Saturday Night Ethics Dump, 8/31/2019.

Still trying to clear the ethics Augean stables…

1. Fox News headline: “The Dangers of Vaping.” Fake news! The story following that headline explained that teens were falling ill of serious lung difficulties after using what we once called “electronic cigarettes” to inhale THC. There is little convincing evidence that using e-cigarettes as they were designed to be used causes any lung problems. Thus the headline is as accurate as leading off a story about tainted beef with “The Dangers of Eating.”

2.  Another old ethics question comes around again. In 2017 I questioned the wisdom of the Miami Marlins baseball team loudly honoring the memory of Jose Fernandez, a rising pitching star who got himself and others killed by driving his speed boat while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. died July 1 in his hotel room

There is a level of recklessness, irresponsible conduct, arrogance and stupidity that cannot be excused, and whatever the level is, Fernandez exceeded it. The fact that he was killed himself was moral luck: imagine if only he had survived. Fernandez would be facing homicide charges and serious prison time….and would deserve it all. He had a family, a child, a city, a baseball team, and a sport all relying on him, and he decided to risk it all for coke, booze, and a speed boat ride, killing not only himself but two other human beings, who had families and responsibilities of their own. He was  no hero. He was a deadly, selfish, asshole.

No other message should be sent to the kids who once admired him that that one. Honoring Fernandez now would be a particularly ugly example of The King’s Pass or The Star Syndrome, Rationalization #11 on the list. A non-celebrity did what Fernandez did would be guaranteed posthumous infamy. The fact that the pitcher was a baseball star doesn’t make him better than that; if anything, it makes him worse.

Now we learn that Anaheim Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, a 27-year-old Angels pitcher who died on July 1 in his hotel room,  perished because he had mixed multiple opioids with alcohol. The Red Sox are playing in Anaheim, and the Angels players are all wearing tributes to Skaggs on their uniform, a prominent “45.” True, Skaggs didn’t get others killed by his irresponsible behavior, but his death was still the result of conduct that needs to be discouraged, condemned, and certainly not romanticized. The Angels can honor their dead team mate privately, but a public display that suggests that Skaggs’ death was anything but a self-made tragedy send a dangerous and irresponsible message. Continue reading

Pssst! CBS! “NCIS” Is Confusing People About Sexual Harassment And Sexual Assault!

“NCIS” starring Mark Harmon and an ensemble cast, is the second longest running scripted drama on television at 15 full seasons (trailing only “Law and Order: SVU,” which will apparently continue until Mariska Hargitay drops dead of old age) and the seventh longest running such show since television began. A breezy procedural that records the adventures of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, it depicts a diverse team that demonstrably idolize its leader, the enigmatic and tragic Jethro Gibbs, and support each other like a family.

As with all series that run this long and go into syndication while the show is still being produced ( “Criminal Minds,” “The Simpsons,” “NCIS LA,” and “Blue Bloods” is getting there), I eventually got sick of “NCIS” and hadn’t watched it for several seasons. However, last night’s Red Sox game was so dispiriting that I gave up for an inning or so, and peeked in to see how Gibbs and the gang were doing in Season 16. Almost immediately, I witnessed Harmon’s character planting a kiss on the face of the team’s new forensic specialist, Kasie Hines (Diona Reasonover, who appears to be about 18) just as he had often kissed Hines’s predecessor, Abby Sciuto (now departed Pauley Perrette), as you can see in the clip above. I gathered from Kasie’s reaction that this was the “new kid’s” first kiss from Gibbs, and she behaved as if it was both a surprise and the thrill of a lifetime.

For God’s sake.

A leader, manager, or supervisor should not, cannot, and must not kiss (or hug, or in my view, even touch) subordinates, particularly when the supervisor is male and the subordinate is female. This conduct was never appropriate, but beginning around 1980 the law began flagging it as potentially discriminatory, and once sexual harassment law crystallized—and Joe Biden’s memory to the contrary, that was a long time ago—such kisses, touches and hugs could be actionable. Continue reading

Naked Teacher Principle, The Selfie Variation

Pure as the driven snow! Especially if her breasts really look that THAT…

The Naked Teacher Principle (NTP) states that a secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result.

Ah, would that it were always this simple! In the past, we have had to deal with the “naked teacher who paints with his butt and naughty bits on camera with a bag over his head” principle, for example.  Another teacher got fired when the naked photos of herself she had on her own tablet inadvertently was sent to the students in her class. Continue reading

Asshole vs. Asshole, And How To Avoid Starring In It

If you are old enough, you may remember the long-running comic  in Mad Magazine called “Spy vs Spy.” It was kind of a wordless Roadrunner cartoon with a Cold War vibe, and not especially funny, but I just thought of it for the first time in decades. (Incredibly, it is apparently still running in Mad, though the magazine itself is sinking fast.) I was considering this ridiculous story…

…It started small, but disputes over a Kansas man’s alleged violations of his homeowner association’s rules has led to a complex legal battle that is now the most expensive of its kind. Owner Jim Hildenbrand, has been locked in conflict with the HOA of Avignon Villa Homes since he moved there in 2012…

What began with a disagreement over the placement of a satellite dish and a decorative wall has escalated into a legal back-and-forth that has cost both parties at least a combined $1 million. It is the most expensive HOA dispute in the country.

It is also yet another example of the increasingly common societal phenomenon of “Asshole vs. Asshole.” These are ethics breakdowns where two parties in disagreement decide that making the other side pay for daring to have an adverse position overwhelms whatever the original objectives of the two parties were. It is reminiscent of the kinds of disputes parents—the good ones, anyway–arbitrate between siblings. “You’re both right,” Mom or Dad will say, “And you’re both wrong. You have reached the point where the escalation of anger and retaliation is the problem, not what you think you are arguing about.. Work it out. Compromise. See it from the other one’s perspective. And if you don’t, we’re going to punish both of you.”

In the case of Mr. Hildebrand and his fascist Home Owner Association, both sides say it’s the principle of the thing. As any reader hear know, I am a believer in and a practitioner of taking stands for principle, but knowing when this is essential (Do NOT apologize for speaking the truth or bucking the mob) and destructive is a critical life skill. The trick is keeping emotion out of it, and engaging in ethics problem solving. Asshole vs Asshole occurs when hate, and anger, and the desire to teach that jerk a lesson blinds both parties to common sense, the Golden Rule, and the human duty to seek peace, not war. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Red Sox Rightfielder Mookie Betts

I guess in fairness I owe the Red Sox this one, after yesterday’s post.

Mookie Betts, the young Red Sox star widely assumed to be the American League MVP once the votes are tallied, had three hits in Game 2 of the World Series this week, and after the game, joined his cousin delivering food to the homeless outside the Boston Public Library. Betts did not summon reporters and photographers to the scene, in the immortal tradition of Babe Ruth, who always seemed to have a scribe nearby when he promised a sick kid at the hospital a home run that day. In the Boston tradition of Ted Williams, who regularly visited juvenile cancer patients without fanfare, Mookie did his charity work anonymously, wearing a hoodie so he would not be recognized. Someone recognized him nonetheless—this was Boston, after all, and Mookie is especially recognizable, so the local media got the story anyway.

Mookie seems too good to be true: he’s always modest and humble, he’s polite, he’s astoundingly talented, he’s nice, and he’s so  cute. I’m afraid to hope he’ll stay that way; Boston has had other lovable young stars who gradually became insufferable as their fame and paychecks increased (see Clemens, Roger). Mookie seems like the real thing, but you never know. For now, at least, he’s a terrific role model, not just for young baseball fans, but for other players and celebrities, present and future.

 

Mid-Day Ethics Warm-Up, 10/16/18: The Jerk Squad

Good whatever it is by the time I post this; big time computer problems, and every keystroke may be my last..

1. Baseball Ethics, Jerk Divison. Should baseball reward or punish its jerks? Last night in the Brewers-Dodgers NLCS game, LA’s jerks were out in force. Free-agent slugger to be Manny Machado was penalized for one dirty slide, much like the one that helped put Red Sox second-baseman Dustin Pedroia on the sidelines for the entire 2018 season,  a night after loafing to first base. Are teams really going to break the bank to try sign this guy? Then, in the ninth inning, Dodger mega-jerk Yasiel Puig mocked the Brewers closer for not throwing him a strike. Said MLB analyst Harold Reynolds, “I would have hit him with the next pitch. You can’t let an opposing player disrespect you like that.” Old school nonsense  or cultural enforcement?

Driving home from this morning’s ethics seminar, I heard two commentators on the Sirius-XM baseball channel talking about Houston Astros star Alex Bregman’s sending out a derisive social media message about Boston Red Sox pitcher Nathan Eovaldi in advance of tonight’s play-off game. They agreed that it was “good for the game” and appealed to kids for the athletes to show “personality” and “edge.”

This is “A Nation of Assholes.”  Being a jerk isn’t showing “personality.” It’s just being a jerk. No part of the culture should be extolling “edge.”

2. When in a hole, stop digging. If all goes well, Elizabeth Warren’s triumphant discovery that she is 99.9% white and therefore was justified in representing herself as a “person of color” for institutional diversity purposes will sink her career aspirations as deep as they deserve to be sunk. The fact that so much of the mainstream media is willing to have their credibility brought down with her is indicative of how stupid bias will make people. The Daily Beast, for example, writes in a headline, “Warren revealed results show Native American heritage Monday.”

Keep it up, guys. Pretty soon the jig will be up for identify politics, since  if 1/1,024th Native American means “Native American heritage,” then everyone is “of color” somehow. In that case, perhaps we’ll owe Warren a debt of gratitude. As for the news media, I am pretty sure all but the most reality-resistant progressive warriors recognize how absurd it is to call a distant, distant outlying contributor to the family gene pool sufficient to bestow “Native American ancestry,” especially when Native Americans themselves cry “hogwash.” Why are journalists so eager to rationalize Warren’s transparent distortion of fairness, science and logic? What could make them behave like that? Why should we trust people who take such manifestly ridiculous positions? Why should we respect a profession that treats us like idiots?

The news media appears to think they can keep getting further and further away from the boundaries of legitimate reportage and commentary without a critical mass of people asking these questions. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Michelle Obama

Like it or not, Michelle Obama has established herself as a cultural role model, and millions of American respect her statements and opinions and take them to heart. As clearly contrary to reality as  her now-famous “When the go low, we go high” remark was—its is difficult to remember the last time the Democratic leadership “went high”—the statement would have been an ethical one if it were true, and was still arguably aspirational, unless regards it as cynical public deception.

(Which, I confess, I have…)

This week, as important voices in her party increasingly courted hate, anger and violence among members of the public in the wake of Operation Smear Kavanaugh failing so spectacularly, the former First Lady refused to encourage the mob, and told the Today Show,

“Fear is not … a proper motivator. Hope wins out, and if you think about how you want your kids to be raised, how you want them to think about life and their opportunities, do you want them afraid of their neighbors? Do you want them angry? Do you want them vengeful?…Which motto do you want them to live by? And I have to think about that as a mother.”

Continue reading