Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/2/2017: Goodbye Baseball, Hello Incompetence, And Isn’t It Nice Of Twitter Look Out For Us?

Good Morning, Everybody!

(Goodbye, baseball…)

1 The 2017 World Series ended last night, with the Houston Astros winning a hard-fought and exciting seven game battle over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Otto Von Bismarck famously observed that providence seemed to be looking out for the welfare of drunkards, fools, and the United States of America, and Major League Baseball should be added to Otto’s list. With the NFL simultaneously alienating civilized fans who don’t like seeing their heroes crippled for their entertainment, and more bloodthirsty fans who don’t want their entertainment polluted by half-baked political protests, baseball, whose ancient status as “The National Pastime” had been mocked as wishful thinking, entered the Fall at its best, and showed TV audiences a wild, passionate game featuring diverse and likeable players who seemed genuinely proud and privileged to be Americans.

Now comes the long, bleak winter…

2. From one of my smart, informed, anti-Trump obsessed progressive Facebook friends:

“So… we can talk about visa regulations right after an immigrant kills people, but we can’t talk about rational restrictions on guns when someone uses a gun to kill people?”

Rushing to take political advantage of a tragedy, as President Trump did by immediately using the terrorist attack in New York to push for his immigration reforms is, indeed, exactly as reprehensible whether it is done by Democrats or Republicans. A tactic sure looks uglier when it’s done to oppose your interests than when its done to advance them, isn’t it? (By the way, my friend, restrictions on immigration are not prohibited by the Constitution; “rational restrictions on guns,” aka “incremental elimination of the Second Amendment,” because it is now clear that this is the goal, is.)

3. A few hours after Trump’s Cabinet meeting, CNN’s Jim Acosta  asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, “Why did the president call the U.S. justice system a joke and a laughingstock?”

“That’s not what he said,” Sanders replied. “He said that process has people calling us a joke and a laughingstock.”

In fact, the President had indeed said at the meeting, “We need quick justice and we need strong justice — much quicker and much stronger than we have right now — because what we have right now is a joke, and it’s a laughingstock.”


  • This feature of having Donald Trump as President will never change.


  • I suppose the news media, especially Trump-haters like Acosta, will have to point out every time the President blathers something vague, half-considered and expressed with the eloquence of a closed head injury patient. But most Americans who don’t spend their waking hours looking for new ways to attack him take such TrumpSpeak for what it is, and translate it immediately and usually correctly. He was saying that he was frustrated with the speed and restrictions of our justice system when we are just sure someone is guilty…you know, just like Black Lives Matters is frustrated over the same thing.

That’s all. It wasn’t a substantive observation.

  • People who like Trump learned long ago not to take his words literally, and people who detest him learned that they can always make him look stupid by pretending that he says what he means.

The exchange between Sanders and Acosta shows why these two types of people cannot communicate with each other.

  • It can’t be easy being Sarah Huckabee Sanders. However, saying in public that what was just said by her boss was not said by her boss undermines any small credibility or trust she might have. Her reflex answer should always be, “The President mis-spoke.” She should have learned that by now.

Sadly, once a spokesperson lies like this, she should be fired or resign. She’s useless.

4. From the Daily Caller (and no place else that I can find: why?)

“Twitter buried significant portions of tweets related to hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chair John Podesta in the last two months of the 2016 presidential campaign. Twitter’s systems hid 48 percent of tweets using the #DNCLeak hashtag and 25 percent of tweets using #PodestaEmails, Twitter general counsel Sean Edgett said in his written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

“Approximately one quarter (25%) of [#PodestaEmails tweets] received internal tags from our automation detection systems that hid them from searches,” Edgett said. He added that “our systems detected and hid just under half (48%) of the Tweets relating to variants of another notable hashtag, #DNCLeak, which concerned the disclosure of leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee.”

Just two percent of the tweets using the #DNCLeak hashtag came from “potentially Russian-linked accounts,” according to Edgett. He explained that Twitter hid the tweets as “part of our general efforts at the time to fight automation and spam on our platform across all areas.”

Oh, I’m sure that was the reason.

Never mind the Russians;  the many ways that tech companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter can—and apparently do– distort and manipulate the information received by the public to fit their political goals is an increasingly evident threat to our democracy, especially with the news media so biased and unreliable. (Why couldn’t I find this story on a non-conservative site?)

5. More from the “We’re going to hire the best people” front: The Washington Post reports Sam Clovis, that the President’s nominee to be the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientist, Sam Clovis, who now serves as the agency’s senior White House adviser, confirmed in an Oct. 17 letter  that he has no academic credentials in either science or agriculture.Yet the post for which President Trump has nominated his campaign co-chair, USDA undersecretary for research, education and economics, is supposed to be and always has been filled by  by  individuals with advanced degrees in science or medicine. The 2008 farm bill specifies that appointees to the position should be chosen “from among distinguished scientists with specialized training or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics,” given that the official is “responsible for the coordination of the research, education, and extension activities of the Department.”

Ah, but not to worry!  The former Iowa talk radio host and political science professor wrote that his time teaching and running for political office in Iowa makes up for this deficiency. I’m sure that Sam has also read lots of Readers Digest articles and all the episodes of “Star Trek” and “Green Acres.”

It’s really, really hard to argue with critics who say that this administration is anti-science when the President makes incompetent, cynical appointments like this. It is also unethical for anyone to accept a job they don’t have the credentials and experience to do well, even if they are offered it.

28 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/2/2017: Goodbye Baseball, Hello Incompetence, And Isn’t It Nice Of Twitter Look Out For Us?

  1. I’m truly concerned about how slippery the future slope is. Sure, Trump might be a thumb in the eye, a self inflicted wound, but at the end of his presidency, Republicans will have to accept ownership and Democrats might use it as license for their own poor candidate / president. Anything anyone does in the future will be encouraged by rationalizations and equivocation. I really hope we can raise the bar in the future.

    • That barn door was opened long ago. Just because a boor made it into the Presidency doesn’t mean this door opened now. It began most severely about halfway through the younger Bush presidency, when decorum was thrown *completely* out the window in the realm of political attacks and innuendo in order to smear Bush.

      • John Kass wrote an excellent column last year.

        If you’re mystified about Trump and the death of outrage and lack of character evidenced in our national political actors, here’s what you could do.

        Find a dark room with a mirror. Bring with you a small lit candle. Stand before that mirror and spend three minutes in complete silence wondering about the death of outrage, then repeat after me:

        “Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton.”

        If that doesn’t work, try one of these: “It’s only about sex,” or “Everybody does it” or “It’s a private matter.”

        Repeat until the words lose all meaning, becoming mere sounds, unintelligible, so they’ll transport you to your safe meditative space.

        If that doesn’t work, there’s one more. Repeat the following:

        “If you drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.”

        Those immortal words belong to James Carville, the Clinton Democratic operative who — with Hillary’s assent — set the tone on how the Clintons would treat women who dared accuse former President Clinton of sexual harassment.

        Once a standard is abandoned, it is near impossible to restore it.

      • I mean, I get it. Everyone has hurt everyone else….but we can’t let that be the end, right? If I have one hope for the next 3 years, its that Republicans find an appropriate way to support the ends without endorsing the means.

        If you will allow it: “The president is an idiot and he chose his words poorly, but his point and goal isn’t terrible and there’s some aspect of that which we can work toward.” or some variation thereof.

  2. RE: Twitter –

    You’d think the Left and the Media would write about Twitter’s hiding of tweets because it might have affected how data scientists were modeling their predictions. “Of course Hilary is going to win, you can see it because the DNC Leak hashtag isn’t being used as much as we would otherwise see. If she were in trouble, that hashtag would have at least twice as many tweets.”

  3. #5) Clovis stepped down from the nomination. Neither he nor Trump probably had any idea what the law said regarding this position.

    It would have been up to the Senate to do it’s duty and give due diligence into investigating his credentials before not confirming him.

    “It’s really, really hard to argue with critics who say that this administration is anti-science when the President makes incompetent, cynical appointments like this.”

    I disagree…it only makes it hard to argue with critics who say that this administration doles out government positions to political lackeys. But then again, who argues that this (and every) administration doesn’t?

    I think this just shows Trump (or his people) were too lazy to read the law regarding this particular position.

      • I disagree though. We aren’t a technocracy where supposed ‘experts’ run the show. We don’t need the world’s greatest farmer or horticulturalist at the head of the Department of Agriculture. We need an able, effective, and ethical administrator with good leadership and management skills for *executive* departments.

        IF at any point down the line a specific job needs someone expert in the field the job governs, then it must be defined by the law establishing that particular position.

        But if we get hung up with the utopianists view that every high level executive administrative position should be stocked by an “expert” of that field, we’ll rapidly find ourselves in a technotyrannical nightmare, where the “experts” govern us for our own good because “they know best”.

        Nope, I need someone who is more beholden to the laws they are meant to execute than to the various philosophies of their profession (which as we see can be hijacked by a wide variety of political worldviews, while simultaneously hiding behind the guise of professional opinion).

        • (before you skewer my response, I should have noted it was aimed at your first sentence “Law Schmlaw”, which may have been tongue in cheek, but I felt it a valid point to clarify anyway. Legal definitions matter for executive positions, ESPECIALLY in the situation this post is about. Not having the law dictate that the position be filled by an ‘expert’ leaves the position open to be filled by anyone with NO PROBLEM. So if an ‘expert’ is needed, then the law MUST be clear on that)

          • No, I have no problem with your point, which is important. My point is that this appointment didn’t even get close to being competent, with or without the law’s unusually specific requirements. The job is, as the sources point, out, the Department’s top scientist. It is true that SCOTUS justices don’t have to be judges or lawyers (to your point), but if a SCOTUS nominee doesn’t know what a law is, that IS a problem. Job descriptions, which every Federal position must have, have to be part of the process.

            I once took over the top position for a health promotion organization, replacing a doctor. The board wanted a doctor, but the organization’s legal, financial and management problems were killing it, and the job as it existed after the Founder make a mass of things required far more management and legal expertise than it did medical knowledge. I told my interviewers, “You don’t need a doctor, you need someone who knows how to run an organization.”

  4. #4. This is similar to Facebook saying that their “…notifications are listed by how relevant we think they are to you” So glad we have the people watching out for our wellbeing, or should I say our indoctrination.

  5. I don’t have a problem with Trump bringing up immigration when a guy from Kazaksthan who looks like an Islamist terrorist jihadist (or a major league baseball player) murders a bunch of people on Manhattan. It’s kind of refreshing. Beats “workplace violence” or “we don’t know what his motives were.” By all means, let’s talk about the previously unknown “Diversity visa program.” Who came up with a program to randomly assure that people who otherwise wouldn’t come to the U.S. come to the U.S. Brilliant.

    And if people want to talk about gun rights after a gun mass killing, I’m fine with that as well. The answer is there’s a constitution and guns and America are joined at the hip. Next question.

  6. Good stuff Jack. I’m pretty sure that having been treated equally by the media, Trump would have crashed himself by now. It has certainly given me pause to vote for him in the next election. However, the more the media double down, the more I want to see 4 more years. I don’t consider myself to be an emotional person, but perhaps my American spirit also wants to give a big F**k you too.

    When I see things like this, I have to wonder if Trump is really that stupid, or is just trolling his haters. I honestly can’t tell the difference.

    • “When I see things like this, I have to wonder if Trump is really that stupid, or is just trolling his haters. I honestly can’t tell the difference.”

      Neither, I suspect, can Trump.

  7. Jack, there is always hockey… That can carry you into April because baseball will start back up before the Washington Capitals do their annual first or second round exit (grin).
    (my team is any original six team not called the New York Rangers)

    • The Astros’ championship is most definitely a welcomed and needed diversion and deviation! “We now return you to our regularly scheduled foolishness, incompetence and corruption…” My sympathies to Dodgers fans – I was one of them, once upon a time, in a faraway ethics universe…

  8. Jack
    I cannot defend the apointment but having been on several committes that decide who gets economic development funding from a state agency that promotes technology I know that science is but one of many factors on determining who gets funded. From my experience in SBIR and STTR funding it is who you know and not what you know are the determining factors on research funding. In fact, program directors tailor funding topics specific to well positioned groups. We counsel newbies to create relationships with program directors long before the period in which they seek a development grant. Moreover in some cases the topic almost drives the conclusion of the research. This is especially true in earth science relating to climate change.

    At the state level, where I am most familiar, funding rarely goes to an organization based on the merits of the science. Funding goes to the scientist/organization that has the most well developed commercialization plan. In addition grant sources look for people they know or favored institutions as key determinants of success or failure. As a result, the same players are funded routinely and many who sit in judgement on whether or not a project is funded wind up at some point in a high visibility role in the funded research organization. From there they are again selected to review more proposals for other grants. It is a self reinforcing process no different than the CEO of organization X sitting on the board of company Y who then votes in favor of handsome compensation packages for the CEO of Y and then turns around and uses the compensation of Y to feather his/her nest at company X.

    Perhaps a layman with common sense without an agenda is better than a scientist that promotes research that promotes his published ideas.

  9. “People who like Trump learned long ago not to take his words literally, and people who detest him learned that they can always make him look stupid by pretending that he says what he means.”

    So how are we supposed to tell if he means what he says unless we call him on it and ask for clarification? Or should we just assume that he’s all Pazuzu all the time and nothing he says is really what he means?

    • I think a lot of the time, it is pretty obvious that he didn’t mean what he said literally. Did anyone ask Obama if he really believed that there were 57 states? At the extremes, this is an expression of disrespect, double standards, and a refusal to extend good will.

      • Bad comparison. 57 states was obviously a mistake. Saying our justice system is a joke strikes me as much more likely to be a real opinion. And given that Trump has said many times that our justice system needs to treat suspects more harshly, there is no reason to doubt that Trump meant what he said in this instance.

    • I’ll say it again: Trump is jazz. What he says doesn’t have to make sense; it’s just enjoyable alternative music – despite itself, sometimes.

  10. Good post.

    On #2, it has amazed me to see liberals not recognizing their own hypocrisy in pointing out the hypocrisy of the Trump administration bringing up immigration the day of a tragedy while condemning bringing up gun control the day of a tragedy…it’s like a snake eating its own tail. Either they’re both wrong or neither of them are wrong. Personally I think if there is evidence that a gun regulation could prevent a mass shooting, that should be acknowledged immediately. There’s evidence that background checks, for instance, could have derailed the plans of the Columbine shooters. By the same token, if there’s evidence that we can do more to stop potential terrorists from entering the country after an attack like this one, we should talk about that immediately too. But if there is no such evidence—and there hasn’t been any after the last few mass shootings that I’m aware of—then people should stop acting like these tragedies prove their own personal hobby horses correct.

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