How Much Sympathy Is Owed To Brittany Griner?

Brittany Griner, the WNBA superstar, has finally been sentenced by a Russian court for illegal drug possession. Absent the intervention of other agents and factors, she will serve nine years and six months in a Russian prison. She’s already been detained in the country since her arrest in February. It is obvious, however, that the tale is far from over.

The announcement of the tought sentence prompted President Biden to emit a typical bit of futile grandstanding, as he tweeted, “…Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates.” It is pretty hard to be more blatantly futile, disingenuous and incompetent in a tweet than that. Biden doesn’t know that she was “wrongfully detained;” all indications are that she violated Russian law. “It’s unacceptable” implies that the United States won’t accept it, but as Biden well knows, the U.S. can’t and won’t do anything to force Griner’s release. Calling on a foreign nation to ignore its laws and law enforcement system to give an arrogant foreign violator a Get Out of Jail Free card is about as serious as ordering a foreign country to use Pig Latin, but that’s our Joe: talks tough, looks pathetic. The last part of the manifesto is especially silly. If being reunited with friends and family were a justification for releasing convicted criminals, then we should empty our own prisons. (To be fair, that is what a lot of Joe’s supporters want to see happen…a lot of Democratic district attorneys, too.)

Continue reading

The Incredible Sabrina Caldwell Ethics Train Wreck, Part 2

Now for the rest of the story begun in Part I.

The story of the rejected and abandoned Russian orphan haunted “48 Hours” reporter Troy Roberts after he bid the girl farewell  in the Russian hospital. He wanted to know what had become of her, and tried to track her down over the years, with no success. Then, after more than two decades had passed, Caralee reached out to him and they arranged to meet once again.

That supposedly homicidal little girl who was diagnosed as incapable of love now lives in North Carolina as Sabrina Caldwell. She is 33, happily married and has four young children. Roberts met with her near Sabrina’s home, and he spoke with her husband as well. Sabrina explained that she was depressed and even suicidal when she was with Crystal and Jesse, who she felt were more interested in her younger brother than her. When she was falsely accused of trying to kill Joshua, whom she says she loved, she told Roberts she “wanted out.” She agreed that she tried to kill him. She made up the claims that she was hallucinating. When she was abandoned by her adoptive parents in Moscow, she said she  felt like she was in jail, but now believes she was partially responsible, since she had agreed to her parents’ version of events and lied about hallucinating.

Then again, she was just a child at the time.

After two months in the mental hospital, Nina Kostina, who had helped arrange her adoption, rescued Sabrina and brought her back to the United States. Three years later she adopted by another family in North Carolina.  n 2008, Sabrina volunteered for the non profit Mercy Ships, spending two years providing medical care to the poor in Africa. That led to a job at a hospital when she returned to North Carolina. Two years later, she fell in love with  fifth grade teacher Phil Caldwell, whom she met through her church. Before she would agree to marry him, she made him watch the “48 Hours” episode about her first adoptive parents. He told Roberts that he was stunned at what she had gone through. They were married in 2014, and now have three daughters and an infant son.  Sabrina Caldwell has never been diagnosed with any mental or emotional illness, and takes no medication for such disorders. Continue reading

The Incredible Sabrina Caldwell Ethics Train Wreck, Part I

At the end of last year, CBS’s “48 Hours” broadcast an update of a horrifying episode from two decades ago. I missed both programs, but I stumbled upon a rerun of the December 2021 follow-up last night. The tale is a true ethics train wreck that, incredibly, had a happy ending, making it also an abject lesson in moral luck.

The story had special resonance for me because it involved the aftermath of an American couple adopting of a Russian orphan, a process my wife and I went through as well.  In 1997, Crystal and Jesse were a young married couple who had tried and failed to conceive. They fund Russian adoption agency’s website and were smitten by a photo of a beautiful 9-year-old girl. The couple began the adoption process.  The child’s medical records from the adoption agency, were concerning, though: they described developmental problems.

CBS made a big deal about this, but essentially all older Russian orphans have developmental issues. Crystal told CBS that the “were assured that this child was healthy and that in a good home … with the best doctors in America helping her with the developmental issues, that she should be fine.” That was accurate advice (and she and her husband should have known that by doing responsible research before deciding to adopt a Russian orphan). I should also mention here that Russian medical records regarding orphans are notoriously unreliable. Our son, who has been freakishly healthy, came with ten pages of supposedly serious medical problems. Our pediatrician literally laughed at the document. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: The Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.)

The Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) announced on April 6 that Russians and Belarusians who had been accepted to compete in the 2022 Boston Marathon and are currently residing in either country, will not be allowed to compete.

“Like so many around the world, we are horrified and outraged by what we have seen and learned from the reporting in Ukraine,” said President & CEO of the B.A.A. Tom Grilk. “We believe that running is a global sport, and as such, we must do what we can to show our support to the people of Ukraine.”

Morons.

Clearly, The Great Stupid (TGS for short) has variants like the Wuhan virus. This one is not directly related to George Floyd Ethics Freakout like the original “antiracism”/ let’s pretend every couple in America is biracial and make race and gender the most important criteria for goddamn everything TGS, but it’s almost as brain-crippling.

This one started in Germany, as I recounted here. Russian conductor Valery Gergiev was fired from the Munich Philharmonic orchestra this week. His offense? He is a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and refused to publicly condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I began by writing that at least that undemocratic version of TGS hadn’t made it to the U.S., but it rapidly made it here. Anna Netrebko, the celebrated Russian opera soprano, failed to submit to the company’s demand that she distance herself from President  Putin, and was dismissed by the Metropolitan Opera in New York. I wrote then,
Continue reading

More Weird Tales Of The Great Stupid: Anti-Russian Bigotry Mania

I thought the virtue-signaling, mindless attack on all things Russian crossed the line into bigotry and persecution when an eminent Russian-born conductor lost his job with two German orchestras because he refused to publicly condemn Vladimir Putin. (I wouldn’t publicly condemn Satan if an employer ordered me to. That would be submitting to an abuse of power.) Then the Met fired a principal soprano for the same reason, and things really got weird.

Bars and restaurants started banning vodka. Russian cat breeds were banned from cat shows. A popular french fries with cheese curds and gravy dish was taken off menus in France and Canada because the name for it sounded like “Putin.” Today, the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra has removed Tchaikovsky from its  upcoming concert because, the announcement said, playing compositions by the Russian composer, who died in 1893 is considered by the orchestra ‘to be inappropriate at this time.’ Continue reading

When Jack Palance Stood Up For Ukraine Against Putin

Over at The Bulwark, culture editor Sonny Bunch reminded me of a tale of some relevance to current events, though like most pieces in The Bulwark, his account is missing crucial details.

It involves one of my mother’s favorite Hollywood villains, Jack Palance. Younger readers probably remember him only in his long, lucrative late-career self-parody period (Watch “Shane”: what’s the matter with you?), which got him one of those weird Best Actor Oscars for just doing what he had done naturally for decades, but hammier, in “City Slickers.” (He was also aided by lines like “I crap bigger than you.” (To Billy Crystal.)

The actor was born in Pennsylvania as Volodymyr Palahniuk, the son of Ukrainian immigrants. In 2004, after Palance’s final film and just two years before his death, a Hollywood celebration  of “Russian Nights” in Los Angeles ended with an awards ceremony. “Russian Nights” was a week-long film festival that celebrated “Russian contributions to the world of art,” and was sponsored in part by the Russian Ministry of Culture. Russian president Vladimir Putin endorsed the propaganda event. Scheduled to receive “narodny artyst” awards ( translated as “the Russian People’s Choice Award”) were Dustin Hoffman and Jack Palance. Hoffman, like Palance boasted of Ukrainian heritage.

Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Booster, 8/7/2021: Looking For A Hero…

I hate to inflict that song on you (the singer/composer was the late Jess Cain, once the most popular disc jockey in Boston) but I have limited options. The 2021 Red Sox, who were sailing all season to what looked like a certain play-off slot , are suddenly in freefall,  with the hitters not hitting and the pitchers not pitching. They face a double-header today, and a double loss would be disastrous. After the 1967 Red Sox “Impossible Dream” season, the best summer of my life, when a team of virtual kids won the closest pennant race in baseball history by a single game after finishing in a tie for last place the year before, WHDH, which then carried Boston’s games, put out the cheesy but wonderful commemorative album above, containing clips from broadcasts of the most memorable games and Cain’s song, tied together by Sox play-by-play announcer Ken Coleman reciting one of the worst pieces of doggerel ever heard by human ears. At one point, Ken recounted a desperate point in the team’s underdog quest, and, having set up the rhyme with “zero,’ intoned, “We have to have a hero.” Cue the Yaz song!

I’ve been thinking about the need for a hero, indeed more than one, quite a bit lately, in matters more consequential than the Red Sox season (well, for normal people anyway.) The Sox sure need one today. If he shows up, maybe it will be an omen…

Incidentally, Yaz deserved the song. Modern metrics show that his Triple Crown, Gold Glove, MVP 1967 season was the second best of all time. (Babe Ruth had #1, naturally.) Anyone who followed that 1967 season knew it before the numbers were crunched.

1. More free speech threats in the Biden Era, but Donald Trump was a threat to democracyThe Baltimore Symphony fired Emily Skala, 59, the orchestra’s principal flutist for more than three decades, because she shared social media posts expressing doubt on the efficacy of vaccines and facemasks. Fellow musicians, audience members and donors complained, so it was bye-bye Emily. Skala, no weenie she, will challenge her dismissal, and accuses the orchestra of creating a hostile environment where she was being attacked for expressing unpopular views. I’d say that is likely. Musicians as a group are about as progressive and open to conservative views as college professors.

Skala angered many of her colleagues for sharing posts questioning the results of the 2020 presidential election—Oooh, can’t have that! She was also criticized for saying that black families needed to do more to support their children’s classical music studies. Wow, this woman is a veritable Nazi! Amusingly, the New York Times cites as among the examples of social media “disinformation” that got her fired were “false theories suggesting that the coronavirus was created in a laboratory in North Carolina” and posts “raising concerns about the safety of vaccines.”

That’s funny: it wasn’t too long ago that suggesting that the virus originated in a Wuhan lab was considered disinformation. And didn’t Joe Biden and other prominent Democrats raise “concerns” about any vaccine produced under the Trump Administration?

I’m just spitballing here, but if only we had some heroic organization that defended free speech, regardless of what side of the political spectrum it came from. It could call itself…let’s see…the National Civil Liberty Protection Alliance, or something like that…

2. Believe it or not, this Russian lawsuit isn’t frivolous, just mind-meltingly stupid. Thanks to Curmie for passing along the saga of Ksenia Ovchinnikova, an Orthodox Christian in Omsk, Russia, who is suing McDonald’s on the theory that its ads made burgers seem so yummy and irresistible that they made her break her fast for Lent in 2019 after years of successfully avoiding meat. She wants 1,000 rubles ($14) as damages for “sustained moral damage.”

The reason this isn’t frivolous (at least not in the US) is because a lawsuit clears the bar if it seeks a new interpretation of existing law, no matter how wacky. Of course, a heroic lawyer would tell the woman, no matter what she offered to pay, “You’re out of your mind, and I’d rather eat my foot than disgrace my profession by taking such a ridiculous case. By the way, would you like this  corndog?” Continue reading

3/17/21 Ethics Wind-Down, 3/18/21 Wind-Up…Featuring “The Song Of The Year”

Wind-Up

There’s nothing quite like a flaming tooth-ache to spark an early-morning post…

1. Corporate incompetence, Indian-style: The Cleveland Indians knee-jerked themselves out of their history, traditions and name by somehow concluding that the Black Lives Matter rioting obligated them to abandon “Indians” just because the NFL Washington Redskins had capitulated to political correctness thuggery. Like all of baseball and most of professional sports, the team decided that signaling progressive virtue was more important than their fans. And like the Redskins, the team prepared to to go through the 2021 season without a new name…just nothing, as in “Cleveland Baseball Club,” or something similarly generic. Because of the unseemly, unnecessary and unplanned rush, the Cleveland Whatsis-es also made it difficult to come up with a new name. Changing a team name is a large and expensive mess, because the name and logo are on everything from the team’s merchandise to websites, sponsorship deals, and the ballpark. Trademarks are needed to protect them. “Advice for anyone doing any product: Before you make it public, file,” Andrew Skale, a San Diego-based trademark attorney told the New York Times.

“The U.S. trademark office offers this kind of unique ability to file when you haven’t started using it, so take advantage of that,” Skale said. “Because I’ve seen when people that have issued news releases about new products and haven’t filed yet, and then they have problems later because some idiots decided to squat on them.” Or maybe not such idiots. Because of the Ex-Indians moral panic, many of the names the team could have chosen based on its history and culture will be now be expensive.Trademarks were filed by squatters after Cleveland’s first announcement for “Cleveland Baseball Team” (from someone in Georgia), “Cleveland Baseball Club” (from a company in Ohio), “Cleveland Guardians” (from someone in New York), Cleveland Rockers (from someone in California), Cleveland Natives and Cleveland Warriors (though even the Ex-Indian aren’t so stupid as to wade back into Native American controversies again), and most of all, the Cleveland Spiders, which has been an early favorite. That was the name of the team. That was the name of the team for ten years, 1889-1899, when baseball players looked like this…

Spiders

The No-names are fighting some of these filings, because the Trademark Office tends to disfavor squatters. It all could have been avoided, though, if the team hadn’t wushed to be woke, thus joining The Great Stupid.

I wonder if “Spider McBaseballfaces” has been taken…

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/21/2020: Our Cheating Hearts

I can’t sleep.

While I’m thinking about Hank, I recommend Ken Burns’ latest documentary, “Country Music,” and I’m not exactly a country music buff (though my father’s favorite song was “The Wabash Cannonball” . Burns has always had a fondness for ethics stories, and his latest work is full of them.

How did I not know that Williams died before he turned 30? Based on his amazing output of classic songs, I assumed he must have lived to be 90. He’s the Buddy Holly of Country, or perhaps the Mozart.

1. Before we get to the real cheating, stop making me defend Mike Bloomberg! From Yahoo, in a post headlined, Bloomberg Shares Doctored Debate Video To Hide Dismal Performance” by David Moye, who needs a head transplant:

  “On Thursday morning, the billionaire businessman released a deceptively edited video that falsely suggested he rendered the other candidates speechless at one point….The video begins at the moment when the former New York City mayor declared: “I’m the only one here I think that’s ever started a business.” During the actual exchange, his comment was greeted with about four seconds of silence, but the video below falsely implied it was more like 20….whoever edited Bloomberg’s video tweet took moments from other parts of the debate to make it look as if his declaration was so powerful candidates like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former Vice President Joe Biden had no response.”

Garbage! The critics are doing the exact same thing they did to President Trump’s video that kept showing video of Nancy Pelosi ripping up his State of the Union speech interspersed with the President’s admirable guests, like the 100-year-old Tuskeegee Airman. Anyone who couldn’t tell that the video was edited to make a point rather than to deceive is too dumb to vote. Similarly, anyone who believes that a Democratic candidates debate stage would ever stay silent for 20 seconds doesn’t know what a debate is, and has been watching cartoons all his life. A satirically edited video isn’t deceptive just because some viewers are dumber than boxes of kitty litter. Continue reading

End of A Horrible Week Ethics Warm-Up, 12/6/2019…

Ho Ho Ho Crap!

1. “Radical? What radical?” Stanford law professor Pam Karlan, who stood out as a neon beacon highlighting 2019 Democratic Party extremism when she turned her House testimony on impeachment into an unhinged, Trump-hate rant including a cheeap shot at Barron Trump’s name, was apparently too radical for Barack Obama, says Legal Insurrection. He appointed far more moderate Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, despite Democrats then being in control of both Houses.

“Fast forward to 2019, and this radical Obama SCOTUS reject is a star witness for the Democrat impeachment circus,” the blog notes. “It’s surreal how completely the Democrats have removed themselves from any semblance of rational thought when it comes to their impeachment obsession.”

If we regard the public as the jury and the House Democrats as prosecutors, how can one explain putting such an angry, ugly, biased and partisan fanatic on the metaphorical stand as an “expert witness”? Isn’t that gross incompetence? What’s going on here? In fact, let’s poll it. Who knows, maybe it will draw almost as much interest as the Peloton commercial poll, the second most active in Ethics Alarms history (so far). (But then there were more Google searches on “Peleton” than “impeachment” last week, so we know what American priorities are…)

2. Polls suggest that public opposition to abortion is rising again. Gee, I wonder why?

“Can you believe this?” wrote one on Facebook. “Knights of Columbus Belleville  (all men) organized this absolutely shameful act ….and also posted it on their facebook page.” Erecting a the memorial is shameful. Got it.

Well, they were just warts and parasites, so she has a point.

The National Post reported that the coordinator of a protest over the memorial stone, Elissa Robertson, accused the Catholic charity of “attacking a women’s right to choose,” saying,

“It was designed to shame people. I think it was absolutely uncalled for and that money they put into this anti-abortion monument could have done a lot of good somewhere else. It ties into patriarchal values and this idea that women’s bodies are meant to be controlled by men. It’s a broader issue that ties into violence against women, it ties into health care, it ties into safety.”

It ties into climate change! It ties into racism! It ties into tooth decay!

If one has no regrets or shame about snuffing out nascent human lives, then how does the monument shame you? The abortion argument is very difficult to win on a factual or ethical basis, but advocates have learned that “How dare you!” and “Shut up!” are very effective.

Actress Jameela Jamil certainly isn’t ashamed. She’s refreshingly honest…and scary. In a November Harper’s Bazaar interview with Gloria Steinem, she said,

“I’m very outspoken about the fact that I, similarly to you, feel very passionately about a woman’s right to choose I’m someone who’s had an abortion, and I feel like I need to make sure that we prove it’s not always just emergencies. People have abortions, sometimes a woman just wants her liberty, and we have to normalize that it’s okay just to make that choice for yourself, because your life is as important as a newborn life that doesn’t even exist yet.”

Wait, if it’s not living, then why do you have to kill it? Is it really a fair  to compare your avoiding an inconvenient responsibility or life disruption with another human being losing its life? Challenged on this, the actress responded on social media, “I SAID WHAT I FUCKING SAID and you’re clueless if you think I’m going to take it back. My life is more important to me than an unborn fetus’s one. Suck on THAT!”

Wait: I thought you said no life was involved.

This is the approximate level of thought, sensitivity and ethical analysis we hear from almost all pro-abortion activists. Basic competence and responsibility rules: if you can’t discuss a topic more articulately and thoughtfully than this, leave the issue to others. Here’s another one of Jamil’s clever arguments:

Or better yet, why not just kill them too? Continue reading