Now We Know: Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady Is A Fick*


Watch, if you can, this smirking, wink-wink-nudge-nudge exhibition by Tom Brady yesterday in front of his drooling, cheering, bleating, sheep-brained and ethically corrupt fans, as he mocks, in every expression, tone of voice and gesture, the idea that he should be even slightly ashamed of  the NFL’s finding that he cheated to ease his team’s path to the Super Bowl, and that finding’s implication that Brady lied about it, blatantly and repeatedly:

If, after this intentional poke in the eye to anyone who believes sports contests should be played with fairness, honor and integrity,  the NFL doesn’t give Brady a major suspension, and nothing less than half a season will qualify as major, fine the Patriots, fine Coach Belichick, and take some action to permanently label the team’s division and league championship as rotten, then we should declare pro-football a dangerous cultural menace, promoting cheating, lying and rule-breaking rather than sportsmanship to our youth. Continue reading

The Fifth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2013 (Part One)

This is the first installment of the Worst.  It says something, and not something happy, that this segment of the year-end awards are more than twice as voluminous, and far more competitive, than the “Best” of 2013 ethics. Well, nobody said it would be easy….

Ethics Train Wreck of the Year


Obamacare, a.k.a Affordable Care Act. This is quite an achievement, as there were at least two other three Ethics Train Wrecks rolling along in 2013 that would have been easy victors in a less horrible year. One of them, The Trayvon Martin- George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck, was last year’s winner, and still wreaked ethics carnage across the culture, thanks to Zimmerman’s trial (which never should hev been brought), the biased media coverage, the incompetent prosecution, the inept judge, and then afterward, the ignorant and/or racially motivated attacks on the jury for doing its job well and fairly against overwhelming odds. Yet as bad as this hangover from 2012 was, the Sandy Hook Ethics Train Wreck was arguably even worse. The news media decided to go Soviet and abandon all pretense of objectivity, essentially becoming an Obama Administration propaganda tool for gun control. Elected officials lied their heads off; so did the aroused NRA. Gun owners talked and behaved like they were about to be Gulaged. Legislators shamelessly used the grief of victims to stampede public opinion; children became props; fake statistics were everywhere; brain-damaged Gabby Gifford was programmed to read child-like messages as if they were the conclusions of research papers. The President’s total lack of political leadership skill again came front and center, then, when he had failed to do what he promised to do, the opposition was vilified by celebrities like Jim Carrey, who called them murderers and worse.

But the Affordable Care Act lapped both of these. It revealed itself to be a five-year long train wreck that just took a break after an earlier stretch where the bill was passed without due diligence by its supporters and using a cynical by-passing of due process. A Presidential lie intentionally devised to deceive the public was repeated for the five-year span, and then exposed when the law began to take affect….but not before the law inspired Republicans to force a reckless and irresponsible shut-down, a mini-train wreck within the train wreck.  The website debacle was initially spun by the news media (not working worth a damn isn’t a “glich”), then the evidence of near criminal ineptitude became impossible not to report. The indisputable evidence that the President of the United States had sold a program under false pretenses came to light, prompting dozens of politicians, bloggers, pundits and reporters to destroy their credibility forever (I hope) by desperately trying to either rationalize the lie ( “the ends justify the means”), call it something other than what it was (The New York Times’ disgraceful “incorrect promise” was one low point), or simply deny that it was a lie at all (Democratic Chair Debby Wasserman Schultz, setting a new low for personal dishonesty, itself an achievement in her case). Then, when the public pressure and political fall-out became unbearable. the President just began amending the provisions of his own law on the fly, except that it was the nation’s law, and it’s unconstitutional to do that—this, after the mantra from Democrats and the news media during the shut-down debate was that the ACA was “settled law.”  HHS Secretary Sibelius misled Congress, the White House denied that her stated goals were goals once it was obvious they wouldn’t be met; and nobody was held responsible for yet another Obama Administration debacle. And there’s a lot more, with the train wreck still moving at top speed.

Fraud of the Year

Iowa State University biomedical sciences assistant professor Dong-Pyou Han, who resigned after admitting he tainted blood samples to get desired outcomes in research animals, allowing him to claim a break-through in the effort to develop an AIDS vaccine. The National Institutes of Health had awarded Han’s research team $19 million in multi-year grants.

Incompetent Elected Officials of the Year

  • Elected Body (National): House Republicans, who staged a wholly useless, expensive and damaging government shut-down on “principle,” without ever articulating what that principle was sufficiently for anyone responsible to agree with them. Runner-Up: The California House Legislature, which passed a law allowing illegal aliens to practice law.
  • National Elected Official:  President Obama.  From being incapable of working with Congress, to refusing to fire incompetents, to not knowing what was going on in his own administration, to drawing red lines he wasn’t willing to defend (and then advocating killing people just to show he was willing to defend them), to undermining the trust and faith in both his office and himself by uttering unequivocal lies, President Obama had one of the worst years of self-inflicted miscalculations, errors, failures and reversals of any U.S. President in history. I’m sorry to have to say it, but it’s true.
  • Local Elected Official: Storey County (Nevada) Assemblyman Jim Wheeler (R). Wheeler told a group that if his constituents demanded it, he would vote (with a heavy heart)  to reinstate slavery, as he felt doing so would be his duty as a representative. Runner-up: Maryland House of Delegates Member Don Dwyer (R), who after a drunk driving and drunk boat piloting episode, the latter injuring several people, blamed his conduct in part of feeling betrayed over his colleagues approval of gay marriage in Maryland.

Sexual Harasser Of The Year Continue reading

The Fifth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Best of Ethics 2013

Ethics Story 2013

I decided to start with the Best in Ethics this year, in contrast to other years, on the theory that it would get things off to a positive start in 2014. What it did, instead, was make me realize how negative Ethics Alarms was in 2013. Either there wasn’t much positive going on in ethics, or I wasn’t seeing it. My thanks to those of you who send me nominations for Ethics Heroes (and other stories); even when I don’t write about them, they are valuable. Please keep them coming. In the meantime, I pledge to try to keep the jaundice out of my eye in 2014. Things just can’t be as dire as they seemed last year.

Could they?

Here are the 2013 Ethics Alarms Awards for the Best in Ethics:

Most Important Ethical Act of the Year:

The U.S. Supreme Court declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, paving the way for the universal legalization of gay marriage. Yes, it was a legal decision, but it was also based, as all such culturally important decisions are, on a societal recognition that what was once thought to be wrong and immoral was, in fact, not. This is ethics, an ongoing process of enlightenment and wisdom about what is right and wrong, and the U.S. Supreme Court did its part. Continue reading

Ethical Apology Of The Month: Ryan Braun—Finally

Better late than never, Ryan...I'd almost given up on you.

Better late than never, Ryan…I’d almost given up on you.

Ryan Braun, the 2011 National League MVP who was suspended for the rest of this season for his use of illicit performance enhancing drugs and accepted that suspension without protest or appeal, has released a statement admitting steroid use and apologizing to all, including the testing sample collector whom he had earlier implicitly accused of trying to frame him with a false positive.

I think this ranks as a #1 on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale, and we don’t see those very often from public figures. That apology is defined as…

An apology motivated by the realization that one’s past conduct was unjust, unfair, and wrong, constituting an unequivocal admission of wrongdoing as well as regret, remorse and contrition, as part of a sincere effort to make amends and seek forgiveness.

Already, critics are taking pot-shots at Braun’s statement. This is, I believe, one reason people so seldom give full apologies: they are never accepted by so many angry pundits, who pick them to pieces. Baseball fans and others in the game have a lot of reasons to be furious with Braun, it is true. His genuine apology comes late, after a terrible one, and there is probably some truth to the theory that he or his PR advisors saw an opportunity to contrast his conduct with that of Alex Rodriquez, who is continuing to deny his PED use and is forcing steroid-hating fans and players to watch him play anyway, while he appeals and collects 5 figures in compensation per at bat. Braun is no Ethics Hero, for his options were limited. Nonetheless, I see nothing to criticize in his apology, and we want to see more apologies that rank at the top of the scale, we need to applaud them when they appear.

Here is Braun’s statement: Continue reading

Ryan Braun’s Unethical Apology

ryan-braun-2011Ryan Braun, the Milwaukee Brewers star who has just accepted MLB’s decision to suspend him without pay for the remainder of the 2013 season for violating baseball’s anti-drug policies, issued the kind of public statement that helps us understand why the athlete thought using banned substances to improve his performance was acceptable. It is the statement of someone’s whose ethical instincts are not merely underdeveloped, but malfunctioning on an epic scale.

Braun released this mea culpa in the wake of the announcement of his disgrace, which also pretty much ends the already faint chances of his team for a successful season:

“As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect. I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions. “This situation has taken a toll on me and my entire family, and it is has been a distraction to my teammates and the Brewers organization. I am very grateful for the support I have received from players, ownership and the fans in Milwaukee and around the country. Finally, I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed – all of the baseball fans especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization, and my teammates. I am glad to have this matter behind me once and for all, and I cannot wait to get back to the game I love.”

This is about what one would expect from a guy who avoided being busted for steroids by the skin of his teeth two years ago on a technicality, and reacted by not only playing the martyr, but also by impugning the character of the man who handled his incriminating urine sample. Let’s look at this non-apology apology’s various and nauseating features. As usual, my comments are in bold : Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Suspended Milwaukee Brewers Outfielder Ryan Braun

If John Edwards could hit...

If John Edwards could hit…

When National League 2011 MVP Ryan Braun escaped suspension when an arbitrator ruled that his positive urine sample was invalid due to an interruption in the chain of custody, I concluded my commentary with this:

“If he was guilty of cheating, the vote didn’t make him innocent, and if he was innocent, he wouldn’t have become guilty if the arbitrator had voted the other way. Thus Braun’s successful appeal alters forever the consequences Braun will suffer, but it doesn’t dictate how reasonable fans should feel about him. In 2012, there are great baseball players who have been excluded from baseball’s Hall of Fame, or will be, because baseball writers suspect them of being steroid users, even though they never tested positive in any test, tainted or otherwise. Jeff Bagwell, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens head the list. If Ryan Braun goes on to  be one of baseball’s all-time greats, will he join the suspected and snubbed, barring a complete turnaround in the sport’s attitude toward performance-enhancing drugs?

I think he will. And in his case (unlike that of Jeff Bagwell), I don’t think it will be unfair. Though Braun’s tests were correctly thrown out, it seems far less likely to me that Laurenzi inexplicably decided to frame Ryan Braun than it does that Braun was the undeserving beneficiary of moral luck. But if we have to choose between competing unfairness, isn’t it better to risk allowing a cheater to have an undeserved second chance at a clean reputation, than to take the alternative risk, less probable but more unjust, of forcing an innocent athlete to have his career and reputation forever blighted by something he didn’t do?

“I’m not sure, and the added problem is this: even if I agree with that last sentence, I can’t help how I think.  I think, based on what I know, that Braun cheated and lucked out.

“And if he’s innocent, that’s terribly unfair.”

Now we know he was not innocent, and that Braun, to put it in the colorful lexicon of NBC Sports baseball blogger Matthew Pouliot, ” is baseball’s biggest dipwad.” It is impossible to dispute that diagnosis. The Milwaukee outfielder has agreed to sit out the rest of the 2013 season without salary in the wake of convincing evidence that Braun is a steroid cheat, making him the first casualty of the unfolding performance enhancing drug scandal involving the lab Biogenesis that is expected to eventually implicate many Major League stars.  Pouliot collects some of Braun’s quotes after he dodged the suspension bullet in 2011, and for some one who was guilty and knew it, they set a high bar for dishonesty and gall:  Continue reading

Ryan Braun, Steroids and Fairness

If Ryan Braun is innocent, this man, who never met him. tried to ruin his career. It can happen…you know, like Mark Furman tried to frame O.J.

The strange case of Ryan Braun, the 2011  National League Most Valuable Player who tested positive for steroids during the post-season play-offs, once again raises the perplexing ethical issue of fairness when formal procedures concerning alleged wrongdoing are involved.

Braun’s positive test sent a shudder throughout baseball. He was supposed to  be one of the game’s rising young “post-steroid era” stars. For Braun to be caught cheating was a discouraging reminder that the game had not left its disastrous days of pumped-up stars and dubious records behind: now the legitimacy of an MVP season was being called into question. Braun vehemently denied the charges (as every positive-testing player has) and appealed them, a move that had been futile in every previous case. To literally everyone’s surprise, however, the three member arbitration panel ruled 2-1 in Braun’s favor. Although the report of the independent arbitrator who cast the deciding vote has yet to be released, the reason Braun prevailed appears to be that the Major League Baseball contractor who had  responsibility for sending Braun’s urine samples to the testing facilities had to store them at his house for the weekend because FedEx had closed before he could mail them to the lab. This created a sufficient break in the chain of custody, it seems, to make the results invalid. Continue reading