Afternoon Ethics Refresher, 1/15/2020: Firing, Tweeting, Protesting, Talking Friends Into Suicide…


Traffic here inexplicably dead yesterday and today. Is there a secret ethics convention nobody told me about? There is, isn’t there? I’m hurt…

1. It’s too bad so many readers don’t pay attention to the baseball posts, because a lot of fascinating ethics issues with general applications arise…like right now. Yesterday, as already mentioned in an update to yesterday’s post and a couple of comments, the Boston Red Sox “parted ways with Manager Alex Cora by mutual agreement.” (He was fired.) In a press conference I just watched, the Red Sox brass said that Cora, who was both successful and popular in Boston, was let go solely because of the MLB investigation report regarding his involvement in cheating while serving as a coach for the Houston Astros in 2017, and the allegations of cheating  while managing the Sox in 2018, still under investigation, played no part in the decision. What they meant is that the Astros cheating was going to result in a long suspension for Cora anyway, so the team didn’t need to wait for the bad news regarding his cheating in Boston.

The weirdest thing about the press conference is that none of the four Sox officials would do anything but praise Cora, his character, his judgment, his dedication to the team, his devotion to baseball. Gee, why did they fire this saint, then? Alex Cora’s character is obviously flawed, or he wouldn’t have masterminded major cheating schemes that cost the Astros 5 million dollars and four key draft choices while losing the jobs of two men who advanced his career. Cora’s judgement also stinks, because his actions have now cast a shadow over two teams, their championships, and the records of the players his schemes benefited.

If he was so dedicated to the team, why is  it now facing a public relations and competitive disaster because of his actions? If he was devoted to baseball, how did he end up at the center of a scandal that undermines the perceived integrity of the game?

2.  Stipulated: It is unpresidential, undignified, and juvenile for President Trump to retweet a  meme like this:

I am not at all certain that it is so far out of line with the equally uncivil and hyperbolic attacks Democrats have been hurling at him, however., and the meme holds more truth than most of those. Democratic leaders have in fact been defending Iran, their dead terrorist general and their downing of a civilian aircraft while being noticeably silent about the Iranian’s people’s demonstrations against the oppressive regime. Is Trump’s meme worse because a picture is worth a thousand words, or is it worse because his opponents should be  accorded wider leeway in demonizing  a President than vice-versa?

I pick the latter, but the President obviously disagrees.

3.  Guess who’s holding the sign? (The blotted out words are all “FUCK”…)

Why, it’s the Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer of  Kellogg Community College in Michigan, Jorge Zeballos! He proudly posted this to Facebook, too. Eventually he decided that this was not a good look for an officer whose duties include advancing such goals as “creating an inclusive environment where we foster respect for others and our differences, support cultural understanding, demonstrate ethical behavior and champion social justice.” Too late.

In his posted apology, Jorge wrote, “Recently I posted a picture on my page of me holding a sign at a rally to protest Trump’s visit to Battle Creek. While I stand by my first amendment right to express myself, I understand that my public and private actions have repercussions on the institution I work for, Kellogg Community College. Because of this, I deeply regret posting the picture on my Facebook page and the controversy it has generated.”

This fool has no First Amendment right to publicly model exactly the conduct that he is charged with discouraging on campus. Now students know his office is a sham, and that he is an untrustworthy hypocrite. The institution covered for Zaballos, but it does not take much imagination to conceive of other “personal opinions” that he could have expressed that would not have been so eagerly rationalized. The school wrote in part:

…The KCC employee in question was expressing his personal opinion on his own time, and not acting on behalf of the College.KCC is a politically neutral, tax-funded institution of higher learning, and does not side with any political party or campaign message. However, this matter is a teachable moment and healthy reminder for all KCC employees that our actions as individuals can have an impact on the institution….As a marketplace of ideas, we remain committed to freedom of speech and freedom of expression as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. We also remain committed to creating an inclusive environment where we celebrate commonalities and foster respect for others and our differences….

Well, if an employee’s conduct and statements have a negative impact on his employer, and this clearly does, the First Amendment isn’t the issue, is it? And an institution that is ” committed to creating an inclusive environment where we celebrate commonalities and foster respect for others and our differences’ can’t have a chief equity and inclusion officer who holds signs in public saying “FUCK TRUMP.”

4. Michelle Carter, the rest of the story...I’m surprised:  Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court declined  to hear the appeal of Michelle Carter, the Massachusetts woman convicted of manslaughter in connection with her boyfriend’s 2014 suicide. I wrote about this case here, and concluded (Boy, that was a great post; you should read it),

The ACLU has opposed the Carter prosecution, and I would expect, or at least hope for, a unanimous vote overturning the conviction in the U.S. Supreme Court. The slippery slope is an abused argument in general, but here attention must be paid to it. Carter represents the worst case imaginable (“Hard cases make bad law”), but  her conviction not only points to escalating speech restrictions but also to “duty to rescue” laws and wide-ranging prosecutions for being an accessory to a self-murder. How many slips down that slope the Carter case polishes, for example, does it take to decide to prosecute the kid I wrote about here, who learned that his friend was going to help a girl kill herself and did nothing in response?

That just goes to show what I know: SCOTUS didn’t just refuse to overturn the case, it wouldn’t even consider it.

A Massachusetts  court held that Carter engaged in a “systematic campaign of coercion” that culminated in Conrad Roy’s suicide. Carter’s lawyers have argued that the contested speech is protected by the First Amendment. The justices did not give their reasons for denying Carter’s appeal or disclose a vote count, as is typical when they reject a case.

35 thoughts on “Afternoon Ethics Refresher, 1/15/2020: Firing, Tweeting, Protesting, Talking Friends Into Suicide…

  1. I caught a snippet of an MLB pitcher making a case for his stats being adjusted with all games against the Astros and the BoSox (teams for the seasons involved) being removed. Hard to argue with that, since the cheating was specifically against opposing pitchers, it worked, and the result is poorer stats for those pitchers. Why should their lifetime record be negatively effected by this, when an accounting adjustment, approved by MLB, can fix it?

      • Interesting. If a pitcher removes the cheating games from his stats and then meets a stats bonus threshold, which he failed to earn due to the cheating? As a non-lawyer it sounds like a case to me, and one with a whole bunch of deep-pocket defendants. Further, if MLB were to revise the stats, and pitcher’s teams had to pay bonuses, I would think that the teams paying up would then have a case against the Astros and BoSox, because it can’t be known with certainty how the pitcher would have done in a fair game. Possibly too poorly to have earned the bonuses.

    • That’s not how stats work. The pitcher pitched, the batter batted. Whatever happened, happened.

      Is fair to the next pitcher who might get bumped down in the rankings because another pitcher had one or more games nollied? Is it fair that the team gets credited for a loss, but not the losing pitcher?

      Cheating has ripple effects that are impossible to correct. Tweaking to improve one’s record inevitably worsens another. The bottom line is the pitcher gave up the hits; that the batter had an unfair advantage doing so does not nollie that fact.

      • I’m certain that sabremetricians are beavering away to take the cheating into account for all of the players involved or effected, and that these stats will be considered by the baseball cognoscenti. At the minimum individual player RC (runs created) stats will be adjusted, or asterisked. (Simple enough for a player with a reasonable sample size, say 2,000 PA’s, to have an RC with the cheating PA’s excluded, and one with them included.) I don’t expect MLB to do much more than they have to the Astros, and the BoSox are trying to stay ahead of this, but it does seem inadequate to me. I’m not aware of any prior instance where a team was found to have systematically, as a group, cheated for an entire season, with good results, so this is new ground. Obviously you’re correct that cheating has ripple effects that can’t all be corrected. I’m wondering if this particular cheating has been corrected enough.

        • There’s no more way to do that than to adjust stats when steroid use has been involved, or corked bats, or illegal pitches. Pitch framing is also cheating, but there is no way to prohibit it, since there is no way to enforce it in real time, or gauge what WOULD have (as opposed to might have) happened had it not occurred.

          • ‘Rubbing is racing’ (name the movie and actor for bonus cultural awareness points)

            Framing is Baseball. I have a hard time condemning it in a sport that used to wink at concepts like ‘chin music’ and tricking the runner of the base with a hidden baseball.

            But I am an old fogey, and like my Baseball the way my daddy taught it to me. 🙂

        • A baseball team is free to use whatever statistical voodoo they wish to evaluate a player. The official stats are sacrosanct, however, and must not be tampered with.

          • Baseball wouldn’t even take away home runs that bounced into the stands before the rule was changed to make them ground rule doubles. They started the process, and then realized the change would alter game scores, pitching stats, runs scored, was a mess. In 2017, the Astros batting on the road, with no sign stealing, was still better across the board–average, slugging, homers, runs—than at home. So the measurable harm to opposing pitchers when the Astros were stealing signs illegally was…?

            • Jack — you said “on the road” twice. I think you are saying that the Astros’ hitting stats were better away from home that in their home park. If that is the case, then it appears the cheating efforts had little effect.

              • The second one was supposed to be, as you surmised “than at home.” But that doesn’t mean that the cheating efforts had little effect. Hone-Road splits in any season are meaningless, and no matter how well or poorly the Astros hit at home, there is no way to prove it still wasn’t better than it would have been because of the cheating.

  2. 3. Give me a break. Tell me the college’s response would have been the same if the names had been Obama, Rice and Lynch. …or Booker, Harris and Buttegieg? Or even Snap, Crackle and Pop?

    We all know the reason why they’re so keen on the First Amendment right now.

  3. 3–“And an institution that is ‘committed to creating an inclusive environment where we celebrate commonalities and foster respect for others and our differences’ can’t have a chief equity and inclusion officer who holds signs in public saying ‘FUCK TRUMP.’ ”

    Maybe they can.

    The 77 Square Miles Surrounded By A Sea Of Reality continues to have in their employ a Racial Equity Coordinator (Toriana Pettaway), drawing > $86 large + generous public employee benefits, who believes that the fact that she can’t count is because there’s, and I quote: always some White Supremacy B.S.

    A local conservative firebrand, whom modesty prevents me from identifying, put a FINER POINT to it.

        • Just pullin your leg, buddy. I’m impressed you’re a go to commenter in your local paper. I’m sure they’re delighted to have you doing the heavy lifting for them.

          • I have a small but deeply disturbed following, which I’m humbled to discover (?) now includes you.

            Anywho, in an all-too-rare occurrence (being held ACCOUNTABLE regardless of your perceived position in the grievance chain) the talented Ms. Pettaway was admonished and disciplined.

            Of course, she was given one last chance, in a situation where mere mortals (melanin-challenged) would have been canned faster than you can say WESconsin.

            To no one’s surprise, she blamed her sundry-and-many travails on her supervisor who, to his credit didn’t pull too many punches. And in an all-too-rare incidence of deeply viscid irony (and this is where it gets GOOD!), Pettaway’s boss happens to be Black.

            Would that be considered a case of intersectionality?

            Doesn’t matter; Race Card…CANCELLED!

            • I’m guessing “hilarity ensued” would be the appropriate description of these particular happenings in Madison. Do you know Ann Althouse? Is she a neighbor. Did you have her in law school?

              • When an all too infrequently unretouched example of Lefty stepping in it with both feet surfaces, local conservatives are barely able to conceal their mirthful chortling. Shoot; even a middlin’ nonpartisan centrist like myself succumbs to the lesser angels of my nature.

                AA is a local legend and held in VERY high regard. Welp, unless she delivers flawlessly worded, logically sound Inconvenient Truth (as she is wont to do) which violates the very essence of those who reside within the strictly monitored, reality bereft, ideological monoculture of the Tofu Curtain.

                Their reactions include, but aren’t limited to: Horrified pearl clutching, furious hand wringing, and dutiful brow furrowing. Those not privy to such enviable coping skills have only clueless thumb-sucking and 1000 yard stares.

                Anywho, she’s a coupla clicks NNE of us, comfortably ensconced in pricey digs in the posh University Heights neighborhood; a place which, if they accepted me as a resident, I would never choose not to live.

                Never went to law school, but dammit; I coulda been a contendah.

                • God, what a place Madison must be. Right in the heart of the Midwest where if someone casually says something marginally unacceptable, they’re never challenged on it, they’re just never spoken to again. So all those NYC kids that flocked there in the ’60s are still around and messing things up?

                  For some reason I assumed you were of the legal persuasion. You can sure as hell communicate efficiently and effectively. I found it to be a really shitty way to make a living. Spending all your working hours (as a transactional lawyer) trying to anticipate and counter anything and everything that could go wrong does a number on your head and personality and general outlook on life. Among other things. But some people absolutely love it. Mostly second and third generation lawyers, I think. Go figure.

    • I find it interesting that the comment drew no, as in “zero” comments. 🙂
      Is her failure evidence of the “math is hard” concept, as quothe by Barbie?

    • Zeballos reportedly regretted the consequences of his profane protesting, saying, “This incident doesn’t change who I am and what I stand for, creating a more equitable and inclusive society.”

      Maybe it is different for *yous* but in my case getting clear about what is going on in the culture today has not been easy. With more clarity, understanding is possible, but more understanding does not solve the issue. Understanding makes the problem more acute because more defined. The country is in a Definition War. A war of ‘self-definition’. A war over definitions. There are conflicts about what definition to hold to. What is America? What is it? and What is it supposed to be? Who defines this?

      Again the more clarity that is allowed to ‘shine’ so to speak helps to arrive at understanding. But in a sense more understanding does not lead to bridging differences or reduction of tension nor ‘a more equitable and inclusive society’, but leads to more polarization and recognition of essential differences that will not be bridged.

      My understanding is that *The System* (government, academia, industry, finance, and all those dimensions that constitute ‘globalization’ and a globalized system) seek to enforce their definitions. They arrive at these through many different levels of rhetoric. And they control the PR industries. This is ‘definition-control’. So, there is an Official Story about what America is. It is the sort of stuff that you get during half-time at sports events: a saccharine, over-produced, 4th of July type embellished romantic portrayal … that everyone knows is false. And because it is false it is perceived as the glimmer of a cloying surface. This false view is presented wherever government rhetoric is presented, obviously, and all the ‘language of inclusion’ is not dissimilar to a mirror of Maoist propaganda. It is filled with saccharine rhetorical gunk that rarely inspires, nor convinces, anyone.

      You can — one can — extend this general cynical view into many many different areas. Movies, news presentations, historiography, and certainly to the Maoist-style University of America’s today.

      There you have my rather — my slightly! — cynical view of our present. You might disagree vehemently with it, and perhaps you will see me as *sick* for seeing what I see (and perhaps needing the psychiatric services of the State to cure it), but that is what I see. Let me call it The End of America for some dramatic effect.

      But I mean more the end of one idea about America and an uncertainty about what new definition will arise. The Balkanization that is apparent, begins in a Balkanization in the mind. There is not One America and it is not ‘united’. We are in a post-democratic phase which is now tending toward the logical next phase: tyranny. The System must become tyrannical and must clamp-down on those who, in essence, are not seeing as they should see, as they are instructed to see, and as they must see in order to “create a more equitable and inclusive society”.

      Even here on this Blog, or perhaps especially so, there is an insistence that America be seen in a certain way. People here lament that many are not seeing it as they *should* or as they are supposed to. They blame ‘The Left’ for creating the social division.

      It is entirely consistent with the general view that is part of patriotic propaganda and half-time presentations that Zeballos carry such a sign: the narrative states that America is and must be one specific thing, and if you do not *see* it that way you are — sometimes quite literally — evil.

      Zeballos is carrying the *proper* patriotic torch because he is directing animosity at a man who certainly exploits division (though he did not create it). No one that I am aware, except the Dissident Right, has any interest in confronting realistically the causes of division in America. Most everyone — including here — desire to apply some sort of unreal magical balm to make the problems go away, and return things to some former time. My impression is that many seem not to be able to see the problem, the real problem.

  4. 1 and 3. Alex and Jorge are both people of color. They are bullet proof. That’s why they are both being handled with kid gloves. Do either the Sox or The Cereal Community College want to deal with the wrath of La Raza or any other similar group? Or even NPR?

  5. 1. Jack, your questions about Cora are spot-on. The press conference might be further proof that we live in “The Voice” era…you know, that show on TV where four people describe the deeds of their subject (the singer), but are only allowed to praise the subject and are never allowed to critique in anything but the absolute vaguest of generalities. Or maybe it’s more basic…the Red Sox officials are afraid telling the truth will get them labelled as racists, since it’s the response-du-jour.

    I do not understand what is so difficult about summarizing with something like, “We fired Alex Cora because he was directly responsible for not only the scandal that has cost Houston dearly, but also for a very similar scandal now overshadowing our own team. We hope Alex Cora learns from this and changes his ways going forward, but we cannot allow him to coach this storied franchise, now or in the future.”

    2. The President shouldn’t repeat that stuff, but I admit, I laughed out loud when I saw it. The Democrats’ “support” of a terrorist state, all due to there hatred of the President, has been an embarrassment.

    3. Fantastic! Kellogg Community College is an institution where I could hang my “It’s OK to be white” signs without fear of backlash.

    • Ugh! #2 should read “…all due to THEIR hatred…”

      A technical issue meant it took me two days to get this comment posted, and I STILL missed that.

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