Category Archives: Ethics Heroes

Maybe The Best Reason To Remember April 15…Number 42

jackie-robinson

A lot has happened on April 15.

Leonardo De Vinci was born…Abraham Lincoln died…Apollo 13 had the accident that almost destroyed it, but that triggered one of the great triumphs of the space program…Lee surrendered, ending the Civil WarThe Beatles disbanded…I didn’t get my taxes in on time….

I would argue however, and will, that as culturally important as any of these events was that sixty-eight years ago, in 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first black man to play major league baseball in the modern era. This represented a cultural change that allowed the United States to take a giant step forward toward healing the self-inflicted and almost fatal wound of slavery, and it took a man of surpassing courage and character to do it. (Two men, really: the other was Dodgers GM Branch Rickey.)

Today all MLB players will wear Robinson’s number 42 to honor him. If you haven’t seen the movie “42, or if your children haven’t seen it, this is a good day to get a sense of what Jackie went through as he broke the color line.  You can check out Robinson’s baseball stats here,  and learn about the civil rights work he did after his playing career, in the too-short life that was left to him here. He’s in the Ethics Alarms Heroes Hall of Honor, of course, and his entry there has more about his life as well as some good links.

The main thing is, remember him.

Many years ago, I had a conversation with a close friend—smart, accomplished, engaged, educated, about 26 years old at the time. She had no idea who Jackie Robinson was. Nobody, then, now or ever, should reach adulthood in the United States without knowing and understanding what Robinson did, and our nation’s debt to him. There is an ethical  duty to remember, and to respect.

Thank you, Mr. Robinson.

Thank you.

 

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Heroes, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society

Ethics Hero: San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland,

concussions NFL

It is indeed strange to call someone an ethics hero for taking reasonable steps to save his own life. In the case of Chris Borland, however, it is appropriate.

Borland, one of the NFL’s top rookies in 2014, announced that he is retiring after just one season he does not want to risk the long-term effects of repetitive head trauma.

Borland, 24, said  he made his decision after consulting with  concussion researchers, and current and former teammates, as well as researching  the relationship between football and neurodegenerative disease.

“I just honestly want to do what’s best for my health,” Borland told ESPN.  “From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk.” Continue reading

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Some Hillary E-Mail Ethics Test Results: Dowd, Carville, Maher, Whitehouse, Boxer, Huffington

F minusLast week I pointed out that the controversy over Hillary’s secret e-mail server and the various deceits and lies she has employed to justify is invaluable, not merely as further evidence of the character of the woman Democrats seem determine to stuff down America’s throat as the next President, but also as an integrity and values test for the politicians, elected officials, pundits and journalists who choose to publicly defend her…or not.

So it has been, and continues to be. Unfortunately, Republicans and reliably conservative pundits are disqualified from the test, as they would be condemning Hillary whether there was an ethical defense of her e-mails or not. They will end up on the right side of this issue by simply following their ideological proclivities, and thus deserve no credit for being incidentally correct.

Here is what you have to remember, however: the fact the Republicans and conservatives who reached their position on this issue without giving it any thought detest and distrust Hillary Clinton and are being, in some cases, unattractively gleeful about the scandal does not make Hillary’s defense any stronger. As I explained in the earlier posts, she has no legitimate defense, just spin, rationalizations and deceit. That’s why the e-mail incident challenges the non-Hillary haters to exhibit integrity.

I was tempted to exempt Democratic strategists and Clinton consultants from the test as well, since they are, in essence, paid liars. For anyone inclined to believe them, however, the fact that these people—Karen Finney, Donna Brazile, Lanny Davis, David Brock, James Carville— will go on national TV, look an interviewer and the American public in the eye and say what they know is false should prove that their level of trustworthiness is below sea level.

Carville, for example, gave a tour de force of rationalizations on ABC’s “This Week” yesterday, making the recently popular argument that the Clinton’s just can’t get away with fudges and sneaks that other politicians do, and that this is so, so unfair.  Let’s go to the Rationalizations List! This is the Golden Rationalization (“Everybody does it”) squared by the #39. The Pioneer’s Lament, or “Why should I be the first?” (That argument is disingenuous, because the Clintons are not like everyone else. They have a long, ugly record of deception and rule-breaking. At this point, they cannot credibly claim, “We just made a mistake” —# 19 and #20. There is a pattern. Once a pattern is established, you have to be especially careful not to repeat it, or there is a rebuttable presumption that you can’t help yourself. Is it unfair to an alcoholic to make a bigger deal out of him coming home drunk than when an occasional drinker does the same thing?) Continue reading

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Iran Letter Ethics Q and A: Senate Heroes, Blame, Trust And Captain Queeg

Question:  Are the seven GOP Senators who did not sign the Iran letter Ethics Heroes?

Answer: I almost designated them as such, but that would have been a mistake. There are too many non-heroic and even unethical reasons Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Senate Foreign Relations Chairman might have chosen to refuse to go along with their colleagues. Based on the explanations I’ve read, that seems to be the case. Collins, for example, says that she didn’t think the letter would work. Wrong answer: the reason to reject the letter is because it’s a flat-out violation of legislative limits imposed on the Constitution. Similarly, Flake says that he didn’t think the letter was necessary, whatever that means. It is also likely that some of the seven felt they could have their cake and eat it too: they want the letter to undermine U.S. diplomacy, but don’t want to take the criticism that goes with signing it.

Question: Do I blame President Obama for the letter?

Answer: A friend who is such a knee-jerking Obama enabler and excuser that it’s a miracle he can walk posted yesterday’s  Thirteen Ethics Observations On The GOP’s Letter To Iran on his Facebook page, and one of his knee-jerking friends wrote, “Typical: blame Obama.” I did not and do not blame Obama for the fact that the Republican Senators engaged in a foolish, dangerous and bright-line violation of the separation of powers, and anyone who could read the post otherwise is so deranged by bias that their faculties are impaired…or they just aren’t very bright.

I did write, and it is true, that the President shares significant responsibility for the poisonous and dysfunctional relations with the Congress that led to this fiasco. He is at the top of the government; it’s ultimately his job to make the government and the system work. Obama and his enablers reject accountability at every turn, but the unavoidable facts are that he is in charge, he took the job voluntarily, and whatever doesn’t work, including the government itself, is on his record. He never made a good faith, sincere, dedicated effort to work with the Republicans in Congress; he never worked to develop the negotiation, compromise, horse-trading, cajoling, quid pro quo skills that successful, competent Presidents have used to deal with the same levels of political opposition that he has found impossible to cope with. He took no steps to build trust in Congress, and engaged in serial conduct that was guaranteed to destroy trust, and has.

Finally, his illegal immigration executive order (the illegal accurately modifies both “immigration” and “order”) and his unilateral alterations to his own, incompetent and sloppy, health care law showed exactly the same contempt for constitutional limits as the Senate letter.

Obama is not to blame for the letter. He is absolutely and ultimately accountable for the conditions that prompted the letter and the decision to send it.

Question: Is there an ethical justification for sending the letter? Continue reading

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Ethics Tales: How Julia Sand Saved A President And Changed The Nation

open book on concrete background

In my recent overview of the U.S. presidency (the four parts are now combined on a single page under “Rule Book” above), I noted that our 21st President, Chester A. Arthur, was one of my personal favorites and an Ethics Hero. He confounded all predictions and his previous undistinguished background, not to mention a career marked  by political hackery and toadying to corrupt Republican power broker Roscoe Conkling, to rise to the challenge of the office and to effectively fight the corrupt practices that had elevated him to power. Most significantly, he established the Civil Service system, which crippled the spoils and patronage practices that made the Federal government both incompetent and a breeding ground for scandal.

I did not mention, because I did not then know, the unlikely catalyst for his conversion. Recently a good friend, knowing of my interest in Arthur, his tragic predecessor, James Garfield, and presidential assassinations sent me a copy of Destiny of the Republic, the acclaimed history of the Garfield assassination and its aftermath by Candace Millard. It’s a wonderful book, and while I knew much of the history already, I definitely did not know about Julia Sand. Her tale is amazing, and it gives me hope. If you do not know about Julia and Chester, and it is not a well-known episode, you should.

Allow me to tell it to you.

James Garfield, an Ohio Congressman, had been the dark horse nominee of the Republican Party in 1880, foiling the ambitions of many powerful politicians, the most powerful among them being Sen. Roscoe Conkling of New York. In order to cement New York’s electoral votes, the convention gave the Vice Presidential nomination to Conkling’s lackey, the dignified-looking but otherwise unimpressive Chester A. Arthur, who may have been the least qualified individual ever to run for that office. The highest position he had ever held was Collector of Customs of the Port of New York, which had been handed to him by Conkling, and he was later removed from that post for incompetence and corruption.  He’d never been elected to significant office or been any kind of executive. Arthur’s career before becoming Vice President makes Sarah Palin look like Winston Churchill.

After the election, Arthur got to work being a disloyal Vice-President, acting as Conklin’s agent in the White House. (Arthur, a widower, even lived as a guest in Conkling’s Washington mansion.) He actively undermined Garfield’s efforts at government reform, at one point going so far as signing a petition supporting Conkling when Garfield refused to appoint only Cabinet members with the Conkling stamp of approval. Then,  on July 2, 1881, less than six months after taking office, the impressive Garfield was shot in Washington D.C.’s Union Station by Charles Guiteau, easily the craziest of the various crazies who have taken a shot at our leaders. (He was also the only lawyer in that group.)

Everybody was horrified, initially at the crime, but also at the prospect of Arthur becoming President. Some even suspected him of being complicit in the act; Guiteau didn’t help by writing Arthur a letter prior to his attack telling him what he needed to do as President.  Most, however, were just aghast at the prospect of the brilliant, courageous, skilled and honorable Garfield being replaced by this utter non-entity under Conkling’s thumb.

None were more aghast than Chester A. Arthur. He may have been a hack, but he was no fool, and he knew he wasn’t up to the job. It was reported that when he learned of Garfield’s shooting, Arthur began weeping like a child. During the nearly three months it took the hardy Garfield to die—he was killed by sepsis induced by the unsanitary prodding of his doctors as they searched for Guiteau’s bullet: the would itself was probably survivable—Arthur descended into panic, shock, and depression.  For nearly two months, he stayed at home with the blinds drawn, fearing his own assassination. So invisible was he that there were  rumors that Arthur had poisoned himself.

Then Arthur received a letter, dated August 27, 1881, from a woman he did not know, Julia Sands. It immediately got his attention, for she addressed him in a manner he had never been spoken or written to before. The remarkable letter said in part… Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: Former Red Sox Pitcher Curt Schilling

schilling_rect

No, this isn’t about “the bloody sock.”

When Curt Schilling found his teenage daughter the target of obscene tweets from anonymous Schilling haters —he annoys vengeful Yankee fans because he led the historic Boston comeback from a 0-3 deficit that humiliated their team in 2004, deranged Democrats because he is a Republican, anti-Christian bigots because he is openly devout, and there was that scandal involving his game company blowing through millions of taxpayer dollars bestowed on it by Rhode Island —he got both mad and even, tracking down their identities, and exposing them and their filthy cyber-bullying on his personal blog.  He apologized to his daughter for prolonging her embarrassment, saying,

P.S. Gabby I know you’re likely embarrassed and for that I apologize,” he wrote. “But as we have talked about, there is no situation ever in your life, where it’s ok for any ‘man’ to talk about you, or any other woman this way (and truth be told no real man would ever talk this way anyway). It truly is time this stopped.”

Several of Gabby’s tormenters felt her famous father’s wrath in substantive ways. In the aftermath of Schilling’s counterattack,  Adam Nagel  was suspended by Brookdale Community College, where he’s a student and a disc jockey, and Sean MacDonald was terminated by the Yankees, where he worked as a part-time ticket seller. The ex-pitcher noted that several athletes who slimed Gabby Schilling were punished by their coaches.

Wrote the avenging father on his blog, Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: Eddie Murphy’s Golden Rule Moment

Wait..that's all?

Wait..that’s all?

As the long, live, “Saturday Night Live” 4oth anniversary show was being aired on NBC, twitter and various websites gave moment by moment accounts of what was occurring. Everyone was puzzled by the much-ballyhooed appearance of Eddie Murphy, who had a returning hero’s introduction, and was on screen for about a minute, never to return. Why didn’t Eddie do anything funny? Later we found out, though backstage revelations by SNL mediocrity Norm McDonald.

From “Rolling Stone”:

At the tail end of the “Celebrity Jeopardy” sketch – which reintroduced Darrell Hammond as Sean Connery, Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek and Macdonald as Burt Reynolds/Turd Ferguson – a Video Daily Double appeared in the Potent Potables category. Current SNL cast member Kenan Thompson played Bill Cosby revealing his cocktail recipe, a nod to the sweeping allegations against the comedian.

As Macdonald revealed on Twitter, that cameo was originally written for Murphy, who – after a few days of being pursued by Macdonald, Michaels and even director Brett Ratner (the latter serving as an intermediary for the comic) – decided not to appear in the sketch.

“Murphy knew the laughs would bring the house down. Eddie Murphy knows what will work on SNL better than anyone. Eddie decides the laughs are not worth it. He will not kick a man when he is down,” Macdonald wrote.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz is…

Is Eddie Murphy an Ethics Hero?

Continue reading

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