Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/1/2020: Satchel Paige Edition

Satchel

Why Satchel Paige? The legendary Negro Leagues pitcher and member of baseball’s Hall of Fame once said, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?” Satchel wasn’t fooling: having played most of his career when blacks were blocked from the Major Leagues, Paige was still good enough at 42 to join the 1948 Cleveland Indians as a relief pitcher, and was effective enough to be contender for Rookie of the Year. Then he became the oldest pitcher to start a Major League game, shutting out the Boston Red Sox for three innings at the age of 59.

In my case, the answer to Paige’s question would be about 18, or perhaps 10. Surely not the age my arithmetic tells me, which is depressing and a little frightening. Every December first since 2009 has been a day with bad connotations: I found my father dead in his favorite chair that year, when I checked to see if he was going to have dinner with me as we had planned. This year there are two. Well, Dad soldiered on to have 19 more productive and mostly happy years after he reached my age, and he was being treated for cancer by than, and I’m not. There aren’t many ways I can top my father, but at least that’s gives me something to shoot for.

1. Wow. You don’t get to see such naked bias and hate just put out there in the media like this very often…Just think: a Washington Post editor okayed this article attacking the White House Christmas decorations and using them to excoriate Melania Trump for existing. How petty and ugly can a writer be and still get published? I guess it depends on whether or not your target is the Trumps.

The “money quote”: “[T]he defenders of Melania have always insisted on comparing her to her predecessor, Michelle Obama, and it became hard to believe that “elegant” was a code word for anything other than “White.” Melania is “elegant” because she represented a very specific kind of White femininity: silent, lovely, delicately fingering the ornaments that her staff had assembled.” The author is Monica Hesse, the Post’s gender writer. She is a biased, vicious, jerk. It is so obvious that Melania Trump could design Michelle Obama’s White House decorations and Michelle could secretly design the Trumps’, and Hesse would pronounce what she thought was Michelle’s inclusive and brilliant, and would condemn what she thought Melania created.

You know, pretty much the way her paper covered the Obama and Trump administrations.

Continue reading

The Ethics Mess That Is US Race Relations, Chapter II: Playing Rosa Parks

I don’t understand why this story should even be news, but the fact that it was treated as news, and worse, promoted as news by an NAACP official, is significant , disturbing, but, sadly, not at all surprising.

Sherrilyn Ifill,  the president and director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in New York, was returning to Baltimore from New York on Amtrak last week  as she often does. She was sitting in a general-admission area of a largely empty passenger car when a female junior conductor asked her to leave her seat and move into another car  because she had “other people coming who she wants to give this seat.”

Now as it happens, I was once asked to move to another Amtrak car. I had no idea why, but assumed there was a good reason, and the inconvenience was negligible.  Maybe a large group was getting on at the next stop. It was, simply, not a big deal. I’ve been asked to change seats on airlines, too, sometimes with an explanation, sometimes not.

But then, I’m not a high official with a civil rights advocacy organization with an interest in exacerbating racial disharmony in order to sat in business. . Ifill tweeted, “When I was laying [the junior conductor] out to the conductor, at one point, I said, ‘I can sit where I want,’ and I thought, ‘This isn’t 1950.” Continue reading

Entry For “Unethical Headline Of The Year”: Mother Jones

mother-jones-3

The real “Mother Jones”

A headline is a declarative statement, and ethical headlines are factual—not teases, not bait and switches, not lies, not deceit, but factual. Misleading headlines have become increasingly common on the web (click-bait, you know), and if this one from Mother Jones is any indication, the election season is going to be ugly as well as confusing.

The headline is “Republicans Hate Planned Parenthood but Want to Put One of Its Backers on the $10 Bill,” and it is quite an achievement: almost every word is a lie or intentionally misleading.

Let’s begin with “Republicans,” who, according to the headline, both “hate” Planned Parenthood and “want” to put a Planned Parenthood “backer” on the ten. “Republicans” implies all Republicans. Do all Republicans “hate” Planned Parenthood? Gee, I am married to a Republican who served on the board of the local  organization affiliate. There are many Republicans who oppose one of Planned Parenthood’s signature activities, abortion, but that does not mean all Republicans hate Planned Parenthood. Many headline writers, including the one that wrote this one, are lying, manipulative partisan hacks, but a headline that said, “Headline Writers Are Lying, Manipulative Partisan Hacks” would be unfair and misleading.

As for the second part of the sentence, which states Republicans want to put one of Planned Parenthood’s “backers” on the ten dollar bill, it is even more inaccurate regarding Republicans. The article under the headline refers only to the CNN candidate’s debate, and only to three of the eleven Republicans on the stage. Since eight of the Republicans did NOT choose to place the “backer’s” face on the ten, using the article’s own deceitful employment of the term “Republicans,” the article could also be titled “Republicans Hate Planned Parenthood And Don’t Want to Put One of Its Backers on the $10 Bill.” That, of course, wouldn’t convey the impression that Republicans have no integrity, are hypocritical and ignorant, which was really the purpose of the headline and the article. A headline, however, that is less accurate than the opposite of the headline is a really misleading headline. Res ipsa loquitor! Fairer and more honest still would have been a version of the headline that read “Three Republicans Want to Put One of Planned Parenthood’s Backers On The $10 Bill,” but even that would be misleading.

Oh, I’ve just gotten started, for this is some terrible headline. Continue reading

Monetary Affirmative Action: “Women On 20s”

Patsy Mink, almost certainly one of the 100,000 most significant Americans in our history.

Patsy Mink, almost certainly one of the 100,000 most significant Americans in our history.

Barbara Ortiz Howard was interviewed on CBS this morning, talking about her effort to put a female face on our money. The thrust of her argument distills down into simple math: there are a lot of women, so the money should reflect that. We are now in the realm of affirmative action, and this was a sitting duck for the effort. There is no criteria for being on currency, just death. It’s an honor, of course, and as an honor, should be taken seriously, though its hard to argue that the current slate of faces reflects any objective evaluation. Salmon P. Chase? Kennedy’s undistinguished three years in office didn’t earn him his place on the 5o cent piece; getting shot did.

I can’t work up much indignation over the campaign being played out on Howard’s website, Women on 20’s. Like all efforts to impose quotas and encourage group identification, the effort is devisive, and the site’s candidates to replace Andrew Jackson could serve as a primer on how affirmative action can have the perverse effect of diminishing the credibility and integrity of an accomplishment. Whatever one thinks about Jackson, he had a tremendous impact on the nation and its political culture, was a transformative national leader, and a historical figure of great significance. Quick: name the major legislative accomplishments of Patsy Mink, Shirley Chisolm and Barbara Jordan for example. Jackson towers over them in importance to the nation’s growth and long-term success. That doesn’t mean he has to be on a bill, but nobody will be able to argue again that being so honored means anything more than that a powerful constituency caught an accommodating Democratic President when he needed to bump a poll number. Continue reading

An O. Henry Story Comes To Life

James Verone, a.k.a. " the Rosa Parks of health care," a.k.a. "Soapy"

The media thoroughly disgraced itself by hyping the stupid story of James Verone, an out-of-work 59-year-old man with health problems who robbed a bank in Gastonia, N.C., for $1,  and then  waited patiently for the cops to arrest him.“When you receive this a bank robbery will have been committed by me. This robbery is being committed by me for one dollar. I am of sound mind but not so much sound body,”read the note that Verone handed the bank clerk.

Verone grabbed his 15 minutes of fame with gusto, telling the local TV station that he became a thief out of sheer desperation. He needed health care, he said, and had no other way to get it than through the free care provided in jail. The problem with this is that he had plenty of better options than turning to intentionally unsuccessful crime. A hospital in Gastonia, Gaston Memorial Hospital, offers discounts up to 100% to low-income patients. There is also a free health clinic five miles from the bank Verone robbed, and more in nearby Charlotte. Or Verone could have received treatment from of the state-of-the-art medical facilities at the University of North Carolina, whose mandate is to provide “medically necessary health care to the citizens of North Carolina, regardless of their ability to pay.”

Naturally, few of the media reports, calculated to use this idiot’s stunt to shill for government-financed health care, bothered to report any of this. Continue reading