Saturday Ethics Run-Down, 7/20/2019: Perry Mason, Kamala Harris, And Home Runs-On-Demand

I’m calling it a run-down because I’m run down….

1. More “phantom document” ethics. Last moth I wrote about the ethically dubious “phantom document” tactic, in which a lawyer alludes to a document he or she either does not have, or suggests a document has content it does not in order to trick a witness into recanting testimony.

I just saw the Eighties made-for-TV movie “Perry Mason Returns” that rebooted the classic series (and not so well) for an aging Raymond Burr. The great defense lawyer comes out of retirement to defend old legal assistant Della Street (Barbara Hale), who has been accused of murder. In the trial’s climax, Perry’s investigator Paul Drake, Jr. (played by Hale’s real-life son, actor William Katt of “The Greatest American Hero” fame) bursts into the courtroom and hands Perry a document, which he then holds as he asks the witness (Richard Anderson, playing a different role than he played in the original series) he was in the midst of cross-examining, “Would you like to reconsider your testimony? Would you like me to read a sworn statement from Bobby Lynch, in which he says you hired him to kill Arthur Gordon?”

The witness confesses that he planned the murder that Della was being tried for, and framed her. Della goes free! Perry then tells Della that there was no sworn statement. “I didn’t say I had a sworn statement,” he chuckles, “I just asked if he wanted me to read one.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/15/2019: Of Ficks, Flicks, Fairness, And. Yes, “Fuck”

 

Suffering from low blog traffic hangover…

I know I complain about traffic here too much, but it’s the only place I where can complain about it. Either because of Trump Derangement, ethics apathy in a Nation of Assholes, my exile from NPR (for telling an undeniable truth that was accused of being a defense of Donald Trump), Facebook’s sabotage, or sunspots, Ethics Alarms readership is down significantly since the high point of 2016. Yesterday, the usually lively day of Tuesday did a credible imitation of Saturday, when tumbleweeds roll through here, and I can’t find any reason why. Kept me up much of the night, so now I’m going to be slow, cynical  and cranky all day….

1. Speaking of a nation of assholes…Stephanie Wilkerson, the certifiably awful human being who kicked Sarah Huckabee Sanders out of the Red Hen restaurant, was given a forum (disgracefully) by the Washington Post to boast about her “resistance.” Of course she frames herself as a victim, then celebrates the fact that she received support from many Americans who are as hateful, bigoted, and un-American as she is. Depressingly, many of my Facebook friends “loved” or “liked” her nauseating column, which is nothing more nor less that a hard tug on the loose threads on the seams that hold our nation together. These phony advocates of “inclusion” actually favor discrimination and prejudice based on political affiliation and personal viewpoints, which is no less unethical and destructive than discriminating based on race, gender or creed.

Stephanie Wilkerson’s Post column marks her a fick, an individual who is unethical and proud of it.

But I would still serve her in my restaurant.

2. Here’s another topic I’m sick of writing about: We TV, that august cultural institution that features the beneath the bottom of the barrel reality show, “Mama June, From “Not” to “Hot.” is the latest product to use the hilariously clever device of implying variations of “fuck” in its marketing, because saying but not quite saying “fuck” is inherently witty and memorable. The word being so used by We is “flicks.” Get it?? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/14/2018: The “Blotto From A Sleepless Night Fuming About Nobody Stopping That Puppy From Being Stuffed In The United Overhead Luggage Bin” Edition

Good Morning, United!

Where’s that whimpering sound coming from?

Grrrrrrr.

1 Don’t make America stupid, ABC. The new ABC legal drama “For The People” premiered last night, and lost me forever. I can’t trust the writers. In the final moments of the episode, a veteran female defense lawyer was consoling a young lawyer who was upset after losing a case. The older lawyer evoked the memory of a 1951 rookie for the New York Giants, who went hitless in his first Major League games and was devastated. But his manager put him in the line-up again, and he hit a home run in his first at bat, and never stopped hitting.

“Ah,” said the young lawyer, “Willie Mays. The greatest player who ever lived.” The older lawyer nodded sagely.

By no measure was Willie Mays the greatest baseball player. Is this racial politics by series creator Shonda Rhimes? I assume so: there is no other plausible explanation. The odds of two randomly selected baseball fans asserting that Mays was the greatest baseball player would only be more than miniscule if anyone who knows baseball believed that. Willie was the greatest centerfielder of all time, the greatest African-American player of all time, quite possibly the most charismatic and entertaining player to watch of all time, and very possibly the second most gifted baseball player of all time. But he wasn’t the greatest. The best player by every measure, statistical, modern analytics, WAR, JAWS, OPS, contemporary reports and common sense was, of course, Babe Ruth. He was the greatest hitter who ever lived, a great pitcher before that, and no athlete in any sport ever dominated it like Babe did in the Twenties.

Now, any individual can hold an eccentric opinion that Willie was better. But that was not how the assertion was presented. It was presented as an accepted fact that two random baseball fans agreed upon. This is irresponsible misrepresentation. I was trying to think of an equivalent: I think it’s like a TV show having someone quote the Declaration of Independence, and a listener then  say, “Thomas Jefferson. Our greatest President!” as the other individual nods sagely.

2. Four Regans, or, if you prefer, Linda Blair Heads.This is the new Ethics Alarms graphic for unethical media spin. The number of Regans can range from one to four, with four Regans signifying “spinning so furiously her head might fall off.” (If you don’t get the reference, you are seriously deficient in cultural literacy.) The four Regans go to the polar news media spinning yesterday’s special election in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Democrat Conor Lamb appears to have narrowly won a seat in a Republican stronghold, though the race is still too close to call. Continue reading

Ethically, Caster Semenya Points Us Directly To Gender-Free Sports Competition, And There Is No Ethical Way To Avoid It

Caster

Ethics Alarms first mentioned female runner Caster Semenya in this essay , when the international sports community was debating the South African track champion’s fitness for competition. Caster, depending on who you believe, is either a woman, intersex, a woman with freakishly high levels of testosterone in her body, or a man who identifies as a woman. What is undeniable is that she is faster than most women, and maybe all of them, and her unique physical make-up, whatever you want to call it, gives her an advantage. Since the last Olympics, Caster has been forced to take drugs that inhibited her body’s production of testosterone.Then, in July 2015 , the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned the 2011 IAAF regulations that restricted testosterone levels in female athletes. They also suspended hyperandrogenism regulations for two years. Now Semenya will be able to compete as she is naturally, and because she will, she is widely expected to smoke the competition.

Is it fair to let her run? Is it fair not to let her run? After this year of controversy and confusion over gender, with boys and men “identifying as women” and transgender discrimination laws roiling the culture wars, this is a perfect time for an intersex champion. Then, presumably, all hell will break loose. A sports scientist tells The Guardian,

“I’m actually dreading the Olympics. People only want to hear a good story so when Semenya wins gold the South African media will go crazy. If she breaks the world record, which I think she will, it’ll be even crazier. You can lie and say: ‘Happy days. Let’s celebrate our golden girl’ – which the politicians and media want. Or you can be honest and principled and say: ‘Actually, there are many things we need to address.’ That’s very unpopular”

Society and sports have reached the point  the ethical solution is obvious and unavoidable, and, unfortunately, brutal. If society is accepting the fact that a binary gender distribution is a myth, and there may be seven, ten, or dozens of gender variations along a spectrum, then integrity and consistency—and fairness—demands that gender distinctions in sport be eliminated as arbitrary. Continue reading

The Amazing Saga Of Big Papi And Maverick Schutte: This One Has Everything, Folks: Baseball! The Bambino! Courage! Kindness! Compassion! Heroics! Moral Luck! Hubris! Consequentialism! And Dammit, I’m Crying Again

Let’s see if I can through this to the Ethics Quiz portion without shorting out my laptop.

Maverick Schutte, a 6-year-old from Cheyenne, Wyoming, has required over 30 surgeries, including five open chest procedures,  to treat a heart condition.He still must be hooked up to a ventilator most of each day to allow oxygen to reach his lungs, and more surgery will be needed, as he is in constant danger of heart failure.

The child’s greatest joy is baseball, and he has adopted his father’s team, the Boston Red Sox, as his passion. The Children’s Miracle Network put the family in touch with former Red Sox player Kevin Millar, now an MLB host and broadcaster, and Millar contacted Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, Maverick’s favorite, after the family explained that Maverick was in the hospital again and needed a morale boost. With Millar, Ortiz made a video for Maverick, ending with Ortiz promising to hit a home run that night, just for him. I didn’t believe it when I heard the story, but it was true. “Stay positive, keep the faith, and I’m going to hit a home run for you (Friday night),” Ortiz says in the video. “Remember that.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for today before, as Paul Harvey would say, you learn “the rest of the story”…

Was it ethical for Ortiz to make such a promise to Maverick?

Continue reading

The Aftermath: Final Observations On The Papelbon-Harper Incident

Jonathan Papelbon in another career highlight...

Jonathan Papelbon in another career highlight…

More on the aftermath of the incident that has the baseball world talking and the sports ethics world cogitating…

1) The Nationals punished the right player, suspending reliever Papelbon for four games, which combined with the three games the league suspended him for intentionally throwing at a player in an earlier game, ends his season in embarrassing fashion. The four lost games will cost the closer about $280,000 in salary, and his total loss, with the additional three games, will be close to a half-million dollars.

2) The word out of the Nationals clubhouse is that many players agree that Harper was dogging it to first base (the impetus for the criticism that started the fight) and that Papelbon was within his rights to call Harper on his lack of hustle. This indicates that Papelbon was reacting to a perceived lack of leadership on the team. In fact, the team does lack leadership, as manager Matt Williams is neither respected nor listened to, and this was one of the reasons the heavily favored Nats collapsed down the pennant stretch. Thus it seems that Papelbon, a recent acquisition who was new to the Nats culture, may have been trying to fill a leadership vacuum and botched it. Still, he engaged in his unethical conduct for an ethical reason; that only places him in “the ends justify the means” territory, however.

Moreover, any team whose leader is Jonathan Papelbon is in big, big trouble.

3) Incredibly, manager Matt Williams, who left Papelbon in the game after the fight to pitch the ninth and get clobbered, claimed that he wouldn’t have done so if he was aware of what happened. Williams said that he was at the other end of the dugout, and didn’t understand the import of the commotion that had players shouting and separating two combatants, including his best player and his current pitcher. Wow.  The Nats dugout isn’t that long. He wasn’t curious? Didn’t he feel, as the man in charge, a need to investigate? Worse still, none of his coaches felt that he needed to be informed, even considering that this was happening in full view of the fans and TV cameras.  Continue reading

Gift Horse Ethics: The Babe, The Splendid Splinter, and The Ethics Of Self-Promoting Virtue

sick child and-babe-jpgBaseball slugger Babe Ruth was famous for visiting hospitals and orphanages to give kids a thrill. Babe always had reporters in too to record his noblesse oblige , of course. He was an orphan himself, and nobody should doubt the Bambino’s genuine dedication and generosity when it came to kids. He just wasn’t going to let his good deeds go unnoticed.

Other baseball greats, notably Ted Williams, made most of his visits without fanfare or publicity, and he didn’t tip off the press. “The Splendid Splinter” wasn’t visiting kids in cancer wards because he wanted his fans to know what a good guy he was. He did it because he wanted to make sick children feel better.

Was the Babe less ethical than Williams? Did his self=promotion take the ethical sheen off of his good deeds? This is the issue raised by the activities  of the  “Magician Prankster” who calls himself “Magic of Rahat” on YouTube and Twitter. He recently posted a video called “Homeless Lottery Winner” showing him playing  a prank on a homeless man, who ends up with $1,000. He is understandably grateful:

Slade Sohmer however, on HyperVocal, is hearing ethics alarms: Continue reading