Cold Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/10/18: You’ve Got Ethics To Keep You Warm!


Maybe this will help...

1. Starting with the important stuff: Baseball’s badly-named Today’s Game Era Committee announced that long-time right-fielder/designated hitter Harold Baines and towering closer Lee Smith had been voted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Smith, who retired as the all-time saves leader and is now third behind two Hall of Famers, was a defensible pick, but not Baines. The Committee’s job is to look back on players who were rejected in the regular Hall of Fame voting process and see if some of them fell through the cracks who were Hall caliber. There are only 16 members of the committee, and an ex-player needs 12 votes to enter Cooperstown. The sixteen members included at least four with strong ties to Baines, and they  presumably argued eight more members into letting him squeak by.  Bias made them stupid. Those four, which included Baines’ former manager and the owner of the Chicago White Sox, which retired his number, should have had to recuse themselves because of conflicts of interest.

Baines led the league in an offensive category, once, when he had the best slugging percentage in the American League. He never finished high in the Most Valuable Player voting. Most of the players who compare most closely to him are not in the Hall. The big thing Baines had going for his candidacy as a very good but not great player was that everybody liked him. He’s sort of the opposite of Curt Schilling, who is clearly Hall-worthy but whom most sportswriters hate—too religious, too conservative, too mouthy.

Now the argument for admitting other good but not great players will be, “But he was better than Harold Baines!” This is how conflicts of interest undermine the integrity of institutions.

2. When Naked Teachers have no excuses.  The Naked Teacher Principle holds that when a teacher allows a nude photo of herself or himself to circulate on the web where it can be seen by students, that teacher cannot complain when and if it leads to their dismissal.  A teacher really can’t complain if she sends the photo to a student intentionally, which is what Ramsey Bearse, 28, a former Miss Kentucky now teaching at Andrew Jackson Middle School in Cross Lanes, West Virginia, did with a 15-year-old former student , according to the sheriff’s office. She faces four felony counts of distributing or displaying obscene matter to a minor.

3. Pondering whether to include an open Ethics Alarms forum as a regular feature. Many of the blogs I frequent for story ideas do this late at night. Ethics Alarms has done it once when I was forced to be away from a keyboard for most of the day, and I was impressed with the results. Those forums on the other blogs often devolve into silliness, bad jokes, memes and worse, and I would insist that an “open forum” on Ethics Alarms be restricted to raising and discussing ethics and ethical topics.

4. Access to the courts is a wonderful thing, dammit. I spend an hour trying to puzzle out the Massachusetts online court filing process as one more consequence of being sued by banned Ethics Alarms commenter whose feelings I hurt. His initial defamation suit was thrown out on my motion to dismiss, but now he’s appealing on the grounds that he knows the law better than the judge does. This will eventually require me to write a return brief, pay a filing fee, and maybe, though I doubt it, travel back to Boston to argue the case.

My sister, a long-time Justice Department and HHS attorney, has railed about how much time and money is wasted by forcing lawyers having to respond to frivolous and vendetta lawsuits file by non-lawyers with time on their hands and a bees in their bonnets. She says that many millions could be saved if judges were more ruthless in throwing the lawsuits out of court as an abuse of process at the outset. I’m torn. The fact that the United States bends over backwards to allow access to the courts is much to its credit. People abuse their rights. That doesn’t mean the rights shouldn’t exist.

5. “The Bottomless Pinocchio.” Washington Post Factchecker Glenn Kessler has announced a new rating, the Bottomless Pinocchio, which he will henceforth award “to politicians who repeat a false claim so many times that they are, in effect, engaging in campaigns of disinformation.” Naturally, the only politician Kessler accuses of committing the offense is Donald Trump. Naturally also, because this is what factcheckers in the media do, after Kessler has run out of real False statements he starts fudging, like here…

“Another campaign claim that has carried into his presidency is the assertion that Democrats colluded with Russia during the election (48 times). This is obviously false, as the Democrats were the target of hacking by Russian entities, according to U.S. intelligence agencies.”

The fact that “Russian entities” hacked the DNC doesn’t prove that Democrats didn’t collude with the Russians, especially since nobody can agree with what “colludes” means. The Post’s own columnists have argued that Hillary Clinton’s campaign colluded with the Russians.

I think the Bottomless Pinocchio can be a useful designation, but until I see Kessler and the Post apply it to the news media’s own repeat falsehoods, like “Opposing illegal immigration is opposing immigration,” and “Hillary Clinton was one of the most qualified candidates for President in history,”  as well as the favorite lies of Democrats and their allies, like “Trump is a racist,”  “There were no scandals under Obama,” “Bush stole the 2000 election,” “Hate speech isn’t protected speech,” “Trayvon Martin was murdered,” “Mike Brown was murdered,” the exaggerated  gender gap in wages, and the constant misinformation regarding guns,  I don’t really care what Glenn Kessler says. He’s lying by omission.

6. Wait, I thought my Harvard degree was supposed to impress people…Harvard’s been embarrassing me since before I graduated, which is why I don’t wear my class ring or advertise my degree except when I have to, since so many institutions seem to think it means more than it does. (It means one had a lot of smart and interesting classmates.). Lately—like for the last decade or more— Old Ivy has been devoted to stripping students of their civil rights and discriminating against Asian-Americans and, whenever possible, men.

Now group of “private clubs” and sororities have filed a lawsuit over the  2016 Harvard University policy banning members of off-campus same-sex organizations from holding leadership positions in registered student organizations, among other limitations. The  lawsuits  were filed in both Massachusetts court and federal court, alleging that Harvard is discriminating against students based on sex and infringing on their rights of free association. I wrote about this issue when it first raised its ugly, militant feminist head, here.

I wish I had been contributing to Harvard, which is like giving to a legal defense fund for Donald Trump, so I could stop donating in protest.


27 thoughts on “Cold Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/10/18: You’ve Got Ethics To Keep You Warm!

  1. I feel for you on the Harvard thing. I hold the opinion that one of my alma maters should have its accreditation revoked for academic fraud and lying about the academic fraud during investigations of the incidents. This doesn’t make you popular among alums.

  2. 3. I like this idea. Would this be something like what Althouse does by having a post to discuss what you like or would it be more like a forum with specific topics? It would be nice to get some feedback on personal ethical issues instead of specific stories.

  3. Regarding open threads, they can be useful, but I encourage laxity about the subject matter. Generally, the subject matter of the blog tends to restrict the topics organically, and it never hurts to remind people that the comments should be at least within shouting distance of ethics. But enforcement of the subject matter (as long as it isn’t offensive) is better lax than stringent.

    5. “Bottomless Pinocchio” is about the dumbest thing I’ve heard. Make a 5th “Pinocchio” instead for that, but “bottomless” is just dumb. It’s nonsensical enough as it is.

    6. Harvard should be offering a refund of part of it’s tuition for the damage the school has done to it’s own brand, and the reputation (to the extent that rubs off) damage to its graduates.

  4. #4. “The problem with freedom is only too much is enough.”
    I can’t recall or find who said said this, and it certainly sounds like one of those nonsense phrases thrown about in argument to make one appear smart, but it does apply here. People do abuse their rights, and there is a cost, both to society and in this case, to Jack.
    ‘Loser pays’ seems like a solution, until one contemplates the inevitable result of an individual attempting to sue Apple under such a system. Class action cases seem mostly to enrich the attorneys. A determined nut-job can waste the time and resources of the court system and whoever they have fixated on; granted their life will also be consumed, but they’re nuts. Calibrating this fairly seems impossible.

  5. On Bill James’s meticulously calculated Hall of Fame rating system, which counts a player’s credentials based on past standards, a score of 70-100 is considered borderline, and over a hundred means that admission is likely. Baines is around 55, which shows just how unsettling his admission is.

  6. #4 ” I’m torn. The fact that the United States bends over backwards to allow access to the courts is much to its credit. People abuse their rights. That doesn’t mean the rights shouldn’t exist.”

    At what point in time is it considered abuse of rights for a citizen to literally use the legal system to literally harass another person? At some point in time it seems to me that the person conducting the harassment should be hauled into court and face a judge for his intentional harassment and intentional abuse of the system.

    That was all rhetorical, I don’t expect discussion.

  7. Jack,
    Maybe another typo…

    “A teacher really can complain if she sends the photo to a student intentionally…”

    …probably should be…

    “A teacher really can’t complain if she sends the photo to a student intentionally…”

  8. 1. I doubt that Baines’s inductiom will have much if/then impact with respect to future candidates. The Hall of Fame has always had a strong bias in favor of “RBI men” – players who drive in a lot of runs. Baines is currently 34th on that career list, and every player above him on the list is in the Hall of Fame, still an active player, or waiting outside because of some issue related to steroids. You have to drop down about 25 more places on the list, to Rusty Staub at No. 60, to find a player similarly-situated to Baines who hasn’t been inducted.

    • Yeah, but that’s a false standard. Baines has the least impressive resume by far of those on the rbi list ahead of him, and that’s literally the only stand-out stat he owns. He had a lot of ribbies because he played for 22 years. Meanwhile, modern analysts regard rbi’s as a luck-laden stat, which it is, like pitching wins. And Baines never led the league in rbi, either.

      It’s already having if/then impact. I have read multiple places that if Baines is in, then they have to let in Edgar Martinez, who is up for his final time this year. And really, how can they keep Tony Oliva out now? Or Richie Allen? Or Larry Walker?

      • I can make a case for Edgar easier than for Harold Baines.
        The MLB award for outstanding designated hitter is named for Edgar, not Harold. He defined the position, his stats are solid.

  9. 5: Maybe we can see this as a bad start for a good idea. Bottomless Pinocchio could become a similar rating as ethics trainwreck, a falsehood so corrupting that it’s radioactive. And as much as I dislike Trump, there are some ‘bottomless Pinocchios’ that predate his election that are still corrupting and are not that partisan. They can use this new rating all they want, IF they have the sand to apply it to more than just a single boor.

    • I think that’s wonderful, Dwayne! You can put them up as examples of unethical behavior … just so the other commenters won’t have to go a-hunting too hard, and can have a good chuckle (or groan) at the same time. It’s very generous of you.

  10. 5. “This claim is obviously false…”
    Have you noticed that the left uses the word “obviously” as code for “you peasants should just shut up and accept whatever we say at face value.”?

  11. #3, as a bridge in that direction, you could try a post that lists several ethics topics or situations that you wish you could write about but don’t have the time and let the commentariat pounce…?

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