I am awash with shame.
Yesterday was Abe Lincoln’s birthday, and I didn’t remember until late last night. This is the inevitable result of Presidents Day, the lazy combination of Lincoln and Washington’s birthdays into one floating holiday that lumps all our Presidents together as if they were equally laudable. (They are all laudable, but not equally.) Thus Franklin Pierce gets as much love from our calendar as Abe and George, which is ridiculous. ( President Pierce’s birthday I remember, because it’s the same date as my wedding anniversary, November 23.) In the old days before the blight of Presidents Day, school children would spend both February 12 and 22 learning about and doing projects related Lincoln or Washington. Without either of these great leaders, we probably don’t have a nation today, or if we do, it would be a vastly diminished one. Our first and Sixteenth Presidents tower over the rest in leadership ability, vision, and impact on our history and culture. Both deserve their own holiday, because every American should take at least a day out of every year to remember these two icons and honor their essential contributions, at great sacrifice, to the existence of the United States of America as well as the welfare of all of its citizens, past, present and future.
Today, most Americans couldn’t describe what Lincoln said at Gettysburg, and that’s not a recent phenomenon. In the classic movie “Ruggles of Red Gap,” a barroom full of Americans in a Western frontier town are unable to recall Lincoln’s message, but the very British butler, recently immigrated, can. Charles Laughton, who played the butler, continued to deliver Lincoln’s masterpiece throughout his career after that scene became the highlight of the movie. You can watch it here—I’d embed it, but there is no YouTube version.
1. Self promotion dept. I’ll be participating in a live podcast later today, discussing the ethical implications of nepotism. Details to come.
2. Still more developments in the Houston Astros cheating scandal. Earlier this morning I watched a live press conference from the Astros Spring Training camp about the sign stealing scheme. From a public relations standpoint, the spectacle made the Astros problems worse.
Stars Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve spoke for a grand total of 90 seconds, sounding for all the world like American prisoners of war in North Korea. Owner Jim Crane did most of the talking, which was unfortunate for the Astros and baseball. He took no responsibility at all for what went on in 2017, though he was at the top of the organization chart: this is called the “Ken Lay excuse.” Worse, Crane repeatedly refused to acknowledge that using a secret camera to relay to the Astros dugout the opposing catchers’ signs telling pitchers what to throw, which were then relayed to Astros batters by players banging on trash cans, constituted cheating. All Crane would say was “We broke the rules. We can argue about what you want to call it.”
Worse still, Crane said that it was impossible to say whether the team’s full year of sign stealing, including the playoffs and the World Series (which the Astros won), gave his team a competitive advantage. “Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t” he said. “Our opinion is this didn’t impact the game. We had a good team. We won the World Series and we’ll leave it at that.”
In later interviews with the players after the press conference, it sounded like everyone had been prepped to keep saying “2017” over and over, because there are lingering suspicions that the Astros scam extended into 2018 and 2019. As commentator Matt Vasgersian mused afterward on the MLB cable channel, if the Astros had won a championship cheating all the way through 2017 and hadn’t been caught, why would they suddenly stop the next season?
3. (Formerly a second #2—sorry) Unethical, and an idiot too! Daniel Sprague was at The Stage Bar on Broadway wearing a red baseball cap that said “Make 50 Great Again.” “At one point,” Sprague told reporters, “A female came up from behind me, spun me around, and punched me in the face and then grabbed my hat off my head…yelling, ‘How dare you!'” His face was cut, presumably because the woman was wearing a ring.
Oopsie! Wrong cap! Sorry, didn’t notice the words! Sprague has filed a complaint, and a search is underway for the woman.
These are the bad guys, as I have noted before, and they make up a significant portion of one party’s base. And they don’t even know they are bad guys.
4. (Formerly #3)More baseball cap ethics, believe it or not: The ethics password is competence. Baseball’s San Diego Padres pulled its new commemorative baseball cap from the web and grovelled an apology after complaints that a mash-up of two team logos looked like a swastika.
OK, it’s an unbelievably ugly design, but you have to be obsessed with Nazis to see a swastika in that logo without prompting. (I saw what I was supposed to see, the SD logo and the bat-swinging padre.) Of course, once people started complaining on social media, the team had no choice but to pull it.
I wonder…would the woman have punched Dan Sprague in the face if he had been wearing that cap?
5. (Formerly #4) Now back to Abe and more groveling .. Yesterday the Chicago Transit Twitter feed retweeted a jovial message from a passenger who posted photos of an actor portraying Abraham Lincoln at one of their stations and wrote
“Unquantifiable benefits of #publictransport — meeting #AbrahamLincoln last night on the @cta red line.”
“In honor of Black History Month, Abraham Lincoln was seen making a guest appearance on the CTA,” the Transit authority added. But some African Americans on social media expressed outrage that a white man—Abraham Lincoln—would be used to honor Black History Month. They really did.
In another example of organization administrators admitting wrongdoing where there was none in order to avoid controversy, Transit officials pulled the tweet, groveling, “Apologies, unfortunately our last retweet went in a direction that was not at all intended. Nonetheless, we WILL continue to honor the African Americans who have played a large role in CTA history.”
I would have preferred: “To those who complained about our tweet connecting President Lincoln and Black History Month: Grow up, and read a history book.”
6. (Formerly #4) Breed discrimination at the Westminster Dog Show. Golden retrievers are one of the top three most popular dog breeds in the US, and have been for a long time. Yet the breed has never won Westminster’s Best in Show prize since they first were included in 1927. So this week, when Daniel, a 5-year-old golden from Ligonier, Pa., won the sporting group, the first time since 2006 that a golden had advanced to the final round, his fans were thrilled. The whole crowd at Madison Square Garden seemed to be rooting for Daniel to make Westminster history. As the judge was reviewing the final seven dogs, a chant of “Daniel! Daniel!” could be heard by TV audiences. And the winner was—a black Standard Poodle named Siba.
Now the hashtag #DanielWasRobbed is trending on social media, and there are some legitimate questions. Why have Poodles won Westminster 10 times, and Standard Poodles like Siba won five times, while no Labrador retriever, Golden retriever, or Jack Russell Terrier have won Best in Show ever? (Actually, there’s a good reason why Jack Russells have never won—they aren’t allowed in the show.)