Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/15/2018: A Good Firing, A Good Trend, A Bad Law, An Unethical Complaint, And A Tardy Confession

Rain rain go away; come back another day; Jackie wants to GET THE %$#^&@!!! Christmas tree up and start the annual  10 hour HELL of decorating it!

1. Is Facebook blocking Ethics Alarms? Several readers have reported that their efforts to share posts have been foiled. I can’t post links to it; my last several tries on two different posts have gleaned an error message. No one has shared a post to Facebook anywhere for nine days, which is very unusual. The last Ethics Alarms post with any shares was the “Kiss the Girl” post, which had quite a few.

I also have no idea what to do if Facebook is blocking the blog, and not much motivation to do it. Increasingly I am finding that my Facebook friends are making me lose respect for them with their constant virtue-signaling to the Left and refusal to accept any contrary opinions without stooping to personal insults. The “Facebook community” standards are incompatible with ethics commentary? I’m not surprised, and it can bite me.

I have literally never written anything that would justify social media censorship, assuming fair, responsible and free speech-respecting social media.

2. “The best people.” Ryan Zinke is finally leaving the Cabinet, and the President will be looking for a new Interior Secretary. The former Montana congressman and Navy Seal had an ethically tone-deaf and politically controversial tenure, facing nearly 20 federal investigations ― one of which his agency’s inspector general recently referred to the Justice Department for possible criminal violations. Like Trump himself, Zinke was incapable of recognizing that when you embark on a controversial policy mission, you have to stay squeaky clean, or the news media bring you down. This is simply stupid, arrogant and self-destructive.  Zinke should have been fired months ago.

3. Hooray!The NFL isn’t as criminal as it used to be! I guess that’s something. It was reported that “only” 36  incidents occurred in 2018 that ended in the arrest of an NFL player, down (so far) from 49 last year, and 80 a decade ago.

I guarantee that you can count the parallel incidents in Major League Baseball on one hand, every year.

4. Obamacare was declared unconstitutional in federal court, whatever that means.  I don’t know at this point whether the decision has a prayer of surviving. I do know that the legislation is and was a fiasco, and that this is what one gets when a party decides to rush major legislation through while by-passing the other party, a President repeatedly lies about it to get public support based on misinformation, and the bill is voted on with few, if any, legislators actually reading the law.

I also continue to marvel at the number of otherwise intelligent Americans who continue to idolize President Obama, who is responsible for this mess and claims it as his “signature achievement”—all while the same Americans rail about President Trump’s “lies.” He has not made a single misstatement in the past two years that has been a fraction as consequential as Obama’s lie about the Affordable Care Act. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-up, 3/4/18: Special Academy Awards I Won’t Be Watching Edition!

Good morning!

1 One more institution falls to partisan poisoning. Tonight is the Academy Awards show, and outside of some suspense as to whether Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway will botch the Best Picture reveal again (whoever had the idea to have them do an encore of their legendary fail is brilliant), I cannot imagine why anyone would waste their time and raise their blood pressure watching the show. I used to love the Oscars because I love movies. Except for periodic embarrassments where infamous jerks like Marlon Brando and Richard Gere defiantly injected politics into the party, it was fun, if usually too long. Now the show is just a platform for presumptuous performers to parade their ignorance and egos, virtue-signalling, grandstanding, lobbying and politicking. At this they are no better, and often worse, than plumbers, teachers and mail-carriers. What they are good at is looking good and making movies, and in most cases, not much else, including critical thought.

I watched a recent interview in which outspoken actress Jennifer Lawrence became visibly uncomfortable when she had to admit that she dropped out of middle school. It’s obvious that Lawrence is intelligent (she is also the most exciting and talented young actress to come along in a long, long time), but all of her noisy opinions are based on gut instincts. She is untrained and not very grounded in history, law or government: there is no reason for her opinions on politics or finance to be newsworthy. This is also true of her colleagues. Yet we have been informed that tonight will be “about” sexual abuse and gun control, so we will have to endure periodic outbursts all night long about “Time’s Up” and  “Never Again.”  There are side political controversies, like whether or not “woke” stars like Lawrence will snub E! red carpet host Ryan Seacrest because he has been accused of sexual misconduct by a former stylist. Never mind that Seacrest may be innocent, or that she decided to reinterpret what happened in order to join the #MeToo club. (“Oh come on!”)

We already know that the Oscar voting is now polluted by an unspoken demand that black actors and artists get their EEOC quota of honors. This year, we have the special treat of cheering for a nominated a movie that represented all white people as conspiring to make mind-controlled slaves out of blacks.

In the most bitter and divisive political climate in more than a century, institutions like Hollywood have a duty to unite us and emphasize what we have in common, which is a lot. The Oscars and the industry has abandoned that mission. Let them suffer the consequences.

2. The return of “Death Wish.”  Critics are already panning Bruce Willis’ “Death Wish” remake, which has  12 percent “Rotten” at RottenTomatoes.com.  Just from the trailer, it is pretty clear that this reboot has to be much better than the incredibly successful original and its progressively worse sequels. Here are some typical critic rants: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-up: 8/16/17

GOOD MORNING!

1. I’m heading to Boston and Fenway Park in a few hours to meet with two of my high school classmates and together pay our respects to the 1967 Boston Red Sox, the spiritual beginning of Red Sox Nation, and a group of men, then barely more than boys, who had as profound an effect on my life and view of it as anything I have ever experienced.

It’s the 50th Anniversary of that amazing team and the heart-stopping pennant race it won against all odds, in a four team race that came down to the final game of the regular season. I mean heart-stopping literally: the team wasn’t called “The Cardiac Kids” for nothing. TWO of my father’s colleagues at the Boston Five Savings Bank died of heart attacks while attending Red Sox games, during one of the 9th inning desperation rallies for which the team was famous. The only reason I didn’t perish in like fashion is because I was just 16 years old.

Why was this team, and that summer 50 years ago, so important to me? I don’t have time or space to answer that question well, and you’d probably wonder what I was babbling on about anyway. A 2017 film by Major League Baseball called “The Impossible Dream” does a fair job of explaining it, but it’s too short to do the job right.

I had listened to, watched or attended every Boston Red Sox game for five years, as the team lost and lost. From those bad teams, followed weakly by the city in those days, in a crumbling old park that seemed destined to be abandoned and torn down, I learned that winning wasn’t everything, that loyalty wasn’t easy, that Hemingway was right, and that baseball was about courage, humility, perseverance, doing your job every day, sacrifice, and hope, as well as usually losing at the end. That summer of 1967 taught me that hope is worth the effort even though hope is usually dashed by the ice water of reality, that you should never give up, that miracles do happen, and that nothing is as wonderful as when a community is united in a single, inspirational goal, no matter what that goal might be…and that you should never be afraid to give everything you have in pursuit of a mission, even when it is likely that you will fail.

I learned difficult, discouraging lessons, too. When an errant pitch hit Red Sox right-fielder Tony Conigliaro in the face on August 18, 1967, it was the beginning of a lesson that revealed its tragic last chapter 23 years later. That one taught me that life is horribly, frightening unpredictable, and that we envy others at our peril. It taught me that we need to do what we can to accomplish as much good as we can as quickly as we can, because we may lose our chance forever at any moment.

Tony C, as he was and is known as, was a beautiful, charismatic, local kid, the idol of Boston’s huge Italian-American community,  in his fourth season with his home town team at the age of 22. He dated movie stars; he recorded pop songs; he had a natural flair of the dramatic, and was destined for the Hall of Fame. One pitch took it all away. Although he had two comebacks and played two full seasons facing major league fastballs with a hole in his retina and his field of vision, Tony was never the same. After his final attempt to keep playing failed at the age of 30, he became a broadcaster, and at 37 was seemingly on the way to stardom again in 1982 when he suffered a massive, inexplicable heart attack—Tony  did not smoke, and had no family history of heart problems– that left him brain damaged until his death in 1990.

As Henry Wiggin, the star pitcher protagonist of the novel, play and movie “Bang the Drum Slowly” observes as he  reflects on the death of his catcher and roommate, everyone is dying, and we have to remember to be good to each other. But it’s so hard. Ethics is hard. The ethics alarms ring faintly when we are about the task of living, or not at all…

At the end of the story, the narrator, the best friend of the catcher (but not really that close a friend) recalls how quickly everyone on the baseball team went back to their selfish ways after their teammate went home to die Even the narrator, who was the leader of the effort to make the catcher feel loved and appreciated in his last days, ruefully recalls his own failing. The catcher had asked him a favor, just to send him a World Series program (the team won the pennant after he had become too ill to play), and he had forgotten to mail it until it was too late. How hard would it have been, the narrator rebukes himself, to just put it in an envelope and mail it? Why are we like that, he wonders?

1967 was the beginning of my exploration of that mystery too.

So I am going to Boston for the 30 minute ceremony. I can’t even stay for the game; I have a seminar to teach tomorrow morning, and the last flight out of Logan is at 9 PM. There will probably be just a small contingent from the Cardiac Kids: most of them are dead now, or too infirm even to walk onto the field. But Yaz will be there, and Gentleman Jim Lonborg; Rico Petrocelli, Mike Andrews, and maybe even Hawk Harrelson  and Reggie Smith. I will be there to say thank-you, that’s all.

And to show that I remember. Continue reading

Natasha Leggero’s Stand: Protecting The Jester’s Privilege

 

"Sing what you like, Fool. Just make sure I laugh."

“Sing what you like, Fool. Just make sure I laugh.”

In days of old when knights were bold, it is said, the King’s Fool was able to safely say outrageous, disrespectful things to the sovereign that might get anyone else drawn and quartered. This lucky exemption came to be known as the Jester’s Privilege, and it existed, and exists, for valid reasons. Humor, satire and all the other permutations of comedy are essential to societal sanity, and it makes sense to give the broadest discretion to practitioners of the craft in their efforts to provoke laughter—which is, as Reader’s Digest still reminds us monthly, “the best medicine.” That means that comics should not fear decapitation if their inspiration of the moment fails to provoke the desired mirth, or touches an audience member’s sensitive areas. In addition, the jester is sometimes able to expose a truth that will not be reached any other way.

It sounds like a good rule, and it is a good rule, but as with most ethics-related rules, applying it is difficult. Who gets the Jester’s Privilege…only professional comics, or does it apply to amateurs too? What about non-jesters just trying to be funny? “It was just a joke!” is a classic excuse invoked by insensitive and vicious people, including politicians, when they say something outrageous, as they try to use the privilege without a license, and in so doing, make it less effective for the humorists who really need its protection. Not everyone should assume that they have the full armor of the Jester’s Privilege. Mockery and ridicule are too often used as political weapons of targeted destruction.

Should some subjects be exempt from the Jester’s Privilege? The official position of comics, comedians, wags and wits has long been “No,” but even in Ye Olde Days, jesters sometimes went too far, and ended up with their heads on pikes. The problem any humorless king had after doing this, of course, was finding a jester willing to hazard a joke more edgy than “Why did the king cross the road?” For that reason, I think it’s vital that the Jester’s Privilege be strong and a near absolute. The sin that matters is not being funny, which means topics of unusual sensitivity take care of themselves.For centuries, for example, comics imitated and mocked those afflicted with speech impediments, especially stuttering, with big laughs guaranteed. Somewhere along the line, though, Porky Pig stopped being funny. The absence of laughs was enough to retire him; no heads had to roll.

On NBC’s New Year’s Eve show, the following exchange occurred between host Carson Daly, comic actress Jane Lynch and rising comedienne Natasha Leggero:

CARSON DALY: SpaghettiOs on Pearl Harbor Day, they sent out a tweet featuring their mascot holding an American flag asking people to quote “take a moment to remember #PearlHarbor with us.” It offended a lot of people, corporations glomming on to, you know, sentimental American historic traditions, seemingly looking for people in business. It wasn’t good. But you were offended for another reason.

JANE LYNCH: I’m offended because they were referring to SpaghettiOs as pasta.

NATASHA LEGGERO: I mean, it sucks that the only survivors of Pearl Harbor are being mocked by the only food they can still chew. It’s just sad.

Hilarity ensued, as the NBC gang laughed uproariously. Almost immediately, Leggero was getting flamed all over the social media and the wbs for denigrating the Greatest Generation. Steve Martin, I assume, would have humbled himself and apologized immediately, but not Leggero. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Actress Jennifer Lawrence

Walters and Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence is a young break-out movie star. She’s talented and charismatic. Now she need to learn that people pay attention to what celebrities think and say, too much so, in most cases, and she either needs to improve her knowledge base to say, 7th Grade level, exercise judgment by not spouting irresponsible and ignorant opinions as if the national media was a typical blog comment thread, or shut up about anything weightier than what it is like to work with her co-stars and what she eats on location.

I point this out because, in a regrettable instance of the aged fool interviewing a newly-minted one, Barbara Walters—who just told Piers Morgan, on the topic of Barack Obama,  that “We thought that he was going to be – I shouldn’t say this at Christmastime, but – the next Messiah—-interviewed Lawrence for Barbara’s upcoming  “Most Fascinating People of 2013” TV special, and Jennifer opined,

“I just think it should be illegal to call somebody fat on TV. If we’re regulating cigarettes and sex and cuss words because of the effect it has on our younger generation, why aren’t we regulating things like calling people fat?” Continue reading

(PSSST! Conservatives! Here’s Why Democrats Win Elections By Claiming a Republican “War On Women”: You Tolerate Too Many Pigs, Sexists And Misogynists)

OK, quick: What did Jennifer Lawrence do that the Daily Caller felt was newsworthy?

OK, quick: What did Jennifer Lawrence do that the Daily Caller felt was newsworthy?

[WARNING:  For some bizarre reason,the second half of this post will not let me space out the paragraphs properly; WordPress is having some issues. I apologize, and I’ll fix it as soon as I can.]

I regularly peruse about 50 websites as part of my search for provocative ethics issues, including Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller. It’s a conservative blog, of course, similar in content to Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, and a fair reverse-negative politically to the leftish Daily Beast. Scrolling through its various stories, I hit this headline:

Double Feature: Jennifer Lawrence Shows Sideboob AND Underboob Simultaneously [PHOTOS]

Now THAT’S “news you can use”!

Why is this kind of leering, sexist, fratboy junk—exactly what used to cause us to ridicule the British tabloids back when American newspapers had integrity— appearing on what is supposed to be a serious political commentary website? Simple, really:

  • Its linkbait.
  • Most of the Daily Caller’s readers are conservative males, a disturbing number of whom will drool over revealing [PHOTOS] of comely actresses young enough to be their granddaughters.
  • Too many conservatives, like Carlson, have deficient ethics alarms when it comes to reducing women to their body parts.

This wasn’t a departure for the Daily Caller, not at all: it posts this kind of crap regularly. (Here’s another.) The entire story regarding actress Lawrence’s exposure read as follows:

“Jennifer Lawrence clearly did not mind (or was not aware) that the Internet was abuzz with her flash of sideboob last week.Over the weekend, the actress simultaneously showed some sideboob AND underboob during “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” premiere in Paris. It was glorious.”

Wow. Stop the presses. Continue reading