Tag Archives: movies

Travel Notes…[UPDATED]

Every trip I take seems to require some ethical clarification…

  • Lose-lose. At our hotel in Ft. Lauderdale, a convention of either transvestites, transgender individuals, or some combination of the two dominated the hotel. The organization was “Himmaher”…I think I’m spelling it right. [Correction: I wasn’t. And that wasn’t the organization; it was the name that was listed for the gathering, and the name was HIMMERSHE. Thanks to Zanshin in the Comments below for the correction.]

I had several illuminating encounters. I don’t know that this is true of all such people, but the members of this association or club all seemed to want to make any non-club member they saw as uncomfortable as possible. Yes, that’s unethical. How you choose to dress, what you choose to have lopped off, and who you want to sleep with could not interest me less, and that is the  attitude a society like ours should strive to encourage. (None of those things should engender and advantages, either.) But what these people seemed to be seeking was imposed ethics zugswang. If you looked directly at them, the response was a chip-on-the-shoulder, “Go ahead and stare, honey: neverf seen a freak before?” If you appeared to be avoiding staring—I regard a six-foot ex-male standing in the middle of a hotel lobby in a  wig, skimpy bathing suit, 6 inch heels and speaking loudly in a base voice as parading a psychological problem or ten, and deserving the same social courtesy I would offer to a Tourette’s victim or a hebephrenic—then the individual decided to make it a project to get you to stare, as if your failure to provide the attention they craved was an insult.

Yeah, I know this is a stage, similar to the early stages of the gay rights movement. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/7/18: Movie Ethics Edition

Good morning from Ft. Lauderdale!

1. Good question! Referring to yesterday’s post about an actor being excised from a film because he was revealed to be a registered sex offender, trenchant commenter Zanshin asks,

Is it possible to define something like the Ethics Alarms Distracting Actor Principle corresponding with the Ethics Alarms Naked Teacher Principle? The Ethics Alarms Naked Teacher Principle (NTP) states: A secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result.

I suppose one could argue that anyone who has a criminal record of any substantive variety cannot complain about the lifetime consequences of his own action. I don’t think the principle, as Zanshin implies it would, should apply to a movie actor in a small part unrelated to the offense. Distracting to who, exactly? How many movie-goers are going to say, “I wanted to see the film, but I hear that the guy who plays “Third guard” is a registered sex offender, and I’m outraged.” The actor who created the distraction was the meddlesome bigot who complained to the studio.

The NTP exists because secondary school students should not have to cope with naked images of their teachers, as this may interfere with their respect and concentration. No such justification exists in the case discussed yesterday. I might well apply in a situation like that of Kevin Spacey, whose personal conduct might well constitute a tangible distraction from any film he appears in. Continue reading

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Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/2/18: Talking Rabbits, Giant Ants, And California Progressives

Good Morning!

1. I may start banning commenters who keep saying this. A new, articulate and agenda-driven commenter, Ross Grazier, writes, “But your writing on this blog seems to be all about politics and much less about ethics.” I don’t want to drive Ross off, since the position of Ethics Alarms Knee-jerk Progressive Ratioanalizer And Denier of Mainstream Media Bias seems to be vacant at the moment, but I’m really, really sick of this common smear of my work (Ross’s comment also reminded me that I need to add the “s0 called ethicist” and “self-anointed ethicist” to the magic phrases that can get a commenter banned). Not for the first time, I decided to categorize every topic I wrote about here in the past week as political, non-political, or “mixed,” meaning that the article included substantive relevance to political figures or controversies but that the ethical issues involved were not solely political in scope or relevance. There were 42 distinct topics discussed (I did not include the Comments of the Day). Of these, 26 were non-political. Ten were “mixed.” Exactly six were  “about politics.”

I was surprised, frankly. I expected a bit more emphasis on politics.

I regard Ross’s accusation and others like it as an either an effort to undermine my credibility and the reputation of Ethics Alarms, or as an example of confirmation bias at work. Easily debunked claims that are asserted anyway in print are unethical.

2. Movie Ethics Potpourri! A. I finally saw “Peter Rabbit,” which was the subject of a (Non political, Ross!) post here. You may recall that Sony was pressured into grovelling an apology for a scene in which the animated rabbits shot blackberries into Mr. McGregor’s mouth using sling-shots, provoking an allergic reaction. Seeking its 15 minutes of cheap publicity and social media outrage mongering, Kenneth Mendez, president and chief executive of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, said, “Making light of this condition hurts our members because it encourages the public not to take the risk of allergic reactions seriously, and this cavalier attitude may make them act in ways that could put an allergic person in danger.” Naturally, there was a Change.org petition demanding that the offending sequence be removed. Now that I’ve seen the film—which is pretty good, not quite “Babe” good, but well-done and fun—I can appreciate the full insanity of the complaints.  B. The British film “Calibre,” now playing on Netflix, is a “Deliverance” style ethics movie, in which two reasonable good guys go on a hunting trip in Scotland and are hurled by bad luck and panic into a series of ethical dilemmas, managing to make exactly the wrong decision at every turn. In the end, three people are dead, multiple crimes have been committed, and the lessons are murky. This is an excellent “what would you do?” film for group discussion, though the ultimate answer is “Don’t go hunting, in Scotland or anywhere else.” C. Finally, in the rarified category of giant ant movie ethics, there is “Them!” It is a justly admired 50’s Sci-Fi flick about an alien invasion of giant ants, featuring a surprisingly accomplished and diverse cast including pre-“Gunsmoke” Jim Arness, James Whitmore, ol’ Santa Clause himself, Edmund Gwenn, ubiquitous Western character actor Dub Taylor, and Sigourney Weaver’s wacky uncle, Doodles Weaver. I hadn’t seen it for a while, and forgot that it included one of the most blatant examples of Rationalization #58. The Universal Trump, or “Think of the children!” on film.

Scientists and the military have determined that the giant ants—We’re talking THIS big:

—have invaded California (from outer space, in ant-shaped space ships!), that they pose a threat to LA, the state, and entire country, and that there may be hundreds of thousands of them. California has declared martial law. A military commander announces that the best strategy is to gas underground passages where the ants are presumably gathering, and then kill the ones who escape to the surface. No, says Big Jim. It seems that there are two small children missing that were taken by the ants from their now thoroughly masticated and dead father. As long as there’s a chance they may still be alive,  Jim says, we can’t take the chance of harming them. The man is gob-smacked. “You mean you’d risk all of Los Angeles for two kids who are probably already dead?” he asks, in a fair framing of the issue. “Why don’t you ask their mother?” says Arness. “She’s right over there.”

Well all righty then! How can you argue with that? Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/23/2018: Look! A Trump And Biased News Media-Free Warm-Up!

Good morning.

The three days of heavy rain wouldn’t bother me so much if it didn’t make Rugby so miserable. You do NOT want to be cooped up with an unhappy Jack Russell Terrier. Trust me on this.

1. Baseball Ethics, Jerk Division. Watch this:

Yes, that guy deliberately took a baseball away from a kid who lost hold of it after it had been tossed to him by Cubs first base coach Will Venable during yesterday’s Cubs-Cardinals game. Apparently the child was given a replacement ball by the Cubs, and this one was autographed. The gesture also took some the inevitable heat off the jerk who snatched the ball. with the Cubs telling reporters that he had helped the same boy get a ball earlier in the game and wasn’t really a monster.

A few points:

  • That the kid ended up, as some commentators put it, “better off” because the jerk stole his ball is pure moral luck, and doesn’t make what the guy did any less wrong, cruel or despicable.
  • Neither is it mitigation that the same man—claims the Cubs—helped the kid get another ball earlier. What kind of ethical principle is that? “I helped you before, so this entitles me to steal from you now: all even, right?”
  • Please save some contempt for the woman the jerk gave the purloined ball to. She should have handed the ball right back to the child, She’s as big a jerk as her friend is.

2. Now consider this: what if the jerk was a federal judge nominated to fill a Supreme Court seat? Would that video be fair game to consider in evaluating his qualifications to be a SCOTUS justice? Let’s have a poll:

Continue reading

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On “Chappaquiddick” And My Multiple “KABOOMS!” As I Watched It.

I finally saw “Chappaquiddick” after delaying the ordeal as long as I could. It isn’t an ethics movie; nor is it the unethical movie I feared that it might be. What “Chappaquiddick” is a very discouraging movie, one that depressed me greatly. It is telling that the Kennedy Legacy Collective didn’t swoop down and try to kill the film, as it is devastating in it depiction of the late Senator. I can only assume that increased focus on what really happened in, say, a libel trial would only affirm the portrayals, and do more damage than a little-seen film alone.

Of course, the movie is open to attack by Kennedy defenders on the grounds that it speculates what Ted Kennedy was thinking, as well as on  the conversations that went on behind closed doors. Nonetheless, the bare fact that Senator Kennedy waited 10 full hours before reporting the accident that killed Mary Jo Kopechne to police has been damning enough since that summer day in 1969 without further elaboration. The cover story—no, we can’t prove it was a cover story, but it was a cover story—that Ted was dazed and in shock from a concussion and wandered around aimlessly, explaining his actions—was never credible, certainly not at my Arlington, Massachusetts home.

I experienced the film this week as a simultaneous flashback and a series of head explosions. I had forgotten the ridiculous neck brace Kennedy wore to Mary Jo’s funeral (but not before or after it); the film states that it was a prop, and I remember that this was the consensus at the time. My biggest head explosion? It was probably the statement of the Martha’s Vineyard judge who gifted Kennedy with the shortest sentence possible for the lesser offense the Senator agreed to plead to, which was leaving the scene of an accident. Kennedy got a two months suspended sentence, and the judge said that he would be “punished enough.” (If you are unfamiliar withe my opinion of THAT rationalization, you can check out this post from 5 years ago; I have another one somewhere about a father who let his baby die in a hot, locked car, and both people involved in those tragedies were less despicable than Ted Kennedy.) Punished enough? The judge presumably meant that Teddy would take a big hit to his White House aspirations, poor guy.

You know, I’d say that every citizen locked up for negligent homicide, which is the real crime Kennedy was guilty of, can kiss their Presidential aspirations good-bye.

KABOOM #2 was the film’s version of first thing out of Kennedy’s mouth when he began explaining the fateful night’s events to cousin and family lawyer Joe Gargan: “I’m never going to be President.” I can’t find substantiation for this; the line isn’t in the version of the screenplay on the web. The subsequent conferences with Kennedy advisors and fixers, however, showed callousness that was not much worse. The film took a lot of its facts from “Senatorial Privilege” by Leo Damore, which was written from interviews with Kennedy friends and relatives, including Gargan.  Kennedy  made over 30 phone calls from the hotel payphone, none of which involved rescuing Mary Jo.   His driving license had been expired for 6-months, so Kennedy’s fixers pulled the right strings and the DMV issued him a new license on that Sunday, before he surrendered to police.

My head blasted the third time watching the recreation of Ted’s nationally televised speech, written by Kennedy wordsmith Ted Sorensen. This is the real version; the movie shortens it quite a bit…

My fellow citizens:

I have requested this opportunity to talk to the people of Massachusetts about the tragedy which happened last Friday evening. This morning I entered a plea of guilty to the charge of leaving the scene of an accident. Prior to my appearance in court it would have been [im]proper for me to comment on these matters. But tonight I am free to tell you what happened and to say what it means to me.

On the weekend of July 18th, I was on Martha’s Vineyard Island participating with my nephew, Joe Kennedy — as for thirty years my family has participated — in the annual Edgartown Sailing Regatta. Only reasons of health prevented my wife from accompanying me.

On Chappaquiddick Island, off Martha’s Vineyard, I attended, on Friday evening, July 18th, a cook-out I had encouraged and helped sponsor for a devoted group of Kennedy campaign secretaries. When I left the party, around 11:15pm, I was accompanied by one of these girls, Miss Mary Jo Kopechne. Mary Jo was one of the most devoted members of the staff of Senator Robert Kennedy. She worked for him for four years and was broken up over his death. For this reason, and because she was such a gentle, kind, and idealistic person, all of us tried to help her feel that she still had a home with the Kennedy family.There is no truth, no truth whatever, to the widely circulated suspicions of immoral conduct that have been leveled at my behavior and hers regarding that evening. There has never been a private relationship between us of any kind. I know of nothing in Mary Jo’s conduct on that or any other occasion — and the same is true of the other girls at that party — that would lend any substance to such ugly speculation about their character. Nor was I driving under the influence of liquor.

Little over one mile away, the car that I was driving on an unlit road went off a narrow bridge which had no guard rails and was built on a left angle to the road. The car overturned in a deep pond and immediately filled with water. I remember thinking as the cold water rushed in around my head that I was for certain drowning. Then water entered my lungs and I actual felt the sensation of drowning. But somehow I struggled to the surface alive.

I made immediate and repeated efforts to save Mary Jo by diving into the strong and murky current, but succeeded only in increasing my state of utter exhaustion and alarm. My conduct and conversations during the next several hours, to the extent that I can remember them, make no sense to me at all.

Although my doctors informed me that I suffered a cerebral concussion, as well as shock, I do not seek to escape responsibility for my actions by placing the blame either on the physical and emotional trauma brought on by the accident, or on anyone else.

I regard as indefensible the fact that I did not report the accident to the police immediately.

Instead of looking directly for a telephone after lying exhausted in the grass for an undetermined time, I walked back to the cottage where the party was being held and requested the help of two friends, my cousin, Joseph Gargan and Phil Markham, and directed them to return immediately to the scene with me — this was sometime after midnight — in order to undertake a new effort to dive down and locate Miss Kopechne. Their strenuous efforts, undertaken at some risk to their own lives, also proved futile.

All kinds of scrambled thoughts — all of them confused, some of them irrational, many of them which I cannot recall, and some of which I would not have seriously entertained under normal circumstances — went through my mind during this period. They were reflected in the various inexplicable, inconsistent, and inconclusive things I said and did, including such questions as whether the girl might still be alive somewhere out of that immediate area, whether some awful curse did actually hang over all the Kennedys, whether there was some justifiable reason for me to doubt what had happened and to delay my report, whether somehow the awful weight of this incredible incident might in some way pass from my shoulders. I was overcome, I’m frank to say, by a jumble of emotions: grief, fear, doubt, exhaustion, panic, confusion, and shock.

Instructing Gargan and Markham not to alarm Mary Jo’s friends that night, I had them take me to the ferry crossing. The ferry having shut down for the night, I suddenly jumped into the water and impulsively swam across, nearly drowning once again in the effort, and returned to my hotel about 2:00am — and collapsed in my room. I remember going out at one point and saying something to the room clerk.

In the morning, with my mind somewhat more lucid, I made an effort to call a family legal advisor, Burke Marshall, from a public telephone on the Chappaquiddick side of the ferry and then belatedly reported the accident to the Martha[‘s] Vineyard police.

Today, as I mentioned, I felt morally obligated to plead guilty to the charge of leaving the scene of an accident. No words on my part can possibly express the terrible pain and suffering I feel over this tragic incident. This last week has been an agonizing one for me and for the members of my family. And the grief we feel over the loss of a wonderful friend will remain with us the rest of our lives.

These events, the publicity, innuendo, and whispers which have surrounded them and my admission of guilt this morning raises the question in my mind of whether my standing among the people of my State has been so impaired that I should resign my seat in the United States Senate. If at any time the citizens of Massachusetts should lack confidence in their Senator’s character, or his ability — with or without justification — he could not in my opinion adequately perform his duties and should not continue in office.

The people of this State, the State which sent John Quincy Adams, and Daniel Webster, and Charles Sumner, and Henry Cabot Lodge, and John Kennedy to the United States Senate are entitled to representation in that body by men who inspire their utmost confidence. For this reason, I would understand full well why some might think it right for me to resign. For me, this will be a difficult decision to make.

It has been seven years since my first election to the Senate. You and I share many memories — some of them have been glorious, some have been very sad. The opportunity to work with you and serve Massachusetts has made my life worthwhile.

And so I ask you tonight, the people of Massachusetts, to think this through with me. In facing this decision, I seek your advice and opinion. In making it, I seek your prayers — for this is a decision that I will have finally to make on my own.

It has been written:

“A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles, and dangers, and pressures — and that is the basis of all human morality……whatever may be the sacrifices he faces, if he follows his conscience — the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow man — each man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of the past courage cannot supply courage itself. For this, each man must look into his own soul.”

I pray that I can have the courage to make the right decision. Whatever is decided, whatever the future holds for me, I hope that I shall have — be able to put this most recent tragedy behind me and make some further contribution to our state and mankind — whether it be in public or private life.

Thank you and good night.

I had forgotten that Kennedy never apologized to the Kopechnes for getting their daughter killed. But he did use the recently departed Mary Jo as a convenient device to signal his virtue, standing up for her reputation, while being mostly concerned about his own. The poetic quote was a a typical Sorensen touch, and laying it on a bit thick: a Churchillian passage of dubious provenance that sainted brother Jack had used in his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Profiles in Courage”—which was, after all, written by Ted Sorensen.

The final series of head explosions occurred at the end, as the film showed archival footage of Massachusetts voters, Kennedy worshipers, most of them, talking about how “anyone can make a mistake” and what good things Ted and his dead brothers had done in the past, and how sure, they would vote for him again.

Of course, they did.

The modern progressive movement in the Democratic Party was substantially built on the career of this weak, corrupt man, the product of the triumph of nepotism, mythology, celebrity, money and privilege over merit and justice.

And people deny that there could have been any bias, political manipulation and corruption in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private server.

Kaboom.

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When The Anti-Liberty Mobs Attack, Courage And Character Are Paramount, Part I: The “Rub & Tug” Fiasco

As I explained in the initial post about the “Rug and Tug” controversy, the protests against Scarlett Johansson being cast as a biological female who led her life as a transsexual male  (that’s “Tex” on the left) made no sense. The arguments put forth by the transgender cyber-mob and others  undermined the movement for non-traditional casting that would provide minorities, like trans actors, more opportunities in their chosen field.  Their position was a double standard and  internally inconsistent, asserting that biological males who had transitioned to female were a more logical choice to play a real life character who was born female, than a female actress who would be playing a female identifying as a male…when as a female actress, that’s what she would be doing in reality. The controversy was unfair to Johansson (again) and was contrary to the whole concept of acting. Never mind! Transsexuals are currently the darling victim group of the Left, and don’t have to make sense, be consistent, or even advocate causes that avoid undermining other progressive causes and constituencies. What they say is just right, because they say so, that’s all, and anyone who disagrees is a bigot, and that’s that. They want what they want, and because they have been discriminated against in the past, they don’t have to be logical or consistent.

Thus, in episodes like this they can become monsters, using bullying and  social media to demand their desires regardless of whether it is an ethical position or not. Make no mistake: in this case, their position was not an ethical one. What is desperately needed when groups misbehave this way and abuse their influence and power is for their target to say no. Unfortunately, doing so requires unusual levels of principal, character, responsibility, intelligence and courage.

Johansson is a talented actress and a major star, but she does not, we now know, have what it takes. Noticing that no significant voices in Hollywood rallied to her defense, the actress quit the project and resigned from the role, issuing standard Hollywood political correctness blather:

“In light of recent ethical questions raised surrounding my casting as Dante Tex Gill, I have decided to respectfully withdraw my participation in the project. Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive. I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues. According to GLAAD, LGBTQ+ characters dropped 40% in 2017 from the previous year, with no representation of trans characters in any major studio release. While I would have loved the opportunity to bring Dante’s story and transition to life, I understand why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person, and I am thankful that this casting debate, albeit controversial, has sparked a larger conversation about diversity and representation in film. I believe that all artists should be considered equally and fairly. My production company, These Pictures, actively pursues projects that both entertain and push boundaries. We look forward to working with every community to bring these most poignant and important stories to audiences worldwide.”

This is Authentic Frontier Gibberish, self-contradictory and easily translated as “Hey, whatever the anointed  in-group says is right is right with me! I’m certainly not going to buck conventional wisdom if it means losing fans, roles, and money! You tell me what to think, and I’ll think it. Tell me to jump, and I’ll say “How high?” I welcome my Political Correctness Masters, and will do their bidding.” Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/12/2018: The Cleveland Indians, “On The Waterfront,” And Garza v. Hargan

Good Mornin’!

(I know I’ve posted this “Singin’ in the Rain” showstopper more than once, but it makes me happy, so there.)

1. From the Cleveland Indians, a Robert E. Lee moment: As the Cincinnati Reds were threatening, with two outs, the bases loaded and the Indians clinging to a 4-3 lead, Tribe manager Terry Francona wanted to bring in left-hander Oliver Perez to face left-handed Reds slugger Joey Votto , the book move, a classic left on left matchup.  But pitching coach Carl Willis thought he heard Francona tell him to summon right-hander Dan Otero.“He thought I said O.T.,” Francona said, using Otero’s nickname. “I said O.P.” With the advantage of facing a right-handed pitcher (most lefties hit righties better) Votto promptly hit a three-run double off Otero, giving the Reds a 6-4 lead.

Even though it would have made no sense for Francona to ask for Otero, the manager emulated Robert E. Lee’s fine leadership moment, meeting with his battered troops after they were shot to pieces in Pickett’s Charge and telling them, “It was all my fault.” “It falls on me,” he told the press. “I actually talked to the team and told them that I thought I messed up.”

Some wags have suggested that the decline of creative baseball player nicknames was really at fault. If Francona had called for Vinegar Bend, The Big Train, , The Monster or “Death to Flying Things,” nobody would have been confused.

2. Forget the dishonest narrative and spin: here’s what really happened in Garza v. Hargan: No, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s eminently qualified nominee to fill retiring Justice Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court, did not try to block an illegal immigrant teen from having an abortion, as the desperate fear-mongering Democrats are claiming. 

In October 2017,  the ACLU filed suit against the Trump administration on behalf of “Jane Doe,” a pregnant teen from Cnetral America who had been arrested while entering the country illegally. Through  her guardian, Rochelle Garza, “Doe” sought release from the federal shelter where she was being detained to obtain an abortion. Eric Hargan, the acting secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services at the time, took the position that the government   had no obligation to facilitate Doe’s abortion.  She had the option of returning to her native country—where she belonged anyway— or being released to a sponsor. A federal trial judge ruled for Doe and the abortion, saying that the government’s refusal to release a minor from custody constituted an “undue burden” on Doe’s constitutional right to an abortion. HHS appealed to the D.C. Circuit, and on appeal, Judge Kavanaugh authored the majority opinion that reversed the lower court’s decision. Here is the crux of the opinion: Continue reading

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