The Christmas Asshole, Neil DeGrasse Tyson

“Merry Christmas to the world’s 2.5 billion Christians. And to the remaining 5 billion people, including Muslims Atheists Hindus Buddhists Animists & Jews, Happy Monday.”

What would justify a public figure tweeting that kind of arrogant, hostile, belittling message  at his fellow citizens would on Christmas Eve?

Nothing.

This was one of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s tweets yesterday. I’m sure the nation’s most prominent and least deserving pop intellectual assumed that his many Twitter followers who hang on every word of revealed wisdom he utters  would appreciate his giving Christmas the metaphorical back of his hand, which only means this asshole has a lot of asshole followers.

Why do this? It is not as if there is any delusion among Christmas revelers that “billions” of others in the world do not have the pleasure of celebrating the world’s most inclusive and ethical cultural holiday. Tyson’s intent was not to inform, it was to diminish, using a version of the Golden Rationalization: “Everybody does it;” in this case, “More people do it, so what you do instead isn’t as great as you think it is.”

Asshole. Tyson doesn’t have to observe Christmas, and he doesn’t have to absorb the wisdom that Scrooge learned so traumatically, he need not acknowledge an annual ritual in which we are all encouraged to embrace love, peace, generosity, ethics, respect, charity, empathy, selflessness and hope for at least a day, opening the possibility that the enlightenment may last longer, and even a lifetime, as it did for Ebeneezer.  If he had any decency or common courtesy, however, he wouldn’t try to spoil the holiday for anyone else not so blighted. As Richard Fernandez wrote yesterday, deftly exposing the flaw in fatuous efforts among  various sad enclaves of progressives more concerned with triggering some offense with a “Merry Christmas!’ than with the health of society itself, it is helpful to understand

“…Christmas as playing a role analogous to the fictional baseball field in the movie Field of Dreams: not a place or day but a reverie. To paraphrase the famous speech to Ray, when people come to Christmas, …”it’ll be as they’d dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. …  It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again.” But Christmas has marked the time. Marked the time because, as C.S. Lewis once adventured,  Christmas is not an idealized memory of childhood but of something glimpsed in childhood.

“These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

…The effort to erase Christmas will probably fail for no other reason than that it meets a human need that a mechanical bureaucratic day off cannot fulfill. Humanity needs a time to mark the growth and change in the family, an occasion to renew hopes and put aside fears and a chance to remember something we once knew: that everything’s going to be alright in the end. It really will.

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Comment Of The Day: “From The ‘Stop Making Me Defend Lawrence O’Donnell!’ Files: The Golden Rule”

A commenter on the post on the studio tantrum thrown by MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell going viral on YouTube after it was leaked said that such a leak was “predictable.” I asked,

“Why should it be “predictable”? Why shouldn’t we be able to trust co-workers not to try to hurt us, e-mail correspondents not to send out our messages to strangers and on social media? Was it predictable that Donald Sterling’s mistress/beard would tape his comments in his bedroom to destroy his reputation?”

This prompted Crella’s  Comment of the Day on the post, From The “Stop Making Me Defend Lawrence O’Donnell!” Files: The Golden Rule:

Exactly. It shouldn’t be predictable. However, it seems that for a lot of people, their first instinct with anything they come across is to put it on the net, no matter the consequences. It’s so easy ( and I assume, extremely satisfying to bully types) to shame and humiliate on a scale previously unknown in human history. It’s irresistible to too many.

The ability to find thousands of like-minded people in a relatively short period of time on social media, and the sheer volume of encouraging positive feedback you can receive ( ‘if so many people agree with me, I must be right!’) has brought grade-school level cliques and meanness to the fore in a great deal of adult communication. It’s the same mechanism on a large scale. People rarely step back and see themselves, but I read and just wonder at it daily…the people most stridently against fat shaming, objectification, being leered at, and other ‘lookist’ offenses on social media are routinely ridiculing Trump on his hair, weight, skin color, and posture while playing golf, comments on appearance are very common. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/21/17

Good Morning!

1. There was one of those moments in a Major League Baseball game yesterday that teaches life lessons in character, and ethics for anyone who is paying attention.

The Boston Red Sox were playing the Toronto Blue Jays in an afternoon game at Fenway Park. Boston led 3-1 in the second inning, but the Red Sox pitcher,  veteran Doug Fister, was struggling with an uncharacteristic control lapse: he walked his third batter in the inning, and also had given up a couple of hard-hit balls that suggested that a gaggle of runs and a blown lead were inevitable. Then, mirabile dictu, Fister caught a break. The next Toronto batter swung mightily and lofted an easy, lazy pop-up to the infield. If there had been one out rather than two, it would have been called an automatic out under the Infield Fly Rule. Everyone, including Fister, who is fighting to preserve his spot on the Sox roster as well as his flagging career, breathed a sigh of relief. The Toronto batter slammed his bat to the ground. Settling under a pop-up not any more difficult than those he had successfully caught as a Little Leaguer was Red Sox utility man Brock Holt, a second baseman this day. He is much admired for his versatility, energy and reliability. Holt is also trying to revive his career after a frightening, season-long battle with vertigo, as well as to show the team that he can fill a yawning void at third base.

Holt dropped the ball. It bounced off his glove, as the Toronto baserunners were charging around the bases at the crack of the bat, since there were already two outs. Two of them scored, and later two more after Fister surrendered hits in te lengthened inning, making the bounty bestowed by Holt’s muff four runs. Fister was soon out of the game, and was charged with his team’s eventual two-run loss by an 8-6 score. (Today’s headline in Boston: “Doug Fister’s Future As Starter Uncertain After Loss To Jays”).

Yet Fister never shot an angry glance at Holt. He’s played the game; he knows how mistakes and random bad luck can turn everything around in an instant. He probably has dropped a similar ball in a crucial situation: I know I’ve done it, at second base, losing a company soft-ball game. Holt trotted to the dugout, got supportive pats on the back and fanny from his team mates, and played the rest of the game with his head high and his skills on display. There is no doubt that he felt terribly about the play, but Holt  didn’t hide under a rock, rend his garments, or make a big display of anger and frustration to signal to the hometown crowd—which didn’t boo or jeer him at any point in the game.

That’s life, as my father used to say, and this is how ethical people handle life. Disaster strikes out of a confluence of factors (a very bright sun undoubtedly helped Holt miss the ball, but professional ballplayers learn to cope with the sun) and all we can do, if we are competent at life as well as fair, responsible and brave, is to accept responsibility, not make excuses, and not allow such events to diminish or destroy us. Both Fister and Holt displayed the character necessary to do that. Neither blamed the other, and no one blamed them. Tomorrow is another day.

Play Ball!

2. Professional troll Ann Coulter is having a public spat with Delta Airlines that reflects badly on both of them. Continue reading

My Happy Birthday Ethics Quiz: The National Review’s Theory

flaming-cake

Today is my annual struggle (since 2009) to try to think of my birthday as something better than “Finding Dad Dead In His Chair Day,” and I must say, Facebook Friends have been especially helpful by sending along happy birthday wishes. Since none of them de-friended me for political differences during and after the campaign, I was intrigued by this essay in the National Review, titled “Ten Reasons Left-Wingers Cut Trump Voters from Their Lives.”

Now as I have made painfully clear, I was no Trump voter, having determined early on that I would sooner undergo a head-transplant from a warthog, even a Bernie-boosting warthog, but I was no Hillary Clinton supporter either, and was especially eager to shoot down particularly stupid memes from OccupyDemocrats, MOVE-ON, and the National Federation of the Brain Debilitated when my friends posted them, which was depressingly often. (Come to think of it, most of those FBFs who are addicted to progressive memes haven’t sent me birthday wishes, the bastards, but then the National Review piece wasn’t called “Ten Reasons Left-Wingers Won’t Say Happy Birthday To Facebook Friends Who Point Out That The Memes They Post Have Been Proven To Cause Retardation In Chimps.

The article is biased, of course: it’s the National Review. Obviously its assertion is over-generalized. But how fair is its general proposition, which is that the 2016 phenomenon of people cutting off friends and family is “one-sided”? Continue reading

In Search Of A Tipping Point: Trump, The Microphone, And Thomas Dewey’s Ghost

Tom Dewey

The question is what will be the tipping point with Donald Trump, the incident, large or small, that suddenly causes the scales to fall from the eyes of his so far endlessly tolerant supporters, and cause them to suddenly realize what they are doing, exclaim, “My God! This man is a jerk!” and end this sick romance. The human being behind the ugly mask is uglier still, after all. Sooner or later, a tipping point will be reached.

In 1948, Republican Tom Dewey, who already had given FDR his best battle in an election, was poised to defeat the unpopular President Harry Truman and become President of the United States. It was less than a month from election day when, in Beaucoup, Illinois,  Dewey was speaking on the rear platform of a train as a tactic to counter Truman’s 30,000-mile whistle-stop campaign. The engineer accidentally backed the train up a short distance and stopped with a jolt, frightening both the candidate and the crowd. Dewey, flustered, snapped, “This is the first lunatic I’ve had as an engineer. He probably ought to be shot at sunrise, but I guess we can let him off because nobody was hurt!”

Nobody laughed. This was a petulant, privileged, arrogant side of Dewey that the public had never seen before, and was played up by papers as emblematic of a contempt  for working Americans. It didn’t help that he wore a fussy, anachronistic  mustache mocked by Alice Roosevelt Longworth as making her visualize Dewey as “the bridegroom on the wedding cake,” but whatever his other flaws, the train incident and his unguarded moment of impatience may have cost Thomas Dewey the election.

Yesterday, during an overflowing rally in Pensacola, Florida, the Republican poll-leader for the party’s Presidential nomination became annoyed by a balky microphone and attacked an anonymous sound engineer.

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Kicking A Lawyer When She’s Down

Nelson

The more I read “Above the Law,” the less I like it.

The legal gossip site has now devoted two articles to an embarrassing incident involving Sarah E. Buffett,  a partner at Nelson Mullins, one of the largest firms in the country. While on a flight, Buffett downed three glasses of wine as a chaser to a prescription sleeping pill without eating dinner, and instead of falling asleep as was her evident intent, went bananas. Sitting in first class, she first began damaging her seat and then tried to smash the aircraft window with an entertainment system remote. Then she got up and began “acting in a menacing manner in front of the cockpit door.” The flight attendants weren’t able to restrain the out-of-control lawyer, so other passengers had to help get Buffett into plastic restraints. She removed those restraints twice before passengers held her down while an attendant wrapped her legs with tape.

The pilot was forced to turn around and make an emergency landing.

Buffett, who said in court that she remembers none of this, has been charged with violation of 49 U.S. Code § 46504, a crime punishable by a fine and/or possible imprisonment of up to 20 years. Her firm has suspended her from all duties, and wiped her bio from its website. She has been humiliated and her career is in jeopardy. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce Update: See, Jason, This Is Why We Need An Ethics Alarm…

 Too little, too late.

george03Jason Alexander has just responded to his agent’s and publicist’s frantic texts with a tweeted apology for his disreputable and needless swipe at an out-of-work actress now plucking ukuleles for a living…and not even in Hawaii.

He feels officially awful, he says. Her inability to play scenes with him and the other cast members wasn’t really the reason she was killed off on the show. It was all Jason’s insecurity, he says. Everybody “really liked and like Heidi…she is a kind, lovely person” he says. In show business, screwing over people you like and humiliating lovely people who make about 1% of what you do is just what stars do…wait, no he didn’t exactly say that.

He also says this: “But in telling this story, it sounds like we are putting a heavy burden on Heidi. I, personally, am not.”

Hmmmm. Interesting “personally.” As in the comments to Stern, Alexander is again implying that it wasn’t his fault that the actress got dumped and sent to hula hell. But Jason: you told the story humiliating her on the air. You. Nobody else.

Finally, Alexander tries to shift blame to the news media:

“So, to all the press that is now running wild with this 15-year-old story, please don’t pervert it.

“George,” you, not anyone else, you, told the 15 year-old story. The story now is what a jerk you were on Stern’s show. That story is new, and you just added to it, because this “apology” makes you seem like even more of a jerk. Yes, there’s a nice “I personally apologize” to Heidi. It doesn’t matter. The harm was done, and can’t be undone, and many of us, like me, have a hard time believing that this mea culpa is anything but PR repair work. For her career, dignity and reputation, no repair is possible.

You want to make amends? Have your agent find her an acting gig.