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. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Alternate History Ethics

In 2017, “Game of Thrones” creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss announced that HBO  would carry their new original series “Confederate,” an alternate history show taking place in  an alternate reality where the South won the Civil War, creating a new nation in which slavery remains legal and continues as a modern institution. (yes, presumably they knew this was unlikely, bordering on impossible. )Their release added, “The story follows a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone — freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, abolitionists, journalists, the executives of a slave-holding conglomerate and the families of people in their thrall.”

While I generally dislike alternate history fiction (unless it involves extravagant revenge on unequivocal villains, like in “Inglorious Basterds” or “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood,)” the genre, done well, has the potential to be enlightening and provocative, like Amazon’s The Man in the High Tower,” a series based on Philip K. Dick’s novel about a world in which Germany and Japan defeated the U.S. in World War II.

Now, however,  we learn:

…. HBO president Casey Bloys officially confirms to TVLine that the…long-gestating, controversial slavery drama Confederate will not be moving forward.

The 2017 announcement was greeted by the same people who want to see all statues of slave-holders and Confederate soldiers melted down (and the Confederate flag regarded with the same revulsion as the Nazi swastika) as a dangerous white supremacy plot. Benioff and Weiss even felt they had to make it clear in interviews that they knew “slavery was wrong.” Here’s an example of the social media brickbats the announcement of the series spawned in 2017: Continue reading

Breaking: Major League Baseball Clobbers The Houston Astros For Their Sign-Stealing Scheme, And Red Sox Manager Alex Cora Is In The Cross-Hairs

In November, I proposed that the Houston Astros should be punished severely for their sign-stealing during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, the first of which resulted in a World Series Championship. Major League Baseball’s investigation is complete, and today the wrath of the Baseball Gods rained down on the team. MLB didn’t take my advice (stripping the team of its titles), but the actions it dis take were surprisingly and appropriately tough.

The Astros, you will recall,  used illegal cameras and video monitors to steal the signs of opposing catchers at Houston’s Minute Maid Park, then signal those signs to their hitters before pitches by banging on trash cans. This occurred throughout the 2017 regular season and postseason, and during the 2018 season as well. Baseball’s Commissioner Rob Manfred suspended Astros Manager A.J. Hinch and General Manager Jeff Luhnow, fined the team $5 million (the most allowed under the MLB rules)  and took away the team’s top two draft picks in both 2020 and 2021. Hours after the announcement, the Astros fired both Hinch and Luhlow, with owner Jim Crane  saying, “We need to move forward with a clean slate. [We] will not have this happen again on my watch.”

All of this is as it should be. The MLB investigation indicated that Hinch had not been involved in the sign-stealing, but was aware of it and allowed it to continue.

Now the saga moves on to, <sigh>, the Boston Red Sox. Continue reading

The War On Dollar Stores

The problem–well, one of them—with trying to control how other people choose to live their lives is that nobody’s smart enough to do it without making things worse. Still,a lot of sociologists and politicians think they are smart enough.

Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Fort Worth, Birmingham, and Georgia’s DeKalb County have passed restrictions on dollar stores, and other communities are debating whether to follow their example, where laws and zoning regulations limit how many of these small stores can open within a particular area. Other laws dictate what they can and can’t sell, most notably fresh food. You see, the antipathy to dollar stores is based on the narrative pushed by activists that they saturate poor neighborhoods with cheap, over-processed food, squeezing out other retailers and lowering the quality of nutrition in poor communities. An analyst for the Center for Science in the Public Interest makes the argument, “When you have so many dollar stores in one neighborhood, there’s no incentive for a full-service grocery store to come in.” Dollar stores, like Dollar Tree and Dollar General, the researchers say, make neighborhoods seem poor, and scare away better stores,  “locking in poverty rather than reducing it,” as one told the Washington Post.

Ah! Poor nutrition  is the fault of dollar stores!

Oops! Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/7/2020: Oh, Great, A Red Sox Ethics Scandal….

Bad Morning.

1. Fire this copy writer: Boll and Branch sheets informed me this morning that their product is “loved by THREE American Presidents.” Well, that settles it: I’m running right out and buying these sheets if Presidents—well, three, anyway, love them. Actually, I’m making the sheets an early target of my new rule to personally boycott any product that insults my intelligence with their ads or packaging.

So much for Chex-Mix.

2. I just realized what climate change hype is like. I’m slow, I guess. I was reading a typical Paul Krugman column about how we are doomed by climate change and only the mean, stupid Republicans refuse to accept it. (The runaway brush fires in Australia, he said, can’t be proven to have come about by climate change, the brilliant economist said, but everybody knows its climate change. All Democrats, anyway.) It then hit me: climate change is like all the reflex explanations for bad things that primitive civilizations, cults and Machiavellian leaders have used to relieve public fears of  random misfortune since the beginning of time. The devil, angry gods, witches, Jews…anything to be able to rationalize events that otherwise have no explanation.  If you sacrifice people to the gods, hang the witches or exterminate the Jews, you’ll feel better—you’re doing something by addressing the cause of all your pain. Of course, these imaginary “causes” aren’t really responsible for what’s happening, but its comforting to “do something.” In the case of climate change, the proxy trouble-makers are capitalism, personal liberty and democracy. Just get rid of them, and everything will be all right again.

I don’t know why it too so long for me to figure this out. I think it’s because I persist in the romantic notion that we all get smarter over time. I certainly don’t. Continue reading

Proposition: Nike Should Fire Colin Kaepernick And Be Severely Punished by Consumers For Promoting This Hateful Idiot As A Hero And Role Model

Colin Kaepernick was metaphorically taking a knee on Twitter yesterday. He wrote, referring to the killing of Qassem Soleimani,

…and later…

Kaepernick’s words and conduct mark him as a narcissistic, ignorant, America-hating, race-baiting idiot. That’s what he is, other than a washed-up pro athlete whose erudition began and ended with a fake college degree (his major, amusingly, was business management) while he prepared to play pro football. His irresponsible kneeling stunt cost the NFL millions, launched multiple divisive offspring, denigrated the nation and its police, and accomplished nothing positive, in large part because it was incoherent.

Never mind: Nike, exhibiting the amoral and ethics-free motivations that have long characterized most corporations, pandered to the woke, hateful and dumb by making Kaepenick the face of its latest “Just do it!” campaign, a 30 year old slogan that was always stupid, even by corporate slogan standards. Admittedly, a stupid slogan is a good bet to appeal to the people who will pay ridiculous amounts of money for sneakers, but even so: Just do what? Just jump out a window? Just set your face on fire? Just sexually assault that attractive woman at work? Just shoot off your mouth about matters you are painfully ill-informed about? Continue reading

“Authentic Frontier Gibberish” Ethics

On Ethics Alarms, the term “Authentic Frontier Gibberish” is used to describe “intentionally (or sometimes just incompetently) incoherent double-talk used by politicians, advocates, lawyers, doctors, celebrities, scientists, academics ,con artists and wrong-doers to deceive, obfuscate, confuse, bore, or otherwise avoid transparency, admitting fault, accepting accountability or admitting uncomfortable truths. The term comes from “Blazing Saddles,” in this memorable scene.

It sometimes arises from incompetent communication skills, which are unethical for anyone in the public eye to employ. Sometimes it is more sinister than that, and occurs when someone chooses to create a vague word cloud that obscures the speaker’s or writer’s real purpose…and sometimes the fact that they are frauds. Sometimes AFG is designed to convey a feeling while avoiding sufficient substance to really explain what he or she means.

Sometimes, it feels like gaslighting.

A New York Times article was ostensibly about “Dealing with Bias in Artificial Intelligence.” This was, obviously, click-bait for me, as the topic is a developing field of ethics. The introduction stated in part, “[S]ocial bias can be reflected and amplified by artificial intelligence in dangerous ways, whether it be in deciding who gets a bank loan or who gets surveilled. The New York Times spoke with three prominent women in A.I. to hear how they approach bias in this powerful technology.” The statements of the first two women—I see no reason why only female experts on the topic were deemed qualified to comment—were useful and provocative.

Last, however, was Timnit Gebru “a research scientist at Google on the ethical A.I. team and a co-founder of Black in AI, which promotes people of color in the field, [who] talked about the foundational origins of bias and the larger challenge of changing the scientific culture.”

Here’s what she said (Imagine, the Times said this was “edited and condensed”! ). The bolding is mine.. Continue reading