“Hello, Hello, Hello…Hello!” An Ethics Dunce Trio: Newspaper, Sportswriter, President

the-three-stooges

I have a lot of catching up to do with ethics issue backed up as far as the eye can see, so I will try to deal efficiently with the three Ethics Dunces that confronted me this morning:

Ethics Dunce #1 : The Washington Post

There is journalistic bias, and there is defiant, in-your-face journalistic bias. The Washington Post, trying to regain its status as a dependable Obama administration ally after tantalizing us with responsible journalism in recent weeks by briefly pointing out the incompetence and corruption in the Executive Branch, decided that the riveting and shocking testimony in Congress yesterday by conservative groups harassed and impeded by the I.R.S., as well as the nauseating rationalizations for it offered by some Democratic representatives, wasn’t worthy of front page coverage. I am looking at my Post right now. What is front page worthy, in the Post’s editorial view? Protests in Turkey. A patent ruling. The death of a local skateboarder who was killed as he let himself be towed by a speeding truck.  One story of comparable national importance, the Senate hearings on sexual  harassment and assault in the armed services. The exit of the president of St. Mary’s college. Move along folks, nothing to see here.

Ethics Dunce #2 President Obama

President Obama is proving that his “charm offensive” to try to work with Republicans (which is, in fact, part of his job) was, as many surmised, a fraud. He is about to make the charming move of appointing Susan Rice, recently forced to withdraw as the presumed Secretary of State designate under fire from Republicans and other Americans who resent being lied to, as the new National Security Advisor. This is a giant, erect, middle finger from the President aimed at the GOP, and that is not a recommended tactic for seeking cooperation  and compromise. It continues this President’s pattern of selecting obsequious cronies rather than the best qualified individuals for critical jobs. It places in a crucial position an individual who was undistinguished in her last assignment, who is not held in high regard among her colleagues, who showed miserable judgment in her Benghazi deception TV tour in September, and who cannot be trusted by anyone but President Obama, and then merely as a reliable toady.

CNN’s Jake Tapper quite accurately reported this morning that Rice was being elevated “as a reward for her loyalty.” “There is no question about that,” he added. Translation: it’s a pay-off.  A President who is properly serious about the nation’s security would not use the position of National Security Advisor to pay off political and personal I.O.U.s. Her appointment is poor leadership exemplified: irresponsible, incompetent, petty and cynical.

Ethics Dunce #3  NBC Baseball Blogger Matthew Pouliot

Really, really bad arguments seem to be immortal. In response to the news that Major League Baseball is about to suspend approximately 20 players (including Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun) who obtained banned Performance Enhancing Drugs from a defunct lab recently busted by the Miami Times, NBC Sports baseball blogger Matthew Pouliot proved it. While writing that the discipline would be a “massive fail,” Pouliot offered both moldy rationalizations used to excuse Barry Bonds and some newer nonsense in support of his position…

  • Baseball is getting the cooperation of the lab’s owner in return for dropping future legal action against him, so Pouliot sniffs, “So, forgive the dealer, punish the users.” Yes, that’s right, Michael, because the dealer doesn’t play Major League Baseball, and as far as the integrity of the game is concerned, he’s not important at this point. Identifying cheats on the field is.
  • He’s “not comfortable with punishing players who never failed steroid tests.” This is the Lance Armstrong argument, which one would think would be sufficiently discredited by now. When MLB has convincing evidence that a player violated its drug rules and is dirty, that player should not be allowed to play. Violating a steroid test is just one kind of convincing evidence. Would Pouliot reject as justification for  punishment a videotape of Alex Rodriguez shooting a syringe full of what he identifies on the video as steroids into his body?
  • “The real losers in all of it are the fans rooting for the teams affected by the suspensions,” says Pouliot. Nonsense. I’m sure there are some fans, maybe a lot of them, who want their stars playing and winning games for their team even after it has been demonstrated that they are steroid cheats. I’m even more sure that the fans of the teams being beaten by such stars, and the clean players losing playing time and championships because of their illegal conduct, don’t want them playing, and neither should anyone, including sportswriters, who cares about the integrity of the game.
  • “It’s not like these 20-25 players that MLB might try to suspend are the extent of cheaters around the game.” There it is! The Golden Rationalization of the Steroid Cheat Enablers! If we can’t identify all the cheats, we shouldn’t punish any of them! This illogical rationalization, which should embarrass anyone who hears it issue from his mouth, isn’t accepted in academia, or in the workplace, or in corporate America, or in regulatory agencies or in law enforcement:

“Yup, if we can’t solve all the murders, its unfair to prosecute the killers we do arrest.”

“Yup, we just caught your son cheating on his final exams, but we’re pretty sure there are others we didn’t catch, so he’ll keep his A!”

“Yup, you cheated on your taxes, but a lot of taxpayers get clean away with it, so you should to!”

“Yup, our college president apparently fabricated her credentials, but we know there are other university officials out there who haven’t been caught, so we’ll let it slide!”

“Yup, that sixth grade teacher had sex with a student, but until we can identify all the sexual predators in the schools, it’s unfair to single her out for firing!”

I have heard and read this indefensible, infuriating argument for about a decade now, almost exclusively in the context of steroid cheating in baseball. I have decided it has signature significance: anyone who uses it, even once, is too ethically addled to be taken seriously in the debate about drugs in sport.

Like Matthew Pouliot.

__________________________________

Sources: NBC Sports, The Guardian,

25 thoughts on ““Hello, Hello, Hello…Hello!” An Ethics Dunce Trio: Newspaper, Sportswriter, President

  1. The real problem is in the case of Ryan Braun:
    MLB fired the arbitrator who found they botched the process, have buried the written decision so as to conceal how badly it was botched so fans cannot decide for themselves, and now strong-armed Bosch.

    The move to deal with PEDs is necessary, but MLB is going to go too far in the other direction.

    • Braun is dirty. He also impugned the man who handled his specimen, who did nothing wrong. The arbitrator’s decision was technically justified but logically ridiculous…it is defensible, just like the ruling in “Dirty Harry” to allow the serial killer to go free (“Fruit of the Poisonous Tree’ doctrine) is technically justified. It didn’t make the killer less obviously guilty. When baseball knows a steroid cheat is playing, it should be able to get rid of him. Braun is a perfect example.

      • I am not sure, Here’s what smells like the stuff my cat leaves in the litter box:
        1. Braun’s result was leaked in violation of the procedure MLB and the union established.

        2. MLB’s reaction to the hearing was vehement, even though they and the union changed the procedures after the chain of custody issue proved decisive in Braun’s case – showing there were clear issues.

        3. MLB buries Shyan Das’s written ruling, so fans have no way to decide for themselves if he made the right call.

        4. MLB fires Das after the ruling. after 13 years of service.

        5. Then, when Biogenesis come out, Braun’s name comes up – but the explanation is that he consulted with Bosch, who corroborates Braun’s version of events.

        6. MLB then sues Bosch – giving him the choice of complying with their demands or facing financial ruin. Bosch has now settled.

        7. MLB now wants to hammer Braun for a SECOND offense, simply because he DENIES doping.

        This is looking and smelling like a railroad in Braun’s case. If the chain of custody wasn’t such a big deal, then why did someone with Das’s level of experience take that as the basis to overturn the suspension?

        MLB needs more than what amounts to a coerced flip-flop to convince me at this point. Botched sample-handling and railroading don’t inspire confidence in the system. If rules are not enforced fairly, how can trust be restored? Just look at the IRS…

        • Here was my post about the Braun situation at the time. I’m still pretty satisfied with it. The handling of the sample was botched, in the the agreed-upon procedure wasn’t followed, but there is no reason at all to think the sample was tampered with. There isn’t much doubt why the arbitrator made the call he did either. Calcaterra, who is a lawyer, did an excellent job following the case.

          • The handling of the sample was botched, in the the agreed-upon procedure wasn’t followed, but there is no reason at all to think the sample was tampered with.

            Intentional tampering is not required. This is just chemistry. You know this though, as it was pointed out on that prior post. There is reason not to trust the drug test.

            • But that distrust is separate from the reason why Braun’s positive test was disallowed. Braun suggested that the currier somehow did something, and nobody believes that.

              • I don’t see why that matters. It was thrown out for reason X. Reason Y also could have gotten it thrown out. Because Y wasn’t brought up, we should pretend it doesn’t exist?

              • Maybe not malice, but what of reports that Braun’s defense team was able to replicate the positive test?
                http://www.chadmoriyama.com/2012/02/ryan-braun-what-you-dont-know-about-his-case-is-important/

                I did not read the full article, but Carrol notes that there was evaporation from the sample:

                It’s very simple: The collector failed to follow the procedures, and his screw-up affected the results of the test.

                • I agree that the rules dictated that the test be disallowed. It is still overwhelmingly likely that Braun is dirty, just as it is likely that Clemens is dirty. There is no evidence that anyone was trying to frame Braun.

                  • Spoken like a bad prosecutor. Sure, the evidence I had based my conclusion on is invalid, but that’s no need to throw out the conclusion.

                    • The conclusion is based on more than admissible evidence. As a prosecutor, I’d drop the case. As Commissioner of Baseball, I might well suspend him if I could.

                    • 1. The original positive test. I’ve read no good explanation for it.
                      2. Braun’s comments throughout.
                      3. The fact that he is a player whose performances have outstripped expectations.
                      4. The fact of his involvement with Miami the anti-aging clinic

                      Yes, the test was mishandled, yes, the evidence about the clinic was unjustly leaked, no, having a great doesn’t mean he’s guilty. I think Braun is in Clemens’ category, but a bit worse, and using a preponderance of the evidence standard (nobody’s putting him in jail) I’d say he’s dirty.

                      If you had to bet one way or the other, which would it be?

                    • Jack,

                      1. This has been explained to you multiple times. I refuse to do it again.
                      2. What comments are you referring to?
                      3. Overperforming expectations happens all the time. This isn’t evidence of bad behavior. Also, he was the fifth freaking pick in the draft! This isn’t Brady Anderson hitting 50 home runs one year.
                      4. This screams dirty to me, but dirty independent of the prior test. Prior to this information coming out, there wasn’t much reason to think he was dirty. Your previous post can’t rely on this later information.

  2. Where did this modern-day obsession with excusing jerks and cheaters at the expense of decent people come from? Is it a generational thing? Too many criminal defense lawyers yammering away on cable TV? There seems to be an entire generation of Alan Dershowitz wannabes out there. I just don’t get it.

      • And never mind MLB for the moment, how about Obama placing our National Security in the hands of Susan Rice? Doesn’t that make anyone nervous about one’s personal security? Obama’s appointing her isn’t just unethical, it’s downright frightening.

    • Probably with Bill Clinton. If I had a nickel for every time I heard some lame excuse on his behalf from “FDR’s bodyguard wheeled him to a girlfriend” to “in Europe they wouldn’t even blink at this” to “geez, he’s the president, let him govern,” I’d be a a VERY rich man.

  3. “This is a giant, erect, middle finger from the President aimed at the GOP, and that is not a recommended tactic for seeking cooperation and compromise.”

    Exactly right, and I don’t think Obama is interested in cooperation and compromise, he’s interested in hopefully taking back Congress in 2014 and ignoring the GOP the rest of his time.

    • Which means he’s not interested in being an effective President. He is about as hopelessly inept a national leader as I have ever witnessed in this country. The worst of Wilson, Harding, and Carter.

      • I think I’ve already mentioned I told anyone who’d listen (and even those who wouldn’t, ie, my kids) that Barack Obama would make Jimmy Carter look like Winston Churchill. I think he’s even worse than Jimmy Carter. I think Carter, for the most part, was inept and miss-guided. There seems to be a nasty, perhaps ideologically-induced passive-aggressive edge to the manner in which Obama carries himself. But that’s probably your point. He’s as arrogant as Wilson but as inept as Carter. I don’t give him credit for being inept. I think he’s extremely adept at what he’s doing, he’s just holding down one end of the “ends justify the means” bell curve.

      • He was elected to punish the party of the president who came before him (who perhaps deserved some punishment), he was elected to make history, he was elected to advance the agendas of the various liberal special interests, but he was not elected to be an effecive president. Effective presidents need to be able to work with those not of their party, wheel and deal, take half a loaf when the whole loaf cannot be had, and generally have some flexibility. For the first two years he did not even need that, since he had reduced the Republican Party to powerlessness, which,in retrospect, may not have been a good thing no matter which color jersey you wear. However, once 2010 gave some power back to the other side, he needed to recognize that. He didn’t. Then he was reelected, which of course made him think more that he did not need to work with anyone. I might indeed compare him to Wilson, who also let his vision go to his head and as such lost Congress and much of his agenda long before a stroke felled him (and possibly handed the reins of power illegally to his wife for a period of time). Not sure I’d compare him to Harding, who at least knew not to fool with the economy too much, although if you are pointing to his cronyism I’m with you. Carter was simply inept, but at least somewhat well-meaning, I’d be interested in specifically what comparison you are making with him. That said, we are unfortunately stuck with him until January 2017, BUT, on his head be it if the voters then decide they are sick of what he brought to the table and Hilary or whever the Dems run can’t take the White House a 3rd time (which has only happened 3 times since 1900 in any case.

  4. ““This is a giant, erect, middle finger from the President aimed at the GOP, and that is not a recommended tactic for seeking cooperation and compromise.”

    Exactly right, and I don’t think Obama is interested in cooperation and compromise, he’s interested in hopefully taking back Congress in 2014 and ignoring the GOP the rest of his time.”
    **********************************************
    I agree as well.
    Just when you think you can’t be anymore disgusted!

  5. 1. This has been explained to you multiple times. I refuse to do it again.
    What has? A player who has tested positive, period, is more likely to be a steroid user than a player who hasn’t, even if the test is disallowed.
    2. What comments are you referring to?
    Among others, his comments impugning the integrity of the handler, which was self-evident blame-shifting,
    3. Overperforming expectations happens all the time. This isn’t evidence of bad behavior. Also, he was the fifth freaking pick in the draft! This isn’t Brady Anderson hitting 50 home runs one year.
    I didn’t say it didn’t. But with the other stuff, it’s a puzzle piece.
    4. This screams dirty to me, but dirty independent of the prior test. Prior to this information coming out, there wasn’t much reason to think he was dirty. Your previous post can’t rely on this later information.
    I’m sorry, I thought we were arguing about this post, since that’s where we are.

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