What A Difference A Month Makes: Re-Watching “Trumbo”

It was only in May that I had a quick note in a morning warm-up declaring the 2015 film “Trumbo” an ethics movie. That it is, but subsequent developments have made me realize it is much more, including frightening.

The film, starring Brian Cranston as the most famous member of the “Hollywood Ten,” now is a glass of ice water recieved full in the face, shocking viewers into the realization that the George Floyd Freakout is the catalyst for a second wave of McCarthyism. This one varies from the first in that the current version is being fueled by the Left rather than conservatives, and that it is far more violent, and potentially more dangerous.

After watching the film again and reviewing the history, for “Trumbo” is easily the best film about the blacklist, there is no question in my mind that this is true. Previously, I regarded the use of “McCarthyism” as a useful if over-used metaphor, like “witch-hunt.” (“McCarthyism” usually refers to the oppression and intimidation of the entire “Red Scare” period, including the blacklist, which was Fifties for “cancelled.” The “Hollywood Ten” were victims of the fascist House Un-American Activities  Committee, which was separate from the vicious Wisconsin GOP Senator, but “House Un-American Activities  Committee-ism” doesn’t roll off the tongue well.) Now it is evident that we are witnessing  in the United States  a mutated clone of what occurred across the country in the beginning of the 1950’s, with “racist” the current label being used to bully, silence, and ruin careers and lives, rather than “Communist.” Continue reading

And Now For Something Completely Stupid: “Upbeat,” Unethical Website Of The Month,

Stay away from upbeat, Bart!

Let this incompetent, sloppy, website stand for all of its ilk across the web.

This is a pop culture site initially aroused my ire by tricking me into a slideshow. These are unethical devices used to artificially inflate traffic statistics; it would be like Ethics Alarms breaking every post into ten or more chapters that every view had to click on individually. The clickbait headline was “Hollywood Actors That Don’t Get Cast Anymore,” and the intro suggested that they all had been “blacklisted” for one reason or another. This itself is misleading and sloppy: when “blacklist” is used in reference to Hollywood, it means THE blacklist, the secret list of artists who the studios conspired not to hire because of the reality or rumors of Communist associations, sympathies and activities. To confound things, the slide show mixes in, as padding, I suspect, some figures who were blacklisted for alleged Communist connections.

There is no formal “blacklist” today, though some actors with conservative leanings claim, with some plausibility, that they have struggled after being placed on the bottom of the metaphorical pile because of Hollywood’s ideological intolerance. Communists, ironically, would be welcome in today’s leftist Tinseltown. Among those actors who picked the wrong era to be conservatives are James Woods, Patricia Heaton and the late R. Lee Ermey. Even they, however, couldn’t credibly claim to be blacklisted.

“Upbeat” doesn’t bother with these interesting cases, however. It would rather just make stuff up. Of Brendan Frazier, it says, “Fraser claimed that he had been sexually assaulted by [Phillip Burke] ..the former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association… and whether the allegations were true or not, Fraser has not appeared in a film since. He now spends his time in his mansion outside of NYC, raising his kids and horses.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/4/2019: “Is We Getting Dummer?”* Edition.

The old Simon and Garfunkle song accurately describes when I woke up this morning…

1. I think that settles it. I’m going to flush myself down the toilet...Yesterday, an educated, adult woman of my acquaintance told her Facebook friends about her terrible treatment by Alamo Rental Cars. When a FBF responded with a refeence to Santa Anna, she replied, “???” Yes, she had no idea what “Alamo” referred to. This speaks to a catastrophic failure of the American education system.

On the bright side,  ignorant citizens are the target audience of many of the highest polling Democratic candidates for President.

2. Ethics Hero: Whoopi Goldberg? On ABC’s “The View,” a show that relentlessly lowers the IQ of anyone who watches it for more than 5 minutes, co-host Whoopi Goldberg began the first show of the new season to condemn efforts in actors in Hollywood to  blacklist conservatives and Trump supporters, a practice encouraged by tweets from   “Will and Grace”  stars  Debra Messing and  Eric McCormack over the weekend. After some back and forth with the assorted idiots who share the panel with her, Whoopi said,

Listen, last time people did this, people ended up killing themselves. This is not a good idea, okay? Your idea of who you don’t want to work with is your personal business. Do not encourage people to print out lists because the next list that comes out, your name will be on and then people will be coming after you. No one — nobody — we had something called a blacklist and a lot of really good people were accused of stuff. Nobody cared whether it was true or not. They were accused. And they lost their right to work. You don’t have the right in this country. People can vote for who they want to. That is one of the great rights of this country. You don’t have to like it, but we don’t — we don’t go after people because we don’t like who they voted for. We don’t go after them that way. We can talk about issues and stuff but we don’t print out lists, and I’m sure you guys misspoke when you said that because you — it sounded like a good idea. Think about it. Read about it. Remember what the blacklist actually meant to people, and don’t encourage anyone, anyone to do it!

I wonder how many people who don’t know about the Alamo know about the blacklist? Continue reading

Ethics Hero Emeritus: Canada Lee (1907-1952)

I bet you have never heard of Canada Lee.

Most Americans, even black Americans haven’t, yet he was a remarkable, talented and courageous black man who made a difference in our history and our culture against daunting challenges. He should have been entered into the Ethics Alarms Heroes’ Hall of Honor long ago. This post will remedy that slight.

He was born to West Indian parents (and thus cannot accurately be called an “African American”) and named Lionel Cornelius Canegata on March 3, 1907 in New York City’s San Juan Hill district. A musical prodigy, Canegata studied the violin at the age of seven, and by the age of twelve was playing concerts.  The compensation was sparse, however, so when he was 14, Canegata ran away to the Saratoga Race Track in upstate New York to become a successful jockey until he grew too tall for the job and became a horse exerciser for prominent racehorse owners. Once more seeking a path out of persistent poverty, Canegata changed course again, and set out to become a boxer.

He won 90 of 100 fights,  the Metropolitan Inter-City and Junior National Championships, and the national amateur lightweight title. Before one match, an announcer butchered his name, and Canegata somehow became‘Canada Lee.’ Lee liked it and kept it.

In 1926, Canada Lee turned professional, and by 1930, he was a leading contender for the welterweight championship. Lee fought in over 200 fights as a professional boxer, losing only 25.  Fate intervened with that path: a punch to the right eye detached his retina, and ended his boxing career just as it was getting promising and profitable.  Like most boxers, Lee blew through the money he made during his boxing career, an estimated $90,000 (roughly equivalent to $1,644,684 today).  “Just threw it away,” Lee later admitted. Later, Lee lobbied for insurance, health care, financial consultation and retirement homes for fighters. “The average boxer possesses little education,” he said in 1946. “If he winds up broke, he has no trade, no education and nobody to turn to.” Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/8/18: Idiots, Bigots, Liars and Freakouts

Good Morning!

My favorite hymn, naturally: the first selection at my father’s 2010 funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, the stirring finale of “Mrs. Miniver,” and it was composed by none other than Sir Arthur Sullivan.

1. What’s the ethical response to these kinds of stories? I’m pretty sure I don’t have it, whatever it is. From today’s New York Times: “This year, a tourist in India was mauled to death when he tried to take a selfie with a wounded bear.” Last week, an Australian tourist was nearly killed when a shark that she was hand feeding dragged her into crocodile-infested waters. How should we feel about such people? “Serves the morons right” isn’t an ethical response, but that kind of clueless idiocy gets people killed all over the world, every day. Laughter is tempting, but seems cruel. I can’t apply the Golden Rule, because there is no way I can imagine myself behaving quite that stupidly. Is “I’m genuinely sorry that you’re an idiot” mockery, or compassion?

2. What’s going on here? I sure can’t figure it out. The quickest way for you to get up to speed is to click on the link and read the twitter feed backwards. Here’s a summary: two police officers claimed that they were harassed at a Raleigh, N.C. barbecue restaurant, with staff calling out “Fuck the police!” The police association wrote about the alleged incident on Facebook, the restaurant denied the account, and an investigation indicated that the complaints were exaggerated at most, and perhaps fabricated completely.  Then the association posted this:

Huh? The issue is NOT resolved until we learn what, if anything the officers were reacting to, why they made a false claim, and what kind of discipline they face, if any. Meanwhile, the story was reported on social media by a criminal defense attorney (all criminal defense attorneys hate and distrust cops, and vice-versa) whose characterization of the episode is that the police “terrorized a local business.” Terrorized? (Pointer: valkgrrl)

3. As the self-segregation of America continues...Outspoken conservative Hollywood actor James Woods was dropped by his agent, Ken Kaplan, who wrote, “It’s the 4th of July and I’m feeling patriotic. I don’t want to represent you anymore. I mean I can go on a rant but you know what I’d say.” Woods replied,

 “Dear Ken, I don’t actually. I was thinking if you’re feeling patriotic, you would appreciate free speech and one’s right to think as an individual. Be that as it may, I want to thank you for all your hard work and devotion on my behalf. Be well.”

Commenting on this, Constitutional Law expert Jonathan Turley opined, Continue reading