Category Archives: Ethics Heroes

From The “When Ethics Alarms Ring” Files: The Saga Of The Kind Repo Man

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Jim Ford is a repo man, the co-owner of Illini Recovery Inc., a company in Southern Illinois. Pat and Stanford Kipping were in arrears in the monthly payments for their car, a 1998 Buick, and he was engaged to repossess it.

The past due amount  was about $350, and the payment amount was $95 a month. The Kippings are elderly retirees, and when he met with them in their home, his task became more and more unpalatable. “I had to get the hell out of there,” he recalled. He was feeling more guilty by the second, and was especially bothered by their explanation that health care costs, especially rising prescription drug expenses, caused them to fall behind on their payments. Ford could see himself in that same dilemma some day.

The Golden Rule can be a bitch.

He felt so badly about taking the car that he stopped to phone a bank official only a block  or so after seizing the car, and asked if he could just pay off the whole loan on the couple’s behalf. That, he learned, would be a red tape nightmare. Instead, Ford followed a friend’s advice and  launched an online fundraising effort in his own name. That attracted support from Ford’s friends and business associates, and in about 24 hours, the appeal had raised the necessary amount, and more.

The Kippings got their car returned and completely paid for, along with an oil change, detailing, and repairs. They also received an extra $1,000, and the week of Thanksgiving, the gift of a turkey from Jim Ford and his friends. When Ford arrived to deliver the car, family members,neighbors and a reporter from a local paper were waiting to be part of the moment.

“They were really really happy,” Ford said. “I don’t know. I was just glad I could help somebody out.”

When ethics alarms ring, good things  happen.

 

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Ethics Hero: Bill Lee, “The Spaceman,” An Integrity Exemplar…And I Really Need One About Now

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If you weren’t a baseball fan in Boston during the Sixties and Seventies you may never have heard of Bill Lee, but if you were, he was an unforgettable and unique source of pleasure. Lee joined the Red Sox in 1969 as a junk-balling left-hander with a hippie streak not previously seen in the sport.  He was prone to say things like, “I think about the cosmic snowball theory. A few million years from now the sun will burn out and lose its gravitational pull. The earth will turn into a giant snowball and be hurled through space. When that happens it won’t matter if I get this guy out.”  The college students around Boston loved him, the old school baseball management types not so much. But he was good, and in major league baseball, good will always trump weird.

Lee was an excellent a reliever for four years before becoming a Sox starter in 1973, then won 17 games that season and the next two as well. The success was secondary for his often-stoned fans than his non-conformist attitude and determination to be himself at all costs. He was well-read, well-educated, opinionated and funny, and at various points in his Red Sox career, wore a gas mask, a coonskin cap and a propeller-topped beanie onto the field. Once, when the umpires refused to halt play in a downpour, Lee came out of the dugout wearing rain gear and carried an umbrella to the mound. This and other exploits caused him to be nicknamed “The Spaceman.”

Twice, once with the Red Sox and later with the Montreal Expos, Lee went on strike, refusing to play to protest the elimination of one of his friends from his team’s roster. The last time he did it, it ended his career.

Lee made up his own rules and principles, so he’s a different kind of Ethics Hero.  Above all else, however, the Spaceman has integrity down to a life-style. When he was at his zenith with the Red Sox, he often said that baseball was a still just a game to him, that it was what he loved to do, and that he didn’t care about the money. He would play baseball for whatever was available, he said, or just for the love of it. My father, who didn’t get Bill Lee, thought he was grandstanding.

He wasn’t. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Heroes, Health and Medicine, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, Professions

My Ethics Hero: Some Guy In The Harris Teeter Meat Section

I was doing some quick shopping yesterday at a large Harris Teeter supermarket in Alexandria, Virginia. My list from my wife included an option—always a doorway to a shopping confidence crisis—between a whole chicken, a small marinated chicken, or two large chicken breasts. I had decided on the marinated bird, but couldn’t find them where they usually were, and was more or less frozen, like the “hosts” in “Westworld” get when Anthony Hopkins wants them quiet, staring where I expected them to be.

“I’m going to buy one of them, the question is, which one?” a jaunty, relaxed voice close behind me said. At that moment I realized I had been staring at turkeys (I wasn’t there to buy one), and I turned around, not startled but curious, to face a broadly smiling, handsome, bearded African-American man about my age, probably a little younger.

“Isn’t it a little early?” I asked, smiling back. Being habitually disorganized, I am typically shopping  for everything the day before Thanksgiving.

“Oh, no, not for me!” he said, laughing. And he told me that he was going to cook up one or more turkeys for his church on Sunday. We talked about the ways he cooked his turkeys; he preferred to smoke them. He was also a grilling specialist. He took out his phone and showed me pictures of his specialty, ribs. We talked about his favorite recipes, and his church, his family, and its Thanksgiving plans, as I told him about mine. I mentioned that my wife was our traditional Thanksgiving chef, and that got the discussion turned around to marriage. We both have been married a long time, and he took me by the shoulders and talked intensely about commitment in relationships.

I had a twenty-minute conversation with this delightful stranger, just standing by the meat section. Finally, I announced  that I had to finish my assignment, and wished him wonderful holidays. I offered him my hand and introduced myself; he shook it firmly, and gave his name in return. Then we spontaneously hugged each other, which I never do, being from Boston and trained to be reticent in such intimacies, he flashed that terrific smile, and we parted.

My encounter with this exuberant gentleman suddenly made me feel good about life, my community, the country and the human race as I had not for a very long time. I think we’ll be all right. All that had happened was that a stranger just reached out and began a conversation about something two people shared, showing openness, kindness, human interest and trust, and a connection was made. That’s all it takes.

I start conversations with strangers a lot; it was something my father did. He was better at it than I am, and my friend in the Harris Teeter meat section is obviously a grandmaster. But as the holidays approach, and I keep reading these essays about families boycotting each other because of Trump-Clinton divides, it is so obvious that my dad and my turkey buddy are the wise ones.  We’re all just human beings together on a short and unpredictable trip: we should  just focus on that, and reach out.  Why is it so hard? Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: Stevie Van Zandt

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There is at least one liberal, Donald Trump-hating celebrity performer who has the integrity to insist that wrongful conduct is still wrongful regardless of the target.

Bruce Springstein guitarist Stevie Van Zandt, an inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (and a memorable actor on “The Sopranos”), used a series of tweets to criticize the cast of the musical “Hamilton” for targeting Vice-President Elect Mike Pence  from the stage when Pence was in the show’s audience. Van Zandt wrote:

“Lin-Manuel is a genius. He has created the greatest play since West Side Story. He is also a role model. This sets a terrible precedent…When artists perform the venue becomes your home. The audience are your guests. It is nothing short of the same bullying tactic[s] we rightly have criticized Trump for in the past. It’s taking unfair advantage of someone who thought they were a protected guest in your home…There never has been a more outspoken politically active artist than me. Everyone who is sane disagrees with [Pence’s] policies…He was their guest. You protect your guests. Don’t embarrass them.”

Boy, just wait, Stevie: now you’ll get all the good progressives explaining to you that Pence had it coming, that he doesn’t deserve to be treated like a guest, that these vile Republicans should be treated like they will treat others, that these are not ordinary times, that ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now, that the cast was nice about it (actually, I just saw the video, and they weren’t nice at all; they were strident and  confrontational), that everybody does it, that the ends justified the means, on and on. Just check the “Hamilton” defenders’ excuses on the threads here and here.

Van Zandt is 100% correct, of course, and courageous to oppose the approved unethical cant from the Left.  Unfortunately, most of his ideological mates have decided that standards of decency, respect, fairness and professionalism were suspended by an election result they disagreed with.

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Flashback: When Even Herb Block Was Gracious To The President Elect He Hated…

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I’ve referred to the cartoon above, from 1968, several times here. “Herblock” was a legendary, hard-line Democrat political cartoonist for the Washington Post, and reflected the styles and sensibilities of the old school in his field. Corporations and bankers were always fat guys in top hats and formal wear, “the poor” were always represented by thin, desperate Depression figures in tattered clothing. Liberals were always caricatured as dignified champions and Republicans were usually drawn to look like criminals and maniacs. Herb Block got more extreme as he aged: when Reagan won in 1980, Block drew a cartoon showing cave dwellers carrying clubs and troglodytes riding Mastodons marching into Washington.

He hated Nixon; all liberals did. He was regarded as just short of  Joe McCarthy by liberals, for he had won his House seat by tarring his opponent as a pro-Commie tool, and saved his tenure as Eisenhower’s VP by the infamous “Checkers” speech, as revolting an example of using sentimental hogwash to cloud a scandal as has ever been tried. The country was a tinderbox in 1968. Colleges had been engulfed in demonstrations, strikes and violence for two years. The Democratic National Convention sparked riots in the streets of Chicago. The Vietnam war was raging. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had both been assassinated. The young idealists who had followed those two liberal icons as well as non-conformist Democratic Senator Gene McCarthy were angry and disillusioned.

In part because of the intemperate “law and order” rhetoric of Nixon’s attack dog running mate, Spiro Agnew, some feared that Nixon’s ascent would mean martial law. Nixon had said that he had a “secret plan” for ending the war, and many thought that plan was to nuke North Vietnam. Ominously, Senator Barry Goldwater, whom Democrats had painted as an atom bomb-happy madman when he had lost to Johnson in the previous election, supported Nixon vigorously. The Republican nominee appealed to the “silent majority” who found the nation’s noisy turn leftward in the Sixties distasteful.

For more than a decade, Block had drawn Nixon as a sinister, menacing presence with an overgrown 5 o’clock shadow. You think I’m exaggerating? Here’s an example… Continue reading

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Four Unethical Dispatches From The 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck: #1

harry-reid

Ethics Alarms must now designate the collective freakout following Donald Trump’s victory and the massive national rejection of the Democratic party as an Ethics Train Wreck, distinct from the two candidates’ individual train wrecks that engulfed their campaigns. So far, most of the passengers leaping onto the metaphorical rambling wreckage hail from the progressive and Democratic ranks, not helping their crumbling national stature at all.

Coming up in four posts are four recent screeds and missives that demonstrate various degrees and kinds of ethics rot. The rot is wide and deep, and helps explain why so many young American think that pointless chanting, shouting and violence is a rational response to a disappointing election result.

I. Nevada Senator Harry Reid

Senate minority leader Harry Reid released this statement about the election of Donald Trump:

I have personally been on the ballot in Nevada for 26 elections and I have never seen anything like the reaction to the election completed last Tuesday. The election of Donald Trump has emboldened the forces of hate and bigotry in America.

“White nationalists, Vladimir Putin and ISIS are celebrating Donald Trump’s victory, while innocent, law-abiding Americans are wracked with fear – especially African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Muslim Americans, LGBT Americans and Asian Americans. Watching white nationalists celebrate while innocent Americans cry tears of fear does not feel like America.

“I have heard more stories in the past 48 hours of Americans living in fear of their own government and their fellow Americans than I can remember hearing in five decades in politics. Hispanic Americans who fear their families will be torn apart, African Americans being heckled on the street, Muslim Americans afraid to wear a headscarf, gay and lesbian couples having slurs hurled at them and feeling afraid to walk down the street holding hands. American children waking up in the middle of the night crying, terrified that Trump will take their parents away. Young girls unable to understand why a man who brags about sexually assaulting women has been elected president.

“I have a large family. I have one daughter and twelve granddaughters. The texts, emails and phone calls I have received from them have been filled with fear – fear for themselves, fear for their Hispanic and African American friends, for their Muslim and Jewish friends, for their LBGT friends, for their Asian friends. I’ve felt their tears and I’ve felt their fear.

“We as a nation must find a way to move forward without consigning those who Trump has threatened to the shadows. Their fear is entirely rational, because Donald Trump has talked openly about doing terrible things to them. Every news piece that breathlessly obsesses over inauguration preparations compounds their fear by normalizing a man who has threatened to tear families apart, who has bragged about sexually assaulting women and who has directed crowds of thousands to intimidate reporters and assault African Americans. Their fear is legitimate and we must refuse to let it fall through the cracks between the fluff pieces.

“If this is going to be a time of healing, we must first put the responsibility for healing where it belongs: at the feet of Donald Trump, a sexual predator who lost the popular vote and fueled his campaign with bigotry and hate. Winning the electoral college does not absolve Trump of the grave sins he committed against millions of Americans. Donald Trump may not possess the capacity to assuage those fears, but he owes it to this nation to try.

“If Trump wants to roll back the tide of hate he unleashed, he has a tremendous amount of work to do and he must begin immediately.”

Observations: Continue reading

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Three Ethically Perceptive Takes On The Election

Amidst all the hysterical “the fascists, racists, homophobes, xenophobes and misogynists have taken over! Run! Hide!” commentary—which, incidentally, is inciting violence far more directly than anything Donald Trump has ever said—a couple of non-right wing commentators have tried to bring some perspective and rationality to the question of what happened Tuesday. Naturally, they focus on ethics.

First, however, in contrast, I give you the vile pronouncements of Slate’s professional race-baiter and anti-white demagogue, Jamelle Bouie. His piece for Slate—I will not trust the site as long as they give a bigot like Bouie a forum—was called “White Won.”  Here’s a typical passage:

“After eight years of a black president—after eight years in which cosmopolitan America asserted its power and its influence, eight years in which women leaned in and blacks declared that their lives mattered—millions of white Americans said enough. They had their fill of this world and wanted the old one back. And although it’s tempting to treat this as a function of some colorblind anti-elitism, that cannot explain the unity of white voters in this election. Trump didn’t just win working-class whites—he won the college-educated and the affluent. He even won young whites. Seventeen months after he announced his candidacy, millions of white Americans flocked to the ballot box to put Trump into the White House. And they did so as a white herrenvolk, racialized and radicalized by Trump.”

Three observations: 1) This is the mentality that Barack Obama and the Democrats have encouraged and nourished, in order to derive maximum political benefit from dividing the nation, 2) what epic gall to call Trump’s 58% of the white vote proof of racism, when Obama’s 93% black vote in 2012, after a disastrous first term (though the second term made it look good by comparison), was happily regarded as “loyalty,” 3) The fact that Trump’s opponent was corrupt and insulted half of all voters had nothing to do with how anyone voted.

Oh: Bouie’s screed was sub-headed, “We are still the country that produced George Wallace. We are still the country that killed Emmett Till.”

I didn’t vote for Trump, but on behalf of my country, I am offended and insulted.

That’s enough of that toxic jerk. Here are three open-minded commentators who are trying to blunt the left’s calculated strategy of turning half the nation against the other.

1. Robby Soave: Trump Won Because Leftist Political Correctness Inspired a Terrifying Backlash

I’ll begin by saying that Trump’s win is attributable to anger over political correctness goes too far, but the Left’s increasing hostility to free speech, and non-conforming opinion was definitely a prime source of legitimate suspicion and distrust toward Democrats. It was certainly among the factors that finally convinced me not to vote for Hillary.  Soave also is patting himself on the back for playing Cassandra. There is a lot of this “I told you so” going around, as usually happens when the conventional wisdom is spectacularly wrong. It’s all moral luck, of course. The pundits and experts seeking recognition as geniuses are trying to capitalize on being at least as lucky as wise. Still, Soave was right, and many others saw what he did. The Reason journalist writes in part…

I have tried to call attention to this issue for years. I have warned that political correctness actually is a problem on college campuses, where the far-left has gained institutional power and used it to punish people for saying or thinking the wrong thing….I have warned that a lot of people, both on campus and off it, were furious about political-correctness-run-amok—so furious that they would give power to any man who stood in opposition to it.

…The left sorted everyone into identity groups and then told the people in the poorly-educated-white-male identity group that that’s the only bad one. It mocked the members of this group mercilessly….It called them racists….

There is a cost to depriving people of the freedom (in both the legal and social senses) to speak their mind. The presidency just went to the guy whose main qualification, according to his supporters, is that he isn’t afraid to speak his.

2.  Will Rahn:  Commentary: The unbearable smugness of the press

This is Ethics Hero territory: a CBS reporter pointing an accusing finger at his employer and the rest of the profession. Journalists finally pushed their arrogance, incompetent and bias to the breaking point, and serious wounded—I hope killed—the public’s trust. They slimed Sarah Palin and got away with it; they distorted Mitt Romney to re-elect Obama. But handed a candidate so awful that all they had to do was tell the truth, the news media still decided that it needed to make sure its candidate won. Americans like fairness. When Trump said the the election was “rigged” because the news media was supporting Hillary, it was so obvious that he was right.

Rahn:

Had Hillary Clinton won, there’d be a winking “we did it” feeling in the press, a sense that we were brave and called Trump a liar and saved the republic. So much for that. …Trump knew what he was doing when he invited his crowds to jeer and hiss the reporters covering him. They hate us, and have for some time.And can you blame them? Journalists love mocking Trump supporters. We insult their appearances. We dismiss them as racists and sexists. We emote on Twitter about how this or that comment or policy makes us feel one way or the other, and yet we reject their feelings as invalid.We diagnose them as racists in the way Dark Age clerics confused medical problems with demonic possession. Journalists, at our worst, see ourselves as a priestly caste. We believe we not only have access to the indisputable facts, but also a greater truth, a system of beliefs divined from an advanced understanding of justice…This is all a “whitelash,” you see. Trump voters are racist and sexist, so there must be more racists and sexists than we realized. Tuesday night’s outcome was not a logic-driven rejection of a deeply flawed candidate named Clinton; no, it was a primal scream against fairness, equality, and progress. Let the new tantrums commence! 

3. Mike Rowe, on Facebook

The “Dirty Jobs” reality TV star is perceptive, objective and articulate, and when asked his reactions to the election—he was not a Trump supporter—replied in part:

I know people are freaked out…I get it. I’m worried too. But not because of who we elected. We’ve survived 44 Presidents, and we’ll survive this one too. I’m worried because millions of people now seem to believe that Trump supporters are racist, xenophobic, and uneducated misogynists. I’m worried because despising our candidates publicly is very different than despising the people who vote for them…

I don’t think Donald Trump won by tapping into America’s “racist underbelly,” and I don’t think Hillary lost because she’s a woman. I think a majority of people who voted in this election did so in spite of their many misgivings about the character of both candidates. That’s why it’s very dangerous to argue that Clinton supporters condone lying under oath and obstructing justice. Just as it’s equally dangerous to suggest a Trump supporter condones gross generalizations about foreigners and women.

These two candidates were the choices we gave ourselves, and each came with a heaping helping of vulgarity and impropriety. Yeah, it was dirty job for sure, but the winner was NOT decided by a racist and craven nation – it was decided by millions of disgusted Americans desperate for real change. The people did not want a politician. The people wanted to be seen. Donald Trump convinced those people that he could see them. Hillary Clinton did not.

Finally, a bonus analysis to provide perspective: mine.

Last night, as often happens, a comment from a reader (and old friend) prompted a “Eureka!” moment. I realized how very American this election was, and gained some respect and a great deal of understanding for what happened. The commenter wrote about how terrified people were, and how a friend had told her that she was seriously considering suicide. She also said she was beginning to lose her confidence that “it can’t happen here.” I was watching video of protests and riots as I read this. I wrote (I edited this slightly):

And this is what the scaremongering does to the ignorant and weakminded, to be brutally blunt, and why the scaremongers need to cut it out.

Anyone who seriously sees parallels between Trump and Hitler understands neither, nor the corresponding historical context, nor the two nations and their very different cultures. Hitler rose because the Germans, who always had wanted a strongman, were desperate, and their self-esteem had been destroyed. Americans got tired of being pushed around, lectured, and being told that traditional cultural values made them racists and xenophobes. They decided to say “Screw that!” by electing a protest candidate whose sole function was to be a human thumb in the eye, because he was so disgusting to the people who had pretended to be their betters. Don’t you understand? It’s idiotic, but the message isn’t. It’s “Animal House”! and “Animal House” is as American as Doolittle’s Raid:

Otter: Bluto’s right. Psychotic… but absolutely right. We gotta take these bastards. Now we could do it with conventional weapons, but that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part!

Bluto: We’re just the guys to do it.

In Germany, The Big Cheese says jump and the Germans say “How high?” In the US, the response is “Fuck you!” Obama never understood that. He and the Democrats are finally getting the “fuck you!” they have been asking for. I love that about America. And much as I hate the idea of an idiot being President, I do love the message and who it was sent to. America still has spunk.

I love spunk.

 

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