Category Archives: Workplace

Why Marvin Miller Doesn’t Belong In The MLB Hall Of Fame In Cooperstown [Updated and RETRACTED!]

UDDATE! With apologies to all, I’m retracting this post. I had bad information: the entire thesis of the post is based on the false belief, which I acquired literally decades ago, that baseball union chief Marvin Miller was a lawyer. I know that a lawyer should not be celebrated for achieving the goals of his client; I’m not at all sure about my conclusions if the individual is a non-lawyer labor leader. I haven’t considered Miller in that context. I have to think about it.

I apologize to Ethics Alarms readers and also the admirers of Mr. Miller, and I hope he won’t be visiting me on Christmas Eve. One thing the web doesn’t need is more bad information, and I regret adding to it, even for a couple of hours.

My sincere thanks to reader LoSonnambulo for the slap in the face…

Last week,  Major League Baseball’s 6-member Modern Baseball Era committee considered ten Hall of Fame candidates, previously passed over in the regular voting process, whose biggest contributions to the game came between 1970 to 1987. It elected former Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Jack Morris and his Tiger team mate Alan Trammell, one of the very best shortstops of the era. Both were borderline choices, but Trammel was certainly deserving. Morris got over the hump because of a single memorable game, his Game 7, 10-inning, 1-0 shutout that won the 1971 World Series for Minnesota over Atlanta in of the 1991 World Series. Now that starting pitchers in the Series seldom go even 5 innings, much less ten, Morris’s performance seems especially god-like, but the fact remains that single achievements are not supposed to put players in the Cooperstown, New York Museum. Among the candidates who were rejected was my beloved Luis Tiant, the spinning, whirling, Cuban ace of the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox, one of the most unique pitchers in the history of the game, and while he was active, universally considered a great player, which he was. “Looie” deserves to be in the Hall, and is in his eighties now. He should have been voted in over Morris.

But the rejected candidate that sportswriters have long been rooting for wasn’t even a player. He’s Marvin Miller, who died in 2012 and who headed the players’ union from 1966 to 1982. Under Miller’s direction, the MLB players’ union became one of the strongest unions in the United States. He is credited with leading the efforts to eliminate the Reserve Clause, which once bound players to teams until they were traded, released, or retired. When he took over the union, the top baseball salary was about $100,000 a year. Today it is about 30 million a year, and the minimum salary is over $500,000. Legendary broadcaster Red Barber once said that  Miller, “along with Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, is one of the two or three most important men in baseball history.”

Well, Arnold Rothstein, Barry Bonds and the inventor of anabolic steroids had immense impact on baseball too. Continue reading

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Compassion! Crime! Betrayal! Law vs. Ethics! Illegal Aliens! Christmas Spirit! The Golden Rule! Five Golden Rings! (Okay, Only Three Rings, And One Was Junk, But Still…) The ‘Awwwww Factor’! Could This Be “The Greatest Ethics Quiz Ever Asked”?

[Special thanks to my friend (and the inventor of The Three Circles) lawyer/legal ethicist John May for alerting Ethics Alarms to this one.]

Sandra Mendez Ortega, a 19-year-old maid, stole three rings worth at least $5,000 from a house she was cleaning in Fairfax City, Virginia. Lisa Copeland, the client of the cleaning service, discovered her engagement and wedding rings were missing from the container where they were usually kept. The two rings were appraised at $5,000 in 1996, and a third less valuable ring was taken along with them. Fairfax City police  interviewed the three women who had cleaned the home, and they all denied seeing the rings, much less stealing them. Ortega, however, subsequently had second thoughts, and confessed to the theft. She told her boss that she had the rings and turned them over to him. He contacted the police,   Mendez Ortega confessed to them as well, saying she returned the rings after learning they were valuable. (Thus she only took them because she thought they weren’t valuable. Okaayyyy…) The police told her to write an apology letter to Copeland, in Spanish, in which she said in part, “Sorry for grabbing the rings. I don’t know what happened. I want you to forgive me.”

(I’m sorry, but I have to break in periodically so my head won’t explode. ” I don’t know what happened?” She knows what happened! She stole the rings because she thought she could get away with it.)

Copeland says she has never seen that letter, and that Mendez Ortega has never apologized to her in person. The maid was charged with felony grand larceny. At the trial, the jury found her guilty. (If she had confessed and was remorseful, why did she plead not guilty?)

But we are told that they felt sympathy for the defendant, who was pregnant with her second child, during the sentencing phase. “The general sentiment was she was a victim, too,” the jury foreman, Jeffery Memmott, told the Washington Post. “Two of the [female jurors] were crying because of how bad they felt.”  Although the  jurors convicted the maid of the felony, they agreed among themselves that it was just a “dumb, youthful mistake.” So they decided that her punishment would be only be her fee for cleaning the house the day of the theft, $60. Then they took up a collection and raised the money to pay the fine, plus and extra $20.

(Yes, she made money on the transaction. Crime pays.) Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/16/ 2017: A Kiss, A Blacklist, A Mystery, And President Frog

Good Morning!

It’s tree decorating day!

1 Fact. Last night, TCM was showing “Holiday Affair,” starring Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh, and Wendell Corey. After the film, as is his wont, host Ben Mankiewicz returned with some inside trivia. He said, “Janet Leigh was not prepared at this point in her career to be on a set with such pranksters as Mitchum and Corey. At the point in the film where the actress was supposed to be kissed by Mitchum, Leigh wrote in her autobiography, instead of getting the expected movie kiss, she got a genuine Robert Mitchum kiss while the cameras rolled. The script called for her character to react with surprise, and there is no doubt that’s what audiences saw!”

This was exactly what Al Franken’s first accuser alleged he did to her in a skit rehearsal a decade ago. Now, was that “prank kiss” sexual harassment? Since that kind of “prank” by male movie stars was hardly uncommon, Mitchum was a bigger star at that point than Leigh (who was 22), and he was considered a dreamboat, and this was 1949, Leigh was a good sport about it, and presumably wasn’t uncomfortable for the rest of the shoot. Yet if the film was in made in 1999, she could hold a press conference today and accuse Senator Mitchum of sexually harassing her, and there would be evidence on film.

She could do this a) if she had shrugged the off then as an initiation to the World of Bob Mitchum, but newly “woke” realized it was sexual assault; b) if her career was flagging and she needed to get back into “Variety” headlines; c) if she had been seething all these years and waiting for a chance at revenge; d) if Senator Mitchum were a pro life conservative and her liberal daughter Jamie Lee Curtis called her up one day and said, “Mom, you know that story about Robert Mitchum slipping you a tongue during “Holiday Affair”? You can take that right wing SOB down with that!”

And there would be nothing Senator Mitchum could do about it.

Go ahead, Prof. Butler. say “Come ON!” I dare you.

2. On the other hand...Yesterday, director Peter Jackson (“Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “The Hobbit,” “King Kong”), told reporters how Harvey Weinstein, he now realizes, made good on his threats to exact revenge on young actresses who didn’t “cooperate” with him:

“I now suspect we were fed false information about both of these talented women [Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino] – and as a direct result their names were removed from our casting list…My experience, when Miramax controlled the Lord of the Rings… was of Weinstein and his brother behaving like second-rate Mafia bullies.”

Sorvino tweeted in response, Continue reading

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From The Ethics Alarms Lost Files: The Firing And Un-Firing Of Sam Seder

Somehow I lost this one for a week, then found it today, reminding me how much it ticked me off.

Sam Seder, an MSNBC political commentator and host of the “Majority Report” podcast, had sent a tweet  in 2oo9—that’s 8 years ago, folks—obviously mocking the Hollywood supporters of fugitive film director and child rapist Roman Polanski.

The tweet said,

“Don’t care re Polanski, but I hope if my daughter is ever raped it is by an older truly talented man w/ a great sense of mise en scene.”

That is called artful satire, and if you can’t tell that, you really should restrict yourself to Nickelodeon and “Good Night Moon.”

Then Mike Cernovich, the far-right activist and conspiracy theorist, who is not an idiot, though he is many other unpleasant things, tracked down the tweet and began to complain to  MSNBC’s media relations department and other journalists about Seder using the same kind of political correctness crack-brained mania that the Left typically inflicts on the Right. Cernvich was trolling MSNBC, I assume, and maybe he was trying to accomplish what he eventually did accomplish: he got the left-wing cable channel management to fire Seder for “inappropriate and insensitive remarks.” Or maybe he was just trolling, though before the axe fell, Seder accused Cernovich of attempting to silence his criticism of President Trump and Roy Moore….you know, like the way the Seder-sympatico Media Matters has tried to silence Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

Now one would think that MSNBC execs would be able to tell Seder’s tweet was witty, and also have enough faith in the brain pans of its viewers to assume they, unlike most conservatives, who for some reason don’t have much if a sense of humor, would understand that there was nothing offensive about the Polanski tweet, except to Polanski and child rape fans in France and Hollywood. But no: out he went, as Cernovich lifted a glass of Korbel somewhere with Ann Coulter and Bill O’Reilly.

Then thousands of people signed a petition demanding that Seder be rehired, and he was. MSNBC’s head Phil Griffin wrote: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/15/ 2017: Wonder Woman, Plan J, and Concussions? What Concussions?

Goood Morning, Wonder Woman!

(You might want to skip item #3…)

1  How the NFL defines good leadership..The news today that the most recent result of  examinations of deceased former football players’ brains shows 99% of them with CTE puts an especially harsh light on the NFL’s new contract with Commissioner Roger Goodell, who was promised hundreds of millions of dollars  to serve in the same role he has botched for another seven years. Well, botched is a relative term, I suppose. True, Goodell has made it clear that his league is the least ethical, most venal, and most brutal sports organization on earth. Over his 11 year tenure so far, he proved that the league only regards its star behemoths beating up women after there is a public outcry, then tosses away due process to levy illegal punishments for show. Goodell first denied that the science showing that his game’s routine and unavoidable concussions were deadly, then had his lawyers negotiate an unconscionable low-ball settlement with the desperate families of former players his modern day gladiatorial combat had crippled (it was declared so by a judge, and thrown out), and now says the league is addressing the problem, which it isn’t. Meanwhile, every game, play by play as fans cheer, more young men are  sent on their way to a premature, drooling death by brain damage.

Goodell’s biggest star, Tom Brady, and most successful coach, Bill Belichick, are smug cheaters. For the last year, fans paying three figures a game for their seats have had to watch their National Anthem marred by various player protests about..something. Ratings and attendance have fallen; polls show that the NFL is the most disliked sport in America, which it should be, since it kills people,  promotes felons and cheaters as heroes, and abuses its fans. But this isn’t considered a botch by the Commissioner, says the New York Times, because “during his tenure as commissioner…Goodell has helped team values skyrocket, and the owners are betting that will continue under his leadership.”

That sentence explains everything, doesn’t it?

2. Welcome to “the resistance” Plan J.  Review: Plan A was to reverse the election by hijacking the Electoral College. Plan B was pre-emptive impeachment. Plan C was the Emoluments Clause. Plan D was “collusion with Russia” (The New York Times, to give credit where it is due, actually created a chart to explain this one, and if it isn’t obvious to you how pathetically weak the case is, you played NFL football…), Plan E is”Trump is disabled because he’s a narcissist and a Republican, so this should trigger the 25th Amendment.”, Plan F, the Maxine Waters plan, is to just impeach the President because she really, really doesn’t like him, Plan G is “The President obstructs justice by firing incompetent subordinates,” Plan H is “tweeting stupid stuff is impeachable,” Plan I is “Let’s relentlessly harass him and insult him and obstruct his efforts to do his job so he snaps (see E) and does something really impeachable.”

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand unveiled Plan J, since the others are absurd, when she demanded that the President should resign now for unproven allegations of non-crimes, when none of the misconduct occurred during his tenure as Presidency.  This is impressive, because it is just as ridiculous and desperate as the other plans, and I thought they had exhausted the possibilities. At a Congressional hearing examining Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein  Texas Democratic Rep Sheila Jackson Lee insisted that women who accused non-President Trump of sexual harassment can report it to the FBI.  That’s right: now the FBI should be investigating illicit kisses, “groping,’ and my personal favorite, walking into a Miss USA dressing room where the contestants might be in various states of undress.

These aren’t crimes, they aren’t prosecutable, and they aren’t even close to the FBI’s mission and duties. Continue reading

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Gender Bias And Legal Careers

Studies show that although women have been entering the law in equal numbers to men for more than a decade, they make up just 23 percent of partners and 19 percent of equity partners. Why do so many women  leave the legal profession at what should be the height of their careers? Last month, more than 160 lawyers gathered at Harvard Law School in November for the ABA National Summit on Achieving Long-Term Careers for Women in Law to identify answers and plot a course to change the trends.

Sharon Rowen, a lawyer from Atlanta,  said her research showed three reasons women leave the practice of law: work/life balance, unconscious bias, and the pay gap. I wish I could have attended the discussion. I hope someone pointed out that seeking work/life balance is the major reason for the pay gap, and that it is not unreasonable to view that as a trade-off that is both fair and reasonable.  Rowan’s list also leaves off conscious bias that pervades society and clients regarding female lawyers, as well as law firm partners.

Iris Bohnet, professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School, said some women suffer from “success fatigue,” and leave “because of a work culture that forces them to minimize important parts of their lives.” They ask themselves, “Can I bring my whole self to work?” and “Is this a place where I can thrive?” What she is saying is that a lot of women don’t find the law enjoyable, and that its stresses, patterns and requirements are more accommodating to men than women. In other words, law isn’t fun for a lot of women, while men, because of the nature of males, are more tolerant of it than women tend to be. I wonder if any panelist had the guts to come right out and say that? I doubt it. I bet most of them would deny it, because it’s politically incorrect to admit any gender differences, unless they involve female superiority.
Continue reading

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Yes, Catherine Gregory Should Be Fired

Jonathan Turley is fascinated with the issue of whether  faculty members and employees generally should lose their jobs over controversial conduct outside of the workplace, particularly when it involves political speech. “There remains an uncertain line in what language is protected for teachers in their private lives,” the George Washington law professor writes. As I’ve discussed here before, I don’t think it’s nearly as uncertain as Turley does. When a faculty member’s conduct or statements on social media make an objective observer think, “No competent, professional institution would hire someone like this,” it’s bye-bye and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Even Turley seems to waver in this ridiculous case.

Conservative commentator Lucian Wintrich was about to speak on the topic “It’s OK to Be White”—I LOVE that topic!— at the University of Connecticut when a protestor grabbed his notes. He in turn tussled with her, causing a near riot, and campus police arrested him.  The protestor was Catherine Gregory, associate director of career services  at Quinebaug Valley Community College.

Today the University came to its senses (or realized public opinion wasn’t going to allow it to get away with its attempt at liberal fascism) and dropped the charges against Wintrich  while charging Gregory.

What should happen to Gregory?

Gregory’s lawyer, Jon Schoenhorn argues that his client was justified in her actions because Wintrich’s views constitute “hate speech” and his actions “are beyond the First Amendment” in their insults to minorities. This is obviously nonsense, and I would argue it even qualifies as a frivolous and dishonest defense, an ethical violation. Unless the man is complete nitwit, he must know that there is no excluded variety of speech called “hate speech” that the First Amendment doesn’t protect. He’s lying, or he’s too incompetent to be a lawyer. Continue reading

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