Lunchtime Ethics Snack, 1/17/2020: Dirty Money, Dirty Baseball, And “Parasite”

Yum or Yecchh?

1. And the baseball cheating scandal is still roiling! I feel sorry for ethics enthusiasts who are missing out on this fascinating episode because they shut down when baseball is mentioned. One emerging issue that focuses on “woke” (and in some quadrants, sadly, female) leadership models has become evident. The two managers fired in the sign-stealing scandal were part of the “new wave” of “collaborative” baseball managers that teams embraced in recent years. They are sensitive to the players’ needs; they don’t give orders as much as set flexible boundaries; they are not confrontational, and they absorb and guide the culture of the clubhouse rather than dictate it. Then we learn, in MLB’s report on its investigation, that when Houston’s A.J. Hinch discovered (in 2017) that his bench coach and his players were operating an elaborate sign-stealing operation that he knew violated the rules , he made it known that he disapproved, but never ordered them to stop. Now baseball commentators are saying that the Astros need to hire an “old school” manager (like the ones who have been put out to pasture over the last five years) who will be leader, who will lay down the law, and who won’t shy away from confrontation for fear of not being “collaborative.”

Duh. How did anyone come to think effective leaders should do otherwise? Leaders need to lead. Leading doesn’t have to be autocratic, but a leader who acts like Hinch did in this matter is no leader at all.

In another revelation regarding the scandal, the report by Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred states that when Manfred put teams on notice in a Sept. 15, 2017 memo that using electronic means to steal and relay opposing teams’ signs during games would henceforth be  severely punished, Houston General Manager Jeff Luhnow “did not forward the memoranda and did not confirm that the players and field staff were in compliance … Had Luhnow taken those steps in September 2017 it is clear to me that the Astros would have ceased both sign-stealing schemes at the time.”

This is gross managerial negligence, and it puts Lahlow’s self-serving statement that he had no involvement in his team’s cheating in perspective.

2. Why is everyone raving about “Parasite”? I finally watched the Oscar-niminated South Korean film that almost every critic has named as the best or second best movie of 2019—yes, even better than “Little Women.” It’s an unusual, complex, genre- defying film to be sure, and there are no super-heroes in it, but the effort to sell the film to the public as a great movie is suspicious. “Parasite” is not great, though it is very good, and would recommend it.  (It’s also not “hilarious,” as some reviews have suggested. It’s not even sort-of funny.) What’s going on here? One factor is that movie critics see so many films that their perspectives are warped. A movie like this one that is original and unlike anything they have seen before is a relief, and critics go overboard in their praise. (Examples from the past: “The Crying Game;” “Avatar”…)

The other factor is more troubling. The film is about a poor South Korean family conning and exploiting a rich one, and the screenplay somehow tries to mitigate the harm inflicted on four apparently nice people whose crime is that they live in a beautiful house and are  wealthy. I keep reading that the movie’s sentiments “strike a chord” in today’s America. I suppose that’s true if you’re Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, a Communist, or 11-years-old. Me, I’m not all that sympathetic with a man who hides out in the cellar of a rich family’s home without their knowledge for four years, steals their food, and then attacks them with a butcher knife when he finally emerges.

3. Planned Parenthood Ethics.  Planned Parenthood is going to spend $45 million on  the 2020 elections, all while making desperate pleas for donations to support their  various health care services, including, most crucial of all, abortion. There are plenty of abortion advocacy organizations. If Planned Parenthood is a health care organization that is in need of funds for its mission, then spending 45 million bucks on single issue politicking is irresponsible.

4. Oh, no! It’s the dirty money nonsense again! There really are people out there, even ethicists, who are making the bone-headed argument that MIT was unethical to accept $850,000 from the late sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein because he was a baaaad man.

Over 15 years,  Epstein repeatedly donated money to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the university accepted them, knowing about his crimes. “The university’s president even signed a thank-you note,” writes the Times, as if a university can ever accept a substantial gift and not send a thank-you note. The law firm Goodwin Procter investigated the school’s relationship with Epstein, finding that he  made ten donations from 2002 to 2017 and visited the campus at least nine times from 2013 to 2017 following his conviction on sex charges involving a minor in Florida. It concluded nonetheless that MIT broke no rules.

Never mind that: MIT did nothing wrong. Epstein agreed that the donations would remain anonymous, so they were not part of “reputation laundering,” as some critics call it. Nothing was named for him; no plaques went up with his name on them. His money was not the result of criminal activity: Epstein was a recreational sex trafficker, not a professional. The $850,000 Epstein gave toward higher education should be judged on its own merits, which are impeccable, not derided because of the completely unrelated misdeeds of the donor.

Nonetheless, the Goodwin Procter report suggests that it would have been best for the school if “controversial donations” were limited by policy. Ugh.  Legally earned money is legally earned money, and the fact that student activists would like to spit on donations from anyone who doesn’t meet their personal assessments of who is worthy of paying for their education should be firmly and loudly ignored.  I’d support a federal regulation holding if an institution rejects legal funds from potential donors  based upon  political or moral objections, an equal amount will be subtracted from any federal aid that institution receives. It’s called the “beggars can’t be choosers” principle, and it even applies to rich beggars.

8 thoughts on “Lunchtime Ethics Snack, 1/17/2020: Dirty Money, Dirty Baseball, And “Parasite”

  1. How much of Planned Parenthood’s money comes from government sources? I.e. how much of my money will be donated to the enemies of civilization? Eff me, this is bad.

  2. 2. Anyone who uses “Parasite” as an analogy for present-day class warfare junkies is an idiot. Like Scarlett O’Hara, we are just supposed to marvel at the resourcefulness, not the actual character, of the..well..characters.
    4. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…even sweet Melanie Wilkes took Belle Whatley’s money for The Cause.

  3. 6. I’m happy MIT is rejecting money stupidly. They refused to defend Richard Stallman when he was canceled for bringing some nuance to the Epstein/Minsky scandal. Hold themselves to their own unworkable standards, etc. (Full disclosure: I’m a close friend of people who now Stallman personally and what I’ve heard MIT did to him repulses me.)

  4. 2: Does this mean I can move into Mr. Sanders home? My bathroom needs repairs and he’s wealthy as are almost all running. Will they put their own money where their mouths are.

    3: Their mission should be their top priority. If they don’t have all the money they need for clinics and health care, what right do they have to divert it to the bottomless maw of political ads?

    4: I think you need a snappy name for those being picky about donations, assuming the public monies can make it up. Golden Snitch award? No backs? Noseless trophy? (cutting off noses to spite faces OR brown-nosing woke groups favor) There also should be something like a statute of limitations on rejecting gifts. Didn’t some founding father give up land that makes up DC, I’m sure their descendants would love high-value real estate and the govt and dems paying rent to former slaveholding families…

  5. 6. I have no evidence to support where Epstein’s money came from but neither do you asserting “His money was not the result of criminal activity.” I do think that it is just as probable that his money source may have been blackmail which is a crime. Someday we may actually know how he became so wealthy but I’ll wager, $10, with you that it wasn’t entirely legal.

    • Well, you could use that logic to reject any patron’s gift, right? Epstein’s business dealings were never a source of legal action, though his business records have been scrupulously guarded. But one can’t assume that someone’s one kind of crook because of their other criminal habits. And a university can’t be expected to do an investigation into donors before deigning to accept their money.

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