Last Resort Ethics Catch-Up, 6/19/2019

Desperately trying to salvage the day with the next one looking worse, and a lot of important ethics matters being swept toward the falls, were they risk being swamped by rapidly moving events…

1. Great sequence, unethical to make it…Not only was D.W. Griffith a film pioneer and a racist, he was also quite mad. If you haven’t see this sequence from D.W. Griffiths’ “Way Down East,” you must. That’s Lillian Gish on the ice floe, and actor Richard Barthelmess trying to rescue her for real. It was  shot on a frozen river as the ice broke up,  and Gish was really headed over the falls, though they were only a few feet high.  No stunt actors were used; Gish’s hair froze and she lost feeling in her hand from the cold. Her right hand was never quite right after that.

Things like this are what made actors’ unions necessary.

2.  What a mess.  The President’s Secretary of Defense nominee, Patrick Shanahan, resigned from the Acting-SOD role and removed his name from consideration in order to keep his family from being dragged through some awfully ugly mud, very little of which, it seems was of his making or germane to his qualifications for office.

Before their divorce, Shanahan’s ex-wife was arrested after punching him in the face; after the divorce, his son was arrested after attacking and nearly killing his mother with a baseball bat.  The Waltons this wasn’t. Shanahan tried to defend his son after that episode, arguing in a message sent to  his ex-wife’s brother  that his son had acted in self-defense and writing…

“Use of a baseball bat in self- defense will likely be viewed as an imbalance of force,” However, Will’s mother harassed him for nearly three hours before the incident.”

It was expected that Democrats would weaponize the memo against him in hearings, #MeToo-style.

Shanahan told  The Washington Post  that he wrote the memo in the hours after his son’s attack on his ex, before he knew the full extent of her injuries, to prepare for his son’s initial court appearance. He said  never intended for anyone other than his son’s attorneys and his brother-in-law to read it, but, of course, by showing the message to his brother-in-law it was no longer confidential.

Somehow, in a civilized culture, private tragedies like these should not become an impediment to public service. Yet it is hard to imagine how Shanahan thought it would not, since this is not a civilized political culture. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/2/18: Stupid Legislature Tricks, NFL Values, And Google Is Now Evil, So Watch Out

Good Morning!

Haven’t featured the Battle Hymn of the Republic for a while: it was the musical climax of my Dad’s funeral service at Arlington National Cemetary. My many performer friends sure came through that day. “Wow,” the chaplain exclaimed when the rousing three choruses were finished.

1. On Wisconsin. After a party flip in state governments, the party on the way out will occasionally try to pass lame duck legislation to try to hamstring the new majority. I’m pretty Ethics Alarms has covered other examples of this in the past; if not, it’s because the stunt is usually grandstanding for the base, or mere politics Such laws often fail to  withstand judicial challenge. If a legislature can get away with it, then it’s in the ethics gray zone of politics.

On Monday, the GOP majority Wisconsin legislature will try to pass as much as it can of a huge bill with many dubious or controversial provisions, including some that would limit the new governor’s powers to control the state attorney general, and others that would constrict broad powers the same legislature gave to the defeated Republican governor, Scott Walker. As long as a legislature has power to act, one cannot logically criticize efforts to benefit that legislature’s majority party and its constituents until it has the power to do so no more. If the parties mutually agreed to informally ban such lame duck tricks, that would be wonderful.

As it would be if I could win an Olympic swimming medal.

Sources: Journal-Sentinel 1, 2, 3

2. How clever, and further vulgarizing public discourse, too! I have now heard two ad for Christmas products use the term “elfing,” as in “It’s elfing awesome!” ZOne was a TBS ad for the movie “Elf.”

Really? Obvious plays on the word fuck to promote Christmas and a children’s film? Continue reading

Ray Rice’s Indefinite Suspension By The NFL Has Been Overruled On Appeal. GOOD!

You have to be fair to bad guys too, you see.

Ray Rice and sparring partner.

Ray Rice and sparring partner.

If you will recall, the NFL levied a paltry two game suspension on Baltimore Raven’s star last summer, following his guilty plea for knocking his then fiancée, now wife, colder than a mackerel with a punch in her face. Then security camera video of the punch, in a casino elevator, ended up on TMZ in September, and public outrage against the NFL’s casual approach to domestic violence became a public relations crisis for pro football, which has too many already.

In response, Commissioner Roger Goodell ordered a do-over, this time suspending the player indefinitely while Rice’s team, the Ravens, fired him. The NFL’s risible claim was that while Rice had admitted that he hit the love of his life so hard that he rendered her unconscious, they never suspected that he really, really hit her until they saw the video.

As I wrote at the time:

Sports stars who engage in criminal behavior should be penalized heavily by their teams and leagues, to leave no question about their special status as paid heroes and pop culture role models and their obligations to honor that status. Rice’s conduct was especially significant, given the prevalence of domestic abuse in this country. The NFL, however, had its shot, made its statement, disgraced itself and let him get off easy. Rice hasn’t done anything since then worthy of punishment. The league and Rice’s team should have to live with their initial decisions, no matter how much criticism they received for them. The overly lenient punishment should stand as symbolizing how outrageously tolerant society, and especially male dominated cultures like pro football, are of this deadly conduct. Treating the video as if it constituted new evidence of something worse is unfair and ridiculous: yes, you morons, this is what domestic abuse looks like!

Rice [I originally said “Peterson” here, getting my violent NFL players mixed up] appealed through the player’s union, and yesterday a judge agreed with him, the union, and me, writing:

“In this arbitration, the NFL argues that Commissioner Goodell was misled when he disciplined Rice the first time. Because, after careful consideration of all of the evidence, I am not persuaded that Rice lied to, or misled, the NFL at his June interview, I find that the indefinite suspension was an abuse of discretion and must be vacated…I find that the NFLPA carried its burden of showing that Rice did not mislead the Commissioner at the June 16th meeting, and therefore, that the imposition of a second suspension based on the same incident and the same known facts about the incident, was arbitrary…The Commissioner needed to be fair and consistent in his imposition of discipline….Moreover, any failure on the part of the League to understand the level of violence was not due to Rice’s description of the event but to the inadequacy of words to convey the seriousness of domestic violence. That the League did not realize the severity of the conduct without a visual record also speaks to their admitted failure in the past to sanction this type of conduct more severely.”

Yup. That just about covers it.

I think it’s overwhelmingly likely that the NFL’s lawyers advised the league that this would be the end result if they tried to punish Rice for the same act twice. The NFL decided that it was worth it to abuse its power and look like it was trying to end Rice’s career so after a successful appeal, it could say, “Well, we tried to do the right thing, and that mean old judge wouldn’t let us! Don’t blame us.”

Anyone who falls for that act is a fool. The real lesson of this ugly sequence is that the NFL’s culture doesn’t recognize right and wrong, or care about either. It’s only concern is TV ratings,  marketing and profits.

 

The Ray Rice Ethics Train Wreck Welcomes Rihanna…But It Had A Seat Already Reserved, And Another Rationalizing Victim

Ray Rice's punches are love taps compared to the ones Chris Brown throws at HIS girlfriends...

Ray Rice’s punches are love taps compared to the ones Chris Brown throws at HIS girlfriends…

CBS Sports pulled pop superstar Rihanna’s intro to Thursday night’s NFL game between the Ravens and the Steelers following the public release of a video showing Ravens running back Ray Rice beating his wife, then-fiancée, in a casino elevator.CBS said it did this to “maintain a proper tone,” which was a euphemism for “What we don’t need is to begin a nationally televised NFL game featuring the team that just dumped its star running back because this video shows how incredibly blase the league and the team had been about the fact that he cold-cocked a women with a performance by a pop singer who epitomized the enabling domestic violence victim until Janay Rice arrived on the scene.”

In case you have forgotten, in 2009, singer and recording star Chris Brown was charged for a violent attack  on Rihanna, during which, the police report says, he bit her, slammed her head into a car radio, and punched her in the face multiple times. Rihanna then re-united with Brown, announced that she was planning on recording a duet with him. She also refused to agree to a restraining order requiring Brown to keep away. Both performers had received two nominations for Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Awards before the incident, and they both planned on attending, giving young girls a wonderful lesson about how they should stand by their man even after he breaks your face. (Brown was finally persuaded to withdraw.) The two actually did reunite at least once, in 2013, while Brown was still serving his probation for the first incident. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

wait_what_logo

“We certainly didn’t know what was on the tape.”

Beleaguered NFL Commish Roger Goodell, telling CBS that although the league had suspended and fined Ray Rice for knocking out his now-wife in a hotel elevator, as he had admitted in court, it had no idea that a videotape of Rice knocking out Janay Palmer (now Rice) in the elevator would show him actually knocking her out in the elevator.

On the old Ethics Scoreboard, Goodell would be a slam dunk David Manning Liar of the Month, telling a lie that he can’t possibly think anyone with two IQ points to rub together could accept at face value. How else are we to take this idiotic, deceitful statement, other than as an idiotic, deceitful statement? If the NFL didn’t know that’s what the video would show, why did Goodell suspend Rice in the first place? If it accepted the fact that Rice cold-cocked a woman, what else could the tape have possibly shown?

I know I’ve already posted on this, but I feel like I’m losing my mind. The NFL reacts as if the video was a surprise. The media acts as if the video really added new information (“The NFL must have seen it!” Who cares? The NFL had to know what was on it, whether it saw the tape or not! What else could it possibly have shown? The tape, if anything, was arguably exculpatory, as it showed Palmer rushing him in an attempted assault.) And the argument suddenly becomes “Did the NFL know what was on the tape?” That’s ridiculous! Can’t everyone see how ridiculous that is? Can’t everyone see that the NFL isn’t reacting to new information, but only trying to repair its own image?

 

Knock-Out Punches, Murder and Political Correctness Bullying: Let’s Play “SPOT THAT DECEIT!”

Game show set

I am fascinated by deceit, and not just because I live near Washington, D.C., where it is the official tongue. It is fascinating because deceit is often the most effective kind of lie, tricking a listener or a reader  using their own assumptions, desires, misplaced trust or inattentiveness against them by stating a literal truth to imply an actual falsehood. Most of all, deceit is fascinating because so many people, including those who employ it habitually, think that it isn’t a lie at all.

This morning I found three wonderful examples of deceit, brought to our attention by three distinguished bloggers, so let’s play the challenging, exciting and never-ending game that’s sweeping the nation…

Spot That DECEIT!

Let’s warm up with something easy…

1. The NFL Deceit

Law prof-blogger Ann Althouse found it difficult to believe that the NFL hadn’t seen the videotape showing Baltimore Ravens stat Ray Rice knocking out his fiancee with a well-aimed punch before it gave him his first, absurdly light punishment, though the official spokesperson yesterday said…

“We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, including the video from inside the elevator.That video was not made available to us and no one in our office has seen it until today.”

OK, audience…

Spot That DECEIT!

Continue reading

The NFL’s Latest Ray Rice Hypocrisy: “You Mean He Actually HIT Her When He Knocked Her Out?”

"At least Rice didn't kill anyb...wait, we kept that player who killed somebody, didn't we? Now what?"

“At least Rice didn’t kill anyb…wait, we kept that player who killed somebody, didn’t we? Now what?”

This is hilarious, tragic, idiotic or infuriating, I haven’t decided yet.

The NFL and the Baltimore Ravens, having made it absolutely clear that they really weren’t all that upset with the fact that star  Ravens running back Ray Rice cold-cocked his soon-to-be-wife in a hotel elevator (and since she dropped charges against him and married her assailant, she wasn’t all that upset about it either) because he received only a two game suspension from the league and no added penalties from his team, suddenly got really determined to make a statement against domestic abuse once the security camera video of the incident became public today.

Now that it has—they always knew the video existed—-the NFL has re-punished Rice, and the Ravens have released him.

Translation of the message this sends: Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Dunce: ESPN”

domestic_violence

I know I have written a lot about the Ray Rice domestic abuse case and its aftermath, most recently this morning, regarding CNN’s Carol Costello’s warped argument for suspending ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith. (The Rice-related posts are here, here, here and here, with an earlier Comment of the Day here.) I keep coming back to it because it involves many ethics issues: sports and violence, the “Star Syndrome,” and the special treatment of cultural celebrities, race, domestic abuse, women’s enabling of domestic abusers, political correctness, scapegoating, corporate cowardice, incompetent journalism, and more.  Chris Marschner’s recent comment on one of those posts is better than anything I’ve written on the topic, I think. As is often demonstrated here, the readers make Ethics Alarms work.

One connection I didn’t make until I read Chris’s comment is the relevance of the Gaza crisis and the public’s reaction to it to some of the ethical principles involved. There is no question that Hamas provoked a violent attack by Israel, knowing that women and children would be harmed, and that Israel would be condemned by many as a consequence. Israel is much more powerful than Palestinian forces, and provoking it to defend itself when the inevitable results will be harm to the powerless is irresponsible. Yet we hear the same absolutist reactions to the Gaza casualties that are at the root of the anger focused on Smith’s comments. The victims of violence are never responsible in any way, and suggesting otherwise is immoral.

It’s a very flawed analogy in other respects. The civilians are not the ones provoking Israel, for example, though Hamas represents them–their harm is harm to Gaza, and therefor Hamas. Most of all, Israel is not an abuser, though I could quote many commentators who regard it as one, and who might see the comparison with Ray Rice as apt.

Here is Chris Marschner’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Dunce: ESPN: Continue reading

A Culture Lost And Confused: “The Donald Sterling Ethics Train Wreck” Is Now The U.S. Cultural Values And Priorities Ethics Train Wreck…Good Job, Everybody!

Lost2

Let’s see if I understand:

NBA owner Mark Cuban wasn’t making a racist statement when he publicly said that he is prejudiced in matters concerning blacks and race. That’s interesting, because the common description of one who is bigoted regarding race is “racist.” Even if  he was racist, it doesn’t justify his being fined millions, banned and losing his team, because he made the statement publicly, which is brave, rather than making his racist statements in the privacy of his own bed room, where Donald Sterling foolishly thought, as an American, that what he did was nobody’s business, as the gay members of the mob who want him ejected from his business always tell us.

Wait, that can’t be right. Let me start again. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Zero Sum Ethics Encore: When An Unfair Firing Is Still The Most Ethical Course”

 my hero

The dilemma posed in the recent post about the radio host fired because of the danger posed by her threatening, stalker ex-husband sparked some unexpected reactions, as many readers expressed frustration that Nancy Lane’s employer left her to her own resources in her peril. One of the more provocative alternatives proposed is Steven’s endorsement of what he calls the chivalristic response.

Here is his Comment of the Day, to the post Zero Sum Ethics Encore: When An Unfair Firing Is Still The Most Ethical Course.

The problem I have with situations such as here with Nancy Lane is there is no reason for this situation to result in an ethical dilemma or “Zero Sum”. I, as well as few others here recommend what can only be labeled as a chivalristic response. Now we are not talking the aristocratic, medieval ethos but more of a modernization of the gentlemanly behavior exhibited of those of the greatest generation without the bigotry or homophobia. With the feminization of our society it is incredibly hard to find the line between “modern” chivalry and misogyny, or at least feminism’s liberal application of the term. Continue reading