Category Archives: Arts & Entertainment

The Strange World Of Magic Ethics

A recent controversy surrounding a hit magic show on Broadway has resurfaced an ethics tangent I was aware of but had forgotten about: magician ethics.

Magician Derek DelGaudio accused another magician of surreptitiously recording a video of an effect during a performance last month of his one-man show, “In & Of Itself.” The rival magician denied the allegation—it’s complicated, and you should read the whole tale here-–but the basic problem arises from the nature of magic tricks. They can’t be patented, because the patent would reveal how the magic trick was done in a publicly available source. This means, however, that a magician whose unique illusion he or she labored on and developed at great expenditure of time and expense can be stolen by another magician with the illusion’s creator having no legal recourse.

For a field that is all about fooling and deceiving people (who have consented to being deceived), magic has old and well-developed ethical traditions. Houdini, who took his name from a french magician named Robert Houdin, later exposed his role model as an unethical magician whose most famous illusions were stolen from other conjurers without payment or credit. Still, if a magician can figure out how another magician’s trick is performed by simply watching it, nothing legally or ethically dictates that that magician can’t perform the illusion as well. However, since magic is practiced by people who deceive for a living, it should come as no surprise that unethical practices are rampant. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/24/17

Good Morning…

…and gee, it’s good to be back home! You have no idea how good it is.

1. ARRRGH! I returned to Ethics Alarms with 6 pending comments, and I want to apologize profusely for the back-up, especially to poor Paul Schlecht, whose avatar inexplicably makes WordPress hold every single one of his comments  in moderation until I rescue it. Only one post got up yesterday, and that was a close call: I was in resort/airport/travel Hell yesterday in Daytona  Beach, then Charlotte, pretty much from the moment I got my wake-up call at 6 AM to when my plane finally arrived at D.C.’s Reagan National Airport at just short of 1 am. today.

At least my law firm retreat seminar on legal ethics and technology was lively, but now I am way behind on posts, and also not exactly at the top of my game. Again, my apologies to all. And I’ve got to get a new laptop without a jumping cursor and that doesn’t crash my browser every 20 minutes or so.

2. I mentioned last week that the New York Times Sunday Review section is a weekly exercise in anti-President Trump porn. I couldn’t find a Sunday Times yesterday, so as a test, I’m going to open the copy my wife saved for me and look at the section now.

Let’s see…well the above the fold story is a feature about “why women aren’t CEOs.” The anti-Trump shot doesn’t come until the last paragraph, where the author, Susan Chira, couldn’t help herself from quoting Hillary Clinton as she blamed misogyny for her defeat. The Deplorables, you know. The second story on the front page is a mocking piece by a British historian, about a new Trump Doctrine, but with the term in scare quotes. How dare the President stand up for Western Civilization, we are asked to consider? This author, Stephen Wertheim, claims that the Trump administration’s problems with Iran, North Korea and China are based in racism and religious bias.  (Obama’s problems with the same nations were, presumably, based on a sincere concern for peace.) The  essay is also fairly anti-American, but concludes with the insult that the problem with the President isn’t so much what he does as who he is.

This is essentially the argument of “the resistance.” You know. Bigotry.

Let’s see—that piece took up all of page two, so we move on to page three. Two op-eds are there, one again mocking the ex-press secretary Sean Spicer, which the Times editorial board had already done, and the other, by Frank Bruni, attacking Jared Kushner. It closes with this, in part:

His counsel to Trump has been flawed, to say the least. He reportedly lobbied for the firing of James Comey, which didn’t turn out so well….I hear that he feels persecuted. Wronged. In that regard, too, he’s like his father-in-law, though Trump wears his self-pity, fury and ruthlessness right out front, for the whole world to see.

This is the company line. Actually, firing Comey turned out spectacularly well: the President was able to get rid of a highly placed leaker who had proven himself incompetent and untrustworthy. Bruni and the Times feel it was a mistake because the completely legal, appropriate, indeed overdue dismissal brought down the ire of the news media determined to get rid of the President. Message: When will you learn that we call the shots, you fool?

In fact, the President and his entire family have been persecuted by the Times from the very beginning, in obvious contrast to the news media’s disgusting fawning over the Clintons and Obamas, and even their chilly respect for the Bushes.

On to page four! Oh! Here’s a cartoon of the President as Donald Duck, and an op-ed by a New York City mother about how embarrassing it is to have a toddler who–The Horror!—likes the President of the United States! Beneath that screed, with a picture of Don, Jr., is an op-ed attacking another member of the President’s family in a piece about “men who never grow up.” The Trump boys are lumped in with Billy Bush, Ryan Lochte (the moronic Olympic swimmer), the fortunate college rapist Brock Turner, and the police officers who shot Tamir Rice!  Funny, the nation’s most prominent perpetual adolescent, who embarrassed the whole nation by using the White House as his passion pit, is never mentioned.

The non-Trump stories then take over for a few pages, and we’re finally at the editorial page. Two of the three editorials attack the President’s policies as the embodiment of evil: one condemns the very concept of the Election Integrity Commission— did you know that trying to find out how much actual voter fraud there is constitutes voter suppression?—and the other uses the President’s border wall plan as a prop to level general insults.  The rest of that page is devoted to a special selection of Letters to the Editor critical of…Donald Trump! Every one, all ten. You’re right, NYT, the paper doesn’t reflect this opinion thoroughly enough. On the facing page, two of the three op-eds consist of more Trump bashing. Maureen Dowd is one, but to be fair, all she does is level snark at everyone. The other is a second attack on Jared Kushner, because one per section is not enough.

The total: Nine Trump-hate pieces, plus ten anti-Trump letters, and not a single supportive word, balanced analysis, or defense. And the Sunday Review section is like this every week.

3. I can’t believe I’m writing this. The Discovery Channel’s always idiotic and often misleading “Shark Week” told audiences that Olympic Gold  Medal swimmer Michael Phelps would be racing a Great White Shark in the ocean. Admittedly, most potential viewers should be smart enough to figure out that there had to be a catch (no pun intended) despite the misleading title “Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs Great White.”  They should be, but we know they aren’t, based on the other stupid shows they fall for on the network, and also because there have been three “Sharknado” movies with a fourth on the way. That Discovery Channel title is a lie: Phelps never was in the water with a shark; he never saw a shark; he never raced a shark. He “raced’ a computer-generated shark that was put into the film after Phelps was safe and dry. Some of Phelps’ gullible fans are annoyed.

They should be. On the other hand, they are morons. The entire exercise should have taken about 6 seconds, the amount of time it takes to say “White sharks swim faster than humans, even Olympic champions. Bye.” Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/23/17

Good Morning!

1. Not a single comment on yesterday’s sole warm-up topic, the propriety of complimenting someone’s physical appearance or features? That’s fascinating.

2. I had to wrestle my fingers to the ground yesterday to avoid writing a full post on this editorial by the New York Times editors. I know everyone is sick of Ethics Alarms pointing out the relentless, unprofessional anti-Trump bias in the news media, because I’m sick of  writing about it. This may have been a new low, however. In the wake of Sean Spicer’s resignation as White House press secretary, the Times unleashed the equivalent of a mean playground taunt.  To read it, one would never guess that the Times had ever experienced any other press secretaries, especially President Obama’s trio of Robert Gibbs, Jay Carney and Josh Earnest , who were uniformly dishonest with disgraceful regularity. Spicer was a “four Pinocchio” spokesman? The standrad term her for Obama’s press lackies was “paid liars,” and the description was fair. Yet the Times didn’t greet the news of any of their withdrawals for the post with “Nyah nyah nyah you suck!” editorials, because the New York Times accepted that President’s lies and deceptions as designed for the greater good.

Of course, it was exactly this unethical journalistic bias that caused Spicer to adopt the attitude that most prompted the Times to attack him personally on his way out the door. He believed that journalists who don’t behave like journalists need not he respected as journalists, and he was absolutely correct in this. Indeed, no newspaper that isn’t able to discern that an editorial like the one yesterday regrading Spicer makes it look like a partisan hackery shop should be respected at all. Spicer was a really bad spokesman—inarticulate, inept, dishonest and not very bright. Nonetheless, he was trying to do a difficult job, did his best, and was no more nor less awful at it than all but a few Presidential press secretaries over the last half century or so. Only Spicer, however, was deemed deserving of such insults at the end, not even Ron Ziegler, Nixon’s complicit press secretary who looked and sounded like a half-successful laboratory clone of his boss. That is because the Times’ editorial was personal, based on emotion and anger, and an ethics alarms void.

3. This story from Canada reads like it was designed to illustrate the folly of giving government more power over our lives rather than less. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/20/17

Καλημέρα!

[This is pronounced “Kaliméra!,” not to be confused with “Calamari!” My father frequently got them confused when he visited Greece with my mom, the former Eleanor Coulouris, and embarrassed her by greeting the natives some mornings by cheerily saying, “Squid!]

1. The newspaper Arts section headline says, “Mayor Ties Arts Money To Diversity.”

The mayor in question is New York City’s DeBlasio, and since his own family is “diverse,” naturally every other entity has to be, or it is baaaad. This is why I oppose government funding of the arts unless it guarantees that the nation, state or city will not attempt to use its support to control the arts organizations in any way.  Of course, governments will never do that, because manipulating the arts to advance  political agendas is usually the underlying motive in arts grants. Ideologues like De Blasio—wow, he’s terrible—will constantly be grandstanding and doing everything in their power to manipulate artists and their art to ensure that they send the “right” messages—you know, like Nazi art and Communist art. It is exactly the same theory and practice: art as political indoctrination.

Quick: who thinks that De Blasio will be focusing on “diversity” in the management (or on the website) of the Dance Theater of Harlem? Even if the government doesn’t attach strings to its support, arts organizations know that there are more of them than there is tax-payer money to disperse, so there is terrible and often irrsistable pressure to distort their product to give their state funders what the artists think they want—just to be safe.

My professional theater company refused to do that, sticking to the integrity of our mission and not resorting to tokens and virtue-signalling. My now defunct professional theater company, that is.

2. Yesterday, I highlighted the head-blasting comments of New York Times film critic A.O. Scott and his alternate-universe pronouncements about the Obama presidency. To be fair to A.O., his entire profession is packed with historical and political ignoramuses who make their readers dumber with every review. I once created a theater reviewer’s code of ethics, which I mailed to a critic, who sent it back to me with a note that said, “Mind your own business.” Years ago, I published an essay that was called “Why Professional Reviewers Are Unethical,” that began,

When Variety announced that it was firing its in-house film and drama reviewers, there was much tut-tutting and garment-rending over the impending demise of professional reviewing in magazines, newspapers and TV stations. The villain, the renders cry, lies, as in the Case of the Slowly Dying Newspapers, with the web, which allows any pajama-clad viewer of bootleg videos to write film reviews, and any blogger who cares to write a review of a play. “I think it’s unfortunate that qualified reviewers are being replaced,” said one movie industry pundit, “but that’s what’s happening.”

I say, “Good. It’s about time.”

It’s not happening quickly enough, though. “Dunkirk” is opening this week, and, as I predicted, film reviewers are showing their utter historical ignorance. The Washington Examiner skewers them deftly in an essay called “Why the (True) History of Dunkirk Matters.” Highlights, or rather lowlights:

  • USA Today critic Brian Truitt complains that “the fact that there are only a couple of women and no lead actors of color may rub some the wrong way.” He is not the only film critic to observe this.

Morons.

  • Slate.com critic Dana Stevens claims that the British Army at Dunkirk was the “last bulwark against Nazi invasion of the British mainland.”

Not even close to true. Continue reading

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I Finally Saw “O.J.: Made In America,” And I Am Depressed

Inspired by the upcoming parole hearing, in which double knife-murderer O.J. Simpson is expected to be paroled (and should be), I decided to watch a much-praised documentary series that I had thus far avoided.

Ezra Edelman’s “O.J.: Made in America” (not to be confused with “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,”the dramatic TV mini-series starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. as the fallen football great, released the same year ) is a 2016 documentary produced for ESPN Films and their 30 for 30 series. I saw it a few days ago. I’m sorry I did.

Not that the film isn’t excellent, thorough, fair and though-provoking. It is. Nor was there too much in it that surprised me. Simpson defense attorney Carl Douglas gloating over how the defense team unethically and dishonestly altered Simpson’s home to deceive the jury made me want to punch him in his smug face, but I already knew about that outrageous tactic. Seeing Mark Furmin on the stand invoking the Fifth Amendment when he was asked whether he had ever planted evidence at a crime scene made me want to gag, but it made me want to gag when I saw it live. One more time, I was convinced that the prosecution had so botched the case that there was plenty of reasonable doubt for a jury to employ to acquit O.J., just as it was obvious from the trial that he was guilty as sin. All of this I expected.

I did not expect to be so emotionally troubled and ethically disoriented by the conclusion of the film, in which one African-American after another, most of them speaking in the present day, tells the camera with various levels of offensiveness that O.J.’s acquittal was a great moment for black America, a form of redemption, pay-back for centuries of abuse and decades of  discrimination by police and the justice system, proof that the system can work for African Americans and not merely against them, a well-earned poke in the eyes of white America, sweet vengeance and retribution, and a result to be honored and cherished as victory for blacks everywhere.

A prominent minister and civil rights leader actually compares Simpson’s acquittal to Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier. I wonder what Robinson would have thought about that comparison. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/19/17

Yeah? What’s so “good” about it? HUH? Well?

1. In an article/discussion about the impact of George Romero, the zombie genre creator who died last week, New York Times film critic A.O. Scott said, and I’m not making this up,

A few years ago, when I did a Critics’ Pick video on [Romero’s “Night of the living Dead,”], I hinted that [the film’s African-American hero’s]death could be read as a prophecy of Barack Obama’s presidency: A calm and competent African-American saves the white people from their own rashness and stupidity (as well as from zombies) and is destroyed. Now, of course, the prophecy seems all the more chilling. The casual, unapologetic and ultimately self-destructive violence of white supremacy is the true and enduring horror of American life.

Wait…What?

This insulting, counter-factual, absolutely crackers statement may be an opinion, but it is so stunningly biased and warped that it should have set off ethics alarms at the Times, if any exist. If the film critic could say this in print, he says it among his colleagues. If he has said it among his colleagues and no editor, pundit or colleague has grabbed him by the lapels and said, “What the hell are you talking about, man? You better keep that crap to yourself, because it embarrasses the paper. Better yet, I think you need a vacation!”, then this strongly suggests that almost everyone at the Times is marinating in a crippling fantasy culture that makes independent, objective, trustworthy reporting and punditry impossible.

A.O.’s statement self-destructs at “calm.” Obama “saved” nobody; in fact, he either deliberately or incompetently degraded the one area of our society he was elected to improve: racial harmony and respect. How does a black character’s death (the movie’s hero is shot by authorities who assume he is a zombie) “prophecy” the fate of Barack Obama, elected President twice, cheered upon his leaving office, and immediately rewarded with historical revisionism, obscene speaking fees and a book contract? [I hate to cavil, but it really needs to be pointed out that the Duane Jones character in “Night of the Living Dead,” far from saving the white characters, gets them eaten and zombified by adamantly rejecting one obnoxious white man’s insistence that they should all just lock themselves in the basement. After all those white people the Obama-like hero  “saved” according to A.O. are ambulatory brain-eaters, he survives the zombie onslaught—by locking himself in the basement! I suppose this “prophesied” leading from behind.]

The critic’s statement is thinly veiled anti-white racism, bubbling up from the concentrated anger and Trump hysteria at the Times. White supremacy. Sure, A.O. I won’t be reading any of your reviews anymore, nor your fellow critic Jason Zinoman, who either agrees with your fanciful and hateful assessment, or didn’t have the integrity to tell you that you are paranoid and nuts on the record. Either way, he is also a fool. I don’t care what either of you think about movies, since you view them through bullshit colored  glasses.

2. I have three times now prepared to write a post about what I now call Anti-Trump porn at the Times, highlighted every week by the Sunday Times “Review Section.” Last Sunday was another one. This section’s obsession is stunning: the section is loaded with unrestrained Trump hate, ad hominem insults and hysteria and  from every perspective. I would think other Times readers would be bored, not to mention alarmed, by this monotonous vive and broadcast of bias (An unbiased newspaper would not allow one topic and one point of view to monopolize its weekly commentary section), but apparently the Times readership is insatiable.

The res ipsa loquitur feature this time was an editorial cartoon by Art Spiegelman, who is a brilliant cartoonist when at his best. Like most cartoonists of a political bent, he is all ideology and advocacy, and pretty much devoid of respect for facts and balance. Here was his comment after November 8:

“I see something similar to Hitler in that it’s gone very fast to things that seem surreal to me, like Trump supporters shooting four civilians at a polling place in California – one of them died. And there’s the slide towards uncivility, from what I read on the internet. For the first time I got to see my name with three parentheses signs around it. I don’t think it was a secret that I’m Jewish, but they were making sure that the alt-right people would know that I was Jewish. That’s just something I saw a couple of days ago. ‘Oh, I see. OK, it’s a new day.’ And at this point we don’t care about refugees’ lives. They’re not white lives. So yeah, sure, I’m worried.”

Shut up and draw, Art. Trump supporters did not shoot four civilians at a polling place in California. Middle East refugees are white. And Art must not check the internet very often, if he judges any single  excess or outrage as proof of anything. His was a statement of pure intellectual laziness, bias, bigotry and hysteria—but never mind, political cartoonists don’t have to be fair, accurate or responsible. They just have to communicate what a biased paper’s editors know even its own biased pundits couldn’t get away with, and have the defense that “it was just supposed to be funny!”  Thus here was the Spiegelman cartoon featured on page two of the Times’ Review section last Sunday: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/17/17 [UPDATED]

Good morning, everyone!

1. President Trump is upset about an ABC-Washington Post poll that among other things indicates that 70% of those polled believe that he has acted “un-Presidential” since being elected. Several analysts have suggested that pollsters have slanted their polling pools toward Democrats (remember the election?), but my question regarding this poll is, “What the hell is the matter with the other 30%?”

How in the world could anyone conscious argue that Trump is “Presidential,” other than on the rather technical basis that since he’s President, what he does is by definition Presidential? It would be mighty nice if an aide, a Cabinet member, a daughter, a White House chef or someone would explain this to him, but I’m convinced: he doesn’t get it, he won’t get it, and what weve  seen is what we’ll continue to get.

2. ALERT! The forgoing was written after I was fooled by a fake news site, aided and abetted by Instapundit, which either was also fooled or linked to the site as its own joke.  Thanks to reader Tom Adams for being  more alert than I was and quickly flagging this.

And by the way, screw them. I’m taking off the link, and I will probably give the site an Unethical Website designation. The only hint that the site is a hoax site is the other stories (“GOP Adopts Christie’s Sad, Bewildered Face As New Party Mascot”), but I read dozens of stories every day, and if i stopped to check all the other boxed and highlighted pieces I would never have time to do my job. There is nothing on the home page designating the site as satirical. Unethical.

I apologize to anyone I led astray. Somebody alert Instapundit. I’m not speaking to it.  Here was the original post…

That said and mournfully accepted, he won, he’s President, and the fevered efforts to somehow turn back time (I would not be surprised to see a new Bon Jovi Direct TV ad on the subject)  by “the resistance,” the Democrats and the news media are profoundly anti-democratic. This is what Jake Tapper was alluding last week with his tongue stuck so firmly in his cheek that it almost broke through his face. “The conspiracy goes much deeper than anyone expected,” Jake Tapper said on his news segment “The Lead.” “We’re talking tens of millions of people involved in this secret plot to make sure Hillary didn’t make it into the White House and to prop up Donald Trump as the winner….It’s far more sinister than we thought.”

Yes, some conservative websites and others took Tapper’s pointed gag seriously. This tells us…

…how little trust CNN has left with many Americans..

…how dumb a lot of conservatives are…

…why broadcast news hosts and reporters, even fair and clever ones like Tapper, should avoid sarcasm, satire, or facetious statements, and stick to the facts.

…Jake Tapper should get away from CNN before its toxic culture ruins his reputation. Continue reading

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