Well, I can write about the great issues of the day here or universal ethics principles, and attract crickets, but when a spoiled superstar female gymnast chokes on the Olympics stage, THAT attracts the most comments in a 24 hour period that Ethics Alarms has seen in months.
Actually, there is more of ethical significance to the Simone Biles Affair than is immediately apparent. The main issue, I think, may be the hypocrisy of feminists and sports journalists who rush to rationalize conduct by a young woman that no male athlete of any note would ever get away with. There are also profound issues of character, duties to one’s team, the ethics of sport and the the narcissism that celebrity creates. There are also some issues that I expect to emerge down the metaphorical road. For example, I haven’t yet encountered anyone arguing that criticism of Biles’ choke is racist, but given the response in Japan to Naoimi Osaka’s shocking loss in tennis, I expect that is coming. I also have written in my head the Ethics Alarms post responding to any post-Olympics product endorsement deals that come Biles’ way.
“In the biggest upset for the United States at the Tokyo Games, Simone Biles withdrew from the gymnastics team competition after it had started on Tuesday, handing Russia’s squad a path to the gold medal and ending American domination of the event for more than a decade. Biles, Team U.S.A.’s star, said she pulled out of the event because she wasn’t in the right place mentally to perform the difficult and often dangerous skills she is known for, after feeling so much pressure to be successful. She had been struggling with the stress of being the greatest gymnast in history, she said, and outside expectations were just too hard to combat. It is not clear whether she will compete in her individual events.“
I have been following sports, and especially team sports, since I was 12-years-old. I cannot imagine any male athlete withdrawing from his team during a crucial series or before a pivotal game because he “wasn’t in the right place” mentally, or because he was feeling “pressure to be successful.” Any male athlete behaving like this would be universally condemned by the sportswriting establishment, team members and fans, and rightfully so. But The Boston Glob’s Tara Sullivan this morning provided another jaw-dropping article headlined, “Bravo to Simone Biles for taking care of herself when she needs it most.”
When she needed it most? The entire concept of a team, be it in sports or in any other pursuit, is to sacrifice one’s own desires and comfort when the team needs it most. In the 1996 Summer Olympics, female gymnast Kerri Strug sucked it up and preserved her team’s medal by performing a vault despite a seriously injured ankle. This was hailed as the epitome of sportsmanship and athletic courage. Now Biles quits her team because, as she wrote on Instagram before her decision, “I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times.” Indeed, every star and superstar on any team seeking the distinction of a championship facing top competition feels the weight on his or her shoulders. Only Biles not only decided that this was ample justification to abandon her team mates, but is being praised for it. Astounding. Astounding. I keep thinking about how I would react as stage director to the leading actor in a stage production who came to me on opening night and said, “I just can’t go on. The pressure is too much!”
“Athlete A,” the Netflix documentary that tells the awful story of USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s decades of sexually abusing young female gymnasts—perhaps as many as 500 of them—, how he was allowed to continue his crimes after complaints from parents and others, and the young women who finally sent him to prison with their testimony, is both disturbing and depressing. I watched it last night with my wife, who was horrified that she didn’t know the Nassar story.
Ethics Alarms wasn’t as much help as it should have been. Its first full post about the scandal was this one, which, in grand Ethics Alarms tradition, slammed the ethics of the judge who sentenced Nasser to 60 years in prison, essentially a “Stop making me defend Dr. Nasser!” post. I’ll stand by that post forever, but it didn’t help readers who are link averse to know the full extent of Nasser’s sick hobby of plunging his fingers and hands into the vaginas and anuses of trusting young girls while telling them that it was “therapy.”
The second full post, in August of last year, was more informative regarding Nasser, but again, it was about the aftermath of his crimes, not the crimes themselves. That post focused on the the Senate hearings following the July 30 release of the report of an 18-month Senate investigation that found that the U.S. Olympic Committee and others failed to protect young female athletes from Nasser’s probing hands, detailing “widespread failure by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (the “Committee”) and other institutions to keep athletes safe.” Then there was this: Continue reading →
As I write this, there are still no final results from the Iowa Caucuses. The cause seems to be some faulty software and generally poor planning by the Iowa Democrats, resulting in chaos. There is a lot of schadenfreude going on at the conservative websites, and it is unseemly. Much as the Democrats deserve to fall on their faces, this is botched democracy in action, and nobody should be gloating about it. It’s unfair to all of the campaign workers and supporters of the various candidates—even though the supporters of some candidates should hide their heads under a bag—and chaos in the process serves nobody’s interests. What are the odds President Trump sends out a mocking tweet about it this morning?
The bon mot turning up in comment sections and social media over and over again last night was “The Democrats can’t handle a caucus, and they want to run the whole country?”
Until the real vote totals are in it’s all speculation, but it looks like Joe Biden crashed and burned, with his vote totals missing the 15% threshold required to win any delegates.
1. Pete being Pete. Remember what the Ethics Alarms verdict was on Pete Buttigieg a while back? It stands. Mayor Buttigieg declared himself the winner before any useful vote totals were in. Mediaite: “All this dumpster fire of an Iowa caucus was missing was a candidate who declared victory without a single vote being reported. But shortly after midnight eastern on Tuesday morning, Mayor Pete put the cherry on top of this hideous sundae with a confounding speech in which he seemed to proclaim himself the winner.” He has been sharply criticized by just about everybody, and deserves to be. It’s a jerk move.
Meanwhile, the Sanders camp, remembering the underhanded treatment he received from the DNC in 2016, is suggesting that this may all be a plot by the Democratic Dark lords to rob him of a big victory and the proverbial “Iowa Bounce.” I don’t blame them.
2. Stop making me defend Joe Biden! Biden is getting “Ew!’s and “Ick!”s as a result of this photo..
..taken when he gave his 19-year-old granddaughter s peck on the lips during an Iowa rally. Granted, this wouldn’t be an issue if Joe didn’t have a well-deserved reputation for inappropriate public behavior with women and girls, but this is one of the best examples I have ever seen of how a photograph, contrary to the old saying, can and do lie. The kiss lasted a nanosecond, but the photo makes it look like Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway in “The Thomas Crown Affair.” Continue reading →
Gynnastics and Football! Mary Bono, yes, Sonny’s widow, resigned as the interim CEO of the USA Gymnastics Federation after a tweet in which she dared to express disapproval of Nike, presumably because of its decision to elevate renegade NFL kneeler Colin Kaepernick to role model status. The tweet pre-dated her agreement to serve as an interim head while the embattled organization tries to dig out from a sexual molestation scandal. Nike is being sought as a major sponsor of women’s gymnastics, as several fled after the Federation was disgraced in the Larry Nasser scandal. Simone Biles and other gymnasts used social media to questioned whether Bono was fit to lead the organization and whether it was wise to alienate a potential sponsor. Chalk this one up to another set of timid bureaucrats being more terrified of social media than they are interested in running their organization competently. Nike now politicizes everything it touches, and has taken up permanent residence on the Left, because it thinks that where the market and the money is. Surely there are potential corporate sponsors that aren’t fond of using divisive messages to sell merchandise.
Is the new cultural standard going to be that impulsive tweets from the past, recent or distant, are legitimate reasons to can qualified people from jobs in which they have done nothing wrong? Bono’s fatal tweet just said that she had crossed out the “swoosh” on her own shoes.
Boy, when President Trump’s tweets come out, he’s going to be in BIG trouble…
On the other hand, Bono is an idiot. Her post resignation tweet suggested that both the kneeling NFL players and her swoosh censorship were protected free speech. She was a member of Congress, and she doesn’t understand the First Amendment. Worse, every time a presumed authority repeats that dead wrong “the players have a right to protest on the field” canard, America gets a little dumber.
Recently, videos have circulated on social media showing teens deliberately eating Tide Pods laundry detergent packs. All of this is part of what some call the “Tide Pod Challenge.” These pods contain highly concentrated laundry detergent under pressure and explode when bitten into, releasing their toxic contents and causing rapid ingestion and inhalation of dangerous chemicals. In my capacity as a toxic chemical researcher and consultant, I have investigated and seen several instances of the horrendous consequences that result from laundry pack ingestion: permanent burning of the mouth, throat, digestive tract, and lung tissue, and in some cases even death.Procter & Gamble (P&G), the manufacturer of Tide Pods, as well as other companies selling laundry detergent packs, have acted in the past to stem the misuse of their products. But these safety measures have failed.
It’s clear that laundry pods as they currently exist are too dangerous to be sold to the public. If P&G and other manufacturers can’t figure out a way to reduce the more than 10,000 injuries they cause each year, laundry packs need to be taken off the market.
If there is a better example of the thought processes that create nanny states and push society to eliminate personal responsibility, accountability and autonomy from its values, I can’t think of it. If people persist in the “Hit Yourself In The Head With a Hammer Challenge,” ban hammers. How do intelligent, educated people end up thinking like this? More amazing still is that a consultant can put out an addled argument like this one for public consumption—Wait! Harold’s opinions make people stupid, and we can’t seem to stop people from reading them! Using Harold’s logic, we better ban freedom of expression! Or Harold!—and still be able to persuade clients to pay for his advice.
2. But if it’s more white nationalism you want, here’s how you get THAT…San Francisco Acting Mayor London Breed, an African-American, was voted out at by her colleagues Board of Supervisors in favor of Mark Farrell, who is white. The Horror. will replace her as interim mayor until voters select a new mayor in June. As soon as it became apparent that the first African-American woman to lead San Francisco, albeit only because the elected mayor died suddenly, was being replaced by a white male, black citizens in the room erupted with rage, with many leaving in protest, and others shouting, “Shame, shame, shame.” “This is war!” some shouted as the meeting ended.
In related news, the Congressional Black Caucus announced that it will boycott the State of the Union speech. Continue reading →
1 Social media censorship. Tom Champlin, who owns the libertarian news aggregator The Liberty Review and runs its associated Facebook page was banned from Facebook for 30 days under its “community standards” for posting this:
Facebook prohibits posts that promote harmful conduct, eating disorders and suicide, but no one but an idiot–is the Facebook community made up of idiots?—would misinterpret the meaning of that meme. It’s a political statement, and if it really violates Facebook’s “community standards,” then Facebook is demanding ideological conformity in its already largely mindless left-wing echo chamber. Either enough Facebook users who believe in free speech make a stink over this kind of attempted regulation of public opinion to force Facebook (and Twitter, and Google) to cut it out, or the open expression of ideas in social media will be doomed.
I suggest every Facebook user post this meme, not to chide Obamacare, but to show support for freedom of expression, and contempt for Facebook’s attempt to strangle it. Of course Facebook, as a private business, can ban what it wants. That doesn’t mean abusing its power and influence is any less dangerous or despicable.
I just posted this item, with the meme, to my Facebook page. I’ll be interest to see a) if I get banned, even with the above preface, and 2) how many of my knee-jerk progressive friends have the integrity to post the meme themselves.
2. Predators who don’t get it, Part 1. Like many others, I wondered if the NPR banishment of Garrison Keillor and the deposit of his iconic “Prairie Home Companion” radio show in the Void of Shame was just witch hunt mania. Keillor dismissed it as the result of a single ex-employee making a late fuss over an accidental laying on of hands. Finally, after being attacked by Keillor fans for Frankening him unjustly, Minnesota Public Television, which was the NPR station that investigated the plummy humorist, decided that it had to go public with the real story. Yesterday it posted a statement that said in part…
When Minnesota Public Radio abruptly severed ties with Garrison Keillor in November, the sole explanation offered by the company was “inappropriate behavior” with a female colleague.
For his part, the creator and longtime host of A Prairie Home Companion described his offense as nothing more than having placed his hand on a woman’s back to console her.An investigation by MPR News, however, has learned of a years-long pattern of behavior that left several women who worked for Keillor feeling mistreated, sexualized or belittled. None of those incidents figure in the “inappropriate behavior” cited by MPR when it severed business ties. Nor do they have anything to do with Keillor’s story about putting a hand on a woman’s back:
In 2009, a subordinate who was romantically involved with Keillor received a check for $16,000 from his production company and was asked to sign a confidentiality agreement which, among other things, barred her from ever divulging personal or confidential details about him or his companies. She declined to sign the agreement, and never cashed the check.
• In 2012, Keillor wrote and publicly posted in his bookstore an off-color limerick about a young woman who worked there and the effect she had on his state of arousal.
• A producer fired from The Writer’s Almanac in 1998 sued MPR, alleging age and sex discrimination, saying Keillor habitually bullied and humiliated her and ultimately replaced her with a younger woman.
• A 21-year-old college student received an email in 2001 in which Keillor, then her writing instructor at the University of Minnesota, revealed his “intense attraction” to her.
MPR News has interviewed more than 60 people who worked with or crossed professional paths with Keillor. Most spoke on the condition of anonymity because they still work in the industry or feared repercussions from Keillor or his attorneys…
Is it possible that Keillor really believes that he never did anything wrong? Yes, it’s very possible, and this Ethics Alarms post from yesterday in all likelihood applies to Keillor, another weird, homely guy that learned early in life that show business was a great way to attract women. Continue reading →
1 Whew! This guy was almost on the Supreme Court! Retired Harvard Law School Constitutional law prof Lawrence Tribe. whose recent misadventures on Twitter have become the cause of mirth and dismay in the legal world, tweeted this:
The premise of the 2015 post “A Nation of Assholes” was that a President Donald Trump’s crudeness, incivility and boorishness would permanently degrade the culture through the influence the office of the Presidency traditionally has on the young. Bill Clinton, for example, made blow-jobs cool to high school students. This, Ethics Alarms held, was alone good reason to defeat him. However, I did not see his influence affecting the likes of Larry Tribe, as well as Trump’s adult adversaries in academia, the news media, and the Democratic Party, all of whom have allowed their own discourse to head into Tarentinoville because of Trump Derangement. This, in turn—you morons!-–minimizes and normalizes Trump’s vulgarity.
The President has not, unlike Tom Perez, Senator Kamala Harris and others, used any vulgar words in his public utterances or tweets. The infamous “shithouse” line was used, if it was used, in a private meeting, whereupon CNN took it into the living rooms of America an estimated 200 times.
And by the way, Professor, #SchumerShutdown is accurate, and TrumpShitdown isn’t even clever unless one is about 11.
2. And speaking of assholes… Bill Maher had a blinding moment of clarity, and ranted this yesterday on his HBO show (I have to rely on Ann Althouse for this quote, because I would no more watch Bill Maher than I would chew off my foot):
“I’m down with #MeToo. I’m not down with #MeCarthyism. Something is way off when Senator Kirsten Gillibrand can go unchallenged saying ‘when we start having to talk about the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping, you are having the wrong conversation.’ Can’t we just be having an additional conversation? Can we only have one thought now? I get it that Al Franken had to become roadkill on The Zero Tolerance Highway — a highway, it seems, only Democrats have to drive on — but do liberals really want to become The Distinction Deniers, the people who can’t tell or don’t want to see a difference between an assault in a van and a backrub by the watercooler? Masturbation is normal and healthy. But not in the park. Giving up on the idea that even bad things have degrees? That is as dumb as embracing the idea of ‘alternative facts.’ I get it when Trump’s side doesn’t want to talk. He only knows 88 words. But we are supposed to be The Conversation People. Justice requires weighing things. That’s why Lady Justice is holding a scale, not a sawed-off shotgun. Senator Gillibrand went on to say, ‘You need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is okay.’ Yes. Agreed. But we can’t walk and chew gum anymore? We can’t agree that groping and rape are both unacceptable and one is worse?…”
Not quite Ethics Hero material, but for a hero of the young Left to make this point can’t be anything but good. Maher isn’t really a progressive, and he’s certainly no feminist (Does Proudly Promiscuous Bill fear the knock on his own door from #MeToo in the middle of the night? I’d bet on it…); he’s a self-serving libertarian who hates Republicans. Nevertheless, he knows, as my father would say, which side of the bread his butter is on, so for him to challenge the witch hunters is, for him, principled and courageous. Quick observations:
Did Senator Gillibrand really say that?
Why did Senator Franken have to become roadkill, Bill? Because those wild-eyed progressives you pander to are ruthless and obsessed, that’s why.
Bill’s periodic virtue-signals during his rant are obvious and undermine the force of his message. “A highway, it seems, only Democrats have to drive on”—what does that mean, exactly? That Republicans should have to drive on the same highway Bill is condemning? No, that makes no sense. That Democrats are being absurd, and Republicans are being reasonable? No, Bill doesn’t want to say that. What then? Oh, Bill has no idea, he just knows that if it sounds like Republican-bashing, that’s good enough for his typical, half-stoned fans.
I am about to add the “alternative facts” jibe to my list of misleading comments that I am pledged to correct every time I hear it. This was a live TV gaffe, not by the President but by Kellyanne Conway. Repeating it ad nauseum as if it was an official statement of policy is a lazy cheap shot at this point.
In Althouse’s comments, someone claims that Maher’s reference to “88 words” was a coded reference to Trump being a Nazi (H is the 8th letter, so “Heil Hitler” is “88”) Is Maher really that slimy?
3. Why would it be wrong to use the death penalty on the Turpins? My position on capital punishment is that it is an essential tool for society to establish what it regards as the worst possible violations of societal and cultural standards, the crimes that civilization must reject in the strongest possible terms if it is to survive. Treason, terrorism, mass and serial murder, and kidnapping children for ransom are reasonable crimes to ethically justify death by execution. What David Allen Turpin and Louise Anna Turpin reportedly did to their 13 children is arguably as bad or worse than any of these. We just don’t have a name for the crime. It would have to be some combination of torture, imprisonment, child abuse, depravity, and sadism–and even that doesn’t describe it.
I believe the nation, our jurisprudence and civilization would benefit if what the Turpins did henceforth was punishable by death, even if, as I hope, the opportunity to use the law never occurs. Unfortunately, there is no law on the books now to permit killing them.
Both are large, powerful organizations that facilitated the sexual abuse of children in order to protect their money and reputation.
Yes, you can add Penn state to that list too.
I’m really sick today, and it’s hard writing, thinking and especially typing, but maybe I don’t have to explicate this so much. Larry Nassar, the national team doctor for USA Gymnastics, is accused of abusing dozens of female gymnasts. More than 80 victims have come forward to claim that he sexually assaulted them. Dr. Nassar was accused of 22 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct last month in Michigan. The scandal has also claimed Steve Penny (above), president of U.S.A. Gymnastics, who recently resigned after 12 years in the post.
A sport that has its priorities straight does not hire someone like Penny to lead it. He had been the director of media and public relations for U.S.A. Cycling in the early 1990s,promoting the sport and its superstar, Lance Armstrong. When he took the job at U.S.A. Gymnastics, one of his responsibilities there was to evaluate sexual assault accusations and determine if they warranted being reported to the police. Notes Juliet Macur in the New York Times,
“This is how the world of Olympic sports in the United States has operated for years: No one thought it strange that a sports marketer was in the role of sex crimes investigator.”
Is it any surprise that the culture of women’s gymnastics was poisoned with sexual predators? We had been told by Nadia Comenici that she had been abused, and the sport’s optics were, to use a technical term, oogie. All those tiny women-girls, their growth and maturation retarded by dieting and excessively rigorous training, being hugged repeatedly by bear-like coaches: I stopped finding the sport anything but disturbing years ago. (My feminist friends, who worshiped the little sprites—the ice-skaters too–told me I had a dirty mind.) Here is a section of a recent column by former gymnastic champion Jessica Howard:
By the time I reached the World Championships in 1999, my hips hurt so badly that at times I could barely walk. That was the environment I trained in that I believe created an opening for Larry Nassar, the national team doctor for USA Gymnastics, to sexually abuse me…the first time I met “Larry” I immediately trusted him. He was the premier USA Gymnastics doctor with an international reputation, and I felt lucky to have been invited to the ranch to work with him.
For our first appointment, he asked me to wear loose shorts and no underwear. That seemed strange, but I obeyed. As in training, I wanted to be perfect. He began to massage my legs, and then quickly moved inwards on my thighs. He then massaged his way into me. I was rigid and uncomfortable, but I didn’t realize what was happening. I was confused, and thought that it must just be what had to happen. This scenario happened repeatedly over the course of my week at the ranch. At no time was there ever another adult in the room. Coming off of a difficult year of training, Dr. Nassar reached out as the good guy, supporting me emotionally and promising me relief from the pain. Now I know that in actuality he expertly abused me under the guise of “treatment.”
I trusted USA Gymnastics. But I was sexually abused, as were other elite athletes, including Jamie Dantzscher, a 2000 Olympian, and Jeannette Antolin, who was a U.S. national team member. And the abuse was not limited to Dr. Nassar. According to more than 5,600 pages of USA Gymnastics records released to the IndyStar on March 3 after a lengthy court battle, some of the 54 coaches with sexual abuse complaint files spanning 10 years weren’t banned from gymnastics until years after USA Gymnastics discovered they were convicted of crimes against children.