Ethics Hero: Orrin Hatch

Our political culture has come to a sad state when the simple act of retiring before obvious disability intervenes is an act of rare responsibility and courage. We are at that sad state, however, so the announcement by 83-year-old Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving Republican senator in American history, that he will not run for re-election in 2018 is worthy of salute. Hatch will leave the Senate at the end of his current term, after 42 years in office. He is giving up power, something so many find difficult to do.

Hatch has power now: he is the chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.  He played a pivotal role in passing the Trump tax reform bill that passed  before Christmas, and decided that it was a fitting way to crown his historic Senate career. It isn’t exactly Ted Williams hitting a home run in his final at bat; for one thing, there is another year to go before Hatch’s term is up. Nonetheless, he is doing one of the hardest things for a p0werful figure to do, especially, it seems, today’s Senators in both parties,

More than half of the 18 Senators up for reelection in 2018 will be over the age of 65.  If they win, another six years in office would put Senators Feinstein, Nelson, and Sanders well into their 80s. By the 2020 elections, 21 of the 33 Senators running for reelection will be 65 or older. This is neither healthy for the country nor responsible, and the problem extends beyond the Senate. Over the past three decades,  the average age of a member of Congress has steadily increased. In 1981, the average age of a Representative was 49 and the average of a Senator was 53. Today, the average age of a Representative is 57 and the average of a Senator is 61.  House Democrats are especially antediluvian:  the average age of the Democratic House leadership is 72 years old, in contrast to the average age of Republican House leadership, 48 years. Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms Harry Truman Files: Applause For “The Wrecking Crew”

 

One of my favorite Presidential quotes of all time is from Harry Truman. He said,

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

Nonetheless, people deserve credit when they do important things, and trying to encourage the culture to not only give credit but also to remember and honor those deserving it across generations is a frequent theme of this blog.  The Ethics Alarms Heroes Hall of Fame is one expression of this theme. This post is another.

I was reminded of The Wrecking Crew when Glen Campbell died, and recently, when I heard old Monkee Mickey Dolenz in a recent interview.  Cambell was the most famous alumni of the studio band, which had many members over the years. Dolenz was a member of the group that was its most famous beneficiary, although The Byrds were also famously represented by The Wrecking Crew in their first hit record, “Mr. Tambourine Man.”

It has always amazed me how little this loosely organized band of brilliant studio musicians is known outside of the music business and the rock and pop trivia nerds. The Wrecking Crew was significantly involved in much of the greatest pop music recorded from the late 1950s to the mid 1970’s. Their musical contributions are indistinguishable and inseparable from the those of the famous singers and groups they backed, and yet fame and credit, as well as sufficient honors, have been elusive.

If people have heard of them at all, the Wrecking Crew is known for “ghosting” the accompaniments for the Monkees’ first two albums. However, its studio band work was far more extensive than that. They were, for example, the creators of Phil Specter’s “Wall of Sound”: in the early years, they were sometimes credited on Specter discs as occasionally credited as “the Phil Spector Wall of Sound Orchestra.” They played under other names too, or no names at all. The nickname “The Wrecking Crew” became public when it was used by drummer and member drummer and member Hal Blaine in his 1990 memoir, “Hal Blaine and the Wrecking Crew”; they also sometimes called themselves “The Clique.”  Blaine, Campbell and keyboardist Leon Russell are the most famous members; some of the better known studio  musicians that formed the backbone of the Crew’s ranks were drummer Earl Palmer, saxophonist Steve Douglas, guitarist Tommy Tedesco,  and bassist Carol Kaye, as well as versatile Larry Knechtel, later a member of Bread.

I checked Wikipedia for a list of the hits The Wrecking Crew played on and made into the classics they are. Here were some of them. Continue reading

Asshole Ethics And Jay-Z’s Concert For Hillary: There’s An Ethics Dunce In Here Somewhere… Many, In Fact

hillary-jay-z

Hillary Clinton participated in a star packed concert yesterday with a concert featuring Jay Z, Beyoncé, Chance the Rapper and Big Sean, all to inject enthusiasm for her shaky campaign t among African-Americans and younger voters, because anyone else would rip their ears off and feed them to a shredder rather than listen to this stuff.

“I want my daughter to grow up seeing a women lead our country and knowing that her possibilities are limitless,” said Beyoncé. “And that’s why I am with her.”

Beyoncé and her husband Jay-Z have also spent the past year lucratively linking their art and promotion to Black Lives Matter and demonizing police as racist killers. Is Hillary Clinton with them?

Hubby Jay-Z, meanwhile, observed trenchantly,

“If you feelin’ like a pimp nigger, go and brush your shoulders off…Ladies is pimps too, go and brush your shoulders off! N—– is crazy baby, don’t forget that boy told you. Get that dirt off your shoulders.”

Continue reading

Kanye West, Ethics Corrupter

FevaTV-KanyeWest Time Kanye West, a major and influential figure in pop music and with young black African-Americans particularly, has been a constant force for racial division, most notably when he told a live national audience that the response to the New Orleans recovery after Katrina was deliberately slow in order to harm African Americans. Despite the fact that he has repeatedly revealed himself to be a shameless jerk as well—really, it’s inconceivable that someone of such taste and class as Kim Kardashian would marry someone like that, but who can map the human heart?—West continues to promote racial distrust and division, making the musician a cultural and societal pollutant, the human national equivalent of Flint water.

His latest racist outburst was a series of tweets yesterday to his millions of followers that proceeded this way, within a minute…

To Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, New York Times, and any other white publication. Please do not comment on black music anymore…

I love love love white people but you don’t understand what it means to be the great grandson of ex slaves and make it this far…

The system is designed for colored people to fail and one of our only voices is music. One of our only ways out is music.

Hilariously, West’s complaint was that a Pitchfork review “only” gave his album a “9 out of 10” rating. He explained that he deserved a “30 out of 10.”

The racists.

This is more evidence that strong, vocal and influential forces in pop culture and the black community have abandoned the goals of racial respect, integrated society and equal justice and opportunity for the new goals black separation, special status, double standards, and disrespect. This has been the message of protesting activists on dozens of campuses; it was the message of the Black Lives Matter/Black Panthers salute Americans were subjected to by Beyoncé at the Super Bowl halftime show, and that is West’s irresponsible message as well.

Kanje has decreed some new rules, apparently : Continue reading

Ethics Observations On Beyonce’s Super Bowl 50 Halftime Performance

beyonce-superbowl-x-cbs

On the eve of her Super Bowl 50 half time show performance, Beyoncé released  “Formation,” a video full of references to Black Lives Matter tropes and propaganda, including “Hand Up! Don’t Shoot!”  (You can view it here. The earlier version of this post had an unofficial version: I apologize for the error.) Then in her portion of the Super Bowl 50 halftime show, the pop star gave the sold-out stadium and world-wide audience a live version of the video, including  backup dancers wearing Black Panther berets who formed  an X, apparently alluding to black Muslim activist Malcolm X, and raised their fists in the “black power” salute. African-Americans activists wrote that they saw the performance as a tribute to the 50th Anniversary, not of the Super Bowl, but to the Black Panthers.

The halftime show was part of a marketing plan messaging across multiple platforms, from social media to mainstream media. Once the show was seen in the context of the more explicit video, a controversy emerged, just as Beyoncé ‘s marketing geniuses hoped it would. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani was among the vocal critics, calling the show “outrageous” said telling Fox News,”This is football, it’s not Hollywood, and I thought it was really outrageous that she used it as a platform to attack police officers who are the people who protect her and protect us, and keep us alive.”  Protests are planned at NFL headquarters.

What’s going on here?

1. Stipulated: Beyoncé’s sole intentions are to sell, make money, and get buzz. If she has a genuine political motive, and I doubt it, it is secondary to the good ol’ profit-making motive that has made her a mega-millionaire. She and her husband Jay-Z have been linking their brand to Black Lives Matter because they see profit in it, that’s all. Is it crass and ethically inert? Sure it is…just like the music business and the rest of show business. Is it particular disgusting, at a time of dangerous racial division in this country heightened by liars, crooks, complicit activists and cynical politicians, to try to make money by glamorizing it? Yes indeed, but the Julie Principle needs to be applied here. Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly, and if you are paying any attention to people like Beyoncé, you can’t be shocked or overly angry at them when they show that their motives are purely non-ethical at all times. Yes, Beyoncé’s conduct was culturally irresponsible and unethical. “This is my shocked face:”

shocked face

2. That said, hijacking the Super Bowl halftime show to make a race-baiting, divisive, anti-police demonstration out of what is supposed to be a unifying, fun, family-friendly cultural event, by extolling the racist Black Lives Matter, the criminal and racist Black Panthers, and destructive lies like “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” is indeed outrageous. The stunt deserves every bit of criticism it has recieved and more. Continue reading

Christmas Music Blues

Who are those guys?

Who are those guys?

At the rate things are going, I am certain that before long no pop vocal interpretations of traditional Christmas music will be easily accessible on the radio. This is a cultural loss—it’s a large body of beautiful and evocative music—and someone should have, one would think, the obligation of preventing it. But I have no idea who.

I realized this when I felt myself getting nostalgic and sad as I listened to a series of “Christmas classics.” For one thing, they all reminded me of my parents, whose absence beginning in 2011 permanently kicked my enjoyment of the season in the groin. For another, all the artists were dead. Bing: dead. Frank: dead. Andy Williams, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Judy Garland, Burl Ives, Gene Autry, The Andrews Sisters, Perry Como, Elvis, John Denver–dead. Long dead, in most cases. Christmas has become a serenade of dead artists. Except for the narrow range of country music stars for those who enjoy “O Holy Night” with a twang, living pop artists don’t sing these songs. OK, Mariah Carey and Michael Buble. Not many others. Sirius-AM was desperate to find living artists that it has been playing the Seth McFarland Christmas album. Seth can sing, but I’m sorry, but it’s hard to enjoy “Silent Night” while picturing “The Family Guy.”

Current pop stars are, understandably, looking for new Christmas hits that will be identified with them, and those have always been hard to come by. Bing Crosby made annual recordings of terrible entries in the Christmas song market—I just heard a station play a few of them. Gene Autry too: many of his efforts were bombs, though I rather like this weird one:

Continue reading