Of Kanye And Caitlin: What Are Rational Ethics Standards For Halloween Costumes?


The standards of acceptable Halloween costuming, as you might have predicted given the catalyst President Obama has given to extreme restrictive political correctness, keeps evolving to the hypersensitive and the restrictive. The issue is easier with children’s costumes: children’s masquerades should be age-appropriate; they should not be manikins for their parent’s senses of humor or political views, and as long as they are in the spirit of horror movies, the criticism of those who don’t understand horror movies should be jeered at or ignored. The major controversies arise now over adult costumes. Ethics Alarms has been covering the phenomenon for  awhile: let’s review the topic as previously explored here before I delve into its 2015 edition: Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Obamas’ “Private Party”


President Obama and his wife, Michelle invited about 500 guests to a White House party where pop icons Prince and Stevie Wonder entertained guests. Among the guests were Al Sharpton, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his date, singer Ciara, Jon Bon Jovi, James Taylor, Tyler Perry, Connie Britton, Angela Bassett, Gayle King, Tracee Ellis Ross, fashion designer Naeem Kha, American Express exec Ken Chenault,  former Attorney General Eric Holder, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, as well as about 480 others of doubtlessly equal glitter who didn’t squeal about the blow-out on Twitter or Instagram or who weren’t mentioned by other guests who did.

The party was not mentioned on the President’s official schedule, and it almost managed to occur without publicity until the White House news briefing on Monday afternoon, when Josh Earnest was grilled about it. The White House spokesman said two interesting things, one audacious in its blatant dishonesty and Orwellian logic, and the other ….interesting. The first:

“I think the fact that we’re talking about a private event and the fact that details of this are known is an indication that the president is committed to being transparent. At the same time, the president and first lady are going to reserve the right to host private parties at the White House, and they did it on their own dime.”

Further proving how transparent the President was, Earnest announced that no guest list would be provided to the press or the public. Now that’s transparency. The other statement:

[T]”he President and First Lady are going to reserve the right to host private parties at the White House, and they did it on their own dime. I think that’s consistent with the kinds of values that they have talked about.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

“Are there any ethical problems with the Obama’s “private party”?

Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: Bitter, Spoilsport, Fuddy-Duddy Republicans and Conservatives

Nope, no Republicans there...

Nope, no Republicans here…

A grand welter of celebrities ranging from Pussy Riot and Paul Krugman to Willie Nelson and Big Bird joined comic Stephen Colbert in his farewell to Comedy Central, as he prepares to step into David Letterman’s shoes and hopes to do a Jimmy Fallon as Dave’s (overdue) replacement, rather than a Conan O’Brien. Obviously the producers and Colbert sought a ridiculously diverse group symbolizing U.S. culture and whimsy, and sent out invitations far and wide. Instead, the got an overwhelmingly liberal and progressive group that may make up half of MSNBC’s total viewership, a group that would almost all have been at home on the floor of the Democratic National Convention.

Don’t blame Colbert. It was clear that ideological animus with Colbert’s almost entirely anti-conservative schtick was no bar to the option of participation. Republicans and conservatives, however, almost unanimously decided to sulk, stay home, and boycott the party. Continue reading

The Hopelessly Muddled Ethics Of Halloween Costumes


“Anna Rexia”

Clearly, we need some rational ethics standards for Halloween costumes, but I doubt that we will ever have any unless political correctness is removed from the equation. The holiday is by its very nature in bad taste with a heavy dose of defiance. The tradition is all about invoking the things that frighten us, with death being tops on the list. Trivializing death or mocking it is any way is guaranteed to offend somebody. My solution: if it offends you so much, don’t participate in Halloween. Boycott it. Don’t give out candy. Let everyone else—you know, those enough to distinguish reality from make-believe and satire from insults—have a good time once a year.

Once Halloween is transformed into Halloweenie, as so many of the political correctness police would have it, it isn’t Halloween, and isn’t fun. We have properly purged the vandalism that once part of the ritual, and if every possibly offensive disguise and costume is deemed socially unacceptable, all we have left is an annual event where kids dressed in blinking lights (to avoid accidents) get non-sugar candy, fruit, dental floss or contributions to charities while dressed up as non-offensive politicians, Greenpeace captains, cartoon characters, occupations and maybe insects. Then parents x-ray the candy and limit how much of it the kids can eat. As for adults, they not only have to wear costumes that won’t offend their friends and fellow party goers, but also costumes that won’t offend somebody, somewhere, when an officious jerk at a party takes a photo with his phone and posts it for the world. What fun. Continue reading

Most Entertaining Ethics Alarms Discussion Ever: A Salute

Ethics Alarms now pauses in gratitude to give a stunned and admiration-filled salute to all the participants in the still perking comment donnybrook that has followed what I thought initially would be a minor, fairly obvious post about the ethics of vegetarians hosting a wedding reception and imposing a strict vegetarian menu despite the protests of their parents that some guests would be uncomfortable. Triggered by a first-time visitor, her unique perspective and her sometimes  cloying way of expressing it, what erupted has been a 375+ comment multi-party debate that had everything: wild analogies, accusations, counter-accusations, common sense, enlightenment, gibberish, creativity, hypocrisy, Eastern philosophy, tangents, 60’s nostalgia, humor (intentional and not), at least two terms I had never encountered before but will cherish forever—“deepity” and “wackaloon” —-and even some ethics. In addition to provocateur livvy1234, who has registered more than80  comments so far and enough words to comprise a novella, key combatants include Joe Fowler, Karla Marie Robinette, Brian, deery, Elizabeth I, Michael, Libby Torgeson, Joy, Jan Chapman…but especially tgt, the Ethics Alarms 2011 Commenter of the Year, who really has justified his title with gusto this time.

Thanks, everybody. What fun.

The Vegetarian Reception: Carolyn Hax Strikes Out

Well, nobody bats 1.000.

“Where’s the shrimp?”

My favorite ethical advice columnist, Carolyn Hax, missed a soft pitch by a mile recently. The question came from a couple—an apparently insufferable couple, I may add—who sought Hax’s confirmation that they were within rightful boundaries by wanting to have only vegetarian fare at their upcoming wedding reception, since they were vegetarians themselves. “We don’t want to spend money purchasing meat or fish, and feel that a celebration of our union and the home we are making together should not have meat or fish in it,” they explained. Her parents objecedt on the grounds that, among other things, many of their older friends can’t tolerate beans and dairy. Hax’s correspondent retorts that they can certainly stand to go meatless for one reception.

And Carolyn sided with the soon-to-be insufferable married couple, saying,

“I believe the range of food permissible within a vegetarian diet is broad enough to satisfy all, allowing me to duck the question of whether the guests’ comfort trumps the hosts’ principles. I believe it’s a case-by-case call, depending on both the principles and (dis)comfort involved for the guests.”

Oh Carolyn, Carolyn. A few more duds like this, and the New York Times will offer you its post as “The Ethicist.” Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: The Nevada Ethics Commission, Which is Pretty Depressing.

An X-Ray of Caren Jenkin's head, ethics sector

Here at last may be the answer to the riddle of why state ethics commissions have so little effect on the persistent problem of unethical government.

The people who make up the membership of such commissions may not know the first thing about ethics. Take Nevada, for instance:

To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Nevada Ethics Commission, its executive director, Caren Jenkins, organized a party at a Carson City restaurant.  She invited current and former commissioners and staff, and also the state’s top elected officials, whose conduct is reviewed by the commission, which can fine them substantially or even seek their removal from office and prosecution for violating state ethics laws.
The invitation included a request for $33 to pay for the event.

“It never even crossed my mind that this would be seen as questionable,” said Jenkins. Never crossed her mind. eh? The event has elected officials whom the commission has to objectively oversee socializing with their state-appointed watchdogs. The Ethics Commission chair solicited money from officials who must depend on the commission for discretionary ethics calls. Jenkins has apparently never heard of appearance of impropriety, conflicts of interest, or interference with independent judgment. The Chair of the Nevada Ethics Commission has ethics alarms about as well-maintained as those of Charlie Rangel or Marion Barry. And since none of her fellow members bothered to raise any objections over her plan, their ethics alarms are in similar disrepair.


Or all too believable, come to think of it.

Krystal Ball, the Dildo Nose, Human Nature, and Trust

Krystal Ball is a Democrat running for an open Virginia Congressional seat in the 1st District. Today, however, most Americans who know her at all only do so because some spectacularly embarrassing photos of her have gone viral on the Internet. In the shots, a Santa-clad Ball is shown in a series of suggestive poses involving a bright red dildo, which is fastened to the nose of young man wearing reindeer antlers. In some shots, she has Rudolph the Dildo-nosed Reindeer on a leash, just to add that dominatrix flair we all associate with the holidays. Continue reading