Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/31/18: The Self-Deception Edition

Goodbye, July, 2018!

(and don’t come back!)

1. Ethics translation time! Baseball’s current World Champion Houston  Astros just traded for young, exciting closer Roberto Osuna from the Toronto Blue Jays. This raised some eyebrows, because the 23-year-old Osuna is just completing a 75-game suspension from MLB for allegedly beating his wife. The Blue Jays had decided that they wanted no part of Osuna, and that he would not be a member of their team going forward, despite the fact that he is regarded as one of the best late-inning relievers in the game.

Anticipating some criticism from Houston fans and baseball fans in general, who usually don’t like cheering for disgusting people,Astros GM Jeff Luhnow released a statement  following the trade, saying,

 “We are excited to welcome Roberto Osuna to our team. The due diligence by our front office was unprecedented. We are confident that Osuna is remorseful, has willfully complied with all consequences related to his past behavior, has proactively engaged in counseling, and will fully comply with our zero tolerance policy related to abuse of any kind. Roberto has some great examples of character in our existing clubhouse that we believe will help him as he and his family establish a fresh start and as he continues with the Houston Astros. We look forward to Osuna’s contributions as we head into the back half of the season.”


“Our team has had bullpen problems all season, and as of now we have no closer, even as the team has lost three games in a row [now it’s four], two of our best players are injured, and we’re beginning a series against the Mariners, who are just a few games behind us. So in the interest of winning and because the ends justify the means, we are suspending our “zero-tolerance” policy regarding “abuse of any kind” to tolerate a player who Major League Baseball has determined to be a very serious abuser. I don’t know how we’re going to tell another player who is credibly accused of less serious abuse that we won’t tolerate his presence on the team when we just voluntarily brought an abuser onto the team, but never mind: there’s a pennant to win. I’m pretending that Roberto has complied with all consequences related to his past behavior when he is currently pleading not guilty in his pending Canadian trial on battery charges, in the hope that most fans aren’t paying attention.”

“Thank you.”

2. Book Review ethics. The New York Review of Books chose, for its review of Mickito Kakatuni’s book-length anti-Donald Trump screed “The Death of Truth,” MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, who has contributed mightily, along with his colleagues at the network, to the current impossibility of gleaning truth from spin, fiction and fake news, For example, Hayes reported the President Trump was “literally” taking hostages when his administration followed current law and separated children from their parents when the latter were detained for illegally entering the country. I guess, since reviewers are supposed to have some special expertise regarding the topic of a book, it makes sense to have the likes of Hayes review a book called “The Death of Truth,” but it represents a very cynical and irresponsible approach to book reviewing. Once upon a time, the publication would choose a critic who presented at least a chance that the resulting review would be objective. In this case, it’s calculation seems to be that the potential audience for such a book is only those who already are foaming at the mouth with anti-Trump hatred, so a fellow hater should be employed to gauge whether the book is likely to satisfy them. Here is Hayes in his review:

The president is a liar. He lies about matters of the utmost consequence (nuclear diplomacy) and about the most trivial (his golf game). He lies about things you can see with your own eyes. He lies about things he said just moments ago. He lies the way a woodpecker attacks a tree: compulsively, insistently, instinctively. He lies until your temples throb. He lies until you want to submerge your head in a bucket of ice and pray for release….He is describable, almost fully, in a few short words: a misogynist, a bigot, a narcissist, a con man and a demagogue. And his behavior, like the woodpecker, feels instinctual and feral: a deeply broken man who hammers away moment to moment trying to repair his own brokenness, and leaving nothing but a hole.

Now there’s an objective position from which to begin a book review of a publication critical of Donald Trump.

3. Tit for Tat. So far, only three Democratic Senators have agreed to meet with Brett Kavanaugh, the otherwise completely normal conservative jurist nominated to fill the soon-to-be vacant seat of Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, except that he is being cast as Satan by the Left in order to warp public opinion. The rest have refused, despite the fact that such pre-hearing meetings are a traditional courtesy and have been part of the Supreme Court confirmation process for nearly a century. The official excuse is that the Senators have to review a gazillion pages of Kavanaugh’s past opinions and writings first, but that’s a transparent lie: he is far from the first nominated judge with voluminous documentation of his views and theories.

This is payback for the unethical Merrick Garland strategem by the GOP, pure Sicilian Ethics and tit-for-tat, an attempt to break the system rather than try to repair it.

4. Meanwhile...Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, sick and far too old at 85 to responsibly handle the demanding requirements of her own job as a Supreme Court Justice, hopefully announced that she planned on staying on the Court for “at least five more years,” when she will be 90. (Her math is bit off: she clearly  meant six, to quell panic that she would leave SCOTUS before Donald Trump could possibly appoint her successor.)

As with Senator McCain, as with Senators Feinstein and Leahy, the late Strom Thurmond and many judges and elected officials, past and present, Ginsburg remaining in a demanding job with tremendous influence on the nation and the law is indefensible: irresponsible, incompetent, unethical. She already nods off during oral arguments, and while she may be sharper still than many younger judges, she is not as capable as she once was. The only question is how far her skills have diminished. A mandatory retirement age for judges and elected officials should be in place to prevent such public debacles as Senator Thurmond drooling and babbling during Senate hearings as he approached his hundredth year.

A few years ago, “Law and Order” had an episode in which Ned Beatty played an aging judge who was controlled entirely by his law clerk, who secretly send him directions during trial via computer, because the judge could no longer function. Beatty was very sympathetic in the role, at one point explaining to a lawyer who suggested that he retire why he kept working, saying in essence, “My wife is dead; my son is an alcoholic; I have no hobbies. This is what I do. What would I do, if I stopped being a judge?”

Knowing when to quit is one of the most difficult ethical duties of a professional. The criteria has to be “Can I still do the job?” and not “Who will take my place?”

39 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/31/18: The Self-Deception Edition

  1. #1 When the opportunity cost of repeating a very lucrative World Series return is measured only in potential public relations losses, the greedy will almost always unethically cut corners and favor money over people.
    #2 Let’s, for the moment, accept Mr. Hayes’ broad and angry indictment of President Trump. It does cause one to ask who is reviewing your endless lies Mr. Hayes? Your misleading of the American and world public on behalf of an ideology bent on doing much worse than you have accused Mr. Trump.
    #3 The Republicans need to claim the high ground and vow to never delay a SCOTUS candidate again. This has to stop. Now.
    #4 Is Justice Ginsburg incapable of performing her duties? I have no idea. Certainly her age makes the significant work more challenging to her health. Despite my general dislike for her opinions, I’m not sure this is the time in American history to apply competency standards to life appointments. It would look like pure partisanship.

  2. Like too many lawyers, Ginsberg will probably be perfectly content to die in the saddle. What would most lawyers do if they didn’t go down to the office and bill a bunch of hours? Beats them.

    • I’ve also heard she was one of those sociopathic law profs who took great pleasure in humiliating students. Which some people (particularly those who’ve never gone to law school) seem to think is an admirable trait in a law prof or judge.

  3. 4. Meanwhile…Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, sick and far too old at 85 to responsibly handle the demanding requirements of her own job as a Supreme Court Justice, hopefully announced that she planned on staying on the Court for “at least five more years,” when she will be 90. (Her math is bit off: she clearly  meant six, to quell panic that she would leave SCOTUS before Donald Trump could possibly appoint her successor.)

    She only has to wait until Trump’s 7 year in office – after that, it would be irresponsible for Trump to fill the seat that should be saved for the next incoming president….


  4. Jack, any thoughts on this?

    Staff members at Shiloh admitted to signing off on medications in lieu of a parent, relative or legal guardian, according to Gee’s ruling. Government officials defended this practice, saying they provided these drugs only on “an emergency basis” when a child’s “extreme psychiatric symptoms” became dangerous.

    The judge didn’t buy this explanation, pointing to testimony from children who said they were given pills “every morning and every night.” Officials “could not have possibly” administered medications to children on an emergency basis every day, Gee wrote.

  5. As a Torontonian and Blue Jays fan, I am acutely aware of Osuna’s skill and also the team’s efforts at public relations. My wire and I were convinced the team would not let him back and we were right though that does not make us special.

    Yet, I still don’t know what the correct answer is in this situation. MLB decided that a very lengthy suspension was in order. Does each team then get (or need) to apply its own additional sanctions? I am not saying that Osuna must be given another chance because he could just be paid out but is what he did a “one and done” act that forever disqualifies him from throwing a baseball in the majors?

    When do you acknowledge the past and begin work in the present for a better future?

    I don’t know the extent of his alleged assault. Our media does not discuss details about allegations like this for a variety of reasons (I won’t pretend to defend those). But I don’t read the Astros press statement in the same way. I don’t think his presence alone means the Astros cant maintain that they won’t tolerate abusers. It’s not their job to punish Osuna now, it’s their job to let MLB punish any other future abuser and take whatever appropriate action is necessary for the team given the facts at the time. It may mean parting ways with that player in a trade, etc.

    It seems to me that you may be advocating for a character clause in contracts that allows the league and teams to fully kick out players for certain activity. I don’t think they have such terms and I doubt they would get them from the MLBPA.

    • As an Astros fan, I cannot pretend to be objective, but I really didn’t think of it this way until you brought it up. I’m not sure how I feel about it, but it does raise two questions.

      Is this different from the Aroldus Chapman situation and trade from a year or two ago?

      We are (correctly, I think) railing against MLB and MLB clubs for persecuting players regarding youthful tweets. In those cases we feel it’s wrong for MLB to give in to political correctness, etc.

      This case, the Chapman case, the Rice case from the NFL a few years ago: They all — as far as I am aware — involve a first time offense of domestic violence (if my facts are wrong, please forgive me). That is one aspect. Another aspect is that we in America, as a society, believe in second chances if someone acknowledges their crime / sin / mistake and promises to atone and do better. Are these offenses signature significance, in that there can be no second chances, there can be no forgiveness?

      Mind, I am assuming there is no second offense — that would in and of itself destroy the second chance narrative.

      • Diego, I too, am a ‘Stro’s fan, but I seriously question the wisdom of this move. However, only time will tell.

  6. 2. If Hayes had stopped after:

    “He lies about matters of the utmost consequence (nuclear diplomacy) and about the most trivial (his golf game). He lies about things you can see with your own eyes. He lies about things he said just moments ago. He lies the way a woodpecker attacks a tree: compulsively, insistently, instinctively.”

    I don’t think anyone could find fault in that, he’s right, and it’s a problem. Trump lies like he breathes, if there’s a silver lining to that, it’s that unlike another presidential candidate that lied like she breathed, Trump is at least bad enough that he really isn’t fooling anyone, but at the end of the day, I think we’d all prefer a more honest candidate.

    Or maybe we wouldn’t, depending on the choice.

    If you had to make the choice, would you rather have a candidate with outstanding moral character, or someone who actually managed to get things done?

    A couple years ago, I was waxing poetic about how I would prefer a competent civil service. There was a time, long ago, when politicians were commonly barely functioning alcoholics. Examples abound of misogynists, racists, and bigots of every type imaginable. Mix in a healthy dose of sexual “deviants” and adulterers, and you’d have the start of an idea of what parliament looked like…. Except back then, it wasn’t important so much what someone did in their private time, what mattered was whether they did a good job or not, and while not all of them did, I’d argue that the government was still functioning more… healthily… than it is currently.

    It would obviously be superior to have a candidate that is both morally sound and competent…. But if forced to make that choice, especially now, when the damage that I feared that Trump’s presidency would do to public discourse and the Republican brand is basically done, I personally would pull the lever for competence Every. Single. Time. And whether by some 4D underwater chess, some Magooian luck, or something on the spectrum between, Trump has actually managed his chaotic shitstorm of an administration on to some of the best outcomes I’ve seen from an American president in multiple administrations. Unless the Democrats run someone amazing… And honestly, I don’t even know who in their lineup that might be, I’d pull the lever for Trump in 2020 and feel good while doing it.

    • HT, I don’t really think Trump lies. He speaks in word clouds. Plus he flatters people to get them to the negotiating table. He’s a shameless flatterer, but he’s not a liar. But he flatters for a reason. You don’t get people to the negotiating table by insulting them. Trump only insults his implacable enemies, of whom there are a great many. People seem to be intentionally dumb about what he’s doing most of the time.

      • Trump once expressed five materially different positions on the minimum wage (It should stay the same, It should be higher, it should be lower, it should be $10, and the states should decide) in less than two minutes during an interview. Was he lying? Not necessarily… He might have just been talking out his ass, so perhaps “lie” is too strong a term, but all five positions could not possibly have been Trump’s actual position on the minimum wage, and it was an example the kind of thing that people might want to know before throwing their support behind him.

        I don’t think anyone can argue in good faith that words that are not true don’t routinely fly through his lips, and nobody should take a thing he says at face value. For people like you and me, who are probably generally happy with the policies coming out of the administration, that means we can be annoyed by the words, but constantly pleasantly surprised by the outcomes. To a progressive, I can at least understand how Trump’s use of language would be uniquely infuriating.

        • Agreed. However, the fury over his words is not helping progressives. Why aren’t they effectively countering Trump’s policies instead of railing against his verbal irregularities? Maybe his policies are really popular with a lot of the electorate? Maybe they don’t have the power to counter his policies? Maybe calling him a liar is easy and makes them feel good? Frankly, I think it may be a bit of very effective misdirection on his part. Trump’s blather may provide a very effective smoke screen to allow his convoy of policy objectives to scoot right past the progressive destroyers and U Boats?

          • “Why aren’t they effectively countering Trump’s policies”

            Because they don’t know how. I’ve always thought that in order to be a progressive you have to have gone through an extended period of political arrested development. All the progressive policy prescriptions SOUND good, but they wither under a little bit of questioning. Sure Medicare for all sounds good, but how is it paid for? Sure a $15 minimum wage sounds good, but what happens to local businesses once you institute it? Every progressive policy is a concept that sounds good while remaining a concept or two short of being a complete thought. What they rely on is the weaponised ignorance of people who like the idea of their policies, but don’t think too much about it.

            And in the short term, it worked wonders! For a couple of election cycles, all you had to do was call someone a chain of slurs ending in -ist or -phobe and the electorate believed them, and because people actually cared about -ists and -phobes, milquetoast candidates like Romney and McCain were smeared as evil and voters abandoned them. Democrats got lazy. There’s no two ways about it. Their model for success was to run vapid candidates that checked enough discrimination boxes and to call their opponents names until the electorate abandoned them.

            Because of this particular brand of lazy politics, the new crop of Democrats are entirely stupid. Occasio Cortez will be the rule, not the exception, for a couple of years.. .Because politicians learn lessons like this slowly. Democrats will need to develop reality-conforming policies again, because in the short term, their bumper sticker style of policy prescription will wither under the weight of their own ignorance. I don’t believe a blue wave is coming in 2018, because Democrats are too stupid to win.

          • He contradicted himself, but I think it’s clear he’s thought about the minimum wage and realizes it has an impact on all sorts of things and he sure as heck knows it’s more expensive to live on Manhattan than in Bumfuck, Arkansas. No blather about taking care of families. He even said people need to work and get into better paying jobs. His over all word cloud had a lot of stuff in it that was really attractive and common sensical, non? I think that’s why lots of people prefer him, goofy rhetoric and all. This is a very enlightening video. Now, if someone wants to nitpick and say he lied and contradicted himself, go right ahead, but that would be like shooting yourself in the foot.

            • I think that’s… incredibly generous. If you want to try to pick trends out of nebulas like that, On a long enough scale, I think you’ll be more happy than not.

              But not because you’re right…

              Personally, I think that Trump doesn’t have much expertise in anything other than bullshittery, and the first time he’s asked a question on a topic is probably the first time he’s thought of it, so he bullshits, he gives the room what he thinks it wants, or a mishmash of bumper stickers, or every possible answer there is, and then while the progressives are busy vibrating themselves through their rolley chairs, he gets a couple of people who know more about the topic than he does to brief him, and he comes out with his real position. By some saving grace, he’s actually picked good advisers and that means he’s rolled out some of the best, conservative administrative achievements of my lifetime.

              • You may be right, HT. I’m just not so sure he’s as much of an idiot as you appear to think he is. I think he may have a goodly amount of feral intelligence. Corner him at your peril.

                  • He’s everyman. He thinks out loud. He doesn’t spout talking points that have been focus group tested. Praise Allah. But I think voters think he has good instincts and they may very well be right. Did everything HRC said that was so concise and lucid (hah) get her elected? No.

                  • That is a very interesting article and, I think, reflects what a number of people are realizing about Trump. He is not the president we’ve been used to, either GOP or Democrat. He’s not the president I would have preferred — although he is ever so much better than Clinton would have been imho.

                    But if you can step back and look and what he’s actually done and accomplished, rather than obsessing over conventional mores and boorish behavior — he has accomplished a lot, it seems to me, both at home and abroad. If I knew then what I know now, well, it’s likely I would’ve voted for him (at least against Clinton). It’s likely I will in 2020 unless there is a tidal wave that overtakes the Democrats.

                    For sure he is a president like no other, or at least no other since the 19th century.

                    • I’d stick with “no other.”

                      Other Presidents who were like “no other”: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, A. Johnson, Arthur, TR, Wilson, Truman, Kennedy, Ford, Carter, and Obama.

                    • I suspect, however, that unlike most of these, Trump will remain “like no other”…though he is more like Jackson and Truman than they were like any of their predecessors.

                    • Can’t argue, except that it would have really been difficult for Washington to be anything but ‘like no other’, unless we’re comparing him to King George…..

                      Would you think he is most like Jackson in his effects on his contemporaries?

  7. #4: Maybe someone can just tell Rip Van Ginsberg it’s been five years when she wakes up from one of her naps, and she’ll resign then.

  8. On point one. At what point, if ever, is a person with capabilities sufficient to earn a substantially high income, allowed to work in that chosen field? Do we want to set a precedent that any zero tolerance infraction will relegate that person to some menial job that pays minimum wage? Where is the cutoff on income a person can make such that it effectively eliminates that person from many occupations? If he went through his employer mandated penalties without incident how does another team’s zero tolerance policy mean that he is no longer eligible to play ball without violating some ethical principal. If we apply the golden rule then it makes sense to give a second chance. If we banish permanently everyone that violates a zero tolerance policy then no one will work because anyone can create a zero tolerance policy. More importantly, is this zero tolerance policy imposed on those that inflict harm on a member of the same sex but not a domestic partner? What if the star hitter intentionally spikes the second or third baseman during a slide? That too is a act of violence as well as premeditated.

  9. Knowing when to quit is one of the most difficult ethical duties of a professional. The criteria has to be “Can I still do the job?” and not “Who will take my place?”

    I remember when I had to make this exact decision about running the blog. It wasn’t that I was too old to do it, but I was too old to do it well with all the requirements that were being thrust upon the managers, the social media time and other requirements. Suddenly I felt we were underachieving, and the blame was with the guy in charge.

    When I gave it up, the blog went straight to the top of its vertical. It was the right decision, even though I didn’t want to make it.

    Re: Sicilian Ethics: Well, we have been watching this play out for years. No reason to think it will stop, ever. Can our republic survive? Stay tuned, I guess…

    Re: Book review: You mean books are still a thing? I had no idea.

    • PLUS: (I am parroting this from what I heard an announcer say last night; he was an Astros announcer, so, he had reason to tell the truth) The Astros play 9 of their next 19 games against the Seattle Mariners, the current 2nd place team in the Astros’ division. You can guess what I’m predicting…

      If the Astros are still in first place after that run of games, I will let my wife beat me – inside Minute Maid Park, at an Astros home game, in front of a large crowd. (She doesn’t like my attitude when the Astros lose.)

  10. 2. Funny, but I started reading at the review and thought he was talking about Obama… although it applies to Hillary as well.

    3. The Democrats and progressives started this dangerous game, and have always depended on the decency of their opponents to not respond in kind. The past 8 years they ran all those decent types out of power, so have to deal with the consequences. Good.

    And they can BITE me.

    4. Ruthie is whistling past the graveyard… literally. Progressives tried to move too fast, and the majority (common Americans) caught on to their tactics, and realized how the death camps are being prepared. Now they will secure the Courts against the progressive brand of tyranny. The new right might end up imposing its own tyranny (this IS fruit of the poisoned tree stuff, after all, and we are all only human) but that is how the game is played: the pendulum swings just as far as it was pushed in the other direction. (I am NOT in favor of this, mind you, but believe that progressives are getting some richly deserved comeuppance.)

  11. Lord. On. His. Throne.

    “This morning Senators asked themselves, “What is milk?” when voting on a proposal to block funding for a review of whether the word milk should be limited to products made from cow’s milk.

    The Senate voted, 14-84, to defeat an amendment, offered by Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, that would kill spending on a Food and Drug Administration study on what can be marketed as milk.

    “Consumers are not deceived by these labels,” said Lee. “No one buys almond milk under the false illusion that it came from a cow. They buy it because it didn’t come from a cow.””

    “FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency wants to bring “greater clarity” to consumers as more plant-based foods are marketing themselves as substitutes for dairy products like milk or yogurt. The agency has begun soliciting public comments on updating the “standards of identity” for a variety of foods, a process that is likely to settle the score on whether almond-, coconut- and soy-based products can be labeled as milk.

    “An almond doesn’t lactate, I will confess,” Gottlieb said at an event earlier this week.”

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