January 2008 "Easy Calls"
  • Only Barack Obama knows if he intentionally “snubbed” Hillary Clinton by failing to shake her proffered hand at the State of the Union ritual. Some observers and a series of photos suggest that he did, but Senator Obama denies it. He might have simply been looking away and missed her innocently. Or he might have made a rookie’s mistake, letting the nastiness of the Clintons’ attacks divert him from his duty to remain civil, professional and gracious at all times. As someone who has been accused of snubbing an associate in a crowded room when I actually didn’t see him, I’m sensitive to Obama’s dilemma. But ethically, his response now should be to apologize for the snub, be it real or imagined. Meanwhile, Sen. Clinton has already appeared on television and in her well-practiced way implied without clearly saying so that her rival snubbed her. Maybe she did feel snubbed. It is also not improbable, Hillary being Hillary, that she felt that he missed her hand innocently, but wants to play the victim anyway as one more way to galvanize her female base and undermine Obama’s reputation as a nice guy. Ethically, she already blew it, whatever she thinks. The ethical, professional, collegial, gracious and classy way for her to handle this “controversy” was to cut her opponent a break and say that she was certain the imagined snub was unintentional. She would want him to do the same if the situation was reversed. The Golden Rule is not in the Clinton campaign playbook, however [1/30/08].

  • The ACLU is arguing that Sen. Larry Craig and any other American has a right to do anything that isn’t otherwise illegal in a public restroom, because there is an expectation of privacy. It’s an interesting legal argument, especially since Craig now denies that he was seeking to do what his guilty plea admitted he was seeking to do—have gay sex in a bathroom stall. But even assuming that the ACLU is correct, a U.S. Senator or any elected official violates basic professional expectations of dignity, integrity and responsibility by engaging or attempting to engage in sex acts in a public place. Presumably many of former President Clinton’s fondest admirers would have choked on their defense of his “personal indiscretions” if he had been apprehended engaging Monica in an airport bathroom stall. OK, you’re not a criminal, Mr. Craig. You just are too irresponsible to be a U.S. Senator. Now leave. [1/23/2008]

  • Don’t worry: the Scoreboard is well aware of the looming danger that unless it is vigilant, the constantly expanding ethical swill surrounding Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and the Spears family will leave room for little else. So instead of a well-deserved Ethics Dunce for the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association for letting the accused pitching star Clemens go ahead with his keynote speech at their convention on his successful training methods (!!!), it will just say: what an appalling abdication of responsibility to student athletes. Clemens stands credibly accused of using illegal substances that have killed young athletes trying to emulate their steroid-shooting heroes. As long as Clemens fails to discredit the testimony of his personal trainer that he was a repeated steroid-user, the coaches acting as if nothing has changed and Clemens is a still an admirable role model for aspiring kids is in equal measure irresponsible and stupid. “Unless there is some concrete evidence he is guilty, it would be unfair of us not to let him come,” said Jim Long, President of the Association. Well, I hate to burst your bubble, Jimbo, but first-hand testimony by the man who even by Clemens’ account was not a stranger to Roger’s bare butt with needle in hand is “concrete evidence”—persuasive, credible, and admissible in court. The Texas coaches, many of whom are clearly coaches because higher intellectual pursuits were beyond them, have been full of the usual nonsense about Roger being “innocent until proven guilty,” when he is in fact “accused and under suspicion.” I suppose these geniuses would have seen nothing wrong with having had O.J. as a keynote speaker while his murder charges were pending, eh? “If he says he didn’t do it, I believe him 100 percent, and our association believes him 100 percent. We think he’s a class act,” said one of the coaches. Heck, yes: why not believe him? After all, it’s not as if there’s any reason not to believe a star player who has been accused of steroid use when he or she denies everything. I mean look at Marion Jones…hmmm. Ok, bad example…but look at Rafael Palmeiro, who told Congress—oh, heh, right…tested positive. Well, then, how about Clemens’ buddy Andy Pettite, who was accused by the same trainer who fingered Roger…what’s that? Petitte admitted that the guy was telling the truth? Oh.

    If you want to know why so many young athletes in America grow up to make terrible ethical choices as pros, look no further than the judgement of those coaching them. [ 1/18/2008]

  • Silly lawyer tricks: Roger Clemens’ lawyer, Rusty Hardin, says defiantly that he is starting his own investigation into his client’s alleged steroid use. Uh-huh. But, you see, even if Hardin’s investigators discovered that his client was as pumped-up as Mr. Olympia, he not only wouldn’t tell the public and media, he couldn’t! Hardin, as he well, knows, is bound by his professional ethics to keep his client’s confidences, which would include a full confession from the Rocket and anything Hardin learns in the investigation that Clemens wants him to keep secret. And Hardin has to keep these secrets forever, even if Roger has an attack of ‘roid rage and perishes after jumping into a bear pit. The alternative is facing the loss of his law license. So what good is this investigation to clarifying Clemens’ guilt or innocence? None whatsoever. Meanwhile, hardly a soul in the world of sports journalism has pointed this out rather crucial fact. Just one more example of the media’s ignorance and apathy in matters concerning ethics and the law. [1/3/2008]

  • The old joke about the “All You Can Eat” buffet that stopped a customer from taking more than a third helping because “That’s all you can eat” was acted out in real life by the Manchuria Restaurant in Houma, La. The establishment tried to bill 6’3″ 270 lb. Ricky Labit double its standard price for its buffet, then banned him altogether. The exact reasons are shrouded in controversy, ranging from a waitress’s accusation that he was “too fat” to the restaurant’s accountant’s claim that Lebit was billed extra for eating more expensive sea food than the management felt was reasonable. Whatever its excuse, this is unethical conduct by the Manchuria, a deceptive bait and switch. After all, there have been no reports of the place giving discounts to buffet customers who eat less than the usual amount. Buffets offer unlimited servings for one price, and trying to up the price for trenchermen who take advantage of the bargain is indefensible. And for a restaurant that facilitates gluttony to attempt to inflict punitive billing on customers who actually are gluttons is the height of hypocrisy. [1/3/2008]

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