Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/16/2020: Special “Morning Warm-Up That Actually Gets Posted In The Morning” Edition [UPDATED!]

Good morning, good morning!

Well, my Christmas tree is drying out, and its demise is near. Every January since I was a small child the slow acceptance that soon this bright, sparkling symbol of innocence, love, family optimism and joy will be gone has been painful, and you know, in this respect, I haven’t changed a bit. There’s no reason, of course, why we can’t have the spirit of Christmas all year long—heck, Scrooge pulled it off—but somehow the loss of the Christmas tree reminds me that everyone will be back to their same petty, nasty, selfish ways, if they aren’t already. Even me.


1. The New York Mets don’t get ethics, but we knew that. The Mets’ new manager is Carlos Beltran, fingered in the MLB report on the Houston Astros cheating scandal as one of the ringleaders of the scheme that already has cost that teams manager and general manager their jobs. Alex Cora, who shared prominence in the report with Beltran, also was fired from his job as manager of the Red Sox. Beltran escaped snactions from MLB because he was a player at the time, and the baseball management decided, for many reasons, that it could not punish the players. But now not just a player, but according to the investigation the player at the center of the cheating scandal is a manager. Isn’t the next step an obvious one? A major league team can’t have as its field leader a player who was recently identified as a key participant in a cheating scandal in which ever other management figure was fired, can it? How hard is this? To make matters worse, Beltran had  recently lied in interviews with sportswriters about his knowledge of the Astros scheme. Yet so far, the Mets haven’t taken any action at all.

Beltran will be fired before the season begins, but the longer it takes for the Mets to figure out why, the more clearly the organization’s ethics rot will come into focus.

UPDATE: Beltran was sacked by the Mets this afternoon. (Thanks to Arthur in Maine for the news.) See? What did I tell you?

2. And speaking of baseball ethics rot, New York Times sports columnist Michael Powell proved his nicely. He mocks the current baseball cheating scandal thusly:

An Astros hitter can line a hit and motor into second base. From that perch he can stare at the opposing catcher and set to stealing pitching signs. Then he can break dance or do jumping jacks or anything else he can contrive to let the batter know the identity of the next pitch. That is baseball legal, and worth a giggle.

By contrast, a team apparatchik can sit in an airless office and stare at the television screen and decipher those same pitching signs. He can relay his findings to the bench, where players proceed with yips and howls and thumping of garbage cans to communicate to their batter that a fastball is a-coming. That is baseball illegal, and a high crime.

That’s correct. And anyone who thinks there is anything difficult about determining why the former is permitted and the latter isn’t is an ethics dunce extraordinaire. The players, on the field, by their own skills and talents, play the game, which includes noticing and deciphering strategy by the opposing side. The second situation the sportswriter describes involves the intervention of non-players using technological surreptitious and forbidden assistance.

Powell further demonstrates his ethical obtuseness by citing statistics that seem to show that the Astros cheating at home didn’t help them: in the year in question, 2017, the team hit better on the road, when they had to steal signs the old-fashioned way.

Ugh. This is one of the Barry Bonds steroids rationalizations: his cheating doesn’t matter, because he didn’t need to cheat. To fall back on my favorite analogy, if a law grad cheats on his bar exam by getting the answers in advance, her excuse that she knew all the right answers anyway doesn’t mitigate the cheating in any way. The only fact that matters is that an individual intentionally broke a law or rule, not what the results of the violation were.

This is more proof of the general ethics ignorance that infests society. Powell is a columnist; he’s supposed to be an authority, and he has the understanding of ethics of a sixth-grader.

3. And speaking of the ethics comprehension of sixth graders, I give you…a) Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who said yesterday that Democratic Senators running for the party’s 2020 nomination should recuse themselves from taking part in President Trump‘s impeachment trial.  That’s obviously disingenuous and ridiculous: if she really believes that, she should go back to high school civics class. Obviously all of the Senators on both sides, not just the Senatorial candidates for President, have conflicts of interest that would require them being excluded from a jury—but this is not a criminal trial. It’s a political process, and partisan and personal conflicts are unavoidable. Among other matters, Democratic Senators, like their House counterparts, have an interest in having anyone other than Trump at the top of the GOP ticket in November. I could make a strong argument for all the Senators on both parties recusing themselves….which is why none of them should. And…

b) The always amusing Senator Kamala Harris (D-Cal), who argued yesterday that President Trump’s judicial nominations shouldn’t be voted upon in the Senate while the impeachment fiasco is playing out. Unfortunately, there is nothing in law, precedent, the Constitution or common sense that suggests that a President’s powers and the business of the government are affected in any way by impeachment proceedings. Having warped the impeachment process already to turn it into a pure partisan weapon against the opposing party’s President, Democrats now want to add further motivation for future parties with the majority in the House to undermine democracy.

4. Now THIS is an unethical prosecutor...Caitlin Rice, a Chester County (Pennsylvania) prosecutor, was arrested for shoplifting $400 worth of food at a grocery store.on New Year’s Eve. Now she’s an ex-prosecutor.

Is there any way to explain this other than mental illness?

5. If you haven’t been paying attention, Governor Ralph Northam and the new Democratic majority in the Virginia (I live there!) legislature are drunk with power, and their excesses may well make independents and even the few remaining sane Democrats wary of what giving that party control means. His latest is to declare a state emergency and ban all weapons, including guns of course, from a legal, long planned rally at the Capitol in Richmond over the looming attacks on gun rights planned by the Governor.

Northam said at a press conference Wednesday that authorities believe “armed militia groups plan to storm the Capitol” during the January 20 demonstration, and that that law enforcement had intercepted threats and “extremist rhetoric” similar to what was observed prior to the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in August 2017. “We will not allow that mayhem and violence to happen here,” he said.

I am 100% certain that nobody intends to literally “storm the Capital,” and that what is being planned is known as “a legal demonstration.” Anti-civil rights publications referred to Reverend King’s March on Washington as “storming” the Capital.

The governor didn’t explain that the violence in Charlottesville resulted not from the extreme right group that had obtained a permit to march there, but a counter-protest, without a permit and including the antifa, that police allowed to clash with the demonstrators, resulting in a fatality…not from guns , however, contrary to the Governor’s innuendo,  but from an automobile.

Northam said, disingenuously, “I believe them when they say this is a peaceful event — that’s what democracy is. Unfortunately, they have unleashed something much larger, something they may not be able to control.” In other words, they have “unleashed” potentially violent opposition from Northam’s supporters

Northam is chilling speech, and Virginia’s governor is also abusing his powers to declare citizen access to three rights—speech, assembly, and the right o bear arms—an “emergency.”

23 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/16/2020: Special “Morning Warm-Up That Actually Gets Posted In The Morning” Edition [UPDATED!]

  1. I believe Marsha Blackburn’s statement was in response to impeachment manager Val Demming’s demand tha McConnel recuse himself from the impeachment process.

    The call for recusals began with Sessions, then Barr, and now McConnell.

    • Perhaps we might wish to examine why the GAO just claimed Trump violated the law by withholding appropriated aid for several weeks. I don’t believe there was any intelligence that pointed to a specific immenent threat of violence fromthe Ruskies to either the US or Ukraine by withholding such funds but we did have ample evidence that corruption was of epidemic proportions in Ukraine. All we have to do is look to who is the D’s new purveyor of the “truth”; Lev Parnas.

    • Yep. Definitely a goose gander situation. It definitely further dilutes meaning and dumbs down the electorate on the Constitutional process of impeachment. Not ethical. Not good.

  2. 2. Baseball has a techno-cultural clash problem. Culturally it’s always been desirable to steal signs. It used to be if you can do it…do it. No one bothered to think, in this era of technology, the culture might need to be modified. This is the unfortunate result.

    • Again, mike up catchers and pitchers and bench coaches and let them talk to each other. Hand signals are just quaint. Too much technology. And encrypt the radio messages.

  3. There’s a technological fix available that would solve the problem. NFL quarterbacks used to call their own plays, but no longer do (unless they call an audible in response to recognition of a defensive formation that would create problems for that play). The quarterback has an earpiece, and plays are called by the offensive coordinator on the sidelines.

    The same could be done with baseball: pitches could be called by the pitching coach, and transmitted to earpieces worn both the pitcher and catcher. Voila! No signs, no sign stealing.

    I say this only slightly tongue in cheek, because doing so would destroy some of the most wonderful aspects of the game – the teamwork between the pitcher and catcher, and the role of the catcher himself to control many of the offensive aspects of the game.

    But as technology improves, it’s going to become increasingly difficult to keep this sort of thing from happening. Unfortunately, I predict it probably will sometime in the next decade or so.

  4. Here is a discussion on another bloig related to guns.

    A good argument, but based on a flawed premise. FFLs are legally required, in so many words, to deny the sale of a firearm to anyone that they, for any reason, feel intends to use it in a crime. This includes “gut feeling” and that very defense is a “case dismissed, pay their legal fees, you frivolous plaintiff” as a matter of repeated precedent.

    (emphasis mine)
    I replied with this.

    Is there any case law supporting that?

    Because requiring gun dealers to reject a sale due to “gut feelings” has equal protection implications. As the Supreme court held in Palmore v. Sidoti, 466 U.S. 429 (1984) “Private biases may be outside the reach of the law, but the law cannot, directly or indirectly, give them effect.” 466 U.S. at 433. This law would actually require people to act on private biases, which goes against Palmore.

    Emphasis mine

    Any comments?

    • That commenter was wrong. To start with, he should probably have used the word “know” in place of “feel” in his second sentence. An FFL dealer is required to refuse a sale to anyone whom he knows is ineligible to receive a firearm. He is not required to refuse a sale based on gut feelings, but may do so (or for any other reason that makes him feel uneasy about the sale). The ATF encourages this, for obvious reasons, and will back the dealer. Someone could sue, of course, but might have difficulty making a case that the refusal was some kind of illegal discrimination. Here’s an example of sorts (though not really a very good fit):

      Anecdote: While in school, my son worked in the hunting and camping “Lodge” department of a major national sporting goods retailer. Because he was meticulous (and knowledgeable), he usually had the gun counter, and had complete approval from the company to refuse any sale with which he wasn’t comfortable. He did so a number of times, for varying reasons.

      • Someone could sue, of course, but might have difficulty making a case that the refusal was some kind of illegal discrimination

        Difficulty depends on jurisdiction.

        Thomas Sowell once pointed out in one of his books that some jurisdictions only require the plaintiff in an anti-discrimination suit to make a prima facie case, instead of establishing discrimination with a preponderance of evidence.

  5. #4 That prosecutor was just in an unfriendly county. In Boston, the Suffolk County DA, Rachel Rollins, campaigned to reduce incarceration, so we don’t have that school-to-prison pipeline or whatever. So some petty crimes will be dismissed, like larceny up to $250, shoplifting, B&E, but only to vacant properties for the purpose of vagrancy, vandalism, etc. We’re not quite San Fran bad, but if current trends continue, we’ll get there in the not too distant future.
    #5 I would like to think some people in VA would be able to get a clue, but I feel cynical about it. The top 3 executives in VA, who are Dems, get implicated in blackface stuff and some #metoo stuff, that actually have victims that remember where it happened, and nothing. One would think that’s deal breaker for Dems. But they get a decent result in state elections. Virginians probably will feel that Northam and Dems are right to go against the big bad gun people, look how dangerous and violent they are, they caused Charlottesville. And antifa are good, they’re antifascists! Now of course anybody that reads newspapers on a daily basis knows, that’s a load of malarkey, no joke, to quote Biden. But Northam and Co. know they don’t have to worry about that part of the electorate. Soccer moms will agree, that we need to get those assault rifles off the streets, even though they have no idea what is an assault rifle as defined by the 1994 AWB, for starters. You could convince them to get rid of the Bill of Rights with sufficient time and money! (See Bloomberg, M)

    • Soccer moms will agree, that we need to get those assault rifles off the streets, even though they have no idea what is an assault rifle as defined by the 1994 AWB, for starters. You could convince them to get rid of the Bill of Rights with sufficient time and money! (See Bloomberg, M)

      They live very sheltered lives.

      They hear stories of people mugged ijn the streets by street thugs.

      They hear stories of children gunned down in the street by gangs.

      As Marco Rubio pointed out, gun control was advertised as a method of keeping handguns out of the possession of the gangbanger or the street thug doing these mugging and shootings. The soccer moms are afraid that the street thugs and gangbangers might rob or kill their kids, so they want to get the assault rifles off the street. They want to reduce the proliferation of guns in society.

      They want warrantless searches of public housing projects where much of the crime and gun violence comes from.

      They want the police to just stop and frisk street thugs and gangbangers on a hunch.

      But like almost all people, they do not understand the perspective of others who do not share their lived experiences.

      They do not understand the perspective of the young black man who has to work nights in high-crime, inner city neighborhoods to support his family.

      They do not understand why he needs to carry an unregistered handgun for protection because the police refuse to protect him.

      They do not understand that the reason he can not get a permit is because, despite meeting all statutory criteria for a handgun permit, the police do not believe having to work late nights in crime-ridden, inner-city neighborhoods to be “good cause” to issue a permit.

      They do not understand his fear, on top of being accosted by a street thug or getting caught in a shootout by gangbangers, of being caught with an unregistered handgun by the police, of being treated just like the street thugs and gangbangers he wants to protect himself and his family from, of being incarcerated for possession and suffering from the disabilities felons experience after release from custody.

      I try to understand both of their perspectives.

      Perhaps we should all do this.

  6. Red Flag Laws went into effect in Colorado on January 1 and a woman in Fort Collins, CO filed an ERPO (Extreme Risk Protection Order) on January 9. ERPO in Colorado requires the petitioner to be a family member, someone that lives with the subject, or a law enforcement officer. Petitioner in this case claimed a “child in common” with the subject.

    The subject in this case? Police Corporal Philip Morris who had, 2 years ago, been forced into a suicide by cop situation by petitioner’s son.

    Yes, she lied on the ERPO application to abuse red flag laws.

    • The headline in that story is a master class in manipulation. “Judge denies mom’s attempt to use red flag law to take weapons from cop who killed her son”. All factual, but all pushing a certain viewpoint. She’s just a grieving mom, you see, not a liar trying to weaponize the legal system to harass someone for revenge. Yes, the officer killed her son, but only after attempts to defuse the situation resulted in the son attacking the cop with a knife. Even “use” is questionable in this context – she’s abusing the law, not using it.

    • Oh my, who could evvvvver have imagined that this sort of abuse would occur with these laws? Well, aside from any person with a pulse and seven functioning brain cells, maybe. Place your bets on when we’ll see the first actual death result from this.

  7. I don’t think Northam is referring to hypothetical counter-protestors when he says the pro-gun folks have “unleashed something much larger, something they may not be able to control.” First off, there’s no way any kind of violent counter-protest will show up to a pro-gun rally. They’re, frankly, too chickenshit for that. A pro-gun rally is, by definition, a bunch of people who take self-defense seriously enough that they will show up at the capitol to defend their right to do so. Antifa and their ilk do not wish to tangle with such people, because it’s very likely that the Antifa brand of nonsense would receive zero tolerance in such a crowd, with decisive and unapologetic ass-kickings freely distributed to any black-masked troublemakers who try to stir shit up. The Antifa cowards prefer to shout at and abuse elderly folks and gay Asian journalists and other people who won’t fight back. Northam can make all the “emergency decrees” he wants, but make no mistake, there will still be plenty of guns in that crowd. They just won’t be as visible as a rifle slung across someone’s back.

    What Northam is trying to do is to say-without-saying that serious 2nd Amendment activists are violent people. He’s trying to hint that the rally will *contain* dangerous people, not that it will be opposed by dangerous people. He wants to evoke images of anti-government nutjobs who live in backwoods shacks and nod along non-ironically when Alex Jones rants about lizard people from alternate dimensions living under the Denver airport. He wants to tar the entire pro-gun movement in Virginia as, if not that kind of person, then at least sympathetic to such “weirdos”. He wants to do this because the truth – that the vast majority of people involved in this growing movement in Virginia are just ordinary people who want to be left alone and to keep the rights that have been enshrined in both the Virginia and federal constitutions for centuries – doesn’t make him or his policies look too good.

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