Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/23/2017: Robots And “Star Wars” And Whiskers On Kittens

Good Morning!

1 When Darth Vader cuts off Luke’s hand, that’s not news. When Mark Hamill bites the hand that feeds him…In recent interview, Mark Hamill, the one-trick pony, one-role actor who had been playing cameo parts on SyFy cable channel movies because he wasn’t enough of a draw to put in “Sharknado 6,” criticized how director Rian Johnson had him play Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” “He’s not my Luke Skywalker,” said Hamill in a recent interview, who originated the part four decades ago, when he had a career.

This is astounding ingratitude, and shows a lack of professionalism that suggests it wasn’t only limited range that strangled Hamill’s non-“Star Wars” prospects. The movie is still in theaters. The fact that he is in the latest trilogy at all is a gift. If he wants to knock the film in about ten years or so when he’s doing Fishin’ Magician informercials on cable and his comments get him 12 and a half minutes of fame on TMZ, that’s fine, but right now, he has an ethical obligation to the studio and his fellow artists to do everything he can to make the “Star Wars” geeks want to see the film.

You know Luke—can I call you Luke?—most of those other actors aren’t as lucky as you were, and don’t have a cushy guaranteed lifetime income from a single surprise hit that easily could have ended up on the second half of drive-in double features.

May the Force slap some sense into you.

2. Update: Governor Kasich is an idiot. But I bet you knew that. Yup, John Kasich signed into law that Ohio bill that made it illegal to abort a fetus diagnosed with Down Syndrome. This law is going to be struck down as unconstitutional, and it makes no sense. Signing it into law displays a bad combination of incompetence and cowardice.

BOY, that was a horrible crew of Republicans who all were thinking about Donald Trump, “Well, at least I know I can beat THIS guy!” I know many people like me, including some moderate Democrats, who were rooting for Kasich because he seemed preferable to having another Bush, the theocracy craving Mike Huckabee, the corrupt Chris Christie, weird Rand Paul, diabolical Ted Cruz, not-ready-for-prime- time Marco Rubio, dumb-as-a-box-of-whoopie-cushions Ben Carson, scary Carly Fiorina, or, as the alternative, the venal, inept and frighteningly ambitious Hillary Clinton. No, he’s a conservative hack with an honest face. This proves it. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of The Month: Fired Sony Executive Amy Pascal

Good for you, Amy.

Good for you, Amy.

“Here’s the problem: I run a business. People want to work for less money, I’ll pay them less money. I don’t call them up and say, ‘Can I give you some more?’ Because that’s not what you do when you run a business. The truth is, what women have to do is not work for less money. They have to walk away. People shouldn’t be so grateful for jobs. … People should know what they’re worth.”

—Recently fired—because of those hacked e-mails—Sony Pictures chief Amy Pascal, in an interview with journalist Tina Brown at the Women in the World conference in San Francisco. She was addressing her e-mails revealing that actress Jennifer Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in “American Hustle.”

Take that, “77 cents for every dollar”!

My least favorite deceitful statistic took it on the chin with Pascal’s candid and accurate statement, and she ranks Ethics Hero status not just for saying it, but saying it in front of an audience full of women who have supported the lie while cheering and voting for politicians who repeat it.

A large chunk of the disparity between the salaries of men and women for the same jobs is not the product of bias or discrimination, but the natural consequences of females being raised to be less assertive, with lower self-esteem, and their resulting poor negotiating skills. Pascal is placing responsibility squarely where it belongs. This has been one more example of a traditionally mistreated group relying on victim-mongering rather than focusing on personal responsibility, accountability and honesty to address what is well within their power to fix.

Brava, Amy Pascal!

If Sony had any sense or principals, it would give you your job back.

Black James Bond Ethics

Fleming's Bond (l) and Bond-in-Waiting Idris Elba

Fleming’s Bond (l) and Bond-in-Waiting Idris Elba

There’s really no denying it: some conservatives have persistent hang-ups about race, and it undermines their more rational, perceptive views on other matters. A relatively trivial but revealing example occurred in the aftermath of the Sony computer hack by North Korea (or Hacker X). One of the revelations was that Sony, which owns the James Bond franchise, was seriously considering re-booting the character, currently played by the estimable, but aging, Daniel Craig, with a black  British actor (be sure to mock anyone who calls him an “African-American), Idris Elba.

If you are unfamiliar with Elba, you should watch the British series “Luther” on Netflix. He’s terrific: athletic, sexy, charismatic and passionate, not to mention his  aura of cold-bloodedness and danger—in short, perfect for James Bond. But Rush Limbaugh, apparently seeking to retroactively validate the title of Al Franken’s book, “Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot,” decided to use the threat of non-traditional casting to make liberal heads explode, his mission in life:

“That’s NOT who James Bond is, and I know it’s racist to probably even point this out: We had 50 years of white Bonds because Bond is white. Bond was never black. Ian Fleming never created a black Brit to play James Bond. The character was always white. He was always Scottish.”

It is hard to pack so much idiocy into five sentences, but Rush is up to the task. James Bond is a British secret agent: race doesn’t factor into the stories at all. We’ve had 50 years of white Bonds because that’s the conventional way of portraying the character, that’s all. Rush’s argument here is just “Everybody does it.” So what? James Bond movies are entertainment, and if an entertaining James Bond film can be made with Elba as Bond, and there is no reason in the world why not, then James Bond can be black. Continue reading

Ethics FYI To Hollywood, Pundits And Al Sharpton: There Is Nothing Racist–Or Unethical—About The Hacked Denzel Washington Memo

denzel-washington

Does anybody even bother to think about what racism is any more before accusing people of it? Do journalists think about the circumstances before they parrot knee-jerk accusations of racism from the likes of Sharpton and others? Based on the evidence of reaction to the infamous memo from a Sony honcho regarding the performance of Denzel Washington pictures abroad, apparently not.

Everywhere, this screed by an unnamed Sony executive is being called “shocking,” “unbelievable,” and, of course “racist.” It is nothing of the kind. In a scenario that reeks of the surreal Samuel L. Jackson fiasco where Ethics Alarms was virtually alone in noting that Jackson’s on-air accusation that a white TV host had confused him with fellow black star Lawrence Fishburne because “all blacks look the same to him” was unfair and completely meritless, the news media is just running with a demonstrably false accusation.

Here are the relevant portions of the e-mail exchange based on what has been reported in the media:

“I am not saying The Equalizer should not have been made or that African American actors should not have been used (I personally think Denzel is the best actor of his generation.) [But] Casting him is saying we’re ok with a double if the picture works. He’s reliable at the domestic [box office], safe, but has not had a huge success in years. I believe…the non event pictures, extra ‘bets’ should have a large inherent upside… Here there isn’t a large inherent upside….I believe that the international motion picture audience is racist – in general, pictures with an African-American lead don’t play well overseas…Sony sometimes seems to disregard that a picture must work well internationally to both maximize returns and reduce risk, especially pics with decent size budgets.”

Let’s examine this “unbelievable” e-mail, line by line and then as a whole, for ethical misconduct and incipient racism:

“I am not saying The Equalizer should not have been made or that African American actors should not have been used (I personally think Denzel is the best actor of his generation.)”

No problem there, right?

“[But] Casting him is saying we’re ok with a double if the picture works.”

The baseball analogy, a “double” over a “home run,” is a conclusion based on Washington’s films’ grosses and hard facts, not racism. It is a legitimate opinion, and one that in a business context must be made as a matter of fiduciary duty. Foriegn box office is about half (or more) of a typical film’s profit. If a star isn’t as popular in foreign markets as in the U.S., then metaphorically speaking, a “home run” is more difficult, and maybe impossible. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week; Chris Rock

Shut up, Chris.

Shut up, Chris.

“You say the wrong thing — you see what happened to [Donald Sterling],” Rock said. “I’m not defending what Sterling said at all, but if that’s not the First Amendment then what the [bleep] is? And what did he say, ‘I don’t want my girlfriend hanging out with black basketball players’? Me neither!”

—Black comic and “truth-teller” Chris Rock, discussing the fear in Hollywood as a result of the Sony hacks.

Gee, Chris, that’s courageous, fair, perceptive and true.

What a shame you didn’t have the integrity or guts to condemn what happened to Sterling while every other black pundit, columnist, athlete, and celebrity was comparing him to Satan. You just allowed everyone to pile on the old, rich white guy, take away his team and make him the face of racism for telling his slutty black  girlfriend—in his own bedroom!—not to flaunt the fact she was only hanging with him for the money by showing up at his teams’ games with her real boyfriends. You Hollywood types are hilarious–as in disgusting— in your selective belief in rights, privacy and fair play. First Aaron Sorkin, who didn’t object to the media feeding frenzy over Sterling’s private remarks, suddenly argues that his friends and business associates’ equally damning comments shouldn’t be reported because they aren’t about crime and corruption, and thus aren’t news. Then you suddenly decide to defend Donald Sterling’s rights of privacy and free speech now, when there is no cost to you at all, and the damage is done and irreparable.

Here’s what’s unethical about your statement, Chris: it’s too damn late.

 

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Aaron Sorkin

“You want the truth? Well, you can’t have the truth because I’ve decided that it isn’t newsworthy!”

“I understand that news outlets routinely use stolen information. That’s how we got the Pentagon Papers, to use an oft-used argument. But there is nothing in these documents remotely rising to the level of public interest of the information found in the Pentagon Papers. Do the emails contain any information about Sony breaking the law? No. Misleading the public? No. Acting in direct harm to customers, the way the tobacco companies or Enron did? No. Is there even one sentence in one private email that was stolen that even hints at wrongdoing of any kind? Anything that can help, inform or protect anyone? The co-editor in chief of Variety tells us he decided that the leaks were — to use his word — “newsworthy.” I’m dying to ask him what part of the studio’s post-production notes on Cameron Crowe’s new project is newsworthy. So newsworthy that it’s worth carrying out the wishes of people who’ve said they’re going to murder families and who have so far done everything they’ve threatened to do. Newsworthy. As the character Inigo Montoya said in “The Princess Bride,” I do not think it means what you think it means.”

—-Acclaimed screenwriter, playwright and Hollywood liberal Aaron Sorkin, reprimanding the news media  for publishing material from the Sony computer hacks in an Op-Ed in the New York Times.

There are many other titles for this post I considered, like “Jaw-dropping Hypocrisy of the Month,” “Self-serving Delusion of the Month,” and “This Is The Tragedy of Partisan Delusion: Won’t You Give Generously To Help Aaron”?

I’ve got to give the man credit: it takes world class gall for to write something like this self-serving for international consumption. Self-righteous, Freedom of the Press-promoting (Sorkin is the creator and writer of “The Newsroom” series on cable) Hollywood liberals applauded and screamed for blood when a near-senile billionaire’s private comments made in his own bedroom were surreptitiously recorded by his paid female mistress and plastered all over the media, because the private, private, private words suggested that he held racist attitudes, and no matter what he actually did (which was sufficient to be named an NAACP “man of the Year,” a distinction Aaron Sorkin has never earned),  that meant that he had to be publicly humiliated, fined millions and stripped of his business. We didn’t hear Sorkin protesting that this wasn’t newsworthy. Nor did the Sorkins of an earlier generation protest when the very same newspaper carrying his essay published criminally stolen Defense Department documents that, whatever was contained in them, were part of a sincere effort to win a war. Continue reading

The Sony Hacks, Hollywood Hypocrisy and The Full Pazuzu

Amy Pascal, apparently...

Amy Pascal, apparently…

You can’t make this stuff up. First North Korea apparently hacks Sony’s emails to punish it for producing a Seth Rogen comedy,—which, by the way, would justify a national response if the current leadership didn’t object to necessary retaliation on principle: this is a foreign attack on American soil, just not a fatal one—-then the revealed e-mails showing  enthusiastic Obama supporters Amy Pascal, Sony Pictures co-chair, and movie producer Scott Rudin making racist jokes worthy of  the readers of Chimpmania.

Of course, Buzzfeed shouldn’t have published hacked e-mails—private is private— but it couldn’t resist. Let’s see: Buzzfeed, Pascal, Rudin, North Korea…let’s throw in our government being unwilling to stand up against vile foreign governments cyber-attacking citizens and businesses: yes, I’d say this qualifies as an Ethics Train Wreck.

Here was the email exchange between Pascal and “The Social Network” producer Scott Rudin, when Pascal sought his advice on what she should say to the President at an upcoming Hollywood fundraiser:

Rudin: Would he like to finance some movies [?]

Pascal: I doubt it. Should I ask him if he liked DJANGO?” [ The violent Tarentino “Escaped-slave-kills-white-guys” Western mash-up revenge epic ]

Rudin: 12 YEARS [A Slave]”

Pascal: “Or the butler [“Lee Daniels’ The Butler”]. Or think like a man?” [ Steve Harvey comedy “Think Like A Man”]

Rudin: Ride-along. [“Ride Along,” a failed cop buddy movie-action flick starring a mostly black cast] I bet he likes Kevin Hart.

Let me focus for the nonce, however, on the absurd and self-indicting apology by uber-hypocrite Amy Pascal, who said: Continue reading