D-Day 75th Anniversary Ethics Warm-Up, June 6, 2019: Stumbling As We Try To Keep America Worthy Of Their Sacrifice [UPDATED!]

U.S. WWII veterans from the United States attend a ceremony at Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial situated above Omaha Beach to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day, in Colleville-sur-Mer, France.

I have a special reason for being a devotee of D-Day: I may be here because my father missed it. He was supposed to be in the invasion, but as an observer, not a combatant. Dad never explained how he got that plum assignment, but before he had the honor, an idiot in his company blew part of my father’s foot apart while playing with a hand grenade nearby. (You’ll be happy to hear that said idiot advanced human evolution by blowing himself up in the process.) Thus Jack Sr. was in an army hospital on June 6, and had to wait for the Battle of the Bulge to be part of an iconic W.W. II conflict.

1. Somehow, I don’t think this is the society they thought they were fighting for…

At Rutherford High School in Bay County, Florida, a teacher  wrote “WTF” on a student’s science homework. His mother complained, calling the vulgar acronym “inappropriate.”

Boy, what a prude.

I just saw another of the increasingly common TV ads where evoking a vulgar word is used for humorous value.  One of the cell phone networks includes an exclamation of “Holy shirt!” (Get it? HAR!) when a father’s gray attire suddenly explodes into color as soon as the family upgrades its network.  “What the Shirt” is also a trendy shirt company.

In a culture where casual public vulgarity is treated as normal and even clever, it is no surprise that alleged professionals often have no functioning ethics alarms regarding their language, or any sense of respect, etiquette, gentility or decorum. After all, when a newly elected Congresswoman thinks it’s appropriate to shout “We’re going to impeach the motherfucker!” and suffers no adverse consequences, what do we expect?

2. Somehow, I don’t think this is the society they thought they were fighting for…wait, didn’t I just write that?

Sueretta Emke complained that she was dining with her family at a Golden Corral in Erie, Pennsylvania, when the manager told her that her attire was inappropriate and that some customers had complained. Asked Emke said the manager couldn’t answer when she was asked what was so inappropriate about her outfit. It was a mystery!

For some reason the phrase “res ipsa loquitur” keeps coming to mind.

Call me crazy, but I doubt that if  Ms. Emke’s croptop and Daisy Dukes had fit her more like this…

…anyone would have complained, or even if someone had, that the manager would have ejected her.  She was being fat-shamed. On the other hand, even at a Golden Corral, diners should have enough respect for others to adopt at least minimum standards of appropriate attire. On the OTHER hand—Did you know that Edward Albee wrote a play called “The Man With Three Arms? It was not a success—unless restaurants have stated, publicized and displayed  dress codes, it is unfair to arbitrarily discriminate against the unattractive exhibitionist and slobs while allowing the attractive ones to dine unmolested. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/5/2018: “Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” Edition

Good Morning!

(I’m happy to report that my Clarence Darrow ethics program for a lawyer group yesterday in Annapolis was received wonderfully, in no small part due to actor Paul Morella’s moving and powerful recreations of Darrow’s courtroom oratory. As is often the case, attendees said that they didn’t realize a legal ethics presentation could be so interesting. If fact, there is no excuse for any kind of ethics NOT being interesting…)

1. I call this “cultural defacing.” At 10:30 last night, I watched the end of “The Princess Bride,” and was thrilled to arrive just as the final showdown between Ingo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and Count Rugen (Christopher Guest). Here is the scene, a classic one, which begins with the Count apparently fatally wounding Inigo with a dagger:

Inigo Montoya: Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

[Inigo advances on Rugen, but stumbles into the table with sudden pain. Rugen attacks, but Inigo parries and rises to his feet again]

Inigo Montoya: Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

[Rugen attacks again, Inigo parries more fiercely, gaining strength]

Inigo Montoya: Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father! Prepare to die!

Count Rugen: Stop saying that!

[Rugen attacks, twice. Inigo avoids and wounds Rugen in both shoulders. Inigo attacks, bellowing:]

Inigo Montoya: HELLO! MY NAME IS INIGO MONTOYA! YOU KILLED MY FATHER! PREPARE TO DIE!

[Inigo corners Count Rugen, knocks his sword aside, and slashes his cheek, giving him a scar just like Inigo’s]

Inigo Montoya: Offer me money.

Count Rugen: Yes!

Inigo Montoya: Power, too, promise me that.

[He slashes his other cheek]

Count Rugen: All that I have and more. Please…

Inigo Montoya: Offer me anything I ask for.

Count Rugen: Anything you want…

[Rugen knocks Inigo’s sword aside and lunges. But Inigo traps his arm and aims his sword at Rugen’s stomach]

Inigo Montoya: I want my father back, you son of a bitch!

[He runs Count Rugen through and shoves him back against the table. Rugen falls to the floor, dead]

Except “you son of a bitch” was cut!

We settled this when the TV showing of “Gone With The Wind” let Clark Gable’s iconic exit line, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” remain uncensored, and later,when John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn uttered the words, “Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!” before charging Ned Pepper and his gang. It is unfair and disrespectful to wreck the best work of writers and actors for the few remaining people on earth who take to their fainting couches when rude language meets their ears. You don’t edit Rhett, or Rooster, or Inigo, or even John McLane when he says, “Yippee ki yay, mother fucker!” Show the movie, or don’t show the movie, but don’t ruin the movie for the most easily offended in the audience. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/23/2018: An Overdue Pardon, A Questionable No-Hitter, A Stupid Tweet, A Modest Hero…

Yes, I’m still here…

For one of the very few times since 2009, there were no posts yesterday. I’m sorry. I was pressed on a client’s urgent deadline from 7 am to 11 pm, with errands and sanity breaks in between, and never could get my schedule or brain cleared sufficiently to work on Ethics Alarms.

1 This is the news media. This morning, HLN  has spent 5-10 minutes every hour covering the birth of Queen Elizabeth’s latest grandchild. He’s a boy, in case you were on pins and needles. This isn’t fake news, it’s non-news. Why is this important? What possible use does detailed information regarding the latest addition to the succession train (he’s fifth in line) of an increasingly anachronistic monarchy have to the U.S. public? I’m looking at the morning New York Times, and literally 98% of its contents are more newsworthy.

Among the events broadcast in connection to this non-event was an elaborately dressed “town cryer” in London, ringing a bell and reading from a scroll to announce the royal birth. After CNN’s remote cameras recorded this memorable moment, it was revealed by a London correspondent that the elderly man dressed like a Tower Beefeater is a wacko, with no official significance whatsoever. Then a half hour later, HLN showed the wacko’s act again, sans any wacko label, but text that said, “Moments ago.” Thirty minutes is “moments”? Then we got new post-birth news, the London odds-makers take on what the likely name of this completely unimportant future prince will be. The odds on “Jack” were 9-1. Said Robin Meade’s sidekick Jennifer Westhoven: “Jack? Wouldn’t that be ‘James’?”

No, you ignorant moron. A., Jack is a real name. I can prove it, and B. It is a nickname for John, not James.

Yeah, we should trust these people.

2. Trump Tweets. Okay, what is this? President Trump, flush with success over questionable reports that North Korea has decided to halt nuclear testing (you know, like Iran, and equally trustworthy), tweeted,

Now, it is easily determined that the North Koreans have not agreed to “denuclearization.” Meetings haven’t even taken place. The tweet is fantasy. This is the kind of thing the mouth-foaming Trump haters point to as an example of the President’s “lying.” A statement that can’t possibly deceive anyone else, coming from someone who habitually makes such statements, is a falsehood, but whether it is a lie is questionable. Does Trump believe this tweet, at least when he wrote it? I suspect so. He communicates–indeed, he thinks— in cloudy generalizations and concept clouds. Is this tweet and its ilk spectacularly irresponsible and self-destructive to his ability to be respected and believed? Oh, definitely. Stupid and embarrassing too. But a lie? I’m not sure. “Trumpism” might be a better term.

Calling out NBC with “fake news” in front of a tweet with fake news is certainly audacious stupidity, however.

3. Now the Good Trump (maybe): Reportedly, spurred by the suggestion of Sylvester Stallone, the President is considering a pardon for Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion (1908-1915) who was hounded by the government and personally destroyed, mostly because of his proclivity to have relationships with white women. Johnson’s primary crime was being a successful, defiant, black man at the height of Jim Crow. The play (and movie) “The Great White Hope” tells his story, which is an American tragedy; Ken Burns also made a superb documentary about Johnson.

Johnson was convicted of violating the Mann Act, for transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes, in his case, miscegenation. Eventually he served time in a federal penitentiary. There have been calls to grant Johnson a posthumous pardon for at least a decade. A 2008 bill requesting President George W. Bush to pardon Johnson in 2008 passed the House, but failed to pass in the Senate. Senator McCain,  Representative Peter King, Burns and Johnson’s great-niece requested a presidential pardon for Johnson from President Obama in 2009, and again in  2016, in honor of the 70th anniversary of Johnson’s death in a car accident. A vote by the United States Commission on Civil Rights also called on Obama to “right this century-old wrong.” There was also a Change.org petition. Obama never acted, causing a firestorm of protest from the Congressional Black Caucus.

No, I’m kidding: it was hardly mentioned in the news media or by black activist groups. And Jack Johnson’s life, despite the fact that hardly anyone under the age of  50 could tell you anything about him, mattered. If President Trump finally does the right thing and clears Jack Johnson’s name, I wonder how progressives and the news media will attack him for it?

4. Wait, why wasn’t he texting, “I’m so terrified!”? James Shaw Jr., 29, rushed a shooter armed with an AR-15 (and not wearing pants) who had opened fire yesterday in a Waffle House in Antioch, Tennessee.  Four people had been shot dead and many other were injured before Shaw grabbed the gun’s barrel, pulled it away and threw it over the Waffle House counter. He suffered a gunshot wound and burns from grabbing the gun’s barrel.  Although his actions are credited with saving many lives,  Shaw Jr. denies that he’s hero. “I was just trying to get myself out. I saw the opportunity and pretty much took it,” he says.

Real heroes seldom regard themselves as heroes. The fact is that he took action, placed himself at risk in doing so, and had the right instincts, exactly the ones this culture is supposed to nurture but increasingly does not: take control of your own fate, and do what needs to be done.

Trust me on this, James (can I call you Jack?): You’re a hero. Continue reading

The Miami Marlins Are Selling Fake Memories

 Through June 3, 2017, there have been 296 no-hitters officially recognized by Major League Baseball, 252 of them in the modern era starting in 1901. Seeing one in person is a joy and a treat for any baseball fan, and even the close-but-no cigar games are memorable, as every out, every great play and every batter creates excitement, anticipation, and dread. No sport has anything like no-hitters. 

On that June 3 date, four days ago, Edinson Volquez tossed the first no-no ( as they are colloquially called) this season, and the sixth no-hitter in Miami Marlins history,  defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was an unusual version of the breed because Volquez, a journeyman starter, had two baserunners who reached on walks and saw them erased by double plays. He needed only 98 pitches  to complete the masterpiece.

This comes at a good time for the sad-sack Marlins, who have attendance problems, trust issues (the team twice dismantled a championship team to save money), bad luck (rising superstar pitching ace Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident at the end of last season), hero problems (Fernandez was driving the boat,  he was drunk and on coke, and he killed two of his friends) and ownership uncertainty, for the team is for sale.

A friend living in Florida writes,

“The Miami Marlins selling tickets to a game that’s already been played? I suppose so you can frame them and claim you were at the no-hitter a Marlins’ pitcher threw on June 3rd. From the email they sent me, since I live in Florida and do attend three or four Marlins games a season:

“For those of you who missed attending the game but want to own a souvenir piece of history, unsold tickets from the game are still available by clicking here. Online purchases will be printed and mailed. Fans can also purchase tickets in-person at the Marlins Park Ticket Office.”

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Ethics Quiz: The Aborted No-Hitter

Friday night, Miami pitcher Adam Conley  was pitching a no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers with two outs in the eighth inning, meaning that he was just four outs away. A no-hitter—no hits, no runs, for an entire game—places a pitcher name in the  Hall of Fame. It makes him an instant part of sports history. In today’s hyper-celebrity culture, it means interviews and endorsements.

Moreover, the Marlins needed something to make their fans feel better. Dee Gordon, the team’s star second baseman, had just tested positive for steroids and was suspended for 80 games. Nonetheless, Marlins manager Don Mattingly lifted Conley because he had exceeded his pitch count. Though baseball paid little attention to the statistic for 70 years, today teams carefully monitor how many pitches a hurler throws, both to anticipate ineffectiveness, and to guard against injury.

In Conley’s case, he had never thrown more than a hundred pitches in a game, and had topped out at 116. To Mattingly and Marlins pitching coach Juan Nieves, that meant that even on the verge of immortality, Conley had to be removed. Conley was angry, though he said all the right things after the game. Still, knowing the alleged risk to his arm and career, he wanted to try to finish his masterpiece. (The Marlins blew the no-hitter and the shutout in the 9th, though still managed to win 5-3.)

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Was removing Conley “for his own good” when he wanted to have the chance at a no-hitter fair?

Continue reading

A Baseball Integrity Conundrum: The Non-Hit That Is Always Called A Hit But Shouldn’t Be

In baseball, when a batter gets lucky and his pop-up or fly falls between fielders who could have easily caught it but who got mixed up, allowing the ball to drop in safely, it is scored as a hit, not an error, as long as neither fielder touched it on the way down. Sometimes this makes sense; usually it doesn’t. Then again, it also is ruled a hit if an immobile, fat outfielder can’t run down a fly ball that the average Little League could catch with ease, whereas if a faster outfielder runs over, catches the ball but drops it, it would be an error. Such are the scoring vagaries of baseball.

This particular rule of scoring drives some aficionados of the game nuts. Why should the pitcher be charged with a hit if his fielders were at fault? Why should a hitter get credit for a hit when what he did would have been an out if the fielders didn’t mess up, or the wind wasn’t blowing, or the sun didn’t get in their eyes? They are right, but a hit is what the game defines as a hit, and by practice and tradition, this has always been called one, so it is.

Except that on Friday night in Arlington, Texas, it wasn’t. Yu Darvish, the Abbott and Costello-named Texas Rangers ace, was pitching a masterpiece against the Boston Red Sox. In fact, with two outs in the 7th inning he was working on not just a no-hitter but a perfect game (no batter reaches base), either of which qualifies as a major, landmark achievement. Then Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (who would later single to break up the no-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning) hit a high pop-up to shallow right field, an easy out….except that it fell, untouched, between the Rangers second baseman and the right fielder, Nelson Cruz, who could have and should have caught it. It was a terrible way for a pitcher to lose a perfect game and a no-hitter, and a collective sigh of disappointment came from the Texas crowd, only to turn to cheers when the scorer (local sportswriters are given the job of deciding hits and errors in Major League Baseball) ruled the ball an error on Cruz. The perfect game was gone—anything, even an error, mars that—but the no-hitter was alive!
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Ethics Quiz: Is Bunting to Break Up a No-Hitter Unethical?

I want to get this on the record for all time, because the controversy comes up almost ever baseball season. it came up again yesterday.

In Sunday’s baseball game between the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels, Tiger pitcher Justin Verlander was six outs from joining Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax, and Nolan Ryan as the only pitchers since 1900 with three or more no-hitters in their careers. But the Angels’ Erick Aybar tried to end the no-hitter with a bunt single leading off the eighth against Verlander. He got it, too, except that the home town scorer attempted to preserve Verlander’s historic bid by charging an error instead. (Unethical. But I digress.) Continue reading