From The Ethics Alarms Lost Files: The Ballet Dancer, The Man On The Tracks, And The Duty To Rescue

September 29, 2017

I don’t usually copy other people’s columns, but I couldn’t resist copying this one from my friend Jack Marshall’s EthicsAlarms.com.

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[This story is several months old, but I missed it.  Luckily my friend, long-time Ethics Alarms reader and commenter Ethics Bob did not, and sent it to me. Then I missed his e-mail. Until today.]

Ethics Alarms often writes about the duty to rescue, but has also often discussed the reasonable limitations on that duty. You are ethically required to do what you can to prevent a tragedy if you have the power to do so, and instant presence of mind to do so. There is no ethical duty to act like Batman, unless, of course, you are Batman.

Gray Davis is Batman.

Well, that’s not quite right.

Let’s call him “Ballet Man,”

In June, a 58-year-old homeless man fell or was pushed onto the subway tracks at the 72nd Street Broadway-Seventh Avenue station in Manhattan. People began screaming and shouting for someone to help. Davis, 31, told reporters that “At first I waited for somebody else to jump down there…. But nobody jumped down. So I jumped down.” Actually he leaped down. Davis is a ballet  dancer with the American Ballet Theater. He had not performed that night, a Saturday, because he was recovering from a herniated disk. He had just watched his wife, soloist Cassandra Trenary, dance in both the matinee and the evening performances of “The Golden Cockerel.”

After Gray’s graceful assemblé from the platform onto the tracks, he lifted up the man, following a temps leve, although the carry itself was not standard and had several technical flaws by ABT standards, forgivable because ballerinas are not typically dead weight, and unconscious homeless men are not typically ballerinas. Gray deposited his temporary partner on the platform, where he was immediately attended to by others.

Then the dancer heard a train in the distance, and for the first time realized how high it was to the platform from the tracks. “Luckily, I’m a ballet dancer,” he said. Luckily for everyone. Lifting his let up over his head is a breeze.

Ballet dancers are much-maligned, and increasingly unappreciated as artists despite the fact that they are among the most skilled athletes in the world. Batman would have to have ballet training; Daredevil too. Unfortunately, they aren’t real. Graey Davis, Ballet Man, is real, and when a life was at stake and everyone else was calling for someone else to he a hero, he was one, because he knew he had the skills to pull it off.

Bravo!

Encore!

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NFL Protests and the First Amendment

September 25, 2017

Kaepernick kneeling

We’re up to our hips in hogwash about the First Amendment rights of protesting NFL players. They have no such rights. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution doesn’t apply to football. It applies ONLY to Congress, and by legal extension, to all lawmaking bodies in the United States.

Here’s what it says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

So the owners are not prevented from firing players by the First Amendment. Arguably, they are as free to fire a player for taking a knee for the National Anthem as Google, for instance was free to fire James Damore for taking public exception to Google’s diversity efforts. And for the same reason: damaging the employer.

Not to say firing a player would be good business. Players have a way of sticking up for each other, whatever their color or politics. So even if an owner disagreed strongly with the protests, they’d be unwise to fire the protester.

Protesting by display against the National Anthem raises questions of ethics and comity, but don’t bring the First Amendment into it.

Ethics Beyond the Obvious at Charlottesville

August 19, 2017

Christopher Cantwell supremacist.jpg

In 3rd grade, or maybe it was 7th, Miss Finestein made me write on the blackboard 50 times “I will not pull Joanne’s hair.” I think that was overkill. Making an example of me in front of the class and perhaps making me write it three or four times would have been enough. After that it just made me hate Miss Finestein.

So too with President Trump. We get it. Trump committed an ethical monstrosity when he equated pro-Nazis with anti-Nazis, and when he said that there were “very fine people” marching in Charlottesville alongside those carrying torches and Nazi and Confederate battle flags, and chanting “Jews won’t replace us.”

Trump was wrong wrong wrong. That’s an easy call, and anyone in public life who doesn’t make it is also committing an ethics disgrace. But let’s move on.

Some of the protesters came equipped with helmets, shields, baseball bats, and pepper spray. And used them, as shown in the photo. From the L.A. Times:

University of Virginia student Isabella Ciambotti: “I was on Market Street around 11:30 a.m. when a counter-protester ripped a newspaper stand off the sidewalk and threw it at alt-right protesters. I saw another man from the white supremacist crowd being chased and beaten. People were hitting him with their signs. A much older man, also with the alt-right group, got pushed to the ground in the commotion. Someone raised a stick over his head and beat the man with it, and that’s when I screamed and ran over with several other strangers to help him to his feet.” Read the rest of this entry »

Tear Down the Statues

August 17, 2017

Caesar_Rodney_square.jpg

I like history. I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, where the main square of the city, Rodney Square, was dominated by the equestrian statue of Caesar Rodney above), who rode seventy miles through a thunderstorm from Dover to Philadelphia on the night of July 1-2, 1776, to cast Delaware’s vote for Independence. I read Hamilton before it was cool. I still stop along country roads to read historical markers.

So I like statues and monuments that remind us of history. Even unpleasant history. I admire the German decision to preserve the remnants of Gestapo headquarters in Berlin, with plaques describing the horrors perpetrated by the Gestapo. And the preservation of the concentration camp of Dachau, just as it was in the 1930s and 1940s.

I didn’t like the current movement to remove statues of Confederate generals, even the one of the slave trader/Ku Klux Klan founder, Nathaniel Bedford Forrest. I thought these statues were just history, although some of them were erected in the 1960s, as a sort of f-you response to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The trouble with the statues as history is that, to many African-Americans, and to a not-insignificant number of whites, they’ve come to idealize the “good old days” of white supremacy. So when the statues cease to represent history it’s time for them to come down.

 

Will Trump’s Outrages ever Break the Camel’s Back?

August 16, 2017

camel straw Flickr The.Rohit_.jpg
I commented yesterday that criticism of Trump’s softness toward white supremacists and Nazis by key Republicans was an encouraging sign of America’s health.

I’ve gotten pushback, pointing out that many of these same Republicans blasted Trump for denigrating John McCain’s war record. “This time Trump went too far,” optimists on the Left pronounced. But Trump thrived.

Then Republicans blasted him for claiming that Federal Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel could not judge fairly because he “happens to be, we believe, Mexican.” (Curiel was born in Indiana.) “This time, etc”, we said. But Trump continued to thrive.

The last straw was when he belittled Gold Star parents Khizr and Gazala Khan. Now, we said, “now he’s really crossed the line.” Many Republicans agreed. Trump thrived.
Then Republicans jumped all over him for the Access Hollywood tapes, in which he told Billy Bush, “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.” Now Republican criticism boiled over, with Republican women especially furious over his casual admission of repeated sexual assaults. Trump continued to thrive.

And then came the really, no fooling, last straw. In the final debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump refused to say he’d accept the result of the imminent election. Days later he clarified his position: “I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election — if I win.”

That outraged people of every political stripe, challenging, as it did, the very foundation of the American experiment. “He’s finished now,” we all thought. Read the rest of this entry »

Bad AND GOOD from Charlottesville

August 15, 2017

Swastika Charlottesville.jpg

What is one to make of the events at Charlottesville last week and of Trumps reactions, different as they were on Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday? The sights of the night march with torches and the Nazi Flags should have shocked any American with any sense of history. But the sight of Nazi flags and torches weren’t what shocked our President. On Saturday he condemned “in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”

He followed with words about American values and unity, mixed in with talk about how well the economy is doing under his leadership. But his denunciation of “many sides, many sides” drew all the attention. And deservedly so.

Trumps denouncement of “many sides” on Saturday provoked extremely strong reactions not only from the left but more importantly from all over the right, Senators Hatch, Cruz, Rubio, Grassley, Gardner, Scott, and others.

Uncharacteristically, in the face of this criticism Trump changed his position Monday, denouncing racism and standing up for American values as strongly as Presidents should.

Then on Tuesday he flipped back to his equivocating position of Saturday, insisting that many of those who marched along with the torches, and Nazi and Confederate flags were good people who only wanted to keep the statue of Robert E. Lee in the park.

So what does all this mean about our President and what does it mean about America?

Trump’s first reaction was designed to avoid offending his racist supporters, although on the evidence available it’s probably unfair to call Read the rest of this entry »

You’ll like Walks in Europe

February 23, 2017

I’ve written often about my experiences exploring Turkey with “Walksinistanbul.com,” aka Arzu Altinay, as my guide. Now she’s opened http://www.walksineurope.com, a successful walking tour company for Rome, Venice, Florence, Athens, Jerusalem, Dubrovnik, Tallinn, Wroclaw, and Amsterdam. I recommend her service to anyone who wants to experience, not just see, any of those cities.

A Black Day for Ethics: DeAndre Jordan and the LA Clippers

July 10, 2015

This is a black day for ethics. A popular basketball star went back on his word, and leading sports journalists argued that it was just fine, he broke no written contract, it was his right to do what’s best for himself. Fans of the Los Angeles Clippers swallowed their ethical principles and cheered. Youngsters all over America—and beyond—got a wrong-way lesson in ethics: your commitments aren’t binding.

The star big man for the Los Angeles Clippers, DeAndre Jordan, became a free agent on July 1, 2015. On July 3 he agreed to sign an $80 million four year contract to play for the Dallas Mavericks for. On July 9 he signed an $87 million, four year contract to stay with the Clippers.

On my favorite TV sports show, “Around the Horn,” respected commentators were unanimous: Jordan had done what was best for him and he was perfectly within his rights to do so.

Not by me, he wasn’t. Shame on him for breaking his word. He caused serious damage to the Mavericks’ prospects, because they had factored his commitment into other personnel actions they made. And shame on the Clippers for mounting a campaign to get Jordan to break his word.

I rooted for the Clippers last year, but no more.

These heroes saved the Union 150 years ago today

July 2, 2013

little round top summitAn important responsibility of citizenship it to understand our history and acknowledge our debts to the people who came before us. My friend, Jack Marshall  (ethicsalarms.com) reminds us that today, July 2, is the 150th anniversary of the second day of the battle of Gettysburg.

We Americans are taught that Abraham Lincoln saved the Union. Yes, he did, but it was about to be lost on July 2, 1863, until the Twentieth Maine Volunteers, commanded by Col. Joshua Chamberlain, defeated a major Confederate attempt to turn the Union’s flank at Little Round Top. Many historians believe the desperate counterattack by the Maine unit is what really saved the Union. Read about Little Round Top here.

 

In today’s Ethics Alarms column Jack Marshall describes how the credit really needs to be shared with the heroic First Minnesota. Read and marvel at what we owe to the unquestioning valor and sacrifice of these American citizen soldiers.

The NY Times “Ethicist” says stealing is OK if it’s only “technical” stealing. Well, not 100 per cent OK, but 96 per cent.

June 30, 2013

stealing plantsChuck Klosterman, who the Times labels “The Ethicist,” absolved a couple who took several cuttings from plants in a shopping center to transplant on their patio. He explains that since the owner of the plants was not damaged, then no harm, no foul:

“So here is my analysis: you technically stole, you technically committed vandalism and you should have asked the shopping center’s permission before trying this unethical act… But if I were to place unethical acts on an ascending continuum of 1 to 100, I’d give you and your wife a 4. Maybe a 3.”

The Ethicist is sliding down a slippery slope. Is an act that rates 4/100 on an unethics scale OK? How about a five? Perhaps he would settle for an unethics score of 49/100 as acceptable: that would say it’s OK to steal (or lie or cheat?) if the offense isn’t more than halfway to total lack of integrity.

Slippery slopes are hard to negotiate. Clarity of principles makes for easier decision making. When it comes to stealing I’d recommend my formula over The Ethicist’s. It’s one of my unenforceables:

What’s not mine is not mine.

Simple, huh? I think The Ethicist would give it a perfect unethics score of zero.