Sorry, Steve Bartman, But It’s Impossible To Leave You Alone

As the Chicago Cubs plowed their way to the World Series and a possible end to their 108 year failure to win a World Series, numerous sports writers, including some I thought were smart enough to know better, set out to prove their compassion, sensitivity and gooey caramel centers by arguing that the news media and fans should “leave Steve Bartman alone.” Bartman, for those of you who have lived in a bank vault since 2003, was the hapless young Chicago Cubs fan who unintentionally interfered with a foul ball that might have been catchable by Cubs outfielder Moises Alou in the decisive game of 2003 National League Championship Series. In a perfect display of the dangers of moral luck, Bartman’s mistake—it didn’t help that he was wearing earphones and watching the ball rather than the action on the field—began a chain of random events  that constituted a complete collapse by Chicago in that very same half-inning, sending the Miami Marlins and not the Cubs, who had seemed comfortably ahead, to the Series. Bartman, who issued a sincere and pitiful apology, was widely vilified and literally run out of town. He then became part of Cubs and baseball lore, one more chapter in the sad saga has been called “the Billy Goat Curse,” the uncanny inability of this team to win it all.

Over time, even Bartman’s tormenters came to see that holding him responsible for the team’s failure was cruel consequentialism at its worst. Alou, who had sicced the Furies on Bartman by angrily pointing at him after the incident from the field and later told everyone that with the interference, he would have caught the ball, even came out ten years later–five years!—to say that he wouldn’t have caught the ball, and Bartman wasn’t to blame. (I wrote about that epic example of barn-door locking here.) Now, NBC’s Craig Calcattera and many others are beating a new drum: nobody should write about or talk about Stave any more, because it’s so unfair. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Can Anyone Analyze The Orlando Mass Shooting Objectively?”

gun control nation

I was thinking about re-posting an essay here from 2012, when Humble Talent, one of Ethics Alarms’ most prolific and thoughtful participants, filed this comment on today’s observations about the post-Orlando shooting. Not to be a spoiler, but this quote at the end is simply a fact:

“What I’ve settled on, and this might be defeatist, but what I’ve settled on is that this is the price we pay for freedom. 3000 gun deaths a year In a population of 350,000,000 is the cost of freedom, and objectively, it’s probably even a good trade, even if subjectively it tastes like ash.”

In 2012, I reached the same conclusion:

“The right to be free creates the opportunity to be irresponsible, and ethics is the collective cultural effort to teach ourselves, our children and our neighbors not to be irresponsible without having to be forced to be responsible at gunpoint, with the government holding the gun. I know it seems harsh and callous to say so, but I am not willing to give up on ethics—the belief that enough of us can do the right things even when we have the freedom to do the wrong things—to prevent the occasional school massacre or murder-suicide.”

We’re both right. The right to arm ourselves is at the beating heart of American democracy, and those who would eliminate it understand neither the right, nor the United States.

Here is Humble Talent’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Can Anyone Analyze The Orlando Mass Shooting Objectively?”

I’m so… tired. I called it… I called it all: Terrorist attack on American soil, big, guns, Trump’s gamble paid, Islam, ISIS, Allahu Akbar, gay people targeted for being gay. I’ve never been so depressed at being so right. Continue reading

Can Anyone Analyze The Orlando Mass Shooting Objectively?

blind men elephant

We know that Omar Mateen planned an attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. We know he used a pistol and an AR-15 rifle—which he purchased legally– to shoot over a hundred people, leaving  50 people dead and 53 injured. We know he was homophobic, that the FBI interviewed him three times,  and that he had pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State as his deadly assault began. We know that  his father is a pro-Taliban, anti-American activist. We know that the shooter’s  co-workers noticed that he was unstable, but that his bosses were reluctant to take any action for fear of appearing “racist.” We will Mateen’s ex-wife says he was prone to violence and that she believes he was mentally ill.

We will undoubtedly learn more. Still, that’s a lot of data. Isn’t it possible to objectively, dispassionately weigh and measure causes and effects and come to fair and reasonable conclusions that can guide policy without partisan gridlock?

It is possible to at least try, but so far, pundits, elected officials and activists aren’t trying. They are allowing confirmation bias to dominate their thoughts; what matters isn’t what caused this tragedy, but what they want to believe caused it.

To arch conservative pundit Michael Walsh, for example, the problem is that the United States allows Afghanis and Muslims to be citizens:

Ah, Afghanistan, the land of sexually primitive boy-molesters who channel their aggression into wife-beating and mass murder…That’s par for the course for marriages to Muslims, as many real American women who’ve married one of them knows. Flowers, limos, candy… and the second after the vows, domestic prison and beatings for life or until they can escape….The Florida shooter is Exhibit A why the notion of “birthright citizenship” — he was an Afghan Muslim who by sheer chance was born in New York — needs to be drastically curtailed in light of changed circumstances.

Continue reading

The Ethics Lessons In The Tragic Death Of Harambe The Gorilla

The primary lesson is this: Sometimes bad things happen and nobody deserves to be punished.

The tragedy of Harambe the Gorilla is exactly this kind of incident.

In case you weren’t following zoo news over the long weekend, what happened was this. On Saturday, a mother visiting the Cincinnati zoo with several children in tow took her eyes off of a toddler long enough for him to breach the three foot barricade at the Gorilla World exhibit and fall into its moat. Harambe, a 17-year old Lowland gorilla male, took hold of the child, and zookeepers shot the animal dead.

Then  animal rights zealots held a vigil outside the zoo to mourn the gorilla.  Petitions were placed on line blaming the child’s mother for the gorilla’s death. Other critics said that the zoo-keepers should have tranquilized the beast, a member of an endangered species. The zoo called a news conference to defend its actions.

Lessons:

1. Animal rights activists are shameless, and will exploit any opportunity to advance their agenda, which in its craziest form demands that animals be accorded the same civil rights as humans. Their argument rests equally on sentiment and science, and takes an absolute position in a very complex ethics conflict. This incident is a freak, and cannot fairly be used to reach any conclusions about zoos and keeping wild animals captive.

2. Yes, the mother made a mistake, by definition. This is res ipsa loquitur: “the thing speaks for itself.” If a child under adult supervision gets into a gorilla enclosure, then the adult has not been competent, careful and diligent in his or her oversight.  The truth is, however, that every parent alive has several, probably many, such moments of distraction that could result in disaster, absent moral luck. This wasn’t gross negligence; it was routine, human negligence, for nobody is perfect all the time. You want gross negligence involving animals? How about this, one of the first ethics essays I ever wrote, about the late “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin holding his infant son in one arm while feeding and taunting a 12-foot crocodile? You want gross negligence amounting to child endangerment? Look no further than the 6-month-old waterskiier’s parents. Taking one’s eyes off of a child  for a minute or two, however, if not unavoidable, is certainly minor negligence that is endemic to parenthood. Zoos, moreover, are not supposed to be dangerous. Continue reading

Southwest Airlines And The Suicide Threat

Not exactly "friendly skies"

Not exactly “friendly skies”

We tend to assume someone was at fault when a terrible event results from the execution of a standard policy that was not appropriate to the crisis at hand. Who’s to blame in this nightmarish scenario?

Karen Momsen-Evers was on a Southwest Airlines plane about to take off from New Orleans to Milwaukee, where she lived. Then her husband Andy sent her a text asking her for forgiveness for his imminent suicide. “I go to sleep at night thinking what could I have done, what should I have done,” Evers said. She texted back “No,” but the text arrived as flight attendants were doing their final cabin checks. She wanted to call him. The flight attendant ordered her to turn her phone off, and when she insisted, was told that the FAA regulations prohibited any further use of her cellphone. “The steward slapped the phone down and said you need to go on airplane mode now,” Momsen-Evers told reporters.

Once the flight reached cruising altitude, the desperate woman explained the situation to another attendant. She begged her to have someone make an emergency phone call, but the attendant insisted there was nothing she could do.

So Karen Momsen-Evers sat in her seat, looking at the text and sobbing, all the way to Milwaukee. When she arrived home she was met by police officers, who told her Andy had killed himself. Continue reading

Amazing! The Columbia School Of Journalism Just Boarded “Jackie’s” UVA Gang Rape Ethics Train Wreck

train-wreck

An Ethics Alarms ethics train wreck occurs when a notable unethical act or event becomes a long-running ethics disaster that exposes not merely the ethics deficits of the original participants, but others who become involved later, including, among others, public officials, commentators, experts and pundits.

This might be the first time I have ever seen the organization specifically brought in to perform a forensic ethics analysis of what caused the wreck end up with its own ethics sullied. Incredibly, however, that is what has happened to the prestigious Columbia School of Journalism, which just delivered the definitive verdict on Rolling Stone’s abysmal journalism concerning a false accusation of a fraternity gang rape by a University of Virginia fraternity.

The Columbia Journalism School held a press conference today to discuss the details and implications of its findings regarding Rolling Stone’s (tardily) retracted article, “A Rape on Campus.”  Columbia Journalism Dean Steve Coll emphasize that the fiasco  was “the collective fault of the reporter, the editor, the editor’s supervisor, and the fact-checking department.”

“We don’t believe that ‘Jackie’ was to blame,” Columbia academic affairs dean Sheila Coronel added.

Wait: how can she possibly make such a manifestly dishonest statement like this? The woman who made the false allegations that resulted in the story isn’t to blame for the story? She was the one who claimed to be gang raped at a party that never happened, at a fraternity that didn’t have a party, by frat brothers who didn’t exist, using quotes that were never said. “Jackie” is not only to blame, she is the single person most responsible for the story, its botching by Rolling Stone, and the harm it did to the fraternity she accused and the University of Virginia. “Jackie” started this Ethics Train Wreck rolling: note that I named it, months ago, “Jackie’s” UVA Gang Rape Ethics Train Wreck, because while Rolling Stone’s incompetent and biased reporter and editors played insane engineer, throttling down and blindly driving the engine to disaster, it was “Jackie” who owned the train and shoveled the coal.  And she’s not to blame? Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Comment of the Day: ‘Hard Lesson Of The Walmart Tragedy: Bad Ethics Kills’”

Homefront-the-Revolution-592

My post about the tragic shooting incident in the Idaho Walmart continues to generate fascinating comments, not always directly related to the post. (Linking publications and websites to the contrary, I took no position on guns or gun control measures, though I have elsewhere on Ethics Alarms. The post’s positions were anti-incompetent gun ownership and anti-irresponsible parenting.) In the inevitable gun-related debates that have emerged, frequent commenter and blogger Shelly Stow opined that the need for guns to resist a government that attempts to crush individual freedom no longer exists.

This sparked the Comment of the Day, a history lesson as well as an explication for the need to have the last resort of armed revolution available, from 2014’s most prolific commenter, texagg04, and here it is, beginning with a quote from Shelly’s comment, on the post, “Comment of the Day: ‘Hard Lesson Of The Walmart Tragedy: Bad Ethics Kills’”:

“I disagree that, should our citizenry today become threatened by a government bent on tyranny, weapons in the hands of that citizenry would right the situation.”

Wait. What????

So, you are saying that IF we truly faced a tyrannical government at home THEN we aren’t supposed to do anything about it to overthrow it. And that’s precisely what you are saying if you think weapons in the hands of citizens isn’t the right situation.

What???? God knows in the face of a tyrannical government, sit-ins, hunger strikes, and demonstrations accomplish precisely nothing. Certainly no external forces would come to our succor — the UN, populated by precisely the kind of tyrannies we don’t want? No. Western Europe, which can’t even be bothered to solve it’s own problems? No…

Come now… Continue reading

The Straw Man Cometh: Confronted With The Inevitable Results Of Their Race-Baiting, The “Hands-Up!” Crowd Claims It Was All A Misunderstanding

strawmanargument

Don’t let them get away with this.

The Straw Man logical fallacy occurs when a person ignores the actual issue being debated and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of the opposing position that is easier to rebut. For years, there has been an organized effort in the Obama Administration, the progressive movement, the civil rights movement and among black activists to represent American society as racist, along with the American law enforcement system and justice systems, and to maintain  the false narrative that racism was responsible for several high-profile deaths of black men, and that specific police officers, such as Darren Wilson, were guilty of racist executions and exonerated by a racist system.

The strategy has been richly fertilized by relentless accusations that white voters and the Republican party hold racial animus against Barack Obama because of his race. The deliberately divisive effort has resulted in a level of fear, anger and distrust of white Americans in the African American community not seen in over half a century, with white police officers serving as the immediate targets. Predictably, two New York City cops were assassinated by a deranged black man after posting social media messages referencing the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, and critics have correctly stated that the reckless race-baiters have “blood on their hands.” Sensing that a looming tipping point may be going against their divide and conquer agenda, they are ducking and weaving like Muhammad Ali in his prime. Continue reading

Misleading Legal Website Headline Of The Millenium: “Above The Law”

Here is the headline:

Wait---didn't I just hear the President say that the economic recovery was going just great? Someone tell Danielle, quick!

Wait—didn’t I just hear the President say that the economic recovery was going just great? Someone tell Danielle, quick!

“Graduate Of Elite Law School Forced To Live Off Welfare Due To Terrible State Of Job Market”

The law school is my alma mater, Georgetown Law Center; the student is a 2010 grad who subsequently passed the bar, Danielle Owens. The author of the overwrought article in Above the Law is Staci Zaretsky. Her tone made my mind flash back to “Queen for a Day.”

I don’t particularly want to poke the Lawscam hornet’s nest again, because I don’t especially enjoy having giant photos of my head placed on-line accompanied by obscenities, and I know a lot of bitter out of work lawyers with shaky interpersonal skills, huge debts, a computer and time on their hands have nothing better to do but to blame me and anyone else they can find for their plight (and yes, if I see a couple of them posting a photo like this on Facebook with the caption, “Hello, Ethics Alarms!” I am calling the police.). Nonetheless, I can’t let this pass without noting that the headline is dishonest, and Zaretsky’s commentary on Owens’ problems is exaggerated to the point of hysteria. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Month: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

“I don’t think this is our responsibility, but I do think we were irresponsible going into Iraq for a variety of other reasons.”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, attempting to absolve her party’s government from responsibility and accountability for the catastrophe in Iraq.

It's all HIS fault, when you get right down to it...

It’s all HIS fault, when you get right down to it…

Nancy Pelosi, like her counterpart in the Senate, Harry Reid, is an ethics corrupter of the vilest sort. The problem isn’t her party, ideology, policy positions or political objectives. What makes her an ethics corrupter is that from a place of high esteem, status and presumed trustworthiness, she constantly engages in unapologetic unethical conduct, encourages unethical reasoning and violates ethical values, all as if they are the right thing to do.

This statement is typically despicable. In saying this, she is denying the long-accepted duties of government, the successive acceptance of responsibility that is essential to the continuity of a democratically elected state, and the essence of leadership, thus misinforming the public and making them less civically competent, if that is possible.

When a future administration allows the economy to collapse because it also refuses to make the hard and responsible choices necessary to keep the nation’s debt from suffocating us but there is no more can to kick down the road, its leaders won’t be able to ethically blame Barack Obama or his predecessors. When you accept the role of leader, all problems, crises, and conditions in the nation become your responsibility, because you accepted the job. Failure is yours, not those who contributed to the conditions, seeded the crises or failed to solve the problems before, just as success is yours. Every competent, honorable, honest and fair leader understands and accepts this. President Obama and Nancy Pelosi, among others, do not. Obama always claims the successes (I’m sure there must be one or two) are his alone, and the failures are not his fault, but the fault of others. Continue reading