Trump Tweets: The Movies

Stipulated: the ethics position here has been since long before the Trump years that Presidents should keep their opinions of persons, places, things and events having nothing to do with their duties or responsibilities to themselves.

Presidents are not kings, nor popes, nor universal authorities on everything. They have a role to fill, and they should fill it; it’s not like there should be plenty of time left over for weighing in on such matters as sports, popular culture, celebrities, and local controversies.

President Obama did far more of this than was responsible or good for the country, notably during race-related controversies. President Trump, obviously, has taken this misuse of his position into the stratosphere with his addiction to Twitter. His unrestrained tweets have done him at least as much harm as good; my own guess is that if he eschewed social media, his approval ratings would be 10% higher than they are.

It is also, I think, beyond argument that Trump’s use of Twitter guarantees that future Presidents will also use it to opine on matters that are none of their business. This is not a good thing.

The President’s latest self-made controversy, actually two controversies, came when he tweeted in part last week,

“How bad were the Academy Awards this year? Did you see? And the winner is: a movie from South Korea. What the hell was that all about? We’ve got enough problems with South Korea, with trade. On top of it, they give them the best movie of the year? Was it good? I don’t know? I’m looking for — where? — can we get ‘Gone with the Wind’ back please? ‘Sunset Boulevard.’ So many great movies. The winner is: from South Korea. I thought it was Best Foreign Film. Best Foreign Movie. No. Has this ever happened before? …”

And then he went off on Brad Pitt’s gratuitous crack about John Bolton. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/31/2020: A Man’s Home Is His Box, And More…

Hello, Ethics Alarms, Good-bye January…

Between the nauseating impeachment charade and baseball’s cheating scandal (and the largely ethically ignorant commentary regarding it),  the bias of the mainsteam media reaching critical mass in episodes like this and the Don Lemon panel’s mean girls mockery of those dumber than dumb Trump supporters, mounting evidence that Democrats are going nuts based on the rise of a superannuated Communism fan in the race for the party’s Presidential nomination, and, of course, my wife doing a face-plant into some asphalt,  it was a not a happy 31 days at The House of Ethics.

Amazingly, it has been a very good month for the President, becoming the first POTUS to unequivocally endorse the anti-abortion movement by appearing at the March for Life, cutting a partial deal with China, ridding the world of Qasem Soleimani (and in doing so, prompting  his domestic foes, including the news media, to publicly sympathize with a terrorist and a nation that habitually calls for America’s destruction), releasing a Mid-East peace plan that is garnering support everywhere but from Iran, the Palestinians, and, of course, the U.S. media, and seeing economic figures so good even the New York Times has been forced to acknowledge them, all while being called every  name in the book and an existential threat to democracy on C-Span by the Democratic House impeachment managers.

1. “Dolemite Is My Name” We finally watched “Dolemite Is My Name,” (on Netflix), Eddie Murphy’s homage to comic Rudy Ray Moore and  his 70s Blaxploitation film “Dolemite.” So much for my proud claims of cultural literacy: I never heard of  Moore or his film, which is apparently a genre classic. Moore is regarded as the Father of Rap; how did I miss this for so long? Murphy’s movie tells the mostly true story about how a group of complete novices, led by Moore, made an exuberantly idiotic movie (faithful to Moore’s formula for success with black audiences: “Titties, funny, and Kung-Fu”) for $100,000 that grossed 10 million.

The movie is fun as a black version of “Ed Wood” (same screenwriters, I discovered later) and won some awards. For it to be make any 2019 Ten Best lists, however, is blatant race pandering by critics. Continue reading

Lunchtime Ethics Snack, 1/17/2020: Dirty Money, Dirty Baseball, And “Parasite”

Yum or Yecchh?

1. And the baseball cheating scandal is still roiling! I feel sorry for ethics enthusiasts who are missing out on this fascinating episode because they shut down when baseball is mentioned. One emerging issue that focuses on “woke” (and in some quadrants, sadly, female) leadership models has become evident. The two managers fired in the sign-stealing scandal were part of the “new wave” of “collaborative” baseball managers that teams embraced in recent years. They are sensitive to the players’ needs; they don’t give orders as much as set flexible boundaries; they are not confrontational, and they absorb and guide the culture of the clubhouse rather than dictate it. Then we learn, in MLB’s report on its investigation, that when Houston’s A.J. Hinch discovered (in 2017) that his bench coach and his players were operating an elaborate sign-stealing operation that he knew violated the rules , he made it known that he disapproved, but never ordered them to stop. Now baseball commentators are saying that the Astros need to hire an “old school” manager (like the ones who have been put out to pasture over the last five years) who will be leader, who will lay down the law, and who won’t shy away from confrontation for fear of not being “collaborative.”

Duh. How did anyone come to think effective leaders should do otherwise? Leaders need to lead. Leading doesn’t have to be autocratic, but a leader who acts like Hinch did in this matter is no leader at all.

In another revelation regarding the scandal, the report by Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred states that when Manfred put teams on notice in a Sept. 15, 2017 memo that using electronic means to steal and relay opposing teams’ signs during games would henceforth be  severely punished, Houston General Manager Jeff Luhnow “did not forward the memoranda and did not confirm that the players and field staff were in compliance … Had Luhnow taken those steps in September 2017 it is clear to me that the Astros would have ceased both sign-stealing schemes at the time.”

This is gross managerial negligence, and it puts Lahlow’s self-serving statement that he had no involvement in his team’s cheating in perspective. Continue reading

Now THIS Is Pathological Race Obsession.

How does someone get like this?

Track with me ,if you will, the fevered discourse of some poor social justice warrior named Stephen Galloway, who authored what apparently is intended as a serious critique in the Hollywood Reporter titled, “The Whiteness of ‘Toy Story 4.”

He begins,

Was there any movie this past year as exuberantly entertaining, as creatively conceived as Toy Story 4? Ever since the franchise was launched in 1995, it’s been a cornucopia of riches, from its indelible characters to its unparalleled animation…The picture … left me in awe.

Well, that’s the end of the matter, isn’t it? It should be. This was, the the other three films, a vehicle of entertainment. Virtually everyone who saw it was entertained, even me, and I found it the least of its three predecessors and annoying for its blatant pandering to feminists (Bo Peep suddenly morphed into Lara Croft).

But alas, no..

So why did a slightly bitter taste linger, a sense that something was naggingly wrong? Because in many ways TS4′s worldview seems like an Eisenhower-era fantasy, a vision of America that might have come from the most die-hard reactionary: lovely if you’re wealthy and white, but alarming if you’re black or brown or gay or a member of any other minority — in other words, more than half the U.S. population.

Oh, bite me. The characters are toys. Toys don’t have races. They don’t have sex. I wonder if a single child saw this film and spent one second wondering about why there wasn’t a gay or Hispanic toy, or thought about whether the Potato Heads are “of color,’ being brown, or if “Bunny,” voiced by African-American actor Jordan Peele, is “of color” because he’s blue. Nobody normal, of any age, thinks like that, unless they have been brain-washed into a miserable world view….like the author, who really complains that one of the new characters is “a very white fork.” Oh! Right! The second I saw “Forkie,” I thought, “Another white guy!” Continue reading

Ethics Observations Upon Watching “Ford v. Ferrari”

My son is an auto tech and car enthusiast as well as a lover of speed (sufficiently to get him in trouble), so when he told me that I should see “Ford v Ferrari” and that he loved it, it was no surprise. I knew nothing about the film other than its title: no reviews, no background. My son said he would eagerly see it again, and was our guide as my wife and I attended a New Year’s Day afternoon showing (which was packed, incidentally.)

To get the basics out of the way up front, “Ford v Ferrari” is a wonderful movie. It immediately takes its place as one of the great sports movies of all time (with “Rocky,” The Natural,” “Hoosiers,” “The Bad News Bears,” “Sea Biscuit,” and a few others we could argue about), but it is also just a great movie. Christian Bale is astonishing, as usual, and the rest of the cast is uniformly excellent, as is the direction, film editing and screenplay. It is the best film I have see this year, easily leaving such critic’s favorites as “The Irishman” and “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood” in the dust.  That, however, is beside the point….

Observations: Continue reading

“Miracle On 34th Street,”An Ethics Companion, Continued…Chapter 3: Kris Joins The Macy’s Family! [REVISED and CORRECTED!]

(The Introduction is here.; Chapter I is here.;Chapter 2 is here.)

 Kris takes Santa’s throne

Kris’s rave reviews as Santa in the Thanksgiving Day Parade are so good,  Doris hires him play Santa at Macy’s flagship New York City store on 34th Street. He agrees, which is strange, when you think about how busy he should be at this time of year, supervising the elves and all. If he really is Santa, or even if he thinks he is, taking the job in New York is irresponsible.

His supervisor gives him a list of toys to “push”—toys that are overstocked. “Now, you’ll find that a great many children will be undecided as to what they want for Christmas. When that happens, you suggest one of these items,” Kris is told. “You understand?”

Kris says he understands, but later makes it clear in his comments to a co-worker, that he has no intention of “pushing” the merchandise.:

“Imagine…making a child take something it doesn’t want…just because he bought too many of the wrong toys.That’s what I’ve been fighting against for years!”

That being the case, there is exactly one thing Kris needs to do. He needs to quit. What he cannot do, and must not do, and has a clear ethical obligation not to do, is to accept a job when he has no intention of doing what the job requires. This is a sales job. If Kris doesn’t want to sell, then he will be accepting a pay check under false pretenses. This isn’t noble conduct, as the film would have you believe. It’s unethical conduct. It’s wrong.

Kris needs to put himself on his own naughty list. Continue reading

“Miracle On 34th Street,”An Ethics Companion, Continued….Chapter 2: The Story Unfolds…

The Introduction is here.

Chapter I is here.

Let’s get this out of the way up front: Kris is not really Santa Clause. The sooner you understand that, the more sense the movie will make.

Now onward:

2. The bad mother and the sneaky lawyer.

While Kris is enjoying his starring role in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, we meet Susan Walker, Doris’s young daughter, and Attorney Fred Gailey,  who lives in the apartment next door. Susan has been raised  to be a joyless little cynic, the victim of an arrogant and misguided single mother who needed to read more Bruno Bettelheim ( except that Bruno didn’t write The Uses of Enchantment  until 1976).  Doris, as we soon surmise, has allowed a bad marriage to make her suspicious of dreams, hope, and wonder, and she is passing her own disappointment in life off to her daughter at the tender age of nine. Nice.

Lots of parents do this, I suppose, but that doesn’t mitigate how cruel and damaging it is. I remember how horrified I was at Susan’s brainwashing when I first saw the film at about the same age as Natalie Wood was in the movie. My parents, particularly my mother, surrounded my sister and I with fantasy and whimsy. They went to elaborate measures to make Santa Claus seem real, and the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. At one point my sister, having read a story about a lollypop tree, planted a lollypop stick in the back yard. My mother pooh-poohed the idea, telling my sister that this was just a fantastic story she was believing, and that she was  going to disappointed.  Then, three days later, my father exclaimed as he looked out the kitchen window,  “I don’t believe it! Look at that!” And there, about four feet height and covered with lolly pops of all  the colors of the rainbow, was the lollypop tree.

My sister and I weren’t idiots; we knew that our parents had made the tree. But we played along, and the lesson was taught.  Life is more fun and bearable if you believe in the unbelievable, and are open to a little magic in the world. Our parents gave my sister and me a gift that made us love music, literature, humor, mystery, and surprises. Doris Walker, out of ignorance, grief or anger, was an incompetent and selfish parent. ” We should be realistic  and completely truthful with our children  and not have them growing up believing in  a lot of legends and myths like Santa Claus, for example,” she says.

And your authority for this proposition is what, Doris? Generations of children have grown to healthy, happy maturity being raised on myths, legends and fairy tales, and you, with your invaluable perspective as a department store employee, are confident in your certitude that their parents were wrong, and you are right. Wow. Continue reading