Fake History Ethics, Baseball Division.

Yesterday was the anniversary of a famous day in baseball and American race relations history. From Nationalpastime.com:

May 13, 1947: During the pregame infield practice, a barrage of racial slurs is directed at Jackie Robinson by the Cincinnati fans during the Dodgers’ first visit to Crosley Field this season. Brooklyn shortstop Pee Wee Reese, a Southerner from Kentucky with friends attending the game and captain of the team, engages the black infielder in conversation, and then put his arm around his teammate’s shoulder, a gesture that stuns and silences the crowd.

This  episode in the well-known saga of Jackie Robinson breaking the color line in baseball has taken on the status of legend. It is in the (excellent) biopic about Robinson, “42.” It was re-told in Ken Burns’ documentary “Baseball.” Most enduring of all, the moment is memorialized forever in the statue outside Dodger Stadium—well, forever until Robinson or Reese is cancelled because something unforgivable is unearthed in their past, whereupon UCLA students will pull the thing down as progressives cheer.

I’m preparing a program for the Smithsonian Associates on how baseball has influenced American values, culture, politics, language and society, so it is of special interest to me that there is considerable controversy over whether Reese’s mid-game gesture ever happened. Writes much-lauded baseball essayist Joe Posnanski,

“There is no mention at all of the embrace in the newspapers. Quite the opposite, in fact. The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote that very day that Robinson “was applauded every time he stepped to the plate.” Meanwhile, there is no mention of it in the black press either; Burns insists that the embrace had happened, the black papers “would have done 15 related articles.” There is no photo of it. Robinson’s 1948 book about his first season called “Jackie Robinson: My Own Story” does not mention any such incident….There isn’t a single contemporary account of the embrace in any of the newspapers or magazines.”

Theories abound. The episode happened on a different date. It happened, but not in view of the fans. It is a story that accurately describes what Reese’s support of Robinson—Reese was a white southerner and a team leader, and he and Robinson did become close friends—meant to the black rookie as he battled abuse and racism in that first season of 1947, but there was no literal arm around the shoulder.  Craig Calcaterra, recycling  the controversy yesterday on his NBC blog, theorized, Continue reading

Good JOB Everybody! The U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt Affair Becomes The U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt Ethics Train Wreck

The last time we visited the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, things seemed ready to slip into relative calm. Yes, the captain has breached policy and navy protocol as well as the chain of commend, but he had received the necessary punishment that he had to know was coming. His gambit had worked, focusing sufficient media and public attention on ship’s plight to goad the Navy into acting with more compassion and dispatch, getting the Wuhan-infected sailors off the carrier and into treatment. The Acting Navy Secretary had made the proper, if unpopular call, and the President had backed him up. Yes, the mainstream media was stirring the pot and making it seem like the captain had been unfairly punished—didn’t the cheers of his crew prove that?—but the public is used to this dance by now: the “Whatever the President and  His Appointees Do Is Wrong Waltz.” Here was how the Times, the national “paper of record,’ described Captain Crozier’s firing yesterday, for example:

“Mr. Modly’s response last Thursday was to fire Captain Crozier, accusing him of circumventing the Navy’s traditional chain of command by copying more than 20 people on the emailed letter.”

Fake news. The use of the word “accuse” falsely suggest that there was any doubt in the matter. Crozer did circumvent the Navy’s  chain of command by copying more than 20 people on the emailed letter, ensuring that it would reach the public. This was a major breach of security and military procedure, a firing offense in every branch.

And of course it was deliberate.

But I digress. The inability of the Times and virtually every other  news source should be an assumption by now. That’s a different Ethics Train Wreck. Continue reading

Introducing Rationalization 25C, The Romantic’s Excuse, Or “I Care So Much!”

It should have been depressing for any American to observe Senator Chuck Schumer’s  recent two-day display of horrific ethics, beginning with his threatening two Supreme Court Justices if they refused to do his bidding–Chuck doesn’t get that “separation of powers” thingy, unless it can muzzle the other party’s President—and concluding with a record-setting rationalization orgy on the Senate floor as he tried to weasel out of accountability for his outrageous and dangerous abuse of position and decency.

In some ways, his second outburst was worse than his first. Rationalizations are lies, essentially, and a U.S. Senator who resorts to them to defend himself is insulting the intelligence and character of the American public  as well as deceiving and corrupting them. Unfortunately, rationalizations are how our culture, in the absence of a competent educational system, tends to teach most people how to reason when ethics are on the line. Since rationalizations are all lazy, dishonest, flawed and damaging ways to approach decision-making, for a U.S. Senator like Schumer to parade them so shamelessly rots more than just the principles of logic.

There is good news, though! In his frenzy to try to babble his way out of the Senate censure he had earned, Schumer revealed a new rationalization for the list that somehow Ethics Alarms had missed. Chuck’s exhaustive collection of justifications included  this lament, “I feel so passionately about this issue and I feel so deeply the anger of women all across America!” Oh! Then we completely understand why you would threaten two Supreme Court justices and said they wouldn’t know what hit them if they displeased you, Senator! No problem, then. Carry on!

I think this is the 101st entry on the Rationalizations list. As we get farther and farther down our categorizing  the wide variety of lies we tell ourselves and others to make it seem like doing wrong is doing right, there is a danger of slicing them too thin. I am persuaded, however, that The Romantic’s Excuse is, indeed, a necessary addition, so here it is: Continue reading

Ten Ethics Observations On The President’s 2020 State Of The Union Message

The text of the speech is here.

1. As I mentioned at the end of the previous post, my professional assessment, as a speech coach and a stage director, is that Trump’s delivery–timing, pacing, energy, focus, expressiveness, emphasis, technique–was excellent. Like other politicians (and me, frankly) the President is best, most relaxed, most persuasive and likable, when he is speaking extemporaneously. This time, though the speech was obviously scripted, he delivered it like his more familiar riffs.

And he has improved over his term in office. So many POTUSes have not.

2. As for content, I saw the speech described as “Reaganesque.” That’s high praise, but not far off. There were no ringing catch phrases, but the most important feature was that the speech was positive, optimistic, and upbeat. This was especially remarkable because many expected the President to be combative and defiant, and to directly address his impeachment. Not doing so was wise, and indeed ethical. Living well is the best revenge, and the President’s recitation of his administration’s achievements, no matter how the factcheckers spin them—it’s Trump, so we assume hyperbole—was a virtuoso dismantling of Big Lie #5: “Everything is Terrible.”

It’s not terrible, of course, far from it, and the false narratives constantly repeated by the Democratic candidates about how the middle and lower classes weren’t benefiting  were belied by Trump’s statistics asNancy Pelosi stared.

3. The repeat stunt of having all the female members of Congress on the Democratic  side wear white  was juvenile, incoherent and dehumanizing. I was reminded of the sperms in Woody Allen’s “Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask.” Whatever their chant was, it didn’t work. The President deserves ethics points for specifically condemning late term abortion in front of this group, and featuring a little girl born at 23 weeks was a powerful visual aid.

Most Americans do not approve of late term abortions, and the device of making Democrats explicitly show their disapproval of Trump’s vow to stop it exposes a gaping ethics black hole on the Left.

4. At times I wish Ronald Reagan had never introduced the manipulative technique of using guests in the audience for applause and heart-rending moments, but I have to admit President Trump used it like no one before him, shamelessly but effectively.  I just hope nobody tries to top it, because that was my limit, and perhaps a bit over.

There was the African-American boy who wants to join the Space Force, and his 100 year-old Tuskegee airman great-grandfather, in uniform, having just been promoted to  general by Trump. There was the young African American girl who had been denied her application for a tax credit scholarship to attend a private school in Philadelphia because the state’s Democratic governor had vetoed a funding bill. The President told her she would get her scholarship after all, as she and her mother beamed. There was the new President of Venezuala, symbolizing a capitalist rescuer for a nation wrecked by socialism. Rush Limbaugh, recently diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, appeared genuinely overcome when Mrs. Trump awarded him the Medal of Freedom on the spot. Also on the spot was a surprise reunion between a military wife and her soldier husband, back from deployment.

Great drama, great sentimentality, great showmanship. It was a combination of Oprah, Maury, and “Queen for a Day,” but schmaltz works, and the President proved himself a master of it.

5. Pelosi’s guests included Fred Guttenberg, the father of a high school freshman killed in the 2018 mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He got himself removed from the audience by shouting something about his daughter as the President pledged to preserve the Second Amendment. Using the victim of tragedies as political props is an objectionable stunt (Trump did this too, with Kelli Hake and her son;  Army Staff Sergeant Christopher Hake, was killed  in Iraq, a victim of the late Iranian terrorist leader Qasem Soleimani. Another guest was the brother of Rocky Jones, the victim of an illegal immigrant in Tulare County, California, and the parents of an ISIS victim, but Trump’s guests didn’t disrupt the event. They had also lost loved ones to bad people, just like Guttenberg, but do not advocate taking away law-abiding people’s rights in their grief. Continue reading

The Ethics Mess That Is US Race Relations, Chapter I: The Killingly Redmen Fiasco

In Killingly, Connecticut, the local high school’s mascot has long been  a Plains Indian, and its athletic teams have been called the Redmen. Then, in 2019, the Nipmuc Tribal Council across the state border in Massachusetts complained that the name and mascott were offensive. [There’s an interesting discussion of the association of the color red with Native Americans here.]  Once the complaint was made, other Native American groups decided, “Yeah! We’re offended too!” along with usual gang of offended-by -proxy political correctness zealots. (Does this all sound familiar? It should.)

As typically happens in such situations, the people in charge decided to take the path of least resistance—this is how political correctness and expression suppression take hold, as you know–and in July, the Killingly  school board voted to eliminate  “Redmen” and the mascot and change it to “Redhawks.” It’s just a name, right?

Well, not this time. The uproar was so great that restoring “Redmen” became an election issue. Supporters of the old name and mascot took  control of the school board in the November 2019 election. However, while the new members had enough votes to eliminate the “Redhawks” name, they couldn’t muster enough to restore “Redmen.” “There is no mascot at this point,” said Craig Hanford, the new Republican board chairman, and he sent the dispute to a committee.

Fans of the football team, it was reported, shouted “Go Redmen!” during games during the rest of the season, wore Redmen jerseys and hats, and told anyone who asked that there was nothing racist about the name. One fan wore the grammatically perplexing sweatshirt, “Born a Redmen, Raised a Redmen, Will Die a Redmen.Continue reading

Fixing Elizabeth Warren’s Voice

In a post yesterday about the Democratic candidate’s debate this week, I wrote, as a coda to the usual observations about Elizabeth Warren (that she’s a demagogue, that she’s a relentless populist panderer, that she advocates things in public that as a law school professor she knows are impossible or unconstitutional…that sort of thing),

Maybe its just me, but she talks through her nose, and has one of the most annoying voices in the history of politics. Do you think that doesn’t matter? It matters. It’s also fixable.”

I’m a professional stage director (at least when someone’s willing to pay me to direct a play, anyway), and fixing bad speech habits is part of the job. Most of the time, it is just a matter of making an individual listen to themselves. I could fix Elizabeth Warren in a few hours.

Commenter Jeff, however, raises an interesting point, as he writes,

I think the window on “fixable” might have closed. If Warren took voice lessons and learned to speak with a more pleasing voice, wouldn’t it feed the perception that she’s phony? She’s already got an authenticity problem, and if her voice suddenly became non-annoying, it would be quite noticeable. Had she done it before getting all the press coverage of the primary race, it might have gone unremarked, but I think it’s too late now, especially as she takes the front-runner spot (and its attendant scrutiny from the other candidates) away from Biden.

Can you imagine the hay Trump would make with that? Sample tweet:

“Liz Warren, the Fake Indian, is such a phony she doesn’t even talk with her Normal voice anymore! So sad!”

Continue reading

“No, No! That’s NOT How You Use The Cognitive Dissonance Scale Tactic, You Idiots!”

From Newsweek:

As President Donald Trump attacks House Democrats heading an impeachment inquiry of him, The Democratic Coalition is countering with a new “Impeachment Task Force” studded with liberal celebrities to protect lawmakers seeking to hold Trump “accountable for his betrayal of America.” The task force, designed to lead rapid response to Trump during the impeachment inquiry, has confirmed members including comedian Rosie O’Donnell; actors Tom Arnold, Ron Perlman and George Takei; and actresses Debra Messing and Alyssa Milano, The Democratic Coalition’s co-founder Scott Dworkin told Newsweek. The task force launched a fundraising effort and basic plan on Thursday. The group has already started meeting and is set to go live with its website next week.

Oh, God.

See, the theory behind attaching “celebrities” to political advocacy is to force the adversary target down the cognitive dissonance scale because the celebrities have so much credibility and are so beloved that the target, in this case President Trump, lowers himself on the scale below dimply by opposing such icons, who have daunting positive values. This is Dr. Festinger’s invaluable scale right-side-up….

How many of those named celebrities are on the plus-end of the scale to most Americans, if they are recognized as celebrities at all? Tom Arnold? Rosie O’Donnell?Anyone taking their political, moral, or ethical guidance from these fools and jokers have bigger problems to worry about than impeachment, like not getting their heads stuck in loving cups, or avoiding setting their crotches on fire.

Some questions that come to mind… Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/20/2019: Fake History, Fake Photo, Fake Assassination, Fake Native American

A dramatic good morning to all.

1. Let’s see which news media outlets report this. Because, you know, the President is the one encouraging violence…State senator Martin Sandoval, who represents Illinois’ 11th District, had a  fundraising event last week that included a mock assassination of  President Trump for the enjoyment and edification of Sandoval’s supporters. Photos posted by a woman at the event show someone pointing a fake machine gun at a man wearing a Trump mask. “Trump” is acting as if he has been shot, grabbing his chest and leaning back. In another photo, Sandoval can be seen standing next to the person holding the gun.

Thus busted, and under fire from officials of his own party, Sandoval released a statement over the weekend apologizing for the incident, which he called “unacceptable.” “I don’t condone violence toward the President or anyone else,” Sandoval said. “I apologize that something like this happened at my event.”

Oddly, he didn’t take any action indicating those sentiments at the event.

2. Now THIS is police misconduct! Wow. Portland police suspected Tyrone Lamont Allen of robbing four banks and credit unions. Yet none of the tellers noticed Allen’s  facial tattoos, and he was not wearing a mask. To address that problem, the police photoshopped out the tattoos on Allen’s face before including his picture in a photo line up.

Then the witnesses identified Allen. Continue reading

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

“Reputation Laundering” And The Dirty Money Fallacy

Meharry Medical College is a 143-year-old historically black institution in Tennessee. Last week it announced that it had received the second-largest grant in its history, a $7.5 million gift to study public health issues that affect African-Americans.

But the gift has prompted attacks from African-American health experts and activists. The source of the funds, Juul Labs, is the fast-growing e-cigarette company and partially owned by the tobacco giant Altria. “Juul is cozying up to the black community, and that makes it harder for some parts of the black community to call them out on their targeting of African-Americans,” says Sharon Y. Eubanks, who is an advisory board member of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California. By “targeting African-Americans”, she means that the company and Altria market its completely legal products to blacks (among other groups), who choose to buy them. [Full disclosure: I worked as an ethics consultant for Altria for many years, and enjoyed the relationship tremendously. Altria was the reason I shaved my head.]

According to the NAACP’s Youth Against Menthol campaign, about 85 percent of African-American smokers aged 12 and older smoke menthol cigarettes, compared with 29 percent of white smokers, and Juul markets menthol pods while Altria markets menthol versions of its cigarettes, like Marboro.  And how, exactly, is the African -American community helped if Meharry,  the nation’s largest medical research center at a historically black institution, refuses the Juul grant to demonstrate, well, something?

You got me. This, however, is part of a growing fad among the virtuous and the “woke”—refusing to allow organizations, entities and families that they have decided are bad from using  alleged ill-gotten gains to do good. Continue reading