Holiday Ethics Assigment: Quick! Watch These 25 Great Old Ethics Movies Again Before You Go Bonkers Too!


I am compiling a new list of great ethics movies to help those troubled by the recently completed Presidential campaign, the election and its aftermath. I haven’t decided whether to reveal it piecemeal, or collectively as I have before, but I do need to begin by presenting the previous list of 25, actually the combination of several previous posts. Ethics films I have covered individually since those lists debuted, like Spotlight and Bridge of Spies, will eventually be added.

For now, here’s the top 25. Don’t pay attention to the order.

1Spartacus (196o)

The raw history is inspiring enough: an escaped gladiator led an army of slaves to multiple victories over the Roman legions in one of the greatest underdog triumphs ever recorded. Stanley Kubrick’s sword-and-sandal classic has many inspiring sequences, none more so than the moment when Spartacus’s defeated army chooses death rather than to allow him to identify himself to their Roman captors (“I am Spartacus!”)

Ethical issues highlighted: Liberty, slavery, sacrifice, trust, politics, courage, determination, the duty to resist abusive power, revolution, love, loyalty.

Favorite quote: “When a free man dies, he loses the pleasure of life. A slave loses his pain. Death is the only freedom a slave knows. That’s why he’s not afraid of it. That’s why we’ll win.” [Spartacus (Kirk Douglas)]

2.  Hoosiers (1986)

“Hoosiers” is loosely based on true story, but its strength is the way it combines classic sports movie clichés—the win-at-all-costs coach down on his luck, the remote superstar, over-achieving team—into a powerful lesson: it isn’t the final victory that matters most, but the journey to achieving it.

Ethical issues highlighted: Forgiveness, generosity, leadership, kindness, courage, loyalty, diligence, redemption.

Favorite quote: “If you put your effort and concentration into playing to your potential, to be the best that you can be, I don’t care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, in my book we’re gonna be winners.” [ Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman)]

3. Babe (1995)

A wonderful movie about the virtues of being nice, the greatest civility film of all time. Second place: “Harvey.”

Ethical issues highlighted: Civility, kindness, reciprocity, loyalty, courage, love, friendship, bigotry, bias.

Favorite quote: “Fly decided to speak very slowly, for it was a cold fact of nature that sheep were stupid, and there was nothing that could convince her otherwise…The sheep decided to speak very slowly, for it was a cold fact of nature that wolves were ignorant, and there was nothing that could convince them otherwise”  The Narrator (Roscoe Lee Browne) Continue reading

Partisan Hypocrisy And Dishonesty: A Facebook Case Study In Clinton Corruption


The unethical individual in this case is an old and cherished friend. She isn’t a fool. She is, in most matters, compassionate, fair, informed, thoughtful and rational.  I cannot begin to describe how disappointed I am in the lack of integrity and self-awareness in her conduct.

Before the election, she posed the meme above.  That’s the friend I know, or thought I knew before the toxic values of Hillary Clinton corrupted her.

After the election, she has posted this, a typically vile, sneering anti-conservative screed by Paul Krugman. A quote:

We thought that the great majority of Americans valued democratic norms and the rule of law.It turns out that we were wrong. There turn out to be a huge number of people — white people, living mainly in rural areas — who don’t share at all our idea of what America is about. For them, it is about blood and soil, about traditional patriarchy and racial hierarchy. And there were many other people who might not share those anti-democratic values, but who nonetheless were willing to vote for anyone bearing the Republican label.

I don’t know how we go forward from here. Is America a failed state and society? It looks truly possible.


No despair there!

Next up was this hysterical piece, from the New Yorker, called “An American Tragedy.” I can’t let this part go unanswered, because it is becoming the accepted manipulative and deception euphemism of the election. Hillary’s beaten, she’s gone, and unlike Richard Nixon, she’s not going to rise like Dracula and make a comeback. I want to leave her alone just as I never want the slimy Clintons to darken my brainpan again, but first, I want the biased journalists who tried to sell her as Joan of Arc to stop the lies.

The author writes,

“Hillary Clinton was a flawed candidate but a resilient, intelligent, and competent leader, who never overcame her image among millions of voters as untrustworthy and entitled.”

Donald Trump could just as justifiably could be called “flawed,” as well as Pol Pot. What are the “flaws” this cover-word is hiding? Well, she is greedy, venal, willing to use conflicts of interest and influence peddling for personal gain, violates rules and laws when she knows she is shielded by her power and crony connection from accountability, a ruthless foe of the victim of alleged sexual assault when it is advantageous, and an outspoken advocate for them when that is advantageous. When she is caught, she lies. When the lies are exposed, she spins, and her apologies are misleading too. That’s why she “never overcame her image among millions of voters as untrustworthy and entitled“—she IS untrustworthy and entitled, and couldn’t hide it long enough to be elected President over a completely unstable, ignorant ass. Resilient—I’ll give her resilient. Intelligent too, although she sure did and said some incredibly stupid things for an intelligent person. But competent? Competent people learn about cyber-security when they run the State Department. Competent people are not “extremely careless” (rather than “grossly negligent”) in handling classified information.

Then my friend posted this, from Vanity Fair. It’s a letter Hollywood liberal Aaron Sorkin supposedly wrote to his daughter. It is full of scaremongering like this:

“The Klan won last night. White nationalists. Sexists, racists and buffoons. Angry young white men who think rap music and Cinco de Mayo are a threat to their way of life (or are the reason for their way of life) have been given cause to celebrate. Men who have no right to call themselves that and who think that women who aspire to more than looking hot are shrill, ugly, and otherwise worthy of our scorn rather than our admiration struck a blow for misogynistic shitheads everywhere. Hate was given hope….And the world took no time to react. The Dow futures dropped 700 points overnight. Economists are predicting a deep and prolonged recession…”

Yes, “economists” like Paul Krugman, who wrote Tuesday night that the stock market would NEVER recover. The stock market rebounded almost immediately, and stocks are now soaring. Bias makes you stupid.

Not finished yet in her efforts to avoid despair, my friend posted this editorial from the New York Times, which encompassed boiler-plate progressive talking points:

“There is a planet to save. The earth is in peril from a changing climate no matter how many deniers say otherwise. There may be millions of immigrants to shield from a Trump homeland-enforcement regime. State and local governments may need to step in if the federal government retreats from protecting consumers or helping educate children. And there may be sick people to care for, should Mr. Trump dismantle the Affordable Care Act.”

Of course, Mrs. Clinton never articulated a course for “saving the planet” or its price-tag, because she knows that spending massive amounts on speculative “fixes” will make the debt even more frightening than it has become under Obama, and will require either cutting social spending or massive tax hikes. That part is just Bernie-speak. There are no legal immigrants to shield from anything, and the New York Times just declared that the prospect of enforcing our laws is apocalyptic. Under federal funding and guidance, America’s education at all level is disgraceful now. And the Affordable Care Act has mass heath care increasingly affordable for those who didn’t need a government subsidy. Trump might try something else that actually works? The monster.

The specifics are a tangential issue though, I know. The point is that this, and a huge number of other irresponsible editorials, assays, columns creeds and internet posts like them, are seeding despair. So are the Clinton Corrupted who are plastering them all over public media.

On this last one, I lightly pointed out to my friend that the essay was less that fair or accurate, as did another.

She deleted both comments.

Now I understand, unfortunately. That reasonable, measured, rational, responsible appeal to calm and fairness was only supposed to apply to Republicans. Since my friend never dreamed that she might be held to the same standards she preached to those whose opinion she did not agree with or respect, she never considered having to follow her own advice, or the ethical value of doing so.

Like anything else, ethics is just another political tool to the politically corrupted, to manipulate and deceive.

Essay: On Loretta Lynch And Fighting Cynicism And Distrust Regarding The FBI Investigation Of Hillary Clinton



This is long.

I think it’s important

In the wake of Attorney General Lynch’s acknowledgment of wrongdoing in meeting, however briefly and innocently, with Bill Clinton, some  reader comments here are redolent of the destructive distrust of government and leadership engendered by this administration and others, particularly Bill’s. Yet this attitude feeds on itself, and is to an extent a self-fulfilling prophecy. If leaders think that people expect corruption, they are less likely to shy away from it. Cynicism leads to acceptance. Of course, this is one explanation of why the tarmac meeting took place—pure arrogance and a belief that with the news media’s complicity, now virtually any degree of government dishonesty and corruption will be either effectively hidden from the public, or accepted by it.

This is untrue, still. Indeed, this episode is proof that it is untrue, though the news media did make (disgusting and ignorant) efforts to shrug off the clear appearance of impropriety represented by Lynch having a meeting with Clinton the Impeached under these circumstances. Why do I labor trying to write these essays explaining the legal and ethical context of such events if readers are so poisoned by bitterness and distrust that they can’t or won’t process them, and just default to “it doesn’t make any difference, all is shit, all is lost”?  If I believed that, I wouldn’t be spending time—work  time, uncompensated time—writing this stuff. I can earn peanuts directing professional theatrical productions: it makes people happy, gives actors work, and is a lot more fun, believe me.

Paranoia, suspicion, despair, and conspiratorial views of government, which are all these comments represent, are just forms of bias. Bias makes us stupid, and in this case, bias makes us dysfunctional as a people and fearful and miserable as individuals. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day (A Deft Rebuttal!) : “Comment of the Day: ‘From The Signature Significance Files: Trump And The Teleprompter. Seriously, How Can You Even Consider Voting For A Guy Like This?”’

mcdonalds drive-thru

I posted Fattymoon’s lament regarding the state of America’s culture, politics and prospects late last night, and yet another deserving Comment of the Day arrived in record time, this morning at 8:41 PM.

Here is Tim Hayes’  rebuttal to FattyMoon’s Comment of the Day in response to “From The Signature Significance Files: Trump And The Teleprompter. Seriously, How Can You Even Consider Voting For A Guy Like This?”


“To this very day I call for armed revolution and don’t give a fuck who knows it. Maybe Homeland Security will make me a return visit at one in the morning. But, this time, I ain’t inviting them in. Ain’t got no guns”

This statement, right here? This is the symptom of so damn many of the problems facing our country right now. I’m not saying that to attack FM as an individual, here, but rather to reject a representative of a mentality that provokes the gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair. So please, when reading this post, understand that all directed comments towards a “you” are directed towards anyone sharing that mentality, not at a specific individual.

You call for armed revolution, but you don’t have arms with which to join one.

You call for changes to who is elected to office, but you then say “but I only voted twice” with the clear implication that you’re not to blame for how things are.

Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “From The Signature Significance Files: Trump And The Teleprompter. Seriously, How Can You Even Consider Voting For A Guy Like This?”


I am behind in my Comment of the Day postings by two or three, and was trying to decide which to post first. After the previous post, the answer became obvious.

Fattymoon is a teacher, an idealist, an activist and an intellectual as well as an honest, sincere and occasionally bitter and disillusioned man. We met here on the blog back when I was criticizing a movement he strongly supported, Occupy Wall Street. Like a few other regular visitors to Ethics Alarms—not nearly enough—who have remained civil, provocative and predictably adversarial at the same time, he has been a font of thoughtful lateral thinking  with a heavy dose of whimsy.

I was startled that his response to one of my posts about the ethics black hole that is Donald Trump sparked this reaction from Fatty:

Me, I’m watching this farce unfold from the sidelines and I’m laughing my ass off.

To which I replied,

How, exactly, are you on the sidelines? Doesn’t it bother you, accepting for the hell of it that such a thing is possible, that an entire generation is on the way up and the nation and world isn’t on the sidelines?

Here is Fattymoon’s response, and the Comment of the Day, to the post, From The Signature Significance Files: Trump And The Teleprompter. Seriously, How Can You Even Consider Voting For A Guy Like This:

No, it doesn’t bother me one iota, Jack. I lost all faith in presidential politics, and politics in general, when Obama failed to live up to his promises/my expectations. I consider him a traitor of the first magnitude. I would rather have seen him stand up to Wall Street and other Bush atrocities and pay for it with his life than what actually went down during his presidency. At least he would have died an honorable man.

Continue reading

I Know Exactly How The Late Mary Anne Noland Felt…


…however, we all have ethical obligations to our society and nation, and however revolting they may be, we may be required to make difficult choices, accepting our responsibility and, ultimately, accountability. Fleeing out of anger, despair, disappointment, confusion or fear is a breach of the duties of citizenship and community, and is unethical.

Fleeing to the Afterlife, moreover, is almost as bad as fleeing to Canada.

But seriously folks, I appreciate the parting shot engineered by Mrs. Noland’s family, one hopes with her consent and approval, and it gave me a good laugh.

The story isn’t, as some assumed, a hoax. Here, courtesy of Snopes, is the entire obituary, published in The Richmond Dispatch yesterday:

NOLAND, Mary Anne Alfriend. Faced with the prospect of voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, Mary Anne Noland of Richmond chose, instead, to pass into the eternal love of God on Sunday, May 15, 2016, at the age of 68. Born in Danville, Va., Mary Anne was a graduate of Douglas Freeman High School (1966) and the University of Virginia School of Nursing (1970). A faithful child of God, Mary Anne devoted her life to sharing the love she received from Christ with all whose lives she touched as a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, friend and nurse. Mary Anne was predeceased by her father, Kyle T. Alfriend Jr. and Esther G. Alfriend of Richmond. She is survived by her husband, Jim; sister, Esther; and brothers, Terry (Bonnie) and Mac (Carole). She was a mother to three sons, Jake (Stormy), Josh (Amy) and David (Katie); and she was “Grammy” to 10 beloved grandchildren.


Pointer: Michael McMurphy


More Oscar Ethics: Ethical Quote (Graham Moore) and Unethical Quote (John Legend) Of The Month

“When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird and I felt different, and I felt like I did not belong. And now I’m standing here, and so I would like this moment to be for this kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere: Yes, you do. I promise you do. Stay weird, stay different, and then, when it’s your turn, and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along. Thank you so much!”

—-Graham Moore, 2015 Oscar winner for best adapted screenplay for the movie “The Imitation Game,” in his acceptance speech.

“We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than there were under slavery in 1850.”

John Legend, accepting the 2015 Oscar for Best Song for “Glory” from “Selma.”

Legend’s statement is technically accurate, but misleading in many ways, inflammatory, destructive, and irresponsible.

When you heard it, did you make the distinction between “in prison” and “under correctional control”? Most didn’t—I didn’t— and that was intentional. This is deceit. Correctional control  includes those in prisons, but also those in jails awaiting trial or serving short local sentences; those on parole; and others on probation.  Like all the fake and misleading statistics that fly around, this one is inflated to induce a “Wow!”  A person under probation or parole can live a completely normal and free life, if he or she can avoid breaking the law and some extra rules. Slavery it’s not. Continue reading

My 15 Hollywood Cures For A Paterno-Penn State-Sandusky Hangover, Part 1

For this hangover, movies work better.

The past week, as much as any week within memory, has caused me to despair about the culture, the state of ethical values in America, and my own futile efforts to try to bring some light to the darkness. My mood was not only ravaged by the Penn State scandal (and Penn State’s students’ scandalous reaction to it), but also the continued drift and incompetence in our government and the lack of any apparent leadership or courage to address the problems of our economic system, other than to complain about them.

In such times—there have been others, though happily not many—my spirit urgently needs an infusion of inspiration and hope, and fast: as Al Pacino reminds us in “Scent of a Woman,” there is no prosthesis for an amputated spirit. This is when I turn to the movies that speak to me of courage, redemption, and ethical virtues validated. They are my lifeline; I can’t write or think about ethics from the bottom of a pit. I’ve got only a few days before Thanksgiving, after all. This is no time to be cynical and dubious about the course of humanity and the United States of America, a nation I love and admire.

Thus I am going to take a brief detour from the usual format of Ethics Alarms, with your leave and forgiveness, and share with you the fifteen movies that I will turn to as I try to recharge my enthusiasm, inspiration, and hope. Here are 1 though 7; the rest will be along shortly:

1. A Man For All Seasons (1966)

Hardly the most upbeat film to start the list, but probably the greatest ethics movie ever made.

Ethical issues highlighted: Integrity, honesty, courage, leadership, corruption, abuse of power.

Favorite quote: “Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world… but for Wales?” [Sir Thomas More (Paul Scofield)] Continue reading

Thanking Dick Williams…Finally

The late Dick Williams, doing what great leaders do

If you are not a baseball fan, or under the age of thirty, you probably never heard of Hall of Fame manager Dick Williams, who died yesterday at the age of 84. I never met Williams myself, but I have been indebted to him for four decades. I never told him the immense difference he made in my life, just by doing his job.

In the winter of 1967, I was a devoted fan of my home town team, the Boston Red Sox, and had been since 1962.  Over that period I had listened to every single baseball game on my transistor radio when a game wasn’t on TV, which was most of the time, or when I wasn’t at the game, which was almost always the case. I was the only person I knew who followed the team, and for good reason: it was torture. The Red Sox were hopelessly mediocre on the way to awful, and hadn’t had a winning season in more than ten years.

It is a great character builder to follow the fortunes of a terrible baseball team. Almost every day, for six months, you are let down, and yet return to the scene of your despair the next, attempting to muster hope while steeling yourself against likely disappointment. You find yourself finding things to appreciate other than winning: the gallant veteran player who “plays the right way” (Eddie Bressoud, shortstop, 1962-1965); the exciting rookie who gives promise of a better future (Tony Conigliaro, right fielder—rest in peace, Tony); the unique talent who is worth watching for his own sake (Dick Radatz, relief pitcher, 1962-1966). These things help, but following a perennial losing team and caring about them is like being punched in the gut four or five days a week without knowing which day you’re getting it.

Since 1965, I had always reserved seats for the first day of the season and one of the last two home games, just in case those last games would be crucial to a (hahahaha!) Red Sox pennant drive. This was especially pathetic, since the team was getting worse. They had finished in a tie for 9th place in 1966, and as the 1967 season loomed, Vegas had them installed as 100-1 underdogs to win the American League pennant. In truth, the odds should have been longer. Nonetheless, I wrote the Red Sox and got my tickets, this time for the next to last day of the season.

The team was full of rookies and near rookies, and appropriately had hired a minor league manager, Dick Williams, to be the new skipper. Williams was something else, however: he was a gifted leader. One day, in the middle of Spring Training, a Boston scribe asked the new manager what the prospects were for the upcoming season. Would the team escape the cellar? Would there be forward progress? Williams’ answer was instant front page news:

“We’ll win more than we lose.” Continue reading

Clearing the Ethics Palette of Despair, Finding Hope

The accumulation of depressing stories and news items is making me despair again.

Our leaders will not exercise courageous leadership, and Americans seem unable to accept any sacrifices at a time when sacrifice is essential. I watch the pathetic Greeks riot because their country has gone broke allowing them to be irresolute and irresponsible, and I find myself feeling ashamed of my Greek heritage and wondering if the citizens of the land of my birth will behave any better.

When I search for Ethics Heroes to balance the many, many candidates for Ethics Dunces, I find myself increasingly drawn  to the obituaries of World War II heroes who are dying by the hundreds every day. Yet those are dead heroes, and we desperately need living ones.

Meanwhile, the continuing economic crisis plants seeds of ethical contempt, fertilized by national leadership that shows itself willing to cut corners and warp the truth in the name of expediency. The bombing of Libya is not a hostile action. Sure. The strategic oil reserves are being released because of a national emergency, not as politically-motivated manipulation of gas prices. Tell me another.

Legislators too cowardly to pass needed tax increases are instead willing to expose the nation’s values to rot, pushing initiatives to legalize recreational drugs and on-line gambling to acquire ill-begotten government revenue from those least able to afford it,  just as state governments took over the numbers racket. What is next? I’m afraid to guess. Ethical standards are more important than ever in a crisis, but they are also at their most vulnerable. When the going gets tough, I say, the tough get unethical. And that is what we are seeing now in our society.

Patrice Roe, a dear friend, a wise woman and an occasional reader here sent me this story, about a father who gave his life to rescue his Down Syndrome son under remarkable circumstances. Today it was just what I needed to read, to clear my ethics palette of some terrible tasting tales that generated too many toxic thoughts. It reminded me that out beyond the greasy ethics smog of Washington, D.C. there are people who do the right thing when it matters, more than we know.

I feel much better having read it, and perhaps you will too. You can find it here.