Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Observations On The Florida Teens And The Drowning Man”

My old friend Mark drops in to comment just a few times a year, but always delivers his trademark optimism, fairness, and perception. When he talks, I learned early on in our relationship, attention should be paid.. His was one of several excellent comments on the horrific episode in Cocoa Beach, where five teens stood by watching a handicapped man drown, and seemed to enjoy the sight mightily as they recorded his death on their cell phones. In response to another commenter’s query, “Are “kids” that are so disconnected that they’d do something of that magnitude rehabilitatable?”, Mark leaped k took the discussion to a related topic that I had found myself thinking about a lot while I was trapped in a lobby and two airports yesterday with nothing to do but wait and silently curse. What are electronic devices and social media obsession doing to our social skills and ability to relate to the world? At what point to we start sounding the ethics alarms…or the societal survival alarms? [ I’m going to include the last part of Mark’s earlier comment on the story, because it is a helpful introduction to the rest.]

Here is Mark’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Observations On The Florida Teens And The Drowning Man:

…The natural human reaction to observe has been enhanced by our ability to record, and it now seems to be the first response in almost every situation – the more harrowing the better. I’m sure there is some personal thrill involved in being able to post the result, garnering comments and ego-gratifying oohs and aahs.

The situation in Florida is only the most horrible of them, right up there with the guy who posted pictures of himself with the corpse of his step-father, whom he had just murdered. Like everything else, this is a tiny part of a much bigger picture of who we are becoming as a culture. The 21st century ability to remain safely behind a screen while still feeling a full participant in life (Internet commenting a prime example) frees us of the necessary empathy (or simply humanity) to come from behind that screen to behave in ways that might be heroic or even civil. I have little difficulty seeing that behavior manifesting in children raised viewing life through a cell phone.

The much larger question – at least for me – remains “Am I my brother’s keeper?” It’s a nagging question, versions of which swirl in and around almost all the major political issues of our day and, now, into our personal dealings with one another. It is always there, but we come up with more and novel ways to avoid actually answering or acting on it. Clearly, it never occurred to these boys. Cain didn’t want to answer the question. And, I suspect, neither do we.

***

 I carry two cell phones, absolute wonders of technology, which remain in my briefcase most of the time although I’ll take one of them with me to a picture-taking occasion. My friends grit their teeth at receiving responses to texts that are weeks old. My relationship with my cellphone(s) was cemented when I had the opportunity to whale watch off of Maui. I realized that I was so concerned about my precious iThing getting wet or falling into the water that I wasn’t watching the whales. I put the phone away and decided that watching the real world with both eyes was more interesting and that’s what I try to do. I hope sincerely that that attitude would ensure that I offer whatever aid I can in a dire situation rather than wondering what it will look like on Facebook later on. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Facebook, Science & Technology, Social Media, The Internet

From The Law vs Ethics Files: The July 24, 1983 Pine Tar Incident, When Baseball Chose Ethics Over Law, And Was 100% Wrong

I have written on this topic before, but this is the famous incident’s anniversary, and I have come to believe that the lesson learned from  the pine tar incident is increasingly the wrong one, and the consequences of this extend well beyond baseball.

On July 24, 1983, the Kansas City Royals were battling the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. With  two outs and a runner on first in the top of the ninth inning,  Royals third baseman George Brett hit a two-run home run off  Yankee closer  Goose Gossage to give his team a 5-4 lead.  Yankee manager Billy Martin, however, had been waiting like a spider for this moment.

Long ago, he had noticed that perennial batting champ Brett used a bat that had pine tar (used to allow a batter to grip the bat better) on the handle beyond what the rules allowed. MLB Rule 1.10(c) stated: “The bat handle, for not more than 18 inches from the end, may be covered or treated with any material or substance to improve the grip. Any such material or substance, which extends past the 18-inch limitation, shall cause the bat to be removed from the game.” At the time, such a hit was defined in the rules as an illegally batted ball, and the penalty for hitting “an illegally batted ball” was that the batter was to be declared out, under the explicit terms of the then-existing provisions of Rule 6.06.

That made Brett’s bat illegal, and any hit made using the bat an out. But Billy Martin didn’t want the bat to cause just any out. He had waited for a hit that would make the difference between victory or defeat for his team, and finally, at long last, this was it. Martin came out of the dugout carrying a rule book, and arguing that the home run shouldn’t count.  After examining the rules and the bat, home-plate umpire Tim McLelland ruled that Brett used indeed used excessive pine tar and called him out, overturning the home run and ending the game.

Brett’s resulting charge from the dugout (above) is video for the ages. Continue reading

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Filed under History, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Sports

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/24/17

Good Morning…

…and gee, it’s good to be back home! You have no idea how good it is.

1. ARRRGH! I returned to Ethics Alarms with 6 pending comments, and I want to apologize profusely for the back-up, especially to poor Paul Schlecht, whose avatar inexplicably makes WordPress hold every single one of his comments  in moderation until I rescue it. Only one post got up yesterday, and that was a close call: I was in resort/airport/travel Hell yesterday in Daytona  Beach, then Charlotte, pretty much from the moment I got my wake-up call at 6 AM to when my plane finally arrived at D.C.’s Reagan National Airport at just short of 1 am. today.

At least my law firm retreat seminar on legal ethics and technology was lively, but now I am way behind on posts, and also not exactly at the top of my game. Again, my apologies to all. And I’ve got to get a new laptop without a jumping cursor and that doesn’t crash my browser every 20 minutes or so.

2. I mentioned last week that the New York Times Sunday Review section is a weekly exercise in anti-President Trump porn. I couldn’t find a Sunday Times yesterday, so as a test, I’m going to open the copy my wife saved for me and look at the section now.

Let’s see…well the above the fold story is a feature about “why women aren’t CEOs.” The anti-Trump shot doesn’t come until the last paragraph, where the author, Susan Chira, couldn’t help herself from quoting Hillary Clinton as she blamed misogyny for her defeat. The Deplorables, you know. The second story on the front page is a mocking piece by a British historian, about a new Trump Doctrine, but with the term in scare quotes. How dare the President stand up for Western Civilization, we are asked to consider? This author, Stephen Wertheim, claims that the Trump administration’s problems with Iran, North Korea and China are based in racism and religious bias.  (Obama’s problems with the same nations were, presumably, based on a sincere concern for peace.) The  essay is also fairly anti-American, but concludes with the insult that the problem with the President isn’t so much what he does as who he is.

This is essentially the argument of “the resistance.” You know. Bigotry.

Let’s see—that piece took up all of page two, so we move on to page three. Two op-eds are there, one again mocking the ex-press secretary Sean Spicer, which the Times editorial board had already done, and the other, by Frank Bruni, attacking Jared Kushner. It closes with this, in part:

His counsel to Trump has been flawed, to say the least. He reportedly lobbied for the firing of James Comey, which didn’t turn out so well….I hear that he feels persecuted. Wronged. In that regard, too, he’s like his father-in-law, though Trump wears his self-pity, fury and ruthlessness right out front, for the whole world to see.

This is the company line. Actually, firing Comey turned out spectacularly well: the President was able to get rid of a highly placed leaker who had proven himself incompetent and untrustworthy. Bruni and the Times feel it was a mistake because the completely legal, appropriate, indeed overdue dismissal brought down the ire of the news media determined to get rid of the President. Message: When will you learn that we call the shots, you fool?

In fact, the President and his entire family have been persecuted by the Times from the very beginning, in obvious contrast to the news media’s disgusting fawning over the Clintons and Obamas, and even their chilly respect for the Bushes.

On to page four! Oh! Here’s a cartoon of the President as Donald Duck, and an op-ed by a New York City mother about how embarrassing it is to have a toddler who–The Horror!—likes the President of the United States! Beneath that screed, with a picture of Don, Jr., is an op-ed attacking another member of the President’s family in a piece about “men who never grow up.” The Trump boys are lumped in with Billy Bush, Ryan Lochte (the moronic Olympic swimmer), the fortunate college rapist Brock Turner, and the police officers who shot Tamir Rice!  Funny, the nation’s most prominent perpetual adolescent, who embarrassed the whole nation by using the White House as his passion pit, is never mentioned.

The non-Trump stories then take over for a few pages, and we’re finally at the editorial page. Two of the three editorials attack the President’s policies as the embodiment of evil: one condemns the very concept of the Election Integrity Commission— did you know that trying to find out how much actual voter fraud there is constitutes voter suppression?—and the other uses the President’s border wall plan as a prop to level general insults.  The rest of that page is devoted to a special selection of Letters to the Editor critical of…Donald Trump! Every one, all ten. You’re right, NYT, the paper doesn’t reflect this opinion thoroughly enough. On the facing page, two of the three op-eds consist of more Trump bashing. Maureen Dowd is one, but to be fair, all she does is level snark at everyone. The other is a second attack on Jared Kushner, because one per section is not enough.

The total: Nine Trump-hate pieces, plus ten anti-Trump letters, and not a single supportive word, balanced analysis, or defense. And the Sunday Review section is like this every week.

3. I can’t believe I’m writing this. The Discovery Channel’s always idiotic and often misleading “Shark Week” told audiences that Olympic Gold  Medal swimmer Michael Phelps would be racing a Great White Shark in the ocean. Admittedly, most potential viewers should be smart enough to figure out that there had to be a catch (no pun intended) despite the misleading title “Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs Great White.”  They should be, but we know they aren’t, based on the other stupid shows they fall for on the network, and also because there have been three “Sharknado” movies with a fourth on the way. That Discovery Channel title is a lie: Phelps never was in the water with a shark; he never saw a shark; he never raced a shark. He “raced’ a computer-generated shark that was put into the film after Phelps was safe and dry. Some of Phelps’ gullible fans are annoyed.

They should be. On the other hand, they are morons. The entire exercise should have taken about 6 seconds, the amount of time it takes to say “White sharks swim faster than humans, even Olympic champions. Bye.” Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Journalism & Media, U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/23/17

Good Morning!

1. Not a single comment on yesterday’s sole warm-up topic, the propriety of complimenting someone’s physical appearance or features? That’s fascinating.

2. I had to wrestle my fingers to the ground yesterday to avoid writing a full post on this editorial by the New York Times editors. I know everyone is sick of Ethics Alarms pointing out the relentless, unprofessional anti-Trump bias in the news media, because I’m sick of  writing about it. This may have been a new low, however. In the wake of Sean Spicer’s resignation as White House press secretary, the Times unleashed the equivalent of a mean playground taunt.  To read it, one would never guess that the Times had ever experienced any other press secretaries, especially President Obama’s trio of Robert Gibbs, Jay Carney and Josh Earnest , who were uniformly dishonest with disgraceful regularity. Spicer was a “four Pinocchio” spokesman? The standrad term her for Obama’s press lackies was “paid liars,” and the description was fair. Yet the Times didn’t greet the news of any of their withdrawals for the post with “Nyah nyah nyah you suck!” editorials, because the New York Times accepted that President’s lies and deceptions as designed for the greater good.

Of course, it was exactly this unethical journalistic bias that caused Spicer to adopt the attitude that most prompted the Times to attack him personally on his way out the door. He believed that journalists who don’t behave like journalists need not he respected as journalists, and he was absolutely correct in this. Indeed, no newspaper that isn’t able to discern that an editorial like the one yesterday regrading Spicer makes it look like a partisan hackery shop should be respected at all. Spicer was a really bad spokesman—inarticulate, inept, dishonest and not very bright. Nonetheless, he was trying to do a difficult job, did his best, and was no more nor less awful at it than all but a few Presidential press secretaries over the last half century or so. Only Spicer, however, was deemed deserving of such insults at the end, not even Ron Ziegler, Nixon’s complicit press secretary who looked and sounded like a half-successful laboratory clone of his boss. That is because the Times’ editorial was personal, based on emotion and anger, and an ethics alarms void.

3. This story from Canada reads like it was designed to illustrate the folly of giving government more power over our lives rather than less. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Professions, U.S. Society

Ethics Observations On The Florida Teens And The Drowning Man

The story from Florida about the five teenage boys who took a video of a man who drowned as they laughed and mocked him, never calling for help or alerting authorities, isn’t one of the apathetic bystander episodes that Ethics Alarms has discussed in the past. This is something worse, an episode that raises troubling questions about what kind of culture and society could produce young men so cruel and callous. One has to wonder how society can trust these young men, so obviously devoid of ethics alarms or conscience at such a young age….except that most of us will never know who they are, since their names have been withheld from publication because they are minors.

Meanwhile, the basic ethics question “What’s going on here?” is especially difficult. The episode naturally sparks such an emotional response that reason and analysis have a hard time clawing their way to the front. I’ve been pondering the story since it was publicized, and I still find it disorienting.

Here are some comments and observations, perhaps more random and disjointed than they ought to be: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

Pro Football Finally Gets An Ethics Call Right!

 

So, naturally, it is being attacked.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame invites every Hall of Famer to its annual enshrinement ceremony  When asked whether O.J. Simpson, the acquitted double-killer and the newly paroled convicted burglar/kidnapper who was enshrined in 1985, will be invited to the next ceremony, the Hall of Fame told ESPN, “All Hall of Famers are invited to attend the annual enshrinement.”

This is the Bill Cosby bust story in reverse. Like Cosby, O.J.’s honor was earned before his character issues were known, and in Simpson’s case, before he embarked on an avocation as as a knife murderer. The honor was based entirely on what Simpson did on the football field, and nothing he can do subsequently can change that record, which was and is deserving of recognition. It would be a different question (though, I believe, demanding the same result) if Simpson were a member of baseball’s Hall of Fame, which has a character requirement. Not pro football. O.J. is the only murderer, but felons abound. One of the greatest running backs ever, Jim Brown, repeatedly beta up his girl friends, and that was before he was enshrined.

Has Simpson embarrassed his league, his sport and the Hall? Sure he has. Is he a pariah in the NFL? Boy, I hope so. But no Hall of Fame should try to constantly re-qualify its members once they are admitted. What standards would justify de-busting? Universities like Princeton and Yale are doing too much of this kind of thing already. O.J. Simpson was a great football player. As the song says, they can’t take that away from him. Nor should they.

However, Simpson, being treated ethically by the Hall, should show his gratitude and respect it  by never darkening its door again.

 

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Filed under Character, Sports

Comments Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Low IQ Parents”

This happens some times: I announce a Comment of the Day, I’m delayed in posting it, and because the comment was so provocative, it attracts equally excellent comments. This time I’m going to eschew the awkward “Comment of the Day: Comment of the Day on the Comment of the Day route, and link the comments up in sequence, beginning with the initial COTD by valentine0486.

Here are sequential Comments of the Day on the Ethics Quiz, “The Low IQ Parents.” I’ve learned a lot already. The whole comment thread is excellent and you should read it; I’m starting ats valentine0486’s COTD

I worked for two years with developmentally disabled individuals within the range of these two people. And, as much as it is sad and as much as I generally don’t like it when government makes these decisions, I am absolutely 100% certain that none of the individuals I worked for could properly raise children. As such, the state’s actions here are ethical, if the reasoning is somewhat dubious.

Let me share with you just some brief highlights of my time working with this segment of the population. I will abbreviate their names, so as to protect their identities. Please note that all of these individuals had higher IQs than Amy, and they may have all been tested as higher than Eric Continue reading

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Love, Research and Scholarship, Romance and Relationships, Science & Technology