Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/27/2021: Happy Birthday Edition [Corrected]


This is the birthday of my favorite President of the United States, by far. I’ve seen a lot of Presidents in my day, and find it hard to imagine (especially with what we are enduring now) having the nation led by someone so intellectually vibrant, rhetorically gifted, educated in history and philosophy, convinced of American exceptionalism, innovative, dedicated to ferreting out corruption, personally trustworthy and politically skilled. Theodore Roosevelt had many flaws; to begin with, he was an extreme narcissist, an occupational hazard of political leaders, but few reachTeddy’s level. He loved war, a malady of manhood at the time, one that looks bad in the rear-view mirror, and there’s no getting around it: he was a white supremacist. And as one commentator put it in the Ken Burns documentary “The Roosevelts,” he was “quite mad”—but he knew it, and managed his problem very well.

All leaders are flawed, indeed being flawed is one of the factors that make them leaders,. The great ones still deserve honor and study, because we can learn much from their lives, including their failures. I doubt today’s students leave high school knowing anything about Teddy other than, perhaps, his creation of the National Parks, because environmentalism GOOD.

The other birthday that occupies my thoughts today is that of my son, Grant, 27. He began life in the wreckage of the communist tragedy in Russia, an orphan given up by his birth mother, in one of the grim, underfunded and over-crowed state orphanages in Samara, a hell-hole by anyone’s standards. He grew up in the USA a thoroughly American young man, independent, confident, suspicious and defiant of authority (including mine), choosing his own path and not bowing to peer pressure or conventional wisdom because that is what this nation was created to foster.

Happy birthday, Grant. I’m very proud of you.

1. Bill Buckner, martyr to moral luck. Yesterday was the anniversary of the iconic moment in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series when Mookie Wilson’s bouncing grounder rolled under Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner’s legs. The play completed a nightmarish 10th inning Mets comeback rally that won the game and stopped Boston from finally ending a World Series “curse” that had endured since 1918. [Notice of Correction: before commenter Curmie alerted me to the error—much worse than Billy Buck’s—I had erroneously cited the 9th inning rather than the 10th. I am awash with shame.]

That streak of failure finally stopped 18 years later with the Sox beating the St. Louis Cardinals to win the 2004 Series on this date, October 27. Buckner was singled out by unethical sportswriters and vindictive fans as the scapegoat for the ’86 loss, which was as unfair as it was absurd (if the Red Sox had won the next game, which they led 3-0 at one point, nobody would remember Buckner’s error.)

His reputation was permanently scarred; a long and impressive career is now recalled only by the endlessly repeated video of that fateful ground ball. His children were harassed at school, and Buckner moved his family away from Boston. Yet Buckner wasn’t the reason the Red Sox lost that Series, or even Game 6.

The worst miscreant was undoubtedly manager John McNamara, who put Buckner in the field for the ninth inning, knowing that he was a defensive liability due to chronically injured knees and legs. In every previous game that season, McNamara had put in a defensive replacement in the 9th if the Sox were ahead, but this one time, he decided that Buckner deserved the experience of celebrating with his team on the field when they finally won the elusive championship.

Is “counting one’s chickens before they hatch” an ethical breach? No, it’s just management incompetence at a childish level. McNamara’s idiocy would also have been ignored if the team won, but due to the capricious nature of moral luck, it wrecked Bill Buckner’s life.

It made me pretty miserable too.

2. “Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!” The Washington Post “factchecker” hit a new low when he used his column to cover for President Biden’s deceitful claim that he had visited the border. CNN “town hall” moderator Anderson Cooper asked Biden if he “had plans to visit the southern border?”, given that it was the site of an illegal immigration crisis of Biden’s won making. Biden’s responded: “I’ve been there before and I haven’t – I mean, I know it well. I guess I should go down. But the whole point of it is I haven’t had a whole hell of a lot of time to get down. I’ve been spending time going around looking at the $900 billion worth of damage done by – by hurricanes and floods and weather and traveling around the world.” The claim that he had been too busy checking on flood damage was an outright lie, but Kessler didn’t bother with that. Instead he focused on the claim, questioned by Fox News reporter Peter Doocy, that he had “been there before” and “knew it well. The Factchecker wrote, “Whether the president has ever visited the border — or will — is a bit of a gotcha question. Given the level of briefings a president receives, a visit may not necessarily add to his body of knowledge. The Biden White House has certainly taken pains to not suggest the border surge is a crisis — which a presidential visit would suggest.But the president was asked a question about when he would visit the border, and he responded that he has “been there before.” It turns out it was a brief drive-by — not the kind of sustained visit that his critics are demanding. It’s almost like counting a refueling stop as a visit to a country. But it’s enough that we will leave this unrated.”

Never mind that, you hack: even if Biden had really visited the border in 2008, it was 2008! Such a visit was irrelevant to the context of the matter at hand; the current situation at the border is why the question was asked, and assessing the current situation at the border would be the reason for a Presidential visit. Biden might as well have said, “I have been to the border!” but been referring the time his family was in the vicinity when he was six.

3. I’m going to have to cut this short, unfortunately. For some reason WordPress’s “block” system is trying to drive me crazy, and there’s only so much frustration I can stand. I’m sorry. I’ll get to the other topics soon, I promise.

14 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/27/2021: Happy Birthday Edition [Corrected]

  1. When I was in Uni, one of my classmates was a Russian born immigrant. She showed me the Order of Maternal Glory medal that her mother had given to her on her 18th birthday, and explained what I was looking at. She also had a little bronze medal that was given to her, it had the hammer and sickle on one side and writing on the back that translated to “Welcome to The Workforce”. The stories she told me about the time around the fall of the Soviet Union were shattering.

  2. Your use of the expression , “driving me crazy” reminds me of my father who, when asked how a home repair job (or any other time-consuming endeavor he was pursuing) was progressing, would reply “I’m going crazy. Do you want to come along? It’s a really short trip.” This is not meant to be a brilliant observation of ethics but to soften your struggles with WordPress with a bit of old-fashioned humor. I hope I’ve succeeded when you read this entry tomorrow morning.

  3. I often remember the story about Teddy Roosevelt being shot during a speech and then, astonishingly, continuing the speech. It is impossible to imagine this happening today — a testament to the toughness of Roosevelt and entirely different times.

  4. In other “fact checker” news, Forbes felt it needed to correct an obvious joke that trended on twitter:–example-of-how-misinformation-can-easily-spread/?sh=6a7525871d4d

    Of course it poked fun at climate change alarmists but, as we all know, everyone has a sense of humor until the jokes poke fun at their most deeply held religious beliefs – and the author at Forbes obviously didn’t find this one funny.

  5. One of the top contenders for the title of “idiots who rose to top”, Chris Hayes, has this to say about crime and punishment:

    1) When you come from a world view that opposes the death penalty, you eventually erode other punishments as well.

    2) What he’s really saying here is that he wishes leniency could be shown to people whose crimes were tangentially related to the political angle he comes from.

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