Sunday Ethics Reinforcements, 2/7/21: The “Don’t Watch The Concussion Bowl” Edition

Brain Damage football

Ethics Alarms has been chronicling the mounting evidence that pro football condemns a large percentage of its players to future dementia and premature death for a long time, often in conjunction with what a Georgetown professor friend calls “The Concussion Bowl.” Many of those posts are here, under the CTE tag. Incredibly, the NFL has done little to stop the carnage, perhaps because seriously addressing the inherent damage to brains caused by a necessarily violent sport would end football as we know it, and that would cost owners, TV networks, colleges and merchandisers billions. Can’t have that.

Equally amazing, the public and the news media have allowed the NFL to get away with distracting from its unethical priorities with the flagrant and cynical virtue-signalling of pandering to Black Lives Matter. I’m pretty sure that when it is all tallied, the NFL will have killed more innocent black men by far than all the brutal police officers over the same period. But most people just don’t care. If they cared one hundredth as much about athletes getting permanent brain damage for their Sunday (Monday, Thursday) TV viewing as they do about a single ugly incident where an overdosing lifetime petty crook died under the knee of a Minneapolis cop, there would be action. Not riots and take-overs of public property, but serious, effective action, including safety regulations.. Football would have to change, evolve, or vanish. The public and the media (and government officials) don’t care, and neither do the NFL executives. If Colin Kaepernick had performed his on-field protests against CTE, he would have been suspended and eliminated from the sport faster than Deion Sanders running for the goal line.

Talk about conspiracies….

1. False Narrative Dept. Now dishonest anti-Trump propaganda is showing up on Turner Classic Movies, which has been generally exemplary in avoiding partisan pandering over the last four years. Today, Eddie Muller, TCM’s film noir maven, pointedly showed the 1950 move “The Killer Who Slaked New York,” about a potential smallpox outbreak that was shut down by New York City health officials in 1947. Ultimately only 12 people were infected, and the threat was a single contagious smallpox victim who had to be found and contained. As you can see, this is a perfect analogy for the Wuhan virus outbreak in 2020. Noting that New York City quickly launched a mass vaccination effort (because there was already a smallpox vaccine, another close parallel), Eddie raised an accusing eyebrow and said,voice dripping with contempt, “That’s how we did things then.”

It’s Eddie’s show. I don’t think he should be fired or suspended. He’s welcome to his ignorant and obnoxious opinion. But he’s part of a disinformation campaign and an effort to distort reality, He’s also annoying TCM’s generally mature audience members who have been paying attention, and who presumably watch old movies to get a break from political BS, not to be subjected to more of it by movie nerds driving out of their lane.

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The Surprise Return Of The Ethics Scoreboard, And “The Bank of America Teller and the Thumbless Customer”

Ethics Scoreboard

The Ethics Scoreboard was my first ethics website. It began operation in February of 2004, and became an archive on November 1, 2009, when Ethics Alarms took its place. For many years now—frankly, I’ve lost count—it has been unavailable on the Web because of an incompetent hosting service that took my money, took it down, and doesn’t permit any direct customer service contact. Last time I checked, the domain was unclaimed. I stopped looking for the Scoreboard because it depressed me, and I had hit a dead end in my efforts to get it back up.

Well, it’s back up, and I have no idea why or how. What a happy 2021 surprise! I suspect the original webmaster, my old friend Lauren Larson, is responsible, but if so, she never told me: I don’t even know how long the site has been live again. I learned about the resurrection from a wonderful man whom I met through the Scoreboard, Alek O. Komarnitsky, who sends out a holiday letter. This year, he wrote, “I am still on the Ethics Scoreboard!” and sure enough, there at the link was the last article I wrote about Alek.

There is a lot of material on the Scoreboard, some of which I am very proud of, and I thought it was all lost in cyberspace. For me, this is like finding a treasure trove of old family photographs in the attic. Thank you Lauren, thank you Alek, thank you incompetent hosting service, thank you whoever it was that did this! I will eventually get to the bottom of the mystery, but for now, I’m afraid to pinch myself to see if it’s a dream.

In celebration of the Return of the Prodigal Website, I now present one of the Scoreboard’s last posts, “The Bank of America Teller and the Thumbless Customer.”

Welcome back, Ethics Scoreboard! I really missed you.

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Ethics Observations On The “Shakespeare in the Park” Trump As “Julius Caesar” Production

In  New York City, Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park festival this summer begins with  a version of “Julius Caesar“, in which Caesar is played by an actor made up and costumed to look like the current President of the United States, and Calpurnia (Caesar’s wife) is portrayed as a runway model with a Slavic accent. Some of the costumes include Anonymous masks and the infamous pussy hats. When Caesar/Trump is assassinated in the Senate, the murderers are women and minorities.

Oooo! Subtle!

The production has been in previews since May 23, and opens tonight at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Criticism of the concept,  theater and its financial supporters has been roiling all week, and many have compared the play to  Kathy Griffin’s severed Trump head stunt.  Fox News reported that it “appears to depict President Trump being brutally stabbed to death by women and minorities.” Well, yes, that’s right. Now some prominent corporate sponsors have publicly withdrawn their financial support, including Delta and Bank of America.

Delta’s statement:

“No matter what your political stance may be, the graphic staging of ‘Julius Caesar’ at this summer’s free Shakespeare in the Park does not reflect Delta Air Lines’ values,” Delta said in a statement on Sunday night. Their artistic and creative direction crossed the line on the standards of good taste. We have notified them of our decision to end our sponsorship as the official airline of the Public Theater effective immediately.”

Bank of America:

“The Public Theater chose to present ‘Julius Caesar’ in a way that was intended to provoke and offend. Had this intention been made known to us, we would have decided not to sponsor it. We are withdrawing our funding for this production.”

Other sponsors, such as Time Warner and the New York Times, have stood fast. Said the Times:

”As an institution that believes in free speech for the arts as well as the media, we support the right of the Public Theater to stage the production as they chose.”

Ethics Observations:

[Do remember that I am a professional stage director, previously the artistic director of a professional theater for 20 years, and that I dealt with donors, individual, corporate, non-profit and government, all that time.] Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Bank, the Addict, and the Broken Egg.”

The recent post about Ronald Page, the gambling addict given an open, no limits ATM privilege by Bank of America, with predictable results, suggests two opposite reactions. That’s why it was an Ethics Quiz. I expected my answer that it would be wrong to imprison Page for a crime committed because BOA’s negligence triggered his addictive behavior to be countered by the response Karl Penny expresses, persuasively, here. This is his Comment of the Day on “Ethics Quiz: The Bank, the Addict, and the Broken Egg.”

“Jack, I do volunteer work in prisons with people who have all sorts of substance abuse issues. In addition, I grew up in a family of alcoholics. I say that not to garner sympathy or whatever, but to establish credentials, however unofficial. Addicts know what they are doing, even while they are doing it, they know it. They know it when they are sober, and they know it when they’re drunk (alcoholics, gamblers, drug abusers, etc—they’re all drunks—not very PC, but brutally honest). They are human beings imbued with all that goes into being human and, as such, they command my compassion and concern. But. They know. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Bank, the Addict, and the Broken Egg

There was a little software problem when Bank of America acquired LaSalle Bank and the two were transferring account data. As a result, LaSalle depositor Ronald Page found that he could make unlimited ATM cash overdraft withdrawals, even though he had only $300 in his checking account.  This tempting state of affairs lasted for seventeen days, and then from December 1, 2008 to May 31, 2009, Page gambled like a man on fire.  Unfortunately for Page and Bank of America—but fortunately for several casinos—Page is a gambling addict. He withdrew, and gambled away, $1,543,104.00

Now the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit says he is seeking to send him to jail for 15 months  after he pleaded guilty to charges of theft of bank funds. He is also going to be required to pay back the money, with interest, guaranteeing poverty for life.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz question:

Is this fair? Continue reading

The Bank of America Teller and the Thumbless Customer

You may have heard the story: a branch of the Bank of America in Tampa refused to cash a check for Hillsborough County public works employee Steve Valdez, because the bank required a thumbprint from non-account holders, and Valdez has no arms. No arms, no hands; no hands, no thumbs; no thumbs, no prints; no prints, no cash.

“Sorry sir; it’s bank policy!”

The various news accounts of this classic tale of bureaucratic idiocy concentrated on the fact that the bank was violating the American with Disabilities Act. Voila! This is how law obscures ethics. Would the bank’s actions have been any more reasonable, fair, caring, kind and responsible if there was no law? Why should anyone with a brain, a heart and a sense of humanity require a law to look at a man with no arms and decide, “Gee, I guess the thumbprint requirement doesn’t apply in this case.”  This isn’t a legal matter. It’s an ethics question, and a really easy one, because the Golden Rule was invented for situations like this. If you were in the place of the thumbless man, Mr. Teller, what would you want someone in your position to do?This isn’t a legal matter. It’s an ethics question, and a really easy one, because the Golden Rule was invented for situations like this. If you were in the place of the thumbless man, Mr. Teller, what would you want someone in your position to do?

Nobody’s suggesting that the Bank of America should have suspended its policy out of pity or sympathy. This isn’t a bleeding heart argument: “Oh, the poor guy: he can’t hitch-hike or signal to a gladiator that he wants him to kill his opponent. I’ll cash his check to be a nice guy.” It has nothing to do with being nice. It has to do with recognizing when a policy is absurd in application, unjustly causing inconvenience and humiliation to another human being. Consider these dilemmas:

  • An attendant at a movie theater allows a patron to leave briefly to deal with an emergency. He returns to get back into the movie theater and join his family, but has somehow misplaced his ticket.  Should the attendant, who recognizes him, refuse to let him enter?
  • A driver enters a parking garage, then has to leave a few seconds later because of a medical problem. Should the parking attendant insist that he still pay the full-day minimum fee? (This one got an attendant shot by Steve Buscemi in “Fargo,” you’ll recall.)
  • A woman, obviously ill, staggers into a restaurant and begs to use the rest room. The establishment has a “patrons only” policy for its use. Should it refuse her?A student finds a knife in the hallway of a school, and immediately hands it over to the teacher. The school has a strict “no tolerance” policy on weapons, and the student is technically in possession of the knife: policy dictated that he not touch it, but alert an administrator. The teacher is certain that the student did not own the knife. Should the student be punished?
  • An adult dwarf on the Olympic riding team wants to buy a ticket on the carnival horse back ride to be with his child, but he doesn’t come up to the height mark on the sign designed to screen out young children. Should the operator tell him he can’t ride?

Answers to the above: “No way,” “Certainly not,” “Never”, “No,” and “Don’t be silly!”

Policies can’t be perfect. Human beings have an ethical obligation not to stick to them when they result in outrageous consequences to others, and there is no counterbalancing benefit to be gained by doing so, other than not varying from the policy.The teller should have asked for sufficient identification to satisfy himself that Valdez has a valid check. Valdez had it: he had his driver’s license with an address matching his wife’s on the check. That’s what the would have wanted, reasonably, if he was the one with no arms. And there was absolutely no reason not to bend the rules. The ADA wasn’t necessary to solve this. People need to know when to consider the impact of their conduct on others when there are no laws involved.

Any individual, and any bank, that needs a law to remind them not to insist on a thumbprint from a man with no thumbs is ethically impaired, and has no common sense. And having no common sense is a much greater handicap than having no thumbs.