Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/27/18: On Bullies, Dogs, Signs, Cheats, And The Worst WWII Movie Ever

Good morning.

1. BOY, is that a lazy and inaccurate movie! As usual, they are playing every war movie they can dig up on Memorial Day weekend. I just watched the tail end of  “The Battle of the Bulge,” the 1965 Cinerama Hollywood portrayal of the decisive 1944 WWII battle in the Ardennes that reminds me of my dad, buried in Arlington National Cemetery, more than any other war film, and not because it was in that battle that my father earned his Silver Star. No, the film reminds me of Dad because he hated it so much. He regarded it as an insult to the veterans who fought the battle, and  a cretinous distortion of history in every way. His name for the movie was “How Henry Fonda Won the Second World War.”

The most striking of the endless misrepresentations in the movie is the absence of snow. The battle’s major feature was that it was fought in freezing, winter conditions, on snow covered terrain sometimes up to two feet deep. Some battle scenes are shown being fought on flat and bare plain, about as distinct from the mountainous, thickly forested territory where the actual battle took place as one could imagine. My father also started complaining during the film, loudly, about the use of modern American tanks to portray the German Tiger tanks.

Former President (and, of course, former Allied Commander) Eisenhower came out of retirement to hold a press conference to denouncing “The Battle of the Bulge” for  its gross  inaccuracies. THAT made my father happy.

2. Funny! But…no, it’s just funny. Scott Campbell, the owner of the Pell City Fitness gym in Pell City, Alabama,  put up a sign that says “tired of being fat and ugly? Just be ugly!” City officials told him to take down the sign or be fined, saying it is too big and needs a permit, but other business owners told the local news media that they have never heard of the ordinance the city is citing being enforced. The suspicion is that Campbell is being singled out because some have complained that the sign is “insensitive.” No, it’s just funny…

This is the ethical problem with excessively restrictive laws, rules and regulations that are not consistently enforced. Prosecution can be used for ideological and partisan discrimination. Not only is the sign benign, it is not even original: that same language is on fitness company ads all over the country. So far, it looks like the community is supporting Pell and that the city will back down, but this is Alabama. Call me pessimistic, but I doubt the sign would be allowed to stand for long in Washington State or California if an ordinance could be found to justify pulling it down.

The First Amendment dies in increments. Continue reading

Red Sox Star Prospect Michael Chavis Tested Positive For Steroids. The Team Should Fire Him

The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced today that third baseman Michael Chavis, who is the Red Sox’s No. 1 prospect has been suspended following their violations of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, and has received an 80-game suspension without pay after testing positive for Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, a performance-enhancing substance in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The suspension of Chavis is effective immediately. He was expected to be a candidate to come up to the big leagues and help the Red Sox in the stretch drive. His suspension hurts the entire organization.

Chavis tweeted a long and plaintive denial. And you know what the line is about that: “That’s what they all say.” Here is a sample…

“Over the past several months, I have been searching for an answer as to how a prohibited substance I have never heard of, DHMCT, was detected in my urine during the offseason. It is a question that unfortunately has not been answered, and I have run out of time for now to find an answer. As hopeless as this is for me, I am faced with the reality that maybe I never will. The only thing I do know is that I would never, and have never, purposely taken any prohibitive substance in my entire life.”

Continue reading

Johnny Manziel’s Lawyer’s E-Mail Ethics Disaster

email mistake

In an article last year inspired by increased attention in the legal profession prompted by Hillary Clinton’s epic incompetence handling her e-mail, New York’s Legal Ethics Reporter last year published “Ethical Implications & Best Practices for Use of Email.” It began with a quiz:

Which of the following statements are true?

A. Email is a wonderful tool for the successful practice of law.

B. Email not only saves time and money, but also allows for prompt communication with clients, colleagues, and opposing counsel.

C. Email is overused, often results in incomplete or inaccurate responses to inquiries, and fills up your Inbox with useless information.

D. Careless use of email can subject the sending lawyer to embarrassment, unhappy clients, lost income, breach of the duty of confidentiality, discipline, or claims of malpractice.

E. All of the above.

The correct answer is E— All of the above.

One reason lawyers are, as a group, far less forgiving of Hillary’s nonsense (and lies) is that her conduct, if it involved a client, and not just a relatively minor institution like the U.S. State Department, would constitute a clear violation of  the ethics rules covering competence and confidentiality. (Let’s ignore, for now, the rules requiring honesty and the avoidance of conflicts of interest.). Work- and case-related e-mail must be handled with care, or disasters occur. One of the lawyers for disgraced ex-NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel just provided a lesson in how that can happen, and it is going directly into my next seminar.

Defense attorney Bob Hinton, representing  Manziel  in a hit-and-run case, accidentally sent an Associated Press reporter an e-mail intended for the athlete’s legal team. The misdirection appears to be the result of an auto-address feature that assumed whom Hinton wanted to communicate with based on the first few letters he typed.

In the memo, Hinton expresses exasperation at the extent of Manziel’s dependence on illegal drugs, and reveals that he has a receipt that shows Manziel may have spent more than $1,000 at a drug paraphernalia store just 15 hours after he was involved in the crash. “Heaven help us if one of the conditions is to pee in a bottle,”  the lawyer wrote. This is a problem, since Manziel is seeking a plea deal that almost certainly would require periodic drug tests. Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.)

Hey, maybe Trey Radel is trying to emulate the coke-addicted Congressman Peter Russo on "House of Cards"! Quick...somebody tell Trey what happened to him. THAT should make him quit...

Hey, maybe Trey Radel is trying to emulate  coke-addicted Congressman Peter Russo from  “House of Cards”! Quick…somebody tell Trey what happened to him. THAT should make him quit…

This is rather straight-forward.  Trey Radel was elected to represent his district and his state in Congress, and to make laws. He broke the law instead, getting arrested for trying to purchase cocaine. The short term for the Florida Congressman is “disgrace,” and if he had any respect for those who thought  they were voting for an honest, trustworthy man, he would resign. Instead, after taking a leave of absence to complete a rehab program (meaning that a self-inflicted disability robbed his district from representation for about 4% of the term he pledged to serve), he vows to stay on the job. Typical of his nonsensical posturing is this statement: Continue reading

Ethical Apology Of The Month: Ryan Braun—Finally

Better late than never, Ryan...I'd almost given up on you.

Better late than never, Ryan…I’d almost given up on you.

Ryan Braun, the 2011 National League MVP who was suspended for the rest of this season for his use of illicit performance enhancing drugs and accepted that suspension without protest or appeal, has released a statement admitting steroid use and apologizing to all, including the testing sample collector whom he had earlier implicitly accused of trying to frame him with a false positive.

I think this ranks as a #1 on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale, and we don’t see those very often from public figures. That apology is defined as…

An apology motivated by the realization that one’s past conduct was unjust, unfair, and wrong, constituting an unequivocal admission of wrongdoing as well as regret, remorse and contrition, as part of a sincere effort to make amends and seek forgiveness.

Already, critics are taking pot-shots at Braun’s statement. This is, I believe, one reason people so seldom give full apologies: they are never accepted by so many angry pundits, who pick them to pieces. Baseball fans and others in the game have a lot of reasons to be furious with Braun, it is true. His genuine apology comes late, after a terrible one, and there is probably some truth to the theory that he or his PR advisors saw an opportunity to contrast his conduct with that of Alex Rodriquez, who is continuing to deny his PED use and is forcing steroid-hating fans and players to watch him play anyway, while he appeals and collects 5 figures in compensation per at bat. Braun is no Ethics Hero, for his options were limited. Nonetheless, I see nothing to criticize in his apology, and we want to see more apologies that rank at the top of the scale, we need to applaud them when they appear.

Here is Braun’s statement: Continue reading

Ryan Braun’s Unethical Apology

ryan-braun-2011Ryan Braun, the Milwaukee Brewers star who has just accepted MLB’s decision to suspend him without pay for the remainder of the 2013 season for violating baseball’s anti-drug policies, issued the kind of public statement that helps us understand why the athlete thought using banned substances to improve his performance was acceptable. It is the statement of someone’s whose ethical instincts are not merely underdeveloped, but malfunctioning on an epic scale.

Braun released this mea culpa in the wake of the announcement of his disgrace, which also pretty much ends the already faint chances of his team for a successful season:

“As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect. I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions. “This situation has taken a toll on me and my entire family, and it is has been a distraction to my teammates and the Brewers organization. I am very grateful for the support I have received from players, ownership and the fans in Milwaukee and around the country. Finally, I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed – all of the baseball fans especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization, and my teammates. I am glad to have this matter behind me once and for all, and I cannot wait to get back to the game I love.”

This is about what one would expect from a guy who avoided being busted for steroids by the skin of his teeth two years ago on a technicality, and reacted by not only playing the martyr, but also by impugning the character of the man who handled his incriminating urine sample. Let’s look at this non-apology apology’s various and nauseating features. As usual, my comments are in bold : Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Suspended Milwaukee Brewers Outfielder Ryan Braun

If John Edwards could hit...

If John Edwards could hit…

When National League 2011 MVP Ryan Braun escaped suspension when an arbitrator ruled that his positive urine sample was invalid due to an interruption in the chain of custody, I concluded my commentary with this:

“If he was guilty of cheating, the vote didn’t make him innocent, and if he was innocent, he wouldn’t have become guilty if the arbitrator had voted the other way. Thus Braun’s successful appeal alters forever the consequences Braun will suffer, but it doesn’t dictate how reasonable fans should feel about him. In 2012, there are great baseball players who have been excluded from baseball’s Hall of Fame, or will be, because baseball writers suspect them of being steroid users, even though they never tested positive in any test, tainted or otherwise. Jeff Bagwell, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens head the list. If Ryan Braun goes on to  be one of baseball’s all-time greats, will he join the suspected and snubbed, barring a complete turnaround in the sport’s attitude toward performance-enhancing drugs?

I think he will. And in his case (unlike that of Jeff Bagwell), I don’t think it will be unfair. Though Braun’s tests were correctly thrown out, it seems far less likely to me that Laurenzi inexplicably decided to frame Ryan Braun than it does that Braun was the undeserving beneficiary of moral luck. But if we have to choose between competing unfairness, isn’t it better to risk allowing a cheater to have an undeserved second chance at a clean reputation, than to take the alternative risk, less probable but more unjust, of forcing an innocent athlete to have his career and reputation forever blighted by something he didn’t do?

“I’m not sure, and the added problem is this: even if I agree with that last sentence, I can’t help how I think.  I think, based on what I know, that Braun cheated and lucked out.

“And if he’s innocent, that’s terribly unfair.”

Now we know he was not innocent, and that Braun, to put it in the colorful lexicon of NBC Sports baseball blogger Matthew Pouliot, ” is baseball’s biggest dipwad.” It is impossible to dispute that diagnosis. The Milwaukee outfielder has agreed to sit out the rest of the 2013 season without salary in the wake of convincing evidence that Braun is a steroid cheat, making him the first casualty of the unfolding performance enhancing drug scandal involving the lab Biogenesis that is expected to eventually implicate many Major League stars.  Pouliot collects some of Braun’s quotes after he dodged the suspension bullet in 2011, and for some one who was guilty and knew it, they set a high bar for dishonesty and gall:  Continue reading

Ryan Braun, Steroids and Fairness

If Ryan Braun is innocent, this man, who never met him. tried to ruin his career. It can happen…you know, like Mark Furman tried to frame O.J.

The strange case of Ryan Braun, the 2011  National League Most Valuable Player who tested positive for steroids during the post-season play-offs, once again raises the perplexing ethical issue of fairness when formal procedures concerning alleged wrongdoing are involved.

Braun’s positive test sent a shudder throughout baseball. He was supposed to  be one of the game’s rising young “post-steroid era” stars. For Braun to be caught cheating was a discouraging reminder that the game had not left its disastrous days of pumped-up stars and dubious records behind: now the legitimacy of an MVP season was being called into question. Braun vehemently denied the charges (as every positive-testing player has) and appealed them, a move that had been futile in every previous case. To literally everyone’s surprise, however, the three member arbitration panel ruled 2-1 in Braun’s favor. Although the report of the independent arbitrator who cast the deciding vote has yet to be released, the reason Braun prevailed appears to be that the Major League Baseball contractor who had  responsibility for sending Braun’s urine samples to the testing facilities had to store them at his house for the weekend because FedEx had closed before he could mail them to the lab. This created a sufficient break in the chain of custody, it seems, to make the results invalid. Continue reading