Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/17/2019: The Deluded, The Narrative, “The Squad,” The Hedgehog, And Other Things…

PERK UP! There’s ethics to think about!

(I’m talking to myself here…I’m sure you’re fine)

1. Today’s ridiculous note on the heartbreak of  Self-Awareness Deficit. Republican Mark Sanford, the defeated  former U.S. congressman from South Carolina who is best known for having to resign as governor after going AWOL to visit his South American mistress, said yesterday that  he is considering mounting a primary challenge to President Donald Trump. (Psssst! Mark! The RNC has already said that there would be no debates, and the primaries are a mere formality.) Sanford says he will decide in the next month or so whether to oppose Trump for the 2020 presidential nomination.

The basis on which to run against Trump is character and ethics. Of the entire universe of legitimate potential challengers, an ex-governor who escaped impeachment by resigning after making a spectacle of himself has to be near the bottom, if not lying on it.

Somebody tell him.

2. Update: The Red Sox and the late Ken Poulsen’s son are still resisting common decency, I’m sorry to report. I wrote about the on-field presentation to Brett Poulsen last week, when he was awarded the 1967 World Series ring that his father had inexplicably never received despite being part of the that magical Red Sox season. Then we learned that the Sox infielder’s daughter Kendra had never been contacted by the team or her brother, so she and her children, Ken’s grandchildren had been left out of the ceremony. I’ve tried to alert the team and have passed the story along to a baseball writer friend, so far to no avail. Last night, NESN, the Red Sox-owned cable network, interviewed Brett in the stands during the Sox-Blue Jays game. Once again, the false impression was left that he is the only offspring of Ken Poulsen.

I’m sorry Kendra. This is wrong. I’ll keep trying. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: The Boston Red Sox [Updated]

Of late, a lot of institutions that have been important to me have disappointed or embarrassed me. Yesterday the Boston Red Sox made me proud to have been a devoted follower, fan and supporter for my entire adult life. This is a nice tale even if you don’t know a baseball from a kumquat. Trust me on this,

The ethics category is caring.

I have written about the 1967 Red Sox before.They taught me that miracles do happen, that underdogs sometimes prevail, and that perseverance and foolish hope are sometimes rewarded, while giving me the best, most exciting, most inspirational summer of my life. One of the bit players who had a role in that “Impossible Dream” season” was a Double A infielder named Ken Poulsen, an obscure farmhand  called up mid-season when the Sox bench was thin. He postponed his wedding for the chance to play in the big leagues, and had what is called ” a cup of coffee,” playing only five games, getting five at bats, and collecting one lonely hit, a double that had no impact on the game at all.

It was better than Moonlight Graham, but not much. Poulsen was soon returned to the minors and never reached the Major Leagues again. From the SABRE website: Continue reading

Crosswalk Ethics

I was waiting at red light in Alexandria, on the way home from a brief acting coach gig for a friend.  On one side of street, preparing to cross, was a striking African-American couple, the women in a formfitting orange and white pattern dress, he in an open white blazer and slacks, highlighted by a pocket hanky that matched the orange in the woman’s dress.

When the “Walk” light finally flashed on, they crossed in front of my car, and as they passed, I rolled down my window and called out, “Best dressed couple I have seen all say!” and saluted.

They beamed. They waved. They shouted, in unison, “Thank you!” and walked on, laughing. I think I may have made their day.

And I thought, I really need to be on the look-out for opportunities like that. This is the way to combat the metastasizing nastiness, incivility and distrust in our culture. Be nice. Reach out. Socialize. Try to make meeting you a positive experience, no matter how brief or trivial.  It takes almost no time at all. It’s not hard. All it requires is committing to making the people around you as happy as possible.

I also had two thoughts. One: if they had been talking on their smart phones, texting or otherwise not interacting with the world around them, I wouldn’t have said anything at all.

Two: I wish I had been wearing a MAGA cap.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: Last Day Before The Start Of The Baseball Season Changes Everything Edition

Good Morning!

1. The best explanation ever composed to explain why baseball helps keep us ethical, by preserving our ability to give a damn—-for in the end, the most important of the virtues, the one that makes all the others matter—is caring.

Roger Angell, from his 1975 essay “Agincourt and After,” about the ’75 World Series and Carlton Fisk’s iconic homerun in Game #6 (yes, I was there):

It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitative as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (I know this look—I know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable. Almost. What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring—caring deeply and passionately, really caring—which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naïveté—the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball—seems a small price to pay for such a gift.

2.  Some Democrats are displaying integrity and patriotism...This morning’s Ethics Hero: Rep. Jim  Himes ( D-Ct), who disappointed MSNBC’s hack-fest Morning Joe by deploring his colleagues who are sorry the Special Counsel did not find collusion with Russia by the President. They  need to think, he told Joe and Mika, pointing out that he fact that a sitting President is not found to have traitorously conspires with a foreign power to pervert an election is cause for celebration, not regret.  Hey, do you think he reads Ethics Alarms? [Pointer: VinnyMick]

3. But most are not, especially this guy: Martha MacCallum  had Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) on her Fox News show last night. Along with Adam Schiff, he has been one of the worst offenders in asserting as fact, without evidence, that the President committed impeachable acts .  True to form, Swalwell told his host that nothing in the salacious and unverified dossier had been proven “not factual.” I am also hearing this Bizarro World legal standard being endorsed by some commenters and, naturally, the  Facebook Borg. In this country, people don’t have to prove themselves innocent, even people like Donald Trump, who seem especially ethics-impaired. Allegation,s rumors and accusations are not enough; in fact, they aren’t anything until they have been confirmed. The Steele Dossier is literally not anything, although it was used deceptively and probably illegally to justify spying on the Trump campaign. Continue reading

Encore: On the Importance Of Christmas To The Culture And Our Nation : An Ethics Alarms Guide

[As promised, here is the Ethics Alarms Christmas package, lightly revised, last posted three years ago]

I don’t know what perverted instinct it is that has persuaded colleges and schools to make their campuses a Christmas-free experience. Nor can I get into the scrimy and misguided minds of people like Roselle Park New Jersey Councilwoman Charlene Storey, who resigned over the city council’s decision to call its Christmas tree lighting a Christmas Tree Lighting, pouting that this wasn’t “inclusive,” or the  CNN goon who dictated the bizarre policy that the Christmas Party shot up by the husband-wife Muslim terrorists had to be called a “Holiday Party.”  Christmas, as the cultural tradition it evolved to be, is about inclusion, and if someone feels excluded, they are excluding themselves.  Is it the name that is so forbidding? Well, too bad. That’s its name, not “holiday.” Arbor Day is a holiday. Christmas is a state of mind. [The Ethics Alarms Christmas posts are here.]

Many years ago, I lost a friend over a workplace dispute on this topic, when a colleague and fellow executive at a large Washington association threw a fit of indignation over the designation of the headquarters party as a Christmas party, and the gift exchange (yes, it was stupid) as “Christmas Elves.” Marcia was Jewish, and a militant unionist, pro-abortion, feminist, all-liberal all-the-time activist of considerable power and passion. She cowed our pusillanimous, spineless executive to re-name the party a “holiday party” and the gift giving “Holiday Pixies,” whatever the hell they are.

I told Marcia straight out that she was wrong, and that people like her were harming the culture. Christmas practiced in the workplace, streets, schools and the rest is a cultural holiday of immense value to everyone open enough to experience it, and I told her to read “A Christmas Carol” again. Dickens got it, Scrooge got it, and there was no reason that the time of year culturally assigned by tradition to re-establish our best instincts of love, kindness, gratitude, empathy, charity and generosity should be attacked, shunned or avoided as any kind of religious indoctrination or “government endorsement of religion.”  Jews, Muslims, atheists and Mayans who take part in a secular Christmas and all of its traditions—including the Christmas carols and the Christian traditions of the star, the manger and the rest, lose nothing, and gain a great deal.

Christmas is supposed to bring everyone in a society together after the conflicts of the past years have pulled them apart. What could possibly be objectionable to that? What could be more important than that, especially in these especially divisive times? How could it possibly be responsible, sensible or ethical to try to sabotage such a benign, healing, joyful tradition and weaken it in our culture, when we need it most?

I liked and respected Marcia, but I deplore the negative and corrosive effect people like her have had on Christmas, and as a result, the strength of American community. I told her so too, and that was the end of that friendship. Killing America’s strong embrace of Christmas is a terrible, damaging, self-destructive activity, but it is well underway. I wrote about how the process was advancing here, and re-reading what I wrote, I can only see the phenomenon deepening, and hardening like Scrooge’s pre-ghost heart. Then I said… Continue reading

When The Anti-Liberty Mobs Attack, Courage And Character Are Paramount, Part I: The “Rub & Tug” Fiasco

As I explained in the initial post about the “Rug and Tug” controversy, the protests against Scarlett Johansson being cast as a biological female who led her life as a transsexual male  (that’s “Tex” on the left) made no sense. The arguments put forth by the transgender cyber-mob and others  undermined the movement for non-traditional casting that would provide minorities, like trans actors, more opportunities in their chosen field.  Their position was a double standard and  internally inconsistent, asserting that biological males who had transitioned to female were a more logical choice to play a real life character who was born female, than a female actress who would be playing a female identifying as a male…when as a female actress, that’s what she would be doing in reality. The controversy was unfair to Johansson (again) and was contrary to the whole concept of acting. Never mind! Transsexuals are currently the darling victim group of the Left, and don’t have to make sense, be consistent, or even advocate causes that avoid undermining other progressive causes and constituencies. What they say is just right, because they say so, that’s all, and anyone who disagrees is a bigot, and that’s that. They want what they want, and because they have been discriminated against in the past, they don’t have to be logical or consistent.

Thus, in episodes like this they can become monsters, using bullying and  social media to demand their desires regardless of whether it is an ethical position or not. Make no mistake: in this case, their position was not an ethical one. What is desperately needed when groups misbehave this way and abuse their influence and power is for their target to say no. Unfortunately, doing so requires unusual levels of principal, character, responsibility, intelligence and courage.

Johansson is a talented actress and a major star, but she does not, we now know, have what it takes. Noticing that no significant voices in Hollywood rallied to her defense, the actress quit the project and resigned from the role, issuing standard Hollywood political correctness blather:

“In light of recent ethical questions raised surrounding my casting as Dante Tex Gill, I have decided to respectfully withdraw my participation in the project. Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive. I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues. According to GLAAD, LGBTQ+ characters dropped 40% in 2017 from the previous year, with no representation of trans characters in any major studio release. While I would have loved the opportunity to bring Dante’s story and transition to life, I understand why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person, and I am thankful that this casting debate, albeit controversial, has sparked a larger conversation about diversity and representation in film. I believe that all artists should be considered equally and fairly. My production company, These Pictures, actively pursues projects that both entertain and push boundaries. We look forward to working with every community to bring these most poignant and important stories to audiences worldwide.”

This is Authentic Frontier Gibberish, self-contradictory and easily translated as “Hey, whatever the anointed  in-group says is right is right with me! I’m certainly not going to buck conventional wisdom if it means losing fans, roles, and money! You tell me what to think, and I’ll think it. Tell me to jump, and I’ll say “How high?” I welcome my Political Correctness Masters, and will do their bidding.” Continue reading

Another 7-11 Ethics Moment

Regular readers here know that my local 7-11 (on Quaker Lane in Alexandria, Va.) has been the site of multiple ethics dramas and lessons. Another occurred yesterday.

For about a year now, a middle-aged man and a middle-aged woman have routinely sat outside the store, trying to make eye-contact with customers and persuade them into handing over money, cigarettes, or to buy them something inside. (The two are never there at the same time: maybe they have a schedule.) We think, but it is just speculation, that they are residents of a local half-way house that is a few blocks away. Yesterday, it was the woman’s turn. She knows both me and my wife, especially Grace, who has often replied positively to her entreaties over the last 12 months, as have I, though less often.  Yesterday we were in a rush, and entered the store without interacting with her. She followed my wife into the 7-11, knew I was behind her, and let the door close right in my face, nearly knocking me flat. Later she managed to beg four cigarettes off my wife.

I know. The woman is probably mentally ill. She was dealt a poor hand of whist, to use Clarence Darrow’s favorite analogy for life. Nevertheless, she is very aware that we have been kind and generous to her. I don’t ask much or expect much, but I do not like being treated as a mark or a chump. I have held the door open for her at that 7-11; I always acknowledged her existence: she received the same respect and civility that everyone does whom I encounter at that neighborhood establishment. The least she could do is hold the door open and not let it swing shut just as I am trying to enter. The message her actions conveyed was that if I am a not submitting to her charity extortion, I’m a non-person, as far as she is concerned.

Got it. She can now look elsewhere for her free hot dogs, cigarettes, and ten dollar bills. I know she doesn’t regard me as a neighbor, or a benefactor, or an ally, but as a gullible, inexhaustible  resource to be taken advantage of.

The hell with that.

I’ll still hold the door open for her, however, like I do for everyone else.