Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/10/2021: Happy Birthday, Jimmy! [UPDATED!]

Jimmy Durante was born on this day in 1893 (“The Snozzola” died 87 years later, in 1980. He’s a semi-regular around here, because it’s Jimmy’s famous line from “Jumbo” (1935) (“Elephant? What elephant?”) that describes the Ethics Alarms offense of resolutely refusing to admit an ethic breach that cannot be denied.

My father was a lifetime admirer of Jimmy, and eventually I joined him: we had all of his albums, and as a stage director I often played his renditions of a ballad (like “I’ll Be Seeing You”) for singers to demonstrate the importance of phrasing and expression, both of which Durante excelled at despite having a distinctive but hardly euphonious voice. He also impressed me with his professionalism. When my father was handling marketing for a Boston banking association, he helped arrange for his organization to be one of the sponsors of Jimmy’s show, which came to the Prudential Center in Boston. The Snozz was over 70 then, but he always seemed ageless, and his energy in person was even more impressive than it was on TV (in fact, Durante had learned to tone down his enthusiasm on the small screen, because it became exhausting to watch). He made his entrance in the stage show rushing on from the wings while singing and flinging his fedora to the back of the stage, where it landed neatly on the head of his band’s bald drummer. My father managed to get our family backstage (though Jimmy was not available because he had a charity appearance right after the show) and I talked to the drummer. I asked him how often Jimmy landed the hat on his head. He replied, “He’s never missed.” He went on to say that his boss rehearsed that bit for hours every week and before every show. It was a split second grace note, but Jimmy insisted on doing it perfectly.

Durante had a stroke after a show when he was almost 80, and never fully recovered. My father, who was uncomfortable expressing emotion face to face but wrote beautiful and touching letters (I hated getting them because they always made me cry; still do), wrote Jimmy, who was then bedridden, a letter thanking him his long entertainment career and explained what his work had meant to Dad. Jimmy’s wife Margie wrote back to say she had read the letter to Jimmy, and he had mouthed the words “Thank you.”

1. Politicizing everything. UCLA’s star gymnast Nia Dennis is getting accolades for turning her floor routine into an ” exuberant and powerful celebration” of black culture. Says Slate, “This routine has everything. Dennis pays tribute to Colin Kaepernick (she kneels!), Tommie Smith and John Carlos (she raises a fist!), and Kamala Harris (like a soror, she strolls and she steps!).” That’s funny: the only way I would recognize a reference to Harris would be if Nia cackled and blathered nonsense. The routine is more dance than gymnastics, but it’s a diabolical gimmick (don’t blame Nia: she has a woke choreographer, Bjoya Das). Any judge that doesn’t give the routine the highest marks knows he or she will be cancelled as a virulent racist.

2. Then there’s the Jeep ad…I’m not going to bother with surveying the ethically dubious Super Bowl ads this year, since they all are unethical for supporting the NFL’s ongoing negligent homicide, but I can’t let Bruce Springsteen’s obnoxious Jeep ad pass. Here it is:

[Whoa! That video was pulled from YouTube shortly after I posted it! I also can’t find a link that has it.]

“To The ReUnited States Of America.” Right. Springsteen is hardly an honest advocate for “the middle,” as a vocal Democrat and anti-Trump shill. The country is supposedly “re-united” because a Democrat is President. The entire theme of the ad is a cynical exercise in Rationalization #64, “It isn’t what it is.” Donald Trump was “divisive” because Democrats decided to paint him as such. Enforcing immigration laws shouldn’t be divisive. Withdrawing from an unapproved treaty with no actual impact shouldn’t be divisive. Calling the biased news media what it is shouldn’t be divisive. Now, calling half the country racists , Nazis and morons IS divisive, and the party that just won control of Congress and the White House has been doing that for four years. Surveys show that that half of the country is more angry, alienated and distrustful than ever, and for some very good reasons, like the current unconstitutional impeachment trial. Got it, Bruce: when Republicans win a national election it’s divisive,and when Democrats win one, it’s unifying.

Update: Apparently Jeep has received so many complaints about Bruce that they decided it was a major gaffe. How can this happen? It happens when the entire company and its ad agency is so overloaded with Democrats and progressives that they can’t see what’s right in front of them.

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Regarding “Athlete A”….[Corrected!]

“Athlete A,” the Netflix documentary that tells the awful story of USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s decades of sexually abusing young female gymnasts—perhaps as many as 500 of them—, how he was allowed to continue his crimes after complaints from parents and others, and the young women who finally sent him to prison with their testimony, is both disturbing and depressing. I watched it last night with my wife, who was horrified that she didn’t know the Nassar story.

Ethics Alarms wasn’t as much help as it should have been. Its first full post about the scandal was this one, which, in grand Ethics Alarms tradition, slammed the ethics of the judge who sentenced Nasser to 60 years in prison, essentially a “Stop making me defend Dr. Nasser!” post. I’ll stand by that post forever, but it didn’t help readers who are link averse to know the full extent of Nasser’s sick hobby of plunging his fingers and hands into the vaginas and anuses of trusting young girls while telling them that it was “therapy.”

The second full post, in August of last year,  was more informative regarding Nasser, but again, it was about the aftermath of his crimes, not the crimes themselves. That post  focused on the the Senate hearings following the July 30 release of the report of an 18-month Senate investigation  that found that the U.S. Olympic Committee and others failed to protect young female athletes from Nasser’s probing hands, detailing “widespread failure by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (the “Committee”) and other institutions to keep athletes safe.”  Then there was this: Continue reading

Observations On The Senate Olympics Investigation Report

An 18-month Senate investigation resulted in a searing report that found the U.S. Olympic Committee—among others— failed to protect young female athletes from sexual abuse. On July 30, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) released the long report  detailing “widespread failure by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (the “Committee”) and other institutions to keep athletes safe.”

The effort was sparked by the ugly scandal surrounding Dr. Larry Nassar, the USA Gymnastics team doctor, who was sentenced to up to 175 years in a Michigan prison after it was revealed i 2016 that he had sexually abused and assaulted hundreds of female athletes.

The report and its contents have not received sufficient publicity in mainstream media sources, and one is left to speculate on why. The Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade, and Consumer Protection found that, from summer 2015 to September 2016,  Olympic organizations hid the extent of Nassar’s crimes from the public and athletic community “to the detriment of dozens of women and girls who were sexually abused during this period of concealment.”

Those “other institutions” impugned in the 235-page report included the FBI. “The FBI failed to pursue a course of action that would have immediately protected victims in harm’s way. Instead, the FBI’s investigation dragged on and was shuffled between field offices,” the report states. This was not, as many media reports misleadingly suggest, just a failure of sports organizations. “Hundreds of women and girls were sexually abused by Larry Nassar” when basic competence, concern and diligence in many organizations, including law enforcement, would have saved them.

Observations: Continue reading

Quest for Fairness: What Will It Take For America To Treat Blacks Like Regular Human Beings?

“Look, a monkey! Must be racist.”

Two recent incidents at the London Olympics—really, really stupid incidents—-caused me to wonder anew what it must be like to be black in this country, and to despair. I’m not referring to discrimination, exactly.  I think a better term would be  “unhealthy obsession.” To be black in America is to be automatically a subject of controversy and conflict, and I assume this is a crushing, almost irreducible burden that makes daily life, happiness and sanity infinitely more difficult for African-Americans than for any other  group. It appears that the culture, the media, the public, interest groups and government just won’t ever leave them alone to just live.

Here is U.S.tennis star Serena Williams, and she has just won a Gold Medal in singles tennis. Williams, whose passion and effervescence is almost as attractive as her athleticism, does a little happy dance. Not too much of one—nobody could accuse her of preening or taunting like NFL players after a touchdown. And yet she is criticized anyway, by Fox Sports among others, because what looked like just a happy dance to me was really a version of the “Crip Walk,” a hip-hop move adopted by the notorious L.A. street gang, the Crips, about 40 years ago. Since Serena is black, some saw this as a poorly-timed reference to drug-dealing killers, or even glorification of gang culture. Three seconds of a little jig, and suddenly the Olympics is the site of a race incident—and this is an ethics alarm that should never have gone off.

Or should it? The “Crip Walk” is considered so provocative in some neighborhoods that schools have banned it. From that perspective, maybe critics have a point; it might have been irresponsible for an African-American athlete from L.A. to do the move.  Williams—I love you, Serena!—brushed off the controversy by saying, simply, “I don’t care.” Still, a pure moment of an athlete’s joy in victory was marred, because the victor happened to be black. Continue reading