An Ethics Movie Review: “The Mule”

I was not eager to see “The Mule,” for many reasons. Stories in which the protagonist is a drug dealer don’t interest me at all; I avoided “Breaking Bad” and “Weeds” for the same reason. The popular culture, especially Hollywood, played a major role in breaking down society’s consensus disapproval of recreational drug use, and I hope they are proud of all the harm they have caused, and the greater harm yet to come.

Then there is the fact that seeing Clint Eastwood looking like the Cryptkeeper (from HBO’s “Tales of the Crypt”) depresses me. I remember Clint from his “Rawhide” days, and seeing his ruined beauty makes me feel like I’m watching the villain rot at the end of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” when he “chooses poorly,” but for real. I admired Cary Grant’s decision to stop making movies when he began to stop looking like Cary Grant, and Marlene Dietrich’s determination not to appear in public so that people would remember her as one of Hollywood’s great beauties, and not as an old lady.

But as often in the case, having limited options in a hotel made Eastwood’s latest directorial and performing effort the best of a bad group of entertainment choices. The film is based on the  true story of a ninety-year-old man (Clint isn’t quite that old, but he looks it)  who became a drug mule, transporting  cocaine for a  Mexican drug cartel. The film has an excellent supporting cast including Bradley Cooper, Laurence Fishburne, Dianne Wiest and Andy Garcia. (who also looks like hell), though none of them have much to do except be props for Clint’s star turn.

To do as little spoiling as possible, I’ll just say that the story involves an aging—aged—narcissist who has neglected his family outrageously, falls into a lucrative gig transporting drugs because he loves to drive, has never had a ticket, and is unlikely to attract attention, and suddenly decides to make the needs of his family a priority over work for the first time in his life, getting him arrested and almost getting him killed.

Clint still has his screen presence and charm, which is fortunate, because the central character, Earl Stone, is a selfish jerk. His toxic personal habits don’t seem so bad when the victims are  drug smugglers, but when, early in the movie, he skips his daughter’s wedding without warning because he’d rather be at a sales convention partying with his colleagues, it is hard to care what happens to him.

We quickly learn that this betrayal was characteristic of Earl, and that he rationalizes them all, arguing that he was absent from his family to provide for them, and is blameless. It’s clearly a lie: his family bores him, and he does exactly what he wants to do, always. Sometimes he helps people and is randomly kind, as when we see him pause in one of his drug runs to help a couple stranded on the road. Other times, he doesn’t give a damn.

When a family argument breaks out as he attempts to attend his grand-daughter’s bridal shower, a guest overhears that Earl has lost his home and business (that’s really why he showed up at his granddaughter’s place, that and the fact that she was the only family member still on speaking terms with him) and gives him a phone number. These people will pay him well just for driving, Earl is told. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Clothing Manufacturer Dhavani

It has come to this: the above image currently appears on a Dhavani billboard in Times Square. The company proudly tweeted it out, writing,

As you know, we’re extremely passionate about creating high-quality, fashionable and innovative products in the most sustainable and ethical ways possible.But the state of the world weighs heavily on us. There is a palpable tension in the air, an untenable clash of ideals, and we can no longer just sit back and watch….hat’s why we’ve decided to #StandForSomething and become the world’s first and only Activ(ist)Wear™ company. DHVANI is a brand for people who are committed to making the world a better place. As of today, with each purchase, we will donate to a featured nonprofit partner.

Yes, fomenting hate and denigrating the elected leader of the United States is the way to make the world a better place. That’s the message. Now run out and put money in their pockets.

It is increasingly clear to me that the future of our nation, government and culture depends upon how many Americans eventually realize that no matter what they may think of President Trump, those who shamelessly employ these tactics and this kind of rhetoric are a far, far greater threat to our values.

Commenting on this phenomenon, conservative commentator John Hinderaker writes, Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Cartoonist Dana Fradon

“The society I seek is the society given lip service to by one and all. Governed by the Boy Scout oath, the West Point oath and the Golden Rule, it is populated by warmhearted TV Waltons, and protected from harm by honest Starskys and Hutches.”

—- Dana Fradon, the prolific New Yorker cartoonist who died last week at 97, in “Insincerely Yours” (1978), a collection of his cartoons.

Me too, Mr. Fradon.

Me too.

Mrs. Q’s Corner… When Hate Doesn’t Come Home: Hate Crime Hoaxes and Amari Allen

by Frances Quaempts

“When I’m down and I feel like giving up…I whip my hair back and forth.”-Willow Smith

When I first learned of the latest hate crime hoax involving Amari Allen, a 12 year old African American preteen, I was watching the sometimes salacious national news show “Inside Edition” with my wife.  Allen appeared on screen as a brave victim who was seemingly attacked by three white boys because of her “nappy” hair.  Though something about the story just didn’t seem right, the part of me that knows what it’s like to have my hair ridiculed and touched without permission, won out. I decided to believe the narrative knowing there was potential for a hate hoax.

Confirmation bias for some people comes from a place of real experience.  I have no doubt that many black people, women in particular, felt the sting of bad memories when Allen’s story hit the screens.  Hate crime hoaxes are often initially believed because they sound plausible to those who have dealt with similar circumstances.  Even the awful Tawana Brawley gang rape hoax, where she claimed racist words were written on her body and was left for dead in a trash bag, could seem likely because of the harm violently racist whites caused  African Americans during slavery times and beyond.  Blacks and other people of color learn as kids to be on the look-out for racial denigration so the past isn’t repeated.

Author and university professor Wilfred Reilly published the book “Hate Crime Hoax: The Left’s Campaign to Sell a Fake Race War,” this year and has over forty four pages of notes related to such hoaxes.  Chapters in his book include discussions on fake religious, gender, and LGBT incidents, hoaxes related to bias against President Trump, white hoaxers, and of course college campus incidents.  Reilly notes that these false hate crimes perpetuate a vision of what he calls the “Continuing Oppression Narrative,” that keeps blacks and leftist race activists in a constant state of “doom laden” analysis. Continue reading

Ethics Alarms Presents…Mrs. Q’s Corner

Frances Quaempts

[ Frances Quaempts, originally known to Ethics Alarms visitors as “Mrs. Q,” rapidly established herself here as a commenter of outstanding perception and precision. Impressed with her original and ethical perspective, I offered her a regular place on Ethics Alarms as a contributor, and was thrilled and honored that she accepted. Frances has no set schedule for her commentary, and can contribute what she wants, when she wants. Please join me in welcoming her. Below is her inaugural blog; the next one will be following right along—JM ]

Telling the Truth in an Age of Expendable Avatars

by Frances Quaempts

My name is Frances Quaempts.  You won’t find me on social media.

Jack Marshall’s blog Ethics Alarms, lovingly called “EA” in my home, is my social media.  For the last two years I have sharpened my rhetorical skills in the Ethics Alarms comments sections.  Ethics Alarms has also been my go-to source for learning about current events while exploring the ramifications of what happens when “the twinges in your conscience” also known as ethics alarms, are adhered to or ignored.

My comments on Ethics Alarms have been under the penname Mrs. Q because I have not felt safe to comment publically under my name.  Living in Portland, Oregon after the 2016 election became at times scary, particularly for those of us who qualify as “intersectional” but don’t tow the political line here.  Our car was keyed, my wife has been harassed on multiple occasions, and as we have seen in the case of people like Andy Ngo, wrongthink became physically punishable.  At the same time, the internet and social media became the main conduits to make manifest threats to those who don’t conform.

As Jamie Kilstein mentioned in a recent article, “It’s easy to join a Twitter mob. You take zero risk if the takedown doesn’t work, but you pretend you’re Rosa Parks if it does.” Instead of seeing others as humans capable of both right and wrong and constantly in need of discerning our intentions – a new and bitter activist movement treats certain others as “expendable avatars.”  The truth is, no one is expendable and I’m done pretending to be an avatar. Continue reading

Tales Of The Barn Door Fallacy: This Time The Door Was Wide Open, Yet Nobody Noticed

The Barn Door Fallacy occurs when a long-standing dangerous or risky phenomenon finally results in a well-publicized fallacy, and then, and only then, do legislatures and regulators rush to eliminate the problem that should have been apparent from the start. Often the new laws and regulations that “close the barn door” are excessively rigid or restictive : that door has to be slammed shut, and then nailed and bolted, even though that once in a lifetime tragedy has already occurred. From Ethics Alarms:

Society…and the public saddle themselves with expensive, inconvenient, often inefficient measures designed to respond to the rare event. One shoe bomber, and millions of passengers have to remove their shoes to go through airport security. One adulterated bottle of Tylenol, and every over-the-counter drug bottle requires a razor blade and the manual dexterity of a piano virtuoso to open. Two sick boys shoot up Columbine, so third graders get suspended for bringing squirt–guns to school.

Sometimes, regulators and legislators grandstand as they slam the door, hoping nobody will remember that they left it wide open and gaping for an unconscionable length of time. Continue reading

On Top Of Everything Else, Hillary Clinton Is A Coward

(but we knew that…)

After the former Secretary of State accused Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of being a Russian asset (along with Jill Stein) in a podcast, she abruptly backed out of the Fortune magazine “Most Powerful Women Summit” in Washington, DC. that will take place next week. Clinton aides cited a scheduling conflict—how rude to schedule something else after you have agreed to speak at an event!—because this decision had nothing to do with the fact that Gabbard would be there, and Hillary would have to stand face-to-face with the woman—and military veteran– whose patriotism she impugned. No really, nothing at all. Nope. Not a factor. Really.

One of George Washington’s 110 Rules of Civility is “Speak not evil of the absent, for it is unjust” (#89). I’m pretty sure one of the rules he personally followed was “If you do speak evil of the absent, at least have the courage and decency to say it to her face at the earliest convenience.”

I have never for a nanosecond regretted my last minute decision not to vote for this awful woman and the party that continues to laud and enable her.