I just watched the 2016 horror/suspense thriller “Don’t Breathe,” in which Stephen Lang, always excellent, plays a blind veteran whose home is invaded by three self-righteous young sociopaths who intend to rob him. The movie is the latest genre movies with ethical mind-benders concocted in the House of Raimi, as Sam Raimi, the flamboyant auteur behind “The Evil Dead,” “Xena,” the first couple Spiderman movies and especially “Drag Me To Hell,” was the lead executive producer here and Raimi’s protege, Fede Alvarez, directed and wrote the script.
How do I do this without spoiling the film for someone who hasn’t seen it? I can’t. If you intend to ever see the hit 2016 movie but have not yet, then just wait for the next post. Otherwise, read on.
“Don’t Breathe” becomes one of those monster movies where you start rooting for the monster, and even that doesn’t encompass the ethical morass the movie creates. Imagine “Wait Until Dark”except that the imperiled blind woman (Audrey Hepburn) is replaced by a blind Steven Seagal (the younger, thinner version), or maybe Billy Jack, and he beats the living daylights out of or kills the three middle-aged male thugs—including a creepy evil mastermind played by Alan Arkin— who get into his house.
Got that? Okay, now replace the three thugs with three attractive twenty-somethings, including a troubled young woman trying to start a new life after an abusive childhood. Continue reading
The almost lawyer, learning about the justice system…
Mauricio Celis, 42,was expelled from Northwestern Law School, just before he was due to graduate, for not telling the school when he applied that he was a former felon in Texas, convicted there for falsely holding himself out as a lawyer and also for impersonating a police officer. Northwestern confirmed that it never asked him to disclose any criminal history, but argued that Celis should have known that his criminal record was material.
The school didn’t check on his background; it didn’t even google him. If it had, it would have learned that Celis was infamous in Texas, and called “The Great Pretender.” A prosecutor called him “the biggest con man in the history of Nueces County.” He certainly was audacious, opening law offices in multiple cities, raking in fees, using his success as a fake lawyer to raise money for Democrats. Compared to his scam, Northwestern was timid. It just took his money, $76,000, and then expelled him without giving him a diploma.
Your strange Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz:
Was it ethical for Northwestern to expel Celis?
There are well-established group of ethics topics that will always cause spirited debates here, because they are issues that have always divided public opinion and always will: morality vs ethics, drug legalization, abortion, war, social justice, socialism, plus various controversies involving race, sexuality and gender. I try to wade into these only when a current even beckons, as to some extent the arguments are futile and familiar, and too many people refuse to think or listen anymore, retreating to slogans and reflex positions articulated by others.
I decided to wade into one of the most polarized, of these, capital punishment, when the Clayton Lockett execution in Oklahoma sparked a national debate that seemed strange to me, and indeed driven by the unwarranted assumption, uncritically accepted by the news media, that the painlessness of executions were a crucial feature of making them ethical as well as societally palatable. It also opened the question of whether one execution that doesn’t follow the script necessarily calls capital punishment itself into question. I confess: both in my post’s title and in the tone of my responses to anti-death penalty commentators, I intentionally sought to roil the waters of debate, and was determined not to allow the nice people who usually express compassion for the pain and suffering of humanity’s worst and deadliest escape with the usual pieties.
Sure enough, this annoyed the heck out of some readers. Responding to the emphatic objections of one, Isaac delivered a personal and powerful rebuttal. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post Clayton Lockett Is Dead, Right? Then 1) Good! and 2) His Execution Wasn’t “Botched:” Continue reading
Senators should not intentionally set out to make the American public stupid, or to validate invalid ethical constructs. Thus this explanation of his current proposal from Sen. Rand Paul needs to be derided, and should also cause concern for anyone who thinks it’s important for the Republican party to find some leaders who are trustworthy. Paul, in the course of pushing his stillborn, grandstanding plan to use a constitutional amendment to require government bigwigs to live with the same health care laws they impose on the rest of us, said this to The Daily Caller:
“My amendment says basically that everybody including Justice Roberts — who seems to be such a fan of Obamacare — gets it too. See, right now, Justice Roberts is still continuing to have federal employee health insurance subsidized by the taxpayer. And if he likes Obamacare so much, I’m going to give him an amendment that gives Obamacare to Justice Roberts.”
See, the fact that U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts refused to declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional using a highly-controversial legal distinction in no way suggests that he personally “likes” it, and anyone who thinks that is what judicial opinions, especially Supreme Court Opinions, mean is shockingly ignorant of the judicial system, the legal system, the law, the role of judges in society, the Constitution, and by extension, pretty much most of the principles that give government, management and leadership any integrity or competence. The fact that such an anyone has risen to the level of U.S. Senator goes beyond shocking to terrifying. Continue reading
Katie Barnett, the victim.
As I cull the news to find good topics for ethics discussions, the single thought that goes through my mind most frequently is this: “What is the matter with people?” This is often followed by “How do people get this way?” and later, “What can we do with them?”
Most ethical decisions are not brain teasers. They are strikingly obvious, unless you are determined to do wrong, an evil super-villain, or were raised in a barn. How people of influence without a serious head injury can make the horrible decisions they do is one of the mysteries of the age, along with the fate of Judge Crater, the elusiveness of Bigfoot, and the continuing popularity of Jimmy Kimmel.
Imagine, for example, that you run a bank. The Three Stooges wannabes who you sent to repossess a home get the address wrong (the lawn hadn’t been mowed, so they “just assume”), and they trash the wrong house. They remove possessions, losing some, auctioning off others, damaging the rest. The innocent owner of the home comes to you and points out that your contractors screwed up outrageously, a fact that is beyond rebuttal. She presents you with a good faith estimate of the property that was lost—never mind the trauma of having her home emptied by strangers and the fact that she has had to live elsewhere for two weeks. What do you do?
If you are the president of the First National Bank in Wellston, here’s what you do, because you have a non-functioning ethics alarm and more than a few screws loose in other places besides: you reject her assessment, and try to low-ball her on the amount.
“What is the matter with people?”
“How do people get this way?” Continue reading
Here’s a pro tip, Lindsay: when you find yourself in bad with Charlie Sheen, there is trouble ahead.
If Hollywood reports are true—and when the sources are primarily gossip sites, you never know—the honchos at Dimension Films played a dirty trick on actress Lindsay Lohan. Lohan is one of the featured performers in the upcoming comedy “Scary Movie 5,” like its occasionally funny predecessors a parody of recent horror films. Lohan’s sequence has her paired with Charlie Sheen, in a spoof of “Paranormal Activity.” In one scene, we are told, Lindsay screams hysterically as if she has seen some ectoplasmic horror, when what has really upset her is having to see Lohan’s own 2005 post-“Mean Girls” pre-train wreck Disney flop, “Herbie Fully-Loaded” appear on her TV. When the trailer for the yet-to-be-released film was unveiled, however, there had been a change in the scene to make a more hurtful joke at the actress’s expense. Now it appears that Lohan is screaming at the news that her probation has been revoked, as indeed it was just this month. Lohan could get significant jail time.
Lindsay says she was blind-sided by the switch, which holds her up to (more) humiliation and which she never approved. Inside sources say that the producers changed the trailer in retribution for Lohan’s unprofessional conduct during the shooting. Continue reading
“There is nothing more ethical and fair than reciprocity.”
—- Conservative web pundit “progressoverpeace,” one of the approximately 300 commenters who attempted to make the ethically impossible argument that spreading the falsehood on the internet that “Harry Reid is a pederast (or pedophile)” is “ethical and fair” in opposition to my post, Funny! But Wrong: “The Harry Reid is a Pederast” Rumor.
This is, of course, a profoundly unethical distortion of the real ethical principle of reciprocity, as embodied by the Golden Rule and its many similar ethical systems from various cultures, philosophies and faiths. The Golden Rule is benign, and urges prospective and aspirational reciprocity, advising us to treat others as we would want to be treated ourselves, were we in the other individual’s circumstances. Progressoverpeace—let’s call him “Pop”—embraces a punitive form of reciprocity—I’ll dub it the Fool’s Golden Rule— that endorses retribution, and precludes generosity, kindness, forbearance, perspective, peace—and civilization.
Pop’s “reciprocity” holds that once someone has treated another human being badly, it is ethical for that person to treat him or her just as badly in the same manner, presumably on the false assumption that this will teach him better “ethics.” Of course, what it is more likely to teach him was that he was correct to mistreat that individual in the first place. Such warped reciprocity seeds a perpetual cycle of hatred and escalating feuds, because it begins a cycle that can never stop short of death, terror, or surrender. Continue reading