Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/12/2019: “If An Ethics Blog Expounds And Nobody Reads It…”


Like that proverbial tree falling alone in the forest...

Epic lack of interest in Ethics Alarms today…

Oh, well…

1 . Today’s “Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!” note for the day. Here’s that objective, professional, fair CNN reporter Jim Acosta (I’m fooling: he’s really a toxic, partisan, grandstanding hack) tweeting about the Presidents rally in Minneapolis:

How can anyone who tweets such offal continue to be employed as a White House correspondent? How can a news network that employs such a biased, dishonest jerkbe taken seriously?

The Q sign reference is especially egregious. “QAnon” is a weird conspiracy theory-driven sect, and the fact that some attendees at a Trump rally seem to support the nonsense—which is not worth explicating—proves nothing at all. But the rest of Acosta’s tweet is embarrassing too: the Trump campaigns have never bashed immigrants, just illegal immigrants, who ought to be bashed; hated of the press is stoked by the conduct of unethical journalists like Jim Acosta, and disruptive protesters are properly ejected from the political rallies of candidates from both parties.

2. Play-off baseball ethics update:

  • Washington Nationals closer Daniel Hudson was unavailable for Game #1 of the National League Championship Series because of paternity leave. This is a benefit bargained for by the players’ union; in the “old days,” the idea of a key player absenting himself from a crucial game to attend to his child’s birth was unheard of. In Hudson’s case, the ethical thing would have been to pass on the opportunity to take the game off.

The Nationals major weakness is a terrible bullpen, and Hudson is one of the few reliable  relief pitchers on the team. As it happened, the Nats won a close game, but that’s just moral luck. They might have lost because of his absence. That loss might have cost the team its chance to go to the World Series. Millions of dollars would be lost to the franchise that pays Hudson seven figures to improve its fortunes. The careers, lives and family fortunes of his team mates would be affected; the jobs and income of hundreds of merchants and others who rely on the success or failure of the team would have been put at risk. How could anyone argue that the emotional support Hudson would lend his wife during childbirth outweighs all of that, or constitutes a superior ethical obligation?

The logic that it does depends on the presumption that playing major league baseball is a less serious pursuit than other professions. A master brain surgeon would not skip  life-and-death emergency surgery to witness his wife’s childbirth, would he? If the judge refused a continence when a defense lawyer was supposed to give his closing argument in a criminal case, would the lawyer feel the right choice would be to abandon his client? Do generals fly home on paternity leave as they are about to lead their troops into battle? Would an astronaut scratch a scheduled  launch for paternity leave?

Baseball is as important to those who devote their lives to baseball as any of these professions are to the practitioners of them.

  • There are rumors that Major League Baseball has somehow changed the ball to a less lively version for the post-season. If true, that would be a horrific breach of integrity. As destructive as the 2019 ball was to the game, that is the equipment that was used for the 162 game season for each of the play-off teams. It determined how the teams evaluated their talent, and devised their strategies. For MLB to alter the ball at the most competitive and important part of the 2019 campaign without notice or warning would be unconscionable.

3.  Oops! Gotta wrap up if this is going to make it for the twelfth!


29 thoughts on “Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/12/2019: “If An Ethics Blog Expounds And Nobody Reads It…”

  1. I swear when I wrote the item on Daniel Hudson I had no idea that he had been criticized in other forums. I thought I was the only heartless bastard on the topic. By the way, “The Althletic’s” headline is ‘It’s not who I am’: The Nationals didn’t need Daniel Hudson Friday. His family did.” Unless he was literally delivering the baby, I don’t see how this makes any sense.

    • Counter-argument on the Hudson situation – For the nationals to have placed themselves in a position where a single player taking advantage of a promised benefit at his job (the paternity leave) created a realistic chance of them losing the game (due to their lack of hiring sufficient healthy talent into their bullpen) is inherently unethical as an organization, because it creates a situation where all the groups you mentioned can be placed in dire straits by what happens to a single performer. Attaching the consequences for the team’s unethical staffing decision to Hudson’s personal behavior is unfair; The team did not choose to get him to negotiate away the benefit he invoked (which, for the appropriate compensation, they presumably could have), and was therefore at least aware of the possibility that something outside their control could sideline Hudson. That it was his wife giving birth, and not Hudson being hit by a self-driving car, which resulted in their not having access to him, was merely a result of luck (pregnancy and births being both notoriously difficult to plan, and the Nationals presence in the playoffs being, from the admittedly little I understand of baseball, something which was unexpected to say the least).

      Hudson has two sets of competing ethical concerns in this scenario – that to his wife and soon to be family, and that to the organization which had hired him. Fortunately for him, his organization had already created a waiver of their concerns (the paternal leave promised to him), in the case of this exact dilemma arising. His decision to prioritize the ethical concerns of his immediate family when allowed to by the organizations own policies is ethically neutral at worst – depending on how you rank ethical obligations to strangers versus family, it could easily be argued that he is fulfilling a greater ethical obligation in favor of merely neglecting a host of lesser obligations.

      Keep in mind that maternal mortality has been on the rise in the US for the last 30 years – steadily increasing from 9.1 deaths per 100,000 births in 1986, to 14 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015, while the rate of major complications from the process of giving birth nearly tripled between 1993 and 2014. We have no idea how dangerous this pregnancy was thought to be by their doctors, but it was his third with his wife – it is entirely conceivable that it could have considerably more high risk than the average. Prioritizing his ethical obligation to be present in the event his family might need him is an entirely understandable decision on Hudson’s part, especially when it is a decision his employer has chosen to allow him.

      Also, it is clear Hudson had warned his employer multiple times about the overlap (some suggestions indicate as far back as August), and been in communication with them about his intention to exercise the benefits they had promised him, as the playoff season became more likely, and eventually certain. Hudson and his family did try to make the situation as convenient for the Nationals as possible – Having sought to induce labor prematurely, so it would not conflict with the games, and allow him to play. Truly, that is a family going above and beyond the ethical considerations they owe a member’s employer and the strangers that rely upon the employer.

      Again, the failure of the Nationals to shore up their bullpen difficulties, for what, at that point, should have an expected staffing issue, is what is truly unethical in the situation.

      • If this isn’t a COTD I will be seriously disappointed.


        There will be tut-tutting and finger-wagging, believe you me.

      • ”the Nationals presence in the playoffs being, from the admittedly little I understand of baseball, something which was unexpected to say the least).” (bolds mine)

        Fate, in the form of an epic choke by my Brewers in the Wild Card game, intervened…

      • Good job, and Comment of the Day. I just wish you didn’t balance the whole thing on the bad argument that the Nationals deserved less loyalty and aid in a crisis because of “their lack of hiring sufficient healthy talent into their bullpen.” That’s just factually and ethically wrong. As any Nats fan could tell you, the team has scoured the baseball universe to find competent relief pitchers season after season, only to be foiled in unpredictable ways. I could bore you and everyone with the ridiculous sequences where the Nats have thought they had solved the problem only to have it blow up in their faces again. Many were calling for the Nats to sign wandering former Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel as a free agent mid-season to shore up their pen. The rich and opportunistic Cubs did, and Kimbrel was first lousy, then injured. The Red Sox were criticized for not re-signing Kimbrel. The two pitchers they (reasonably) counted on to take his place flopped badly; their eventual closer was a pitcher, Brandon Workman, who barely made the roster but who ended up with the lowest BA against on any AL reliever. Bad luck isn’t unethical, and thinking it is constitutes consequentialism.

        • Valid point – I have to admit that I’m not enough of a baseball fan to have known the full history of the Nats travails in the bullpen, and when I started working up that post, I didn’t do enough research to be informed on that front. Having looked into it a bit more now, I would agree that as an organization, they have been unlucky, and that does offer them protection against being judged unethical for the weakness of their bullpen.

          I would still contend that, having given the Nationals as much advance notice of the event as he did, and considering the steps Hudson and his family took to try and mitigate the birth’s impact, Hudson had fulfilled, and indeed gone beyond, his direct ethical responsibility to the club – any ethical obligations he had to their supporters and merchants are far more nebulous things. They attach to him only indirectly, through his presence as a member of the Nationals – it is, after all, the Nationals who have the direct responsibility of performing well so that everyone outside but adjacent to the franchise can thrive, and ensuring they are in a position to do so. Hudson and his family still strove to meet those obligations, as tenuous as they were – they didn’t simply tell everyone to go screw themselves, but tried to induce labor on October 10th, when it would not have been a great hardship for the team, falling between the NLDS and NLCS. It is here that, if we are to absolve the Nationals of being being judged unethical due to bad luck, we must also absolve Hudson of our ethical judgments, on the same basis – natural births resulted in there being no rooms for induced labor available until Friday, rather than the Thursday they had been hoping for.

          Hudson’s choice to honor a direct, personally created, obligation to his family, over multiple that are degrees removed, and which did not attach to him until after the direct obligation was created, should not be something we can find any great ethical fault with. If we did so, the ethical obligations of care that any of us have to our own family would always be overshadowed by the nearly infinite, but much less direct obligations we owe to other members of our neighborhood, society, and species. Especially when we consider that the game Hudson missed was merely Game 1 of a best-of-seven series, judging Hudson harshly, over bad fortune in a situation where he and his family tried to do the best they could to honor those tenuous obligations without sacrificing the more concrete obligations among themselves, would be unfair. It might have been an ethically laudable action, if Hudson had chosen to support his teammates and the strangers dependent upon the organization over being present with his own family, in the circumstances he found himself – but I don’t think I can agree that it was an ethically obligatory course of action for him to do so.

          • I’ll append this to the original Comment, Tim. Here’s my other beef: giving an organization that depends on you plenty of notice that you plan on abandoning them in their hour of need doesn’t change the fact that you will abandon them in their hour of need. My question for you would be: are you willing to apply Kant’s Rule of Universality? In 1967, the Boston Red Sox won a fluke pennant that changed the franchise forever. The reason was an incredible season by Carl Yastrzemski, calculated by WAR metrics to be the second most influential performance by a player of all time. MLB had no paternity right then. The season came down to two games against the Twins, who came to Boston needing a single win to take the pennant. The Sox had to win both. With Yaz in the line-up, the Red Sox were a winning team; without him, they were a sub .500 team. The whole season was quest, a cause, a celebrated battle by a young team that had fished tied for last place the year before to shock the baseball world. They had excited the city, even getting credit for helping Boston avoid the race riots that afflicted other major cities. Would you still say that Yastrzemski would be making the ethical choice to skip one or both of those critical games to be with his wife when she delivered?

            • Judging past behavior by the ethical standards of today is fraught – Yastrzemski would almost certainly have been canned for making that decision in a time when paternity benefits did not exist for the players, and, depending upon his skills and the potential for employment of himself and his wife, it would definitely be arguable as to whether he had making the best decision for his family (yes, his all time stats indicate he was an amazing player, but would another team have taken the chance of signing someone who had not missed those games? I don’t know enough about the other team managers to judge that). I think I’d still be comfortable saying Yastrzemski was making AN ethical choice to skip one or both of the games, IF he had also made the Sox aware that it would be his choice on the same time scale, and taken as many steps to avoid having made the decision.

              As with Hudson, I don’t think making the decision to play was unethical. If he had made that decision because he believed it was all that was keeping his city from anarchy and would revitalize their economy, etc, it would have been a clear cut case of sacrificing personally to pursue a course of action based on its benefits to the community – the sort of thing which we acknowledge goes above and beyond the usual ethical obligations any individual possesses, but which hopefully inspire all of us to potentially be better members of our community in the long run.

              While I agree with your statement that “giving an organization that depends on you plenty of [notice] that you plan on abandoning them in their hour of need doesn’t change the fact that you will abandon them in their hour of need,” I think I disagree with the assessment that that this abandonment is unethical, simply because of it being a perceived (or real) hour of need. A common lament of all the worst companies and managers I’ve ever encountered or heard about is “How dare you quit/retire/go on vacation/take maternity leave/attend your graduation/get married? Don’t you understand the hardship that causes us?” Yes, often the employee does understand that hardship; this is what the whole point of providing notice is about – it allows the organization a chance to mitigate that hardship by making arrangements for the situation. To argue that an employee must sacrifice on the behalf of the organization, and do or not do something because they are indispensable, creates a sort of reverse Star’s Pass (the Star’s Obligation?) – Because you have been identified as a key performer, you are presumed to have a greater ethical responsibility to the organization.

              Very rarely are these obligations justified – a person who has worked for you for 50 years and gives you 6 months notice they will be retiring has no fault for your failure to actually start looking for a replacement until it’s only a month before that departure – even if they are leaving right before tax season at your accounting firm. Maybe they will choose to stay and help out on a part time basis – but doing so is stepping above and beyond their actual ethical obligations to you. Particularly in a field like professional sports, where employment is borderline indenture (your employer can literally sell you without your agreement), I’m leery of creating any hard and fast rule that, simply because someone thinks you are indispensable, you must sacrifice personal ethical obligations (and/or non-ethical considerations) on their behalf.

        • How much does it change things that Daniel Hudson was a trade-deadline pickup by the Nationals? He did not start with the team, but was one of 3 pitchers who were traded to the team at the end of July. He spent about the first 2/3 of the season with the Toronto Blue Jays. The person who closed out the game he missed was their regular closer to that point (and still closed out a couple of games following the trade, though Hudson was the primary closer then).

          As players do not (for the most part) get a say in trades, does being moved to a new team with no choice change his responsibilities to it? Granted that is part of the contract in collective bargaining (but then so is paternity leave).

          • I don’t think it is relevant at all. As a player, he had a duty to his team, team mates, the team’s fans, its city, and the game of baseball. It doesn’t matter how he becomes a member of that team, or when, or even who’s paying his salary. The ethical duties are exactly the same.

  2. I spent yesterday at the Tippecanoe Battlefield and Prophetstown – which is now a State Park – for my birthday

    But I did read every entry, I swear!

    1. They are just preparing their narrative for the 2020 election so that American citizens will be properly ingrained for when the next Democratic loss happens. No police in riot gear at Democratic rallies? I find that hard to believe.

  3. You write; I read.

    But this time you did make me look up QAnon. Conspiracy theories usually ask me to believe in so many unbelievable things (pickled aliens, chemical cloud trails, Bernstein vs Bernstain, etc), but this one mostly asks that I give credence to an organized deep state coup against DJT and America, and that most Democrats are like Weiner and Epstein. Q? Star Trek fan or John Q Public? Couldn’t read past that point because 1)started getting a confused headache and 2)started feeling like a bobble-head. Really, although I never met a conspiracy theory I didn’t like (yeah, like Munch…I should have sued for privacy invasion) I really don’t need another right now.

    The tree fell. No one was around. I heard it anyway, and sometimes it echoes.

    • That is an absolutely asinine argument but it’s the one that the Democrats are hanging their hats on. It is such a stupid argument that I despair to even be asked to answer it. Nobody who is not absolutely consumed by irrational hatred would even suggest that a criminal investigations are banned by the campaign contribution laws.

      • Wonderful area. Having grow up in Lafayette I missed that park since I left town in 2002. Next time I see my parents I might have to visit.

      • That is an absolutely asinine argument but it’s the one that the Democrats are hanging their hats on. It is such a stupid argument that I despair to even be asked to answer it. Nobody who is not absolutely consumed by irrational hatred would even suggest that a criminal investigations are banned by the campaign contribution laws.

        Under this logic, no one who is a candidate for any elected office can be investigated for a crime, let alone prosecuted.
        If campaign contribution laws are so broad to cover legitimate, and even essential, state functions, then they are unconstitutional.

        Finally, note that this guy’s side has no problems using criminal investigations for political purposes when it benefits them. Read this quote from Maraxus.

        And as for The Hammer, that’s true. He did get his conviction overturned by the Texas Supreme Court, an elected body that consists almost entirely of conservative Republicans. They didn’t think DeLay actually did all that stuff, and Texas doesn’t really have much in the way of campaign finance laws anyway. It makes no matter, though. He was still a cancerous growth on Congress’ asscheek, begging for a public fall from grace. And when he got convicted the first time around, we as a nation are better off for it. Ronnie Earle did humanity a favor when he realized that DeLay broke campaign finance laws, and he did us an even greater one when he got DeLay convicted. Whether or not “justice” was actually served against him isn’t so important. The fact that he no longer holds office though? That’s very important.

        Emphasis added

        His side has no credibility complaining about Trump wanting to use the criminal justice system for his own personal benefit.

    • Logically, an investigation begun to assess the honesty or dishonesty of an adversary can not be a thing of value because you do not know the outcome of such an investigation.

      The Quora writer must believe that an investigation would lead to a finding that suggests Biden is guilty if he believes that Trump would benefit from the investigation. Even if Trump thinks an investigation could assist his chances it is not possible to measure the value of such an investigation.

      Every transaction with a foreign leader or group can affect an election. China’s last minute pullout of a deal prior to the 2018 elections helped countless Democrats indirectly, Greta Thunberg’s annoying speech at the UN undoubtedly benefitted candidates focused on climate change. Who will stand up to her and say “How DARE you come to our country to interfere with our elections. You should not have come. You should be in school. How dare you try to influence our elections”.

      Quora is in my opinion a well intentioned but flawed mechanism to obtain quality information. Far too many with scant high quality credentials post there to enhance their own ego. The bias of this Quora writer is exposed in his listed credentials.

      I caution anyone that when faced with someone simply quoting Federal Annotated Code section and subsection without any case law backing up the writer’s assertion to demand which cases established the precedent for the actual facts of the case.

      • It’s illegal for an American citizen to make a campaign donation of more than $2,000. On the theory that the Democrats are advancing, if I dig up information proving that Elizabeth Warren eats puppies and give it to Trump, I’ve violated the campaign laws, because there’s no doubt that information would be worth more than $2,000 to him. The US Attorney in Manhattan just investigated two associates of Rudolph Giuliani and indicted them. That’s definitely worth more than $2,000 to every Democratic candidate. Are the Democrats calling for him to be jailed?

      • Quora is in my opinion a well intentioned but flawed mechanism to obtain quality information. Far too many with scant high quality credentials post there to enhance their own ego. The bias of this Quora writer is exposed in his listed credentials.

        I caution anyone that when faced with someone simply quoting Federal Annotated Code section and subsection without any case law backing up the writer’s assertion to demand which cases established the precedent for the actual facts of the case.

        Quora was heavily criticized for eliminating question details, which allowed askers to provide details to explain the context of the question that they are asking. The Quora leadership claimed it was to improve the quality of the questions.

        I have not observed an improvement of quality. I still see the same fallacious questions about gun control laws still being repeatedly asked.

        Jack could write a whole article about Quora’s decision to eliminate question details.

  4. “If An Ethics Blog Expounds And Nobody Reads It…”

    You’ve been talking about how you’re really getting really tired of having to write about all the unethical crap that’s going on related to the left’s unethical efforts to remove President Trump, it beginning to seem a bit futile and repetitive – am I right?

    Personally I think everyone in the country that’s politically and morally to the right of the extremists, that are controlling the Democratic Party, are getting worn out with the fever pitched anti-Trump attacks and the subsequent commentary opposing the unethical attacks. All the lies are coming back to roost on their coveted Democratic Party and their starting to look like the boy who cried wolf. Either the people are going to start tuning it all out or they’re going to start lashing out.

    I feel we as a country are at that tipping point where people either give up and let the lunatics control the asylum and we fall into totalitarianism or people stand up and literally fight back. Watch out for that proverbial calm before the storm.

    If not before, November 2020 will be a tipping point.

  5. I suspect the lack of response to yesterday’s post about impeachment villains is due at least partly to exhaustion. It seems as if there’s nothing left to say. The anti-Trump hysteria just keeps growing, impervious to all reason.

    1. The most egregious thing isn’t the reference to the Q signs. It’s the reference to riot police without mentioning that they are needed to protect the Trump crowd from attacks by violent, rioting leftists, not vice versa.

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