amber Thiessen, will be played by Josie Totah, a transgender female ( transgender male? I’m still unsure of the right terminology. She began life as a male). Isn’t this just a stunt? On one hand, I’ll fight to the death for the right of any actor to play any role, wear any make-up, use any device, as long as the vehicle itself doesn’t suffer. On the other hand, by casting a transgender actress who has made a point of publicizing her biological origins, the production guarantees that nobody will be able to watch “Lexi” without thinking about things that have nothing to do with “Saved by the Bell.” Continue reading

Friday Ethics Sigh, 12/20/2019: Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Rowling, And An Idiot.

Tomorrow the dreaded tree lights hanging begins….

I’m not a big Sinatra fan, but I’ve always thought it a shame that the two Christmas songs he “owns” are both mediocre: “The Christmas Waltz” and “Mistletoe and Holly (which he co-wrote.) Frank sang the whole canon, of course, and well, but still, Judy Garland owns “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” Nat King Cole owns “The Christmas Song” (even though Mel Torme wrote it), Bing has “White Christmas” (and others,), Gene Autry has “Rudolph…” and “Here Comes Santa Claus” even after Bruce Springstein stole “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” away from him, but Ol’ Blue Eyes is second or third best to lesser singers on the really great songs, leaving him with those two wan ditties to call his own. It’s unfair.

1. The social media mobs are after J.K Rowling. Her offense? British Researcher Maya Forstater was fired last year by a London think tank for her “gender critical” views, including the position that “it is impossible to change sex.” Forstater filed a lawsuit earlier this year alleging discrimination, but an employment tribunal in London ruled against her this week, holding that her views were “not a philosophical belief protected” by British law but were instead “incompatible with human dignity and fundamental rights of others. It is also a slight of hand to suggest that the claimant merely does not hold the belief that trans women are women. She positively believes that they are men and will say so whenever she wishes.” The court  added that Forsater held beliefs that are “not worthy of respect in a democratic society.”

No, they don’t believe in freedom of speech or thought in the UK. Remind people of this when they make one of those fatuous “the U.S. is the only developed country in the world that doesn’t do X” arguments. We are special.

Harry Potter’s mom criticized that ruling and said she supported  Forstater: “Dress however you please,”  Rowling  tweeted  to her more than 14 million followers (this makes me want to hurl myself into a shredder, as I desperately try to recover the lost Ethic Alarms followers since 2016). “Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya.”

Oh, sex, gender, whatever. I know that to trans individuals the distinctions are a matter of honor, identity and self-esteem, and as far as I’m concerned, if an XY individual has changed everything but her chromosomes and wants to be regarded as, treated as and referred to as a woman, I will accommodate her in the interests of comity, kindness, and the Golden Rule. However, if someone as a matter of linguistic or biological rigor (or pedantry) wants to insist that such an individual is still technically female, that’s a legitimate, if unpopular, position.  This is a dispute about manners and definitions, not facts.

The researcher should not have been fired, and Rowling’s tweet was not “transphobic.” Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Reflections, 12/15/2019: Bad Film Criticism, Bad Journalism, Bad Honors…And Some Really Stupid Stuff Too

The late, great, Jerry Vale..

(Also known as “the mob’s favorite tenor”…)

1. And speaking of Martin Scorcese movies, since Jerry Vale is alluded to in several of them…”The Irishman” has been viewed on Netflix by many of my showbiz friends, and most, while complaining about the film’s length, have declared the performances “brilliant.” This reaction, is, I think, bias at work, the so-called “halo effect.” It’s the same phenomenon I witnessed in the D.C. theater community, where certain actors, directors and big theater companies were routinely called “brilliant” in their efforts, when in truth, the exact same product presented by artists with lesser reputations would be shrugged off or ignored.

The three veteran stars of “The Irishman” are being praised by critics across the board, but in truth, with the exception of Al Pacino, they seem weary and channeling earlier, better performances. This is especially true of Joe Pesci, who shows none of the energy we associate with his best performances, and the script requires him to run the gamut of emotions, as the old joke goes, from A to C. He’s as old as Joe Biden, and looks and acts every inch of it, though his character is supposed to be younger. Scorcese has used tech wizardry to give De Niro a younger face when necessary, but it still sits on top of his  80-year-old body. and there is nothing in De Niro’s act that we haven’t seen over and over again (though not so much lately, as Bob has been collecting checks for bad movies in which he appeared to be “phoning it in”).

Pacino, as Jimmy Hoffa, is lots of fun as usual, but he doesn’t appear to be trying to be convincing as the mysteriously disappeared labor boss, who was 62 with he vanished. Pacino is 79. How could anyone call Pacino “brilliant” as Hoffa? Jack Nicholson was far more convincing in the film “Hoffa,” and Pacino isn’t significantly different than he was playing a Hollywood agent in “Once Upon A Time In America.”

It must be nice to reach that stage as an actor when you get paid big checks just to show up, like Marlon Brando in “Superman.” Especially if everyone is going to say you were brilliant.

2.  And now for something completely stupid. This is remarkable in the dual category of incompetence in one’s chosen pursuit (theft) and unforgivable ignorance regarding social media.  Arlando Henderson, 29, who worked for a bank  in Charlotte, North Carolina, stole money from his employer’s vault at least 18 times, for a grand total of $88,000.  He was apprehended and arrested after posting about his robbery hobby on Facebook, including posts showing his new Mercedes-Benz, and this one…

You know, if someone is this stupid, ethics alarms hardly matter…

3. Surely we are missing some crucial information here...The New York Giants, in the midst of a horrible season, fired veteran cornerback Janoris Jenkins last week. Why? He was engaged in an argument with a fan on social media who objected to Jenkins posting  his personal stats after a game that his team lost, and wrote,

“I only can do my job.. retard. Continue reading

What Are “Weasel Words”? These Are Weasel Words…

The aspiring Congressman’s potential girlfriend….

This was Democratic Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, withdrawing his endorsement just yesterday of  Cenk Uygur, the far left media demagogue who could best be described as a liberal Alex Jones, but even more abrasive. Ridiculously, Cenk is running for Congress to replace ex-Naked Congresswoman Katie Hill, and since any Left Wing nut is a friend of Bernie’s, Sanders endorsed his candidacy yesterday, saying

“For many years Cenk has been one of the outstanding progressive journalists in our country. I’m endorsing Cenk because I know he will serve ordinary people, not powerful special interests. He is a voice that we desperately need in Congress…”

Wow. What an insult to other progressive journalists, which is, after all, almost all of them.  Uygur makes Lawrence O’Donnell look like Edward R. Murro. He makes Chris Cuomo seem like Tim Russert. And apparently Bernie feels that Congress needs a voice advocating bestiality.

In a  2013 video, Uyger told co-host Ana Kasparian that he would legalize bestiality if he had the power to do so. His criteria for legal bestiality would be “if you are pleasuring the animal.”  Yes, that’s Cenk! Presumably that same logic would justify man-boy sex and statutory rape.

Another segment his show “The Young Turks” featured the host equating sexual assault and homosexuality, insisting that men who sexually abuse other men must be repressing homosexual urges. On another segment, in 2013, he rated women on a scale of how hot they would need to be in order for a man to let her “suck his dick.” These days, since he is running for Congress, he swears that he was just trying to cause controversy (Alex Jones also uses this excuse), and that  he “had not yet matured” and “was still a conservative.”

After Bernie’s endorsement, he immediately came under attack by various progressive groups. California’s Women’s List, a “Political Action Committee dedicated to fundraising for, supporting, and electing pro-choice, Democratic women to office in California,” said in a statement, “California Women’s List is disappointed in Senator Sanders’ endorsement of Cenk Uygur, a candidate who has repeatedly used misogynistic, racist, and homophobic language. This endorsement appears to go against Senator Sanders’ platform and role as a leader in the progressive movement.”

Ya think?

Oddly, PETA was not heard from.

Bernie didn’t have the integrity or the guts to say he was withdrawing his endorsement because Uyger thinks humans should be able to have sex with their dogs as long as Snoopy seems to be enjoying it, and that’s unacceptable, even for a member of Congress.  Instead, Sanders mysteriously says that some supporters have concerns, and Sanders “understands.” Oh, good, Bernie: you understand why some judgemental people have “concerns” about man-goat romances. But the real reason he is withdrawing his endorsement is because Cenk isn’t accepting endorsements as of today.

So it’s not really like Bernie made a mistake after all.