Tag Archives: Robert De Niro

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/19/2018: Double Standards And Greed

Time for a Good Morning song!

1. Life on Facebook. A lawyer friend who should know better posted a comment that began, “You wouldn’t think that posting something like ‘Taking children away from their parents and sticking them in cages is wrong’ would be controversial, but in almost every case where one of my friends has said something like this, at least one of his/her friends feels the need to argue about it…” Later he compared the statement “Taking children away from their parents and sticking them in cages is wrong” to “Torturing kittens is wrong.” I told him that as a lawyer, he should be objecting to and explaining the transparent deceit of “Taking children away from their parents and sticking them in cages is wrong”—a half-truth designed to stifle argument, not attacking those who are correctly pointing out the emotionalism and dishonesty of that tactic.

I should count up the number of lawyers whose comments on Facebook on this issue are pure “Think of the children!” with no substantive legal and policy analysis whatsoever. My friend also made the typical suggestion that only Trump voters—you know: morons—would argue with “Taking children away from their parents and sticking them in cages is wrong” as a fair and conclusive verdict on the current policy.

2. Theranos.  Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos, as well as Ramesh Balwani, the company’s former president ( and Holme’s love interest, were indicted yesterday on charges of conspiracy and wire fraud. The Theranos debacle is a classic corporate fraud story on par with Enron, if not as wide-reaching.

I missed it. This is embarrassing for an ethics blog, and for someone who thinks he scours various news sources thoroughly enough to catch the major ethics stories. I blame Donald Trump, but I also blame the various news sources in 2015 that chose to report fake news, trivial news, future news and theoretical news rather than give a major corporate scandal the attention it deserved. If I missed the story, and I’m looking for it, what chance do normal people with sensible occupations have?

The civil fraud charges in the case were filed in March by the Securities and Exchange Commission, though the scandal had broken earlier, when the Wall Street Journal published its 2015 exposé.  Holmes and Balwani allegedly raised millions of dollars using false statements about how well the company’s  blood-testing device worked, while using  a contract with the Department of Defense and a partnership between Theranos and the pharmacy chain Walgreens to con pharmacies, doctors and the public. The apparent scam created a Business of Cards that, at its peak, had more than 800 employees and a paper valuation of $9 billion.

There is a book out about the Theranos scandal by the reporter who broke the story… Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/11/18: More On De Niro, A Censored Valedictorian, A Heroic Pit Bull, And A Popeye

Good Morning.

1. Still angry... Here are some prime comments from Ann Althouse’s blog (she posted on DeNiro before 6 AM, beating me to it.) I should have posted last night; it might have let me get some sleep:

  • I think the Democrats have just found their 2020 Presidential Candidate…and his campaign slogan. Speaking as a Republican I am quaking in my boots…

  • Well, no more Robert DeNiro movies or shows for us then. The magic of the screen, the verisimilitude, is shattered. You can no longer look at the actor playing a character and forget that he HATES you in real life. He has no longer any status as Actor since he decided to play on the Political Stage. Why can’t they just STFU? Are you an entertainer [actor/singer] or are you a Politician? Pick one. Choose wisely.

  • I’ve been around people in the arts, including actors, most of my life, and there are two things I’ve found that are true about them: (1) except for their craft and whatever arts they’re involved in, they tend to be fairly uneducated, and woefully ignorant about history and economics; and (2), although they see themselves as free spirits and rebels, they’re usually brainwashed tools of the “liberal” Hive, and fall in lockstep like so many Eloi when the Hive calls. The whole evening, from what I saw, was one big anti-Trump rally. Strangest to me were the Gays who were reacting as if Trump were loading them onto box cars and shipping them off to death camps. And yet as members of the Hive, almost certainly falling into line with the Hive’s goal of a bigger and more powerful State. Bad news, artistes: if you think you can have full freedom of expression where the State is omnipotent, think again. Maybe actually open a history book every once in a while.

  • On my way down to NYC today with my wife. I thought we might try to see a play if I can get some cheap tickets. Last night she was watching the Tonys in our hotel room. I was reading about the history of disease but could not avoid seeing/hearing some of it. I was reminded why THEATRE!!! has no interest at all for me. What a bunch of pretentious dreck. I’ve always liked Robert DeNiro as an actor. But FUCK HIM!!! as a person.

  • In 1936, the New Yorker ran a cartoon about some old rich white people. We know they’re elites because there is a butler hovering in the background. The caption: “Come along. We’re going to the Trans-Lux to hiss Roosevelt.” Our betters didn’t use the f-word so often in those days.

  • I’m calling my shot: Trump wins 40 states. My liberal friends seem resigned to the fact that he will get reelected, that is unless, how did one guy put it, “overwhelming evidence is presented.” They take it for granted that Trump must be guilty of something. He simply has to be. Trump’s ascendance to the presidency is an offense against their worldview. Its rather amusing because Trump isn’t really all that conservative. Hell, Bernie Sanders campaigned on controlling illegal immigration and reworking trade agreements in order to improve job prospects for Americans. I don’t bring that up with my liberal friends though. I just ignore their comments about Trump and change the subject. They probably think I can’t refute them, but I just don’t want to piss them off. 

  • Life imitates “A Fish Called Wanda”:

Archie: You are a vulgarian, aren’t you?
Otto: You’re the vulgarian, you fuck!

Continue reading

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BREAKING NEWS: Hollywood And Broadway Declare War On The Presidency, Elections, Democracy, Decency And Civility. NOW What?

“I’m just going to say one thing. Fuck Trump! It’s no longer ‘Down with Trump.’ It’s ‘fuck Trump!’”

—Actor Robert De Niro on live TV at the Tonys last night.

Then he pumped both fists in the air, as a large contingent of the crowd of Broadway glitterati at Radio City Music Hall stood and gave him a standing ovation, endorsing the gutter insult.

I believe such un-American conduct creates an ethical obligation on the part of fair and reasonable American to demonstrate their contempt and opposition, in as strong and decisive a manner possible.

What that means is beyond my ability to suggest right now. I don’t like to write when I am angry, and I am angry. But this must not stand.

Yesterday, commenting on the unethical Tony Awards scheduling  of De Niro, who has used other appearances to make vulgar, hateful, ad hominem attacks on the President, I wrote in part,

“If you invite Robert De Niro, you are deliberately announcing that your event is going to be politically divisive and include an attack, probably uncivil, on the President—and while he will be engaged in crucial international negotiations. The President has nothing to do with the Tonys, nor does politics—the main contenders for top musicals are “SpongeBob” and “Mean Girls,” for heaven’s sakes—nor does De Niro, who is just one more movie star being used by Broadway to attract a larger TV audience.”

Naturally, CBS allowed this to go forward, because it was in search of ratings for the perpetually viewer-starved awards show. The network either knew or should have known that this meant that it would be broadcasting some kind of ugly episode. The network was accused of  conspiring with Janet Jackson to flash her breast during the supposedly family-friendly Super Bowl half-time show—you know, back in those halcyon days when games didn’t include NFL players symbolically calling the US. racist as a prelude?—and swore that it had no idea anything inappropriate was going to happen. Well, it can’t make that claim now about De Niro. De Niro’s outburst is like the breast-bearing if Jackson had been flashing at every public appearance. CBS knew he was going to insult the President. It wanted him to insult the President. Continue reading

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Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/10/18: Tony, Bob, Woody, And Charles

Good morning!

1. Tonys Ethics. I’ll be skipping the Tonys again this year, and if I wasn’t already in the habit of doing so, the fact that Robert De Niro was being promoted as a presenter would have done the trick. Inviting De Niro is one more example of show business anti-Trump aggression. The actor has been unrestrained in making ugly, profane, vulgar attacks on the President in inappropriate venues. True, he hasn’t called the President a cock-holster or a cunt  yet, but that’s about the only mitigation.

Here was his public rant  in January at another awards event:

“This fucking idiot is the President. It’s The Emperor’s New Clothes – the guy is a fucking fool. The publication of the Pentagon Papers was a proud moment for American journalism. The Times and the Post challenged the government over critical First Amendment issues. And the press prevailed. Our government today, with the propping-up of our baby-in-chief – the jerkoff-in-chief I call him – has put the press under siege, trying to discredit it through outrageous attacks and lies.’

Here is De Niro just last week at a student writing award ceremony:

“Our country is lead by a president who believes he can make up his own truth. And we have a word for that — bull shit!  So what about the truth? What does the truth even mean today? I mean, if you’re Donald Trump it doesn’t mean anything,”

If you invite Robert De Niro, you are deliberately announcing that your event is going to be politically divisive and include an attack, probably uncivil, on the President—and while he will be engaged in crucial international negotiations. The President has nothing to do with the Tonys, nor does politics—the main contenders for top musicals are “SpongeBob” and “Mean Girls,” for heaven’s sakes—nor does De Niro, who is just one more movie star being used by Broadway to attract a larger TV audience.

2. Tales of  #MeToo. What would you do with John Lasseter? Disney just fired him, thus risking  diminished  brilliance of future Pixar projects, meaning less happiness, less enjoyment, fewer immortal film classics, and, of course, fewer profits. He was jettisoned because—I can’t believe I’m writing this—he has a habit of hugging people, it was unwelcome, and the hugging became alleged sexual harassment because it was unappreciated by some or many female employees.

Lasseter is a Disney-style genius, the creative force behind “Toy Story,” “Cars,”  “Frozen,” “Saving Nemo” and many other wonderful works of art and popular entertainment. He was the chief creative officer of Pixar Animation Studios, which he helped found, and the separate Walt Disney Animation studio.  This appears to be his problem, from the Times story:

“A self-described Peter Pan, Mr. Lasseter has long been known for his jolly public persona and tendency to greet anyone in his proximity — subordinates, stars, fans, reporters — with lengthy bear hugs. In 2011, The Wall Street Journal published a photo slide show of his frequent squeezes, saying he had handed out at least 48 of them in one day at the office.”

On one ethics hand, it certainly seems like a waste to lose a major artist over innocent hugging (if it was innocent, as some accounts maintain)  and the sexual harassment is still officially “alleged.” On the other hand, as someone who hates hugging and always has, I regard Lasseter’s “innocent” habit as something that could easily create a hostile work environment.

It is unconsented touching, pure and simple. If an employee was made to think that the only way he or she could work at Pixar, he or she had to be prepared to be hugged daily, then that’s workplace abuse. No, it’s not as abusive as what Bill Clinton, Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, James Levine, Kevin Spacey or Charlie Rose subjected subordinates to, but that’s  just Rationalization #22 talking: “It’s not the worst thing.” As to the natural inclination, expressed by my wife this morning, to lament, “The man’s a genius and they are willing to lose his talents over hugging?,” there is no getting around it: that’s the King’s Pass.

I do not understand why this was not addressed before it got to this stage, unless Lasseter really has a screw loose. What could be so hard about, “John, stop hugging people at work. A lot of people don’t like it. Do it again, and you’re gone”?

In the end, Lasseter has nobody to blame but himself.

3. Krauthammer’s farewell. As you may have already read, Fox News pundit and longtime conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer penned a graceful and dignified public letter to announce that his death is imminent. He wrote,

I have been uncharacteristically silent these past 10 months. I had thought that silence would soon be coming to an end, but I’m afraid I must tell you now that fate has decided on a different course for me.

In August of last year, I underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in my abdomen. That operation was thought to have been a success, but it caused a cascade of secondary complications — which I have been fighting in hospital ever since. It was a long and hard fight with many setbacks, but I was steadily, if slowly, overcoming each obstacle along the way and gradually making my way back to health.

However, recent tests have revealed that the cancer has returned. There was no sign of it as recently as a month ago, which means it is aggressive and spreading rapidly. My doctors tell me their best estimate is that I have only a few weeks left to live. This is the final verdict. My fight is over.

I wish to thank my doctors and caregivers, whose efforts have been magnificent. My dear friends, who have given me a lifetime of memories and whose support has sustained me through these difficult months. And all of my partners at The Washington Post, Fox News, and Crown Publishing.

Lastly, I thank my colleagues, my readers, and my viewers, who have made my career possible and given consequence to my life’s work. I believe that the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument is a noble undertaking. I am grateful to have played a small role in the conversations that have helped guide this extraordinary nation’s destiny.

I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life — full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.

Observations:

  • The final line is as ethical an attitude to aspire to at the end of one’s like as I can imagine. It is also a remarkable thing for Krauthammer to say, as someone who was put in a wheelchair permanently by an accident in his twenties.
  • “I believe that the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument is a noble undertaking.”  Perfectly stated.
  • The last thing I remember about Krauthammer was his commentary after the first GOP candidates debate in 2015. He was disgusted with Donald Trump, and proclaimed that his candidacy had been exposed as a fraud and “not ready for prime time.”  Trump’s hopes of winning the nomination were dead, he said—and I heartily agreed.

 

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Documentary Ethics: Is Pulling An Anti-Vaxx Documentary A Freedom of Expression Breach Or Simply Responsible?

tribeca_film_festival_ny

Until yesterday, “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe” was an entry in the 2016  Tribeca Film Festival. It was directed and co-written by Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced doctor and researcher whose study purporting to show a link between vaccinations and autism was published in the British medical journal “The Lancet” in 2010 and then retracted. Wakefield subsequently lost his medical license because of undisclosed conflicts of interest and misrepresentations in his paper, and has been wandering the earth wearing the metaphorical sackcloth robe of the outcast ever since.

The decision by the festival and its founder Robert De Niro to screen the film was the focus of a furious controversy. Many consider Wakefield a murderer because his work has convinced parents to eschew vaccinations out of irrational fear sown by his false research conclusions. De Niro insisted that the film deserved a screening to provoke dialogue, but has had a change of heart, mind, or self-preservation instinct. He pulled the film yesterday, writing,

“My intent in screening this film was to provide an opportunity for conversation around an issue that is deeply personal to me and my family. But after reviewing it over the past few days with the Tribeca Film Festival team and others from the scientific community, we do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for.”

Translation: “When it comes to standing up for free expression, Andrew Wakefield and the anti-vaxxer delusion is not a hill worth dying for.” Continue reading

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