Category Archives: Arts & Entertainment

Groundhog Day Ethics Warm-Up: 2/2/2019

Happy Groundhog Day!

1. Gov. Northam ethics Updates  a)There are reports that Virginia’s beleaguered governor will resign tomorrow. b) Then again, maybe not. The Times has this amazing story:

Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia, facing intense pressure to resign from fellow Democrats after admitting that he posed for a photo in a racist costume as a medical student more than 30 years ago, was calling state Democrats on Saturday to say he did not think it was him in the picture and that he would not resign… in phone calls on Saturday morning he said he had no recollection of the yearbook image of two men, one in blackface and the other in Ku Klux Klan robes….

In addition to calling state Democratic officials, Mr. Northam has been calling former classmates at Eastern Virginia Medical School in an effort to determine more information about the picture — and to survive a crisis that is threatening his year-old governorship, according to a Democrat familiar with Mr. Northam’s calls.

This Democrat said the governor was determined to prove it was not him in the photograph and was even considering using facial recognition software. The governor, the Democrat said, had wanted to take responsibility on Friday night, which was why he apologized for appearing in the picture without acknowledging which person he was in the image.

Now he has to resign because he has proven that he’s an idiot. He began by admitting that he was definitely one of the two men in the photo and apologizing. If he wasn’t, does that mean that there’s another photo of Northam in a Klan get-up or in blackface? Why would he admit to dressing up in blackface or as a Klansman if he never did so? Was this so routine for him that he wouldn’t remember if he did it or not that particular time? Was he lying when he admitted that he was in the photo–and why would he do that?—-or lying now in a desperate attempt to save his career? Ugh. Show some dignity, man.

c) Conservative bloggers and pundits are enjoying this revolting spectacle way too much. Allahpundit: “Killing babies on the table is one thing, but an old blackface photo is where America draws the line.” Charlie Kirk:

David Bernstein: “The standards on past indiscretions confuse me. If we had had a picture of Ted Kennedy driving a car off a bridge and leaving his passenger to die while he planned a cover up, would he have had to resign?”  And when Planned Parenthood demanded that Northam resign, we got this…

d) Ann Althouse, as I assumed she would, is dubious about the fairness of condemning Northam for an unexplained use of blackface 35 years ago. “Here‘s the Wikipedia list of celebrities who’ve done blackface, ” she writes. ” Would those who want to exile Gov. Northam agree that all of these people should be shunned retrospectively (even the dead ones)? Fred Armisen, Fred Astaire, Dan Aykroyd, Jack Benny, Fanny Brice, George Burns, Johnny Carson, Joan Crawford, Billy Crystal, Robert Downey Jr., Judy Garland, Alec Guinness, Rex Harrison, Jimmy Kimmel, Dean Martin, The Marx Brothers, The Lone Ranger, Carroll O’Connor, Frank Sinatra, Red Skelton, Grace Slick, The Three Stooges, Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley Temple, John Wayne, Gene Wilder.

Of course, as Ann must recognize, all of those individuals, unlike Northam, were or are performers whose use of dark make-up was related to a particular role, skit or musical number. Continue reading

10 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Bioethics, Character, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Race, Social Media, Sports

Open Forum, Sick Host Edition

The chair is empty.

I’m going to hand the blog over to you right now, since I am temporarily incapable of going two minutes without sneezing, coughing, gagging or sleeping. Maybe I’ll be able to catch up on posting some Comments of the Day as well, since that takes about a tenth as much time as a full post. Or maybe I’ll just crawl off into the snow and let nature take its course.

Yes, I’m feeling sorry for myself. Make me proud, ethics lovers…

28 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Bioethics, Business & Commercial, Character, Education, Environment, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/29/19: Sick Room Edition

I hope you’re feeling better than I am.

1. Sick Ethics. Being sick on the job is always an ethical conflict, and riddled with bias. My father’s approach, so characteristic of him as someone who insisted on going into the Battle of the Bulge as an officer with a mangled, recently-repaired foot that was still oozing blood, was to ignore the illness and soldier on. There are two problems with that, however. First, you are working at diminished capacity, and second, you risk infecting others. The problem is a bit easier when you have a home office like I do, but there is still a trade-off issue: if I “soldier on” like my father, do I risk a longer illness and reduced capacity for far longer than if I just took a day or two off to recuperate? In my case, this is always a tough call: I am very vulnerable to bronchitis and pneumonia following chest colds (that’s what I’ve got, big time, starting last night), and when the stuff I cough up starts attacking me through the Kleenex, I’m in big trouble that has sometimes lasted for months. There is also a bias problem when you feel rotten. Right now, I would love to lie down. I can’t think of anything I would like more. I bet I can rationalize air-tight reasons why I should lie down, despite all of the very valid reason not to.

2. And speaking of sick...All 50 states require vaccinations before children to attend school, but 47 of them  (California, Mississippi and West Virginia are the exceptions) allow parents to opt out of vaccines if they have religious beliefs against immunizations. Eighteen states also allow parents to opt out of vaccines if they have personal, moral or philosophical beliefs against immunizations, including beliefs that they can think straight when they are in fact idiots and get their medical advice from Jenny McCarthy and other hysterical anti-vaxxers. Oregon and Washington are among the states that allow for a parent’s personal beliefs to exempt their kids from being immunized, along with Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Vermont.

You know. Morons. Continue reading

27 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Education, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Workplace

Recent Ethics Thoughts On The Fyre Festival Fiasco

This Instagram photo of one of the “luxury gourmet meals being served to attendees of the 2017 Fyre Music Festival has come to symbolize the whole stunning debacle.

When Ethics Alarms last posted about the ridiculous Bahamas Fyre Festival  debacle, it was this, last July: “Remember the Frye Festival fiasco? Billy McFarland, the inept con man/idiot who set it up has been arrested and charged with fraud. Good!” Now more about that epic ethics fail is coming out. Two documentaries about the ridiculous scam/botch/whatever it was were released in January, one on Hulu and one on Netflix. I just saw the latter, and it’s pretty incredible. Here, to refresh your horror, was the original Ethics Alarms description:

Celebrities with ties to the organizers  tweeted and Instagrammed, building buzz about Fyre.  Ja Rule tweeted just a month ago, “This is where the cool kids will be April 27-30 May 5-8!!! #fyrefestival #fyre.” Ticket packages to experience the self-proclaimed “cultural event of the decade” included accommodations and chartered flights from Miami, with a low price of $900 and a luxury tag of $399,995 for access to the performers.  Days before the festival was to begin, @fyrefestival  was still ginning up anticipation.

Then the festival-goers arrived on the first day to find…nothing. Well, worse than nothing: chaos. Those who had  paid $500 apiece for what the festival’s promotion described as “villas” found that the only shelter provided were FEMA-style refugee tents. There was no food, except some hastily packaged cheese sandwiches. All of the scheduled performers canceled.

The festival-goers who hadn’t arrived by private yachts found themselves confused and stranded, with luggage but nowhere to sleep for the night. Some paid festival employees $100 to return them to the airport in a flatbed truck, but when they arrived at the airport gate, they were told that they couldn’t access the airport, requiring more bribes to get to a plane, if they were lucky. The stampede of shocked glitterati desperately trying to flee backed up the local airports, stranding many attendees in deplorable conditions, like understaffed kitchen tents with pots of uncooked food.

Subcontractors and suppliers went unpaid, Bahamian workers were stiffed, millions of dollars vanished.  The interviews with McFarland’s “team” are jaw-dropping. One fast-talking, ever-optimistic leader, McFarland, somehow convinced everyone, some who were experienced in event planning,  that he could pull off the impossible, even as the days counted down to zero hour and it was obvious that there would be no festival, just broken promised and angry rich people. There’s also an amazing coda to the Netflix documentary: while McFarland was out on bail, awaiting trial, he set up another scam, using the mailing list for the Fyre Festival to get some of the same suckers to buy phony event tickets.

Some new developments and thoughts: Continue reading

26 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Law & Law Enforcement

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/25/19: Fleas, Fake Movies, False Equivalency, And Female Bigotry

Good Morning!

1. Roger Stone’s arrest a) Stone is a thoroughly loathsome individual—the man has Richard Nixon’s face tattooed on his back, for heaven’s sake—but like the Mueller investigation generally, his arrest seems more like continued politically-motivated harassment of anyone connected to Donald Trump in order to isolate and impede his Presidency rather than part of a legitimate and independent investigation. Stone’s indictment is substantially made up of the now-familiar “obstruction of justice” bootstrap regarding an investigation of a non-crime charge. In Watergate, there was a crime. In the Clinton impeachment, there was a crime (a President lying under oath). In the Valerie Plame fiasco, there was at least a sort-of crime. Even Martha Stewart’s “obstruction of justice” conviction was related to the crime of insider-trading. “Collusion” isn’t a crime, and if Stone lied to Congress about the degree to which he was communicating heads-ups to the Trump campaign about what Wikileaks had and was about to release, that has no implications of wrongdoing for the Trump campaign at all. Stone telling the Trump campaign, “Hey, Wikileaks has a bunch of DNC emails that show Hillary’s campaign was sleazy and that the Clinton Foundation is an influence peddling scam!” isn’t illegal, it isn’t unethical, and I doubt that this sort of communication is unusual for any campaign in any party. b) CNN cameras were on the scene when Stone was arrested, which means the FBI or the Mueller team leaked to CNN. Now THAT’s unethical, and possibly illegal. c) Once again, President Trump’s persistent failure to avoid close contact with obvious slime-balls has caused problems. “Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas” : It’s not a hard concept to grasp, but for a man who was raised and rose to wealth and power in the dog-dominated worlds of real estate, hotels, casinos, show business and now politics, I suppose its hard to imagine NOT being surrounded by the metaphorically flea-infested.

2. Integrity watch: OK, I no longer know what a “movie” is. Netflix is streaming “Roma,” which was just nominated for a “Best Picture” Oscar. It has sold no tickets, and as far as I can see, is indistinguishable from any movie-length TV program, like the Christmas drama that spawned “The Waltons,” “The Homecoming.” I though movies were things shown in theater with big screens by projectors. Netflix’s “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” (which is terrific) also got some Oscar nominations. Are Hallmark Christmas weepies now eligible for Oscars? To me, those are “TV shows.” Continue reading

24 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement

Now THIS Is Gender Bias: The Undeserved And Dishonest Hyping Of Elaine May

BRILLIANT!

As someone who tried, often unsuccessfully, to promote female stage directors in Washington, D.C.’s professional theater scene, I am sympathetic to the cause of providing more opportunities  for women to direct at a high level, including Hollywood, as well as addressing directly the many and varied obstacles women face. One is a dearth of historical role models in the field. Quick, now, name five successful and respected female film directors. One just died, Penny Marshall. The pioneer in the field, actress Ida Lupino, always turns up on such lists, but which of her six films in the 50’s is a classic? “Hard, Fast and Beautiful?” “The Bigamist?” I’ve seen all of the films she directed, and she was a solid, professional director (and also an excellent actress). But Stanley Kubrick she wasn’t.  Katheryn Bigelow has to be on the list, and she’s directed several excellent films, including “The Hurt Locker,” which won a
“Best Picture” Oscar. But her resume would rank somewhere around 500 or so in a gender-blind list. Okay, that’s three.

The reasons for this are not merely discrimination in the show business industries, though that is certainly a major factor. However, as we have seen and continue to see among activists for other traditionally marginalized groups, admitting inconvenient truths that counter a group identify narrative is neither popular nor common. Unfortunately, such activists have a bad and unethical habit of hyping the accomplishments of members of their favored groups, perpetuating falsehood “for the common good” and making themselves less credible and respectable advocates as a result. In politics, we saw this repeatedly during the 2016 campaign when Hillary Clinton was described as being one of the “most qualified” Presidential candidates in American history, as assertion that is simply untrue by any objective standard. As with the Clinton hyping, it is particularly troubling when the talents and accomplishments of a an individual are hyped by journalists to advance an agenda. Journalists are not practicing their craft ethically when they intentionally try to deceive the public and distort the record, regardless of their supposedly good intentions.

Now, you might say, and I might be inclined to agree, that when current journalism standards have sunk as low as they are now, and when the news media appears to be capable of previously unimaginable deceptions in an effort to advance one political party over another, a New York Times female film critic’s efforts to bootstrap the cause of female directors by absurdly hyping the directing skills of Elaine May is small potatoes indeed. However, “The Marvelous Ms. Elaine May,” by chief Times film critic Manohla Dargis, is worthy of genuine alarm. In it, an accepted “authority” sets out to claim that black is white, that May has been an outstanding film director when she hasn’t even been a good one. She relies on the ignorance of her readers to make this argument, because May’s films—she’s directed four–have been such flops that the odds of a readers having seen all of them are daunting. Worse, I have to assume that Dargis is doing this for political reasons. Either that, or she is so gender-biased that she can’t see straight.

The article’s existence in the pages of the Times tells us that even arts reporting is now polluted beyond trust and recognition by political agendas and propaganda. Moreover, its goal is to intentionally misinform the public.

Let me note here that I admire the talents of Elaine May, whom I first encountered when she and her long-time partner Mike Nichols did a series of beer commercials tha ran during Red Sox games. She  was a deft sketch comedian, and also a sharp writer of satire. My theater company in Arlington, Virginia produced her most successful play, the Off-Broadway hit “Adaptation.” However, after the team of Nichols and May broke up, Nichols became on of the most critically-acclaimed and successful film directors of the last 50 years, and May didn’t. Dargis hints that sexism and discrimination were the culprits, because May was also a “brilliant” director. This is worse than claiming the Hillary was the most qualified candidate in history. It’s more like saying that she ran one of the best campaigns in history. I’ve watched all four of Elaine May’s movies.  Can’t fool me! Continue reading

64 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media

You Have Two Weeks To Be Ethical And Decide Not To Watch The Super Bowl

Let me say something good about the New York Times: not all of it’s editorials are repetitious attacks on President Trump, just most of them. Last week editorial board member Alex Kinsbury persuaded his colleague to let him used the space for an opinion both ethical and irrefutable. A quick summary: Football is maiming its players, the NFL doesn’t care, and if you watch the Super Bowl and support its sponsors, you’re complicit.

But them you knew that, right? At least you know it if you’re been coming here for any length of time.

Recalling a hard hit on Patriots star Rob Gronkowski, Kinsbury writes, “As the sound of the hit faded into a commercial break, I realized with absolute certainty that I couldn’t watch football anymore. There aren’t enough yards to gain or Super Bowl rings to win that are worth the cost.”

True. What took you so long? He continues by reviewing the well-publicized data:

The first research into the link between football and traumatic brain injury was published in 2005. Since then, the science has become impossible to ignore. In 2017, The Journal of the American Medical Association published the results of the autopsies of the brains of 111 deceased former N.F.L. players, whose relatives gave their bodies up for study. The group was not a random sample, yet 110 showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., a degenerative brain disease linked to concussions. Research published in November estimated that a minimum of 10 percent of all professional football players would develop C.T.E. at some point in their lives.

10% is wishful thinking, even for the  players who can still think. Continue reading

16 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Sports