Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/4/18: On Baseball, Mocking Ford, Apologies, and “Tax Schemes”

Good Morning!

[BOY its been hard keeping up on ethics blogging between air travel, a balky laptop, seminars, the new firm and, most of all, ushering the Red Sox to a World Championship. Yesterday was classic: I had multiple posts composed in my head, and literally was never able to find time to work on them. I’m sorry. I’ll figure it out…]

1 Baseball ethics: The exciting Cubs-Rockies Wild Card elimination game was set up by the Colorado 12-0 win over the Washington Nationals on the final day of the season. Thus the Rockies ended the season in a tie with the Dodgers on top of the NL West, requiring one of the two tie-breaking games on Monday. These were ratings bonanzas for baseball and the networks showing them, leading to conspiracy theories regarding that last Rockies victory.  Max Scherzer, arguably the best pitcher in the league, was supposed to start the game fr Washington, and if he had, its safe to say that the Rockies would not have won 12-0, if at all. Reportedly he wanted to start the game, but the Nationals decided late to start the immortal Eric Fedde. Were they trying to give the game to the Rockies? Did orders come down from MLB to tank?

The theory makes no sense, because the suits and networks are always rooting for the big media centers and their teams to make it to the World Series. The Dodgers, Red Sox, Yankees and Cubs mean big ratings, and the Rockies posed a threat to the Dodgers and ended up eliminating the Cubs. Nonetheless, a team like the Nats, out of the race, running out the string, should have the professional integrity to go all out to win when a game is important to its opponent.

2. I’m not going to demand an apology, but they still owe me an apology. The Hill is reporting that…

Congressional investigators have confirmed that a top FBI official met with Democratic Party lawyers to talk about allegations of Donald Trump-Russia collusion weeks before the 2016 election, and before the bureau secured a search warrant targeting Trump’s campaign.

Former FBI general counsel James Baker met during the 2016 season with at least one attorney from Perkins Coie, the Democratic National Committee’s private law firm.

That’s the firm used by the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign to secretly pay research firm Fusion GPS and Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence operative, to compile a dossier of uncorroborated raw intelligence alleging Trump and Moscow were colluding to hijack the presidential election.

The dossier, though mostly unverified, was then used by the FBI as the main evidence seeking a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant targeting the Trump campaign in the final days of the campaign.

This is not exactly surprising, but it ticks me off for personal reasons. Several left-leaning commenters here who I respected and gave a lot of attention, abandoned Ethics Alarms in high dudgeon because I continued to question the growing evidence that the entire Russian collusion investigation was rigged, partisan, illegal, and an effort to bring down an elected President using a corrupt and politicized FBI and Justice Department. Here was one exit speech, and from a friend:

“But I can’t allow my own tiny voice to be associated with this nonsense any longer. Being the “left” voice is one thing; being way out on the fringe is quite another, and I don’t think it’s me that has moved. I see far too many shades in our times now of McCarthyism (not Gene), George Wallace-ism, and autocracy. I’m deeply concerned about the continued health and well-being of our democratic institutions. I suspect Rod Rosenstein will soon have no recourse but to resign, and I’m doing something similar. I don’t want to be party to this hysterical of a dialogue (in my humble opinion).”

Call me petty, but I resent being called hysterical and partisan by people who are so biased that they refuse to acknowledge what’s right in front of their faces, because it would require them to admit, as those of integrity would, in the immortal words of PGA golfer Roberto De Vicenzo after he lost the Masters by signing an erroneous score card, “What a stupid I am.”

Since that memorable May exit, the question of whether the FISA warrants allowing the FBI to surveil the Trump campaign were properly granted  has been decisively answered in the negative, as has the question of whether the FBI and the Justice Department can be trusted to be objective and just.  Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe was  fired for lying, and department official Bruce Ohr’s outrageous conflicts were revealed. The released emails between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page suggest, at very least, deep, deep, anti-Trump biases within the Justice Department. Then there’s Rod Rosenstein: From the New York Times:

“The deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, suggested last year that he secretly record President Trump in the White House to expose the chaos consuming the administration, and he discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office for being unfit.”

Rosenstein denies it all, and indeed this kind of gossip shouldn’t be reported as news—but the anti-Trump commenters here never hesitated to regard similar third hand accounts and leaks to be reliable and significant if they impugned the President’s  character.  It is all still more dark and billowing smoke to support reasonable suspicion that there is unethical and dangerous anti-Trump bias and “deep state” sabotage of his administration coming from within the FBI, the other security agencies and their leadership, and the Justice Department itself.  This condition—the only question is how deep and dangerous it is—has been obvious and undeniable (by anyone not IN denial) for a very long time. I resent–did in May, and do now—being accused of spreading nonsense and “fringe conspiracy theories” by those who are aiding and abetting the enemies of democracy by deliberately or naively ignoring reality.

I admit, I miss the participation of “resistance” and resolutely knee-jerk progressives in these threads. I miss not seeing someone making an ass out of themselves, post after post, comment after comment, by defending the conduct of Diane Feinstein, Cory Booker, and other Democrats as they resort to the lowest tactics imaginable to keep Brett Kavanaugh off the Supreme Court. True, one previously rational moderate here has persisted in referring to Kavanaugh as a “potential rapist,” and that’s been fun, but I want to read the comments from angry feminists arguing that women who accuse men of criminal conduct should always be believed because they have two X chromosomes. It’s such a stupid, fantastic point of view, so alien to classic liberalism and commons sense, and so much fun to beat down with one-half of my brain tied behind my back. I want to hear about how every male candidate for high office now should be vulnerable to unsubstantiated accusations that date from high school. I want to read the desperate efforts to reconcile the Left’s Brave New World with any ethics system other than “the ends justifies the means.”

3. Trump’s flat learning curve, but so what? After my seminar yesterday, a lawyer asked me about my opinion regarding the President’s extensive mockery of Dr. Ford during his recent rally speech.  Since three of the Senators on the fence quickly expressed their outrage that he was being disrespectful of a “survivor,” he asked, might this not help defeat Kavanaugh? My replies:

  • Trump’s mockery was idiotic, politically obtuse, shows his judgment at its worst, and makes me, once again, wonder about his impulse control and basic intelligence.
  • Any Senator who changes his or her votes on Judge Kavanaugh based on what any third person says, including the President, is unqualified for office. The question is Kavanaugh’s qualifications and fitness to serve. Nothing anybody else says about anything changes the factors relevant to that decision.
  • The Senators were engaged in naked virtue-signaling. I know why it is important to publicly show a level of respect for Ford, but I do not respect Ford, and from other sources, mockery of her would be appropriate, if not tactically wise. Saturday Night Live proved itself gutless and biased by mocking Kavanaugh and not her. Anyone who suddenly appears with a 35 year old story that impugns the character of a public servant, sending his confirmation hearings into Barnum and Bailey mode, without a single witness and no evidence except a therapy session of which she refuses to release the notes, and does so to accomplish a partisan political objective, is not respectable, and deserves to be mocked.

4. “Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias”  meets “Stop making me defend Donald Trump!” Yesterday’s “bombshell” New York Times report  titled “Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father,” which I predict almost nobody not stuck in an airport will read, was provocative:

a) The New York Times has apparently been spending lots of money and using lots of staff trying to dig up dirt on President Trump, going far back into his past and relationships with his family. I’d like to know if and when it has done this with any other sitting President. I am certain that every President, and indeed every public figure and every citizen, would be vulnerable if a long-term dragnet was funded to acquire potentially embarrassing information about their past and past financial dealings. Where’s the extensive examination of the Clinton Family’s baroque finances?

b) What’s the distinction between a “tax strategy” and a “tax scheme”? “Scheme” is intended to suggest something shady, but the article links the President to “schemes” developed by accountants and in some cases well underway while Trump was a child. “Suspect” means that the Times is casting suspicion on them, but that nobody with the authority to do so has declared the tactics that enriched Trump’s family illegitimate. It admits that the IRS did not question them, and that no crimes could be charged.

c) Much of Trump’s offense in the Times view appears to be that he got rich from his father’s business (“Reaped Riches!). We knew that.

d) I especially like the photo the Times used, which catches the young Trump doing his satanic Bond super-villain impression.

48 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/4/18: On Baseball, Mocking Ford, Apologies, and “Tax Schemes”

  1. #1 is a classic ethics conflict.

    The Nationals have no hope for the playoffs. As their best pitcher, Scherzer is a valuable asset. Any time a pitcher goes on the mound, he is risking injury.

    The Nationals may need to start rebuilding. If so, a healthy Scherzer can fetch a very good price consisting of major-league talent and/or minor-league prospects to push that rebuilding along. Or, the Nationals could try to build around Scherzer.

    An injury puts both of those at risk. So, the Nationals manager made the choice to preserve his team’s long-term options at the expense of a meaningless (to the Nats) Game 162. At the same time, it does mean the Rockies had a win, which propelled them to a Game 163 with the Dodgers.

    There is a lot of moral luck in this scenario. If the Nats trade Scherzer for a huge package, this decision is the right one – and nobody will remember the 162nd game of 2018.

    • That explanation was such BS it made me more suspicious. The Nats have been out of it for MONTHS. Why this meaningless start is more dangerous than, say, the last ten is beyond me. If that was the rationalization, why were any valuable players starting that game? What if Soto, the future of the team, got hurt?

      • No, it isn’t BS. Managers and executives of a baseball team not only have a day-to-day responsibility, they have a long-term responsibility as well for future years. The real good managers and GMs balance those risks and make decisions, and Scherzer is a prime case of this.

        In 2008, the Brewers routinely pitched CC Sabathia on short rest to make the playoffs. He ran out of gas in those playoffs (the Crew lost the 2008 NLDS to the Phillies, 3 games to 1).

        According to, Scherzer has three more years of control (2019-2021) at just over $42 million a year. It’s very expensive control, but it’s three years of one of baseball’s best pitchers. That sort of control could be very valuable to a team.

        Say the Red Sox fall short in the World Series against the Brewers (I have the Brewers beating the Sox in seven, so enjoy the Haderade), and they want to upgrade their rotation. They’d be a fit, since Boston is one of the five teams that could afford Scherzer’s deal (the Yankees, Dodgers, Angels, and Mets are the other four).

        A healthy Scherzer would be a prime target for them. The Nats could easily pry away a package that would include 3B Michael Chavis, RHP Tanner Houck, SS C.J. Chatham, and RHP Mike Shawaryn – four of the Red Sox top ten prospects. Plus they no longer have a $42 million-per-year albatross of a contract (which allows them to get other free agents). Furthermore, that deal allows them to trade Rendon for more help elsewhere, especially if Bryce Harper departs via free agency.

        If Scherzer gets hurt in game 162, though, and they not only have that contract, they don’t get to make a deal – or series of deals – that would give them more pieces around Soto.

        • No, its a rationalization, and I’m not buying it. You didn’t address my point: why is this start any more superfluous than any of the pitcher’s last ten? Your argument becomes ten times more logical if they stopped pitching him from July 30 on. Come on. When was the last time you recall a star being injured in the final game of the season? The game mattered, and Max is aid to pitch. Let me guess: You liked them keeping Strasburg out of the play-offs to protect his arm. THAT worked out well…

          • The Nationals were not eliminated from playoff contention until September 22. So, the July 30 date is a red herring. The games weren’t meaningless in terms of playoff contention until September 23.

            In those last eight days… they’re playing games, but for what? If I’m a GM, I’m telling the manager to take an eye towards next year. Depending on the situation, give some young players more playing time to see what they can do.

            If I have a possible trade asset in Scherzer, I sit him, and protect his value for the future.

            As for Strasburg… after a pitcher has Tommy John surgery, it is not unusual for a team to limit innings. That was a medical call – and made long before the season even started.

            Given the nature of Tommy John surgery (a Brewers pitcher is currently undergoing it – and they had to release a minor-leaguer who had the procedure twice this year), yeah, I’ll say it’s the right call and is EXACTLY the type of long-term view a GM should take.

            • Please. Mathematical elimination is not the yardstick, and you know it. You want August 21, when the Nats traded Daniel Murphy and essentially admitted it was over? OK. How many starts did Max have from then on? Six? Seven?

              • Mathematical elimination IS the yardstick I am using for the sake of this discussion.

                Now, I’d rather not argue, the Brewers have gone up 2-0 in the NLDS, and I can’t wait for your review on how the Haderade tastes at Fenway.

                • But its a false standard The teams tell us when they are out of it (it was obvious that the Nats were dead before the All-Star break). When the Nats started trading off key players,that was when they were de facto not in the race By your logic, sending Scherzer home was the percentage move Why you think it suddenly became logical in the last game of the year, and one of the few games the Nats played in September that meant anything to amybody, is beyond me

    • The conspiracy theory is more probable (that is, not much) than this. The chances of injury are the same in any one game. Why not hold ALL your best players out when the season is lost, if this is your strategy?

      I find it likely that the Nats just did not have their heart in the game. It happens.

      “It is not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.”

      • That Nats have had their hearts in damn few games all year. Totally disgraceful season from the highest payroll in the NL.

        Biggest payroll in the AL? Why, Boston—with the best record too.

  2. I love the Manhattan Contrarian’s takedown of the NYT piece:

    One of my favorite passages from his analysis:

    “A gift tax return for a $41 million gift of real estate based entirely on an appraisal has a 100% chance of being audited by the IRS. It also would show up accompanied by a check in excess of $20 million. This is not something that just slips by them. With 100% certainty, the IRS looked at this and signed off. Did they maybe think about challenging the valuations? They could entirely well have done that. On the other hand, they could have asked another appraiser and the valuations might have come in lower; or, alternatively, if another appraisal came in substantially higher and they demanded a pile more money, Fred could have said, forget it, I won’t give the kids the buildings, and you can just wait until I die, which could be 20 years from now. (As it happened, Fred died less than 2 years later, but who knew?)”

      • Yeah. What a concept. Somebody who has a basic grasp of estate tax and audit procedures. You’d think the NYT could have found someone qualified to review the article. Nope. “Hey, we’re journalist! We read Hemingway in college and then we went to journalism school! We know everything!” Assholes.

        • The New York Times is not fit to line a parrot page. Parrots are more intelligent than many reporters, and the prose will insult them. Also, the vitreol in the ink itself might poison the parrot.

          • Parrot cage. But I like parrot page, sw. A fitting description of the nation’s paper of record, the Gray Lady. Where truth goes to get roughed up and die.

    • Before starting to read the NYT hit piece, I searched it for the words, “expert,” “attorney,” “accountant” and “professor” to see who the article had relied on to conclude that tax crimes had been committed. The only people identified by name or profession were (1) a former NYC prosecutor with no apparent tax expertise, (2) a Florida professor who was said to be an expert in gift and estate law and said that Trump was playing games with valuation, and (3) a second professor who said that a certain structure of transaction is legal but could be used for illegal purposes, although he expressed no opinion about whether that had been done here.

      From this, I concluded that the article represented nothing more than the lurid imaginings of a team of Trump-hating reporters who know as much about tax law as my cat. So I didn’t bother reading it.

      There was a time — maybe a month ago — when I still thought there were some depths to which the Times would not lower itself.

      • Parrot cages are too good for the Times. Dead fish deserve better wrappings. Too rough for toilet paper, and I would not touch myself there with that much poison…

        Maybe useful to wrap fish scraps? Doggie piddle mats?


  3. #2 I agree that the lack of our left-leaning colleagues from the comment section takes away from the spiciness of discussion. Hopefully, some will come back and humble themselves, or new fresh blood will come and contribute.

    • Not so sure, myself, A. I find the peace and quiet invigorating. The inanity had become overwhelming. I hate talking points with a passion and the place was rife with them. Good riddance says me.

      • I… tend to agree, OB. The lack of crazy is refreshing. Jack must thrive on chaos, judging by his position.

        He wants a ‘reasonable’ progressive, and that don’t exist, especially after Nov ’16.

        • My biggest remorse about the lack of argumentation is that it’s all still out there. Everywhere else online, the inanity and insanity are cranked up to 11, and then here it’s all quiet and peaceful. A welcome respite from the madness, but it doesn’t do to let your daggers get dull.

          Of course, since conversation elsewhere has declined to “nuh-uh” and “so’s your old man” levels, commenting here doesn’t actually help much for the head-bashingly stupid stuff out there.

          And Jack, don’t be too hard on yourself – you’ve got a lot of irons in the fire right now, and your continued dedication to us and the site does you credit. Thank you!

          • Aaron, I get more than enough of the inanity by reading some CNN and the lefty half of Real Clear Politics. That’s more than enough to have me scurry back here. And I second your concluding paragraph.

  4. All the Cubs had to do was win the pennant either during the regular season (where they folded like a cheap suit throughout the last month or so, much like the Diamondbacks) or beat the Melwaukee Brew Crew. Cubs fans are cry babies. The can pound their entitled Northside sand.

  5. #2 Jack wrote, “I resent being called hysterical and partisan by people who are so biased that they refuse to acknowledge what’s right in front of their faces, because it would require them to admit, as those of integrity would, in the immortal words of PGA golfer Roberto De Vicenzo after he lost the Masters by signing an erroneous score card, “What a stupid I am.””

    You won’t likely get a public apology from even the friend that you quoted but I do hope he apologizes to you personally (that’s what’s really important); however, you should be content in knowing that the reason he left is likely because “he refused to acknowledge what was right in front of his face, because it would require him to admit… ‘What a stupid I am.’ “ It’s hard to publicly admit that you’ve been so biased that it set you up to be terribly gullible and duped by the propaganda. Even though his publicized reasons for leaving were terribly skewed at placing blame everywhere but where it belonged, I’d give him a break; friendship is a terrible thing to waste on such disagreements.

      • slickwilly wrote, “On the other hand, if he won’t apologize for how he treated Jack, it tells what sort of friend he really is. Meaning, not much of one.”

        You’ll get no disagreement from me on that point.

        I had an old friend that did me wrong way back and we didn’t talk for years and when he called me the first thing I said when I knew it was him asking to meet was “you know what you have to do to repair this friendship” and he did it. My friend was getting pretty close to his deathbed and wanted to make amends before he parted this world. At one point in our conversation I told him that he had allowed his pride to rob over 10 years of friendship. I accepted his apology and I think we parted ways as a result of his death at peace with each other.

  6. Trump’s mockery was idiotic, politically obtuse, shows his judgment at its worst, and makes me, once again, wonder about his impulse control and basic intelligence.

    While this is true, I admit that I enjoy the performance that Trump gives as he does the absolute *you shouldn’ts!* at every turn. One of my favorites was his comment to the lady-journalist:

    It is glorious in its way! (I also think Trump is sort of improving…)

    I know why it is important to publicly show a level of respect for Ford, but I do not respect Ford, and from other sources, mockery of her would be appropriate, if not tactically wise. Saturday Night Live proved itself gutless and biased by mocking Kavanaugh and not her.

    Now that you mention it, there is honestly more material in Ford to be ridiculed than in Kavanaugh. I mean, a pretty biting skit could have been made. Too bad they didn’t do just that. Side by side or one after the other.

  7. #3: I’ll take another tack on Trump mocking Ford. I think it was brilliant. There was no way that the media was going to widely disseminate the points Trump made. Ford was full of it, but that simply wasn’t going to be reported. While it was over the top, Trump very effectively enumerated the bullet points of why Ford shouldn’t automatically be believed. By doing what he did, the media figured it would incense anyone like it did them. But to those not paying attention, I think it was effective.

  8. I think Graham’s reply to a female protester demanding that Kavanaugh take a polygraph, “Why don’t we dunk him in water and see if he floats?”, pretty much pinpointed the nature of the proceedings.

  9. There is no other more descriptive word to describe the political left than “unhinged.” When they are violent and cursing and screaming and chasing Republicans from restaurants there’s something very wrong in the already crazy world of politics.

    And then insane leftists like Rep. Maxine Waters comes to mind as she encourages violence against her po9litical opponents. Well, we’ve already had that with a Congressman shot for simply being a Republican.

    Where does it go from here with even more insane Democrats calling for more violence and rioting against Brett Kaqvanaugh.

  10. Even if there was something helpful to Ford in the therapy notes, it means, at best, that she first started making the accusations 30 years after they supposedly happened, instead of 36 years.

  11. 1)Whoever the Nationals put on the mound, the Rockies at that point had won 8 of their last 9, and 19 of 27 in September, so you have to figure the odds were pretty much in their favor. As well, had the Rockies lost, their punishment would have been not playing the Dodgers in a tie-breaker game on Monday, moving directly on to the Wild Card.
    That said, the unwritten rules of baseball (and, really, any sport) require that the Nationals put forth their best efforts against a contending team.

    4) The IRS has some very clever, very experienced people working for it (in addition to the morons). They might well have listened to Willie Sutton when it comes to prioritizing major efforts — ‘because that’s where the money is’. If there was a tax strategy/scheme/plan that involved millions of dollars of taxes, I’d be willing to bet the IRS looked at it carefully and decided not to challenge it.

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