Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/23/2018: An Overdue Pardon, A Questionable No-Hitter, A Stupid Tweet, A Modest Hero…

Yes, I’m still here…

For one of the very few times since 2009, there were no posts yesterday. I’m sorry. I was pressed on a client’s urgent deadline from 7 am to 11 pm, with errands and sanity breaks in between, and never could get my schedule or brain cleared sufficiently to work on Ethics Alarms.

1 This is the news media. This morning, HLN  has spent 5-10 minutes every hour covering the birth of Queen Elizabeth’s latest grandchild. He’s a boy, in case you were on pins and needles. This isn’t fake news, it’s non-news. Why is this important? What possible use does detailed information regarding the latest addition to the succession train (he’s fifth in line) of an increasingly anachronistic monarchy have to the U.S. public? I’m looking at the morning New York Times, and literally 98% of its contents are more newsworthy.

Among the events broadcast in connection to this non-event was an elaborately dressed “town cryer” in London, ringing a bell and reading from a scroll to announce the royal birth. After CNN’s remote cameras recorded this memorable moment, it was revealed by a London correspondent that the elderly man dressed like a Tower Beefeater is a wacko, with no official significance whatsoever. Then a half hour later, HLN showed the wacko’s act again, sans any wacko label, but text that said, “Moments ago.” Thirty minutes is “moments”? Then we got new post-birth news, the London odds-makers take on what the likely name of this completely unimportant future prince will be. The odds on “Jack” were 9-1. Said Robin Meade’s sidekick Jennifer Westhoven: “Jack? Wouldn’t that be ‘James’?”

No, you ignorant moron. A., Jack is a real name. I can prove it, and B. It is a nickname for John, not James.

Yeah, we should trust these people.

2. Trump Tweets. Okay, what is this? President Trump, flush with success over questionable reports that North Korea has decided to halt nuclear testing (you know, like Iran, and equally trustworthy), tweeted,

Now, it is easily determined that the North Koreans have not agreed to “denuclearization.” Meetings haven’t even taken place. The tweet is fantasy. This is the kind of thing the mouth-foaming Trump haters point to as an example of the President’s “lying.” A statement that can’t possibly deceive anyone else, coming from someone who habitually makes such statements, is a falsehood, but whether it is a lie is questionable. Does Trump believe this tweet, at least when he wrote it? I suspect so. He communicates–indeed, he thinks— in cloudy generalizations and concept clouds. Is this tweet and its ilk spectacularly irresponsible and self-destructive to his ability to be respected and believed? Oh, definitely. Stupid and embarrassing too. But a lie? I’m not sure. “Trumpism” might be a better term.

Calling out NBC with “fake news” in front of a tweet with fake news is certainly audacious stupidity, however.

3. Now the Good Trump (maybe): Reportedly, spurred by the suggestion of Sylvester Stallone, the President is considering a pardon for Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion (1908-1915) who was hounded by the government and personally destroyed, mostly because of his proclivity to have relationships with white women. Johnson’s primary crime was being a successful, defiant, black man at the height of Jim Crow. The play (and movie) “The Great White Hope” tells his story, which is an American tragedy; Ken Burns also made a superb documentary about Johnson.

Johnson was convicted of violating the Mann Act, for transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes, in his case, miscegenation. Eventually he served time in a federal penitentiary. There have been calls to grant Johnson a posthumous pardon for at least a decade. A 2008 bill requesting President George W. Bush to pardon Johnson in 2008 passed the House, but failed to pass in the Senate. Senator McCain,  Representative Peter King, Burns and Johnson’s great-niece requested a presidential pardon for Johnson from President Obama in 2009, and again in  2016, in honor of the 70th anniversary of Johnson’s death in a car accident. A vote by the United States Commission on Civil Rights also called on Obama to “right this century-old wrong.” There was also a petition. Obama never acted, causing a firestorm of protest from the Congressional Black Caucus.

No, I’m kidding: it was hardly mentioned in the news media or by black activist groups. And Jack Johnson’s life, despite the fact that hardly anyone under the age of  50 could tell you anything about him, mattered. If President Trump finally does the right thing and clears Jack Johnson’s name, I wonder how progressives and the news media will attack him for it?

4. Wait, why wasn’t he texting, “I’m so terrified!”? James Shaw Jr., 29, rushed a shooter armed with an AR-15 (and not wearing pants) who had opened fire yesterday in a Waffle House in Antioch, Tennessee.  Four people had been shot dead and many other were injured before Shaw grabbed the gun’s barrel, pulled it away and threw it over the Waffle House counter. He suffered a gunshot wound and burns from grabbing the gun’s barrel.  Although his actions are credited with saving many lives,  Shaw Jr. denies that he’s hero. “I was just trying to get myself out. I saw the opportunity and pretty much took it,” he says.

Real heroes seldom regard themselves as heroes. The fact is that he took action, placed himself at risk in doing so, and had the right instincts, exactly the ones this culture is supposed to nurture but increasingly does not: take control of your own fate, and do what needs to be done.

Trust me on this, James (can I call you Jack?): You’re a hero.

 5. No-hitter ethics! And Red Sox-related too! Saturday night, the Boston Red Sox, presently the highest-scoring and hardest to beat team in baseball, were no-hit by Oakland A’s pitcher Sean Manaea, the first no-hitter of the young season. (To the non-baseball fans out there, you should know that a no-hitter is a very big deal. It gets your name on a list in the Hall of Fame, and is a rare and  special single-game achievement that has no equivalent in other sports. I suppose the closest would be a hole-in-one in golf.) But was it really a no-hitter? I saw the game, and there were no great plays or hard hit balls. However, there were two plays that might have been hits. Sox catcher Sandy Leon hit a pop-up between the infield and the outfield in left, and the A’s shortstop couldn’t catch it. It bounced off his glove. That play is often scored a hit: it’s not an easy out, but the A’s shortstop is a bit of a hack. That ball is caught most of the time. There is a (dumb) unwritten rule that in a no-hitter, the first hit should be a “clean one.” What this means in practice is that plays that would be hits in a normal game are scored as errors to keep a no-hitter alive. Sometimes, after the first “clean” hit, an earlier  error is even over-ruled and changed to a hit. I hate that rule. Then there was this play:

Sox hitter Andrew Benintendi was initially called safe, making it  the first hit and ruining the no-hitter in the 7th inning. Then the umpires huddled together and ruled that Benintendi was out for running out of the baseline.  Manaea went on to retire the next nine batters to earn his no-hitter and immortality.

Benintendi, who made a great rush for the bag on the play, challenged the umpires’ integrity, saying after the game:

“They said I was out of the baseline. I don’t know. I’ve never seen that call before. It’s kind of suspect in that situation. It just sucks. It’s a big-league hit. They don’t grow on trees…I think if we have 10 hits at that point, it’s a single. But I mean, the situation that the game was in, they might have been searching for something and they found it….Usually if you’re going to second base and you’re out of the baseline, the play is dead, but I touched the base, the guy called me safe and they huddle as a group and make the call…This is what the umpires told me. They said wherever you are when the guy gets the ball, you have three feet. We went and watched the replay and I was able to reach out and touch first base with my left hand. I don’t know if they hold rulers or something in measuring, but it is what it is.”

Some fans are calling him unsportsmanlike for complaining.

I  think it was a close call. The question is, was the fact that it would have broken up the no-hitter decisive? Subliminal? Confirmation bias?

An amusing note: the pitcher didn’t realize that he had a no-hitter going until someone told him in the eighth inning. He assumed that Leon’s ball had been scored a hit!


59 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/23/2018: An Overdue Pardon, A Questionable No-Hitter, A Stupid Tweet, A Modest Hero…

  1. (Jack via English is diminutive of John)

    (Jack via French is an anglicization of Jacques…which IS derivative of Jacob…James is ultimately derivative of Jacob as well…hence, in rare circumstances, Jack can be a diminutive of James)

    (but since these is the British mascots we’re talking about, the English rule applies)

  2. I don’t understand the fascination of many of the American public with the British royal family. We did, after all, start and win a revolution.

    • ”I don’t understand the fascination of many of the American public with the British royal family.”

      Recall the two biggest 1980’s T.V. hits were Dallas and Dynasty?

      ”Everyday Americans” seem especially captivated by the Rich-n-Famous, a group that does include the Royals despite their rather peculiar status as unemployed.

      • Part of the glamour is probably that these two Royals (Diana’s boys) are handsome, mostly good dudes, and they DO have jobs. They’ve both served in the armed forces like normal guys, and done well AND proven themselves in battles and have had semi-normalish interactions and lives in some ways. And they’re Diana’s, which gives them extra panache in the eyes of the world AND seemingly they live with real panache, kindness and vigor. I’m not a royal watcher, but they’re my age group(ish) and they’re doing ok in life with a not-so-involved dad and a missing mom. Some folks my age feel like they’re compatriots because we’re contemporaries.

        • Sound points, Becky. The “royals,” like any other extended family, are made up of individuals, in this case individuals who are connected dynastically with their “kingdom’s” government and who, even more than other celebrities, must live their entire lives under a microscope. Your assessment probably comes closer to reality than those that link them in a line of sausages.

      • Obsession with royals is really pathetic. Particularly among Americans. My theory is it’s mostly women who dreamed about marrying a prince when they grew up. I’ll bet even the lefty women commenters here are enamored of British Royalty. Remember the wailing upon Diana’s death? Sheesh. But Anglophilia has always been a thing among the U.S. upper classes and wanna-be upper classes. It’s always driven me crazy. The Megan Markle thing is even more pathetic.

            • What are you talking about this time?

              There are righties who are stupidly ga-ga over the royals also, and there are lefties who do have an aversion towards the royals.

              I’m agreeing with the original assertion insomuch as *general tendencies* based on *overarching worldviews* will generally show that lefties don’t have as much of a *naturally occurring* aversion to leftist style governments (hint: Britain has one of those governments).

                • Well congratulations, you’re marrying an outlier in her age/gender group, which I suspect you’ll agree with?

                  So your mother in law likes Trump? Hah. Have fun!

                  • I am sure there are lots of young women obsessed with the royal family, but I have no way of knowing if there are enough to make those who are not “outlier.”

                    But MW’s comment wasn’t about age or gender, it was about political affiliation. I don’t think there’s any evidence that leftists are more likely to obsess over the royal family than right-wingers, as MW’s comment implied.

            • I have to agree with you on this. It seems the fascination with the royals knows no particular political ideology..

                • You implied it in this comment:

                  I think leftists are naturally comfortable with a British-type system and would therefore not have a pre-set aversion towards things royal.

                  • I’m not going to play “here’s how you parse this sentence”.

                    Needless to say, you don’t understand how “naturally”, “comfortable”, “British-type”, “pre-set” all interact as part of the whole. This doesn’t permit an interpretation that allows you to draw a conclusion that I’m stating an absolute.

                    Have a good evening.

  3. On Jack Johnson:

    ” If President Trump finally does the right thing and clears Jack Johnson’s name, I wonder how progressives and the news media will attack him for it?”

    I thought about this same question yesterday. They will accuse him of a cynical political ploy to gain black voters or, at least, to prove he’s not racist.

    In other news, I recently picked up a graphic novel called “Rough Riders” that features Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, Annie Oakley, Harry Houdini and Jack Johnson as turn of the century heroes who band together to fight aliens. It’s kind of a “League of Extraordinary Gentleman” with real people. That’s where I learned who Jack Johnson was.

    • I thought about this same question yesterday. They will accuse him of a cynical political ploy to gain black voters or, at least, to prove he’s not racist.

      They will disregard the context, and accuse him of shamelessly pardoning a fellow adulterer, signalling blah, blah, blah, or worse, throw history to the dust bin, and accuse him of pardoning a human trafficker…. 😡

      • Yeah…kinda convoluted on my reply. Should be two different points. Benintendi was out. Point one done. Leon had a hit, but I can understand the error since it was catchable. I have a real issue with how “hits” are given over a ball that falls in since “no one touched it.” This cries out for a team error. This one was touched and the degree of difficulty was minimal.

        Back in the day, Don Drysdale was working on a record consecutive shutout innings streak. The record was there and bases were loaded but he hit the batter. Goodbye streak – or was it? Umpire ruled the batter made no effort to get out of the way and was called out. A very, very rare call. Drysdale eventually got his tainted record only to have Hershiser break it.

  4. On the North Korea thing, Charles Hurt of the Washington Times brings up an intriguing “future news” item, but at least he’s obviously much more than a little tongue in cheek. He asks what the Nobel Prize people will do if Trump negotiates an honest to goodness peace/de-nuclearization deal with North Korea. Pretty funny.

  5. Michael West: “I think leftists are naturally comfortable with a British-type system and would therefore not have a pre-set aversion towards things royal.” You’re kidding me right? Communists love Monarchies? Really?

    Part of the reason many Americans have an interest in English nobility is that so much English nobility has US connections. In the mid to late Eighteen Hundreds there was ‘Cash for Titles” where many US heiresses married into the Peerage across the ditch, picking up titles and providing large dowries that bailed out families in need of some ready cash.

    Winston Churchill’s mother was one such.

    I note that you get tetchy about people outside the US criticizing your homeland and it’s many foibles Jack, people elsewhere feel the same about ‘bloody Yanks’ doing the same to them! Why is the Monarchy more anachronistic than a Two Hundred and Fifty year old constitution, some might ask?

    The US also has a strong anti-monarchy component, partially because of all the Irish immigrants you picked up back in the day. Over here in Oz the Catholic schools actively indoctrinate Republicanism in their students.
    Something to do with not being able to get over Henry VIII I suspect.

    Personally, I am interested to hear of a new member in the Royal Family, but one sentence in the news bulletin would cover it!

    • Come on, Paul. The fawning is pathetic. Who was it that were just in Oz? Charles and Camilla? I don’t recall the non-stop newspaper and TV coverage being limited to just one line.

      The Magna Cart’s older than the U.S. Constitution but I don’t think anyone’s ever called it anachronistic.

      I see virulent Anti-Papism is alive and well in Oz.

        • As does Australia? And doesn’t the Australian constitution date to 1901?

          You really want to compare the U.S. Constitution to the British monarchy? That’s bizarre.

          • OB, OB, OB.
            Did you miss where I said: “but ONE SENTENCE in the news bulletin WOULD COVER IT!” (just accenting, not shouting)

            Jack referred to ‘an increasingly anachronistic monarchy’, and I referred to the fact that many in your own country seem to consider the US Constitution as an ‘an increasingly anachronistic’ document. All other analogies and arguments you see me making are of your own invention cobber.

            As to the ‘virulent Ant-Papism’, we are talking about national pro/anti monarchy sentiment aren’t we? As it happens I’m involved with several interdenominational groups and, despite being a strongly Protestant Elder in a Protestant denomination, work closely with many RC’s, I even count some as close personal friends believe it or not!

            Perhaps I should just delete all the above and say: “Settle petal, you’re taking this all far to seriously!”

  6. 5. The no-hitter is legit. That pop-up resulted in an error, not worthy of being called a hit. A team of hitters like Boston’s is insulted whenever a scorekeeper credits a pop-up like that to one of its players as yet another safe hit. That out-of-the-baseline running should be an automatic out, too.

    Now…that pop-up that Bregman of the Astros hit a couple of weeks ago – scoring Fisher from second because Gold Glove 1B Hosmer over-ran the spot where the pop-up came back to earth, mere feet from home – WAS a SAFE HIT, because no fielder had his glove anywhere near the ball.

  7. No, I’m kidding: it was hardly mentioned in the news media or by black activist groups. And Jack Johnson’s life, despite the fact that hardly anyone under the age of 50 could tell you anything about him, mattered. If President Trump finally does the right thing and clears Jack Johnson’s name, I wonder how progressives and the news media will attack him for it?

    Very simple. Pardons constitute findings of guilt. See Burdick v. United States, 236 U.S. 79, 94 (1915)

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