Grant’s Birthday Ethics, 10/27/2022…

On this date in 1994, a baby boy was born to an unmarried Russian girl, who gave him up for adoption. Six months later, my wife and I flew to a grim orphanage in Samara, Russia and engaged in a mad race to adopt the child renowned there as the healthiest infant in the place and get him out of the country before an already-passed ban on international adoptions went into effect. We made it by less than a day, but got Grant Viktor (his Russian name) Bowen Marshall home to Alexandria, Virginia. Here he has grown up to be an all-American male with little in common with his father except scorn for convention and a determination to do it, as Frank and Elvis sang, his way. I am very proud of him, and while most of my aspirations, dreams and projects have ended in disappointment or dust, getting him to these shores to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (in his case, automobiles) will be more than enough legacy for me.

Of course, the 27th of October also marks the banner day in 2004 when the Boston Red Sox, my obsession, burden and joy since I was 12 and the source of some my most strongly held ethical perspectives on character, fate, and what really matters in the losing battle called life, finally won the World Series, sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals after coming back from a 0-3 deficit to shock the New York Yankees, who richly deserved it. Grant said, during our household celebration, “Now I know you’ll never forget my birthday.”

He knows me well.

1. Memoir ethics breach: Mathew Perry. The “Friends” actor who has never really soared in his career since the long-time hit sitcom ended, has reached the state where writing a book about his addictions was the best remaining option. He wrote in it, among other observations shared by Variety and the New York Post,while remembering rising young actor River Phoenix whose life was cut short by a drug overdose, “River was a beautiful man, inside and out—too beautiful for this world, it turned out. It always seems to be the really talented guys who go down. Why is it that the original thinkers like River Pheonix and Heath Ledger die, but Keanu Reeves still walks among us?” For some reason admirers of Reeves, and probably the actor himself, though he hasn’t spoken up yet, had a problem with this. Social media began a full on assault. Perry, sensing impending pariah-hood, now says it was just a misunderstanding: “I’m actually a big fan of Keanu. I just chose a random name, my mistake,” Perry told People. “I apologize. I should have used my own name instead.” Right. He’s either an idiot for randomly choosing a star and colleague to denigrate for no good reason, or Perry is lying that it was truly random. Well, he can just blame it all on his addictions…

2. I forgot: in the previous post about the many unethical ways the Left is rallying desperately around John Fetterman, I neglected the rampant use of the worst of all rationalizations, #22 Comparative Virtue, or “It’s not the worst thing.” Many would-be defenders of Fetterman have pointed out that Georgia Republican Herschel Walker has been more or less incoherent on many occasions, and he can’t even claim a stroke as an excuse. No doubt, Walker is an awful candidate and frequently makes no sense, but his lack of fitness for the Senate doesn’t make Fetterman any more fit. A similar flawed theory was used to discredit MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell, who broke ranks with most of her colleagues by telling viewers the truth: Fetterman was very shaky in the debate. This tweeted reaction was typical of many angry MSNBC viewers: “Andrea Mitchell has an agenda. She degraded John Fetterman when talking about last nights debate. All about his stroke. What’s her excuse? She can’t find words when trying to form a sentence.”

So far, there hasn’t been an uptick in desperate media analysts noting that President Biden and Kamala Harris frequently make as little sense as many of Fetterman’s debate responses.

3. Too weird to factcheck? Speaking at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building yesterday, Biden announced “new actions to lower the cost of everyday living for American families, to put more money in the pockets of middle-income and working-class Americans, to hold big corporations accountable.” Sound like price-controls to me, if it indeed means anything. Then Biden declared, speaking of airlines for some reason:

“Some airlines, if you want six more inches between you and the seat in front, you pay more money. But you don’t know it until you purchase your ticket. Look, folks, these are junk fees. They’re unfair, and they hit marginalized Americans the hardest, especially low-income folks and people of color. They benefit big corporations, not consumers, not working families. And that changes now.”

Wait, what? Is he saying that people of color are taller than white people? How many ‘low-income folks” are flying? What is he talking about regarding the extra leg room being a hidden charge? That’s just not true. Why would the question of charges for leg room on air flights be a priority issue for the President’s cost controls? What does “that changes now” mean? Does now mean later? Eventually? Maybe?

4.Fake outrage…Rep. Mayra Flores (R-Texas) tried to join the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. She was denied, she tweeted Thursday, accusing the group of “bias.” The conservative media immediately began crying hypocrisy. But the Hispanic Caucus has long had bylaws prohibiting Republican members, and Republicans have their own group, the Congressional Hispanic Conference. This was like trying to join Mensa with an IQ of 98 and accusing the organization of discrimination when it rejects you.

5. I was right! Apparently the same debate we’ve been having on Ethics Alarms about whether actress Susan Sarandon was talking about Democrats or Republicans when she endorsed this meme…

…has been going on around the web and social media. I was right: she is criticizing the Democrats, and here’s the evidence: Tim Robbins, long her partner and political clone, just gave an interview in which he expressed horror at where the Democrats have gone. The timing is not a coincidence.

6. Oops! Another omission in the post about the news media spinning for Fetterman, and this one is a doozy. I was so focused on MSNBC’s “The Last Word” host Lawrence O’Donnell absurdly using a Democratic Senator who has had no ill-effects from a stroke to argue that John Fetterman will be just fine that I forgot to mention the most outrageous argument he floated:

“Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill had the good fortune to serve as the highest elected officials in their countries, long before television news could cover their every move and long before Twitter could have people pumping out of their instant reactions to their public appearances. Franklin Delano Roosevelt believed that it would be painful to watch him, being lifted in and out of a car by Secret Service agents so he never allowed cameras to capture that. Elaborate steps were taken when his train would arrive or depart so that he could be transferred from the car to the train, lifted in and out, without anyone seeing and without anyone thinking that it was painful to watch.”

A great high school critical thinking exercise could use that as a test. What’s wrong with this argument? I’d start with the folly of comparing two of the greatest orators in world history to John Fetterman. Then more on to the disingenuous comparison between FDR physical limitations and Fetterman’s cognitive problems. Being in a wheelchair didn’t handicap Roosevelt’s ability to lead at all. If he had sounded like Fetterman, though, he would have spent his middle years as just another rich guy in Hyde Park. Meanwhile, the thought of Winston Churchill debating a clod like Fetterman is too cruel to imagine.

20 thoughts on “Grant’s Birthday Ethics, 10/27/2022…

  1. Regarding #6, though:

    I will concede that FDR’s disability is not if the disqualifying nature that Fetterman’s is, but, if I recall correctly, the press covered for FDR by not covering his disability, which is still an indictment of the media.


    • They did, just like they covered for JFK’s many maladies. But in FDR’s case, that disability was viewed as undermining his leadership artificially, as Americans (and human beings generally) want leaders to look strong. It was packaging, no question….but smart of FDR, impossible today. I still see no legitimate parallel with a cognitive disability.

  2. 6. Here I thought they were going to say, “Churchill was a drunk and he led England to victory over the NAZIs, you know, those Germans, not Trump.”

  3. I define disability as a condition which renders the person unable to do the major aspects of some activity. FDR was not suffering from a disability that affected his ability to carry out the primary functions of the Presidency. I would be willing to vote for a blind quadriplegic if the individual had the cognitive and verbal capacities necessary for the job.

    I contend people who suffer from some congenital, accidental or war injury that impair some aspect of everyday life should work to focus other’s perceptions of them on their abilities and discard the notion of being disabled.

    • Legally, you are kind of mixing up a few things.

      “I define disability as a condition which renders the person unable to do the major aspects of some activity.”

      Absolutely right.

      “FDR was not suffering from a disability that affected his ability to carry out the primary functions of the Presidency.”

      Not quite the standard. Legally (according to the law nowadays), he was disabled but could perform his job with reasonable accommodations.

      The problem with Fetterman (or Woodrow Wilson) is that no reasonable accommodation would permit them to perform their job adequately.

      There may be situations where Fetterman could adequately work with closed-captioned assistance. But, not as a US Senator.


      • John

        I would say we are in complete agreement but I need to clarify a minor point. When it comes to reasonable accommodations I treat that as providing a modest physical aid to permit the he person to be able to demonstrate his or her capacity to perform the major aspects of the work. A wheelchair, a ramp or a special desk is merely a work aid that permits an opportunity to demonstrate one’s talents. No amount of physical aids will alter one’s incapacity to make sound judgements due to some disability. Reasonable accommodations have to be just that reasonable. A Senator that cannot process information is no different than a quadriplegic tower climber. No amount of aids can overcome the disability so it is imperative that those with disabilities endeavor to focus on building and marketing those personal abilities in which the can excel.
        We as a whole need to stop looking at people as disabled and start assuming they have skills that have value. That means we have to be willing give people a chance while also willing to tell some people they should focus their skills elsewhere so that they can excel. Nor should we overlook an inability to perform well because we feel compassion for their “disability”.
        We all have some limitation on our abilities that preclude working in various occupations and we all have abilities that can be developed to maximize our potential.

          • Maybe. Unfortunately one of the major elements of the job is to create an appearance of strength. That would be hard for him given his frail appearance. When it comes to “leaders” we have created certain expectations that few possess.
            If Hawking were running for Senate and if his ideas were in line with mine I would not have an issue with his incapacity to be mobile.

            • Going back to your previous statement, it could also be argued that while the provisions for Hawking’s ability to communicate were suitable for his field, they would not be optimal for the level of communication expected from the president.

              • Well, “not optimal for the level of communication expected from the president” would also apply to…let’s see…Biden, Trump, both Bushes, Carter, Ford, and LBJ in the TV era. I’d rather listen to Hawking’s electronic voice than any of them.

                • Heh, considered that but went with the lowest first bar, ability to produce a string of words in a relatively normal (or entertaining) and timely enough manner to engage and hold an audience. We can hope that coherence and logic follow, but the best message in the world will suffer without an audience that sticks around to hear it.

  4. And since you mention the Red Sox, The World Series starts in 18 hours and 57 minutes, not that anyone is counting……

    I was stunned to see that 4 of 6 CBS sports writers picked the Phillies to win. I mean, Houston has struggled so much in the playoffs to do, how could anyone think they had a chance?

    I am puzzled, though — I wonder why MLB decided to have games 1&2 and 6&7 played on Friday/Saturday evenings rather than Saturday/Sunday. Do we think Friday night’s a better sports night than Sunday?

  5. Happy birthday to Grant, and congrats to you and Mrs. M for saving a kid!

    #3: WTH? Is SloJoe channeling Fetterman, now? (Or is it the other way around? How would anyone tell?) Hope nobody tells him that you have to pay more if you want two scoops of ice cream in your cone instead of just one. If I see an “ethnicity” box in my reservation booking, and airlines start handing out premium seating to minorities, I’m going to identify as aboriginal American.

    #5: Sarandon’s former partner, late to a realization that has been obvious to many for years, now regrets that he caused harm with his intolerance, and doesn’t mention her at all. Sorry, Jack, that probably won’t convince either side until they hear some unambiguous clarification from her.

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