The War Against Wonder Woman

Wonder-Woman-Flying

For a lot of reasons, I have avoided commenting on this story until now. First of all, it is so stupid that if there is someone who wants to defend the conduct of the school in the matter, I don’t want to know them or read them, and I generally don’t post about the obvious. Second, we still don’t have a name of the victim of the anti-Wonder Woman attack, the school involved, or the teacher or administrator involved. Finally, I’m suspicious: a Wonder Woman movie is nearing release, and this seems awfully convenient.

The tale began with a post by someone claiming to be the parent of a little girl named Laura who was sent home is shame because her Wonder Woman lunch box violated school policy. The letter sent home with Laura, which someone supposedly photographed, is head-explosion worthy: Continue reading

Of Atticus Finch, “Go Set A Watchman,” And Icon Ethics

AtticusToday Harper Lee’s “sequel” to “To Kill A Mockingbird” is officially released, though reviews have already been published. The big story is that the new novel’s now grown “Scout” discovers during the civil rights upheavals of the 1950s that her father and hero Atticus Finch is a racist, had attended a Klan meeting, and is prone to saying things like …

“Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?”

The new Atticus is providing ammunition to those who enjoy tearing down American heroes and icons. Finch is perhaps the most revered fictional lawyer in American culture, admired by the public as well as the legal profession. The American Bar Association named its award for fictional portrayals of lawyers in films and literature after Finch, whose pro bono defense of a wrongly accused black man in a bigoted Alabama town forms the central conflict of Lee’s classic. Burnishing Atticus’s reputation further was the beloved portrayal of the character, reputedly based on the author’s father, by Gregory Peck in the Academy Award winning film adaptation. Peck received the Award for Best Actor as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and as a civil-rights activist often stated that he admired Finch over all his other roles. In 2003, American Film Institute voted Finch as the greatest hero in American film.Wrote Entertainment Weekly, “[Finch] transforms quiet decency, legal acumen, and great parenting into the most heroic qualities a man can have.”

Atticus, however, has had his detractors through the years, notable among them the late Monroe Freedman, a  habitual iconoclast and contrarian who wrote two law review articles declaring that Finch was neither hero nor a particularly admirable lawyer. He wrote in part: Continue reading

“The Longest Day,” Darryl F. Zanuck, D-Day, And Us

title_longest_day_bluray

Today is June 6, the anniversary of the Allies’ invasion of Normandy, the audacious military strike that changed the course of history. I’ll be interested in seeing how it’s commemorated this year, 71 years later, especially by the news media. A lot of Americans under the age of 40 know almost nothing about it, or worse, the values it represents to the United States.

Fortunately, there is an easy and entertaining way to teach a young American about what happened on this day 71 years ago. That is to have him or her watch “The Longest Day,” producer Darryl F. Zanuck’s epic film based closely on historian (and sole credited screenwriter) Cornelius Ryan’s 1959 book. (You can get it at Amazon, here.)I usually find understanding military battles nearly impossible; written accounts completely confound me, and few movies about any battle make a serious effort to explain the tactics and strategy without reducing the facts to pablum. (I remember how much my father, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, detested the big budget movie of the same name, which he found outrageously sloppy, and which he summarized as “Henry Fonda won the war.”)

Not “The Longest Day,” however. Since seeing the movie with my father as a kid, I have learned a lot about what was left out, but the movie is remarkably clear and accurate about what happened and why without being either too detailed or too simplistic. It’s also just a great, inspiring movie.

That we have “The Longest Day” is entirely due to the courage of one of Hollywood’s most dynamic, flamboyant and successful studio moguls, Darryl F. Zanuck. The original producer of the adaptation of Ryan’s book (which is terrific ) gave up on the project when 20th Century Fox refused to allow him an adequate budget. Zanuck, who was still producing films but no longer ran the studio he had built,  bought the rights, and was determined to do the story, the event, and the men who fought the battle justice by mounting a production almost as ambitious as the invasion itself. Continue reading

Beware of Heroes: Why Tom Brady Is An Ethics Corrupter

fallen heroAs a born Bostonian, proud of the Hub’s tradition of elevating the nation’s ethical sensitivities, the spectacle of the old city’s football fans embarrassing themselves out of loyalty to a home town quarterback who doesn’t deserve it is nauseating. As a recent New York Times feature gruesomely illustrates, Tom Brady’s complicity in a successful cheat to get the New England Patriots into the Super Bowl has corrupted the usually reliable ethical values of this iconic city.

The information coming out of the NFL is that Brady’s cheating, lying about it, refusing to cooperate with the league’s investigation and—I hope this is taken into consideration—his smirking attitude about the incident since the results of the investigation were announced will get him suspended for 6-8 games. Think of it: Boston has been so corrupted by its sports star that it is now less ethically sensitive than Roger Goodell.

Now that’s corruption. Continue reading

No, Craig, Barry Bonds Wasn’t A “Great” Baseball Player. Bernie Madoff Wasn’t A “Great” Investment Manager, Either

Christy Mathewson, a genuine hero. Barry Bonds would have made him want to throw up.

Christy Mathewson, a genuine hero. Barry Bonds would have made him want to throw up.

I like and admire Craig Calcaterra, who blogs entertainingly and perceptively about baseball on the NBC Sports website. I suppose I’m a bit jealous of him too: he’s a lawyer who now earns his living blogging about something he loves.

But Craig has always been a bit confused about how to regard baseball’s steroid cheats (they are cheats, which should answer any questions, but somehow doesn’t for a lot of people), and predictably, I suppose, he couldn’t resist reacting to the early results of Major League Baseball’s “Franchise Four” promotion, in which fans vote (until mid-May) for “the most impactful players who best represent each Major League franchise” as well as some other categories, including “Four Greatest Living Players.” The early results have Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver leading in the “Greatest Living Players” category, so Craig snarked that this is sad, because “it must mean Barry Bonds has died in a tragic cycling and/or Google Glass accident and no one thought to tell me.”

No, Craig, this is what someone failed to tell you: cheaters in any profession are not “great” by definition. Great baseball players, like great lawyers, writers, doctors, scientists and Presidents, bring honor on their profession, don’t corrupt everyone around them, don’t force people who admire them to embrace unethical conduct and turn them into aiders and abetters, and accomplish their great achievements while obeying the law, following the rules, and serving as role models for everyone who follows them. Barry Bonds was not a great baseball player. He had the ability to be one, but not the character.

Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver never once disgraced their game while they wore a uniform, and indeed made baseball stronger and better while they played. Good choices all.

The disgrace is that San Francisco fans voted Bonds as one of that team’s “Franchise Four,”  dishonoring great Giants of the past like Juan Marichal, as well as New York Giants greats like Christy Mathewson, Bill Terry, Carl Hubbell, and Mel Ott, Hall of Famers  and lifetime Giants who played with honesty and sportsmanship. But Giants fans warped values are among the casualties of Bonds’ career…and one more reason he can’t be rated anything but a great villain.

It Serves Me Right: I Don’t Watch The Super Bowl To Avoid Supporting The NFL As It Cripples Young Men, And Miss A Player Pretending To Poop A Football…

doug-baldwin

Did you and your kids miss the magic moment in the Super Bowl when Seattle’s Doug Baldwin celebrated a touchdown by miming the act of crapping out a football? You may have, because the broadcast’s director, undoubtedly primed for Seattle’s various crotch-grabbing antics—this is the biggest family TV event of the year, don’t you know—was on the alert for something ugly and snapped his cameras away.

But Baldwin still did it, and everyone in the stadium saw it. There was a penalty, and now Baldwin has been fined $11,000, the equivalent of a jay-walking ticket, the smallest fine for on-field misbehavior there is in the NFL. I tried to imagine, as a baseball fan, what would have happened in the World Series if, say, Pablo Sandoval had pretended to poop on home plate after scoring a key run. My guess is that he would have been thrown out of the game, suspended, fined, and instantly reduced his value as a free agent by 30% or more. Last season, Jonathan Papelbon, a moron, grabbed his crotch the way Seahawk Marshawn Lynch has been doing all season as he left a regular season game, was ejected, and suffered a wave of columns condemning him. How many columns have you read about Baldwin? See, the culture of football, and the standards of its fans, are so abysmal that a player embarrassing the league, the game, his team and the broadcast, not to mention parents watching the game with their children by pretending to poop out a football isn’t even a big deal now. After all, he didn’t cold-cock his girl-friend, beat a four-year old, murder someone, try to use doctored balls or deceive people into liquifying their brains: what’s the big deal? Continue reading

The Ethics Conflict Of Chevy Chase’s Newlands Fountain and How To Resolve It

Chevy Chase Circle

Chevy Chase Circle is the official border separating the District of Columbia and Chevy Chase, Maryland. The inscription on the fountain at the center of Chevy Chase Circle honors Francis Griffith Newlands, saying, “His statesmanship held true regard for the interests of all men.” He was a three-term senator from Nevada,  serving from 1903 until his death in 1917, but more important to this controversy, founded the Chevy Chase Land Co., which created neighborhoods on the Washington and Maryland sides of the circle. Yes, the founder of Chevy Chase is honored with a fountain in Chevy Chase Circle. What could possibly be wrong with that?

The problem is that Senator Newlands was a racist, and a proactive one. He was a white supremacist who described blacks as “a race of children” too intellectually handicapped for democracy. In 1912, he attempted to have  the 15th Amendment, which granted voting rights to African American men, repealed. Not surprisingly, his vision of Chevy Chase did not include black residents, or Jewish ones for that matter.

The Advisory Neighborhood Commission that represents the D.C. section of Chevy Chase wants to remove Newlands’ name from the fountain, and has introduced a resolution calling on the D.C. Historic Preservation Office to rename the landmark “Chevy Chase Fountain.” The reason is his advocacy of anti-black policies.

This is a classic ethics conflict, a problem in which valid ethics principles oppose each other. There are so many conflicting ethical principles and objectives at work here: Continue reading

Ethics Hero, Ghost Of Christmas Past Edition: Dwight Gooden

Dwight-Gooden

For me, Christmas triggers not only memories fond and bittersweet, but also regrets, realizations, and discovered clarity about where I have been and how I got where I am. This was really what Charles Dickens was expressing in “A Christmas Carol, and why it resonates even with the kinds of people who would be tempted to put a zombie Nativity on their front lawn.

Last week, former New York Mets pitching ace Dwight Gooden, known in his prime as “Doctor K” (a “K” is a strikeout, and if you didn’t know that—wow) and eventually just “Doc,”penned a brave and inspiring piece for The Player’s Tribune, in which he addressed his younger self, warning the young, cocky kid with the world seemingly begging to be his playground and cheering section in 1984 about the traps and landmines lying in his path.

Gooden, for those of you who face life every day without the accumulated wisdom bestowed by the love of baseball, and who somehow live through cruel winter without the promise of Spring Training warming your nights, looked like he might become the greatest, coolest, most unhittable pitcher in baseball history when he arrived on the big league scene in ’84, winning 17 games with a deadly curve and a 98 mile per hour fastball at the tender age of 19. He became the youngest player ever to pitch in an All-Star Game that year (he struck out the side), and the next season, at 20, he won 24 games, lost only four, and led the National League with a miniscule 1.53 earned run average.

And he was never that good again. He began losing speed on his fastball the next year, and steadily declined thereafter. Eventually there were drug problems, alcoholism  and other embarrassments, and Doc Gooden, instead of being the lock for the Hall of Fame that he seemed at 20, was washed-up at 35, and an unofficial member of the Pantheon of Disappointing and Fallen Sports Heroes.

Today, as the former pitcher nears 50, Gooden is a dedicated father and grandfather to  his children and grandchildren. He is the president of Best of the Best Sports Management, where he works with his oldest son, Dwight Jr. and is also a spokesman for PinkTie.org , a Long Island-based charity dedicated to fighting breast cancer.

In his essay, titled, “Letter to my Younger Self,” Gooden is frank, uncompromising, wistful, self-critical, funny, and never indulges in self-pity. He ends it this way:

Drugs and alcohol are only a false sense of security. Neither thing will fill the void you feel. Unfortunately it might take you a few missed Christmas Days with your family to learn this.

You will want to try to fix your issues on your own. This is how you think a man handles his problems. It isn’t. Being a man is about reaching out for help when you need it. If your curveball isn’t working, you’ll know how to fix that. If the control on your pitches is off, you’ll know how to fix that. But you will face a lot of hardship because of your inability to realize that you can’t fix yourself.

Finally, please know this: I love you. It’s going to take you a long time and a lot of pain to realize this, but accepting it will go a long way towards healing. The journey will be trying, but it ends in a good place.

Keep getting those Ks,

You’re a hero after all, Doc.

Merry Christmas.

Don Lemon’s Ethics Foul Wasn’t “Insensitivity.”

I know, Don...it hurts.

I know, Don…it hurts.

[I am typing this in an airplane, sitting crunched in a bulkhead seat crushed between the wall and a 275 pound guy in the middle seat. If you thought my typos were bad before…”]

Between my logging off the blog to go to the airport and now, as I thought about what I would write about CNN anchor Don Lemon’s awful ethics alarm failure while questioning Joan Tarshis, one of Bill Cosby’s growing list of alleged victims,  Lemon apologized. That was fast, but I assumed the barrage of criticism heading his way would be furious, and it was. His apology was a non-apology apology, by the way, a classic “I’m sorry you misunderstood me” that, you should notice, didn’t include an apology to Tarshis.

I didn’t misunderstand him. Lemon wasn’t being insensitive; he is in the throes of cognitive dissonance, just like Whoopi Goldberg. Bill Cosby is someone he admires, and sexual assault is something he deplores. If Cosby is a sexual predator, then Lemon has to resolve his dissonance: he can either lower Cosby in his estimation, or elevate what his hero almost certainly did to all these women to the “not that bad” category. (The latter was the choice of most of Bill Clinton’s conflicted offenders, by the way. Lying about sex is normal! Other presidents cheated! It was consensual! Monica seduced him: he was a victim! It was personal conduct...etc.) Continue reading

So A Female Democrat Running To Be Governor Can Use A Former Domestic Abuser As A Spokeperson, But Feminists Would Revolt If A Pro Football Player Who Did The Same To His Spouse Was Allowed To Take The Field? Got it. Wait…No, I Really Don’t.

Go ahead, it's OK...he's a man, he probably deserves it.

Go ahead, it’s OK…he’s a man, he probably deserves it.

I realize that it seems like I am picking on women who are running for high office as Democrats: this is the third one within a week. It’s a coincidence, except that I have a growing suspicion that Democrats cynically sought out some female candidates for their gender and to hew to a theme rather than because they were especially well-qualified or even ready for prime time.

The current issue involves the Wisconsin governor’s race, where Mary Burke is opposing controversial, public union-battling GOP incumbent Scott Walker. Burke is running a 15-second pro-abortion ad (Walker is anti-abortion)  starring Erin Forrest,  the Jefferson County Democratic Party chairwoman. In 2013, Forrest — who then called Erin Sievert, was charged with two misdemeanor counts of domestic abuse, the first for battery and the second for disorderly conduct. In the criminal complaint, her husband said that she punched him in the eye and the groin, bit him on the shoulder, and ripped out one of his earrings. Prosecutors offered Forrest a deferred prosecution agreement in which she pleaded guilty to the charges in exchange for having them dropped later if she avoided further legal trouble and met other requirements. She did, and the prosecutors had the domestic violence charges dismissed as agreed.

Still, she agreed, by pleading guilty, that the charges were valid and described her conduct. This is far more than several of the NFL players currently losing millions of dollars and being pilloried in the media as violent lovers and vicious parents have done. Hmmm…..for which job is spousal violence more disqualifying? Throttling large athletes in armor who are paid to be clobbered and being a celebrated hero to sports fans, or being a women’s rights advocate, a role model for young women, and a representative of a candidate for Governor of Wisconsin? Continue reading