A Presidents Day Encore: “How Julia Sand Saved A President And Changed The Nation”

Chester Arthur and Julia

I’m pretty sick of U.S. Presidents and Presidential history at the moment, so for my own state of mind and perhaps yours, I’m re-posting a 2015 article about my favorite story about a President ever. Here it is…

In my overview of the U.S. presidency (the four parts are now combined on a single page under “Rule Book” above), I noted that our 21st President, Chester A. Arthur, was one of my personal favorites and an Ethics Hero. He confounded all predictions and his previous undistinguished background, not to mention a career marked  by political hackery and toadying to corrupt Republican power broker Roscoe Conkling, to rise to the challenge of the office and to effectively fight the corrupt practices that had elevated him to power. Most significantly, he established the Civil Service system, which crippled the spoils and patronage practices that made the Federal government both incompetent and a breeding ground for scandal.

I did not mention, because I did not then know, the unlikely catalyst for his conversion. Recently a good friend, knowing of my interest in Arthur, his tragic predecessor, James Garfield, and presidential assassinations sent me a copy of Destiny of the Republic, the acclaimed history of the Garfield assassination and its aftermath by Candace Millard. It’s a wonderful book, and while I knew much of the history already, I definitely did not know about Julia Sand. Her tale is amazing, and it gives me hope. If you do not know about Julia and Chester, and it is not a well-known episode, you should.

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When Tommy Lasorda Coached “Danny Kaye”: An Ethics Tale

Brian and Tommy

I wrote about my friend Brian Childers, a brilliant actor, singer, and all-around great guy, in this post, “An Act Of Kindness, Danny Kaye And Me : An Ethics Case Study,” from five years ago. It’s worth reading, if you haven’t already or don’t remember it. Brian continues to have a thriving career in New York City, with a successful album, roles in plays and musicals, and periodically, thrilling audiences with his dynamic recreation of Danny Kaye’s legendary one-man performances, the legacy of an adventure he and I set out upon over two decades ago.

I was recently tagged in a Facebook post by Brian, who related for the first time a revealing encounter he had with Tommy Lasorda, the Hall of Fame manager of the LA Dodgers for many years and legendary for his leadership abilities, lovable personality and positive attitude. Tommy died recently at the age of 93, and baseball fan that I am, I had been trying to justify mentioning him in an ethics post. Well, Brian took care of that with his usual flare.

He wrote in part,

I had the enormous privilege to meet this sports legend while performing at the Hollywood Bowl for 3 nights in 2008. The event was called “A Ball at the Bowl” and it was celebrating 50 years of the Dodgers in LA. I was there to sing Danny Kaye’s “D-O-D-G-E-R-S” song and one other with the LA Philharmonic.

Tommy’s dressing room was right across the hall from mine. On the first night, Tommy, whom I had never met, surprised me by knocking on my dressing room door. He introduced himself and was incredibly friendly. When he asked what I was doing in the event, I said I would be singing Danny Kaye’s Dodgers song with the orchestra.

He was ecstatic, but IMMEDIATELY put on his coach’s hat. “ You gotta go out there and you gotta sing great! You gotta go out there and knock em dead, Just focus on the song and you are gonna knock it out of the park,” he said, just like I was a rookie getting ready to play my first game. I thanked him for his encouragement.

While I was performing, I could hear Tommy in the wings yelling and clapping. When I walked off stage, he pounded me on the back, shouting, “Great job! You hit a home run buddy!”

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Boxing Day Ethics Warm-Up, 2020: A Tip, An Obituary, A Prank, A Tell, And A Slug

Gifts

Now this is a dedicated grandmother: my sister, who has been risk-averse her whole life, and who is my model of a Wuhan virus phobic, bought a used Winnebago, loaded up her old Havanese, and drove from Virginia to Los Angeles to spend Christmas and another three weeks with her son, his wife, and their seven month-old daughter. On the way cross country she parked her vehicle outside the homes of a series of strangers she was connected to by friends and friends of friends. Amazing.

1. There seem to be a few of these Christmas Ethics Heroes every year. In Bartonsville, Illinois, an occasional restaurant customer on Christmas Eve morning left a 2,000 dollar tip—in cash—for the 19-person staff of the Bartonsville diner. The man didn’t even leave his full name, just “Tony,” though he is apparently the son of a regular who joined him for breakfast. “He just said, ‘Merry Christmas,'” the owner told reporters. “How generous of somebody to do that, especially somebody who doesn’t come in that often. Nobody was expecting it, that’s for sure.”

2. How do you write an obnoxious obituary? Here’s how you write an obnoxious obituary. The Lagacy.com. entry for Grace McDonough, who died on December 21, concludes with this gratuitous and graceless—no pun intended—text:

The actions and inactions of the United States government regarding the Covid-19 virus has caused Grace McDonough and thousands of other nursing home residents to lose their lives to the Covid -19 virus. These same residents had successfully fought and won great battles against other diseases and conditions and yet were placed in harm’s way during the pandemic. These frail, elderly, sick and vulnerable innocents were not protected by the government they supported, fought for, contributed to and now depended on. Shame on the United States government! We, as their loved ones, have the right to be profoundly sad and profoundly angry at the same time. May our loved ones now rest in peace. It is the least they deserve.

Grace was 95 years old. She lived in a nursing home, where residents are in close confinement and where pandemic infections were and are especially deadly. Attributing the death of a 95-year-old on the undefined “actions and inactions” of the government demonstrates a) a dangerous gullibility to Democratic propaganda b) denial of reality and c) the continuation of  what is probably a pattern of looking for someone to blame for every misfortune. Fark, the humorous news aggregator website infected itself with predictable leftist bias, termed the obituary “fierce.” I would call it signature significance indicating a family teeming with jerks.

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Comment Of The Day: “Tuesday That Feels Like A Monday Ethics Catch-Up, 10/13/2020”

I am jumping Mrs. Q’s (characteristically concise, wise, eloquent) Comment of the Day past some others on the runway because it’s object will not have a long shelf-life. She has expressed her reaction to the blog’s unofficial resident contrarian’s recent voluntary exit from the commentariat of Ethics Alarms in a manner that beautifully frames what the ethical values of openness, acceptance, tolerance, empathy, respect and kindness look like in practice. (Let me take this opportunity to nudge Mrs. Q into reconsidering her own decision to suspend the column she has here. Her ratio of commenting excellence remains unmatched, and that forum remains open whenever her other priorities allow her the time to access it.)

For reference purposes, here is Alizia’s own Comment of the Day from last November, which provides a relatively mild sample of her contributions here.

And here is Mrs. Q’s, on item #1 from yesterday’s “Tuesday That Feels Like A Monday Ethics Catch-Up, 10/13/2020.”

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Ethics Hero: Mario Salerno

Not all the people giving lip service to “we’re all in this together” are virtue-signaling hypocrites. Some really mean it.

Surveys conducted last month estimated that 40 % of renters in New York City, if not more, would not be able to pay their April rent, which was due  last week.

This threatens landlords as well, as the shortfall will make it difficult for them to pay their own water and sewer bills at their buildings, not to mention taxes,  The 200-300 tenants in Mario Salerno’s properties, however, found a version of this sign taped up in the halls:

 

Mario Salerno said in an interview that he did not care about losing his rental income in April, nor care what the exact amount was that he would not be collecting from his 80 apartments.  He will be losing hundreds of thousands of dollars by canceling the month’s rent, but his sole concern, he said, was trying to make life a little easier for his renters. He is even forgoing rent for those who kept their jobs and are working from home.

“My concern is everyone’s health,” said Salerno. “I told them just to make sure that everyone has food on their table.”

He’s not exactly Michael Bloomberg. During the day, he runs the Salerno Auto Body Shop and gasoline station, which his father opened in 1959.

In the 1980s Salerno bought vacant lots across Brooklyn to store cars damaged in accidents before they were repaired, and eventually turned 18 of the lots into apartment buildings. He’s counting on the auto business to keep food on his own table until conditions improve for his renters.

“I say, don’t worry about paying me, worry about your neighbor and worry about your family,” he told reporters.

Remembering Thommie Walsh

Ethical human beings who pass through your life deserve to be remembered, and it is in your interest to  give them that lasting gift. Sometimes they are like strings tied around your finger (does anyone still do that?) reminding you to do the right thing.

Thommie Walsh was like that for me today.

March 15 is his birthday, you see—I only knew that because the man who introduced us almost 20 years ago tagged me on a Facebook post.  Maybe you remember Thommie, who died in 2007, too. Here’s part of that post, by my friend and Thommie’s, playwright, author, and theater historian Chip Defaa:

He was an original member of the cast of “A Chorus Line”–which was THE musical of that era. That show was created, in unique fashion, from taped comments about their lives by actual performers. Thommie was one of that original group. And the character he originated in “A Chorus Line,” “Bobby,” was based on him. As an actor, Thommie was saying on stage lines that rang true because they were true; he was saying things (as “Bobby”) he’d been saying before anyone thought up the idea of doing “A Chorus Line.”

He moved into choreographing and directing. He was ALWAYS working–Broadway, Off-Broadway, TV commercials, you name it. He staged friends’ cabaret shows–most notably the cabaret show of Tony Award-winner Donna McKechnie, his former castmate in “A Chorus Line” and a lifelong friend. She did that show, to great acclaim, for years afterwards in many venues. (I was delighted to be an invited guest at the performance that was taped for an album.) He also worked on the cabaret and concert shows of Chita Rivera and Joel Grey. Broadway royalty.

Among Broadway and Off-Broadway shows Thommie worked on, as a director and/or choreographer, were: “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” “A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine,” “Nine,” “My One and Only,” and “My Favorite Year.”

Thommie won two Tony Awards for choreography: that’s how I knew his name when Chip told me that he was going to direct “Danny and Sylvia,” the two-person musical about Danny Kaye and his wife Sylvia Fine I had originally developed for my theater company, as part of a New York City, Off-Broadway festival. Both cast members were friends, so I got periodic updates on how rehearsals were going. Thommie, like any good director, was making changes, adding his feel for the characters and material as he went along. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Sixth Grade Dance”

As I thought it would, today’s ethics quiz about the 6th grade dance with the “must accept” policy has sparked some excellent reflections and flashbacks. Taking off from Bryan’s comment—

When my son was in sixth grade cotillion class, the instructor prefaced dances with “in this class, and only in this class, if someone asks ‘may I have this dance?’ the answer is ‘yes, thank you.’ “ They also switched off having boys ask girls and girls ask boys. The whole point of the class was to learn polite interaction at an age when they’re so confused and might otherwise act weird. I thought it was a lovely compromise. This was in about 2005, so it was not so long ago, yet not inflicted with today’s outrageous thinking.

Pennagain authored this  Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Quiz: The Sixth Grade Dance”:

My experience was the same as Bryan’s – about a half-century prior. The class was once a week, part of the gym program as well as a “social” activity, I believe, and emphasizing a similar “buddy” system – you partnered with everyone at one time or another.

Ours was a smallish class so we got around to everyone else at least twice. We learned ethnic circle dances in lower classes, then box step, fox trot, waltz, and some others, ending the 8th grade (preparing for our first “formal”) with a singularly unsensual rumba. One of my classmates had hyperhydrosis, aka, a surfeit of sweat, and holding her hand was a chore for her partner and an agony for her. It got so we would safety-pin a pair of socks – not necessarily clean ones – under the shirt’s left shoulder to take care of half the problem and then, with her eager cooperation, each would try to touch each other’s palms with as little pressure as possible. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Sixth Grade Dance

A furious mother is making an issue out of a Utah middle school’s policy requiring sixth-graders to agree acquiesce when a classmate asks them to dance.

Alicia Hobson’s 11-year-old daughter, Azlyn was asked to dance by a boy she thought was icky. She “politely” refused, but the principle at Rich Middle School in Laketown, Utah,  intervened, telling the couple to get out onto the dance floor. Was the boy short, fat, covered with acne, bad-smelling, a bully, afflicted with Down Syndrome? Was he poor, have a lisp, or Muslim? Was there a cool boy Azlyn was waiting to play Prince Charming? Never mind: As the principal, Kip Motta, later explained in a letter to Alicia Hobson, the school has a policy requiring students to accept dance invitations, and sticks by it. Motta wrote,

“We do ask all students to dance. It is the nice thing to do and this will continue to be our policy. There have been similar situations in the past where some students have felt uncomfortable with others, and, as stated prior, the issues were discreetly handled. This allowed all students to feel welcome, comfortable, safe, and included.”

Hobson equates the policy with “rape culture,” and is prepared to take the issue to the Utah Board of Education. “Girls HAVE to learn that they have the right to say no and that those around them have to respect that,” Hobson wrote on Facebook. “I’m not going to quietly stand by while my daughter and all of her classmates are being wrapped up in rape culture. No way.”

Ethics Alarms dealt with a similar issue in a different context in this post, about children accepting kisses and hugs from repulsive family members.

Before I pop the quiz question, I have three observations. The first is that that the principal’s fad use of the word “safe” has just got to stop. That’s not what “safe” means, and if we keep using “safe” to mean “insulated from any event, feeling or experience that someone might prefer to avoid,” the word will cease to have any communication value. The second is that equating the social obligation to accept an invitation at a supervised dance with “rape culture” is a hyperbolic crock, and should be identified as such immediately.

The third observation is that the “Today” headline is intentionally misleading and unfairly supports the mother’s inflammatory framing. “School policy forbids kids from saying ‘no’ when asked to dance” presumes the conclusion Hobson wants. “School policy requires students to be kind and considerate when asked to dance” promotes  the school’s rationale. An ethical and responsible headline would be, ““School policy requires students to accept an invitation to dance.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz today :

Is the school’s policy wise and ethical?

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To Paraphrase George M. Cohan: “My Wife Thanks You, My Blog Thanks You, And I Thank You.”

To our surprise and delight, we just had delivered to our door, fresh from Conklyn’s Florists, a beautiful  mixed bouquet in a lovely glass vase. The card attached reads,

“Dear Mrs. Marshall, Get well absolutely as soon as possible.

[Other Bill] and the rest of the Ethics Alarms Commentariat

This was so kind and unexpected. None of my 420 Facebook friends (and relatives!) were so moved (then again, most of them hate me.) My wife was stunned, and is very grateful. (She would have applauded, but she only has one functioning arm.)

She says:  “This is very much appreciated. It cheers me up a little, something Jack has failed at completely. It is also a relief to be able to look at the beautiful flowers instead of my black-and blue face. And the vase is especially welcome, as a one armed flower arranger is like a one -armed paper-hanger, and Jack is no help at all.”

The ethics value here is generosity and kindness.

Thanks, Bill, and thanks everyone.

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: Dying Dog Ethics”

As usually is the case, today’s Open Forum generated several Comment of the Day contenders, and I will get to them in due course. I did not want too much time to lapse, however, before giving this lovely comment by JutGory its due. The topic was gratuitous and perhaps self-serving kindness to a dying dog who couldn’t possibly appreciate it’s details, or really have a “bucket list.”

Here is JutGory’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Quiz: Dying Dog Ethics.

And, just because I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately, I’m dedicating Jut’s COTD to Rugby, our universally loved and loving Jack Russell Terrier who left us last summer.

This is complex, but I think your confusion, flumoxxation, etc., is the result of over-anthropomorphization on all fronts.

Is the dog being used? Sure. The dog is being anthropomorphized. That is not necessarily a bad thing.

Kant said that it was bad to abuse animals, not because of the harm that we did them, but because our abuse of them harmed us by (essentially) desensitizing us to abuse.

The flip side would seem to hold true. Being kind to animals is good, not because they are deserving of kindness, but because it makes us more kind. Continue reading