Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/28/2019: I See Stupid People…Also Unethical People, “Best People,” Short People, And Wise People

Good Morning!

Ah! After a long, long weekend, I feel wefweshed!

1. “The best people,” (cont.):  Ugh.

a) From the Wall Street Journal:

“Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has retained shares in a construction-materials company more than a year after the date she promised to relinquish them.Shares of the company, Vulcan Materials Co. , the country’s largest supplier of the crushed stone, sand and gravel used in road-paving and building, have risen nearly 13% since April 2018, the month in which Ms. Chao said she would be cashed out of the stock, netting her a more than $40,000 gain.”

I have a personal bias against Chao, which I have described before, so I’ll just leave this as a res ipsa loquitur item. Her husband, of course, is GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell.

b) I would rank Chao as more palatable than this hack, however, who should be fired outright, and kicked on her way out the door.

In an apparent attempt to show that Dr. Ben Carson, HUD Secretary because he is black and was nice to Donald Trump during the GOP debates, is NOT the most unqualified official at his department,  HUD regional administrator Lynne Patton defended Carson’s cringingly inept recent performance (“Is there any other kind?” Jack Nicholson’s Colonel Jessup  might ask) before Congress  by retweeting a message praising Dr. Ben while mocking Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Then she  took to Facebook to say  that her comment “may be a Hatch violation. It may not be. Either way, I honestly don’t care anymore.”

Nice. A government official who announces publicly that she doesn’t care if she violates the law! Then she responded to criticism of that post with a classy tweet that said, “What part about “I don’t give a shit” don’t you understand? “

“The best people.” You could throw a rock into a crowd and have a good chance of finding better people for government service than Patton. If you are keeping score, the ethics breaches here are all six “Pillars of Character”— Trustworthiness, Responsibility, Fairness, Respect, Caring and Citizenship, distributed among Patton, HUD, and the President. You can’t do much worse.

2. Although maybe this guy would be worse…At a college baseball game in Iowa, a large adult male fought a little boy for a foul ball souvenir in the stands, then celebrated his triumph. What an asshole. For some reason YouTube doesn’t have the clip, limiting my posting options. You can see the episode here.

And here’s blogger Kyle Koster, straining to get clicks with a perverse post titled, “Good for the Iowa Fan Who Took A Foul Ball From a Kid.”

Not only is his argument ethically inert, it’s impossible to tell if he’s serious, making the piece incompetent as well as obnoxious. I’ll flag the rationalizations, and you can refresh your memory on the list.

  • “If the Buckeyes kid wanted a foul ball so badly, he should have been quicker.”

36. Victim Blindness, or “They/He/She/ You should have seen it coming.”

  • “And let’s not act like the newest public enemy here snatched the ball out of a kid’s hands or anything.”

22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”

  • “Sure, it would have been nice if he’d offered his younger competition the ball, but he is not bound to do so.”

4. Marion Barry’s Misdirection, or “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical.

  • “But look, I have kids and they literally get what they want all the time. Meanwhile my life is miserable in comparison and snagging a baseball would do wonders to boost the spirit. Afterward, yeah, I’ll give it to a youngster but I will not be denied the specific thrill. I have so little.”

11. (a)”I deserve this! or “Just this once!”

My only question: who is the bigger Ethics Dunce, Koster, or the guy who grabbed the ball?

3. Now THIS is an incompetent criminal. Also an incredible boob. Cameron Jeffrey Wilson, 27, tried to tuck his illegal pistol  in his front pocket and accidentally shot himself in  the testicles and the thigh. Wilson, who has been convicted of 13 felonies, asked his girlfriend, who only dates the best people,  to drive him  to the hospital, stopping off to leave the gun with a friend,  since  it’s illegal for a convicted felon to possess a firearm.

During the surgery on his wound at  Central Washington Hospital, a balloon of marijuana slipped out of Wilson’s rectum. As required by law, the hospital notified police regarding Wilson’s gunshot wound, so the cops got a warrant to  search his car, whereupon they found a bag of methamphetamines as well as  the blood-stained jeans from when he had shot himself, evidence that he had possessed the gun that shot him.

The police issued an arrest warrant on suspicion of a second-degree felon in possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of meth. Wilson, a good citizen after all,  turned himself in. While he was being strip-searched,  a second balloon of marijuana fell out of his ass.

What we have here is someone who is incompetent at his chosen profession.

4. An example of brilliant non-traditional casting! Peter Dinklage, the talented Little Person who was a memorable performer in “Game of Thrones” among his other acting assignments, will be playing the title role in “Cyrano.” a musical adaptation of the famous Rostand play, “Cyrano de Bergerac” the production will be  directed by Erica Schmidt, Dinklage’s wife, in New York City’s  the New Group theater company’s  2019-2020.

Naturally, the original’s romantic handicap of an alarmingly big nose will be replaced in the adaptation by an extreme lack of height. Yet this shouldn’t change the substance and message of the play at all, and it gives a terrific actor a shot at an iconic role that once would be considered beyond his reach. What a wonderful idea.

5. Some final ethical quotes from Bill Buckner. Today’s Times has two quotes from the late Bill Buckner, whom I wrote about yesterday.

“I don’t think that in society in general that’s the way we should operate. What are you teaching kids? Not to try because if you don’t succeed then you’re going to be buried, so don’t try?”

“There could be somebody in my shoes who would think that life sucks. I chose to look at it that life is great. You can make those choices. Everyone in life has things that don’t go according to plan.”


26 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/28/2019: I See Stupid People…Also Unethical People, “Best People,” Short People, And Wise People

  1. Re: 5:

    I’m reminded of two quotes, “‘Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.’
    ~ Homer Simpson It’s a lousy way to go through life, though I can see Homer grabbing a foul ball over his kids’ hands.

    And my favorite quote of the day:

    “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.”
    ~Theodore Roosevelt.

    • Maybe in deference to Bill Buckner, we should go easy on the guy in Number 3? Maybe he’s trying his best? A Jewish friend once told me we should always assume people are doing their best. Interesting, huh?

  2. I watched the video of the guy fighting the kid for the ball and that’s not at all what happened. I slowed it down and the guy just got there first. The kid literally had to dive from the aisle to make it even close. Sorry the cute kid didn’t get the ball but people are 100% making this out to be something that it’s not. He didn’t ‘take it from the kids hands’, he didn’t fight the kid for it, near as I can tell he didn’t even touch the kid. I also dont see any particular ethical obligation to give the kid the ball. Maybe the old guy wanted to give the ball to his own dying grandson, maybe he’s been going to games all his life and never gotten a foul ball before and thats why he cheered, maybe he’s just a curmudgeon that kicks puppies and cackles, maybe he’s just an excitable dude going after a snap judgment in a split second scenario… Trick suppositions – it doesn’t matter because in this case everything other than who got there first is clearly emotional ick. And from the video evidence at hand the guy got there first.

      • Watched them all. The guy’s body motion was a snatch by any interpretation, and then he seemed to engage in taunting. We can’t see the whole thing, but based on the video, the man was there first, the kid arrived, got his hand on the ball, and the gut quickly snatched it away. I can see that part happening as a reflex, but when he saw it was a kid, the natural thing would have been to give him the ball–it wasn’t even a pro game: who is more likely to have ause for a baseball? The hands in the air stuff was what undoubtedly ticked everyone off.

        • The outrage is cultural, and out of the same impulse that makes the old commercial with Mean Joe Green giving a coca-cola donating kid his football jersey such a great moment: Kids have to be given encouragement by those in their lives, and when they succeed, they should be rewarded.

          This is a nice sentiment, but more of a Hallmark moment than what normally happen in real life. This denial of the sentiment causes the outrage.

        • I won’t re-count my ball-grabbing story (wait…what?), as I told it here all too recently.

          In my case, the kid was not even close. He just came over because he wanted to see it and hold it. We gave it to him. Of course, if I had been with my son, I would have kept it for him. As it was, my partner and I had no use for it. My son would not have gotten a thrill from a ball that appeared out of nowhere. He did not have the thrill of being there. The kid who got it will very likely remember that day for a long time. Even if he forgets the game, he may remember that ball.

          [Could insert my story of my first baseball game, but it is only tangentially relevant.]

          Anyway, with respect to the post; fine with him getting the ball; fine with him celebrating; not giving it to the kid is a whole different issue. Maybe he had no obligation to, but it’s a baseball. There may be excuses that could justify it (dying grandson), but they are not obvious. (Also, I am not about to speculate as to them; I HATE it when people infer intentions and mindsets about people with absolutely no foundation (see Nick Sandmann)).


          • “not giving it to the kid is a whole different issue. Maybe he had no obligation to, but it’s a baseball.”

            This, to me, sounds like either… “Maybe he had no obligation to, but he had an obligation to” or “Maybe he had no obligation to, but it’s not a big deal [to give up the ball]”. If it’s the first – that’s self defeating. If it’s the second – so what? The question is whether or not he had a reasonable ethical obligation to give the kid the ball. To which the clear answer is ‘no’ and absent an ethical obligation we can’t say he’s a jerk. At worst, he’s just not being as nice as we’d want him to be – it’s certainly not a case of him failing to do something that’s ethically required.

            • I don’t have sufficient time to respond fully, but will shoot my mouth off anyway:

              The idea is that he is an adult; the other person is a child. I would expect different things of the adult than I would of the child, as it relates to priorities.

              Somehow, the ball fits that criteria. Absent some real reason (and there could be legitimate reasons), the ball should be a “nothing” to a adult.

              I know: not a great response, but all I have time for now.


            • Okay, so he uses his superior physical ability as a grownup to take a ball that would otherwise have likely gone to a kid.

              Let me see … “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” That’s the applicable standard here. He not only failed it, he rubbed it in by celebrating.

              I call that a jerk. Your mileage may vary.

              • IYoure normally smarter than this Gelnn.

                f you think the the old dude has superior physical abilities then you didn’t watch the video. He’s very clearly some combination of geriatric and obese. The kid is in the prime of his exuberant youth. The old man also didn’t take anything – unless you have evidence to support the fact that the kid had the ball in his hands first… See my comment below to Jack – the balance of evidence very clearly favors the old man getting the ball first. Also winning is not taking. You’re misrepresenting them. “If only the other soccer team hadn’t played so hard we would have won. They took that victory from us! Practically stole it – the jerks.” Thats you. That’s what you sound like. It’s absurd to conflate the two.

                Speaking of absurdity your golden rule test failed a basic absurdity standard. How exactly did he not do unto others what he wanted done unto him? Is the act in question letting little kids have their way when it matters to them? How is that not the heckler’s veto writ large upon ethics? Anytime a kid would be disappointed by your actions your ethically bound to bend over backwards and let them have their way? Ya know because golden rule or whatever? How absurd. The real golden rule interpretation is not “When I was a kid I would have wanted the ball so I should have let him have the ball” it’s “If I got to the ball first I should be allowed to keep the ball without everyone vilifying me because I had the bad moral luck to be closer to the ball than an excited child”.

                The only jerks here are people misrepresenting this guys actions. Saying that he fought the kid or took the ball from him when the evidence at hand cannot possibly prove that interpretation. Everything else is pure ‘ick’ because people like to see little kids happy – that’s not a valid ethical standard by which to judge the rightness and wrongness of actions.

                • Phone typed and transferred so it’ll have a ot of typos but *shrug* see my previous notes about compressed commenting timelines and me not trying to spend multiple hours editing comments. I’m limiting myself to 30 mins tops. if the quality suffers – so be it. Better to have a editing fails then drop off entirely.

                • Again, I think you’re bending over backwards to give the benefit of the doubt to someone who doesn’t deserve it. There’s a reason the vast, vast, overwhelming majority of viewers of the video were repulsed by the guys conduct: it was repulsive on its face. It was Kramer beating up a 10-year-old in Karate class. You have to maintain the the guy didn’t realize the kid was his competition to justify the post-ball celebration.

                  The Golden Rule presumes placing oneself in the other individual’s shoes: if I were a kid, how would I want an adult to treat me? Wanting a ball isn’t “wanting to have one’s own way,” it is something that children reasonably care more about than rational adults, and thus are deferred to by ethical adults. The “taking candy from a baby” line comes to mind.

                  An ethical adult lets the kid get the ball, or gives it to him afterwards. Not doing so is uncaring and selfish.

                • Youre normally smarter than this Gelnn.

                  With due respect, I don’t respond well to condescension.

                  See my comment below to Jack – the balance of evidence very clearly favors the old man getting the ball first. Also winning is not taking.

                  While technically correct, can you imagine “winning” by, in the case of a tie, the old guy wresting the ball away from the kid? That’s not taking, right? By your logic, he would be equally entitled, and would’ve won it by being stronger.

                  My view is that such souvenirs should be ceded to young people if the kids want them. It’s the polite thing to do, and if I were a kid, I’d be thankful for such a gesture. Plus, it demonstrates to young people the way polite society behaves. That’s both an ethical value and a virtuous lesson. It also demonstrates kindness, integrity, and empathy. Simply winning does none of that.

                  How exactly did he not do unto others what he wanted done unto him?

                  Is this the appropriate time for me to use a “you’re usually smarter than this…” comment? No, of course not, because I don’t disrespect you enough to condescend.

                  If I were a young person trying to get my first baseball, I’d be thankful for an adult who helped me. In my mind, the older man failed to put himself in the place of the kid he “won” the ball from. That’s not a misapprehension of the Golden Rule as you suggest, but an empathetic understanding of what it means.

                  The only jerks here are people misrepresenting this guys actions.

                  Indeed? Well, in my view the guy was wrong, and a jerk. You’ve done nothing to change my mind on that.

        • You can snatch a ball off the ground – it doesn’t have to be in someones hands for your movements to be classified as a snatch. The snatching motion is a natural reaction to any possibly contested contact. I also don’t know how you can be comfortable saying that the kid had the ball in his hands. The video very clearly does not show who put hands on it first but the balance of evidence strongly favors the older guy. He got there first, had a superior angle of play, and his arm doesn’t appear to make any visible deviation that would indicate contact with the kid. If the kid got there first you’d expect his arm to jerk or make some kind of janky movement as he hits the kids resistance. He doesn’t, the arm motion is smooth. You’re stating as fact something that cannot be proven to be fact and is the opposite of the reasonable interpretation of the video evidence.

          For context on my language and interpretation – I play a sport where this kind of thing is analyzed and argued routinely.

  3. 1. The best people

    If you are keeping score, the ethics breaches here are all six “Pillars of Character”— Trustworthiness, Responsibility, Fairness, Respect, Caring and Citizenship, distributed among Patton, HUD, and the President. You can’t do much worse.

    So what you’re saying is that he has character, it’s just really, really bad character.

    I’d agree.

    2. Worse

    So we see a Golden Rule violation of the first order, and a guy steps up to defend the offender with the lamest possible rationalizations.

    I’d vote for worse.

    3. Ass marijuana

    I’m speechless. A guy that is an incompetent criminal should maybe try being a custodial engineer, and it sounds like he might get plenty of relevant training in an orange jumpsuit in some median somewhere.

    4. Dwarf Cyrano

    I think it will be charming. The guy was one of the most interesting characters on GOT.

    • Also on #3, a real crook would’ve dug the bullet out of his thigh with the knife, heated that same knife until red-hot and cauterized both wounds, and put a couple of stitches in himself while smoking the butt-pot to ease his discomfort.

      Then he would’ve put stealing a good holster high on his next acts of crime.

      This guy was just a girlie-man. 🙂

    • (1) What if this is a case of this is the best person? What if these are the best people we have in the government? Look at the last 4 or 5 directors of the FBI. What about the deputy directors? How many had to resign once they got enough publicity for people to realize what they were doing?

      • Perhaps it is impossible to serve ethically in government these days. I don’t see how, but that argument can certainly be made based on the evidence.

        I think, though, that the bad apples are just so damn rotten that we can’t help but be biased…

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