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.