Ethics Batting Practice, 7/21/ 2020: Baseball Zoom Hangover Edition.

Isn’t that only TWO feet??

Last night’s Smithsonian Associates presentation on baseball and American culture went well, I guess. Presenting on Zoom is like acting in a closet: no connection to the audience, no way to gauge what is working and what isn’t, or whether the invisible viewers are engaged. It did give me  a chance, during the section on baseball cheating, to read one of my favorite passages from Philip Roth’s baseball allegory/satire,”The Great American Novel.” Roth’s narrator, mad sportswriter Word Smith, tells the sad tale of the legendary “Spit” Baal, a master of the spitball, the mucous-ball and other trick pitches aided by surreptitiously applied substances. After such adulterations of the ball were banned in 1920, Baal found his career in tatters, since he could no longer use his signature pitch. (In the real world, the National league and American league allowed acknowledged spitball specialists to continue to throw the pitch legally under a grandfather clause, but Roth’s fantasy  is about a third major league, wiped from history and record books in the Fifties following the discovery that it had been infiltrated by Communists.) One day, again seeing his dry pitches clobbered and realizing that he could no longer get batters out legally, “Spit” has a psychotic break on the mound that ends his career in spectacular if unsanitary fashion:

And so before twenty thousand shocked customers  including innocent children — and his own wide-eyed teammates, the once great pitcher, who was  washed up anyway, did the unthinkable, the unpardonable, the inexpiable. He dropped the flannel  trousers of his uniform to his knees, and proceeded  to urinate on the ball, turning it slowly in his hands  so as to dampen the entire surface. Then he hitched  his trousers back up, and in the way of pitchers,  pawed at the ground around the mound with his  spikes, churning up then smoothing down the dirt  where he had inadvertently dribbled upon it. To the  batter, as frozen in his position as anyone in that  ball park, he called, “Here comes the pissball, shithead — get ready!”

For years afterward they talked about the route that ball took before it passed over the plate. Not  only did it make the hairpin turns and somersaults  expected of a Baal spitter, but legend has it that it  shifted gears four times, halving, then doubling its  velocity each fifteen feet it traveled. And in the end,  the catcher, in his squat, did not even have to move  his glove from where it too was frozen as a target .Gagging, he caught the ball with a squish, right in  the center of the strike zone…

1. So this graph would seem to indicate that the news media is scare mongering, right? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/11/2020: Still Crazy After All These Posts

1. Atticus, Aaron and Alexander. Today, July 11, was a crucial date in history for two great Americans, now in danger of being canceled by the ignorant woke. One cancellee was a real man, Founder Alexander Hamilton; the other is fictional, Atticus Finch. Both have been pronounced wanting in character of late because they did not manage to discern in their eras the full extent of the necessary racial equities Americans have largely come to understand today, with the benefit of decades more of debate and experience than Finch, and with a 250 years advantage over Hamilton.

In Finch’s case, this is his “birthday”:  on July 11, 1960,  34-year-old novelist  Harper Lee published her first, and except for a rejected “sequel” to  “Mockingbird” published later under ethically dubious circumstances, her only, novel.  Fortunately for Atticus, the version of the Depression Era small town Alabama lawyer that most Americans know is the film’s, where he is played by Gregory Peck as a pure idealist without any of the alleged flaws—like saying that it is wrong to assume that racists can’t still be good people—that the novel’s Atticus is condemned for today. (The multiple Atticus problem is discussed here.)

While Atticus Finch was “born” on this date, Alexander Hamilton died, perhaps by bravely but naively exhibiting ethical character while at the mercy of a man whose ethics were elusive at best, Aaron Burr, who fatally shot the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury in a duel this day in 1804.

The adversaries met at 7 a.m. at the dueling grounds near Weehawken, New Jersey on the same spot where Hamilton’s son had died defending his father’s honor in 1801. (The concept of karma was apparently unknown in 1804.)  According to Hamilton’s “second,” Hamilton deliberately fired his weapon into the air rather than at Burr (Burr’s second claimed that Hamilton fired at Burr and missed) , whereupon Burr, who had the second shot,  killed  Hamilton by sending a bullet through his stomach into his spine. Hamilton died the next day.

If you think politics are crazy now, consider: Hamilton’s death was the direct result of his publicly attacking and demeaning Burr for years (“I feel it is a religious duty to oppose his career,” he once wrote). Hamilton also was instrumental in blocking Burr from becoming President in the ridiculous election of 1800, when a quirk in the election rules threatened to allow the sociopathic Vice-Presidential candidate  to defeat his running mate, Thomas Jefferson. Continue reading

“How Sharper Than A Serpent’s Tooth It Is To Have A Thankless Child!”

 

What’s going on here? All of a sudden we are seeing children turn on their conservative public servant parents in public. (That’s Oedipus with the spear, incidentally.)

  • Kellyanne Conway’s 15-year-old daughter  Claudia has been posting videos on Tik Tok, berating her mother for working for  President Trump while attacking her boss. This  disrespect is an order of magnitude worse than what Conway tolerates from her despicable husband George. I can’t conceive of the path whereby any child would acquire the idea that it was ethical or anything worse that gross breach of the family bonds to publicly attack a parent or her employer.

[To the commenter who sent me this, thanks! I lost the original email...]

  • Meanwhile, Mary Trump, the President’s niece, is trying to get a tell-all book about her uncle published in time to slime him during the election, allegedly violating a non-disclosure agreement. Maybe it’s because I was raised by a Greek mother and grandmother, but I can not imagine attacking a family member like that, no matter what I thought of him. Unless an uncle was a secret serial killer or a spy, this is on the absolutism side of the ethics spectrum for me.

Continue reading

Wednesday Ethics Jolts, 6/17/2020: I Think We Have Our Answer To Question 13….

Look out!

It’s Wednesday, Wednesday got me thinking about the Wednesday Addams, which got me thinking about Charles Addams, which reminded me of that Addams cartoon…

Yes, this is how my mind works, as if you didn’t know…

1. “You know: literate morons.” The National Book Critics Circle (NBCC), of all people, decided to give us an example of where the George Floyd Freakout can lead. The president of the NBCC drafted the obligatory institutional pander affirming Black Lives Matter and circulated it to the board for its approval. One contrarian and sane board member, a board president named Carlin Romano, said he disagreed with much of the letter, didn’t want to “distract the great majority of the Board from its mission,” but couldn’t resist explicating his objections, including describing the systemic racism premise as “absolute nonsense.” He did not, he wrote, believe that the publishing business operated with “the full benefits of white supremacy and institutional racism” and that “white gatekeeping had been working to stifle black voices at every level of our industry.” Such claims, he wrote, amounted to “calumnies on multiple generations of white publishers and editors” who had fought to publish authors of color. “I resent the idea that whites in the book publishing and literary world are an oppositional force that needs to be assigned to reeducation camps.”

In her reply,the current president told Romano that she’d always appreciate his perspective. It “shines unlike anyone else’s,” she wrote, adding, “your objections are all valid, of course.”

As a result of her respectful acceptance of a reasoned dissent, more than half of the 24-member board of NBCC  resigned, including, of course, all of its non-white members. The president resigned too. Romano has not. In response to another member’s accusation that his criticism had displayed ” racism and anti-blackness,” he countered, “It did nothing of the sort. I’m not racist and I’m not anti-black. Quite the contrary. I just don’t check my mind at the door when people used to operating in echo chambers make false claims.”

Ethics Hero.

2.  Pandering BLM Groveler of the Year? I’m pretty sure nobody will be able to top NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. After dismissing Colin Kaepernick and his fellow NFL kneelers as a distraction to the game and an annoyance to fans, he is now not only encouraging the players to demonstrate on the field for “racial justice,”—if he thinks such workplace stunts will stop with mere kneeling, he really is a dolt—he is now encouraging NFL teams to sign Kaepernick, who hasn’t played  for three years. He hasn’t been signed because the distractions his political grandstanding carried with him couldn’t begin to be justified by his declining quarterbacking skills, and that’s the case now more than ever. Does Goodell really think capitulating to the mob will keep him and his league safe? Is someone holding his family at gunpoint somewhere, or is he really this ignorant?

3. Wait, why haven’t I read all of this before? On Medium, Gavrillo David argues that there may be enough evidence to insulate Derek Chauvin from a murder conviction. he cites six facts in support of his theory: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/9/2020: “If” And Silver Linings

Good Morning!

My father’s favorite poem, which I read at his funeral service at Arlington National Cemetery in 2010—-was it really that long ago?—is especially relevant and valuable now. Some of the woke-addled have “canceled” Rudyard Kipling because of his offenses against presentism (and because he ended “If” with female-excluding nouns). This is like cutting off your nose to spite your face, or perhaps lobotomizing yourself to spite your character. However you choose to describe it, not being able to channel “If” when all about you are losing their heads—like now—is a severe and unnecessary handicap.

1. “Forget it, Jake. It’s The Times.” Nobody at the Times protested, as far as we know, when the paper, over the weekend, ran a story titled, “Vote for Trump? These Republican Leaders Aren’t on the Bandwagon” that claimed, “Former President George W. Bush won’t support the re-election of Mr. Trump.”  The article attributed this revelation about George W. Bush’s intentions (and Jeb’s) to unnamed sources “familiar with their thinking.” This is the variety of fake news Ethics Alarms categorizes as Psychic News, based on mind-reading and nothing else. Speaking on behalf of Bush 43, a spokesman  told the Texas Tribune, “This is completely made up. He is retired from presidential politics and has not indicated how he will vote.” Ford reiterated this statement to the Times, indicating that the former president would stay out of the election and speak only on policy issues. Has The Times retracted or corrected its claim? Of course not.

I would personally be shocked if George or Jeb voted for Trump, given how much the Bush family hates him for his personal insults against them, but that doesn’t mean a newspaper can declare as fact that they won’t. Their other big scoops were that Colin Powell wouldn’t vote for Trump, against based on those who have read his mind, though we know he voted for Clinton in 2016 (he said so) and that Mitt Romney, who voted to convict Trump in the impeachment trial just to stick a metaphorical thumb in the President’s eye, would also abstain. Oh…I almost forgot Cindy McCain, who wouldn’t even invite the President to her husband’s funeral. The Times says she’s not supporting him either. Stop the presses!

The silver lining here is that the evidence that the mainstream news media is biased and untrustworthy is becoming so obvious that those who deny it increasingly brand themselves as fools or liars. Continue reading

Pedant Ethics And Name Autonomy

I have a dog in this hunt, in a way. I began my school career being lectured by the Catholic teachers of Arlington, Massachusetts that I was mistaken about my name being “Jack.” No, I was told, that’s just what your parents call you, dear. Your name is JOHN. There is no such name as “Jack.” Being ornery pretty much out of the womb, I refused to answer to “John” in class leading to several contentious meetings between my father (who was also named “Jack,” not “John”) and successive grade teachers. He always brought my birth certificate and a stern lecture about not making unwarranted presumptions that were none of their damn business, and I had to endure several weeks of dirty looks until my natural charm won over my teachers’ disdain.

As in the case of my teachers, the idiot who wrote Ms. Rea was both presumptuous and wrong. She had written,

Why thank you! Now shut the hell up! Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/30/2020: The “Let’s Have A Morning Warm-Up That’s Actually In The Morning” Edition

Good morning!

1. I have a theory on mainstream media bias deniers..Maybe it’s more sympathetic than they deserve, but I think people don’t notice how sloppy, incompetent and stupid reporters and pundits are because they don’t read newspapers carefully or consistently, and because other news sources are so packed with distractions and emotional manipulation (not that newspapers are not) that it’s hard to concentrate on the details. This is why I read the Times. I figure that it’s supposed to be the best, and if the best is stupid and biased (stupid makes you biased, and vice-versa), then we can be pretty sure that the rest are worse.

It is amazing how much disinformation the Times allows, or in many cases, promotes. Here’s a trivial but telling example: Sarah Lyall is a Times reporter who also writes a column reviewing thrillers in the New York Times Review of Books, wrote recently that she always wanted to be “the Henry Fonda” of a jury, “single-handedly” “exonerating” a “wrongly accused” defendant, like “Twelve Angry Men.” This is a factually and legally false description of Reginald Rose’s script. Juror 8 (Fonda) doesn’t “single-handedly” do anything except keep deliberations going. The defendant isn’t “exonerated”—all the jury does is collectively figure out that he wasn’t proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt–you know, like OJ. And he probably wasn’t wrongly accused. In fact., he’s probably guilty. The whole point of Rose’s screenplay is that “probably” isn’t enough.

Newspapers are supposed to enlighten readers, not make them dumber. I know most people think that “Twelve Angry Men” is like mystery where someone is accused of murder and is proven innocent by a relentless sleuth, but it’s not. Did Lyall not really watch the film, meaning she was lying, or did she not understand it, indicating that she should be judged too stupid to be a reporter? The same can be said of her editor. The Times can’t get the easy things right; why would anyone trust it to analyze more complex matters more reliably? Continue reading

Evening Ethics Cool-Down, 4/28/2020: Ethics Clouds In My Coffee

Good evening.

1. Here’s an ethics quote I need to use more often…I was watching the 1941 film “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” about a jury trial to determine whether the Devil will get a farmer’s soul as contracted.  It reminded me of a quote by Kurt Vonnegut: “A soul is the part of you that let’s you know when your brain isn’t working properly.”

A better definition of an ethics alarm you could not devise.

2. So where were the souls of the judges who voted for this? Thousands of prisoners have been released from incarceration to protect them from the outbreak of the Wuhan virus inside jails and prisons.  The theory is that subjecting prisoners to this special peril is cruel and unusual punishment. The theory’s not wrong, but it’s a bit unbalanced. Their peril is not entirely  society’s fault, after all.

There are activists at the extreme end of the progressive spectrum —a division getting larger all the time, it seems—who seem to want to eliminate penal punishment completely.  Not letting a crisis go to waste, a group of them , Columbia Legal Services, began pushing for inmates over 50 years old in Washington state to be released as a compassionate act to save them from the virus.

Among the intended beneficiaries: Gary Ridgeway, the Green River Killer, and Isaac Zamora,  serving a life sentence for going on  a shooting rampage and killing six  people. Ridgeway is one of the nation’s most frightening serial killers, eventually confessing to 71 murders. Over the three decades of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, Ridgeway captured women and girls, raped them, and  strangled them. He loved watching the life go out of their eyes as they died by his hand, though sometimes he used a  rope. Then he  would pose with the corpses. If he really liked his victim,  he’d have post mortem sex with her body. His first victims were found in the Green River, giving him a catchy name.

Ridgeway was sentenced to 500 years in prison with no possibility of parole. The victim’s families were promised that he would never be released. Ah, but poor Gary is 71 now, and thus at risk of succumbing to the pandemic, and presumed to be too feeble to be a threat. That, at least, is what Columbia Legal Services argued. (You know, I’m not much younger than Ridgeway, and I’m pretty certain I could murder someone. In fact, I’m getting ideas…)

Q13 News reported  that prosecutors protested that “the Petitioners [Columbia Legal Services] demand that 2/3 of the prison population be released into the community, a number which includes serial killers and capital murderers.” You would think that their argument would be a slam dunk. You would be wrong. Continue reading

‘Our Book Review Section Always Features An Interview With A Literary Figure Or Book-Loving Celebrity, But We Couldn’t Find One This Week, So We Used A Semi-Literate Celebrity Who Obviously Hardly Reads At All’

Because we’re the New York Times, and we can get away with anything.

One of my goals in life is to leave a legacy of indisputable evidence that America’s self-declared “paper of record” has devolved into an irresponsible hack publication that makes its readers biased and misinformed, while dragging down all of American journalism in the process.

This week’s Times Book Review interview was with the Coal Miner’s Daughter herself, Loretta Lynn. She is a great artist and an iconic figure in her field, but she has as much business holding forth on literature as I have talking about curling. The interview is like a Bob and Ray routine:

What books are on your nightstand? “My family Bible.”

What’s the last great book you read? “I am loving those audiobooks. The older you get, the worse your eyesight becomes…”

Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time? “Doesn’t the Bible count here?”

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of? “Johnny Cash’s ‘Man in White.’”

Have any books influenced your development as a writer or musician? (She ducks the question.)

Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid? (She ducks the question.)

Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine? Your favorite antihero or villain? “I really don’t have one.”

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite? “I wouldn’t….”

…and so on in that pattern. It’s cruel of the Times, it’s embarrassing to Lynn, and she shouldn’t be placed in that position. I don’t care that Lynn, who was married before high school, isn’t a reader, but representing her as a book-lover in the Times Book Review is as misleading as it is foolish.

What a great newspaper.

Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/20/2020: Phantom Patriots Day Edition

The Battle of Menotomy, April 19, 2020.

“One if by land, and two if by sea
And I on the opposite shore will be
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm
For the country folk to be up and to arm!”

Today, the third Monday in April,  is supposed to be Patriots Day in Massachusetts (and  few other states.) It absolutely should be a national holiday, as it celebrates the battles of Concord and Lexington as well as the rides of Paul Revere and his fellow messengers the night before. I typed the excerpt above from Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride” from memory; I wonder how many students today  have even heard of the poem, or Concord and Lexington, for that matter.

The original holiday was on April 19, the date of both battles, but Arlington, Massachusetts, where I hail from, was actually the site of a bigger battle than either on the same day. On their way back from Concord after being soundly beaten at the bridge, the Redcoats marched through the town of Menotomy (Arlington now), where 5,100 militia men from surrounding towns had gathered after, unfortunately, the British had marched through the Menotomy on the way to Lexington Green with little resistance.  The volunteers, stationed around houses, stone walls, fields and barns, did considerable damage to the already limping British in the fighting that followed, but Arlington residents have always been a bit sheepish about the timing of the fight, and historians regard it as  anti-climactic following the tragedy at Lexington and the surprise victory at Concord.

Patriots Day is a big  deal in Boston, where the Boston Marathon is run annually on that date. The Red Sox also play a unique 11 am game, so spectators can leave the park and watch the finish of the race. All gone this year, of course.

That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t remember, and honor, the heroes, victims and events of 1775 that made the United States of America possible.

1. This is the kind of thing that will lead to serious back-lash against the pandemic dictators. The city of San Clemente was alarmed that some teens, bored with pplaying video games all day, every day, continued to skateboard in a local skate park despite orders that all parks be closed. Its solution?  Fill the park, at taxpayer expense, with 37 tons of sand. The money to build the park was raised by a nonprofit coalition of local families who wanted a place for their kids to be able to skate safely, and they were not even notified that the park would be filled with sand, according to KCAL-TV. Continue reading