The Donald Sterling Mess: Watching An Ethics Train Wreck Develop Before Our Eyes

Circus Train wreck

I realized that the Donald Sterling controversy was going to be a full-blown ethics train wreck when, as I should have predicted but didn’t, President Obama once again tossed his office, authority and power into a completely non-governmental matter that his involvement could only confound, and can’t possibly help. “When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance you don’t really have to do anything, you just let them talk,” the President responded during a news conference in Kuala Lumpur,  after being asked about Sterling’s alleged remarks. At least he didn’t say that V. Stiviano, the NBA owner’s mistress who recorded the comments, could have been his daughter.

This continues a pattern, exemplified by the President’s gratuitous statements as the Trayvon Martin case was unfolding, of Obama being willfully ignorant of the injustice done when the President of the United States uses his bullhorn to warp independent investigations before they are complete, and attempts to sway public opinion in matters outside his proper duties. The NBA is currently examining the circumstances of Sterling’s statements, and Obama’s irresponsible interjections can do nothing but upset the process. He simply cannot or will not restrain himself. My view: this stuff is easy, an approximation of being Presidential for a leader who is foundering in dealing with the important, legitimate challenges of his job. It is an expression of weakness.

Meanwhile, it is increasingly likely that, in classic ethics train wreck fashion, everyone connected to and responding to this episode is or will be tainted. Sterling’s girlfriend, for example, broke the law: California is a state like Maryland ( Hello, Linda Tripp, wherever you are!) and others, where it is illegal to record anyone without their consent. Her motives were also despicable: reputedly she had vowed vengeance because Sterling’s wife (oh, yes, her sugar-daddy is still married) has sued her for embezzlement. His wife calls her a gold-digger; perhaps that is unfair, and perhaps she really loves the 80-year-old evident racist for the purity of his soul and vitality in the sack rather than his bank account, just as I may be secretly a bighorn sheep. But the incident roiling the worlds of sports and culture is clearly the product of domestic warfare and at least two thoroughly awful people. Continue reading

Strict Liability For Biases and the Racist NBA Team Owner Principle

Keep the lock secure, and all the bad stuff inside might not matter...

Keep the lock secure, and all the bad stuff inside might not matter…

I had an unusual  roommate in law school, a former Marine, smart, handsome and charismatic. Let’s call him “Carl.”

He was also a racist, and unapologetic about it. He was an anti-Semite too. After Carl died at the age of 27 in a freak accident, his funeral was attended by several Jewish and African-American law students who considered my roommate a good friend. They had no idea that he was prejudiced, because my friend treated everyone with fairness and respect, at least in my experience. I would ask Carl about this, and he would express surprise that I would be confused at his behavior. “I would never treat anyone with disrespect, no matter who he or she was, or unfairly either,” he said. “That would be wrong, and not Christian.” (He was a Roman Catholic.) Carl also gave annual contributions to the United Negro College Fund, and he was far from wealthy.

That was my introduction to the truth, and it is a comforting one, that biases can be overcome if someone has the character and the strength to recognize them as biases. Racism is just a bias, you know; a particularly harmful and strong one, but still a bias. Having a bias, even a strong one, is not unethical, just as thoughts themselves, without more, are not unethical. A bias is an ethics impediment, a condition that makes being ethical more difficult, and for many of us, impossible. My friend was one of the most honorable and ethical people in his conduct that I ever knew. He had a bias, knew that to be an ethical human being he had to overcome it daily, and did.

If, however, his black and Jewish friends had learned about his private arguments with me, they would have been hurt, and could not have remained friends with him. It would simply be a matter of trust….although, in fact, Carl was completely worthy of trust no matter what race or creed you were. But it is impossible, I think to continue to trust anyone once you know that he is prejudiced against your race.

This brings us to the ugly tale of Donald Sterling, owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers. His girlfriend, who is black, recorded an argument between the two of them in which he reprimanded her for posting photographs of African-American companions. Continue reading

The Harsh Realities Of The Naked Teacher Principle

The Naked Teacher's Curse: What she wants the students to see (L); What they think they see (R)

The Naked Teacher’s Curse: What she wants the students to see (L); What they THINK they see (R)

So-called revenge websites are run by the scum of the earth. These cyber-offal of the internet, among their other cruel activities, post unauthorized photos of women and men in embarrassing, often naked or otherwise provocative poses, submitted by jilted lovers, assorted enemies, and vicious rivals. Then the site extorts money from the victims shown in the photos, or the photos remain up for all to see.

The existence of such sites ought to convince any rational person that allowing anyone to take digital photographs involving his or her naked body or sexual proclivities is a about as prudent as hiding active land mines in the back yard. If said rational person is a teacher, then allowing this crosses the line from unwise to certifiably insane, with gradients pointing toward a straitjacket and a padded cells according to the ages of the students. This is because, you see, the Naked Teacher Principle does not take into consideration why the teacher’s nude and luscious bod is suddenly a feast for prying young eyes and stimulus for newly minted libidos. It doesn’t matter, to the school, the students or their parents. What matters is that the photos exist, they got out, and he or she will never be looked at or thought about the same way again. Continue reading

Why The Gun Debate Is Irresponsible, Part 6,798: We’re Not Discussing Gun Laws That Address THIS Kind of Conduct

Facebook gun

There are some strangely missing laws that would prevent many gun deaths, by making the irresponsible handling of guns illegal. They wouldn’t be opposed by the anti-gun lobby, I hope, because they have nothing to do with restricting gun ownership and possession. They are simple, obvious, and consistent with jurisprudence in other areas of the law. Yet nobody is talking about these measures, because the debate has already been pitched at a hysterical level characterized by over-reach, exaggeration, demonization and polarizing rhetoric. When a policy controversy reaches this decibel level, nobody listens, and nobody can think. Everyone adding to the volume—grand-standing politicians, screaming talking heads, phobics on one side (“ARRRRH!!! GUUUUNS!!!) and paranoids (“They want to take our guns and make us their slaves!!”) is responsible for keeping rationality at bay, and contributing to future tragedies like this one:

From The Mail Online…

“A 19-year-old woman accidentally shot dead her brother while posing with a gun for Facebook photos on New Year’s Eve. Manuel Ortiz died instantly after being shot in the head at about 6am on Monday morning….Police said 22-year-old Ortiz and his sister Savannah Ramirez arrived back at the home they shared on New Year’s Eve after spending the night drinking. They were with two other people when someone in the group pulled out the handgun to take photos with it.

“As the 19-year-old posed and played around with the weapon it went off striking Ortiz in the head… He was pronounced dead at the scene.

“It is not known if the group knew the handgun was loaded….

“Police say she has been questioned and released pending further investigation in the case….Phoenix Police Sgt Steve Martos said the victim’s sister would likely be charged with manslaughter if tests conclude she had alcohol in her system.”

What’s wrong with this story? Continue reading