Labor Day Ethics Leftovers, 9/4/18: Big Lies, Big Jerks, Big Mistakes [UPDATED]


Good morning!

1. So, so predictable. Yesterday was fun: I assumed that the post about the undeniable pettiness, incivility and hypocrisy at Senator McCain’s funeral service in D.C. would prompt multiple exclamations of “But…but…Trump deserves it!”, “He’s worse!” and “What about what Trump does?” I was not disappointed. Each one of these desperate efforts to avoid facing the issue discussed and admit reality is signature significance for having crippling flaws in one’s ethics analysis abilities, gaping holes in one’s basic understanding of right and wrong, and a victim of stupidity-inducing bias. Nothing in the post excused or referenced the President’s own conduct in any way.

2. Baseball ethics. No, it is not unethical for pitchers to carry crib sheets. During the top of the eighth inning in Saturday night’s Phillies game against the Cubs in Philadelphia, third base umpire Joe West noticed the Phillies  pitcher looking at a card he had pulled from his pocket, and confiscated it. The card contained scouting reports on how to pitch a Cubs batter. The advanced analytics baseball teams now use to devise how to position fielders and pitch to batters are too detailed for the typical player to commit to memory. Lots of them carry little cheat sheets, sometimes in their hats. Although lots of old school players and tradition-loving fans hate the development, it’s here, and there are no rules against it.

Never mind: Joe West, who is one of the more arrogant and autocratic umpires, felt that the piece of paper constituted a “foreign substance” under the rules, and thus surmised that it was prohibited by the provision designed to stop pitchers from making the ball do tricks by surreptitiously applying K-Y Jelly or slippery elm. Yup, ol’ Joe thought the pitcher, Austin Davis, was  going to use the card to doctor the baseball. Good thinking, Joe! MLB quickly set him straight the next day, announcing that West, as he often is, for he is an awful umpire,  was mistaken.

The fact that West couldn’t figure that out himself, and that he is the longest tenured MLB ump, tells you why we will have robo-umps calling strikes within five years or less.

3. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! Today’s nauseating example of mainstream media’s refusal to report and comment on the news objectively comes from the New York Times—Surprise!—which writes sympathetically about the Democratic Party’s dilemma as it tried to derail the Supreme Court nomination of Bret Kavanaugh. There’s no filibuster any more! Multiple Democrats tell the Times how unfair this is. Guess whose name is completely absent from the article? Why, former Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who resorted to the so-called nuclear option to pass Barack Obama’s judicial nominations over Republican opposition. “They are making a mockery of the process, and that is because the No. 1 goal …. is to stack the bench with ideologues, because they know they cannot achieve their goals through the elected branches,” said the Republican leadership at the…no, wait, that quote is from Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the current Democratic leader. He doesn’t mention that his predecessor is the reason the system is “broken.” At least the Times, in one brief sentence , acknowledge that “Democrats” eliminated the filibuster for federal judges below SCOTUS level. They do not make it clear that this shattered a long-standing Senate tradition, and that it made the GOP follow-up of killing the device for Supreme Court nominations both politically feasible and inevitable.

The Times also does not remind readers that its editorial board applauded Reid’s move at the time.

4. The Big Lie that will never die. Former police officer Roy D. Oliver II was sentenced to a 15-year prison term for the indefensible shooting of black teen Jordan Edwards as he and four other teenagers drove away from a house party in the Dallas suburb of Balch Springs in April 2017.The prosecution was seeking at least 60 years.

I honestly don’t know what the right approach is to sentencing police officers who kill citizens without justification or cause in the throes of panic, bad judgment, poor training, or tragic error. I believe that the perilous job police officers perform should be a mitigating factor in sentencing. Obviously the families of the unjustly killed are unlikely to accept that.

In an article about how the mother of the African American victim objected to the length of the sentence as inadequate, we read this…

“Edwards also acknowledged that before the start of the murder trial she was pessimistic about the prosecution’s chances, after watching police shooting cases like those involving Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Philando Castille, Clinton Allen, Alton Sterling, Terence Crutcher and others.

“If I have to be honest, I wasn’t looking for a conviction because quite naturally you’ve seen across the nation where this has happened so many times and no one is held accountable,” she said. “So I figured that it would be another one of these occasions where a police officer is not held accountable for his actions.”

Thus has the Black Lives Matter false narrative entered the public consciousness. All of those names are lumped together as example of police brutality and the legal system’s callous disregard of black lives, because the news media has repeated activists false characterizations of these tragedies over and over. Michael Brown attacked a police officer and was shot. The facts do not support the claim that he was a victim of racist police aggression. Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy, died as the result of a series of mistakes by all involved, at the hands of a police officer who never should have been allowed to carry a gun. Rice’s death was negligence, not murder. Philadro Castile, a black motorist who insisted on reaching into his pocket for his license after announcing to a panicky officer that he was carrying a gun, was shot after the officer screamed, “Don’t pull it out!” more than once. I don’t think any jury would guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in that fact pattern, and the officer’s jury didn’t. Clinton Allen wrestled with the cop who shot him and had PCP in his system. A grand jury didn’t think the evidence would support a conviction. Alton Sterling is another case that both Federal and state authorities investigated and found no grounds for charges against the officers. Sterling was not unarmed.

I probably would have voted to convict the officer who shot Terrence Cutcher.

The point is that these deaths were not all the same, not caused by the same factors, and did not involve the same conduct by police.  What is the “this” that Edwards’ mother refers to? “This” is the presumption that any black citizen shot by a police officer has been the victim of racism and “police brutality.” It is a presumption of a crime based on the race of the victim and the occupation of the shooter, in other words, bigotry.

5. In related news...Some marketing analysts looking for ways for the athletic shoe giant to pander to its core demographic persuaded Nike  to use Colin Kaepernick as the star of its latest advertising campaign …

It is fair to say that the message is fatuous, intellectually indefensible and moronic. Believe in something? Doesn’t it matter what one believes in? Belief itself carries no virtue. The ad would support believing passionately that gays don’t deserve civil rights, or that Jews should be exterminated. Should one believe that employees have a right to demonstrate and hold protests in the workplace? That’s an ignorant belief. Is it worth being fired for? Hey, don’t think, don’t analyze–just do it!

Apparently Nike’s stock fell after the announcement of this ethically incoherent and irresponsible ad.


6. [Added after initial post] More Trump Tweets. Old friend and critic Ron Sarro reminded me on Facebook about the President’s latest tweet attacking his own AG, Jeff Sessions. I confess, I pretty much block Trump’s tweets out now. I agree with Ron that this tweet is especially bad because it attacks the Justice Department for not being partisan, when Justice Departments must not be partisan…not that any of the last, oh, say, ten observed that requirement. The headlines are, of course, misleading: Trump is not criticizing the indictments themselves, but the timing of them. He wrote…

“Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff……”

41 thoughts on “Labor Day Ethics Leftovers, 9/4/18: Big Lies, Big Jerks, Big Mistakes [UPDATED]

  1. 2. The same rule that addresses slippery elm and K-Y Jelly also references sand paper and emery paper. I don’t have any objection to an umpire just saying his job doesn’t include distinguishing these things from a note card at 60 feet. Players should be briefed before the game, and can receive signals from the catcher and dugout, so the paper doesn’t serve any purpose.

    • But Lo, when Joe got to the mound and saw that it wasn’t sandpaper, he should have left it alone. It might have been a love note from the pitcher’s wife, and so what? I agree that there’s no reason for a pitcher to have a cheat sheet, but absent a rule, there’s no reason he can’t.

      • Joe West has been and continues to be an egomaniac umpire. Screw the game. Screw the fans. And, definitely screw the players. I’m Joe West dammit.

      • It should be obvious that an enterprising pitcher would have both a love note from his wife and a piece of sand paper. Or maybe a note from his wife, laminated, with one nice jagged corner. Baseball spent a century emptying a pitcher’s pockets, now we’re going to fill them again?

        • Pretty sure it’s about the contents of the pockets and the potential application of them, not the volume of items in them. How about cotton balls or silica packets? Perhaps fortunes from cookies…

  2. You’re absolutely right on the Nike ad. Simply replacing the image of Colin K. with Adolf H. easily demonstrates the worthlessness of the marketing copy / slogan / campaign. My problem with the campaign is not that they used Colin, but they did so incompetently. I feel there was a way forward, but this isn’t remotely close to it.

    Of course, time distorts all. Will this pass and 5-10 years from now they’ll be able to hail this as brilliant edgy marketing? Who knows….

  3. 4. From a summary of an article in The Guardian: “The campaign, which also features Odell Beckham, Shaquem Griffin, Lacey Baker, Serena Williams, and LeBron James, is meant to target 15- to 17-year old customers.”

    Well, that explains it. How many stupid things did we believe when we were fifteen to seventeen? In other words, the campaign is not targeting rational human beings, just kids who want sneakers.

  4. 2. Honestly, Jack, I thought you were doing a baseball version of “The Onion,” but a quick check showed that West actually managed a brief strip search. But, again, this presents a simple solution – have the catcher keep the cheat sheets or first baseman or shortstop. And robo ump cannot come any sooner after watching another inconsistent ball/strike the other night with Boston/Chicago. How the dynamic change when a count becomes 1-2 and not when it should be 2-1.

  5. 5) Kaepernick doesn’t seem to know what he “believes in”, or if so, can’t articulate it well.

    And he hasn’t sacrificed anything. His NFL career was in shambles before his tantrum turned noble cause and he has been funded by Nike for a very long time. No sacrifice here.

    Nike has, however, like the Star Wars prequels forced me to recognize inherent flaws in the original trilogy, in this campaign of vapid quotes caused me to recognize the utter empty stupidity of the phrase “Just Do It”.

    Just Do What? Like…without thinking it through before hand? Without considering consequences or investment risks?

    No Nike, You are a very very corrupting influence.

    On a positive note, the internet hasn’t failed to deliver on excellent “Believe in Something” parodies and satire.

    • >> And he hasn’t sacrificed anything. His NFL career was in shambles before his tantrum turned noble cause and he has been funded by Nike for a very long time. No sacrifice here.

      He also asked for and was granted release from his contract.

      He was employed and quit.

      Now, apparently owners are “colluding” to keep a quitter from signing a new contract….

  6. If I were a meme-ing type, I would reproduce that exact Nike advertisement, with a photo of Thanos.

    As for McCain’s funeral…I think the last word is this: They made John McCain’s funeral all about Donald Trump. And they’re…okay with this.

  7. Regarding #5: Yes, Nike’s stock dropped. Sadly, I expect that it is because people dislike Colin Kapernick, NOT because it is ethically incoherent. For me, I agree that it is ethically incoherent for the very reasons you state. But, though I oppose Colin Kapernick’s actions, his role in the ad does not bother me one bit.


  8. What’s really bad about the Nike ad is that it has little to do with sports. It’s basically an attempt to make Kaepernick a hero because he was willing to allow his political beliefs to make his career destruction even easier than his limited ability as a football quarterback.

    That is stupidity. So in it’s essence, the ad praises stupid political behavior, not athletic achievement or drive. On the basis of this, I think I’ll boycott Nike – not because I disagree with them politically, but because, as a company, they have demonstrated incompetence in advertising that might bleed over to their apparel decisions and quality. Why take a chance when there are so many others to choose from?

    • Glenn, I’m pretty sure Nike knows what various demographics respond to and how to get their attention. I’m sure it was focus group tested among their target demographic and did very well. Kaepernick is mixed race (although I think he’s more Hispanic than black), sports an Afro and tattoos and he’s a jock, plus he’s sort of perceived as a rebel raging against the machine. The sports establishment is leaning further and further left as it is now dominated by players of color. It’s really a branch of Black Lives Matter right now. Plus Nike’s getting all this extra free publicity. So I think hiring him was a no brainer for Nike. And a home run.

      • Kaepernick, according to Wikipedia, has a white mother and a black father. Take that for what it’s worth, and yes, I read Jack’s article about Wikipedia the other day, so there’s that.

        I don’t disagree with your perception, but the audience that sports (and particularly the NFL, with whom Kaepernick is associated) sells to is still vastly white in the majority, according to the last numbers I saw. That really shouldn’t make a difference, and I know they tested it, but clearly they didn’t think it through. There are a lot of people, including me, who are fine with what Kaepernick is protesting, but not fine with the manner of his protest. My own position is that if the NFL wants to allow the protests, fine. I fought for the right of people to make this protest, and I’ll defend their right to do it.

        But using the national anthem as the vehicle for protest rubs me, and apparently a bunch of others the wrong way. Making the guy who led that “outrage” the symbol of your brand, even if 50% are fine with it, is poor strategy and bad marketing. Alienating half your audience to prove your social justice, freedom of speech bona fides is still a poor decision, and that’s how I see this ploy.

        • The NFL, and perhaps Nike to a much lesser extent, has put itself in an unwinnable position with the Kneelers. From my read, Kaepernick was in trouble with his contract and the 49ers were looking to cut him. He had a great start to his career but he was injury-prone. So, San Francisco had a huge contract to pay and were looking for a way to unload him. He did not want to be traded, so he and his agent came up with the kneeling as way to scare the 49ers’ front office – who in his/her right mind would cut an African-American player protesting racism, police brutality, and social injustice on the field. So, they let it go on and on and on . . . When they decided it was enough, they stepped into a hornet’s nest of problems. Any which way they turned was bad.

          The NFL’s repeated policies have been idiotic, ill-formed, horribly executed, and thoroughly incompetent. The tried to have a moment of silence. Failed. They locked arms in Dallas – big blunder. They talked tough – which was met with mockery. Then, they wrote a brand spankin’ shiny new policy, which was shown to have been taken out of context and summarily withdrawn. Nice.

          Now, the NFL hastried to isolate the protests by not showing the National Anthem (which never made much of an appearance on televised games before because it was just part of the pre-game ritual). That decision backfired because not showing the National Anthem and protests was more controversial than showing it. What to do?

          Nike, though, it a bit different because it sells all kinds of sports apparel. They created a clothing line for Kaepernick. It has other brands to fall back on in the event this line of clothes fails – and it might. Who knows? Who cares? It’s clothing. If it fails, then they can simply shelve it. Well, apparently, investors do because Nike’s stock dropped in value in response to the ad campaign. An incoherent ad based on an incoherent protest. What could possibly go wrong?

          Maybe the message to Nike should be: “Be Like Mike and Not Like Colin”.


  9. The Times also does not remind readers that its editorial board applauded Reid’s move at the time.

    Ed Whelan noted this too.

    Notice a pattern?

    I agree with Ron that this tweet is especially bad because it attacks the Justice Department for not being partisan, when Justice Departments must not be partisan…not that any of the last, oh, say, ten observed that requirement.

    Do you have ten examples?

  10. 5: ‘Just Do It’ is just plain dumb as a slogan to start with. That’s the kind of thing some drunk frat brother would say. Even as an encouragement to the timid, his particular framing material is worse. He kept up his ‘protester without a cause’ without ANY sacrifice, so it represents no heroism, which is the expected framing in the public eye.

    If he had the guts the ad implies, he would stand up and be proud of whatever he is protesting for instead of waffling. He’s had the soapbox and plenty of months to find someone to help write his speeches and hashtags. He, or whoever is encouraging this, is selling him as a noble martyr. So it will be fruitless for any cause. I would respect grandstanding if he actually attached to a specific issue, any issue. But he wants the benefits of a famous smacked down protestor and still rake in as much as he can. Cheap.

  11. The fact that West couldn’t figure that out himself, and that he is the longest tenured MLB ump, tells you why we will have robo-umps calling strikes within five years or less.

    Hm. We could set up an invisible laser grid to mark the batting box and if it broken, the program then marks it a ball. How do you read if it was a swing and miss? Sensors in the catcher’s mitt and bat I’d say. If one registers impacts while the other registers motions then the system knows it was a strike. A chip in the ball could also feed data into the program monitoring if it’s in motion for a pop fly or grounder. If the motion stops earlier than expected, it was caught, and that’s an out.

    The real challenge would be the bases. You could chip them up too to register impacts. I guess the uniforms would have to be wired so it could register whether a defender stepped on one with the ball in hand, or if a runner hit it first. That could then be used to possibly design a feedback system registering if the runners are “tagged.”

    Conceptually it would be feasible to do robo umpires right now with our tech level – I just don’t know how well it would work out expense wise. Some players may have to take paycuts. Should we implement a feature where designated hitters will be summarily shocked?

    Of course as soon as we implement all this RFID technology I’m sure the teams will be investing in hackers to sway the umps. 😉

  12. 3. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!

    One thing I notice — especially in the NYTs — is the way that strange and demeaning photographs are used. They give their photographers licence to take shots from weird angles unlike anything I have seen.

    For example, I would like to know what this means:

    I can think of no figure in politics, national or international, who has gotten such treatment.

  13. #5 I don’t own any Nike products and their ad campaign certainly isn’t going change that fact.

    Pat Tillman sacrificed his life for his beliefs; when you get right down to it, what did Colin Kaepernick actually sacrifice?

    In my book Kaepernick has been elevated to false “hero” status.

    • Also…

      Jack wrote, “It is fair to say that the message is fatuous, intellectually indefensible and moronic. Believe in something? Doesn’t it matter what one believes in? Belief itself carries no virtue.”

      That’s spot on Jack! The message is WAY too inclusive of any beliefs regardless of what they are.

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