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Roger Clemens Throws a Destructive Curve Ball…And Other Matters of Deception, Ethics and Mindfulness August 24, 2010

Posted by legalethicsemporium in Law, Ethics & Society, Mindfulness, sports.
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Perhaps we should add boomerang pitch to the baseball accomplishments of Roger Clemens.  What is the boomerang pitch?  It is a pitch that is thrown VOLUNTARILY despite the fact that it is destined to return and hit the pitcher upside the head.  Roger Clemens has been indicted for perjury after voluntarily  testifying before Congress and adamantly denying that he used illegal performance enhancing drugs.  The reaction of the public has ranged from shock, awe and disgust to calls for forgiveness based upon Clemens’ notable contributions to baseball and a suggestion that he is being singled out for prosecution because of his celebrity.  (That’s a new twist on the analysis of celebrity status and its impact on prosecution….)

We could easily dismiss that argument except that it seems to be a current cultural theme.   Huh?  Well, there has been much speculation and analysis about why Rod Blagojevich, former governor of Illinois, was only found guilty on 1 of the 24 criminal counts against him that involved allegations and an abundance of evidence of  dishonesty, fraud and an attempt to sell the Senate seat left vacant by President Obama’s election.  Apparently, some of the jurors just thought that Blagojevich was being “singled out” by the government for activities that are just typical political behavior.

Clemens and Blagojevich maintain that they are not lying–-In fact, Clemens’ attorney has recently defended Clemens with a questionable “doesn’t make sense that he would lie” argument and Blagojevich is spending time at  a Comic Convention, appearing on talk shows and claiming that his political future is not over.   While the final “jury” is not in on these two, their denials are reminiscent of the deceptions perpetrated by the likes  of John Edwards, Mark Sanford, and Elliot Spitzer, just to name a few.

What’s the problem?  Is it a “simple” matter of ethics and morality?  There certainly has been a call for more ethics and character education in schools. And the media and criminal justice system seems to have sharpened the focus on ethics violations in recent years.  The problem is not simply one of ethics–-Surely, most of these people who stumbled and the many others who we all know, but do not have the notoriety to make “the news” with their missteps,  knew right from wrong.  In fact, unless there is a developmental mishap, we all develop a conscience by about the age of six years old.

So, what’s the problem?   The problem is a lack of mindfulness.  What’s that? Mindfulness has to do with an individual’s conscious awareness in the moment.  We  teach a course in Professional Responsibility and Mindfulness at the University of Miami School of Law. When  students were asked on the opening day of class to define mindfulness, they offered descriptive words and phrases such as: awareness, overcoming animal instincts, deliberate action, finding work/life balance , considering the effects of your actions.

Scott Rogers, the founder of the Institute for Mindfulness, who co-teaches the course provides the students not only with an understanding of the concept of mindfulness, but also with the underpinnings of the neuroscience that explains decision-making and what occurs when we impulsively react as opposed to thoughtfully respond.

It is a complicated topic about which much has been written, but it is a simple concept for the purposes of our discussion today.  The bottom line is that we should be teaching not only ethics, but also mindfulness.  It is important to teach children moral lessons, but if you do not give them the tools to understand how to apply these lessons, then the instruction is incomplete.  Why not teach children from a young age how our minds function, how emotion influences decisions and actions, and how to be aware of their own feelings and reactions.? Why not continue this education every year along with math and english?  (And, by the way, it’s not too late to teach the adult population—Neuroscience confirms that we are able to continually learn, expand and change our brains.) Just imagine a world in which most people existed in a conscious state of awareness most of the time.

Maybe Clemens and Blagojevich and all of the other ethical “missteppers” in our midst were aware, considered their primal impulses, the effects of their actions  and took deliberate, conscious action.  Maybe the earth is flat.  Maybe it’s time to teach mindfulness along with the orbiting earth.


Deal or No Deal? Congress Considers Legalizing & Taxing Online Gambling. July 29, 2010

Posted by legalethicsemporium in Law, Ethics & Society, sports.
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The tension between morality and the law is ever-present when gambling is on the table.  Four years ago Congress deemed Internet gambling to be a criminal activity.  The law does not seem to have  impacted the popularity of gambling, but did move the sponsors offshore. “On Wednesday, the House Financial Services Committee approved a bill that would effectively legalize online poker and other nonsports betting…”  (NYTimes article linked)

Gambling is characterized as immoral and undesirable as well as fun and harmless depending upon one’s point of view.  Clearly, in 2006 Congress decided that online gambling was on the undesirable end of the spectrum and banned it in an effort to take the “right” action to protect society. 

So, why the change of hearts?   Money—Tax Dollars— a projected 42 billion dollars over ten years that could be used for all types of projects.   Some members of Congress  have essentially stated that the ends justify the means–It’s a lot of tax revenue that could be put to good use.  Others are outraged at the thought of infecting society with easy access to gambling.

It should be an interesting debate because as a society we struggle in deciding whether to acknowledge and accept various controversial conduct (and tax it accordingly). The conduct generally is wide-spread; the issue is whether we condone or condemn it.   It harkens back to the times that we actually used amendments to the U.S. Constitution to both prohibit alcohol and then repeal prohibition (and tax alcohol).   The legalization of marijuana is often debated in the same manner as  folks in California have recently considered whether to legalize and tax marijuana to alleviate the state budget deficit.

So, the question is does every issue have “its price?”  At some point does the societal equation tip in favor of tolerating controversial, but popular, behavior when the sum of the  financial reward is great?  Deal or No Deal?  Let’s watch and see….

Andre Dawson Hits Another Home Run! Baseball, Cooperstown, and Ethics July 26, 2010

Posted by legalethicsemporium in sports.
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Miami’s own Andre Dawson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday and his induction was arguably based upon his integrity and work ethic  as much as it was his impressive statistics.  His plaque list the stats, 438 home runs, 2,774 hits, and 314 stolen bases, that were amassed during his 21 year career, that was plagued by 12 knee surgeries.  However, along with all the stats, it states, “A powerful run producer whose poise, work ethic, respect and unsurpassed determination made him a complete player and a leader by example.”

It was a proud, and perhaps refreshing, moment for the game of baseball which has been much maligned in recent years because of illegal steroid use by some of its players. During his acceptance speech, Dawson warned players to stay away from “the dark side.”  “There’s nothing wrong with the game of baseball,” said Dawson. “Baseball will, from time to time like anything else in life, fall victim to the mistakes that people make. ”

Hats off to Andre Dawson who remains a role model and exemplifies the integrity and character requirements for entry into the history of America’s  own sport and “favorite pastime.”

Time Out for LeBron! July 8, 2010

Posted by legalethicsemporium in sports.
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LeBron James is coming to Miami!

So we could analyze the craziness and hype of the free agent season….Or we could have some profound discussion about the relative worth of one human being …Or debate the value of sports in our society… Or even discuss the fundamental values of our society.–All worthwhile discussions….But….Tonight Miami is just taking a time out to enjoy this basketball wonder and dream about the most thrilling season ever!

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