Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/27/18: “Mrs. Miniver” Ethics, “Ick!,” And A Poll

Rugby in the morning

1 One of my favorite Hollywood ethics scenes. I watched “Mrs. Miniver” again last night, the 1942 WWII drama starring the magnificent Greer Garson. It has a wonderful ethics moment late in the film, when Lady Beldon, the wealthy town battleaxe (and the grandmother Mrs. Miniver’s recently minted daughter-in-law, soon to die tragically) presides over the English village’s annual flower show, in which she has won the coveted “Best Rose” prize every year. But beloved old stationmaster Mr. Ballard has developed a magnificent new rose (named after Garson’s character) and desperately wants to win as well. The Minivers tease their elderly relative about the near certainty that she will win as always regardless of the relative merits of her entry and “The Miniver” entered by Mr. Ballard, since the judges are terrified of her, and Lady Beldon has made it clear to all that she regards the annual prize as a virtual entitlement. After all, the prize is even called “The Beldon Challenge Cup.” Sure enough, the judges, who seemed to be having a harder time than usual concluding that Lady Beldon’s rose deserved the award, hand her a slip that places her rose in first place, and Mr. Ballard’s in second.

Lady Beldon shows the slip to Mrs. Miniver with an air of triumph.

MINIVER: This is really important to you, isn’t it?

LADY BELDON: Yes. It’s stupid of me, but there it is. I’ve won that cup for as long as I can remember.

MINIVER: Mr. Ballard’s terribly keen too.

BELDON: Well, he’s had his chance. Hasn’t he? You have such a way of looking at people. What do you expect me to do? Reverse the judges’ decision?

MINIVER: I wouldn’t put it past you. If you happened to disagree with it.

“But I don’t!” she harrumphs. She keeps looking at the two competing roses, though, and also at old Mr. Ballard (played by Henry Traverse, later to portray Clarence the Wingless Angel”in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” His look of anticipation and hope approximately mirrors the expression of a six-year-old on Christmas morning. And when it comes time to announce the winner, Lady Ballard pauses, looks at the two roses again, ponders,  crumples up the judges’ slip, and announces that “The Miniver” wins the prize.

Dame May Witty, one of the best character actors England ever produced, shows us with her face that she realizes she did the right thing as soon as she sees Ballard’s reaction to winning. And the assembled crowd gives her an even louder ovation than they give the winner. They didn’t even have to see the slip like the Minivers: they know what she did. And she knows they know.

I had a Lady Beldon moment many years ago, before I had even seen the movie. Continue reading

Your ATM Just Lied To Me. Not Cool, Wells Fargo

Liar, Liar...Ok, you have no pants, but your, wait,,,

Liar, Liar…Ok, you have no pants, but your tongue…no, wait…

I really mean lied, as in “deliberately communicated a falsehood in order to deceive.” There’s no excuse for it.This morning I had the pleasure of depositing a rather large check in my account, exactly the way I have been depositing smaller checks on a regular basis at the same ATM at the same branch office of the various iterations of what is now Wells Fargo. This was an institutional check, from another financial institution, so it was printed, boldly, and the amount was not scrawled, as with many personal checks I have occasion to deposit using the “no envelope” method we now have avaliable thanks to the wonders of modern technology.

Nonetheless, the machine this morning had the cheek to post a window and message I had never seen before, telling me that the machine “could not read the check amount” and asking me to enter it on the keypad, rather than just confirm the deposit.

What’s going on here?

Wells Fargo is lying, that’s what. The amount on the check, which I usually can barely make out from the small scanned image on the screen, was so dark and clear that I could read it easily from three feet away. If I could read it, the machine that made the image definitely could read it. No, this was a new security feature, like the time over Christmas that holds were placed on four of my credit cards while I was standing at a check-out register because my Christmas shopping bill was “unusual” according to some geniuses’ software programs. What that false message from the ATM really meant was, “Hold it there, a minute, buster. You don’t get checks this big; we think you’re a crook. So we’re going to rattle you with this pointless, annoying request, even though a crook is just as capable of entering the amount as a legitimate depositor.” Continue reading