Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/3/2020: Super Bowl Hangover Edition

Well HEL-LO!

1.”A Nation Of Assholes” indeed. Not for the first time, the NFL and the Super Bowl, aided and abetted by the network whose news arm presents almost all of its female on-air talent as bimbos, is excoriated for it, has a movie made about it, and doesn’t care, presented a half-time show that spectacularly violated FCC rules about what could be broadcast when children are likely to be watching. There were stripper poles, crotch grabs, crotch shots and simulated sex. You know: family entertainment.

Did you know Donald Trump is a crude vulgarian?

Here’s some of Megan Fox’s critique:

…The camerawork was outrageously gross, zooming in on Lopez’s barely covered crotch, so close that the viewer could see some sort of silver maxi pad sticking out from either side of her way-too-small fraud of a garment. If that thing wasn’t riding up between her front-hole lips, then my 6o-inch HDTV television was lying to me, and HD never lies… The only thing separating her anus from the camera is a pair of sheer stockings and a black thong. This is not okay. What the hell is wrong with the NFL? … Also, the cameramen were focused on JLo’s crotch for most of the performance….If you want to see it go find it. But it’s indecent and totally inappropriate for the Super Bowl halftime show. Shakira was not as offensive, although the cameramen also could not stay away from her crotch. But at least she was wearing an imitation of a skirt and she wasn’t on a stripper pole. Yep. JLo did a striptease pole dance while barely-dressed backup dancers simulated an orgy underneath her. It was disgusting.

What is the message here for young women exactly? You are not a sexual object and can demand men be fired for looking at you or complimenting you in the #MeToo era. You can also dress up like a whore and gyrate around on stage half-naked for the pleasure of men, but if they take pleasure in it, you can accuse them of being harassers. Get it?

Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/2/2020: The “Let’s Not Watch The CTE Bowl And Think About Ethics Instead” Edition

Good Afternoon!

I almost managed to ignore football completely this season, and I’m proud of it.  There were few rogue kneelers in the NFL this year, and the New England Patriots, my hometown role models for the Houston Astros, finally bit the dust. Meanwhile, there was little new on the CTE front, not any more is needed to prove that cheering young men in the process of destroying their brains for a handful of well-compensated seasons as football heroes is immoral and unethical.  I did recently watch the Netflix documentary, “The Killer Inside,” about Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots star who murdered a friend and perhaps two others. I didn’t know that after his suicide in prison, it was found that Hernandez suffered from CTE, and that  his brain was one of the most damaged scientists have ever seen.  The documentary also says that the New England Patriots coaching staff saw signs that he was deteriorating and becoming unstable, as well as using drugs, and they made no effort to intervene. After all, he was playing well, and the team was winning.

That’s pro football. To hell with it.

1. “The Chop.” I have written about this perpetually silly issue a lot, and recently, but the New York Times, being the Official Paper of the Woke, has felt it necessary to publish three pieces this week on the the so called “Kansas City Chop,” the tomahawk motion used by Kansas City Chiefs fans (The Chiefs are in the Super Bowl, you know) when cheering on their team. The chop is most identified with the Atlanta Braves (How satisfying it was to watch Jane Fonda dutifully chopping along with then husband Ted Turner when the  Braves finally made the world Series in 1991!), but Chiefs fans started copying Braves fans. It is, of course, intended to rally the team, has nothing whatsoever to do with any kind of commentary on Native Americans, those who pretend to be seriously unsettled by what fans of an NFL team do to show their affection for their team are either faking or need psychiatric care. But here’s CNN:
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Veteran’s Day Ethics Warm-Up, 11/11/19: Wishing My Dad Hadn’t Died Before He Figured Out How To Comment On Ethics Alarms…[CORRECTED]

Pop Quiz:

How many military veterans are currently running for President in 2020?

Answer: Two…Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

[Correction notice: I forgot about Pete in the first version of the post. Thanks to Jutgory for the catch, and thanks to Mayor Buttigieg for his service.]

1.  Here’s that “violating democratic norms” Big Lie again. This one was flagged by Ann Althouse (Thanks, Ann!)

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman,  an appointee of President Bill Clinton,  said in a speech at  the annual Thomas A. Flannery Lecture in Washington, D.C. last week, “We are in unchartered territory. We are witnessing a chief executive who criticizes virtually every judicial decision that doesn’t go his way and denigrates judges who rule against him, sometimes in very personal terms. He seems to view the courts and the justice system as obstacles to be attacked and undermined, not as a coequal branch to be respected even when he disagrees with its decisions.'”

Althouse comments,

How do you get to be a federal judge and think the expression is “unchartered territory”? That’s a written speech too (presumably). Did he visualize some entity that issues charters authorizing people to speak about the courts in a particular way? You don’t need a license to speak in the United States, and to require one would, ironically, violate our norms. The expression is “uncharted territory,” which would simply mean that Trump is venturing into a new area of speech that we haven’t previously explored and therefore have not mapped…Now, I agree with the idea that Trump’s speech about law is unconventional, but what determines that he has violated all recognized democratic norms? It’s often said that the judiciary is the least democratic part of the government, that it’s countermajoritarian. So what are the norms of democracy that say a President should not criticize the courts?! You might just as well call this purported norm a norm of anti-democracy.

Anyway… the weasel word is “recognized.” It takes all the oomph out of “all.” Trump’s speech about judges violates “all recognized democratic norms.” Who are the recognizers? The judges? Judges certainly have a role talking about democratic norms, which are often part of the determination of the scope of the judicial role: Judges refrain from doing what is left to the processes of democracy. But part of democracy is speech about government — which includes the judges — and that speech is not limited to flattering and deferring to them. It does not violate the norms of democracy to criticize and attack judges.

Bingo. And it is because of judges whot say these sorts of things that the President is not unreasonable to accuse the judiciary of  bias. Ann chose not to mention that this was also a “norm” breached by Barack Obama, more than once, but I will, the point not being “everybody does it,” but that to this judge and others, what Obama did was apparently only objectionable when Trump did it too—a common theme in the anti-Trump propaganda of the last three years. Continue reading

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 Dunce, Determined To Be Duncier: Oakland Raiders Wide Receiver Antonio Brown

Antonio and his beloved helmet

The weird Brown saga  is useful evidence—I almost wrote “intelligence,” and it’s definitely not THAT—regarding the mystery how the NFL can get away with crippling its players by nearly guaranteeing that they will be brain-damaged early in life and demented later. True, they pay their stars a lot to give their brains and future to the game for the profit of team owners and sponsors. True, NFL fans don’t care what if their favorite human battering rams and tackling dummies can’t speak coherently in their fifties as long as they can chant, “DE-Fence!” every Sunday (and some Mondays and Thursdays) while and guzzle beer. Still, it helps that so many NFL players aren’t all that swift to begin with.

Exhibit Duh is Oakland’s Antonio Brown, who has reportedly told team officials that he will quit the game unless he is allowed to wear his old helmet in the upcoming season. That old helmet has been banned by the league, which in light of CTE research and various tests and studies, has determined that it is unacceptably dangerous, unlike the game itself, which is acceptably dangerous.  Brown has even filed a grievance with the NFL to try to get permission to wear the same model helmet he wore with the Pittsburgh Steelers. That helmet, however, is no longer certified by the National Operating Committee for Standards and Athletic Equipment. Now, the NFL revels in The Kings Pass, and has allowed its stars to get away with a lot—drug use, felonies, murder arrests, cheating, domestic abuse, beating their kids, protesting the National Anthem for no coherent reason. I doubt, however, that even the NFL will cave to Brown’s demands.

All sports have safety rules, and players do not have the choice of defying them. Indy Racers can’t declare that they are more comfy without seat-belts; cyclists can’t insist that they want to wear baseball caps in the Tour de France. Interestingly, hockey goalies can play maskless, but none are foolish enough to do it. There hasn’t been a bare-faced NHL goalie since the mid-70’s, when they decided that they didn’t want to go through life looking like Terry Sawchuck…

Of course, if you’re sufficiently brain damaged, you don’t care how you look.

Brown’s determination to reduce his IQ by wearing the banned helmet is the stuff of myth and legend. Michael Silver related the tale in a long trail of tweets: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/8/2019: Hating Hate By Hating The Hateful Haters

Good morning.

Are you nuts? I’m not. Yet.

1. You want deranged? This is deranged. MSNBC put analyst Frank Figliuzzi on the air to explain the Nazi symbolism at the White House.  Figliuzzi is a former FBI assistant—think about that as you read this—and he has been given media credibility of late because he had  predicted that white supremacist violence was potentially imminent due to President Trump’s rhetoric. Of course, I predicted months ago that the relentless divisive rhetoric from “the resistance” would get someone killed soon, and nobody’s calling me to blather on TV…and I’m not insane, like this guy.

Figliuzzi alerted MSNBC World about the sinister numerical connection between neo-Naziism and the Trump administration’s decision to fly flags at half-mast until August 8 in honor of the victims of the Dayton and El Paso shootings.

“If we don’t understand how they think, we’ll never understand how to counter them,” he said. “The President said that we will fly our flags at half mast, until August 8. That’s 8/8. Now, I’m not going to imply that he did this deliberately, but I am using it as an example of the ignorance of the adversary that’s being demonstrated by the White House. The numbers 88 are very significant in neo-Nazi and white supremacy movement. Why? Because the letter ‘H’ is the eighth letter of the alphabet, and to them the numbers 8-8 together stand for ‘Heil Hitler.’ So we’re going to be raising the flag back up at dusk on 8/8. No one is thinking about this.”

Once again, this calls for Sidney Wang...

The reason that nobody is thinking about this, you idiot, is that it is deranged. How crazy can “the resistance” get and not start a stampede to the President, in reflex revulsion to the lies, the disrespect, the paranoia, the smears and the hysteria? The Times this week was musing about why Trump’s approval ratings are rising even as the mainstream media has been proclaiming that he’s a Nazi racist and responsible for every shooting in America.

To ask the question is to answer it.

(I just realized my piano is a Nazi…) Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/13/2019: Rhode Island On My Mind Edition

 

Providence, Rhode Island

Good morning!

I’m heading up to Little Rhodey in a few hours to once again collaborate with my brilliant Ethics Rock musician Mike Messer before the Rhode Island Bar, as well as to try to back about 7 hours of legal ethics and technology commentary into a 75 minute break-out session.

1. Once again, law vs ethics.The Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld those lame duck laws the GOP legislature passed to hamstring the new Democratic Governor. It is the correct decision. The measures were unethical, but legal, just like Mitch McConnell’s gambit to refuse giving Merrick Garland a hearing, just like Harry Reid’s “reconciliation” maneuver to get the amended Affordable Care Act passed without having to send it  back to the House.

2. Correct, but futile.  From the Washington Post: Continue reading

You Have Two Weeks To Be Ethical And Decide Not To Watch The Super Bowl

Let me say something good about the New York Times: not all of it’s editorials are repetitious attacks on President Trump, just most of them. Last week editorial board member Alex Kinsbury persuaded his colleague to let him used the space for an opinion both ethical and irrefutable. A quick summary: Football is maiming its players, the NFL doesn’t care, and if you watch the Super Bowl and support its sponsors, you’re complicit.

But them you knew that, right? At least you know it if you’re been coming here for any length of time.

Recalling a hard hit on Patriots star Rob Gronkowski, Kinsbury writes, “As the sound of the hit faded into a commercial break, I realized with absolute certainty that I couldn’t watch football anymore. There aren’t enough yards to gain or Super Bowl rings to win that are worth the cost.”

True. What took you so long? He continues by reviewing the well-publicized data:

The first research into the link between football and traumatic brain injury was published in 2005. Since then, the science has become impossible to ignore. In 2017, The Journal of the American Medical Association published the results of the autopsies of the brains of 111 deceased former N.F.L. players, whose relatives gave their bodies up for study. The group was not a random sample, yet 110 showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., a degenerative brain disease linked to concussions. Research published in November estimated that a minimum of 10 percent of all professional football players would develop C.T.E. at some point in their lives.

10% is wishful thinking, even for the  players who can still think. Continue reading

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

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