Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/23/2018: Look! A Trump And Biased News Media-Free Warm-Up!

Good morning.

The three days of heavy rain wouldn’t bother me so much if it didn’t make Rugby so miserable. You do NOT want to be cooped up with an unhappy Jack Russell Terrier. Trust me on this.

1. Baseball Ethics, Jerk Division. Watch this:

Yes, that guy deliberately took a baseball away from a kid who lost hold of it after it had been tossed to him by Cubs first base coach Will Venable during yesterday’s Cubs-Cardinals game. Apparently the child was given a replacement ball by the Cubs, and this one was autographed. The gesture also took some the inevitable heat off the jerk who snatched the ball. with the Cubs telling reporters that he had helped the same boy get a ball earlier in the game and wasn’t really a monster.

A few points:

  • That the kid ended up, as some commentators put it, “better off” because the jerk stole his ball is pure moral luck, and doesn’t make what the guy did any less wrong, cruel or despicable.
  • Neither is it mitigation that the same man—claims the Cubs—helped the kid get another ball earlier. What kind of ethical principle is that? “I helped you before, so this entitles me to steal from you now: all even, right?”
  • Please save some contempt for the woman the jerk gave the purloined ball to. She should have handed the ball right back to the child, She’s as big a jerk as her friend is.

2. Now consider this: what if the jerk was a federal judge nominated to fill a Supreme Court seat? Would that video be fair game to consider in evaluating his qualifications to be a SCOTUS justice? Let’s have a poll:

3. Ethics Alarms should be ringing: From a fascinating web site called “Now You Know” comes this story: Domino’s Pizza was losing money once its guaranteed fast delivery promotion fell victim to bad PR and law suits over car accidents caused by recklessly driving delivery staff. What saved the franchise was a move to extra-cheese, and taxpayers footed much of the bill:

Domino’s company-saving move toward extra cheesy was funded by an organization named Dairy Management….Dairy Management is part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and among other things, the USDA is charged with helping keep dairy farmers financially afloat. An easy-ish way to do that it is to increase the number of dairy products that people buy. To accomplish this, dairy farmers pay the USDA a very small amount of money (about 15 cents per 100 pounds of milk) which the USDA, via Dairy Management, uses to promote products that use a lot of dairy. (Dairy Management’s budget is supplemented by tax dollars, too.) The USDA heralds this program as a successful one; per the Washington Post, “for every $1 that the agency spends on increasing cheese demand, it estimates that farmers get $4.43 in additional revenue.”

And few campaigns have been more successful than Domino’s extra cheesy turnaround. The pizza chain was flailing until Dairy Management stepped in, offering to develop new products with the company — products which needed more dairy products, and, therefore, would be eligible for government marketing dollars. Together, per the New York Times, the pair came up with “a new line of pizzas with 40 percent more cheese” which, boosted by that $12 million marketing campaign, resulted in “sales [which] soared by double digits.” More pizza meant more cheese, which meant more money flowing to farmers.

But don’t think that the USDA is playing favorites here. When it comes to cheesifying (to coin a word) menus, Domino’s isn’t alone. Dairy Management has worked with and funded new offerings across the fast food spectrum, from Taco Bell and Pizza Hut to Wendy’s and Burger King. And across the board, Dairy Management has claimed success in their efforts. When it comes to promoting cheese, the government is there, helping behind the scenes…

And why should the government be directly assisting some industries and not others? Domino’s primary competition, other than rival chains, consists of small, local pizza joints, which now must compete with the government too. [Pointer: Amy Alkon]

4. Thank you, Shinobu Hashimoto! Shinobu Hashimoto died last week at the age of 100. The world owes him eternal gratitude for his creation of the screenplays for many of Akira Kurosawa‘s greatest films, including “Seven Samurai” (without which we would not have “The Magnificent Seven,” or for that matter, “A Bug’s Life,” and maybe Steve McQueen…) and “The Hidden Fortress,” which begat “Star Wars,” for better or ill. To those concerned with ethics, however, the Japanese writer’s greatest contribution to thought and culture was “Rashomon.”

Many philosophers had mused about the deceptively difficult nature of determining objective truth, but it was Shinobu Hashimoto who made the issue accessible, as only artists can, by exploring it in his screenplay for 1950’s “Rashomon.”  The film recounts the story of the murder of a samurai and the rape of his wife from four  different perspectives in medieval Japan: that of a bandit, the rape victim, the spirit of the dead samurai, and a passing woodcutter.

The lesson of the film is often perverted into the claim that there is no objective truth, leading to the ethics-corroding New Age attitude that “I have my truth, and you have yours.” To the contrary, “Rashomon” shows how the difficulty of answering the basic question that is the starting point for much ethical analysis, “What’s going on here?”, is often underestimated, and why learning how to see events from the perspectives of others affected by them is crucial to making ethical decisions. Indeed, the Golden Rule invites us to consider “Rashomon.”

Ann Althouse wrote a fascinating law review article on the relevance of “Roshomon” to the law back in 2000. I recommend it highly.

5. [Redacted] Here I was going to note another outrageously biased and misleading New York Times headline that takes issue with a Trump position rather than just reporting it, which is what news is supposed to do as opposed to opinion commentary. But I’m trying to get through a whole Warm-Up without chronicling the unethical outrages of “the resistance,” so I removed it.

39 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/23/2018: Look! A Trump And Biased News Media-Free Warm-Up!

  1. 2. In your poll, I chose “Yes. It’s an indication of bad character and untrustworthiness.” but as an employer in a “normal” job that situation would probably influence a decision to NOT hire more readily than one to take adverse action against an existing employee. I guess I spent too much time and energy responding to unjustified “wrongful termination” suits, so I learned to pick my battles carefully.

  2. Point 1
    I appreciate you adding contempt for the woman as well. When I saw the video her behavior was equally objectionable and demonstrate woman can be just as unethical and oafish as their male counterparts.
    As for the poll. Firing a person for objectionable private behavior in which there are no clear connections to the employer would be wrong. However, that is not to say that the employer could factor the act into any promotion consideration. That choice did not exist in the poll. I would consider it a disqualifier for a judicial appointment because it clearly shows self interest is more important than a sense of fairness to him. It also shows he cannot interpret intent. The video shows the ball tossed to the kid.

  3. #5 Jack you just went through the typical govt redaction process before something is released via FOIA. The censors did a bad job though. The title should have been: [REDACTED], 7/23/2018: [REDACTED] Trump [REDACTED].

  4. 1: One thing I forgot to mention about Cubs fans. A whole lot of us are assholes and more than a few are kind of racist with the perception from earlier years still lingering that the north-side Cubs are the white-people team.

    But what can I do? I was raised on the cubs. My dad took me to Cubs games*. Both my grandpas loved the cubbies. They’re my team.

    *Funny story. There was a promo in Chicago schools at the time where straight A’s and/or perfect attendance would get you free tickets to some White-Sox games. The American League is still baseball–sort of–so I got the tickets and we went to those games together too.

    4: The Seven Samurai has a prominent place in my heart but Rashomon is special. Everyone should see it, seriously.

  5. “Neither is it mitigation that the same man—claims the Cubs—helped the kid get another ball earlier. What kind of ethical principle is that? “I helped you before, so this entitles me to steal from you now: all even, right?””

    The “It’s owned to me” rationalization?

  6. Ugh. There’s a typo in the %$^&&$ poll, and it is unbelievably time-consuming to fix it. And I checked over and over. With everyone’s leave, I may just let “indictaion” stand. And see if it catches on…

  7. As a Cubs fan, I saw that and was embarrassed. They should have gave the ball to the kid. Like anywhere, there are good fans and crap fans. All teams have them.

    There was a time I would have killed for a ball, then something changed. Getting older, I now look around me and consciously pick a kid to gave the ball too and I have. For some reason the foul balls and Hrs find me and I seem to be the only one capable of catching them. There is very little opportunity these days to show the world what the right thing to do is, so when given the opportunity people respond. After giving up a hr ball hit from Jermaine Dye at a Rays game. Most of the adults in the area commented or thanked me for giving the ball to a kid. The kid, with a oversized Rays baseball cap, wearing a glove gave a look that I will never forget. Like he met Santa Clause and I gave him the first gift of Christmas. I have no doubt he still has that ball in his room.

    • I think I’ve told this story here before, but the only ball I ever caught was in the Washington Senators batting practice session before a game at Fenway, and it had written on it, “Let me see your DICK Guess who! Haha”

      • Similarly “lucky” here: haven’t obtained a souvenir baseball since an obscure MLB player hit a foul in batting practice – in the 1960s. That is MY one and only souvenir-from-the-field-of-play baseball, so far in this life…

        I wasn’t even lucky enough to have an invitation to expose myself written on the ball!

  8. I was at that Cubs game yesterday and the ball incident went unnoticed when it happened and therefore no crowd reaction (We were on the third base side and didn’t see it at all). The video doesn’t show anyone seated in the area reacting either. I believe that had it been noticed, the crowd would have shamed the guy into giving the ball to the kid it was intended for. Everyone who saw what happened gets a share of contempt for not advocating for the kid. Sounds like a scenario John Quiñones could work with.

  9. The gesture also took some the inevitable heat off the jerk who snatched the ball. with the Cubs telling reporters that he had helped the same boy get a ball earlier in the game and wasn’t really a monster.

    I think this is exactly the Cub’s point, that they do not want this to turn into an outsized internet hate storm. It appears to be a lapse of judgement, barely noticing the boy rather than deliberately stealing from him.

    • How is this different from what I wrote, and how does the fact that he gave the kid a ball earlier justify his snatching the one that was given to the kid??? The Deadspin story adds nothing except warped ethics, which is Deadpsin’s specialty.

      • It’s quite different. The guy was apparently collecting balls and giving them to the kids around him. He’d already given one to this kid, and when he got a chance to give another ball to a kid who didn’t have one, he took the ball that was rolling around, had his wife photograph it, and handed it to the child without. If nothing else, it changes the ethical calculation from one of pure self-interest to something more complicated.

        • The point is, it doesn’t. If he had been giving money to kids, including that one, and then his father fave the kid 10 bucks and he snatched it and gave it to his wife, would you make the same argument?

          Also, you make it sound like balls were falling all around this guy. The evidence doesn’t show that, and that never happens. OK, he gave the kid a ball. Who says he had other balls to give away? That’s not in the Deadspin story.

          The ball flipped to that kid, belonged to the kid. End of case. Guilty as charged. He stole the kid’s ball.

          • Even if there were a storm of balls falling all around, all balls are not equal. There was one ball intended for that kid and an adult took it. Unless somehow he missed the fact that the ball was tossed directly to the kid and muffed, genuinely believed the ball was just ‘rolling around’ and was not corrected by fans around them, all of which is possible, but not likely, he knowingly swiped a ball that was not his. Efforts to make him out to be a good guy are all spin.

          • Sorry. I side with the people who were there, none of whom seem particularly upset at what happened, and apparently for good reason. And with that, I will leave this deceased equine alone.

      • I dunno…

        “I spoke to the boy’s mother today and can confirm the man did not steal the ball from the boy based on information we received from his mother,” Cubs spokesman Julian Green said in a statement. “Unfortunately, a video that was quickly posted and unverified has made a national villain out of an innocent man who was attending his first Cubs game to celebrate his wedding anniversary.

        “In fact, the man gave several balls to children in the same section and his wife as an anniversary present. We hope this first experience won’t ruin his trip to Chicago and Wrigley Field and we invite him to come back soon.”

        “What they didn’t see is that our son already had a foul ball and what they didn’t know is that our son had already decided that if he got another ball that he would toss it to the little boy behind him,” one of the boy’s parents, reluctant to identify the family more specifically than the surname Taylor, said through the ballclub.

        “It fell down under the seat, was down between my legs,” Mycoff said. “The guy picked it up and the 12 seconds of video looks like he just callously gave it to his wife and ignored the kid. What it doesn’t show is the (grandmother) had already said is: ‘He’s already got a ball. If we get any more, we’ll give them to somebody else.’ And the guy turned and handed it to his wife, who then in turn handed to a kid next to her that she didn’t know. They didn’t keep it.”

        • The story makes no sense, and reeks of a cover-up. How many balls were coming at this cluster of six or seven people? Have you ever been to a baseball game? That’s science fiction.

    • Second try to post…

      I’ll bite, Steve-O. I will probably seem to Jack like the professor who said “Come on!” to him. Nobody – and that includes the cutest little kid – has any established right to possession of any loose ball that is tossed or hit into the stands.

      There are exceptions. For example, a player might say, in a voice audible up to where his intended target sits or stands, “I want that little boy in the Rangers cap to have this,” while looking at the boy and tossing the ball. But, absent that clarity of intent, a player’s mere smile, and look, and apparent acknowledgement of a plea (by parents, whoever) preceding the player’s toss, are not enough.

      Another obvious exception: when a player deliberately reaches out of the field of play, ball in hand, and literally attempts to place a ball in a spectator’s glove. If the transfer is somehow fumbled, and some nimble, opportunistic (and greedy) bystander reaches to grab the loose ball, THEN it’s fair to say that bystander is stealing.

      Those moments of wrestling in the stands over a loose baseball, which happen frequently, are Momentary Golden Rule Exclusion Zones. I said “Momentary.” It’s basically the same as a fumble in American football. The “rule” in those moments becomes: Whoever first controls possession, keeps possession. As soon as one person has unmistakable control of the ball, it is unethical (and true, strong-armed theft) for a bystander to initiate (or re-initiate) wrestling with the person initially in control to change the controller of the ball.

      After seeing the video, on one hand, it was a kind gesture, when what looked like a stadium worker provided a ball to the little boy, after his initial disappointment. On the other hand, I can’t help but wonder if that kindness might have an adverse conditioning effect on the kid, a la “If I cry, I might get my way.”

  10. Number 1. What’s going on here? It’s Chicago. The guy’s a Cubs fan. From Chicago. In other words, an overgrown baby.

    This kind of stuff makes me long for the time when only hit foul balls made it into the stands. Everybody expects a free ball if they sit near the field. Grow up everyone. Bring a glove and wait for the long odds to run in your favor and then catch a foul ball. Why don’t these teams save money on balls and lower ticket prices or hire better players. Fans, if you want a baseball, go to your local sporting goods store and buy one. Or a case.

  11. #3. So Dept of Ag pushes more cheese on pizza (and other things) while just down the block the folks at Health & Human Services are trying to get people to eat better and trim down so that they may lead healthier lives. Interesting. These people obviously don’t talk to each other much.

    Next question– Is the department of Transportation some how involved with the Dominoes’ “Paving for Pizza” program?

  12. 5. – So, if an unethical story drops on NYT and it isn’t reported in Ethics Alarms, is it still ethical?

    (I say yes).

  13. John Schnatter made the Mistake of ever saying sorry to these people. You gotta stand your ground and tell the prog nannies to bugger off. Then go about your business.

  14. On the topic of foul balls, I was hoping to see the Twins lead the Red Sox in the top of the first (their best chance for a lead), when Robbie Grossman hit a foul ball up the first base line. The ball “girl” passed it into the stands in Fenway.

    Observations: 1) either Red Sox fans are much more sympathetic to getting foul balls to younger fans; or 2) nobody but the Red Sox catcher had any interest in touching a foul ball from Robbie Grossman.

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