Abashed Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/28/17 [Updated]

Good Morning!

1 Following a day in which various exigencies and responsibilities, plus fatigue and distraction, caused me to whiff on getting up at least three posts I thought were worthy of consideration, yesterday I failed to get any up at all. This makes me very unhappy, and I apologize. A fly-in, fly-out assignment in New York City had me up early and back late, whereupon I had my son’s birthday to acknowledge, the World Series to scrutinize and some aching feet to attend to. Priorities can’t be ignored, and being able to recognize when something you want to do and are devoted to doing just cannot be done well in the time allowed is a matter of life competence. Yet I hate failing loyal readers who care about ethics issues and rely on Ethics Alarms to explore them, and feel negligent when this occurs…fortunately, not very often.

Still too often, however.

2. The emergence of Hollywood director James Toback as a serial sexual harasser (at least) had me preparing a post about why theatrical directors are especially prone to this conduct. The gist of it was that in college, where participation in theater is often more social than aesthetic, directors forming romantic relationships with their cast members is neither taboo nor typically exploitative. Similarly, in community theater such relationships are not unusual or unethical, unless they interfere with a director’s artistic duties: casting an inferior performer because she’s your girl friend or because you want her to be is per se unethical. These are the cultures that produce many directors, and they enter professional theater, and later films, with bad habits that cannot be tolerated or continued in a professional context. Similarly, performers also come out of that culture. It may be difficult for some of them to comprehend that what is arguably acceptable in amateur settings is becomes unconscionable in a professional one.

However, this cannot explain Toback’s conduct. An astounding 200 plus women now say they were harassed or assaulted by him, and the list filled up in less than week. Compared to Toback, Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby seem restrained.

Actress Selma Blair, for example, says her agent arranged for her to meet Toback for a possible role in one of his films after her career had begun with promise. Blair says the meeting was scheduled at a hotel restaurant, but  when she arrived the hostess told her that Toback wanted to meet in his hotel room. There, Toback asked her to perform a monologue nude, directed her to have sex with him, and said he would not let her leave until he “had release.” Then the actress says, he simulated sexual intercourse on her leg. 

I begin my sexual harassment seminars by stating that the problem is one of ethics. If you have respect for human beings regardless of gender, if you are fair to people you interact with, if you are caring toward them and obey the Golden Rule, if you apply the three basic ethics alarms checks (“Does this seem right? Could I tell my mother about this? Would I want this on the front page of my local newspaper?”), then you won’t be a harasser. But I can’t begin to explain how someone reaches the point of depravity and utter contempt for women that he would behave the way Blair describes Toback behaving. This is, to understate it, uncivilized. Was he raised by wolves? I suspect even wolves would be horrified by his behavior. My father never had to sit me down at 13 and say, “Jack, it’s time for a talk. It’s never right to simulate sexual intercourse on a woman’s leg when she has come to interview for a job.” I didn’t need to be told this. Who needs to be told this who isn’t already a dangerous sociopath?

Somehow, the culture of Hollywood devolved to such a state that abuse of power and women became a social norm, and even conventionally acculturated adults had their values erased and replaced. That is the only way the Tobacks and Weinsteins could come to exist. That culture is now too sick and entrenched to be wiped clean by a few scandals. It is going to take a long time to change it, if indeed it can be changed.

3. Even when I’m too tired and swamped to attend to ethics controversies, they seek me out anyway.  In last night’s World Series game, Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel slammed a Yu Darvish fastball down the left field line for a solo home run that sparked Houston’s winning rally.  In the dugout, exuberant after his success against the Dodgers starting pitcher, the child of a Japanese mother and an Iranian father,  Gurriel was caught by a Fox camera pulling his eyes into the burlesque sSlant-eyed” expression. (I bet you did it when you were about 7.)  See:

Reports say “he then appeared to say chinito, which translates to ‘little Chinese.’” I’ll take their word for it, but I saw the gesture, and I think  “appeared to say”  should be “appeared to say to three lip-readers familiar with Hispanic anti-Asian slurs.”

Now social media is on-fire with indignation, Asian-American groups are demanding Gurriel’s head, LA sportswriter want to use the episode to turn America against the Astros, the Commissioner of Baseball is saying that the incident will be investigated and that MLB will “consider discipline,”and ESPN is paying more attention to a player’s jerkish gesture when he forgot that he might be on camera than to the Series itself. But that’s ESPN.


  • Stipulated: It was an ugly, juvenile thing for Gurriel to do. He apologized after the game. This should not shadow his career and make him a pariah in the sport, in society, or for the rest of his career. There are people, however, who will try to make this single incident define him until the day he dies.

That is far more wrong than what he did, and far more significant.

  • Players have to learn that anything they do during a baseball game is likely to be caught on camera, and that they have a professional obligation to act accordingly. Thus some kind of significant fine from MLB is appropriate to make an example of Gurriel.

Conceding that, I will state again that I am uncomfortable when a communication between individuals is made public and then treated as if it was a public exchange rather than a private one. I am also troubled when a speaker faces substantive punishment for words and expressions not intended for everyone to see and hear. This is a threat to freedom of expression and a free society, and a slippery slope that I am loathe to see polished. I wrote about the issue, not for the first time, when Blue Jays centerfielder Kevin Pillar was suspended for calling a pitcher a “faggot” after Pillar was quick-pitched.

  • Darvish tweeted his official reaction, which was the correct and ethical one. He wrote,

“No one is perfect. That includes both you and I. What he had done today isn’t right, but I believe we should put our effort into learning rather than to accuse him. If we can take something from this, that is a giant step for mankind. Since we are living in such a wonderful world, let’s stay positive and move forward instead of focusing on anger. I’m counting on everyone’s big love.”

This would be how the episode would have been handled before political correctness and the concept that bigotry was the single most important problem in the world jointly ate our culture’s brains. Darvish would be gracious. Gurriel would apologize publicly and also to Darvish, in private. Guriel would learn. Player would remember to be civil, tasteful, and not to act like assholes during games. Parents would explain to their children that it’s not nice to mock racial characteristics, even in jest.

  • Later, after his ethical tweet, Darvish told Japanese sportswriters that Gurriel should be punished. This is called “talking out of both sides of your mouth” in any language. Where’s that big love, Yu?

UPDATE: Commissioner Rob Manfred suspended Gurriel for the first five games of next season, costing him, oh, $150,000 or so.  For making a racially demeaning gesture to a fellow player that was caught on camera. That he immediately apologized for.

Yes, I think that’s excessive, and extreme pandering by MLB.

4. I began yesterday’s ordeals by arriving at Reagan National Airport in plenty of time, only to find my flight, an American Airlines shuttle to LaGuardia, unlisted on the “Departures” boards. This caused me major anxiety, as it was a flight I had to make in order to arrive on time to hold my seminar. American’s flights are now scattered all over the place, so I began traveling up and down the terminal looking for some hint of where my flight was boarding, or if there even was a flight. The hunt took almost 30 minutes. By the time I got through security, I was just able to make it on time before the gate closed.

First, however, I had to ask the American employee at my gate why the heck I couldn’t find any information regarding my flight, and why I had to dash around panicked until I finally found an lone American agent who could point me to the right gate. The gate employee literally shrugged, and said, “That’s the airport. Yes, they weren’t listing our flights for some reason. American has nothing to do with that.”  No apology, no acknowledgment of responsibility.

What do you mean, “American has nothing to do with that”? It has everything to do with it. I paid my money to you, not the airport. My boarding pass has no gate on it; that means that you are letting me rely on the information I get when I arrive at the airport. I’m your customer; I’m not the airport’s customer. If the airport isn’t doing the job you have allowed to be delegated to it, then it’s your obligation to fix the problem so your customers, including me, are not penalized and inconvenienced, as I just was.

35 thoughts on “Abashed Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/28/17 [Updated]

    • That’s nice of you.

      You know, Ken at Popehat goes literally weeks without posting anything sometimes, and nobody peeps. AND the site gets a lot more traffic then this one does. AND when he does post, it might just be about ponies. There is no justice in the blogosphere…

      • I feel like Popehat has become more of a Twitter personality than a blogger at this point—he’s like your opposite: tweets all day, very few blog posts.

        • That’s interesting. Popehat also seems to have lost its co-bloggers. Marc Randazza, who is great, stops in now and then, but it’s mostly Ken, and he has a demanding law practice. He can tweet between appointments. A post takes an hour or more.

              • He didn’t. He gave one interview once, and announced through Popehat that he’d given it. I’d say it was a good interview, and you should watch it, but I wouldn’t want to be accused of promoting InfoWars.

              • Ah hell, I’m probably a Nazi already anyway.


                “I’ve never been the biggest fan of Infowars. I’m glad it’s there, but it wasn’t my thing. When I got asked to be a guest on it, I expected hostility.

                I have to say, the interviewer, David Knight, was better than any I’ve had on CNN, Fox, or any other mainstream media.

                Rather than recap it, I’ll just let you watch yourself.”

                “Marc Randazza: You Can Learn From People You Don’t Agree With”

                How…. Ironic.

                • ‘ How…. Ironic.’

                  I know.

                  This is the kind of thing I see from liberal friends, often! One ‘misstep’, whatever they declare a misstep, and that person is instantly persona non grata. Anyone right of center is always wrong, and as soon as someone is suspected, off with their head. Randazza gives one interview on Infowars and that’s it! He is never to be listened to again. It”s, in my opinion, extreme black-and-white thinking that keeps liberals in echo chambers. As I’ve said before, 99% of my Facebook feed is liberal (I have two known conservatives on my feed). so I can’t speak for how stubborn Republicans might be about sources…I once found a perfect list of all the times the press willfully twisted/truncated Trump’s statements during the election. I didn’t take that source’s word for it, but researched more than half his examples and could find them all with some digging, so I shared the source. No one would look at it because it wasn’t a source they approved of. If they don’t like that person, nothing that person ever says could possibly be true.

                  Mike Rowe is experiencing the same thing. Any time he makes a speech for a corporation(the time he did an ad for Walmart was one memorable instance) people dog pile him on FB, ‘how could you’,’I’ll never watch you again’; he takes the time to rebut these comments at times, and it’s always entertaining. ‘Liberals’ say that conservatives are stubborn, wear blinkers, etc but they are just as insistent on their views and sources, and are just as unbudging or more so. I can’t count the shunnings I’ve seen or heard about since last November. Look at the freedom they afford themselves to ridicule the President on his intellect, weight, posture, food choices, all things that are supposedly verboten as ‘fat shaming’ ‘ablist’ ‘lookist’ and a whole cornucopia of offenses when conservative does it. I’ve been shocked to the core by some of my friends’ scathing comments, as they are the exact opposite of the principles I’ve seen them advocating since I’ve known them. Who knew that those principles only applied to people they approved of, not everyone? ‘Do as I say, not as I do’, ‘Free speech for me, but not for thee’…after watching the vicious reactions to the election and the vitriol spewed daily, I wonder sometimes if I ever really knew these people.

                  • Randazza gives one interview on Infowars and that’s it! He is never to be listened to again.

                    Yes, one interview on a website that claims the Sandy Hook parents are lying about their children being murdered is enough to make someone not worth listening to ever again.

                    Please explain why that’s wrong.

                    • Because the interview can be justified as going into hostile territory and showing ’em up. Marc is a sharp, courageous, audacious lawyer. He doesn’t do this for money. There’s no harm in talking to anyone, as the previous President liked to say. He doesn’t promote Infowars by being interviewed there, and more than I endorse NPR when they interview me.

                      You are practicing the current unethical leftist tactic of discrediting potentially effective adversaries by tarring them with guilt by association and ad hominem attacks.

                      If someone shows they are stupid, intellectually dishonest, ignorant or hopelessly biased, then that individual is disqualified as a trustworthy pundit or analyst. Where they choose to do their analysis is irrelevant. I’d appear on Bill Maher’s show just to explain to him why he’s full of crap. Or Infowars. Brian Stelter is a complete and utter hack. I’d love to be interviewed by him. Sean Hannity? Let me at him. I did an appearance for O’Reilly. Unlike a lot of interviewers, he let me talk. When I talk, it doesn’t matter who else is in the studio.

                      Marc is beyond reproach; he has integrity, he’s quick and funny, and he knows his law and ethics. He also had the character to admit that I had a good point when I criticized a post of his…and that’s happened about once in a blue moon.

                      That’s why you’re wrong.

                    • ‘ on a website that claims ‘

                      Not Randazza’s opinion, though, right? Guilt by association?

                      Thank you for proving MY point.

                    • Because the interview can be justified as going into hostile territory and showing ’em up… I’d appear on Bill Maher’s show just to explain to him why he’s full of crap. Or Infowars.

                      That clearly was not the purpose or the outcome of this interview, though.

                • I have to say, the interviewer, David Knight, was better than any I’ve had on CNN, Fox, or any other mainstream media.

                  Yes, that’s called uncritically promoting the site. Thanks for proving my point.

                  • No, that’s called giving credit where credit is due. Where do you get “uncritically” out of that? Most interviewers are terrible. You know a good one? Commenter Arthur in Maine, who interviewed me numerous times on his radio show.

      • That’s true. I also know ken goes weeks without posting. In the year I have been reading you I don’t think you ever once failed to post something once a day. It was uncharacteristic of you and made me worry something had happened to you.

  1. From the LA Times: It’s not the worst thing, I guess? http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-dodgers-hernandez-20171027-story.html

    As Ann Althouse wondered, “It’s bad if it’s in English but not if it’s in Spanish?” So, let’s see. Cubans are oppressed by Imperialist America. But they were freed from the Spanish empire by the US. And the Spanish ran rampant throughout central and South America and the Phillipines. And the Japanese are victims of discrimination but they invaded China and tried to make it part of an Imperial Japan and slaughtered millions. And the Chinese don’t oppress anyone. Got it.

    I also have to say, the guy’s a ballplayer. His father father is the Mickey Mantle of Cuban baseball. Yuli has been a star his entire life. He’s actually on the downside of his career and his skills are evidently diminishing. All he’s done his entire life is play ball at a very high level among other highly skilled (and therefore pampered) ball players. These guys are one in a few million athletes. They don’t have degrees from Dartmouth or Yale (except for Ron Darling). And I doubt Ron took too many -studies courses in New Haven. This guy can play major league shortstop and hit major league pitching. People expect him to be acculturated to current lefty American standards as well? Hah! Give me a break.

  2. Yuli Gurriel…ah…can it be possible to have some sympathy for him? Gurriel played in Japan for a year and anyone who has explored the writings on Japanese baseball is well aware of how foreign players can be treated. Was this in his background? Is this payback? Is it just being an idiot? Sadaharu Oh was the greatest of all home run hitters and chinito. And Darvish is also a mixed breed to the Japanese. Is Gaijin usage derogatory? As far a Gurriel he has groveled so let it be.

    • ”Just don’t make a habit of it.”

      Words to live by!

      And exactly what my Parole Officer Father told me when he bailed me out the morning after the only night I ever spent in jail (03/10/1974), after imbibing too much (at a Foreign Legion Post, not less) & getting disorderly after winning our City League BB title.

      I don’t know who was more embarrassed: me very sheepishly disheveled & smelling like a brewery, or him having to say hello to all his co-workers as he escorted me out.

  3. Update: Gurriel suspended for the first 5 games of 2018 and to undergo sensitivity training in the off season.

    Manfred stated: ” I felt it was unfair to punish the other 24 players on the Astros’ roster. I wanted the burden to fall primarily on the wrongdoer. “

  4. I don’t believe the Selma Blair story about ‘simulated sexual intercourse on her leg’ – or not the way you tell it. Or not unlessTobak was menally deranged. Providing Hollywood turns out excellent films I don’t care much how they do it. There still seem to be plenty trying to get work. We’ll get change when Toback et al find that no-one with talent will attend their auditions, and we stop attending their films. I’m not holding my breath. It’s called ‘freedom’ and it’s how adults are supposed to operate.

      • Chris, your response is a lot more restrained than I would have been.

        Mine would have been along the lines of, “thats great..and no one cares that you don’t believe her. People can and will do awful things when provided with unchecked power and influence. I am not a feminist, and do not believe that every accusation of sexual assault should blindly be believed ‘just because’, but I absolutely believe Blair, and there are 300+ similar accusations to provide even the most skeptic critics with no real reason to not believe her. The dude is a monster, and not caring how films are made, when the stars of the films can be young, impressionable, and easily manipulated by those in power make me wonder about YOUR state of mind.”

        But thats just me.

        • It is good to run an ‘ethics alarm’, to think about ‘right and wrong’. I am quite happy to agree this guy appears to be a ‘jerk’ and ‘asshole’. But are you not also sensitive to ‘feeding frenzies’? ‘300+ similar accusations’ you say? And he also found time to make some outstanding films? Now I readily admit to having no experience of making blockbuster films. But I guess you can’t encourage great performances if the whole cast hates you?. There needs to be some empathy, and trust? I saw the wonderful process of female emancipation in the ‘west’ as being the acknowledgement that adult women should be acorded the same rights and responsibilities as adult men. That means amongst other things looking after yourself without playing the victim. Yes, there is ‘no crying in baseball’, and I believe my wonderful female friends and family would have it no other way.

  5. if you want to know more about the attitudes that enable those like Harvey Weinstein, see the comments here:

    “Excuse me?? Sexually assaulted him and then 2 or 3 days later he went back for more? That deserves a great big ‘ Atta boy!’
    Let her go, sheeesh.. All’s she did was give the kid bragging rights for the rest of his life!!”- one of the commenters

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