“The Magnificent Seven” Ethics (Spoiler Warning!)

I have noted more than once what an excellent ethics movie the original 1960 Western classic “The Magnificent Seven” is. Occasional  Ethics Alarms contributor and apparently retired ethics blogger Bob Stone made an excellent case for what he calls his favorite ethics movie here, but the screenplay makes its own case with exchanges like this one:

Harry (Brad Dexter): “There comes a time to turn mother’s picture to the wall and get out. The village will be no worse off than it was before we came.”

Chris (Yul Brenner): “You forget one thing — we took a contract.”

Vin (Steve McQueen): “It’s not the kind any court would enforce.”

Chris: “That’s just the kind you’ve got to keep.”

or the very first scene, where gunslinger Chris volunteers to drive a horse-drawn hearse to Boot Hill where a group of armed bigots are threatening to shoot anyone who tries to bury a recently deceased Indian, who lived in the town, in the town’s cemetery along with “decent white folks.”  Steve McQueen (Vin) goes along as Chris’s wing-man, and the first two of the seven team up for an act of pure altruism.

The remake of the film opened over the weekend, and in part because I’m doing a program for the Smithsonian about the lore surrounding the movie, I saw it. And took notes.

It’s not bad. I enjoyed it. It is yet another example of how Hollywood no longer trusts the Western genre or its traditional trappings: the heroes in this and the heroes in most modern Westerns are now portrayed as super-heroes, ridiculously fast on the draw, absurdly accurate with every shot, and able to ride like circus performers. At a certain point, this silliness leads to a damaging loss of suspension of disbelief. The intrusion of gratuitous diversity was also annoying: the end features three heroes riding into the sunset, and they consist of an African-American, a Native American, and a Mexican. How they missed including a handicapped gay woman is mystifying, and somebody should organize a protest. Well, at least all the whites and the Asian guy were killed. That’s something. Continue reading

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Observations On The First Trump-Clinton Debate

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It was as predictable as it was tragic: on Drudge shortly after the debate, his debate poll showed that over 90% of Matt’s readers—almost as high a percentage as that of black Americans who believe Barack Obama has been a great President—believed that Donald Trump won. At CNN, the percentages weren’t as lopsided, but still reversed: about 70% believed Hillary won. Confirmation bias rules supreme in such settings, and bias makes us stupid. Fortunately, as my analysis of these two awful candidates should have proven by now, I have no biases in this race. I would like to see both candidates lose,and badly. Indeed, as both are the political equivalents of virulent cancers on the culture and potentially the office they seek, I would like to learn that both have mysteriously vanished without a trace, like Judge Crater, Ambrose Bierce, Rick Moranis, or Gilbert O’Sullivan

Observations on last night’s debate:

1. The conservative websites are whining about Lester Holt serving as the “third debater” last night. In a word, baloney. Holt did all right, not great,  in an impossible role, primarily by letting the combatants talk; in fact, a heavier moderator hand would have been preferable.  The birther question to Trump and the “Presidential look” questions were undoubtedly moderator shots at Trump, but shots like that are opportunities too. Trump didn’t handle either well. Character is the issue with Trump, not policy, and those were character questions that he should have been prepared for. Maybe he was; maybe those pathetic answers were Trumps’ idea of good ones. Yes, Holt pressed Trump on the ultimately irrelevant issue of whether he was or was not in favor of the Iraq invasion and when, but that was also an appropriate approach for a moderator, and it gave Trump a chance to clarify his position, if one can ever use “clarify” and “Trump” in the same sentence.

As an aside, I wonder if “Sean Hannity can back me up” is the lamest defense ever uttered in a Presidential debate. It may be.

2. Trump was Trump, that’s all, and perhaps a slightly less offensive and more substantive version than usual. Hillary was smug, with a frozen smile and an expression that said, “Boy, is this guy an idiot!” all debate long. That’s a big mistake, for virtually nobody likes smug. Trump’s expression toward Hillary was usually one of a wary and respectful foe. He was listening, she was sneering. Her repeated call for “fact-checking” was weak, and appeared to be appeals for assistance. Continue reading

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The New York Times Proves Why Journalists Can’t Be Trusted To “Fact-Check” Since They Don’t Know What A Lie Is

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Ugh.

I finally grabbed a barf bag and read the New York Times attack piece from the weekend titled “A Week of Whoppers.” Silly me: Donald Trump lies so often that I simply took it on faith that the Times would have no trouble finding real and substantive lies to expose from The Donald. Instead, what I found were a few genuine lies of no great significance lumpod with statements that were obviously not meant literally, off-the-cuff remarks that any objective listener would assume were just generalizations, self-evident hyperbole, or opinion. None rose to the level of outright attempts to deceive on the magnitude of “I never sent or received classified material,” or “wiped? Like with a cloth?”

Needless to say, but I’ll still say it, none came within a Washington mile of lies like “I did not have sex with that woman,”  which is one Hillary Clinton attempted to facilitate. It is depressing that any reporter, editor or reader would find the analysis that all 31 of these alleged “lies by Trump were “lies” fair, rational or convincing. Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman prove themselves to be partisan hacks with this weak piece of anti-Trump hype. The statements flagged here are so clearly the result of a concerted anti-Trump bias that editors must have assumed that few would actually read them, and just take the headline and sheer size of the feature as proof that the Times had legitimately proven massive dishonesty.

And it had: its own.

Here are all 31 alleged Trump “lies,” with the Ethics Alarms verdicts on each. Continue reading

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The Discouraging Mylan Epipen Ethics Breakdown

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My economics professor in college was the late John Kenneth Galbraith, a best-selling author, New Frontier favorite and celebrity, to the extent that an economist can be a celebrity. One of the foundations of his fame was his theory that big corporations were becoming the successors to nations. They were, he said, on the way to becoming more powerful than nations, and the working people of the world would begin being more loyal to them than nations or religions.There were a lot of economic and management consequences of this, but it was the ethical implications that most interested me.

Corporate cultures would increasingly steer individual beliefs and behaviors, and strong forces would push these industrial giants to be less driven by profits and more ethically reponsible, since employees would want to be a “citizens” of a corporate state in which they could take pride. Similarly, stockholders wanted to be able to be proud of their holdings, as well as make money with them. His book explaining this theory, “The New Industrial State,” was a sensation. Part of the motive behind the book, my professor being a big government advocate too, was to lay the foundation of the case that these new “states” had to be carefully guided and regulated lest one go rogue and abuse its power to disastrous effect. Still, the position of the book was optimistic: the new giant corporations were scary, but there were forces at work that would make them want to be good and do good while making all that money.

Well, so much for that college course. The unfolding ethics mess that is the Epipen fiasco shows us an ugly company with an unethical culture run by an unethical CEO and invested in by people who don’t give a damn that the company is despicable, as long as they make money. The regulatory system that could have been built on Galbraith’s fantasy has failed utterly.

To make a long, complicated and depressing story shorter, here is a summary with some links at the end. Continue reading

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Collusion…But Then, As The Times Reminded Us, “These Are Not Ordinary Times,” So It’s OK

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Over the weekend as the  2016 campaign’s first Presidential debate loomed, four news organizations published major stories pronouncing Donald Trump a liar, and essentially conferring on the Rationalization #22-ish Hillary “She’s not the Worst Liar” endorsement.

This was a new maneuver in the mainstream news medias full and open opposition of Trump that has left objectivity, neutrality and American journalism ethics in the dust. First came the The New York Times attack—the Times, as the flagship of U.S. journalism, had already given its blessing to biased coverage—with its “A Week of Whoppers“on Saturday. Politico, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times all followed the leader in short order. (Or followed orders in short…never mind, that doesn’t quite work.)

Contacted by a curious but gullible Brian Stelter, CNN’s biased but maybe a little less biased than he might be “media watchdog,” publication editors who were involved swore the timing was, as John Travolta says in “Face-Off,” “a  coinkydink!” Marty Baron, the executive editor of The Washington Post, told Stelter indignantly, “We don’t coordinate coverage with anyone else!”

“The four stories were welcomed by the Clinton campaign,” Stelter wrote.  “Aides cited the statistics in television interviews on Sunday.  However, there is no indication that the Clinton campaign was involved.” (That’s my emphasis, if you couldn’t tell.) Continue reading

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This Might Force ME To Vote For Donald Trump: Clinton Campaign Manager Robbie Mook’s Unethical Quote Of The Month

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“All that we’re asking is that if Donald Trump lies, that it’s pointed out. It’s unfair to ask that Hillary Clinton both play traffic cop with Trump, make sure that his lies are corrected, and also to present her vision for what she wants to do for the American people…I think Donald Trump’s special. We haven’t seen anything like this. We normally go into a debate with two candidates who have a depth of experience, who have rolled out clear, concrete plans, and who don’t lie, frankly, as frequently as Donald Trump does.So we’re saying this is a special circumstance, a special debate, and Hillary should be given some time to actually talk about what she wants to do to make a difference in people’s lives. She shouldn’t have to spend the whole debate correcting the record.”

—-Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mook, explaining to George Stephanopoulis on ABC’s “This Week”why the Clinton campaign insists that debate moderators should run interference for her and intervene to contradict and rebut Trump’s assertions, unlike every other Presidential debate and every legitimate and fair debate of any kind, where that responsibility rests with the debaters.

Well, that’s almost it for me. I am officially a hair’s breadth from deciding that as repulsive as the thought of Donald Trump achieving the Presidency is, the prospect of the United States abandoning democracy, process and fair elections to defeat him is infinitely more repulsive.

What Mook is proposing is no less than the rigging of the election process, with one candidate given “special” privileges, while another is subjected to “special” handicaps and the “special” opposition of the news media. I had previously resolved, and on Ethics Alarms so stated, that in a binary choice between the most unqualified, unstable, vile, ignorant and boorish candidate ever nominated by a major party to be President and the corrupt, inept and dishonest Hillary Clinton, responsible Americans are duty-bound to cross their fingers, hold their noses, toss a horseshoe over their shoulders and vote for the certifiably awful Mrs. Clinton, in her own right the most corrupt and untrustworthy figure ever to come this close to the Presidency. (We can debate about Aaron Burr some other time.)

I no longer can say with certainty that I believe that now. Continue reading

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California Decides It’s The Government’s Function To Help Actors Pretend They Are Younger Than They Really Are

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California increasingly appears to be hell bent on serving as the cautionary example of how the belief that government has an unlimited brief to meddle in everything leads to abuse and derangement.

Gov. Jerry Brown last week signed legislation that prevents  entertainment websites such as the Internet Movie Database (IMDb),from posting an actor’s age or birthday if the actor doesn’t want anyone to know how old he or she is.

The law, which becomes effective January 1, applies to entertainment database sites that allow paid subscribers to post resumes, headshots or other information for prospective employers. Only a paying subscriber can make a removal or non-publication request. The beneficial end that supposedly justifies  this unconstitutional and suppressive means is that age discrimination is allegedly rampant in show business.

“Even though it is against both federal and state law, age discrimination persists in the entertainment industry,” Golden State legislature Majority Leader Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, said in a statement. “AB 1687 provides the necessary tools to remove age information from online profiles on employment referral websites to help prevent this type of discrimination.”

Naturally the actor unions are all for this form of government censorship. “Gov. Jerry Brown today stood with thousands of film and television professionals and concerned Californians who urged him to sign AB 1687, a California law that will help prevent age discrimination in film and television casting and hiring,” said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris. You remember Gabby, don’t you? She was the brainy, non-sexy teen in the original “Beverly Hills 90210.” I’m sure she thinks the reason her career tanked as she edged into middle age was “discrimination.”

I’ve seen you act, Gabrielle. It wasn’t. Continue reading

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