Tag Archives: comparative virtue

Once Again, Stop Making Me Defend President Trump, And Tell Fox To Stop Making Me Defend The People Who Are MAKING Me Defend Him!

 

See? What does Comey have to complain about?

Fred, my topic scout, sent me this and suggested that it was the apotheosis of  Rationalization #22, Comparative Virtue or “It’s not the worst thing.”

Boy, was he right.

In last night’s episode of the Tucker Carlson show—right-wingers are actually impressed with Tucker’s skills at taking down lame liberal fanatics, which is sad in so many ways—featured the Fox News conservative dilettante agreeing with guest James Rosen, who was making the fatuous and ethically offensive point that people shouldn’t get so upset about what Trump does because the Civil War and the Cold War were worse.

This argument is the Mother of All Terrible Rationalizations, and especially bad because it spoils a good point, which is that absent historical perspective, it’s not easy to know what a real crisis is. Arguing that people shouldn’t object to something, however, because something else was worse is the mark of desperation as well as intellectual deficiency. Explain why the alleged crisis isn’t one (as in the Comey firing); explain why the assumed harm is exaggerated, or being hyped, or the product of bias and emotion. But to say, as Rosen, a “conservative historian,” which only means he isn’t an aggressive leftist like almost all of his colleagues, did,

“During Watergate, the term ‘crisis’ was thrown around as well and there were people at that time who were old enough to remember when there were legless Civil War veterans still in the streets of Washington.”

And I’m sure conservative historians were reminding those Civil War casualties while their legs were being sawed off without anesthesia that the Civil War wasn’t nearly as horrible as the Black Death. “Ah, I feel much better now,” they smiled. “Just call me ‘Stumpy!’

Here, for the sake of reference, is the description of #22 on the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations List: Continue reading

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What A Surprise: The Patriots Cheated. Now Comes The Integrity Check For The NFL And Its Fans

deflated-football

From the New York Times:

…On Wednesday, the N.F.L. released its report on its investigation into the scandal surrounding the surreptitious and rule-violating practice of deflating game-day footballs. Using detailed accounts and circumstantial evidence, it implicated Brady as part of the operation, saying he surely knew that the two employees, McNally, 48, and Jastremski, then 35, were purposely deflating footballs to a level beyond the permissible threshold for Brady’s benefit.

“There is less direct evidence linking Brady to tampering activities than either McNally or Jastremski,” the report said. “We nevertheless believe, based on the totality of the evidence, that it is more probable than not that Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski.”

The N.F.L. report absolved other top Patriots officials, including Coach Bill Belichick, the owner Robert K. Kraft and the equipment manager Dave Schoenfeld, saying that there was “no wrongdoing or knowledge of wrongdoing” on their part….

I wrote the headline before I remembered: the NFL has no integrity, and neither do its fans. It was very clear that the Pats had cheated to get to the Super Bowl, and had the NFL cared anything about integrity, it would have completed its investigation in time to tell the Indianapolis Colts that they, and not the New England Serial Cheats, were going to the biggest game of the year, since it had lost the chance to a dastardly opponent. Instead, the league basked in the marquee match-up and one of the best games ever, and waited until now, four months later, with football as far out of mind as it can be, to announce that the New England Patriots, again, had cheated. Clever. Too clever.

I wrote a lot about this when it occurred, and had to put up with the predictable “innocent until proven guilty” crowd, the “it’s only a game ” crowd, the ” they would have won anyway” crowd, the “everybody cheats” crowd, the “it’s not like he invaded Iraq” crowd—essentially Barry Bonds defenders, Obama enablers, and Bill Clinton fans with football jerseys and Patriots beer mugs.  Now I get the Hillary Clinton crowd, who will ask, “What difference, at this point, does it make?” The NFL can make billions being as corrupt as it is, maiming athletes and turning colleges into shams, because so many, many Americans value a visceral rush on winter Sundays over fairness, justice, and honesty.

Observations: Continue reading

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STUPIDITY SATURDAY Bonus: The Deflategate Deniers, Excusers, Rationalizers and Corrupters

dumb football fan

[This post took so long to write that I am posting it on Sunday. Pretty stupid.]

Every few months an ethics story erupts that convinces me that I’m wasting my time. I started writing about ethics online in disgust over the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, which revealed to me that no politicians, few journalists and a tiny minority of the public understood the difference between, right, wrong, and a desperate rationalization. I was aghast at the vigorously nodding heads on talk shows when some ethically-challenged dolt would say that “everyone lies about sex” (so it’s okay), or that because other leaders may have had illicit sex, that made it acceptable, or that Clinton deserved special dispensation because he was an effective and popular President, or that he and Lewinsky were consenting adults, or that personal conduct was irrelevant to the job, or that other Presidents had done worse. These were all just lazy, poorly reasoned and culturally corrupting rationalizations, but nobody except a derided few seemed to know it.

So I’ve been writing about these and other ethics issues, including rationalizations, for about 15 years, and nevertheless, when something like the Patriots cheating scandal arises, I hear the same unethical, ignorant crap, as if nothing has changed. And, of course, nothing has. All I can hope to do, in conjunction with others who don’t want to see society devolve into a Hobbesian Hell, is to try to convince enough rational people that we can, by constantly explaining, arguing, and pointing the way, just keep things as barely endurably corrupt as they are now.

I got depressed just writing that last sentence.

The issue regarding the New England Patriots giving their quarterback an edge by cheating—deflating the balls so he could throw more accurately–isn’t controversial or hard to understand. If the team broke a rule that relates to sportsmanship, the fairness of the competition and the integrity of the result, and it is hard to see how it didn’t, then the NFL should punish the team severely. [ The NFL, true to its black heart, has made it clear that its investigation will not allow a resolution of this until after the Super Bowl, meaning that it hopes the controversy will deflate. I’m sure it could resolve all questions and identify the accountable parties faster if it wanted to—it doesn’t want to.] To do otherwise essentially endorses cheating. Moreover, since the team involved has a head coach who has made it clear that he is willing to cheat (having been caught before), that coach must be held accountable for the unethical culture he has nurtured whether he was directly involved in this particular episode or not. This is truly Ethics 101, Management 101, Culture 101, Sports 101—let’s just call it “101.” Yet so many, from the elite among sportswriters to the public that devotes an obscene amount of their passion, time and money to following football just don’t get it. Continue reading

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Comment of the Day: “Unethical Quote of the Month: Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady”

"Is this a deflated ball I see before me?"

“Is this a deflated ball I see before me?”

“Inflategate”—-the developing NFL scandal about the New England Patriots’ under-inflated, more easily thrown footballs in the team’s last play-off win and perhaps others—is a big deal to 1) people who hate the Patriots; 2) football fans who care about whether their game has any integrity and 3) people like me, who think there is no justification for cheating, in sports, in business, or in life. Those who argue that it’s “much ado about nothing,” usually without being able to quote a line or explain a plot turn from the Shakespeare comedy they’re alluding to, do so because 1) they are Barry Bonds fans; 2) they don’t know the difference between a football and a plantain, and don’t care. except that they wouldn’t want to eat a football by mistake; 3) they are typical NFL football fans and want to “oh, pshaw!”  anything that reflects badly on the sport that gives their brutal lives meaning, 4) they are John Edwards, or 5) they are members of the New England Patriots organization, and perhaps were involved in the ball deflation.

Pats quarterback Tom Brady (that’s how you know I’m from Boston: I call the team the “Pats”) gave a highly unconvincing press conference yesterday in which he maintained that he would never notice that the tool of his trade that he has plied approximately since he exited the womb felt different than usual, and, like his coach, the brilliant and soulless Bill Belichick, has no idea how the team’s balls got deflated. The credibility of that claim was severely undermined for me by Brady’s use (“This isn’t ISIS…”) of my least favorite rationalization of them all on the Ethics Alarms compendium, the infuriating #22:

The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things” : If “Everybody does it” is the Golden Rationalization, this is the bottom of the barrel. Yet amazingly, this excuse is popular in high places: witness the “Abu Ghraib was bad, but our soldiers would never cut off Nick Berg’s head” argument that was common during the height of the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal. It is true that for most ethical misconduct, there are indeed “worse things.” Lying to your boss in order to goof off at the golf course isn’t as bad as stealing a ham, and stealing a ham is nothing compared selling military secrets to North Korea. So what? We judge human conduct against ideals of good behavior that we aspire to, not by the bad behavior of others. We should each aspire to be the best human being that we can be, not to just avoid being the worst rotter anyone has ever met.

Behavior has to be assessed on its own terms, not according to some imaginary comparative scale. The fact that someone’s act is more or less ethical than yours has no effect on the ethical nature of your conduct. “There are worse things” is not an argument; it’s the desperate cry of someone who has run out of rationalizations.

(Or someone whose coach had the equipment guy deflate the footballs.)

Now comes blogger Windypundit to expand on my derision of Brady’s embrace of #22 from a different and useful perspective. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Unethical Quote of the Month: Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady”:

In a way, Brady has a point, but it’s not what he thinks it is, and it doesn’t cut in his favor. In the grand scheme of things, nothing that happens on the field of play is very important. In fact, most of the rules of sports are arbitrary — the location of the free throw line, the number of bases the runners have to tag, the pressure in the football. The rules don’t have any higher meaning. And that’s precisely why there’s no excuse for not following them.

The big issues — when you can disconnect the life support, when a cop can shoot an unarmed person, when the President can order a drone strike — are full of complications and nuance. It’s hard to come up with a clear set of rules that will apply in every possible situation. You may think you have it all figured out, and then a scenario arises that you never thought of, and your simple set of rules, if followed blindly to the letter, would produce a terrible result. So maybe after you think through all the consequences, you decide that you’ve found a valid exception, and you change the rules. Or maybe, if the matter is important enough and you believe the rules are immoral, you break the rules as an act of conscience.

But I can’t see that happening much in sports. There is no greater good that could be used to justify breaking the rules. What terrible result could arise from blindly following the rules of football to the letter? A team loses a game? That might cost the team a bit of money, and I can see where crazed fans would get upset, but you know what? Nobody dies if the Patriots don’t make the playoff. This isn’t ISIS after all.

 

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Unethical Quote of the Month: Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady

Disappointed kid

“This isn’t ISIS. No one’s dying.”

–New England Quarterback Tom Brady, in the course of denying culpability in the latest New England Patriots cheating scandal.

Tom Brady now joins the Ethics Alarms Rationalization Spouter’s Hall of Fame, which I just started. You just can’t embody Rationalization #22, Comparative Virtue, or “It’s not the worst thing” any better than this obnoxious attempt to minimize the significance of Deflategate.

That’s the way to teach the kids to be fair competitors and good citizens, Tom! And does a star athlete whose attitude regarding cheating in his profession amounts to this fill you with trust in his integrity, honesty, and sportsmanship?

Not me.

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Ethics Dunce: Jon Stewart

Meanwhile, Lincoln pretty much just lay around after he was President...

Meanwhile, Lincoln pretty much just lay around after he was President…

Face the Nation had George W. Bush on today as its primary guest,  so the show’s lead in, CBS This Morning, asked its guest, “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, what question he would ask the man who preceded President Obama in the Oval Office.  Stewart’s smirking reply,

“ ‘Tell me about umber and how it helps you in painting cats.’ Jimmy Carter’s like 108? He’s out in Africa pulling guinea worms out of children’s feet, trying to cure them. Bush is at home. ‘Bring me my fruit bowl. Doin’ a still life!”

The technical term for this is, I believe,“being a dick.” Yes, it’s vulgar, but the usual terms don’t quite do Stewart’s gratuitous and unfair nastiness justice in trhis instance.

I recognize that Stewart, who eschewed a flood of well-deserved Democrat jokes over the past five days because he could not get around his massive anti-Republican biases, is in mourning over the GOP electoral avalanche that turned the nation red at all levels of government in all regions. Poor baby. Nonetheless, mocking one President of the United States for his activities in retirement because they do not measure up, in Stewart’s value system, to what Presidents are supposed to do is evidence of a stunning lack of grace, decency,proportion, self-awareness and common sense. Continue reading

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So A Female Democrat Running To Be Governor Can Use A Former Domestic Abuser As A Spokeperson, But Feminists Would Revolt If A Pro Football Player Who Did The Same To His Spouse Was Allowed To Take The Field? Got it. Wait…No, I Really Don’t.

Go ahead, it's OK...he's a man, he probably deserves it.

Go ahead, it’s OK…he’s a man, he probably deserves it.

I realize that it seems like I am picking on women who are running for high office as Democrats: this is the third one within a week. It’s a coincidence, except that I have a growing suspicion that Democrats cynically sought out some female candidates for their gender and to hew to a theme rather than because they were especially well-qualified or even ready for prime time.

The current issue involves the Wisconsin governor’s race, where Mary Burke is opposing controversial, public union-battling GOP incumbent Scott Walker. Burke is running a 15-second pro-abortion ad (Walker is anti-abortion)  starring Erin Forrest,  the Jefferson County Democratic Party chairwoman. In 2013, Forrest — who then called Erin Sievert, was charged with two misdemeanor counts of domestic abuse, the first for battery and the second for disorderly conduct. In the criminal complaint, her husband said that she punched him in the eye and the groin, bit him on the shoulder, and ripped out one of his earrings. Prosecutors offered Forrest a deferred prosecution agreement in which she pleaded guilty to the charges in exchange for having them dropped later if she avoided further legal trouble and met other requirements. She did, and the prosecutors had the domestic violence charges dismissed as agreed.

Still, she agreed, by pleading guilty, that the charges were valid and described her conduct. This is far more than several of the NFL players currently losing millions of dollars and being pilloried in the media as violent lovers and vicious parents have done. Hmmm…..for which job is spousal violence more disqualifying? Throttling large athletes in armor who are paid to be clobbered and being a celebrated hero to sports fans, or being a women’s rights advocate, a role model for young women, and a representative of a candidate for Governor of Wisconsin? Continue reading

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