Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, Father’s Day Edition Though There’s Absolutely Nothing Here About Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day.

On YouTube, the first comment on this video is from someone who writes, “It’s a grate song.” Yeah, THAT guy had one hell of a father…

1. Bored with statue-toppling and honor stripping yet? Obviously the Hun and Vandals aren’t. Here in the D.C. universe, George Preston Marshall the original owner of the Washington Redskins who was the NFL’s version of Cal Griffith, lost his statue two days ago when the D.C. government pulled it down after protesters had vandalized it. Mayor Bowzer is one of the Democratic mayors who are actively enabling the protests. Of course, with statues being indiscriminately being toppled now, the gesture is increasingly less meaningful. Woodrow Wilson, the white-supremacist, racist President who spread the Spanish flu around the world by sending infected troops into Europe when he  sent the U.S. into The Great War for no discernible reason, and who then planted the seed for World War II by sitting by and allowing the victorious English, French and Italians inflict devastating punitive  term on Germany as long as he got his pet project, the League of Nations, into the Versailles Treaty, will have his name removed from buildings by Monmouth University and  Camden, New Jersey. A private college in West Virginia announced last week that it is removing the name of the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd from its health center. The Democratic Byrd may have been a reformed KKK member, but he also brought many millions of dollars into rural West Virginia, thus explaining the proliferation of his family’s name there. Surely you heard that protesters in Liverpool, England, want to rename Penny Lane of Beatles song fame, because a Liverpool man with the last name of Penny was a slave-trader. Was the street actually named after him? No, there’s no indication that it was, but hey, any association with the name Penny now has a “connection” to racism, so let’s see how far this goes. Penny candy! Penny arcades! Penny loafers!  Penny, Sky King’s niece on the old TV show!

Meanwhile, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, the owned of Eskimo Pie, now says the name is “derogatory,” and that it will be changing the product’s name and marketing. The head of marketing  told CBS News. “We are committed to being a part of the solution on racial equality, and recognize the term is derogatory.”

This is yet another example of the Niggardly Principle. The term Eskimo, according to the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, actually came from the French word esquimaux, meaning one who nets snowshoes, like what  Arctic peoples do. Never mind: the rumor started that the term was racist because racist Europeans used it. I highly doubt any native Inuit people are offended by the name of the ice cream bar. In fact, many Native Alaskans still refer to themselves as Eskimos, in part because the word Inuit isn’t part of the Yupik languages of Alaska and Siberia. Is it racist when they use it?

Losing its famous brand will almost certainly eliminate the product, costing business and jobs, but apparently it’s worth it for the company to signal it’s virtue with a move that can’t possibly have any salutary effect on racial equality whatsoever.

“Madness. Madness!” Continue reading

Tuesday Ethics, 6/2/2020: Stunts, Looting, Bad Great Movies, And “Understanding.”

Happy?

What the hell’s the matter with you?

1. On the President’s stunt visit to St. John’s Episcopal Church. I refuse to second-guess the President’s decision to walk across the street to  St. John’s Episcopal Church in D.C. to make an anti-riot statement, Bible in hand, since I do not believe it matters what he does right now. He will be criticized for it, and I refuse to participate in the gratuitous and destructive effort to make it impossible for him to lead and govern.

The immediate focus was on the fact that his way though Lafayette Park was cleared by police using rubber bullets and tear gas. The President was defying the protesters, and whether it was wise to do so, it was also his right to do so. If the President believes posing outside a riot damaged church is to the nation’s benefit, and that he should walk through protesters to do it, then he gets to make that call. If protesters are in the way or threatening his safety, they have to move. If they won’t move voluntarily, then some degree of force has to be used.

The news media has avoided mentioning it, but the protest was illegal: demonstrations in Lafayette Park require permits, and this mob had none. Moreover, the description of the group as “peaceful protesters” by the news media has to be viewed with skepticism. The past week has shown that “peaceful protesters” suddenly become violent rioters without warning, and even when they do, the news media is still likely to call them “peaceful.”

Other complaints about the episode involved the President’s use of the Bible. Yup, he used it as a prop! That doesn’t offend me particularly, since the Bible is used as a prop so often that I regard that as one of its major cultural functions. Presidents, in particular, have used it as a prop; I would argue that when they are sworn into office using the Bible, it’s a prop. I particularly remember Bill Clinton holding a Bible in photo ops when he was supposedly undergoing “spiritual instruction” during Monica Madness. Trump’s Bible was standard Presidential PR. but this President isn’t allowed to use the same tools available to his predecessors.

2. If you wonder why police appear to have no idea what to do about looters, wonder no more. Read this incomprehensible print version of humming from the Police website, circa 2005. Continue reading

Hollywood Ethics: The Top Eleven Movie Clips Used On Ethics Alarms [Updated 6/18/20]

My back is out, I’m feeling sick, and I’m not up to any complicated analysis right now. For some time I’ve wanted to put all of the iconic movie clips that I turn to when the circumstances demand, so it’s time.

1. To illustrate the folly of suspending or violating the rule of law, the Constitution, or due process for “the greater good” as it appears to some to be at the time:

 

2. To comment on a strikingly incompetent argument, theory or proposal:

 

3. When I feel I should resist the impulse to attack an ethics miscreant with special vigor, but decide to go ahead anyway…

 

4.  To explain the conduct of some individuals or organizations that cannot be justified by facts, principles of logic, or any other valid motivation:

 

5.  To illustrate the impulse to respond to injustice and the abuse of power by resorting to symbolic acts of pure defiance, even when they are likely to fail…

 

6. When a individual abandons integrity or other ethical values for a non-ethical consideration…

 

7. When an individual feigns indignation and disapproval of conduct that he or she has either participated in or enabled:

 

8. Used to signal that a politician, journalist or scholar has intentionally or negligently used such impenetrable rhetoric as to be completely incomprehensible [Forgot this one: thanks to Phlinn for catching the omission]:

 

9. When an incident or argument makes no sense whatsoever, or that drives me to the edge of insanity:

 

10. When a politician, a pundit or someone else  uses a term or word incorrectly to support an unethical action or argument:

 

11. Commenting on a particularly incompetent, irresponsible, or otherwise unethical decision with disastrous consequences:

 

Ethics Warm-Up, 5/13/2020….Oh, So WHAT If It’s Morning Or Not? Who CARES? Who Cares About ANY Of It?

1. I miss Ken. Ken White used to troll people who would ask him to post their sponsored content on Popehat. Now that he’s writing for The Atlantic, which morphed into a “resistance” organ and which I refuse to read on principle unless a particular screed is brought to my attention, I no longer get to chuckle at his nonsense mockery post about ponies and the rest. Now I’m getting this junk too. Faith Cormier writes,

I was visiting your website, ethicsalarms.com, and it had me wondering: do you accept outside submissions? If so, we’d love to create an original piece for you!Because it would include a totally natural reference to one of our clients, we’re prepared to pay you $100 for your time and effort. (Payments made through PayPal.) Shall we send you a draft, Jack? Alternatively, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Yeah, I have a question, Faith. How could you read this blog, with the title “Ethics Alarms,” and make a proposal like that? “Totally natural reference” means a promotion, and that this would be deceptive marketing.  My integrity may have a price some day, but if it does, it will be a hell of a lot higher than a hundred bucks.

2. Ethics movie spoiler.  “Standoff,” is a 2016 film that critics mostly slammed because critics don’t understand ethics movies. A hit man (Lawrence Fishburne) who is chasing a 12-year-old girl who took a photo of him while he was executing people tracks her down to a run-down house where a depressed and alcoholic veteran (Thomas Jane) is living. The veteran, who has some facility with firearms (and who lost his own young son, sending him into his tailspin) decides to protect her, though the hit man demands that he turn her over to be shot. The veteran faces several ethics conflicts after making the altruistic decision to risk his own life to try to save a child who showed up on his doorstep by random chance. The hit man captures a police officer and tortures him to force the girl’s surrender. He then threatens to kill the officer, and does, as the veteran rejects the proffered exchange. Finally, the hit man captures the veteran’s ex-wife, and says he will kill her if he doesn’t get the little girl. (“How do I know I can trust you?” the vteran asks as they are negotiating. “You can’t!” the hit man replies.)

Now that’s an ethics conflict! Continue reading

End Of Day Ethics Reflections, 5/7/2020: Obama! Klobuchar! Flynn! Fake Winston Churchill!

Tired and anxious here.

You?

1. This is discouraging. A quote extolling the virtues of perseverance  that I am especially fond of because it defines me as a success despite all outward appearances to the contrary is not, as I have been told repeatedly, most recently in the film “Molly’s Game”—more on that later— from Winston Churchill. Nobody knows who said it, if anyone did. It fits Churchill’s career, philosophy and wit, but he just didn’t say it. The quote: “Success is the ability to move from one failure to another without losing your enthusiasm.”

2. Tonight’s Democratic female VP candidate hypocrisy and double-talk update.         a) Senator Amy Klobuchar: Congressional reporter Manu Raju asked the Senator if she believes Tara Reade (the way she reflexively believed Christine Blasey Ford). Her answer: “I think he’s answered all the questions and he’s made clear that he supports her right to come forward.”  Raju then asked about criticism that Democrats are exhibiting a double-standard, Klobuchar “didn’t answer and walked into an awaiting car.” b)  Stacy Abrams, who has virtually no relevant experience to recommend her as a potential vice-president (well, she did lose an election for governor) has been aggressively promoting herself for the slot, because the only qualifications that matter, as Joe has made clear to all, are x-chromosomes and the right skin pigment. While being interviewed by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour yesterday, Abrams responded to a rambling question about her “auditioning” and why “as a black woman,” she felt it was appropriate to do so, with this:

I haven’t been pitching myself, which has been a mischaracterization, I think, because I answer questions honestly. I’ve been getting this question for 14 months, since March of 2019. I’ve repeatedly received the question, and I’m honored that people would put me into the category and think that that was a question to ask. My responsibility is not to question what journalists think is a valid question, but to answer for the audience that they’re speaking to. And as a woman, as a person of color, as a woman of color, it is my responsibility to answer honestly and forthrightly. And if the question is about whether I am competent and qualified for the job, my answer must be unequivocal, because I’m not simply speaking for myself. I’m also speaking to that young woman of color who is thinking about what is in her future. And if I deny her, and deny myself, then I’m doing a disservice to women, to communities of color, and to any disadvantaged community that does not see themselves as the face of leadership.”

Authentic Frontier Gibberish! Continue reading

Hump Day Ethics Hunches, 4/29/2020….There Must Be An Ethics Analogy For A Five-Headed Shark

1. Idiotic movie ethics. Last night I watched “Five-Headed Shark Attack,” hoping to discover a new all-time bad horror movie. First, it wasn’t that terrible, meaning that it was a total waste of time. Mainly, however, the title was a shark bait-and-switch. The preview (and the posters) said the shark had 5 heads and was shaped like a starfish. No, it had four heads, and looked exactly like a Disney cartoon character’s glove.

Late in the movie, we saw that the monster’s tail had a mouth (once we saw it gobble a foot that slipped by the four heads), but it had no eyes, guided the shark like a tail, and no character in the film ever saw it, so the creature was never once called a “Five-Headed Shark.” My wife and I had an argument over my contention that just because a tail has teeth, that doesn’t make it a head.

2. I think we can fairly conclude now how serious progressives and Democrats are about standing up for women and fighting against sexual assault and harassment: They’re not . #MeToo and #TimesUp are clearly political weapons to be used against conservatives, Republicans and abortion opponents, real or otherwise, and certain groups, like black Democrats, are immune, even from adverse opinion.

Nice. A lot of women are going to suffer because of this, and they can blame their own alleged advocates.

In Maryland, right next door to Virginia where African-American Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax is still in office despite having been credibly accused of rape and sexual assault , Democrat Kweisi Mfume easily won a special election yesterday to finish the term of the late Elijah Cummings, retaking a Maryland congressional seat he held for five terms before leaving to lead the NAACP.  Mifune had to leave the NAACP after it was revealed that he dated one staffer while its president, and another alleged she had been sexually harassed by him and was passed over for a promotion after she rejected his advances, according to the Baltimore Sun. She then threatened to sue the organization, so the NAACP paid her a $100,000 hush money payment in 2004 to avoid the lawsuit. This was the sort of scandal that drove Bill O’Reilly off Fox News. Continue reading

Movies To Keep You Happy, Inspired And Optimistic, Part II

Another boring weekend approaches, so it’s time to finish this project.

Some further clarifications on this continuing list: it’s not a list of my favorite films by any means. The criteria is, as the title above would suggest, the emotions the film leaves you with, or that well up inside your earthly vessel during the film. One reader reacted to the first list by dissing “Rocky,” but here’s the point: when I first saw that film in a stuffed theater, and the movie reached the part in the climactic fight when, after seemingly being out-boxed and outclassed by the champion Apollo Creed, Rocky sees Creed lets his guard down for an instant and , dazed and bleeding, suddenly hits him with a series of the body blows we had seen him practicing on sides of beef . The crowd in a Philly bar goes bananas, and the audience in the theater went bananas too, only louder, cheering and applauding. I’ve seen a lot of movies, and I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I’ve witnessed that kind of spontaneous eruption of excitement and elation from an audience.

I also have to explain why what anyone here knows are my four  favorite comedies don’t appear. They just don’t fit the theme, that’s all. They make me laugh, pretty much every time, but they can’t be called inspiring by any normal definition of the word.

Here’s the second half of the list:

Sea Biscuit (2003)

I’m not a horse enthusiast,nor a fan of the sport of kings, but this is a wonderful story, and mostly true.

Star Wars (1977)

Oh, all right..

Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

And so much better than the stupid movie it evokes, “An Affair To Remember.”

Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)

The only movie ever where a guy’s walk to the electric chair makes you smile..

Spartacus (1960)

Maybe my favorite story out of history ever, plus Cory Booker’s favorite scene…

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Obligatory.

To Sir With Love (1967)

The list needs an inspirational teacher movie (and only one) so I pick this one. Lulu’s song scene makes the difference.

Bells Are Ringing (1960)

Probably the least seen or appreciated film on the list. But Judy Holiday radiates the joy of performing and the genius of a comic pro here like few others, and attention must be paid. Forget that it was her last movie…

As Good As It Gets

One of the best romantic comedies ever, and one of the strangest. Plus an incredibly cute dog… Continue reading

From The Archives: “Ethics Quote of the Week: Moses (Charlton Heston) in ‘The Ten Commandments'”

Seven years ago, while  watching the annual showing of “The Ten Commandments ” on ABC, I realized how advanced its civil rights message was for its time, and what an interesting and instructive ethics movie the epic was. This post was the result. I’ve edited it a bit.

The movie hasn’t been shown yet in 2020 ; it’s scheduled for the weekend before Easter, which is late this year.  I never miss it, and if you watch the film with your ethics alarms primed, you might see it in a whole new dimension.

_______________________________

“That evil that men should turn their brothers into beasts of burden, to be stripped of spirit, and hope, and strength – only because they are of another race, another creed. If there is a god, he did not mean this to be so!”

—-Moses, as played by Charlton Heston and scripted by seven writers, in Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments,” answering the Pharoah Seti’s question, “Then why are you forcing me to destroy you? What evil has done this to you?”

“The Ten Commandments” is so extravagantly fun and entertaining that, I must confess, I never watched it as an ethics film until tonight, as ABC once again broadcast the Biblical epic on an Easter weekend. This quote especially struck me as remarkable for a film made by an infamously rigid conservative, DeMille, in 1956.

Less that a year earlier, on Dec. 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama city bus. The next twelve months were tense, difficult days in which the entire U.S. population was undergoing a wrenching cultural debate regarding human rights.  On Dec. 6, 1955, the civil rights boycott of Montgomery city buses, led by Rev. Martin Luther King , began. January 1956 saw Autherine Lucy, a black woman, accepted for classes at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, the first African-American ever allowed to enroll.  On Jan. 30, the Montgomery home of Martin Luther King, Jr. was bombed. February 4 saw rioting and violence on the campus of the University of Alabama and in the streets of Tuscaloosa. Lucy had to flee the campus, and the university’s Board of Trustees barred her from returning. On the 22nd of that month, warrants were  issued for the arrest of the 115 leaders of the Montgomery bus boycott. A week later, courts ordered Lucy readmitted, but the school expelled her. Continue reading

“Dark Waters”

“Dark Waters” is another ethics movie, and a very good one. Like all ethics movies involving real events, it is also educational—disturbingly so.

The film, which was released late last year, dramatizes the story of attorney Robert Bilott and his nearly two decades of battling DuPont over its deliberate (okay, “negligent”) poisoning of citizens and the entire nation with the chemicals used to manufacture Teflon. Yes, “the entire nation”: that’s not hyperbole. It is believed that the unregulated and toxic chemical called PFOA is in the system of everyone living in the U.S. as a result of DuPont’s conduct.

The movie has not been a prominent success, perhaps because is treads along the well-worn path of earlier movies about similar corporate scandals and class action law suits, like  Julia Roberts’ “Erin Brockovich” ( Pacific Gas and Electric Company ) and  John Travolta’s “A Civil Action” (Beatrice Foods and W. R. Grace and Company). The star (and producer) of “Dark Water,” Mark Ruffalo, isn’t quite in the same star category as Travolta and Roberts, but an A-list cast was assembled to back him, including Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins,  Victor Garber, Mare Winningham, and Bill Pullman.

“Dark Waters,” horrifying to say, is mostly accurate. It was also one of those films where I was left wondering, “How did I miss this? Was it me, or was the story under-reported? If it was the latter, why was it under-reported?” The film was based on the 2016 New York Times Magazine article “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare” as well as that lawyer’s memoir. Exposure,” giving  Bilott’s perspective on his 20-year legal battle against DuPont. In the end, the company paid over $600 million  in a settlement, which was far less than they should have paid; I’m sure the company regards this as a victory. (Its stock went up after the announcement.)

Imagine: Continue reading

Movies To Keep You Happy, Inspired And Optimistic , Part I

This is a very subjective and personal list. The main requirement was that they all must be, in the final analysis, upbeat. I also have seen all of them more than once.

I left out some obvious choices that I have already devoted full posts to on Ethics Alarms, like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “White Christmas.” Some of the films on my ethics movies list appear here, but not for the same reasons. Obviously, I encourage you to see those movies too.

Below is approximately the first half of the list. The rest will be along eventually.

Rocky (1976)

It still holds up as one of the most exhilarating sports movies of all time.

The Natural (1984)

Great score and a happy ending, unlike the novelette it was based on.

True Grit (1969)

This is the John Wayne version, with two of the go-to scenes I’ll play when I want to feel better.

E.T. (1982)

Other than the unforgivable rainbow at the end, a near perfect feel-good film.

Stand By Me (1986)

One of two Stephen King movies on the list. Does anyone not love this film?

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

And the other King movie. has any suicide in a film been quite this satisfying?

Erin Brockavich (2000)

More or less a true story, which makes it especially inspiring.

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

If Donald O’Connor walking up walls doesn’t get your heart pumping and your mouth smiling, nothing will. Continue reading