Category Archives: Daily Life

A Life Ethics Lesson: The Washington Nationals And The Duty To Improve

Tex Ritter’s much-covered recording about the soldier whose deck of cards reminded him of the Bible has a parallel for me in the relationship of baseball to ethics. Like cards, baseball is a pastime, a game, but if you pay attention, there are profound lessons in ethics to be gleaned from the history, characters, and events of the game. In my official bio that I use for speaking engagements, I suggest that intensely following the travails of the Boston Red Sox since I was 12 was a major factor in sparking my lifelong interest and fascination with ethics. And it is true.

I live in the Washington, D.C. area now (unfortunately), and the local team is the Montreal Expos in exile, the Washington Nationals. The Nats’ mission is to bring Washington its first MLB World Championship since Walter Johnson was pitching and Coolidge was President. So far this goal has been elusive. That 1924 World Series-winning team, with the best names any team has had ever (Muddy Ruel, Ossie Bluege, Goose Goslin, Joe Judge, Nemo Liebold, Firpo Marberry, Mule Shirley, Pinky Hargrave, Curly Ogden, and more) has faded into forgetfulness while two Washington Senators franchises fled (to become the Minnesota Twins and the Texas Rangers, respectively) after decades of failure. The Washington Nationals, not nick-named Senators on the theory that the name was cursed, have proven cursed themselves. Despite having won more games over the last five seasons than any National League team, and having won the National League Eastern Division three times, the team has never sniffed the World Series, having lost repeatedly in the first round of the play-offs.

This season the Nats were loaded from the start, and even after terrible injuries to two of their best players, they have the best offense in the league, the best hitter (Bryce Harper) and arguably the best starting pitcher (Max Scherzer).  They are also in a lousy division where they don’t need to be great to win it without breaking a sweat.

But like the gorgeous woman with a wart on her nose, there is an obvious imperfection. The Nationals have no closer, that pitching specialist whose job is to get the last three outs (and sometimes more) to lock down victory in a close game.  This is not a new development, by any means. After the team decided to let last season’s (excellent) closer to leave via free agency, fans and sportswriters wondered how and when the team would replace him. One by one all of the established closers available by trade and free agency were snapped up, and it became clear that the Nationals ownership’s position was, “Never mind. The team is good enough. Maybe we’ll get lucky and some pitcher will surprse us, but even if we don’t, this team is good enough to win anyway. And we can save ourselves a bunch of money.Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Daily Life, Ethics Dunces

Over At “The Ethicist,” An Off-The-Wall Ethics Question Gets An Even More Off-The-Wall Answer

I don’t have many opportunities to take issue with the current writer of The New York Times Magazine’s “The Ethicist” column, because he, unlike his predecessors, really is one, and doesn’t come up with whoppers like they used. Professor Appiah had some “Bonus Advice” this week, however, from a Judge John Hodgman. The judge reminded me of those halcyon days when “The Ethicist” was good for a couple of Ethics Alarms attacks a month. Good times!

First, the question:

My roommate takes long, casual phone calls while on the toilet. I have tried explaining why this behavior is creepy and rude to the person he is talking to, as they do not know they are talking to someone who is going to the bathroom. He thinks it’s actually rude when people don’t answer phone calls simply because they’re in the bathroom.

Wait…what? WHAT?

It is impossible to be secretly rude. It has no effect on the person on the other end of the line if you are naked, making faces, or writing “I hate this idiot!” in the mirror in blood. Nor is it “creepy” to have a phone conversation on the toilet. I’m typing this while I’m on the toilet and wearing a duck on my head, and it’s nobody’s business but mine.

Nor is it rude to refuse to answer phone calls when one is in the bathroom. In fact, it is almost never rude to decline a phone call.  That bell is an  invitation to have a conversation, not a command. I don’t answer calls when I’m taking a nap, a shower, having a live, face-to-face conversation, writing an Ethics Alarms post, cooking, eating a meal, enjoying an orgy, or chopping up my victim after a murder. It’s my option, my time, and my schedule.

These two roommates are made for each other.

Now the judge’s response:

“Your roommate is quite wrong: What’s actually rude is people making phone calls in the first place. We have so many better ways to communicate now that do not involve repeating yourself constantly, saying the wrong thing under the gun and then realizing you’ve been talking for five minutes to a dropped call. Even the ringing of a good old landline is the intrusive announcement that either a) someone thinks you don’t deserve to choose how to spend your time, or b) someone you know has been killed or injured. If only to protect the meditative solitude of the bathroom act, your roommate should stop this habit, never mind the fact that it is just plain gross.”

Think about it: someone with this level of judgment is a judge.

1. We have better ways of communicating than talking to each other?

2. If someone doesn’t want to talk on the phone, they can turn the phone off.  They can have an unlisted number, or a cell phone number they only share with people they won’t think are rude when they call.  They can not have a phone at all. If you make it possible for people to call you when you don’t have to do so, people reasonably assume that you don’t mind being called. Calling too late or too early is inconsiderate, unless there is an emergency.  Robocalls and solicitor calls are intrusions. But a friend or relative “reaching out to touch someone” as the old Bell  long-distance ad sang? That’s rude? What’s the matter with this guy?

3. Let me rephrase that: What the HELL is the matter with this guy? We have to obey his rules for what we do in the bathroom? I read my baseball books in the bathroom…is that a violation of “meditative solitude’? How about having long discussions with my wife through the bathroom door—not sufficiently meditative? What’s happening on the toilet isn’t gross, but talking to someone who has no idea where you are and what you are doing is gross? I can be as gross as we want when the only witness is me, and there is absolutely nothing rude, inappropriate or unethical about it.

As long as I clean up afterward.

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Filed under Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Professions

Comment Of The Day (2): “Public Servant Ethics, Employment Ethics, Baseball Fan Ethics, And Senator John McCain”

The post about John McCain’s troubling performance during the Comey testimony inspired this thoughtful comment by dragin_dragon, a self-professed senior citizen (although I had no idea), on the related topic f officials knowing when age and/or infirmity create an ethical obligation to step down and retire in the interests of society. 

The confounding factor, and one that becomes a powerful rationalization for those who want to stay on in important positions long after their metaphorical pull-date, is that many of them can truthfully argue that their age-ravaged abilities are still better than most of the younger alternatives. Or, as my sister said during a discussion on this topic, “I’d rather have Justice Ginsberg with half her marbles than anyone Trump would nominate.”  I bet that’s how Justice Ginsberg is thinking too. Then there was that attorney with a drinking problem who everyone in the firm agreed was twice as good as any attorney in the firm when sober, and 50% better when drunk as a skunk.

Does that mean the firm should be satisfied if he’s drunk all the time? Isn’t this the same as the age diminished once-brilliant judge?

A topic for another time. Meanwhile, here is dragin_dragon’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Public Servant Ethics, Employment Ethics, Baseball Fan Ethics, And Senator John McCain”:

There comes a time in anyone’s life when it should be obvious that it is time to “Hang up the guns”. In my own life, I am but 71, and I am seeing numerous anomalies in my behavior (walking into a room and wondering why I am here) and in my rational thought (I suspect most who have read my comments sometimes have the same question). I am getting to where I lose debates to my wife on a regular basis (she’ll tell you I’ve always done that). More to the point, I am AWARE of the beginning deterioration. I am wondering if John McCain and Ruth Ginsberg are.

Another thought had occurred to me, however. After realizing that there was some slippage, I have refused an opportunity to run for Alderman and for Mayor of our little newly-incorporated city, because I honestly did not feel I would be able to do the job, either of them, justice, either mentally (what’d you say my name was again?) or physically. I’m winded some mornings after tying my shoe-laces. However, I am reasonably certain that narcissism plays little part in my personality. I suspect it is a BIG part of most elected officials (city, county, state, national) personalities. The idea being “Nobody but ME can do this job properly”, or in some cases, “Nobody but me can do this job, period, well or poorly.” Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership, Professions, Workplace

Reviving The Ethics Canary At The 7-11

Uncharacteristically, I began the day with a visit to my local 7-11, as we realized that the Marshalls were out of coffee and half-and-half. The perilous non-caffeinated drive was aided by the new  Sirius-XM Beatles Channel, which now follows the excellent policy of loading up the waking-up hours with early Fab Four classics, so I was safely stimulated  by joyous songs like “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Eight Days a Week.”

The 7-11 was mobbed, as it usually is in the morning, and the line was very long. I noticed that the customers were filing past the register and the single clerk on duty almost wordlessly. Many were wearing earphones, and those who were not looked down at the counter and silently handed over their money. The clerk, a young Hispanic-American man whom I had never seen there before, was similarly unengaged, not speaking to anyone,  looking down and sullen.

This is not healthy for a community. The lack of what once was considered the normal, friendly, social interaction at a central gathering place is yet another ethics canary dying in society’s mine.

When the line got to me, I tried something bold: I looked at the young man and said, “How are you today?”  He actually shook his head quickly like a cartoon character  who sees something stunning. “Me? Good! How are you?” he said in halting English. Now he was smiling and making a connection with another human being. “I’m good,” I said.”It’s a beautiful day. When  do you get off?”

“Eleven o’clock…long day,” he said, rolling his eyes. (Holy crap!) “Have a good day, man. Thanks.”

I have to believe that simple, polite, daily contact and conversation among people can perform wonders returning mutual respect and civility to our nation, and even our civic discourse. This was a prominent habit of my father, who often treated strangers like old friends, much to the embarrassment of my mother, who tended to regard anyone who wasn’t Greek as a space alien.

Too often, I realize, when I am tired, preoccupied, stressed and in a hurry, I fail to extend to those I encounter in the random chaos of life the basic courtesy of looking them in the eye, showing that I think they matter and are every bit as important as I am (for they are), and making what may be the only time the two of us share a moment in our lives a pleasant interlude. That young man’s smile this morning should remind me, at such times, that this simple and painless gesture, repeated enough times by enough of us, can heal many of society’s self-inflicted wounds.

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Filed under Citizenship, Daily Life, U.S. Society

Comment Of The Day (1): “Comment Of The Day: ‘Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: Old Town Sport And Health in Alexandria,VA. Why? Because White Nationalists Have A Right To Work Out Too’”

 

Suddenly there is a bumper crop of Comments of the Day on Ethics Alarms; two more are slated for re-publication today, both in response to Spartan’s provocative opinion that she would leave a gym that allowed white supremacist Richard Spencer work out there, even if he restrained his urge to heil. 

First up is Mrs Q, a relatively recent addition to the ethics colloquy here, and one who has distinguished her self quickly for non-nonsense posts of clarity and purpose. Her reference in this post to the “socialist shithole” of Portland was especially timely: yesterday we learned that the city’s social justice warriors had driven a local burrito business to close for the offense of “cultural appropriation.”

Here is Mrs. Q’s Comment of the Day on the post, Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: Old Town Sport And Health in Alexandria,VA. Why? Because White Nationalists Have A Right To Work Out Too”:

…In my mind I don’t see myself as a quadruple minority. Yes my skin color is brown, I’m a lady married to a lady, work from home due to disability…but I don’t think of myself in terms of “special classes.” I’m probably more like a country conservative old school hippy stuck in a socialist shithole (Portland OR). However how do you think many of the young white liberals here tend to treat me? Well some dismiss me because I don’t agree with their stances. I’m called a traitor or “uncle Tom” by those who speak “anti-racism” because I don’t see myself as a victim & have no problem with people thinking so-called racist thoughts.

Continue reading

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Love, Race, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, U.S. Society

Ethics Alarm Check: What Do You Do If You Get A Text Like This One From A Close Friend?

Hypothetical:

A friend asks via text:

“What you do if you knew a friend was trying to commit suicide?”

You text back,

“Talk them out of it”

Then he texts you…

“The thing is i wanna help kill them. it be awesome. seriously im going to help her. Its like getting away with murder! Im so fucked up. I’m seriously not joking. Its going down in about a week or two.”

This was the actual scenario preceding the suicide of a 16 year old girl (above. left) in Utah.

Hunters found the girl’s body hanging from a tree.  A can of industrial strength air duster and a cellphone were nearby, and the latter  contained a video of the girl’s death.

It showed the girl with a noose around her neck, standing on  on a rock. She inhaled the contents of the air duster can, lost consciousness, and fell off the rock, causing the noose to tighten and slowly strangle her. The video captures the ten minutes  it took the girl to die.

Tyerell Przybycien, 18, arrived at the scene to claim credit for the video, telling officers that he knew the girl and was with her when she died. He told detectives that he had a fascination with death and wanted to see what it was like to watch somebody perish.

Yes, it was Przybycien who wrote the text message to a friend.

There are other disturbing aspects to the story, but my professional interest is in the conduct of Przybycien’s friend. Let us eschew, for now, the question of why anyone would have a friend like this sicko in the first place.

We know the friend has at least rudimentary ethics alarms, since his first response, “Talk her out of it,” was the right one. After that, however, his ethics alarms died. Przybycien told him that he was planning on helping a girl kill herself because it would be a turn-on, and the friend did nothing to stop him…or at least did nothing that did stop him.

We can speculate endlessly about what would work and what would not, but this tragic scenario lands squarely in the realm of the Ethics Alarms principle, “If you are in a position to stop unethical conduct, stop it.” Here a life was involved, activating the coda, “Whatever it takes.”

What might some measures be that could fulfill this ethical imperative?

Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Law & Law Enforcement

Comment Of The Day (The Post Doesn’t Matter…)

This, from a never to be heard from again commenter named “Angel Sues::

this dumb stuff is lies… what next is the going to be a bird in my ice cream

Welcome to my world.

Unlike the many obscene, insulting, barely coherent comments I get, read and discard every day, this one haunts me. What the hell could it possibly mean?

Translations would be greatly appreciated.

Thank You.

 

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Daily Life