Afternoon Ethics Respite, 2/5/2020: On Accountability, Karma, Never-Trump And Mookie

What a delightful afternoon!

It never fails. After a stretch where I am especially pleased with the quantity and quality of Ethics Alarms content, I lose followers. Occasionally someone has the courtesy to contact me and tell me why they are dropping Ethics Alarms, but usually not. I know I obsess about such things, but it is like being defriended: I deserve the courtesy of a direct contact and an explanation. One well-remembered exit was by a woman who was very active the comments but always regrading formal ethics theory. I know that stuff, I studied it, and it bores me to tears. I also view the academic approach to ethics as substantially responsible for the public’s general disinterest  in ethics generally. When I finally told the ethics enthusiast that this wasn’t the kind of ethics blog she was looking for, she sent me an email that announced her departure.

1. Of course, the big news yesterday…was that the Boston Red Sox traded their best player, Mookie Betts, to the Los Angeles Dodgers for two young players and the willingness to take on the ridiculous contract of an aging, injury prone ex-ace, David Price. Boston being Boston, this was a story of much more consequence in the Hub than the State of the Union, the Democrats continuing inability to run  caucuses in Iowa, or the resolution of the impeachment washout. This shows, as I have always known as a born and bred Bostonian, that the city has its priorities straight.

Betts is that rarity, a young, great player who can do everything well, and do it with charm and modesty. He should be the face of the franchise for the next decade, but there’s a problem: Mookie wants to test the free agent market after this season, when he is eligible to do so. The Red Sox have offered him a long term deal in each of the last two seasons, and he recently rejected an offer in excess of 300 million dollars for ten years. On the open market Betts might get 30% more than that, and the Sox are loath to get into a bidding war. Thus, to avoid the fate of the Washington Nationals, who allowed their similarly young superstar Bryce Harper to flee without getting more than a draft choice in return (Mookie is better and nicer that Bryce), the Red Sox swallowed hard and traded him to the Dodgers.

Ethics notes:

  • In the trade, Boston gave up the best African American player in its long prejudice-stained history as well as its single African American starting pitcher. It says something about the team’s progress in this area that nobody has seemed to notice.
  • In trading Betts and Price after firing Alex Cora, the team’s manager implicated in the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal, the Red Sox just happened to bid farewell to the three most vocal boycotters of President Trump’s invitation to the team to be honored at the White House for the its 2018 World Series victory. Red Sox cohesion was never the same after the grandstanding “Orange Man Bad” explosion that split the squad down the middle. Mookie never seemed quite as nice after that; Cora never seemed as wise, and Price always was a jerk.
  • Betts has told anyone who would listen that he wanted to stay in Boston, that he loves the city and fans, and that the Red Sox were just proving that baseball is a business. That’s disingenuous spin, and clearly so. If you really want to stay with a team, then you accept the paltry wages of more than 30 million dollars a year to do so.

2. Since there seems to be a strong disagreement among the commentariat on this question, I need to poll it:

3. Karma is  ethics, sort of, right? In the messed-up Iowa Caucuses, 2020 Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren finished in fifth place in Pocahontas County, Iowa .

4.  Accountability is a crucial ethical value. Without adopting the habit of accepting it “when an inspector calls,” it is impossible to improve one’s skills and conduct. Blaming someone else is easy in the short term, but personally destructive over time. For some reason, many Democrats and their supporters have decided that accountability is something to be avoided at all costs. We saw dire signs of this when Hillary Clinton said she took “responsibility” for the Benghazi tragedy but refused to accept any consequences of that responsibly. Obama AG Eric Holder behaved as if Fast and Furious involved an alien agency; Barack Obama metaphorically shrugged his shoulders at his IRS Department’s successful and illegal efforts to knee-cap Tea Party groups during the 2012 campaign.

As the ridiculous botch of the supposedly pivotal Iowa Caucuses called into question the competence and perhaps the integrity of the Democratic National Committee, efforts were made, as I noted yesterday, to blame Iowa or “computers” for the long list of problems. Now some have moved on to blaming white people, racism, and, of course, President Trump. For example, MSNBC political analyst and former Clinton campaign aide Zerlina Maxwell claimed the reason caucus turnout in Iowa was below expectations  was that white people don’t care about “brown kids in cages.” She then  accused Iowa’s “systemic racism” of producing a white voter majority. [Psst! The reason voter turnout was low was probably because the Democratic field is depressingly unappealing. Occam’s Razor applies.] Then quixotic Democratic Presidential candidate Andrew Yang issued this ridiculous tweet:

The hypocrisy zenith was probably reached by Times reporter Maggie Haberman, who tweeted,

That spin takes either amazing gall or complete delusion. Democrats have sought to undermine elections, the Supreme Court, the Constitution and the President; the press has disgraced itself and the both parties have proven themselves incompetent of governing. The FBI and the Justice Department have proved themselves untrustworthy. Calling attention to the malfunctioning of institutions as demonstrated by the Iowa botch isn’t undermining them. The idea is to promote accountability.

5. The Never-Trumpers. Mitt Romney voted to convict President Trump today, though his reasoning was incoherent, like anyone who claims that there is a valid impeachment argument. Romney has no political convictions, so his visceral dislike of Trump is sufficient to allow him to rationalize his vote and allow the Democrats to claim that their failed effort was “bipartisan.” This will surely be hailed as a profile in courage.

ADDENDUM from Althouse: “Quick! Mitt! Change parties. Become a Democrat, and go for the nomination for President this year.”

Recently another petulant Never-Trumper, Bill Kristol, announced that he is now a Democrat, at least as long as Trump is President. Kristol’s tantrum over someone he believes beneath him winning the Presidency has cost him his once influential magazine and his reputation for integrity. He would now prefer to vote for candidates whose ideology and policy nostrums he has opposed his entire career to avoid allying himself with someone he detests.

Bias makes us stupid, and it also can make us irrelevant and ridiculous.

44 thoughts on “Afternoon Ethics Respite, 2/5/2020: On Accountability, Karma, Never-Trump And Mookie

  1. I think skipping the handshake was a poor choice, although I almost went with ‘defensible’. It reduces his ability to defend shaking the hand of dictators who are fare worse than Pelosi. They aren’t the same sort of situation, but it muddies the waters.

    OTOH, I’m still wavering on it.

    • Sadly, the same people who laughed at Trump when he was snubbed by whichever foreign representative will cast blame on him in this instance.

      One point I would say: because he did not bring up impeachment, it would make sense for her to acknowledge her in some way. That is the only thing that makes me think it could be accidental.

      Or, he is clueless, but that is unlikely.


    • I’m not sure he even saw the offered handshake. I haven’t looked at it from multiple angles, but it seemed that Pelosi stuck her hand out after it was beyond his field of vision and then pulled it back again. If so and it was all a stunt, that would be very on brand for her.

      Her own tweet about it showed him not looking at it. He also did not shake hands with Pence.

      She also appears to have planned the paper-tearing well in advance. Some internet sleuths have proof of her separating the speech into tearable shorter stacks, testing to make sure she’d be able to rip them, and pre-tearing them a bit to make sure that the whole thing would look good for the cameras. I also heard that she saved the torn speech in her briefcase, although I haven’t seen this. Perhaps she imagines it will be in a museum some day next to a bronze statue of her.

      I have no idea why Pelosi thought that tearing up the speech would make her look cool. When you throw a hissy-fit, it means you lost. The only way it could’ve been worse is if she had stomped her feet and been swallowed up by the ground like Rumplestiltskin.

      • I have no idea why Pelosi thought that tearing up the speech would make her look cool. When you throw a hissy-fit, it means you lost. The only way it could’ve been worse is if she had stomped her feet and been swallowed up by the ground like Rumplestiltskin.

        Some general (and tangential) thoughts . . .

        Having recently begun to participate in a highly polarized political forum that allows for back-and-forth exchanges that go on for some time (and on & on & on) I quickly realize that there are some people who simply do not want to *hear* that the other person is saying. So, their participation is largely a stubborn blocking of the possibility to understand the other. The reason is because the one and the other operate from completely different predicates.

        Just today, in one of the *opinion pieces* that regularly appear on the Time’s front page, Gail Collins says: “Think Trump’s Learned a Lesson? Hahahaha”. It’s the ‘hahahaha’ that drew my attention. Appearing in the NYTs which had been the world standard of mature journalism? That is like ‘argument by emoticon’.

        The better that I understand the general view of the opposing Democrat vision of the world, and the events of recent history, the better I am able to understand the View in which these people reside. As a small example I began to watch a Frontline/PBS documentary called ‘Putin’s Revenge’. Its basic message is that sinister forces have impinged on ‘our democracy’, the implication being that the struggles and conflicts we are dealing with are non-organic.

        It is a very convenient view and I guess it is related to the Red Scare in the sense that it is used, by cynical people with cynical ulterior purposes, to influence how people perceive what is going on today in a present which they do not understand and that has a Kafkan complexity: shrouds and clouds of obscuring layers (like in The Castle). It is part of the picture, but not enough of the picture to be able to see the larger issues completely.

        I would imagine that Pelosi’s action was *applauded* by those who are part of her base, and obviously just as Trump is applauded for similar silliness or stupidities and various irresponsible statements and actions. What they seem to have left is ‘hahahaha’.

        A great deal of this — all of this — is a huge charade in my (cynical and distrusting) view. The Powers moving in the background have their own plans & intentions. What is seen on the surface — the face of the theatre, the rehearsal — must be understood as a distraction.

        I have to admit though that I really do at times believe that I see a *more Conservative America* rising up to confront the madness of liberal excesses and extremism. It does fit the pattern of a sort of renewal of value (values that make more sense to me). I got this impression hearing Pence speak on Fox about Pelosi’s antics and his statements about ‘commitment to Christ’ as the basis of their conservative activism and the deliberate reversal of the previous administration’s policies. Kind of strange to hear such assertions. But that is part of the *narrative*. Trump, the fallen man, the imperfect vessel, who is *prayed over* by entranced Evangelicals and who raises America as the beams of celestial light do their work.


        • Ode to Trump

          O great corrector of enormous times,
          Shaker of o’er rank states, thou grand decider
          Of dusty and old titles, that heal’st with blood
          The earth when it is sick, and cur’st the world
          O’ the plurisy of people.

          Here is another very interesting assessment.

          An American Demonology. (I know that there is a market for an Anti-Liberal Demon Away! spray but I don’t have the capital to develop it.)

          I do recognize that including these videos and what they insinuate is highly tangential to Pelosi’s action. Yet, it is not tangential nor unrelated to the developing, and the emerging, social and ideological struggle about ‘what America is’ and, in a very fundamental sense, what is going on in America and in the larger world. You see? I was not wrong to refer so often to *metaphysics*.

          If you look into the core of things — like looking through semi-opaque layers — the essential battles are still going on.

        • Comment in the comment section, NYTs, on Trump’s comments at the National Prayer Breakfast:

          “If there is a God, then surely there is a Devil, and the Devil spoke today at the National Prayer Breakfast. If there is a God, God help us.”

  2. 5. Romney gave a reason, and although I am not endorsing it, he said very clearly (and I paraphrase because I did not write it down) that he concluded that the President is guilty of using his office in an attempt to harm a political rival and that he believes an attempt to corrupt an election is a high crime. No, I don’t need counter arguments. I know them and agree with many of them. Contrary to the Ethics Alarm post, however, the reason is not “incoherent”. You are definitely correct on your follow up point. Schiff has already called Romney “courageous”. And, at the other extreme, both this post and some tweets from Republican members of the House, suggest it is purely visceral (or as one of the Republican representatives out it “purely because he hates Trump because Trump won the Presidency and he did not”. On reflection, I must reject both the “courageous” and the “spite” extremes. As has been said in this column about some of the witnesses in the House, one cannot read the President’s mind; nor can one legitimately say what is in Romney’s mind. I personally do not agree that anything proven or demonstrated rises to the level of impeachable offense. And the “obstruction of Congress” article is laughable. But I do not question Romney’s motives.

    • I guess it depends on what the meaning of “incoherent” is. ” He concluded that the President is guilty of using his office in an attempt to harm a political rival and that he believes an attempt to corrupt an election is a high crime.” A synonym (I checked) for incoherent is “confused.” I probably should have used “stupid.” What election? Biden isn’t going to be running against Trump, and I have a hard time thinking anyone thought he was. Since what Trump did would have been unassailable if the possibly corrupt VP in question was, say, Dick Cheney, the presumption that harming a rival was the motive for an act that had legitimate motives is bad logic and bad law.

      Ergo, “confused.” The fact that the whole impeachment sham has been incoherent also creates incoherency by endorsement.

    • I don’t think anyone is making the case that Trump committed an actual high crime. If so, whatever law he broke could have been cited in the articles of impeachment. Might have been a useful thing to have in there. Even Schiff was careful to say that what Trump did only “amounted to” high crimes and misdemeanors. Even Trump’s lawyers admitted that you don’t technically need a crime to impeach; in theory both houses could ride Trump out of office because they don’t like his hair. It’s not a criminal trial.

      But I don’t think an impeachment without a crime would be regarded by most serious people as more valid than an impeachment with one (or in Clinton’s case, with several felonies.)

  3. 3. Mitt must have forgotten the accusations of totalitarianism that were leveled at him when he ran, the horrific mockery made of his family photo (that dared to include a black child) and the bigoted jokes made about his religion. Mitt, the Democrats don’t care about you any more than they cared about John McCain or George H.W. Bush. You are a tool to use to get at Trump.

    I can’t wait to get home from work and found out how many of my Lefty Facebook friends who would never have touched Romney with a ten-foot pole are now hailing him as that Paragon of Integrity and Courage we all need right now.

    • I am just sad to see Romney go off the rails like he has. I voted for him against Obama, but I thought at the time he ran a wimpish campaign — he let Obama beat up on him without ever really responding. I wonder how much that enters into his subsequent actions.

      Trump ran — to some degree — the sort of campaign that I thought Romney should have. I thought he blew a real opportunity to defeat Obama, but now that we have gotten further insights into him, maybe it was for the best. I didn’t vote for Trump (and certainly not for Hilary), but I have been persuaded over time that I will definitely vote for him this year. Not only the Democrats but Trump’s actions have been persuasive — he’s done more of what he promised than just about any winning President I can remember.

      • I also voted for Mitt. He’s a technocrat and an ideological chameleon—the record is clear. He has few core political beliefs—put him in Alabama in the 60’s, and he’d be George Wallace. Put him in California in the 80s, and he’s Jerry Brown. People like Romney can be effective—FDR was an extreme example—but Mitt is not as smart, and he lacks guts under pressure. He would have been better than O, no question. But Obama was ruthless, and in the campaign, Mitt was an easy mark. He’s bitter—I don’t blame him. Obama cheated; the news media distorted the campaign, and foolish conservatives stayed home because Mitt wasn’t “pure.” But Mitt, as you say, didn’t fight, and he and Ryan must have been the most feckless and wimpy ticket in US history.

      • There was actual criminal activity, with malice, in the IRS scandal, which not only directly implicated Obama, but was also a naked attempt to cheat in an election which very likely might have cost Romney the presidency. And Obama not only completely skated but also made sure that his surrogate Lois Lerner was never held accountable either.

        At the risk of going all armchair psychologist on Romney, this could be a perfect example of the principle that “hurt people hurt people.” The abused grow up to be abusers.

        • Yeah, Mitt is also not very bright, I’ve decided. Romney voted to have more witnesses arguing that there wasn’t enough evidence. Then he voted to convict without more witnesses. McCain, Romney, the Bushes, Kristol, George Will, Flake—not liking or respecting Trump is one thing, letting that warp your judgment regarding everything else is a big problem.

          • I do wonder if Mitt thinks he can be re-elected in Utah again?

            There are attempts to create a recall in Utah, but that will be just a show vote because it carries no standing per the US constitution. The real deal is 2024. I have zero doubt he’s out in the primary in four years. *Maybe* he can pull of the straight flush that Murkowski did in Alaska where she got enough Democrats to vote to send her back. I was shocked it worked for Murkowski, and anyone thinking they can repeat what she did is crazy. Especially in someplace like Utah where the Republican votes outnumber Democrat votes 2:1.

            He’s chosen his hill to die on. The worst part is: for what? What did he get? Nothing but some short lived accolades by the left until the turn on him again.

            • I have a theory: Mitt made his millions playing the game like all the Swamp dwellers do (at our cost, one way or another) and has joined the KMA club.* If we live long enough, we all join this club, where the opinions of others no longer matter to our behavior.

              *Kiss My Ass

  4. 1. I’m a little surprised that the Sox dealt Betts, but the round-robin of that deal means Boston lands Verdugo, who looks like a star in the making. Brusdar Graterol projects as a #2-3 starter or has Kimbrel-esque closer potential. And Betts was set to be almost unsignable by Boston next year. I think this could turn about to be a really good deal for Boston…and they shed Price’s salary.

    • That’s my take completely, Joel. The bitching in Boston is just ignorant. With the Luxury tax limit, a team with a 40 mil. a year player, which is what Mookie was going for, has so little flexibility to pay the other 24 guys. The Sox had two 30 million a year players and a couple of 20 million players, and some were severely underperforming.

      • I didn’t look to see what Price has left on his contract, but it’s $30+mil for 2, maybe 3, years. He was very successful when first signed, but these last years were set to be painful. Unloading Price’s salary is a huge boon. Graterol and Verdugo are probably paid league minimum, so…

        Boston Payroll – Betts – Price = ~$55m-60m spending money…? something like that? And Porcello was $18mil off the books. I don’t know who all they signed in the offseason, but they could be sitting on a pile of money.

        • The line is at 210 million. The Sox are down to about 190. They have some room, not a lot. If they stay under, it will save them about 50 million next year. At least they get rid of Rusney Castillo after this season.

          • Thanks for clarifying. Twenty million could net them a solid bullpen arm and leave enough money for an acquisition at the deadline. Yeah, the more I think about it, the more I like the Betts trade for the Sox, though I know it’s painful to lose his talent. An extraordinary player.

  5. Mitt could not stand up to Candy Crowly on the debate stage. Does anyone believe he has what it takes to take on the Resistance?

    We could make a list of all the swampy people who wanted stately jobs in Trumps administration but never got one and then turned against him.

      • HuffPo was started by Arianna Huffington, who came to the good ol’ U.S. of A. as a dyed-n-in-the-wool Conservative.

        For whatever reason (figuring [IMO] Lefties were FAR more easily herded) she decided that being able to hire Lefty bloggers to work for free was an enviable business model; switching teams made economic sense.

        Worked out, she cashed out to AOL for $300 million; saw ’em coming…

        And VOX clocks in below them?

        The humanity!

  6. Question: Nadler says he may subpeona Bolton. Given tbe acquittal did Jeopardy attach at the Senate trial. If yes, is Nadler just piss’n in the wind.

  7. Side note, are the polls broken? When you vote, it then shows you the current results of the vote. If you then refresh it (like if you want to check it in a few hours/days) you have to vote again to see the results. I imagine there’s a tracking cookie stored somewhere but that’s scant protection for people who regularly refresh their cache or use incognito. If there’s not tracking then the more interested voters would be driving up whatever their preferred position is, not necessarily out of malice but lack of alternative.

  8. I wish I could read this blog every day. I’m more addicted to Arnold Kling’s askblog.

    The USA would be better if more people read Ethics Alarms. I’ll suggest to a few friends.

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