Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/12/2021: Thanks, Columbus!

Columbus 2

This is the real Columbus Day: After sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus saw a Bahamian island on October 12, 1492. He believed he had reached East Asia: Chris was right about the world being round, but it was bigger than he thought. His expedition went ashore and claimed the land for Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain, the sponsors of his attempt to find a western ocean route to to the far East. Columbus changed the route of history, science and culture, with incalculable effects long and short term, good and bad. He also was directly responsible for brutal treatment of Native Americans, because he was a product of the 15th Century. We honor historical figures for their positive achievements, and if they are positive and important enough, the personal and public evils such figures might have also had on their ledgers are secondary. That is as it should be: the alternative is to honor no one at all, and to make history a parade of villains….

…although I would be hard pressed to find anything negative to say about the amazing Desmond Doss, who became the first Conscientious Objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor on this date in 1945. Ethics Alarms told his astounding story here, in 2017; so did the film “Hacksaw Ridge.” I still have a hard time believing it.

1. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! (#1): Here is the Washington Post, deliberately promoting statue toppling with a handy-dandy guide. This is the kind of thing that made me stop subscribing to my hometown paper. It does not explain why I subscribe to the Times, which just raised its rates to 90 bucks a month.

wapo_list_of_columbus_statues_10-11-2021

2. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! (#2): From Sunday’s “Reliable Sources” on CNN (That’s the hangout of absurdly unreliable Brian Stelter, who pretends to opine on journalism ethics while having none of his own):

Once respectable liberal journalist James Fallows, now employed by the extreme left-wing “Atlantic”: “The struggle for us all in the media is if we keep pointing out that one side of the political divide is actually instigating these things, defying subpoenas, trying to renege on the debt, holding up State Department appointments, et cetera, we are conscious of seeming shrill, we’re conscious of seeming unbalanced, we’re conscious of seeming to take a side. And so it’s something about our culture, we need to figure out how we can give out a narrative of the actual realities recognizing how this is at odds with our conventions.”

Oh, no! Seeming to take a side when they are taking sides? Seeming to be shrill when they are shrill? “Actual realities,” meaning “our biased views, represented as irrefutable truth to accomplish our agendas”? Whatever shall good journalists do? Wow. [Pointer: Steve-O-in NJ]

Continue reading

Thank God It’s The Friday Ethics Warm-Up For The Weekend, 10/8/2021, Dedicated To Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow

olearyhero

Mrs. O’Leary’s cow may be the most unethically maligned animal in U.S. history. On October 8, 1871, something caused flames to spark in the Chicago barn of Patrick and Catherine O’Leary. The resulting two-day conflagration killed 200-300 people, destroyed 17,450 buildings, left 100,000 homeless and caused about $4 billion of damage in today’s dollars. While the fire was still raging, The Chicago Evening Journal reported that it all started “on the corner of DeKoven and Twelfth Streets, at about 9 o’clock on Sunday evening, being caused by a cow kicking over a lamp in a stable in which a woman was milking.” Then a verse to a popular song was added; pretty soon it was the only verse anyone remembered:

Late one night, when we were all in bed,
Mrs. O’Leary lit a lantern in the shed.
Her cow kicked it over,
Then winked her eye and said,
‘There’ll be a hot time in the old town tonight!’

There was never any convincing evidence that a cow started the blaze. The O’Learys had five cows, and they didn’t have names. It’s not even a sure thing that the fire started in the barn, but Mrs. O’Leary was a Catholic woman and an Irish immigrant, and Chicagoans were eager to have a scapegoat, or rather scapecow. One prominent historian who has studied the inquest transcripts believes that the true culprit was an O’Leary neighbor named Daniel ‘Pegleg’ Sullivan, who hobbled into the O’Leary barn to smoke a pipe, which then fell into a pile of wood shavings and subsequently started the fire. Nonetheless, Catherine O’Leary was ostracized, and became a recluse. In 1997, the Chicago City Council officially exonerated Mrs. O’Leary and her cow, which did just about as much good for Mrs. O’Leary as for the cow.

1. A new book shows that I have not lived in vain! Yesterday, a line from a depressing movie called “Kodachrome” sent me into one of my funks. During one of the many arguments between a dying artist and his middle aged son who hates him, the father (Ed Harris) sneers that he may have been a neglectful father, but at least he would leave something of importance when he died, unlike his son, a failed rock band recruiter for a record label. By purest luck, today I received a complimentary copy of “Reginald Rose and the Journey of 12 Angry Men,” a fascinating and thoroughly researched account of how the TV screenplay and the film came to be the iconic works they are. Author Phil Rosenweig also tells the weird story of how Rose lost control of the stage version of his work, and how for years the only script one could legally perform was a hack adaptation of the movie by a writer who didn’t understand it. Well, I’m part of that weird story, as is my old theater company, “The American Century Theater,” which became the first professional theater in the U.S. to present the screenplay on stage. Many were involved in the success of that production, including my wife,Grace, who produced the script by meticulously typing the screenplay from a recording of the movie (this was before the internet), and NPR critic Bob Mondello, who traveled by bus, in the rain, to a converted school auditorium to see the production, which he gave a sensational and much circulated review. There were many twists and turns after that, but eventually Rose’s version of “12 Angry Men” became the play most theaters produce. He got the respect he deserved, the endurance of the play, which is a genuine classic (I directed it four times) is assured, and yes, I was part of the reason why. Rosenweig, who interviewed me, accurately relates my role in the off-stage drama. You can find the book on Amazon, and here.

Now I can die in peace.

Continue reading

Signature Significance: Two Unethical Tell-Alls

My late friend Bob McElwaine was of another era for sure. Once an active Hollywood publicist with many A-list clients, Bob once peddled his memoirs to publishers. He was an excellent writer with a great sense of humor, but was told repeatedly that unless he included “dirt” on his famous friends, girl friends and clients (like Danny Kaye, Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh and Dean Martin) the book was a non-starter. Bob refused. “My clients hired me to be discrete and to keep their secrets,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if they are dead now: I’m not betraying them for a check.” (Bob did tell me some his experiences, knowing that I would not publish them. Yikes!)

Well, Bob is dead, and so is his brand of professionalism, trustworthiness and honor, as two forthcoming books demonstrate.

Continue reading

Trevor Bauer Is Guilty Until Proven Innocent, And His Punishment Will Be Complete Before Such Proof Can Occur

Bauer

This is what #MeToo has wrought.

Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer, last year’s Cy Young winner as the best pitcher in the National League and currently the game’s highest paid player, hasn’t been able to pitch for his team since late June. The reason: he has been accused of domestic abuse. Accused.

Ethics Alarms first reported on his story here, writing,

“A restraining order was taken out against Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer, last year’s National League Cy Young winner. Bauer is a sportswriter favorite for his outspoken social media presence and progressive politics, so this will be a blow to the sportswriting woke. The woman making the allegations had what started as a consensual relationship with the pitcher, but in a 67-page document, alleges that Bauer assaulted her on two different occasions, punching her in the face, vagina, and buttocks, sticking his fingers down her throat, and strangling her to the point where she lost consciousness twice, an experience she said she did not consent to. After the second choking episode, the woman awoke to find Bauer punching her in the head and face, inflicting serious injuries. She contacted police, and there is now an active investigation of Bauer by the Pasadena, California police department. If any of her account is true, Bauer faces serious discipline from baseball, which has been (finally) cracking down on domestic abuse by players in recent years.”

I seriously miswrote, and should have known better. Baseball has a well-established tradition of taking action against players regardless of whether accusations have been proven. Indeed, the eight Chicago Black Sox who were accused of throwing the World Series in 1919 had been acquitted by a jury (They were guilty as sin, but then so was O.J.) were banned from baseball for life anyway. Pete Rose was banned for betting on baseball games before the evidence was definitive (Pete eventually confessed years later).

The next time I wrote about Bauer‘s case was a month later:

“Dodgers pitcher and reigning Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer, remains in limbo and under administrative, paid leave while baseball investigates the horrific allegations of abuse against him. Meanwhile, the Dodgers players have told reporters that they don’t want him back, though whether this is because he is an infamous pain in the neck or because he beats up women is unclear. Since the MLB policy appears to be based on “believe all women” and a “preponderance of the evidence” standard rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” I find it ethically troubling. (It resembles the way the Obama and Biden administrations want campus sexual abuse matters to be handled.) If, and I think this is doubtful, Bauer escapes charges and is still suspended, he is an excellent bet to challenge MLB’s “guilty until proven innocent” approach in the courts. Pains-in-the-necks have their uses.”

Last week, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association agreed to extend the Bauer’s administrative leave (he’s still being paid) through the end of the World Series, which the Dodgers still have a fighting chance to be part of should they make the play-offs. There has been no new evidence since June; the accusations against Bauer remain just that. He denies them, saying that the rough sex he had with his accuser was entirely consensual, and that he is the victim of a shakedown.

Continue reading

Post-Labor Day Ethics Laments, 9/7/21

weeping

You could yesterday, September 6, “Moral Luck Day.” On that date in 1901, President William McKinley was shaking hands at the Pan-American Exhibition in Buffalo when a 28-year-old anarchist named Leon Czolgosz approached him with a pistol in his hand wrapped in a handkerchief, and fired two bullets into the President’s chest. Touchingly, McKinley’s immediate thoughts were of his wife, Ida, who was in poor physical and emotional health. “Be careful how you tell her!” he whispered to an aide. Eight days later, McKinley was dead. But what Czolgosz intended as a strike to the heart of America’s government had the opposite effect, making Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican considered too independent, radical and uncontrollable (unlike McKinley) by his own party to be in the White House, exactly what GOP leaders never wanted him to be. Teddy made the United States a world power, greatly expanded the power of his office and the government itself, and was, in short, an anarchist’s nightmare.

1. Baseball ethics: The Boston Red Sox recently completed a disastrous collapse that dropped them from first place in the American League East to third. As they went into battle with the two teams now ahead of them, their hottest hitter, Alex Verdugo, vanished on a four game paternity leave. Shortly thereafter, another hot hitter, Hunter Renfroe, was lost for five days on bereavement leave after his father died of cancer. T’was not always thus: in the days before the Players’ Union bargained to add such mid-season leave as a new benefit, if a player’s wife was in labor or a loved on died, it was at the team’s discretion whether he would be permitted to leave the team. OK, I can appreciate the need for the benefit, but both players abused the right. These guys both earn millions of dollars a year. They both routinely talk about the team’s quest to win the World Series, yet when their team really needed them, they absented themselves for many days because they could. That’s a betrayal of the team, team mates, and fans. I’ve been there. My grandmother, a major influence in my life, died while I was in tech week for a major production I was directing. I flew to Boston for the wake, and flew back early the next morning. I couldn’t do anything for my grandmother. My family didn’t need me as much as the show did.And I wasn’t being paid a cent for directing that show, never mind millions of dollars.

2. Curtis Flowers is suing. Good! Curtis Flowers, whom I wrote about here, filed a lawsuit last week against Montgomery County District Attorney Doug Evans, who prosecuted him six times for the killings of four people at a small-town Mississippi furniture store. He was finally released in December 2019, about six months after the U.S. Supreme Court tossed out the conviction and death sentence from his sixth trial, which took place in 2010. Justices said prosecutors showed an unconstitutional pattern of excluding African American jurors in the Flowers’ six trials, which kept him in prison for 26 years despite never being found guilty in a fair trial. This wasn’t a prosecution, it was a vendetta. I would like to see a bar prosecution of Evans, who abused the ethical duties of a prosecutor.

Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Hitler Photo

Adolf-Hitler

Officer Craig Eichhammer, a 31-year veteran of the Williamstown, Massachusetts police department, kept a photo of Adolf Hitler in his locker for two decades without incident. Two years ago, the photo was removed and thrown out when when the department staff moved into the new police station. The presence of the photo was raised as part of a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in August 2020 by Sgt. Scott McGowan, who claims that he was retaliated against for decrying racial and sexual harassment by the Williamstown police chief.

In his statement to the town manager last year explaining the presence of a photo of Der Fuhrer, Eichhammer wrote that his former partner on the night shift in 1999 was kidded in the station for his supposed resemblance to Adolf. “I stuck the photograph on the locker wall just as one would of possibly hanging a comic strip or picture they thought was funny,” he wrote.

“The photo was out of view and could not be seen even with the locker door open. The photograph was put up for no other reason than a laugh factor poking fun at [his former partner]. The photo was left there and basically forgotten about. It stayed in the same spot for 20 years and no one knew it was there….At no time was it my belief that the picture was nothing more than a figure from a history book,” he added. “I had no ideologies of Nazi Germany, swastikas or anything terrible that happened during WW2. Again, the photo was simply just to get a laugh of the likeness of [his former partner].”

Okaaaay. But predictably, many are not satisfied with the officer’s explanation. A letter demanding his dismissal from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, stated,

Continue reading

Showdown At CVS

I’ve been looking for an excuse to use my favorite Ethics Alarms movie clip again [FYI: The library has been updated!]…

Against my usual proclivities, I am engaged in a war with the CVS that I am not going to back down from, stranding my family members there and leaving my my weapons behind to be used by terrorists. I found it odd that every time I made a purchase at the store, about twice a week, I was asked to “re-enroll” in a savings program that I had participated in for over a year. This required me to click “yes”(rather than “later”) at the end of my transaction. I finally asked a clerk what was up, an he said he would check. The result: checking “yes” did nothing. My membership could not be reinstated at that time. He could not tell me why.

So I asked to see the manager, a nice middle-age woman whom I have known there for years. She couldn’t explain why either. Finally she said, “It’s the machines,” and wrote down a phone number for me to call at CVS’s website. “Excuse me, but why to I have to call because your store’s machine’s don’t work?,” I responded. “I’m the customer, I’m misinformed for weeks, I don’t get discounts I’m supposed to get, and I have to fix your problem? I have to sit through automated phone systems and wait times? You are CVS’s agent. You work here. You’re paid for it. You fix the problem. Don’t foist it off on me. I’m the one being inconvenienced.” At this point, by some sadistic twist of fate, a large, aggressive, loud and belligerent young woman had entered the store near the front counter, and she started addressing me stridently.”Why are you harassing them?” she boomed out. “They aren’t CVS. They just work here.”

Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Month: “A New Deal For Broadway”

“[N]ever assemble an all-white creative team on a production again, regardless of the subject matter of the show…”

——A provision in the “New Deal for Broadway,”  an agreement signed by Broadway “power-brokers” pledging to strengthen the industry’s diversity practices as theaters reopen following the nearly 18-month pandemic shutdown.

A New Deal for Broadway,” was developed by Black Theater United, one of several organizations established last year, the Times story tells us, “as an outgrowth of the anger Black theater artists felt over the police killings” of George Floyd in Minnesota and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky. “Black Theater United’s founding members include some of the most celebrated performers working in the American theater, including Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter, Wendell Pierce, Norm Lewis and LaChanze.”

The pledge was signed by the owners and operators of all 41 Broadway theaters as well as the Broadway League, the trade organization representing producers, and Actors’ Equity Association, which represents actors and stage managers.

Observations: Continue reading

No Naked Nurse Principle

Naked Nurse

There is a Naked Teacher Principle, however. The Principle states that a secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result. The Naked Teacher Principle and all of its variations have been explored exhaustively on Ethics Alarms, The last time it was discussed, nearly a year ago, was in the context of rebutting the argument that there are similar principles regarding police and firefighters.

The current controversy is similar. Allie Rae, shown above, was a competent and dedicated Boston-area ICU nurse (and a 37-year-old mother of three) until she was was forced out of her medical job after employers discovered her non-traditional sideline, an OnlyFans page with a current following of more than 69,000. She says she started being sexually provocative on the web to relieve pandemic lockdown stress as well as her reaction to being on the hospital’s front lines during the Wuhan peak, sometimes working 14-hour shifts. Actually, maybe nursing was the sideline. After all, Allie says she made over $8,000 in her first month on OnlyFans, and she was making only seven a month as a nurse.

Continue reading

Evening Ethics, 8/19/2021: Those Were The Days…

Ah, those heady days when the U.S. felt ethically justified in toppling governments it didn’t approve of, and “nation building” was still considered practical and virtuous. Today marks the anniversary of the U.S. overthrowing the government of Premier Mohammad Mosaddeq and reinstalling the Shah of Iran in 1953, The Shah was a torturing, oppressive autocrat, but he was our torturing, oppressive autocrat for 26 years, a dependable anti-Communist ally of the United States until a revolution ended his rule in 1979. You should know the rest. Wonder why Iranians aren’t crazy about the U.S.? Today is one big reason. Also on the ethics regrets list is the release of the West Memphis Three on this date in 2011. I wrote about that one here. An excerpt:

“In an ethical system, prosecutors would have made certain the wrongfully convicted men were freed, without any further adversary action. But this was not an ethical system. Instead, prosecutors insisted on a bizarre plea deal in which the Memphis Three agreed to take an Alford plea, a strange, dishonest and much criticized guilty plea in which a defendant essentially lies to avoid an otherwise unavoidable unjust punishment. With an Alford plea,  the prisoner or defendant asserts he or she is innocent, but acknowledges that the prosecution has sufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and thus acknowledges legal, though not actual, guilt.   Prosecutors insisted that all three men plead “guilty” in this fashion in order to agree to release them with time served. The judge accepted the deal. Now Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley are free, their lives all but ruined by 18 lost years, thanks to a rotten system. The news media for the most part didn’t bother to explain why the terms of their release was just one more gratuitous assault on their existence by Arkansas legal hacks.”

I’m sorry today reminded me of this case. It still upsets me to think about it.

1. Here’s evidence that the current complaints of antiracism propagandists is a crock: Denzel Washington. I’ve been watching a lot of his movies lately, and a comparison with Sidney Poitier is unavoidable. Poitier was the ground-breaker, the black man who became a genuine movie star in a majority white market, and more than that, did it by holding up the racism and discrimination in American culture for all to see. Nonetheless, he was limited by his race. Poitier always played character’s whose race was central to their roles in the plot. He never played a villain: like many stars, like John Wayne, Cary Grant and Clark Gable, he regarded his career as a continuous work exploring a particular archetype in all of its facets. For Poitier, it was that of the outstanding black man as an outsider in American society. In Poitier’s amazing year of 1967, he was in three hit movies: “In the Heat of the Night,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?,” and “To Sir, With Love.” All three featured Poitier as a black man thrust into a biased white environment, and gradually earning respect and some measure of equality. Today the #1 black star is Denzel, and he doesn’t have to play such sanctimonious roles. Race plays a part in many of his movies; he has even played black civil rights activists, like Malcolm X and Hurricane Carter. Washington, however, in part because of Poitier’s work, often plays parts that were written for white actors, and nobody cares. He isn’t afraid to play flawed characters and even brutal ones, like in “The Equalizer.” Washington’s success, and the versatility and range he is allowed to explore in his movies, would have been impossible in Poitier’s prime years. His body of work is proof of how far American attitudes toward race have advances and how unfair and dishonest the Black Lives Matter/ Critical Race Theory narrative is holding that the Jim Crow culture still rules America.

Denzel is also better than Poitier, although it is fair to say that Poitier never had the option of being as versatile as Washington. If Sidney Poitier is cinema’s Jackie Robinson, Denzel Washington is its Willie Mays.

Continue reading