Funky Winkerbean vs. The NFL [CORRECTED]

The National Football League is moving inexorably toward another brain-wrecking season with scant resistance from the mainstream media or the ethics-blind public. It is heartening, therefore, to see comics section stalwart (since 1972) “Funky Winkerbean,” drawn and written by cartoonist Tom Batiuk, try to educate society, especially children, regarding the perils of football.

One of the rare comics that allows its characters to age and even die, “Funky Winkerbean” is beginning a 10 week story involving the deterioration of a regular character who once played in the NFL, as the symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, take over and destroy his life.

Such enlightening of the nooks and crannies of our culture is vital if the public is ever going to stop enabling this unconscionable sport, in which, on the professional level, the disabling of young athletes is monetized by paying them to risk a slow, early, horrible death that is far enough in the future that they can rationalize their choice to accept the deal.

The New York Times article about the strip’s latest story arc is odd, as well as suspicious. It never mentions the NFL. It refers to CTE as the result of “sports-related concussions” that “in extreme cases, can lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a form of degenerative dementia.”

I classify this a deliberate misdirection, and I wonder why the Times would stoop to it. This is primarily a football problem that also can affect those who play soccer, hockey, boxing, lacrosse and baseball, but the CTE threat in pro football is hardly restricted to “extreme cases.” There is evidence that the condition may begin at the high school level of football or even earlier, and that nearly all NFL players may suffer from it to various degrees. Is the Times burying the lede here because its readers are passionate NFL fans, and in denial over their beloved barbaric sport? New York City does have two NFL teams.

When a comic strip shows more responsibility and candor than the nation’s “paper of record,” there is a problem.

Ethics Run-Down, 2/5/2019: Neeson And Nipples

I’m calling it a run-down because I’m run down.

1. THANK YOU…Ethics Alarms readers who contributed—by tuning in to the Puppy Bowl or something, anything— to the NFL’s worst ratings for a Super Bowl in a decade, and by some metrics (percentage of homes) the worst ratings ever. True, nobody knows exactly what kept viewers away—the looming Kaepernick controversy, the blah game, LA being sick of getting beaten by Boston, the prospect of being preached to by virtue-signaling corporations, the uninspiring half-time show, families being smart enough to try to steer their kids away from football—but progress is progress. Someone will have to explain to me the “boring game” theory: who does someone know the game is going to be boring without watching it?

2. Oh, Great—thanks to Liam Neeson, we are one step closer to punishing thought crimes. What possessed the often thoughtful actor to expound on a period in his life when he hated blacks?

In an interview, published by The Independent,  Neeson, who specializes in revenge fantasy action movies, that 40 years ago he walked the streets with a weapon looking for black men to attack because friend of his had been raped by a man she identified as African American. The actor said he “went out deliberately into black areas in the city looking to be set upon so that I could unleash physical violence”.

Now he is being attacked as a racist. And he’s surprised? The governor of Virginia is being attacked as a racist for dressing up as Michael Jackson when he was a student, and he wasn’t even trying to hurt anybody. Liam, Liam, Liam. Asked what he wanted people to learn from his experience, he told ABC’s Robin Roberts today, “To talk. To open up…We all pretend we’re all politically correct in this country…in mine, too. You sometimes just scratch the surface and you discover this racism and bigotry and it’s there. ”

Fine. Everyone has unethical, even evil thoughts and impulses on occasion. If we are normal, ethical, rational and reasonable, we deal with them in a healthy way. There is nothing unethical about thoughts. Unfortunately, we are plagued in the culture right now with those who want to dictate our thoughts and punish those who do not conform in order to control our liberties, expression and conduct. Neeson just gave those people, and Hollywood, where he works, is crawling with them, an opening to punish thoughts, specifically his.

Next time, Liam, talk to a priest, a psychiatrist, a spouse, a trusted friend, anyone but a journalist. If there is a next time: I fully expect Neeson to be effectively blackballed in his profession.

3. KABOOM! The stupidest Super Bowl ethics controversy ever! Actress Abigail Breslin—you may recall her fondly  in “Little Miss Sunshine,” not so fondly as “Baby” in the beyond horrible live TV version of “Dirty Dancing”— doesn’t understand why why Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine was allowed to go topless during his Super Bowl performance when Janet Jackson was so heavily criticized for her contrived nipple flashing during the 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show. “Nipplegate” got CBS a $550,000 fine.

Levine removed his shirt to show off his heavily tattooed body as he performed, and a number of social media users, including celebrities, questioned why it was OK to see his top half and not Janet’s. You know. Morons.

“I have nothing against Adam Levine whatsoever and actually am a huge fan but it’s messed up that society seems it acceptable for him to be shirtless during the halftime show and Janet Jackson was chastised because her top half was accidentally exposed at the same event. #doublestandards,” Breslin tweeted. “It’s unfair that she was ridiculed for an accident that wasn’t even her fault but a man can take his shirt off on stage and it’s no problem….I’m saying neither should be fined. Or both should be fined. It’s not fair an accidental slip is cause for a fine but a man ripping his shirt off on stage is chill. It should be a fine for both or a fine for none.”

Actress Rosie Perez—is she more or less of a hasbeen than Breslin?— tweeted “Okay. Hold up. Are they going to go in and penalize # AdamLevine for showing his t*ts like they did @JanetJackson ? Just asking.”

Ugh. As Ethics Alarms has explained before, there was nothing accidental about Jackson’s flashing, and the risible claim that poor Janet had a “costume malfunction” (wink-wink) has entered the realm of fake history, less annoying but equally as false as “Hands Up! Don’t shoot!” But never mind that: have these actresses never been to a beach? A volleyball tournament? Do they live in nudist colony? Civilized society permits some parts of the male anatomy to be exposed in public, while some parts of the female anatomy are not considered appropriate for public display. The system has worked pretty well. Are feminists really going to try to label this a form of sexism?

On multiple fronts, it is beginning to appear that progressive cant is spinning into self-parody.

Here’s Adam, by the way:

 

I don’t know about you, but I had a hard time finding his nipples.

 

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/2/2019: A Drunken City Council President, A Head-Exploding Political Charity, NBC’s Strange Welcome To The New Year, And Facebook Calls Reality “Hate Speech”

Good Morning!

1. First candidate for “Incompetent Elected Official Of 2019”! The Troy New York City Council president got drunk and then went behind the wheel to chased another motorist at high speeds for nearly 30 miles last week . State police arrested Carmella R. Mantello, 53, after troopers received a call from a terrified driver who told dispatchers that some crazy person was tailgating him and driving erratically. When troopers  pulled Mantello over, she denied following the man and claimed he was following her—interesting, since  troopers stopped her when she was behind the complaining motorist. She also refused to take a breathalizer test.

Later, Mantello  issued this statement:

“I understand the severity of my actions and take full responsibility. I apologize to my family, friends and constituents and am deeply sorry that I let you down,” she said. “I expect more from myself. Finally, I would like to personally thank the New York State Troopers for their professionalism in this matter and the service they render every day to keep our communities safe.”

The best way for her to honor professionalism and keep communities safe is to resign immediately.

Oh—I assumed that Mantello was a Democrat, since the news story didn’t mention her party affiliation. Nope! She’s a Republican.

2. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!—get a load of THIS! Also, KABOOM! My head just exploded. Some ethics stories don’t need any analysis; they are res ipsa loquitur. I generally don’t devote pots stories when the despicable conduct is so obvious, but this one needs to be widely disseminated. From the New York Post: Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 8/25/2018: Train Wrecks, Gotchas, Fake News, Idiots, And Progress, Sort Of…

Thus endeth one of the worst weeks in Ethics Alarms traffic in years. It depressed me so much I stopped checking the figures. The comments remained vigorous and high quality, and for that I am grateful. Obviously my being on the road, pseudo-vacationing and without a charged computer were factors, as is August. I do feel, however, that a lot of people just don’t want to be objective, rational or ethical where political news is concerned, just angry and emotional.

Well, at least the libel lawsuit by the banned commenter was dismissed this week.. He told the judge that this was an extreme right-wing website, you know.

1. Not the Michael Cohen Ethics Train Wreck, just the Trump Administration Ethics Train Wreck. On one hand, Cohen is as sleazy, unethical and untrustworthy a lawyer ever to blight the profession (now don’t sue me, Mike, this is just my opinion, not an assertion of fact!), as I noted years ago when I first wrote about the creep.  On the other, Trump was literally asking for a disaster by continuing to employ such an obvious low-life. On the one hand, Trump obviously lying about his relationships with various strippers, models and other sex toys for hire was unconscionable; on the other, “everybody lies about sex” was the official Democratic talking point when Bill was doing it. On the one hand, paying hush money to cover up adultery is slimy, on the other, it’s not illegal, and despite what the news media is selling, it probably isn’t an election law violation either. On the one hand, the news media having yet another impeachment wet dream is disgusting, biased, unethical journalism; on the other, Trump keeps handing the “resistance” ammunition on a silver platter.

Nonetheless, the news media and the Democrats still somehow manage to out-misbehave the President. The latest is the ridiculous argument that the Kavanaugh nomination is now somehow “illegitimate” because the President is under suspicion of illegal conduct. Any pundit or authority who makes this totured and desperate case deserves to be permanently ignored and designated a partisan hack; the current list includes Democratic Senators Mazie Hirono and Ed Markey,  and The New York Times’ Paul Krugman, David Harsanyi explains succinctly for those who can’t figure this out for themselves.

2. Great. Now we have legacy racism to worry about. When the kind of “gotcha!” mentality that prompts people to search for insensitive tweets athletes made as teenagers mates with the corporate cowardice that  prompts a company like Nabisco to cave to complaints by deranged extremist group like PETA, in an environment where “Racist” has become the full equivalent of crying “Commie!” or “Witch!,” I guess this is inevitable. Inevitable, but scary, and really, really stupid.

Lilly Diabetes pulled its sponsorship of Indy racer Conor Daly’s  car in the NASCAR Xfinity race at Road America, because the driver’s father allegedly made a racist remark in the 1980s. I could go into more detail, but it would nauseate me. You can read more here. The sponsorship was designed to raise awareness for treatment options and resources for people living with diabetes.

“Unfortunately, the comments that surfaced this week by Derek Daly distract from this focus, so we have made the decision that Lilly Diabetes will no longer run the No. 6 at Road America this weekend,” the company said in a statement. Craven, principle-free, cowards. I have diabetes, and I want to make certain that the focus is on Lilly’s utter disregard for fairness, proportion and common sense. If corporations are this easy to intimidate—and I think they are—the Left’s escalating efforts to constrain free speech, thought, advocacy and conduct are going to be successful. When will conservatives work to make all those Kennedys pay for old Joe’s pro-Hitler sentiments?  That would be about as logical and fair as punishing Conor Daley for a 30-year-old comment by his father.

3. Remember that story about ICE detaining a man while he was driving his pregnant wife to the hospital when they stopped for gas? It was more pro-illegal immigration spin. The coverage of the news that made it not the “children in cages” anti-Trump propaganda it was spun to be was given a fraction of the exposure that the original, misleading story was. The LA Times eventually told what Paul Harvey called “the rest of the story”:

An immigrant in the U.S. illegally who was detained by federal officers in San Bernardino last week while heading to the hospital with his pregnant wife is one of three men listed in an arrest warrant for a 2006 murder in Mexico. Joel Arrona-Lara is wanted in connection with the killing of Miguel Ángel Morales Rodríguez, alias “El Garcia,” according to the arrest warrant…

Gee, can ICE arrest illegal immigrants who are murderers now, or should we just “think of the children’ and leave them alone too? A recent poll concluded that a majority of the public doesn’t approve of how the Trump administration is handling immigration. Well of course not! Children in cages, innocent expectant fathers stopped on teh way to the hospital, all of those good illegal immigrants minding their own business…

This is disinformation designed to influence U.S. elections.

4. Life Incompetence Department: In Bijie, China, a concerned 26-year-old husband and 24-year-old wife consulted a doctor to learn why they had been unsuccessful in their efforts to have a child for four years. Intercourse was painful for the wife, she said. The doctor explained the problem after some further questioning:  they had been having anal sex the entire time. After he gave them a little instruction book, the wife was with child in short order.

5. Good! The National Federation of State High School Associations reports that  participation in 11-player high school football declined nationwide for the second consecutive year. “We are encouraged that the decline in high school football was slowed, due in part, to our efforts in reducing the risk of injury in the sport,” said Karissa Niehoff, the NFHS executive director, in a statement. “While there may be other reasons that students elect not to play football, we have attempted to assure student-athletes and their parents that thanks to the concussion protocols and rules in place in every state in the country, the sport of football is as safe as it ever has been.”

As safe as it has ever been…..

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/4/2018: White Artists, Black Artists, Brain Damage And The Mad Midnight Pooper

Good Morning!

(On the way to lovely Annapolis, MD to present my Clarence Darrow legal ethics program, along with D.C. actor Paul Morella, the real star of the day and the best Clarence Darrow portrayer alive. Paul starred in my 2000 original one-man show about the iconic lawyer-rogue, and has been performing it for lawyer groups and bar associations ever since.)

Déjà vu!  I would write a full post about this, but you can essentially go to all the football head trauma essays, search and replace NFL with NHL, and you’ll pretty much have it. The New York Times reports on a 53 year old ex-pro hockey player whose brain yielded evidence of CTE, and evidence is mounting the the violent sport is doing damage to players similar to what the NFL denied for so long. Right now, the National Hockey League is denying it too:

To the N.H.L. and its commissioner, Gary Bettman, the diagnosis is likely to be the latest piece of evidence to dismiss or combat. Even as links build a chain bridging the sport to C.T.E., the degenerative brain disease associated with repetitive head trauma, and some of the game’s most revered names push the league to take a more open-minded approach, the N.H.L. has denied any connection between long-term brain damage and hits to the head.

The N.F.L. did the same, for many years, until the evidence became too overwhelming, the numbers too much to counter with plausible deniability. Facing a huge class-action lawsuit, the N.F.L. eventually admitted to the connection and agreed to a roughly $1 billion settlement with former players. (That has not kept the sides from continuing to fight over the payouts, amid accusations of fraud and intimidation.) The N.H.L., following the N.F.L.’s strategy of about a decade ago, still contests any role in the burgeoning science of C.T.E., in the courts of law and of public opinion.

What’s going on here? Violent pro sports are popular and profitable, so they will continue maiming players and devastating their families until the public finally refuses to have blood on its hands. It will take a while, and many lives will be destroyed, but in the end, football and hockey are going to have to be responsible, and also held responsible for the carnage their greed has caused.

2. Yeah, I’m being unfair and partisan when I accuse progressives of being hostile to free speech and diversity of views… A hip-hop and R&B radio station in Detroit has announced that it won’t play Kanye West’s music. The alleged justification was the rapper’s dumb remarks about slavery. On “TMZ Live,” West said,

“When you hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years? That sounds like a choice. Like, you were there for 400 years and it’s all of you all? You know, it’s like we’re mentally in prison. I like the word prison ’cause slavery goes too — too direct to the idea of blacks.”

That’s pretty stupid for sure, but hardly any more stupid than the kinds of things West has been saying his whole career as his fans cheered him on. He’s welcome to hijack a telethons to say, for example, that President Bush intentionally let blacks die after Katrina, but this goes too far. (Someone please explain to me exactly what he thought he was saying, if you have time.) Continue reading

Unethical TV Ad Of The Month: Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Treats

I would call this ad “brain dead,” but that would, perhaps, be in bad taste.  Still, the wilful disregard by the NFL and its sponsors—and the public, of course—of the increasingly undeniable evidence that football kills brains is an ethics black hole.

Did Kellogg’s not read this (and similar reports)…?

From the New York Times:

Athletes who began playing tackle football before the age of 12 had more behavioral and cognitive problems later in life than those who started playing after they turned 12, a new study released on Tuesday showed. The findings, from a long-term study conducted by researchers at Boston University, are likely to add to the debate over when, or even if, children should be allowed to begin playing tackle football.

The results of the study by researchers at Boston University, published in the journal Nature’s Translational Psychiatry, was based on a sample of 214 former players, with an average age of 51. Of those, 43 played through high school, 103 played through college and the remaining 68 played in the N.F.L.

In phone interviews and online surveys, the researchers found that players in all three groups who participated in youth football before the age of 12 had a twofold “risk of problems with behavioral regulation, apathy and executive function” and a threefold risk of “clinically elevated depression scores.”

Oh, never mind, spoilsports!  This NFL play-off time! De-FENCE! De-FENCE! Let’s give support to those irresponsible parents who send their kids out to scramble their gray matter and get that CTE started! Let’s encourage those potential NFL dementia victims with a heart warming vignette about a Dad urging his young son to “Give it your best!’ prompting the lad to run roaring into combat, perhaps even to cripple someone else.

Is this Kellogg’s reasoning? Apparently so.

Brain dead. Also dead ethics alarms.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/3/2018: Lists, Lust, Tweets and Twits…[UPDATED!]

Good Morning, Ethics Lovers!

1 Fake news or just bad journalism? These year-end lists are sometimes very valuable. The Washington Examiner has published what it calls “our catalogue of the shoddiest political reporting beginning Jan. 20, 2017,” It’s no surprise that most of the items appear to spring from anti-Trump bias, but not all. I’m certain the list is not complete; I’m very certain that Fox News is treated far too leniently. It’s still a useful list.

This example from the list is the kind of misleading spin that Ethics Alarms will continue to label fake news: anti-Trump distortions designed to further a Democratic constituency’s false narrative. This one was generated by a reporter’s confirmation bias that the White House was hostile to LGBT citizens, then not checked, and given a pass by an editor who was also influenced by confirmation bias:

March 29: The Golden Easter Egg

The Claim: In a first for the White House, the eggs used for the annual Easter Egg Roll will be gold instead of the usual rainbow and pastel colors.

The Source: A New York Times reporter.

The Facts: This was not the first time that the White House has used golden eggs for the annual hunt. The Obamas had golden eggs as did previous administrations.

Hell, I knew about the golden eggs. It would have been easy to check, but the journalists leaped to the conclusion that would support anti-Trump fearmongering.

2. Add it to the list! Ann Althouse caught this one:

I’m reading “Trump’s claim that he prevented air-traffic deaths is his most questionable yet” by Philip Bump at the Washington Post (and similar attacks on Trump elsewhere). But what Trump tweeted was:

“Since taking office I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation. Good news – it was just reported that there were Zero deaths in 2017, the best and safest year on record!”

Those are 2 separate sentences. They do create the impression that they have something to do with each other, but he’s only claiming that he’s been “very strict on Commercial Aviation.” (Don’t get me started on the capitalization.) He never says because of my strictness there have been zero deaths. If you see a claim, you made an inference.

Bingo. And inferences should not be published in major newspapers as facts. Trump did not claim that he prevented air-traffic deaths, and even if he had, it certainly would not be “his most questionable yet.”

3. He just can’t help himself.  I wonder how many extra approval points President Trump would have if he just had a smart, savvy, responsible tweet editor with veto power. Stupid tweets like yesterday’s retort to “Rocket Man”…

“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

…are nothing but destructive. a) This kind of flippant talk involving nuclear war is per se irresponsible. b) It reinforces fears that the President is reckless and untrustworthy. c) It is childish, and reduces international diplomacy to playground taunts. d) It shows a flat learning curve and a frightening lack of discipline and judgement. e) It’s crude, and unpresidential.

But you knew that without me having to explain it, right? So why didn’t he?

Continue reading