Category Archives: Popular Culture

KABOOM! TNT Promotes A Tainted Prosecutor As A Star

coldjustice

And all this time I believed that TNT reality star Kelly Siegler was a real star prosecutor who had actually convicted guilty people while observing the law and professional ethics.

Kaboom!

head_explodes

That was the sound of my brains exploding through the top of my skull, this time because they deserved to. I never learn.

Or is the state of prosecutorial ethics in the United States so wretched that Kelly Siegler is the best ex-prosecutor that TNT could find?

I’ll stick my neck out and say, “no.” I say that even though the state of prosecutorial ethics is pretty terrible. Kelly Siegler left her job as a Harris County, Texas district attorney in 2008 after successfully prosecuting 68 murder trials. In 2013, TNT signed her up to star in a reality show called“Cold Justice,” now in its third season on the cable network.

Good title! A state-court judge recommended a new trial for a Texas inmate named David Temple, prosecuted by Siegler in 2007  for allegedly killing his pregnant wife. He was convicted, but the court says the “legendary prosecutor” illegally withheld critical exculpatory evidence.  Wrote Judge Larry Gist in his opinion calling for a re-trial: “Of enormous significance was Siegler’s testimony at the habeas hearing that apparently favorable evidence did not need to be disclosed if the state did not believe it was true.”  Continue reading

19 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Kaboom!, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Professions

Incompetent Political Correctness vs. Amy Schumer

That Mel Brooks...what a racist!

That Mel Brooks…what a racist!

If you want a template for the argument that comedy and jokes should not tread outside the thick, forbidding red lines of political correctness, you cannot do better than the Washington Post op-ed titled “Don’t believe her defenders. Amy Schumer’s jokes are racist.” Two professors, Stacey Patton and David J. Leonard, made the argument that Schumer’s humor is racist, and did so in as forceful terms possible. For example, they write:

 Racial jokes allow white America to claim that race no longer matters, even as there’s talk whizzing in every direction about how blacks and Latinos are outbreeding whites, are criminals and welfare queens, are “stealing jobs” and victimizing whites through affirmative action policies and denying them the right to use the n-word. Comedy allows these comforting ideas to be shared with a built-in defense mechanism that protects white innocence. 

America’s soil of racism is fed by jokes and incendiary speeches, by stereotypical images and symbols like the Confederate flag. Just as Rush Limbaugh,  Donald Trump and other members of the Republican Party regularly disparage people of color and claim they are simply telling the truth, Schumer can use comedy as a protective shroud to deny the harm and hurt caused by her jokes. A joke is considered benign especially when told by a supposed white liberal feminist. We can distance ourselves from the anger, from the harm, from the ideology, and from the hatred of the “extreme,” but also find comfort in the same anger, ideology  and hatred that is “just a joke.”

The abuse heaped on Schumer, a young, clever, rising comedian that I only recently became aware of because of her hilarious—filthy, but hilarious—parody of “Twelve Angry Men,” is breathtaking. She is called the equivalent of Donald Trump (who himself is misrepresented as a racist who believes all Mexicans—he said some illegal Mexican migrants—were criminals and rapists); she is declared complicit in the Charleston shootings and the creation of Dylann Roof, encouraging gun purchases generally, and “a worldview that justifies a broken immigration system, mass incarceration, divestment from inner city communities, that rationalizes inequality and buttresses persistent segregation and violence.”

This is why Mel Brooks says that “Blazing Saddles” couldn’t be made today.  His brilliant seventies Western spoof, which many, including Brooks, believe is the funniest film ever made (I’d pick “Animal House,” but he’s not far from wrong) was immediately recognized as a devastating attack on racism, despite its frequent use of the word “nigger” and its employment of almost every black stereotype for maximum comedy effect. Schumer is no Mel Brooks, but her audiences aren’t stupid either. They understand that she, like Brooks, is spoofing both the stereotypes and the people who believe them, as well as properly zinging the individuals who craete the stereotypes by their own conduct. There is nothing racist about that at all, unless one has embraced the current, floating, broad and infinitely flexible definition of “racist,” which is whatever a progressive or African American critic thinks will be most harmful to his or her target at the time.

The reason “Blazing Saddles” was understood to be satiric and beneficial to the cause of racial understanding forty years ago, and Schumer’s far less harsh humor is being attacked now is simple: race relations are worse today, thanks to people like Drs. Patton and Leonard, who I would have banned at the box office if they ever tried to buy a ticket to a comedy I was directing, and civil rights establishment that has decided that hyping eternal victimhood is the way to power and wealth.  People like this are incapable of humor, because they have to analyze whether they should laugh before they do laugh. To them, Popeye and the Road Runner encourage violence, Eddie Murphy’s Gumby impression furthers racial stereotypes, and Woody Allen’s movies are anti-Semitic. I’m sure they find Mel’s “Hitler on Ice” completely bewildering.

The Post apparently invited the two clueless political-correctness obsessed academics to write this drivel. Asking them to write about comedy is like inviting  Mike Huckabee to analyze the rhetoric of Dan Savage (and vice-versa). In other words, it was a set-up.

Debra Kessler explored the origins of this strange essay on the comedy website The Interobang.

I spoke with The Washington Post‘s Outlook Deputy Editor Mike Madden …. “This is not the opinion of The Washington Post,” Madden told me, “this is the opinion of a couple of contributors to The Washington Post.”  Of course both articles are editorials and newspapers print conflicting editorials all the time.  But even op-ed pieces are edited and selected and subject to internal guidelines and even op-ed pieces enjoy the weight of The Washington Post banner– one which has a history of protecting journalistic expression feverishly.

Kessler also talked to Stacey Patton, who told her that the Post solicited the piece, and had to persuade her to write it. Apparently they couldn’t persuade her to write it fairly, responsibly, or competently, however:

Dr. Patton said a few things that surprised me. For starters, she said she’s not a specialist on comedy or humor. While she does enjoy comedy (she likes George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Martin Lawrence, the Queens of Comedy, and Bill Maher among others), she told me that watching comedy isn’t something she gets to do often. In fact, before the ‘Schumer issue’ came up, she had never seen Amy Schumer perform stand up, and she had never seen Schumer’s Comedy Central television show. Even more surprising, she said she didn’t watch any of Amy’s performances or shows while writing the article, not even as background for the piece. Her judgement was based on what she read, presumably in The Guardian, which had just published an article accusing Schumer of “having a blind spot for race.”

The Interrobang: Have you ever watched Amy’s television show… in preparation for the article?
Stacey Patton: Nope. Not at all.
The Interrobang: Her stand up set[s]? have you ever watched any of them?
Stacey Patton: Nope. None of them.

Wow. Continue reading

38 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Race, Research and Scholarship

So Caitlyn Jenner BOUGHT Her ESPN Arthur Ashe Courage Award From Disney: What Does It Mean, And Why Is Anyone Surprised?

Arthur Ashe was too good for you, Cait...

Arthur Ashe was too good for you, Cait…

I should have already given ESPN an Ethics Dunce for designating an “Espy,” an award given by the cable sports channel to justify having an awards show—to Caitlyn Jenner for the courageous sports achievement of being an aging reality show star who once won an Olympics event and decided that he was now a she.  Why I didn’t, I don’t recall. I think my reasoning was that since the awards are just a PR gimmick anyway, it wasn’t worth the post.  I wasn’t paying attention: I did not sufficiently focus on the fact that “Espy”she would receive was named after Arthur Ashe. I did already discuss  the ethical problems with turning Jenner into a trans icon, since her transition seemed to be in part a money-driven career move. Now, following Jenner’s tearful and touching acceptance of “the Arthur Ashe Courage Award” on TV, we learn this:

“Reports have emerged that Jenner’s team approached ESPN with the idea that she win the Arthur Ashe Courage Award just as details were being finalized for her 20/20 interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC. ABC and ESPN are both owned by Disney, and ABC aired Wednesday’s awards ceremony. “It was a brilliant move because the executives at ESPN loved the idea, and immediately began making sure it got done,” a source familiar with the negotiations told RadarOnline.The talks hit a stumbling block, and Jenner’s agents were reportedly prepared to pull out of the interview with Sawyer. “It was ironed out, and ABC owns one of the biggest stories of the year.” The build up to Jenner accepting the award will be featured in her upcoming reality show, “I am Cait”, generating a great deal of publicity for both ESPN and the awards.”

Wow! Who could have seen that coming—a reality show star, who has been part of the shameless and venal Kardashian family, cynically manipulating the media and gaining phony recognition on a nationally broadcast awards show…and, in the bargain, debasing the name of a real sports hero, the dignified, sportsmanlike, role model Arthur Ashe, an African American champion in the white man’s game of tennis who helped make Serena Williams’ prominence possible!

Yecchh. In fact, that’s a double yecchh at least.

Yecchh. Yecchh.

What does this mean? To begin with, it means that Jenner bought her award. I don’t want to read any Clintonian deceit about how this isn’t technically true….she bought it. There is no reason to believe ESPN would have given the award to Jenner had her agents not suggested it, and ESPN’s parent received value that translated directly into profits with the exclusive, high-rated ABC interview with Sawyer. Jenner might as well have slipped ABC a couple of million in a big valise  under the table. This was a bribe. This was an award bought and paid for.

What does that mean?
Continue reading

26 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Rights, Sports, U.S. Society

Of Atticus Finch, “Go Set A Watchman,” And Icon Ethics

AtticusToday Harper Lee’s “sequel” to “To Kill A Mockingbird” is officially released, though reviews have already been published. The big story is that the new novel’s now grown “Scout” discovers during the civil rights upheavals of the 1950s that her father and hero Atticus Finch is a racist, had attended a Klan meeting, and is prone to saying things like …

“Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?”

The new Atticus is providing ammunition to those who enjoy tearing down American heroes and icons. Finch is perhaps the most revered fictional lawyer in American culture, admired by the public as well as the legal profession. The American Bar Association named its award for fictional portrayals of lawyers in films and literature after Finch, whose pro bono defense of a wrongly accused black man in a bigoted Alabama town forms the central conflict of Lee’s classic. Burnishing Atticus’s reputation further was the beloved portrayal of the character, reputedly based on the author’s father, by Gregory Peck in the Academy Award winning film adaptation. Peck received the  Award for Best Actor as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and as a civil-rights activist often stated that he admired Finch over all his other roles. In 2003, American Film Institute voted Finch as the greatest hero in American film.Wrote Entertainment Weekly, “[Finch] transforms quiet decency, legal acumen, and great parenting into the most heroic qualities a man can have.”

Atticus, however, has had his detractors through the years, notable among them the late Monroe Freedman, a  habitual iconoclast and contrarian who wrote two law review articles declaring that Finch was neither hero nor a particularly admirable lawyer. He wrote in part: Continue reading

22 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Law & Law Enforcement, Literature, Popular Culture, Professions

Cognitive Dissonance Chronicles: Now “The Cosby Show” Is Suddenly Racist And Part Of A Conservative Plot

THE COSBY SHOW -- Season 3 -- Pictured: (front row l-r) Keshia Knight Pulliam as Rudy Huxtable, Bill Cosby as Dr. Heathcliff 'Cliff' Huxtable, Tempestt Bledsoe as Vanessa Huxtable (back row l-r) Lisa Bonet as Denise Huxtable Kendall, Malcolm-Jamal Warner as Theodore 'Theo' Huxtable, Phylicia Rashad as Clair Hanks Huxtable, Sabrina Le Beauf as Sondra Huxtable Tibideaux  (Photo by Alan Singer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

When “The Cosby Show” was on the air on CBS from 1984 to 1992, it was unanimously praised—except by a few grumps and crackpots, for there are always grumps and crackpots—for being an unequivocally positive influence on racial understanding and the culture. Finally African American characters were on television every week who were not inner city criminals, hucksters, drug dealers or pimps. Finally, after dozens of white “Father Knows Best” style sitcoms, there was a comedy about black professionals heading a family with kids that used good grammar, didn’t skip school and were never in trouble with the law. “The Cosby Show” won awards and plaudits from educators and civil rights groups. It provided a positive model for an attainable future for black children, and an image of black Americans that combated racism by making it seem as illogical as it is. These were good people, good parents, good citizens, with the same values, hopes and dreams as everyone else.

The insidious power of cognitive dissonance is that it allows strong feelings about anyone or anything to unfairly and irrationally carry over to anything or anyone else that the object of those feelings touches. Today, as the fact that the creative force leading “The Cosby Show” had a hypocritical and despicable secret life as a sexual predator becomes undeniable, this process is triggering dangerous and ugly shifts in attitudes and advocacy. A confluence of events has resulted in Bill Cosby being teamed with the Confederate flag (remarkably, it murdered nine African American church members in Charleston! ) to trigger a troubling wave of attempted cultural and historical purges—and where it stops, nobody knows. Some progressives want to wipe all memory of Bill Cosby’s achievements from the nation’s consciousness, just as they want to  tear down every statue of a Confederate military hero and wipe the name of Robert E. Lee off hundreds of schools, streets and parks.

[Aside: Stations are now pulling The Cosby Show, once one of the most syndicated and ubiquitous of all sitcoms, from their schedules. This is just a reasonable business decision. The stations reasonably assume that the show will not be as entertaining or popular once it is impossible to watch Bill Cosby as Dr. Cliff without thinking about Dr. Cliff secretly drugging and raping his female patients. That’s not cognitive dissonance. That’s just reality. Actor Gig Young made some of the best romantic comedies of the Sixties with Doris Day and others. He was a skilled comic actor, but he murdered his wife and killed himself in a drunken rage, and it’s hard to laugh at Gig any more. Those movies are virtually never broadcast, and it is hard to find them on DVD. Among Bill’s victims are the member so of his cast, including the kids he professed to love like a father, who will lose millions in residuals because he couldn’t control his demons.]

A time machine is helpful in these matters, so Salon, the left-wing blog that is so predictable it sometimes catches me by surprise, since it is hard to believe that any publication will willfully rush into self parody, has suddenly decided that “The Cosby Show” was “based on a distorted and inaccurate presentation of the black community, one that has enabled a pernicious type of right-wing “colorblind” racism to flourish.”

Ah. Cosby is bad, so everything he did before we found out that he was bad was bad too. We weren’t just duped about him. We were duped about the values he stood for!

The author of the article is Chauncey De Vega, an African American journalist who doesn’t even try to hide one of his motives: he’s still steamed that Cosby dared to urge African American families to be responsible, and pointed out that wearing one’s pants like they do in prison wasn’t the way to get respect from employers and potential associates not recently out of prison.  Mostly, however, he is determined to re-cast “The Cosby Show” as complicit in embedding racism in U.S. society. He writes in part: Continue reading

16 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Race, U.S. Society

Stop Your Cultural Bulldozing, America: Disney World Taking Down Bill Cosby’s Bust Is Like Removing The Jefferson Memorial

airbrushingNews Item, from the Orlando Sentinel:

Bill Cosby’s statue is being removed from Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park, a Walt Disney World spokeswoman said Tuesday evening. The statue was to come down Tuesday night after the park closed. Disney did not have further comment. The bronze bust’s removal comes after court documents unsealed Monday revealed that Cosby testified in 2005 he had obtained Quaaludes with the intent of giving them to women with whom he wanted to have sex. The Associated Press had gone to court to get the documents released. Dozens of women have come forward in the past year saying Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted them as far back as 40 years ago.

That’s funny; last I heard Bill Cosby was still recognized as a major trailblazer in stand-up, TV comedy, and television integration (remember “I Spy”?), an important positive cultural force for race relations and black community self esteem, and a spectacularly talented comedian with a unique voice and presence. None of that has changed. Those were the achievements that prompted Cosby’s bust’s inclusion in Disney’s Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame Plaza, along with celebrities such as Lucille Ball and Oprah Winfrey who, like the Cos,  have been inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. O.J. Simpson is still honored in the College Football Hall of Fame, because he was one of the greatest college stars ever. His post-career hobby as a murderer, like Bill’s extra-curricular activities as a serial rapist, have nothing to do with the honor, just as Cosby earned and still deserves, his honor for what he achieved on stage and screen.

Sure, it’s uncomfortable having a bust of an unapologetic sexual predator in a Disney World attraction, and it might prompt some uncomfortable question from the kiddies. Well, good. It’s never too soon to learn that human beings are flawed, complex creatures, and that even the most brilliant and talented have dark sides, do terrible things,  and can be cruel, selfish, dishonest and even criminal. We honor Thomas Jefferson for his crucial role in giving this nation life, and defining its mission and values for the ages. We’re not honoring his hypocrisy, his cowardice, his own rapes,  or his slaveholding. Disney World, of all places, should understand this, since its progenitor was both a genius and a man who left a lot of circumstantial evidence in his legacy that he was anti-Semitic.

“First they came for Cosby, and we did not speak out…” Continue reading

62 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History, Popular Culture, The Internet, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunce For The Ages: Whoopie Goldberg

Cosby3Let me point out, to begin, that anyone who maintained that Bill Cosby was not a rapist and serial sexual predator after over 40 women came forward with almost identical stories was already an ethics dunce, and too stupid to play with sharp objects as well. The man had settled a court case with a promise of confidentiality to avoid the evidence being made public! He had never directly addressed the accusations in public, relying on lawyers! There has not been the slightest chance that Cosby was innocent since victims 2 through 6 surfaced. Anyone dismissing the other, and still growing, group of victims is in denial, or immune to common sense. Such a person would date O.J. Simpson.

Whoopi is a smart woman, but she is racially biased beyond belief. She has never accepted that her pal Bill is a rapist, but because she is a smart woman, even though we all know that bias makes us stupid, I assumed that a point would come where she finally was honest with herself.

I overestimated something—her integrity, her group loyalty, her values, her brain pan.

A formerly confidential deposition has been released in which Cosby admits to procuring Quaaludes with the intention of drugging women for sex. So much for the whole narrative about fatherly Bob being a secret predator who drugged girls to make them easy to have sex with being “ridiculous” and “racist” and “slander.” So much for all those women being liars, as Cosby’s lawyers said more than once. To anyone rational, this revelation simply confirms what there was ample reason to be certain about anyway. Oh! That’s why all those women say Cosby drugged them! He drugs women!

But on  The View today, stated that the deposition has not persuaded her of anything, a classic example of “My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with facts.” No rationalization or terrible argument was too low for Whoopie. She said she was a “former Quaalude user,” and so what? She said she doesn’t “like snap judgments”—snap judgments? These accounts have been around for decades. Whoopie has rejected judgment itself.

“I say this because this is my opinion, and in America still, I know it’s a shock, but you actually were innocent until proven guilty. He has not been proven a rapist,” she blathered. My response:

ARGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHH!

Continue reading

23 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Race