Ethics Warm-Up, 1/22/2021, As Your Host Tries Not To Write Angry

Only the soothing tones of Johnny Nash could calm me down after this morning’s ordeal, and it hasn’t worked yet.

I set out with my wife to get her to a rather urgent doctor’s appointment at an office we had never been to before. I should have been forewarned knowing it was in Manassas (those who know Northern Virginia know what I mean.)To make a long, horrible story short, we never got there. The exits on Route 66 suddely skipped five numbers. There was a sign for Exit 47 A, which was also for 47 B without saying so. The construction everywhere made navigation impossible. After missing the right exit, detours and construction mad it seemingly impossible to get on 66 going the other way, The Google map directions were wrong. The GPS installed in the car refused to take the street number, and dumped us in no-man’s land. Naturally, everyone we talked to at the doctor’s office professed ignorance at how to get there. After wandering in the wilderness for two hours, we gave up. Then the last staffer at the doctor’s office said, “Oh, when you come back, don’t use Exit 47 like all the directions say. Use 44. That takes you right to our door and avoids all the construction.”

NOW you tell me that?

The over-arching goal of ethics is to make life easier and more pleasant for everyone else. If you work or live in a locale that is difficult to get to or find the first time, you warn people.

1. Welcome “Impeachment or Removal Plan U”! Well, not really welcome. Not really a removal plan either. Plan U is based on Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which was being thrown around as a way to punish Senator Hawley and Cruz for doing what Democrats had done every time this century a Republican had won the Presidency: challenge the electoral vote. When Republicans do it, you see, it’s an insurrection. Then teh second that word escaped their lips, coup-minded Democrats hit themselves in the forehead with teh palm of their hands, “I could have had a V-8!” style, and said, “Wait a minute! How did we let this get by us when we were trying to devise a way to get rid of Trump without winning an election! It was there all the time!” Then, choosing to ignore the fact that you can’t “get rid of” someone who’s already gone, this became the latest of 21—yes 21!—bogus anti-Trump plans. (I haven’t added it to the list yet. Give me a break.)

Let U stand for “Unbelievable!”

Section 3 provides:

“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”

Law profs Seth Tillman and Josh Blackman soberly analyze the theory here, saying in conclusion,

“…it is not clear that the House managers seek to disqualify Trump under the Impeachment Disqualification Clause, as well as under Section 3. The sole article of impeachment is opaque on this point. It references Section 3, but we think it is only referenced in the context of efforts to define a substantive impeachable offense. We expect that President Trump’s counsel will argue that the text of the House’s single article of impeachment does not give him fair notice that he faces Section 3 disqualification. Once again, the House’s rushed drafting may determine the fate of the Senate impeachment trial.”

That. and the fact that the impeachment was based on literally nothing.

2. Now this is a weird ethics movie…“The Killing of a Scared Deer, the 2017 film now on Netflix, raises a “Sophie’s Choice”-style ethical dilemma with solution that looks ridiculous but has at least surface validity if you can accept the premise: the character who has to make the choice is dealing with some kind of a curse.

3. Is it incompetent to employ a strategy that nobody knew was incompetent? Statistical analytics now show that the traditional football strategy of punting usually makes no sense. Now, college and professional teams are going for a first down when once they would have kicked the ball away.

The Chicago Tribune reports,

Punting has become far less prevalent in recent years. NFL teams punted an average of 3.7 times per game during the 2020 regular season, the lowest figure in recorded pro football history. Teams averaged 4.8 punts per game as recently as 2017, a rate that had held more or less steady since the mid-1980s but has declined in each of the last four seasons….The sudden decrease in punting comes over a decade after the football analytics community began decrying the punt as a counterproductive strategy, particularly in short-yardage situations near midfield or when trailing late in a close game. It doesn’t take much number-crunching to realize that if the average offense gains 5.6 yards per play (the 2020 rate), not only should a team be able to pick up a yard or 2 on fourth down, but it should also be wary of gifting the ball to an offense capable of marching right back down the field 5.6 yards at a time.

The traditions and conventional wisdom in sports and other activities, wrong, counter-productive or silly though they may be, don’t indicate incompetence until data, changed conditions or experience indicate that they don’t work. Now it seems obvious that punting is usually foolish, just as baseball finally learned that sacrifice bunts were dumb except in very special situations. But when a culture accepts conventional wisdom and it it is embedded in that culture, one cannot call it incompetence to stick with tradition, unless and until there is access to information proving the accepted practice to be folly.

4. A reminder: Yahoo! and other news sources have reported that “Over 408,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 as of Thursday.” That’s false. It is the essence of fake news. As Ethics Alarms had noted repeatedly, over 408,000 Americans may have died WITH the virus, but there is no question that they all did not die OF the virus. I am still waiting for a well-publicized estimate of how many of those deaths were not super-seniors, cancer patients, or others who may well have died anyway. This is something we have a right to know.

5. A plea for a double standard from Joe. Associated Press reporter Zeke Miller asked President Biden if the vaccination goal was “high enough,” since “that’s basically where the U.S. is right now.” Biden responded with pique, although he did not call Miller a pony-soldier, saying, “When I announced it you all said it wasn’t possible. Come on, give me a break, man.” It’s a fair request, but if there was ever an instance when any journalist from a non-conservative news organization gave Biden’s predecessor a break, please refresh my memory. I can’t think of one. Besides, Biden is already getting one ” break” after another, as Mediate notes in a recent post titled, “Media Begins Biden Presidency With Overt Fawning and Flattery.”

6. Hank Aaron has died. The legitimate baseball career home run champ (I do not count Barry Bonds) was 86. He represented the very best of baseball ethics on and off the field throughout his career unlike the icon whose homer total he bested (Babe Ruth had no peer as a player, but had the ethics of a ten-year-old his whole life), and the miscreant who passed him by cheating, Bonds. The Hammer was always being over-shadowed by someone: Willy Mays, a contemporary, was more gifted and charismatic; Ernie Banks was more lovable, Roberto Clemente was never had a chance to grow old. Henry Aaron just did his job every day, seldom missing a game due to injury, leading the National League in various seasons in batting average, homers,runs, hits and RBI. Aaron only won one Most Valuable Player Award (in 1957, when his Braves won the pennant), but over his 23 year career, he proved more valuable than almost all of his contemporaries.

[Notice of Correction: I originally wrote that Hank never won an an MVP. Thanks to LoSonnambulo for the correction.]

21 thoughts on “Ethics Warm-Up, 1/22/2021, As Your Host Tries Not To Write Angry

  1. 6. Hammerin’ Hank. R.I.P. buddy. What an elegant player and man. He was lithe too, not muscle bound. For another worthy comparison, I bet he took as much abuse as Jackie Robinson did.

    • And what an incredible pair of hands. No batting glove or gloves, of course, and a massive bat. How he got that piece of timber around is beyond comprehension.

      • Maybe he just saw the ball sooner and better than everyone else. I wonder if his eye sight was even calculable under the 20/20 formula. Must have had better eye sight than The Splendid Splinter (speaking of lithe, old time ball players).

        • I doubt that. Teddy Ballgame’s sight was measured at 20-10 in his prime; when he retired, he said it was 20-15, and that 20-15 wasn’t so rare among batters. Williams said he could see the bat hitting the ball, which other hitters found amazing. The other indication is the walk/strike out totals of the two men. Hank had 1402 walks and 1383 Ks in 13941 trips to the plate. Ted had 2021 walks and only 709 strike-outs in 9792 plate appearances. That’s at least circumstantial evidence that he had the better “eye.”

          • Now, now, now–we may be talking correlation versus causation. The article brings in other brain processes that impact performance. It seems that there are other influences.

  2. 3. I would argue that this is about self-preservation as much as it is incompetence. A coach who loses with conventional wisdom will take a lot less heat than one who correctly goes against it but gets unlucky and I can think of many instances when that likely was at least a factor in decision making. Of course, this is its own ethical breach but no one wants to be the next Marty Mornhinweg.
    “Electing to Kick in Overtime Isn’t That Crazy” https://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/2013/11/25/electing-kick-overtime-isnt-crazy/#:~:text=Eleven%20years%20ago%20Sunday%2C%20Detroit,Mornhinweg%20was%20ridiculed.

    • This is undoubtedly right, and in sports, we see it all the time. One of the hoariest is “losing with your best”—starting your ace pitcher in the big game even though a lesser but capable star is more rested and more likely to win.Even good managers and bold managers have fallen to this one in baseball, like Dick Williams starting Jim Lonborg, his 20 game winner, in Game 7 of the ’67 World Series against a rested Bob Gibson, though Lonborg had only two days rest. Williams defended his decision saying that if his team was going to lose, it would be with his “best” on the mound. Meanwhile, Lee Stange, who led Sox starters in ERA and was barely used in the Series, was ready to go.

  3. 4. Massachusetts is no reversing closure policies as are many other Blue states. Boy, I never saw that coming!

    6. In 1952 I was attending a Braves game at Braves Field in Boston. I was just 8-years-old and a man sitting next to me started talking baseball. I just loved Eddie Matthews and Sam Jethroe. This guy says in a few years this team is going to be something. Told me he has a cousin in Wisconsin who said in the local minor league team they have this colored kid (1952, Folks!) playing short that they got from the Negro Leagues. Said this kid is going to be another Hornsby according to his cousin. Said the kid was Aaron Henry or something like that.

    • Thanks Rick. Great story. My wife’s high school French teacher’s Russian immigrant husband was a diehard Boston Braves fan. He hated the Red Sox, and whoever moved the Braves to Milwaukee. The Boston Braves played in what has long since been BU’s athletic stadium, somewhere along Comm Ave. I believe. Ancient and forgotten history in Beantown these days.

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