Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/14/2020: Only One Pandemic Note Out Of Five!

Good morning!

I am disgusted with this brain-dead talking point: perhaps my most Trump Deranged Facebook friend posted a rant–at least he wrote his own this time rather than searching the web for the latest from established “resistance” pundits (Dana Milbank, Paul Krugman, Joe Scarborough, about a hundred others)—making the “point” that President Trump wasn’t “elected to do heart surgery,” so the argument that Dr. Fauci’s opinions on the Wuhan virus shouldn’t dictate policy because “he wasn’t elected” were foolish. How did people like my friend get this way? He is obviously amazingly receptive to Democrat-crafted narratives, and probably hypnosis as well, so I guess I should be glad he doesn’t think he’s a chicken.

We elect leaders to consider and weigh many opinions of advisers, experts and specialists in narrow fields to balance those among other considerations in deciding what is in the best long and short term interests of the nation. That’s why, among other reasons, the we have a civilian in charge of the armed services. This increasingly popular (and tiresome) claim from the Left that if the recommendations of scientist aren’t followed, it is proof of ignorance and recklessness is logically, historically and politically unsupportable. If it’s sincere rather than a partisan tactic, it is ignorant  as well.

Scientists aren’t accountable to the public for their opinions; if they are wrong, they just come up with new theories and conclusions.  Scientists and health care specialists also, as we have said here many times, operate within the tunnel vision and priorities of their own specialties. All Dr. Fauci focuses on is the likely (as they appear at any given point) health consequences of national policy. Economic, security, political consequences are not his concern, nor should they be. Arguing that his position on the best national policy must be accepted by the President is irresponsible as well as incompetent, and this is true without even considering the fact that Fauci and the “experts” have been repeatedly wrong about the pandemic already, as Senator Paul pointed out this week.

1.How sports teaches character. I am going to have to take two hours out of my day because the MLB channel, improvising like crazy to come up with programming without any baseball games to cover, is replaying the 1975 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds, best known for Game 6, when Carlton Fisk hit a walk-off home run in the 12th inning of arguably the most exciting World Series game ever played. I was at Game Six and two more in that seven game series (thanks to the generosity of my late law school friends and classmates Mitch and Myron Dale, whose father was then president of the Reds), but it was one I didn’t see in person, Game 4, that was the Ethics Game.

Red Sox pitcher Luis Tiant, with his team facing a daunting three games-to-one deficit if it lost, pitched a nerve-wracking, complete game 5-4 victory, protecting a one-run lead for most of it despite lacking his best stuff against the toughest line-up in baseball. Nearly every inning, the Reds had men on base and threatened to take the lead; over and over again Sox manager Darrell Johnson trudged out to the mound to replace Tiant, only to have his ace shake his head, insist that he would get the job done, and demand that his boss return to the dugout. TV closeups of the Cuban’s grim and sweat-covered face showed pure determination as he took the fate of the team on his own back fearlessly and without hesitation. Tiant, an old man in baseball years, threw over 180 pitches that night in the era before they counted pitches; today, starters are seldom allowed to throw more than 100. Even more than the famous Curt Schilling “bloody sock” game in 2004, that athletic performance epitomizes for me the ethical virtues of professionalism, honor, perseverance, accountability, fortitude, courage and sacrifice. I have pictured Luis Tiant’s face  many times since when I have been under pressure to succeed, or facing a challenge while not feeling at my best. Continue reading

Ethics Lessons From An Ethics Dunce, Ed Stack, Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO

Ed Stack, the CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods, is profiled in Sunday’s New York Times. He reveals himself as a thorough Ethics Dunce on many fronts, but in doing so performs a valuable service by showing vividly why the world doesn’t work, or at least the United States.

  • Stack had an epiphany, we learn, after the shooting murders of 17 at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. “As Mr. Stack watched the news, he decided to drastically curtail Dick’s gun sales,” we learn.

This is management incompetence, and life incompetence as well. Stack employed pure emotion to make a business decision with unknown impact. Such business practices make an executive untrustworthy by definition.

  • Quote: “But I sat there hearing about the kids who were killed, and I hadn’t cried that much since my mother passed away. We need to do something. This has got to stop.”

More incompetence, and irresponsible as well. More than two years after deciding, based on a single unusual tragedy, that guns are bad, Stack’s level of criticism remains stuck at the “Do something!” stage. Of course, so is the anti-gun movement generally, making Stack an excellent symbol of its lack of policy seriousness and willingness to deal openly with reality. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/5/2019: Preparing For Yet Another Anti-Gun Freak-Out Edition

Good Morning!

 Notes on the impending gun control summer re-runs..

  • There is literally no significance to the fact that there were two mass shootings within 48 hours of each other last week. None. It is pure moral luck, nothing more. If the shootings had occurred weeks apart, or months, the same factors would have been at play, and the same number of people would be dead or injured.

A responsible news media would explain this, as the public looks at these things emotionally rather than rationally. Instead, the news media is doing the opposite.

  • President Trump has decided that it is politically expedient to “do something,” so he tweeted this morning that he favored “strong background checks” in order that “those killed in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, [not] die in vain.” This will annoy Second Amendment champions, and it is certainly a nice example of the “Barn Door Fallacy.” Background checks, however strong, wouldn’t have stopped these shootings in all likelihood, or the vast majority of mass shootings.

It is also possible that the President is being smarter than it seems, since he mentioned some kind of more gun regulations for actual immigration reform compromise. Of course that kind of trade-off makes sense. I suggested that exact deal when Obama was President, but he preferred to whine about how he couldn’t work with Congress rather than compromise. Trump will compromise, in part because he’s a pragmatist, in part because he has no ideals.

The Democrats won’t, though. Continue reading

Policing Ethics, Part One: Firing The Faint Of Heart

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department this week fired Officer Cordell Hendrex for “freezing” (it’s all on video) as a deranged sniper  fired hundreds of rounds into a crowd of county music fans below the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas in 2017. “I’m inside the Mandalay Bay on the 31st floor,” Hendrex said into his radio as he hid behind a wall. “I can hear the automatic fire coming from one floor ahead, one floor above us.”

As Hendrex stayed there in terror (by his own testimony), the gunman continued to fire, eventually killing 58 people and wounding more than 800 in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.  His lawyers are  appealing the decision. His defense? He was scared, that’s all. It’s unreasonable for the public to expect  police officers to rise to heroic standards and place their lives in jeopardy in a public safety crisis. The Las Vegas department’s training didn’t prepare Hendrex for storming the hotel room. He’s been a terrific cop, as long as he didn’t have to put his life on the line.

Oh. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/14/2019: Talking The Walk, Or Not

Good Morning!

1. Fight racial hate with cognitive dissonance. It is apparent that the Left’s battle plan depends on making sure that minorities hate and fear white people, and it’s up to whites and all the shades lumped in with them—I’m kind of olive colored, or as an old girl friend used to say, “green”—to foil it. It’s simple cognitive dissonance: the more positive experiences minorities have with whites, the more the cognitive dissonance scale works in favor of racial respect and comity.

Yesterday, in a rush, I arrived in the line to pick up my drug refills simultaneously with an African-American man who was probably about my age, and looked pretty grim. I asked him if he wanted to play paper-stone-scissors to see who got to go first. He appeared genuinely startled that I spoke to him, then smiled and told me to go ahead. “You sure? ” I asked. “I really like playing  paper-stone-scissors !” He waved me ahead of him, and I noted that I was rushing to pick up a carry-out order from my favorite Chinese restaurant.

“That’s a good reason to be in a hurry,” he said. I asked him if he liked Chinese food, and he nodded, so I asked if he had eaten at The Peking Gourmet Inn nearby. (It really is the best Chinese eatery in the D.C. area, and except for a little hole in the wall we stumbled into in London, the best I’ve ever encountered.) He hadn’t, so we got in a long conversation about the menu, how to get there, why he really owed it to himself and his family to check it out. I also learned that he and I both favored the same local Thai restaurant. Great guy.

After I got my pills and started to leave, he crossed over to me with his hand outstretched. “Thanks for the tip,” he said, with a big smile. “It was nice talking with you.” “Same here.” I said, as we shook hands.

One down, about a hundred million to go. Of course, if he had been much younger, I never would have been able to talk to him because his eyes would have been glued to smartphone screen…. Continue reading

2018 Ethics Retrospective Poll #4: The Ethics Train Wrecks!

Nominations for “Ethics Train Wreck Of The Year”

This one is self-explanatory, I think. Don’t automatically default to the obvious choice.

(Still rolling and still being used illicitly to exert gender-based power while undermining civil rights.

(which encompasses “the resistance,” the “Get Trump” campaign by the news media, and the ongoing effort to concoct a justification for impeachment)

(The Parkland shooting aftermath was nothing but a resuscitated and refueled version, with different demagogues, and the same lies)

(Statues are still falling, universities are still purging their histories, and “The Sound of Music” can’t mention Nazis…)

(An offshoot of the Harvey Weinstein express,  and perhaps the canary dying in the mine…)

(So long-running and constant that I forgot to call it one, with the “Think of the Children! caboose.)

The Big Tech Social Media Ethics Train Wreck, which has pulled out of the station, will have to wait a few months before we can assess it…

The poll:

 

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/14/2018: PolitiFact Lies About The Lie Of The Year, And What’s This Taboo Stuff Bing is Blathering On About?

Good morning.

1. So you think baseball ethics controversies end with the season? Not at Ethics Alarms!

  • Did you know that baseball has its own Colin Kaepernick, sort of? Free-agent catcher Bruce Maxwell can’t find a team, though he was once considered the front-runner to be the Oakland A’s starting catcher.  In 2017 Maxwell,  who is white, became the first and only major leaguer to kneel during the National Anthem. The buzz coming out of baseball’s winter meetings was that taking a knee was enough to make him persona non-grata among baseball owners.

Of course, the fact that Maxwellwas arrested on a gun charge in 2017 and later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, and also played poorly last season in the minor leagues doesn’t help. “This is not a Colin Kaepernick situation, said an anonymous source at the meetings. “This is if Colin Kaepernick had knelt for the anthem and also been arrested for a gun crime.”

Except that things like gun crimes are not that big a deal in the NFL…

  • In a debate with baseball commentator Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo, Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa inadvertently gave a lesson in why conflicts of interests are a problem while simultaneously showing that he has no idea what a conflict is. Russo correctly protested that Harold Baines, recently a shock election to the Baseball Hall of Fame by a 16 member committee that included  close associates of Baines, was unqualified, and noted that several members of the committee, includiing Baines’ long-time manager LaRussa, had a conflict of interest. LaRussa’s rebuttal: “Do you think the people who know him better than the average expert, fan or even other baseball executives, have actually been teammates with him … when they speak with more knowledge about the type of player he was, I think that speaks more to his credit, not less.”

No, Tony. Those who knew and admired him are biased, and Baines should have been elected or not elected by a panel that knew him no better or less than it knew the other candidates. That Baines’ pals have inside knowledge that he, let’s say,  likes puppies, always held the door open for the manager’s mother, once bailed a team mate out of jail and often played despite a sore toe has nothing to do with his qualifications for the Hall. And LaRussa has a law degree! Maybe this explains his ultimate career choice. Continue reading

The Hitler Joke, Our Rights, And Our Nation

Prologue

When I was a junior in high school, I played Ko-Ko in  the Gilbert and Sullivan Club’s production of “The Mikado.” The head of the music department directed, a Jewish teacher named Mr. Einsig. He had the staging notes for all of the Gilbert and Sullivan works from the director who had gained great acclaim from his work with the Boston Light Opera Company, and I must admit, I cribbed many of that director’s ideas myself, through Mr. Einsig.One effective  staging concept was for the encores to “The Flowers That Bloom in the Spring.” Each one was performed as a different ethnic parody, with Ko-Ko singing translated lyrics. It began with Japanese, of course, then French, a Brooklyn dialect, and the biggest hoot of them all, German. I performed it, in my kimono, with an over-the-top Hitler imitation, complete with mustache, ending with an emphatic “Heil” gesture.

It brought down the house. Ten years later, at Georgetown University Law Center, I played Ko-Ko again, did the same Hitler parody again, and brought down the house again. Nobody complained. My late father, crippled for life in the fight against Hitler, detected nothing wrong with the routine. He also loved “Hogan’s Heroes,” with the show’s reluctant, inept, heiling Nazis, and the other Heil-filled spoofs of Hitler by Chaplin, Mel Brooks, and even the Three Stooges.

Now here is what happened to a private school teacher: read the whole, awful thing here. The short version: he was gesturing while explaining something in class, and noticed that his arm was raised Nazi-style, and said, “Heil Hitler,” jokingly. There was no question whether he was serious or not: everyone knew he was joking, and why he was joking. He even stopped and explained to the class that Once Upon A Time, in less enlightened eras, it was considered amusing to mock Hitler and the Nazis.

Ben Frisch, the teacher, a practicing Quaker  whose father was Jewish and who had two great-grandmothers  killed at Auschwitz, was fired by the private school anyway. The school principal who fired him explained his reason to the New York Times magazine  by saying, “One of our pledges is to make all of our students feel safe. And that is something that I take very, very seriously.”

Says the Times reporter in part in reaction to this: Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Fred Guttenberg…And An Integrity Test For Everyone Else

“Put out my hand to introduce myself as Jaime Guttenberg’s dad. He pulled his hand back, turned his back to me and walked away. I guess he did not want to deal with the reality of gun violence.”

—–Fred Guttenberg, the father of one of the Parkland shooting victims, on Twitter, trying to execute a disgraceful and transparent “gotcha!” to impugn SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Sorry, Fred, but I know my Presidential history, and if a stranger offers his hand to me, especially in a hostile environment, my mind flashes back to when Leon Czolgosz used the ploy to assassinate President McKinley. That would be my reflection on “the reality of gun violence.” Of course, I don’t know that Judge Kavanaugh is a student of Presidential shootings, but I also don’t see any reason why “I’m Jaime Guutenberg’s dad” should have meant anything to him at all. It wouldn’t to me. Supreme Court designates are  required to have memorized the names of every shooting victim now?

The entire hearing where this occurred looked like a particularly badly-directed scene from an amateur production of “The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade.” People were dressed up in costumes and screaming; Democratic Senators were grandstanding. Then a complete stranger comes up and offers his hand to the target of all of this hate and commotion.  The fact that Kavanaugh was wary well of his wisdom and judicial restraint.

Anyone who cites this obvious set-up as a relevant or substantive reflection on Kavanaugh’s character or fitness for teh Supreme Court has abandoned all shreds of fairness and integrity, and should be treated accordingly.

Let me be more specific: anyone who criticizes Kavanaugh for this is an asshole.

Take names.

On The Santa Fe School Shooting

  • That the latest school shooting, this one in Sante Fe, Texas that left ten dead, came so soon after the last one, barely three months ago, is meaningless. It is moral luck. Never mind, though: the timing, like everything else in the incident, will be politicized and used for political agendas.

Well, maybe not completely moral luck. A case can be made that the increasingly hysterical and long-running news coverage these tragedies receive—the last one dominated the news for more than a month—increases the likelihood that some sick kid who wants to go out in a blaze of infamy chooses this guaranteed route. No, you can’t blame CNN, much as I would like to. Nor is there any way to limit news reports and publicity, especially when it also becomes entertainment programming, and that is what the last school shooting’s emotional finger-pointing exercises became. The publicity, however, is more “to blame” than, say, the NRA.

  • I checked developments just before I was going to write this bullet point: sure enough, the guns used and the shooter’s method of obtaining them had absolutely nothing to do with all of the “sensible” gun-control measures that have been shouted at us since Parkland. The shooter took his father’s guns, which were legal. The guns used didn’t include an “assault-type weapon.”

Indeed, this school shooting had nothing to do with gun regulations at all. Do you think that little detail will stop the anti-gun zealots from using it to advance their agenda anyway? Of course not; facts have always been irrelevant when gun-banning is the topic.

  • And, sure enough, the first elected politician to intone about the matter lied, pandered, and made the job of anti-Second Amendment advocates easier. Said Texas Governor Abbott: “We need to do more than just pray for the victims and their families. It’s time in Texas that we take action to step up and make sure this tragedy is never repeated ever again.”

How, governor? How do you make “sure” this kind of tragedy never happens again? Confiscate guns? Ban schools? Ban children? I know the idea is to say comforting things, but the idea, repeated constantly after the Parkland shooting, that such shooting can be prevented (“easily” claim the student scolds) is foolish, dishonest, and invites bad policy. Continue reading