Preface:This is the kind of issue that can be hard to find, unless one has unlimited time to search all sources and for better or ill, I don’t. Ethics Alarms is still feeling the effects of losing the regular services of topic scout Fred, who had a remarkable reach, finding ethics issues in all sorts of places I never would (though Fred does drop by here to comment, and I am grateful for that, as well as his long service.) I really do depend on the readers for tips, particularly in the non-political arena. Even the news aggregating sites like The Daily Beast, The Daily Caller, the Blaze and Huffington Post have become more politics obsessed than ever, so Ethics Alarms has to dig deeper and go farther. Some of our best discussions have arisen out of obscure venues. So please: keep an ye open, and write me at email@example.com/
There are many fascinating, upsettingdetails in the story of Elizabeth Holmes, but my favorite is her voice. Holmes, the ousted Theranos founder who was indicted last year on federal fraud charges for hawking an essentially imaginary product to multi-millionaire investors, pharmacies, and hospitals, speaks in a deep baritone that, as it turns out, is fake. Former co-workers of Holmes told The Dropout, a new podcast about Theranos’s downfall, that Holmes occasionally “fell out of character” and exposed her real, higher voice — particularly after drinking. One can only assume the voice will be discussed in the upcoming HBO documentary, too.
To begin with, as anyone can hear from the video above, Theranos did not and does not speak in deep baritone voice, which tells us immediately that the author, Katie Heaney, doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Neither, apparently, does Ann, who directs us to another video and describes Holmes’ voice as “a ludicrous phony voice.” There’s nothing ludicrous about it, and if she is not using a ventriloquist, it’s not phony either. Continue reading →
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer wore a “form fitting dress” or a “distractingly badly-fitting dress” during her state of the State address. After some pundits and a lot of social media users leveled harsh criticism of her attire, the matter quickly entered the battlefield of the gender wars. She said in a statement,
“In my speech I was encouraging people to see the humanity in one another in this cruel political environment. In an era when so many women are stepping up to lead, I’m hoping people will focus on our ideas and accomplishments instead of our appearance. Until then, I’ve got a message for all of the women and girls like mine who have to deal with garbage like this every day: I’ve got your back.”
Anne Doyle, an Oakland County leadership coach for women, said,
“If she had been wearing something big and baggy, she would have been criticized for wearing that. We’re going to see a significant amount of this type of criticism as more and more women are in these type of powerful, leadership roles. It’s gender bias. But we have to power our way through it and ignore it.”
No question about it, female public figures are often subjected to higher standards of appearance than males. However, does this mean that no criticism of public comportment and appearance by public officials in the official discharge of their duties is legitimate? Here’s Ann Althouse on the controversy, writing that the Governor…
…wore a dress to her State of the State Address that was just way too tight. As many of the commenters (at The Daily Mail) observe, you can see the outline of her bellybutton. It’s not really fair to accuse everyone of body shaming when you wear something that fits so poorly. People talk about Trump’s tie being too long….
And his hair, AND his skin color, AND his hands, AND his weight. Meanwhile, Michelle Obama’s every fashion choice received barrels of ink-worth of automatic praise. The issue is, or should be, whether a public figures should be held accountable for decisions regarding they present themselves to the world. Cousin Vinny kept finding himself in contempt of court for inappropriately casual attire, which was deemed disrespectful to the court. Are supporters of the governor really arguing that all criticism of a female elected official’s attire or appearance is sexist? Seriously?
At least, that’s what I’ll be saying later today, as I arrive in the Texas capital to give my country music ethics seminar, sung by the remarkable Mike Messer, to a group of over a thousand corporate lawyers. It’s certainly better than lying around coughing, which is what I’ve been doing lately.
1. Update: Facebook still won’t accept Ethics Alarms links. This is seriously depressing me. I can’t get Facebook to respond or explain, and so far WordPress hasn’t been any help either. In the past, posts here have attracted tens of thousands of Facebook shares; most got at least a couple. Now there are none. This affects traffic, it affects everything. On one level, I’m tempted just to leave Facebook entirely. It’s not a very pleasant place these days, and the company is despicable. That doesn’t solve the problem though. After all the work and time I have spent trying to develop the blog, watching its readership and circulation go backwards is infuriating. I also don’t know how paranoid I should be about all of this.
2. State of the Union notes. The speech is always political theater, and largely irrelevant unless it is botched or something weird happens, like “You lie!” or Obama attacking the Supreme Court. I find it amazing that so many pundits couldn’t keep their cognitive dissonance in check, and give some semblance of an honest, if grudging, analysis of what one would have to call an excellent performance—and that’s all the SOTU speech is, a performance— by Donald Trump standards, and a wise performance from a Presidential perspective. At a time of near maximum divisiveness, the speech was upbeat, optimistic, and patriotic. You have to really, really hate the man to condemn that speech….and that’s how most of journalists and pundits feel. I especially liked Salon’s “Donald Trump 2019: Same lying racist he was last year.” CNN’s Van Jones was also self-indicting, saying, “I saw this as a psychotically incoherent speech with cookies and dog poop. He tries to put together in the same speech these warm, kind things about humanitarianism and caring about children, and at the same time he is demonizing people who are immigrants in a way that was appalling.” On the other side of the wacko divide, Ann Coulter called the speech “sappy” and was upset because Trump didn’t talk more about the wall. Is there anyone other than Coulter than wants him to talk more about the wall? We need a special confirmation bias clinic for these people. Also: Continue reading →
Apparently audiences were unhappy with an allegedly subpar performance of “The Wiz” at the Brown Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky. An unusual number of customers called to call demand refunds, based on complaints ranging from botched lines to a bad Cowardly Lion costume (he looked like e bear) and to a cheesy projection of magical land of Oz from a laptop projector.
“The Wiz” is the hit Seventies Broadway adaptation of the “The Wizard of Oz,” but with an all-black cast, rock-style music, hip-hop dancing and contemporary slang. It was made into a successful film starring Diana Ross and Dorothy and Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow.
Tickets cost between $35 to $65. Despite the complaints, Lavarious Slaughter, the show’s producer for Island Entertainment KC, of Kansas City, Missouri has said that there will be no refunds.
(Lavarious Slaughter? He sounds like an escapee from a Harry Potter book.)
It’s hard for me to tell just how bad the performance was based on second hand accounts. (I wouldn’t pay 65 bucks for the greatest production of “The Wiz” ever. The whole concept behind “The Wiz ” was cynical, and all-black casts are a divisive gimmick. How bad was it?
Helen Barnett was one malcontent who talked to the press. “It was terrible,” Barnett said. “Dorothy was wearing a Walmart dress. They forgot their dialogues … at one point Dorothy said she wanted to go back to Texas!” (In “The Wiz,” Dorothy is from Harlem while Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” is from Kansas.) Other complaint noted that the computer projected set kept being uninterrupted by pop-up dialogue boxes.
Yeah, that sounds pretty bad.
One of the actors, Kori Black, who played the role of the Good Witch of the North tried to explain, “The three o’clock show ended up being pretty much our dress rehearsal because we didn’t have enough time to do the show full-out at the venue before we performed it.”
I have mixed feelings about this, as a former professional theatrical producer and a long-time director and performer. There is no excuse for a badly rehearsed, done-on-the-cheap production that isn’t aimed at giving the audience genuine entertainment. On the other hand, one of the features of live theater that TV and movies lack is that nothing is guaranteed. Stuff goes wrong; things don’t work, actors botch line and entrances, costumes rip, props break, lights blow out. The show goes on. Going to the theater is the ultimate caveat emptor—“Let the buyer beware.” I’ve demanded refunds when projectors broke down in movie theaters, and I’ve given refunds or rain-checks to theater audiences when a performance couldn’t be completed. (Among the causes for those catastrophes: a power outage, a smoke machine that went crazy and blinded everyone, and a lead actor who got knocked cold on stage.) I’ve also had to open shows that were not as ready as I would have liked, but that is a common occurrence everywhere. You can’t give refunds for missed lines. Getting Dorothy’s home wrong is bad for sure, but if that ruins the show for someone, they weren’t going to like anything. One of the most popular and best reviewed productions I ever directed was Orson Welles’ adaptation of “Moby Dick.” One night, the actor playing Ishmael forgot the first line of the play, which is “Call me Ishmael”–one of the most famous opening lines in literature, and also the character’s own name. I got some flack, but the rest of the show recovered.
I fear that audiences are so unfamiliar with live theater that they expect movie-like special effects and the slick perfection that digitally created, multiple take filming provides. Live theater’s imperfections are part of what makes it dynamic and exciting. On the other hand, those pop-up dialogue boxes sound like the work of a production staff just trying to make a quick buck off the locals and then get out of town.
My policy would be that if a patron asked for a refund, I’d approve it. In 20 years, however, not one of our audience members demanded one.
Now, your poll. Vote for as many answers as you like:
1. Trump Trump Trump. You know, I was on a political Facebook page in 2016 where an idiot kept posting “Trump Trump Trump” despite everyone, including the moderator, telling him to cut it out. Eventually he was banned from the site. Unfortunately, there is no similarly simple solution to this problem when a combination of the Trump-hostile news media and the President himself forces a variety of ethics issues on me, when I would rather be musing about baseball, old sitcoms, and guys in lobster hats.
The pardons.President Trump pardoned Dwight L. Hammond, now 76, and his son, Steven D. Hammond, 49, a pair of Oregon cattle ranchers who had been serving out five-year sentences for arson on federal land, which had sparked the armed occupation of a wildlife refuge in 2016. Naturally these pardons were attacked, because anything Trump does will be attacked. The resulting conflict brought widespread attention to anger over federal land management in the Western United States,and that’s a good thing. How can the federal government justify owning almost half of Western land?
As for the pardons, both men have served most of their sentences already, and not only were the sentences unusually harsh for their offenses, the cases had the whiff of political prosecutions about them. They were perfectly legitimate objects for Presidential pardons, but then so are hundreds of thousands of other cases. Presidents should issue as many pardons as possible, which means eliminating a lot of the red tape. So far, Trump has sucked the tape by cherry-picking beneficiaries in his own, eccentric, biased way, using his unique, unassailable Constitution-based power to court supporters, celebrities and particular constituencies—not that there’s anything wrong with that, as long as other deserving citizens also get pardoned, and really, all but the most unrepentant, vile and dangerous felons deserve mercy and compassion eventually. Unless the pardon power is used broadly and constantly, its blessings too often depend on who you know. In the case of the ranchers, for example, a large donor to Vice-President Pence lobbied for the pardons. Again, that doesn’t mean the pardons can’t be justified. It does mean the process is skewed by factors not related to justice or fairness.
I found this to be the most ethically intriguing paragraph in the Times story about Pence pal, tycoon Forrest Lucas, and his likely influence on the pardons:
“While other presidents have also gone ahead of Justice officials to pardon apparent allies, they have often waited until their final days in office to do so. Mr. Trump, by comparison, has issued high-profile pardons early and comparatively often — seemingly unconcerned by the appearance of leaning his ears toward those at the top.”
So is Trump being unethical in a more ethical fashion than his predecessors?
Bad host, worse guest. The President’s derogatory comments about the British Prime Minister were indefensible, of course. We know how he thinks: Great Britain, as he has said, with justification, has made him feel unwelcome—that insulting “Trump baby” blimp over London is a real diplomatic low—and thus, in Trump’s rudimentary ethics system, akin to that of a lizard, the proper response is tit-for-tat. None of this is unexpected, and nobody who voted for Trump can say that they didn’t give him license to behave this way by electing him.
I do wonder now why I ever thought that he would react to being elected by moderating the very conduct that, in his mind and probably in reality, got him where he is today. My role model for him was President Arthur, who was about as different in character and background from Donald Trump as a human being could be.
NEWS FLASH from MSNBC: Most Americans don’t do this…
It’s time to play the game show that is sweeping the nation, thanks to the escalating bias and partisan activism of the mainstream news media!
For today’s episode, our question concerns veteran broadcast news reporter Andrea Mitchell, once widely considered a trustworthy professional, now member of the cabal of hacks that fill up the slanted hours on MSNBC.
Today, pumping for the NFL to turn itself into a weekly infomercial for anti-Trump protests, Black Lives Matter propaganda, and general progressive agenda agitation, Mitchell said this about the NFL’s ban on kneeling during the pre-game playing of the National Anthem:
“The hypocrisy is so profound Take a look at any NFL stadium and people are getting hot dogs, people are getting beers. They’re not standing and saluting the anthem for a large part. They’re not. They’re distracted. They’re fans at an event.”
Of course, as anyone who has ever attended a sporting event knows—and anyone who has any understanding of this nation and its poeple should know anyway–virtually everyone stands, respectfully, hats off, many with hands over their hearts, during the National Anthem at every sporting event, at every level from high school to the pros. What was Mitchell doing? Was she just lying to make her case? Was she stating as fact something she assumed was true but had not bothered to check, a gross breach of professionalism? Or is Andrea Mitchell just dumb as stuffed cabbage?
So without any further ado, let’s play “Fake News, Professional Incompetence, Or Just Plain Stupid”!
1. On the Future News front…The Michael Cohen raid has prompted a new outbreak of this particularly odious journalism and punditry trend: writing hysterically about what might happen. I spend so much time telling my wife that it is absurd and self-destructive to spend energy and emotion on dire “what if?” speculation, when sanity only reigns when we deal with what happens, when it happens, and not freak out because it might happen. Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer isn’t just for alcoholics, you know:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;courage to change the things I can;and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time;enjoy ing one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace…”
The news media, however, pummels us with dire future news to undermine serenity, create fear, encourage anxiety, distrust, panic and hysteria. All the better to undermine President Trump, after all.
MSNBC’s Joy Reid, for example, admittedly one of the worst of the worst, speculated about what might happen should the president refuse to allow himself to be arrested by federal marshals. Note that there is no evidence that there is anything to arrest him for, but never mind. This is Future News. “What if he refuses to open the White House door? What if he fires any Secret Service agent who would allow the federal marshals in? What if Donald Trump simply decides, ‘I don’t have to follow the law? I refuse to be held under the law. No marshal can get into this White House and any Secret Service agent who defies me is fired,'” she asked.
Today I am reading that Michael Cohen might have incriminating tapes of Donald Trump saying incriminating things. Yes, and he might have 12 toes and three nipples, too. Cohen apparently surreptitiously taped some of his conversations. Now, it is true that Cohen is a uniquely sleazy lawyer, but surreptitiously taping a client is a serious legal ethics breach that would pretty much end his career, not to mention his bar license, it it were proven. Never mind though: what if he taped Trump having sex with a marmot? What if he taped the President speaking Russian?
What might happen isn’t news. There are exceptions, but extensive concentration of speculation and projections, as with the Russian investigation coverage, is misleading and unethical journalism.
2. Incompetent prosecution to the rescue! For some reason, Bill Cosby’s prosecutors, allowed to choose from the more than 70 alleged victims of the serial sexual predator a representative five to show his modus operandi that victimized Andrea Constand, chose Janice Dickinson, an aging ex-model, huckster, reality show star and publicity hound with the approximate trustworthiness and credibility of Stormy Daniels. Continue reading →