Category Archives: Arts & Entertainment

Morning Ethics Round-Up, 8/16/18: Those Wacky Conways, And The Anti-Trump News Media Goes To The Dogs

Good morning.

1. A conspiracy theory about a conspiracy theory about conspiracy theorists...Last night, a CBS procedural that I am finally sick of, “Criminal Minds,” appeared to be taking sides in the Trump vs. the FBI wars, with a side-swipe at Alex Jones, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The episode set up a conflict between the Good FBI agents who are the stars of the show, and the crazy, paranoid, anti-government  “Truthers” who see government law enforcement as sinister and manipulative. (There was special focus on the ridiculous Sandy Hook conspiracy theory, with one of the tough serial killer hunter breaking down in tears remembering the massacre.) The most vocal anti-FBI character in the episode, who sneered out her every line about the series heroes (bad direction, in my view), was revealed at the end as the “unsub,” the psychopathic killer.

For some reason this was the first time it occurred to me how much prime  time network TV serves as a PR service for the FBI, with the virtue, bravery and unquestioned rectitude of the agency and its employees being central to multiple dramas. The propaganda is escalating too: Dick Wolf of “Law and Order” fame is launching a new CBS series called, creatively, “FBI.” You would think, would you not, that this would be an odd time to produce such a series, with the reputation and credibility of J.Edgar’s baby at an all-time, and most deserved, low. However, Hollywood and the entertainment industry now sees its role differently than seeking mere ratings.

There is nothing wrong with TV writers and producers bring their political agendas into our living rooms, and there’s not a thing we can do about it anyway, other than change channels. Rod Serling used to get awfully preachy sometimes on “The Twilight Zone.” This was mighty ham-handed pro-Peter Strzok advocacy, though by CBS, or at least it seemed that way to me.

2. Marital Ethics. This is weird. Ethics Alarms has discussed the unethical conduct of Kellyanne Conway’s husband George, who has become a popular “resistance” and #NeverTrump figure by tweeting virulent criticism of the President, who employs his wife. Now Kellyanne has escalated the problem with an interview criticizing her husband, telling a reporter that his sniping ” is disrespectful, it’s a violation of basic decency, certainly, if not marital vows.”  Then, according to an AOL report, she asked that her comments be attributed to “a person familiar with their relationship.” The reporter, correctly, refused.

It is a breach of loyalty and respect for one spouse to criticize the other in the news media. It is cowardly and a breach of honesty to criticize one’s spouse and to try to remain unaccountable for it by pretending the critique came from someone else.

What a fun couple! What a strange couple. What an unethical couple… Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Animals, Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Quotes, Family, Government & Politics, History, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/7/2018: Back in the USSR

Good Morning!

1. Self-Promotion Dept. I’m heading off to New Jersey today, to present one of my musical legal ethics seminars—3 hours!—for the New Jersey Bar Association. The real star is my long-time partner in these shows, New York-based singer/musician Mike Messer, who channels Freddie Mercury, Bob Dylan (with harmonica!), Paul Simon, even Johnny Cash in the various song parodies.  This one is called Ethics Rock Extreme, and ends, like all of my musical seminars, with a sing-along. Yes, we get lawyers to sing the chorus of the “Piano Man Parody”…

Sing us the Rules, you’re the ethics man
Sing us the Rules tonight!
We’re stuck in an ethics dilemma here
So tell us what’s wrong and what’s right!

(No, “Back in the USSR” is not one of the songs we do.)

2. First Amendment for me, but not for thee: In an embarrassing episode that is also telling, the Newseum has capitulated to a storm of protests from journalists and will no longer sell its popular “Fake News” mercahndise…like this shirt…

online or in its gift shop. “We made a mistake and we apologize. A free press is an essential part of our democracy and journalists are not the enemy of the people,” the Newseum announced Saturday in a groveling blog post. “Questions have also been raised regarding other merchandise. As an organization that celebrates the rights of people from all political spectrums to express themselves freely, we’ve historically made all types of political merchandise available for our guests to purchase. That has included former and current presidential slogans and imagery and merchandise from all political parties. We continue to do so in celebration of freedom of speech.”

Translation: “In celebration of free speech, we will acquiesce in the censoring of a particular expression of opinion on a humorous T-shirt, because it hurts journalists’ feelings.”

Again, I ask: why does anyone trust journalists and the organizations they represent? Continue reading

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Sunday Ethics Reflections, 8/5/2018: Abdication, Arrogance, Airbrushing

1. If you want to seed a civil war, this is how you do it…Why is this incredible story just an item on the daily ethics potpourri? For one thing, I don’t see why much commentary is necessary, or should be. I don’t typically  write about robberies or murders, or other outright unethical acts that all but the worst sociopaths can recognize in a trice as unethical.  I feel the same way about this, from the Wall Street Journal:

A mob surrounded ICE’s office in Southwest Portland June 19. They barricaded the exits and blocked the driveway. They sent “guards” to patrol the doors, trapping workers inside. At night they laid on the street, stopping traffic at a critical junction near a hospital. Police stayed away. “At this time I am denying your request for additional resources,” the Portland Police Bureau’s deputy chief, Robert Day, wrote to federal officers pleading for help. Hours later, the remaining ICE workers were finally evacuated by a small federal police team. The facility shut down for more than a week. Signs called ICE employees “Nazis” and “white supremacists.” Others accused them of running a “concentration camp,” and demanded open borders and prosecution of ICE agents. Along a wall, vandals wrote the names of ICE staff, encouraging others to publish their private information online.

Federal workers were defenseless. An ICE officer, who asked that his name not be published, told me one of his colleagues was trailed in a car and confronted when he went to pick up his daughter from summer camp. Later people showed up at his house. Another had his name and photo plastered on flyers outside his home accusing him of being part of the “Gestapo.”

Where were the police? Ordered away by Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler, who doubles as police commissioner. “I do not want the @PortlandPolice to be engaged or sucked into a conflict, particularly from a federal agency that I believe is on the wrong track,” he tweeted. “If [ICE is] looking for a bailout from this mayor, they are looking in the wrong place.”

The phrase, “particularly from a federal agency that I believe is on the wrong track” mandates impeachment on its face. It is not the mayor’s proper role to decide who deserves the protection of the city against lawbreakers. “There is no place for personal, political bias when it comes to providing public safety services to our communities,” Portland Police Association president Daryl Turner said in a statement on Facebook. “In that respect, our Mayor, who is also our Police Commissioner, has failed miserably.”

Also:

  • How many readers of Ethics Alarms saw broadcast news accounts of this incident and the Portland mayor’s conduct? It is the tendency to set out to bury and hide the worst examples of progressive and resistance excess that is the smokiest of smoking guns showing the degree to which journalists are actively attempting to indoctrinate and mislead rather than inform.
  • Do the citizens of Portland really condone this?

Continue reading

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First They Came For The Baseball Players: The ‘Hader Gotcha’ Catches On…

Sonny Gray, who should be punished today for a Twitter joke he made six years ago….

I’ve written about this new blight on the American scene three times since a creep trying to embarrass Milwaukee pitcher Josh Hader tracked down some offensive tweets he made in high school, causing Major league Baseball to sentence him to re-education. Not content with the MLB over-reaction, pompous, social justice warrior thought-control purveyors in the sports media like NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra and Bill Baer declaimed that he must be made an example of, shunned, cooked, and eaten, or something.  Hader’s pathetic grovel to the mob was so amusing that two more baseball players were quickly subjected to The Hader Gotcha–that will be the Ethics Alarms label to this poison—with similar results (and more obnoxious virtue-signaling by Calcaterra and Baer). Atlanta Braves starter Sean Newcomb had his Twitter history searched by some resentful Dodger fan while he was  pitching a near no-hitter  against LA, with the result that  Newcomb had to deny that he was a racist and a bigot. Next, some Washington Nationals hater did the same to shortstop Trea Turner, posting old Turner tweets from his college days at North Carolina State University. [The third time I wrote about the phenomenon was in a non-baseball context, when “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn was fired by Disney because a conservative hit man did a twitter dig and found some of his old tweets.]

Isn’t this great? You can be a sad and lonely schlub with  a trivial, insignificant, powerless, witless existence, and yet bring a successful, rich, popular baseball player to his metaphorical knees!  Just  find and publicize some ill-considered,  impulsive  tweets sent when fame and fortune weren’t even twinkles in the future star’s eye, and the nascent athlete was trying to make do with the under-developed brain of a typical male under the age of 25. Why, it’s even better than dropping rocks on cars as they go under an overpass, or releasing computer viruses! What a rush! Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/25/2018: “Thuggery, Double Standards And Hypocrisy…Actually, I Could Use This Title EVERY Morning”

Well, I think this is an Ethics Alarms record, and not a good one: this Comment of the Day, by prolific commenter Pennagain, is more than a month old. I have no defense, only a possible explanation: the subject of the comment is an unpleasant one, and was more than a little tangential to the main post. It was prompted by a commenter’s reference to comic Eddie Murphy’s anti-gay rants that would have pretty surely ended his career had he been rising in the social media mob-dominated environment of today rather than the still largely-closeted 80’s. That would have been a shame, because Murphy is–was?–a great talent when he wasn’t being a complete jerk, which, unfortunately, was far too often.

What reminded me that I had whiffed after more than a month? An article about Murphy’s “Delirious”  was published today in  “The Advocate.” So this is timely despite my ineptitude.

Moral luck.

I apologize to Pennagain. This wasn’t just a well-written ethics comment, but an important, educational and disturbing one. Maybe it can spark some discussion anew.

Here, very late, is Pennagain’s Comment of the Day, on the post,Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/25/2018: Thuggery, Double Standards And Hypocrisy…Actually, I Could Use This Title EVERY Morning:

For the rest of you, respectfully, please understand that Eddie Murphy IS indeed unwelcome by queers everywhere. His so-called “humor,” brought to San Francisco in the mid-80s at the height of the AIDS crisis, was a no comedy show at all. It was a diatribe against gay white men in particular … but also a scarcely disguised order-from-On-High for black women (at that time finding partners in the big gay dance clubs) to get back in line behind black men … all based on perverted facts and misrepresentations – such as ‘if you go out dancing with a (gay) man, you will die a horrible death; you can never have children if you touch one of those (^!>?!)’ and assuring all black men in the audience that no black man in history had ever been, or ever could be queerhomofag, etc. The rant was preached to black audiences as gospel (Murphy was then at the height of his popularity; his every word came straight from the pulpit) and — god help them all, they believed him. His lies spread to the Hispanic/Latino community as well.

The results were apparent shortly after Murphy began his stint in the city. They are still tragically with us. The public health outreach had started to be effective across the board (including black communities) just before Murphy’s regrettable visit. Immediately afterward, AIDS/HIV education shut down wherever black people congregated: churches, groups, school speakers, distribution guidelines, and most disastrously, with many black physicians. Eddie Murphy said black men could not be gay, therefore could not get AIDS, therefore could not infect their partners (male or female … By extension meaning black children were safe from the “gay plague.” This is what happened: Continue reading

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On Boycotts, Vendettas, Grudges And Principles: The Unethical Theater Group And Me

Over the weekend I attended a local theater production at the behest of an old friend who was involved in it. I did so with great hesitation. You see, several decades ago, I directed a show for this company, an old and popular community institution. Not only was I treated as miserably as I have ever been treated by an organization in my life; my cast and staff were abused as well. I encountered perpetual arrogance, nastiness, pettiness and hostility, all of which is common in the theater world and especially the amateur end of it, but not on this level.

I would enjoy itemizing the particulars of my indictment against this organization, but it would be an indulgence, and would necessarily lengthen the post. I’ll just note that the fact that an African-American member of my cast and her family were harassed more than once by the venomous seniors running the company like their own private East Germany was not an indispensable part of my conclusion that the company was  a special gift from Hell. I would have come to the same conclusion even if the group hadn’t been racist as well as venal, exploitive, dictatorial, mean, incompetent, vindictive, and stupid.

So I attended the show, which was not bad at all, though I felt like Jeff Goldblum making a visit to Jurassic Park. (The tickets were comped: it I had to pay a cent for them, I would not have gone.) My last time in that building—the group owns its theater facilities–I vowed not only that I would never return, but that I would take every opportunity to undermine the company’s strength, viability, reputation and existence. I had, too, until I attended the show. I take pride in the fact that I have warned many previously naive artists away from getting involved in the group, and I have kept many theater-goers away as well. It is my theatrical Moby Dick, I suppose: to the last I’ll grapple with it; from hell’s heart I’ll stab at it; for hate’s sake I’ll spit my last breath at it.

During the performance, which had its boring and annoying features, I found myself reflecting on this state of mind. Is it ethical to hold a grudge that long and that strong?

It certainly can be, to be sure. In cases like this, however, I believe that staying the course is a matter of integrity. Continue reading

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Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/28/18: Expired Ethics, Sleeping Fact-Checkers, Ghosts, The Dumbest Ethics Train Wreck Of Them All…

It’s a beautiful morning!

1. When “Everybody Does it” isn’t just a rationalization. I was asked by a law firm to render an opinion as to whether particular conduct was a violation of the legal ethics rules.  A legal ethics opinion—bar associations issue these periodically to cover gray areas– in the jurisdiction said that it was, but the opinion was over 20 years old. The reasoning given in the opinion for declaring the conduct unethical was that the practice was “new to the jurisdiction” and might mislead or confuse the public.

Today, however, my research showed, the conduct is commonplace in that jurisdiction. Many, many law firms engage in it. What was new two decades ago is new no longer, and the reasoning for the opinion’s conclusion was based on conditions that no longer exist. Moreover, no firm has been punished for the conduct, and won’t be.

The firm was concerned that the legal ethics opinion had not been over-ruled or withdrawn. I said that it didn’t have to be. “Everyone” was engaged in the conduct it forbade, the bar had allowed “everyone” to do it, and if an issue was raised now, I am 100% certain that the old opinion would be withdrawn as no longer reasonable or germane.

2. One more human feature that makes ethics harder: the ability to simultaneously hold two contradictory and mutually exclusive beliefs.

I was watching one of the apparently inexhaustible supply of cable shows about haunting and paranormal investigations with my wife. This one climaxed in a session with a Ouija board, and the love of my life uttered, within seconds of each other, these two statements:

  • “It’s amazing how many otherwise intelligent people really believe in ghosts and demons.”
  • “Ouija boards! I wouldn’t allow one of those things in the house. I’m not taking any chances.

I have heard many other friends and acquaintances endorse both of these positions as well.

3. It is the study of how one discerns the truth, after all. Who needs it? They no longer teach ethics in our education system, and now apparently philosophy is on the way out. Claremont Graduate University in California will be closing the PhD program in philosophy and terminating two tenured faculty. Apparently the move was dictated by budget and “market considerations.” The Claremont colleges in Southern California are a distinguished and growing batch consisting of Pomona, Scripps, Harvey Mudd, Claremont-McKenna, and Pitzer. They still have a philosophy faculty, but I wonder for how long.

I was tempted to check the curriculum of these schools to see what kinds of courses were deemed worthy of support while a graduate degree in philosophy was not, but I decided that it would make my head explode. Continue reading

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