And Yet Another Evening Ethics Watch, 10/29/2019, Because Everything Has Been Upside Down At ProEthics Lately…

Good evening again.

We’ll have to stop meeting like this.

1. Can’t make up my mind if I want there to be disastrous botched ball/strike call in Game 6 of the World Series or not. It will take one of those—a bad call that turns the game and eventually the World Series around to get MLB off its metaphorical butt and force it to establish an electronic pitch-calling system. Of course, it is worth noting that one of the most devastating wrong umpire calls in history stole a World Series away from the St. Louis Cardinals in 1985, and it took another 30 years for baseball to adopt an instant replay system that would have reversed it.

Don Denkinger was the first base umpire in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series in Kansas City.  The St. Louis Cardinals led the home team Royals by 3 games to 2, and tooka 1–0 lead in the 8th inning. In the bottom of the ninth, Jorge Orta, the leadoff batter for the Royals, hit a slow roller to Cards first baseman Jack Clark. Clark tossed the ball to his pitcher, Todd Worrell, who was covered first base. Orta was out by half a step, but Denkinger called Orta safe, even though television replays and photographs clearly showed that he was out by half a step. Orta eventually scored, allowing the Royals to go  on to win Game 6 by the score of 2–1.

Denkinger was the home plate umpire in the Series-deciding Game 7, apparently driving the angry Cardinals mad. Denkinger ultimately ejected both Herzog and pitcher Joaquín Andújar in the fifth inning, as the game deteriorated into Royals rout,  11–0 . Denkinger accepted that he had made a terrible call, but as was the ethics in baseball at the time, took the position that such mistakes were an unavoidable part of the game. In  aftermath of the 1985 World Series, Denkinger death threats, from Cardinals fans. Two St. Louis disc jockeys doxxed him, giving out the umpire’s telephone number and home address. He was a well-regarded umpire, who at 83 years of age will still sign photographs of “the Call” when asked.

I guess I don’t want to see another umpire suffer Denkinger’s  fate tonight. It is inevitable that there will be a bad call of a strike or ball that makes an umpire a lifelong pariah, unless baseball locks that barn door as soon as possible.

2. A question: Does President Trump’s routine carelessness with facts and details, frequent exaggerations and self-contradictions, and yes, resorting to obvious lies, mean that his potential Democratic challengers should be especially truthful, or does it lower their obligation to be honest and accurate, since they will still be more honest than the President in the eyes of their supporters and Trump’s detractors?

One would think that the first option would be the obvious (and ethical) course, but the contenders seem to have chosen door #2. Joe Biden, for example, has been tossing off one obvious whopper after another. He said that while VP he never spoke with his son about his son’s lucrative ventures in the Ukraine. His son said he did. Embarrassed that so far Obama hasn’t endorsed his loyal Vice-President for the Democratic nomination, Biden said that he asked the ex-President not to endorse him. Sure, Joe.

A more recent example arose as Biden contradicted a previous pledge to avoid accepting campaign funds from  Biden “super-PACs.” “I didn’t change my opinion,” Biden said in an interview. “I didn’t, look, they’re able to go out and do this, period. I cannot stop them if I wanted to stop them, it’s their right to do it!”

CNN’s John King pointed out the obvious. “Last part’s not true. It’s just not true, and Joe Biden knows that,” King said. “He said repeatedly at the beginning of the campaign he didn’t want a super PAC, he wouldn’t have a super PAC…The guy who’s building one up for him right now has been with Joe Biden going back to the 1980s, if Joe Biden said, ‘Larry [ long-time Biden Wall Street ally, Larry Fink] don’t do it,’ Larry would not do it.”

” Why not give an honest answer?” King asked.  “‘I’m not raising as much money as I need, so we’re gonna go this route.'”

It’s obvious, John. Don’t you read Facebook and Twitter? It’s OK to give a dishonest answer because President Trump lies so much.

3. The Washington Post’s bad week continues…First the paper exposed its desperate anti-Trump spin addiction for all to see with a deliberate and ridiculous headline that represented ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as an “austere religious scholar,” as if he was the Dalai Lama. Then the paper spun the spin. The Post‘s vice president for communications, Kris Coratti is blaming the  pressure of breaking news for the mistake, saying that headline was “written in haste.” That might have been plausible if the “austere religious scholar” wording had been the first headline, but it wasn’t. It replaced a headline created in even more haste that was accurate: “Islamic State’s ‘terrorist-in-chief.”  What did the Post feel was so wrong with headline #1? What was the rush to change it? It’s amazing, isn’t it: the Post has been writing headlines for breaking news for more than a century, yet when a story reflects positively on the Trump administration, the pressure is just too much, and the Post can’t call a terrorist a terrorist.

Then today, amazingly, U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman, the same federal district Judge in the Eastern District of Kentucky who had dismissed the defamation lawsuit by Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann against The Washington Postr einstated a portion of the case in an Order which providing both for discovery and  the filing of the First Amended Complaint.

This is unexpected. The order says in part,

The Court will adhere to its previous rulings as they pertain to these statements except Statements 10, 11, and 33, to the extent that these three statements state that plaintiff “blocked” Nathan Phillips and “would not allow him to retreat.” Suffice to say that the Court has given this matter careful review and concludes that “justice requires” that discovery be had regarding these statements and their context. The Court will then consider them anew on summary judgment. [Fn. 1 The Court has reviewed the videos filed by both parties and they confirm this conclusion.] The Court also notes that the proposed First Amended Complaint makes specific allegations concerning the state of mind of Phillips, the principal source of these statements. It alleges in greater detail than the original complaint that Phillips deliberately lied concerning the events at issue, and that he had an unsavory reputation which, but for the defendant’s negligence or malice, would have alerted defendant to this fact. The proposed First Amended Complaint also alleges that plaintiff could be identified as the subject of defendant’s publications by reason of certain photographs of plaintiff and the videos.

Phillips, you may recall, is the Native American activist who initiated a confrontation with the students. The Post accepted his false version of events without diligently reviewing the whole video of the event or speaking with Sandmann. (The various Ethics Alarms posts about the episode are here.)

Legal Insurrection, as part of its excellent analysis, writes,

While on the surface a relatively narrow ruling, reopening only a limited number of factual claims, it is in fact a big win for Sandmann. His attorneys now get to take discovery on the WaPo process that went into the story. That inquiry will not be limited to the three factual statements, because the process by which those statements made it into the WaPo reporting is the same process by which all the dismissed statements were reported. The entire process will be subject to depositions and document discovery. Sandmann’s attorneys likely will find facts to bolster a number of their claims, so expect a Second Amended Complaint with the results of the discovery process.

Good.

Note that once again, the Post just made an honest mistake that randomly happened to result in vilifying boys wearing “MAGA” caps.

8 thoughts on “And Yet Another Evening Ethics Watch, 10/29/2019, Because Everything Has Been Upside Down At ProEthics Lately…

  1. Does President Trump’s routine carelessness with facts and details, frequent exaggerations and self-contradictions, and yes, resorting to obvious lies, mean that his potential Democratic challengers should be especially truthful, or does it lower their obligation to be honest and accurate, since they will still be more honest than the President in the eyes of their supporters and Trump’s detractors?

    Remember, the same people who are leading this campaign to impeach Trump are also the ones who excused Clinton.

  2. #1. I recall “explanations” at the time that Denkinger’s view of Worrell’s glove was obscured by Orta as he approached the base, and that crowd noise kept Denkinger from hearing the throw hit Worrell’s glove. Unavoidable situations like those should have made the need for the replay system obvious, and now the electronic pitch-scoring system is obviously way overdue. I hardly ever see a game without some really blatant missed calls.

  3. #3) Hoo boy, if you thought the “austere religious scholar” bit and the rehabilitation of the Covington lawsuit were bad for the Washington Post, you haven’t seen their latest op-ed coming out foursquare against the First Amendment. I refuse to link to the piece and give them more traffic, maybe I’ll just wait for the Babylon Bee’s inevitable send-up and link to that instead.

    • Give WaPo readers credit: the comments on his idiotic article are brutal.
      Of course he worked under Obama. Funny how now when I see someone advocating speech restrictions, I know it’s a Democrat. 50 years ago, it was always the Rightwing nuts.

  4. Missed calls in sports can happen to either team, and they often average out but not always. Don Denkinger was a good friend of a friend of mine and they were out for drive one day and stopped in at my cabin for surprise cocktails. He survived the death threats I can assure you. At that level of play, his friend told me, the League pays the umpires pretty well. Like HRC, his mistakes were not intentional and should be forgiven.

  5. It has got to be frustrating for a ref to do a job when a machine can easily put them out of business. I suspect that is why so many people are against it because while we like our lives to be easier, there is some kind of “ick” factor involved at the prospect of a human losing something to a machine. We have been dwelling on it for a long time. The earliest example (That I know of) is quite possibly the silliest: “John Henry.”

    Still…We do love an underdog. However, as my economist friend has told me: the market always adjusts. People just move into different fields. Now, more than ever, we are more adaptable, more knowledgeable (and educated), and more employable. Want to make money playing video games: try twitch. Need more flexible hours? Teach English online to Chinese children. Want to make a few extra bucks for fun? Do online surveys. Want to make a “living wage”? Well, then it gets a little bit more complicated, but I promise you, the government isn’t going to fix it. Still… It is amazing what people will pay you to do if you are willing to put in the time, risk, and effort.

  6. Note that once again, the Post just made an honest mistake that randomly happened to result in vilifying boys wearing “MAGA” caps.

    Until there are painful, personal consequences for things like this, progressives will continue to do them. Human nature.

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