Ethics Dunce Update: See, Jason, This Is Why We Need An Ethics Alarm…

 Too little, too late.

george03Jason Alexander has just responded to his agent’s and publicist’s frantic texts with a tweeted apology for his disreputable and needless swipe at an out-of-work actress now plucking ukuleles for a living…and not even in Hawaii.

He feels officially awful, he says. Her inability to play scenes with him and the other cast members wasn’t really the reason she was killed off on the show. It was all Jason’s insecurity, he says. Everybody “really liked and like Heidi…she is a kind, lovely person” he says. In show business, screwing over people you like and humiliating lovely people who make about 1% of what you do is just what stars do…wait, no he didn’t exactly say that.

He also says this: “But in telling this story, it sounds like we are putting a heavy burden on Heidi. I, personally, am not.”

Hmmmm. Interesting “personally.” As in the comments to Stern, Alexander is again implying that it wasn’t his fault that the actress got dumped and sent to hula hell. But Jason: you told the story humiliating her on the air. You. Nobody else.

Finally, Alexander tries to shift blame to the news media:

“So, to all the press that is now running wild with this 15-year-old story, please don’t pervert it.

“George,” you, not anyone else, you, told the 15 year-old story. The story now is what a jerk you were on Stern’s show. That story is new, and you just added to it, because this “apology” makes you seem like even more of a jerk. Yes, there’s a nice “I personally apologize” to Heidi. It doesn’t matter. The harm was done, and can’t be undone, and many of us, like me, have a hard time believing that this mea culpa is anything but PR repair work. For her career, dignity and reputation, no repair is possible.

You want to make amends? Have your agent find her an acting gig.

Ethics Dunce: Actor and Ex-“George” Jason Alexander


The gag on “Seinfeld” was that all four of the main characters (and most everyone else, too) were selfish, neurotic, essentially horrible people. Michael Richards signaled that he might have been channeling his inner creep into “Kramer” when he had a spontaneous racist meltdown during a stand-up gig, effectively destroying his career. Now we have learned what a mean-spirited, gratuitously cruel jerk Jason Alexander is. And I always thought it was just the fact that he was playing mean-spirited, gratuitously cruel jerk Larry David as “George Costanza.”

The “Seinfeld” episode in which George’s rich, odd fiancee Susan Ross died by licking too many cheap wedding invitation envelopes has always been controversial, as many critics and fans felt that it caused the show’s characters to cross over the line from endearingly strange and self-involved to outright despicable—especially George, who received the news of her death with thinly veiled relief.

In an interview with a genuinely despicable individual, Howard Stern, Jason Alexander, previously “George Costanza,” was asked by Stern how Susan’s sudden death became an episode.

“This poor girl,” Alexander said, chuckling.  “The actress is this wonderful girl, Ms. [Heidi] Swedberg… I love her. She’s a terrific girl. I love her. I couldn’t figure out how to play off of her.”

Stern: “You’re being kind.”

“No,” said Alexander, meaning “Yes.”  “Her instincts for doing a scene — where the comedy was — and mine were always misfiring.”

Alexander went on to say that his castmates told him he was being unfair until they had to play scenes with Swedberg. “Finally, they do an episode where Elaine and Jerry have a lot of material with her,” Alexander said. According to Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Seinfeld concurred afterward that it was ” fucking impossible” to play off of her.

Alexander then fingered the actor who sealed “Susan’s” doom.  “Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Elaine”) actually said, ‘I know — don’t you just wanna kill her?’” “Seinfeld” co-creator and writer Larry David then agreed to execution by envelope.

“Every time I tell this story I cringe,” Alexander said, “because Heidi is the sweetest.”

In a career turn that sounds like a  punchline, Swedberg now lives by teaching the ukulele and leading her own ukulele band.

Alexander, not to be excessively harsh, is scum. Continue reading

A Boy Named Sue, A Woman Named Edward

I think I know where he works…

I have no idea what to make of this: I feel like I fell into a “Seinfeld” episode. Remember the “high talker”?

I received an e-mail yesterday from the executive of a large company inquiring about an ethics training. The first name of the executive was Edward, but when I called the listed number, a very high, very female voice answered the phone. I asked to speak to the executive, and received a perky, “I’m Edward! Thanks for calling me back.”

Come on. Edward? What woman goes by Edward? I was about to make a comment like, “That’s an unusual name—how did you come by it?” when I had an image of “Seinfeld’s” high talker, a short, fat, bald guy, becoming irate when callers mistook him for his girlfriend over the phone. This was a potential client, and I didn’t want to annoy her—or him. On the other hand, surely she, assuming it is a she, knows that her masculine  name causes confusion. I searched through her e-mail messages for any hint of her—if she was a her—gender, and found nothing. Wouldn’t it be reasonable and fair to at least confirm that yes, she was a woman, or yes, he was a male counter-tenor, or yes, he was indeed a castrati, or at least do something to clear up what he…or she, dammit… had to know was confusing to anyone meeting her over the phone? Continue reading

Creating Captain Costanzas


I think I stopped finding George Costanza funny when I saw the “Seinfeld” episode in which he panicked at a kids party after smelling smoke and trampled the children rushing to be the first out the door. (His callous reaction to his fiancée’s death from licking envelopes had paved the way for my inability to laugh at George.) The thought of a real-life George Costanza, the most unethical character on a show about unethical characters, serving as the captain of an imperiled ship full of passengers is horrifying, but that’s basically what befell the unsuspecting tourists on board the cruise ship that tipped over after hitting a rock off the coast of Italy. Having caused the accident, it appears, by irresponsibly changing course, captain Francesco Schettino hit the life boats before most of his passengers, and claimed to be directing the evacuation from the relative safety of a lifeboat as he defied orders from the Italian Coast Guard to return to the ship. Continue reading

An Ethics Lesson Missed, a Life Lost

Jayna Murray, victim of a murderer and ignorance of the the Golden Rule.

The grisly Lululemon Athletica murder trial in Montgomery County, Maryland, concluded with Brittany Norwood being quickly found guilty of the March beating and stabbing death of co-worker Jayna Murray in the yoga-wear store where they both were employed. Among the key testimony at the trial was that of Jana Svrzo, the manager of the Apple store adjacent to the murder scene, who said she heard banging, screaming, grunts and other someone-is-getting-attacked sounds, along with a frantic woman screaming things like, “God help me! Please help me!” and “Talk to me! Don’t do this!” Svrzo said she called another Apple employee over to the wall to confirm her suspicions, and they heard the voice say,”Stop! Stop! Stop!” and then, “Oh, God! Stop!”

The two Apple employees did nothing. Continue reading

Death Photo Ethics

Even before Achilles dragged the corpse of Hector behind his chariot through the dust around the walled city of Troy, the tradition of demoralizing the enemy by degrading and displaying the bodies of its dead heroes was well-established. The United States was horrified when this was done to our fallen servicemen in Somalia, and it is one of the most barbaric and unnecessary practices of war.  While the Geneva Convention doesn’t mention the displaying of enemy corpses, a 2005 publication by the Red Cross called Customary International Humanitarian Law does. It was written to address issues that international treaties omitted, and its Rule 113 reads:

“Each party to the conflict must take all possible measures to prevent the dead from being despoiled. Mutilation of dead bodies is prohibited. Continue reading

Illinois: A Clash of Law, Ethics, Christmas and Festivus

Any one with lingering doubts about whether law is capable of navigating the nuances of ethics should ponder the Christmas display at the Illinois State Capital, where an effort to avoid state support of religion has resulted in an offensive mockery of it that is inappropriate for any season.

The collision of the Constitution’s Establishment Clause (and the Supreme Court’s  broad interpretation of it) with the cultural, traditional. historical, artistic and commercial aspects of Christmas have created an annual fiasco that looks silly, irritates everyone, and accomplishes nothing constructive. It would be better to have no Christmas display at all, and that fact proves the limitation of law, and the subordination of ethics. Continue reading