Category Archives: Business & Commercial

Bud Selig Is The Barry Bonds Of Baseball Commissioners…So Why Was He Just Elected To The Hall Of Fame?

Bud. I had a more descriptive caption, but decided that it wasn't professional...

Bud Selif. I had a more descriptive caption, but decided that it wasn’t professional…

Let me state my bias up front: I detest Bud Selig.

He became Major League Baseball’s first non-Commissioner Commissioner when baseball’s owners decided that Fay Vincent was doing the job of independent, uncorrupted overseer of the game’s welfare and integrity too literally for their tastes, fired him, and installed one of their own. That was Selig, a wealthy auto sales impresario who owned the Milwaukee Brewers and never saw a dollar he wouldn’t debase himself for.

The owners suspected that Vincent, a smart and decent man, might use his power to block the looming baseball labor-management impasse, benefiting the players. They dumped him just in time to give the job to an “independent overseer” who had the Mother of All Conflicts of Interest in the upcoming war: he was management. . Sure enough, under Bud’s fair and balanced leadership, the most devastating work stoppage in baseball history arribed in 1994. It stopped the season late and wiped out the World Series. It killed the Montreal Expos, for all intents and purposes, crushed the baseball card and memorabilia industry (it still hasn’t completely recovered), and nearly sent the sport itself into a death spiral. Baseball was saved, not by Selig, but by a combination of luck, the inherent greatness of the game, and Cal Ripken, who broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game streak (I was there to see it!) in the season after the strike to remind fans and the nation of baseball’s glorious past and why they cared about it.

From that point, Selig oversaw explosive growth in the game’s revenues, exposure, merchandising, player salaries and popularity, He shattered a lot of traditions to do it: the elimination of any real distinction between the leagues, expanded play-offs, wild card teams (which I hate, since they allow second place teams to become champions over the teams that defeated them during the season, but then there was the 2004 World Champion Boston Red Sox…) inter-league play, instant replay, penalties for big-spending teams, baseball in November, and more. If you are an ends justifies the means fan, Selig’s your man. He ended his more than two decades as the sport’s top executive with the game stronger and richer than ever.

He did this, however, despite and in part because he quietly enabled the scourge of steroid use among players, permitted cheating to go on right under his nose, and was shocked…shocked! to discover that all those players who began topping their previous best seasons at advanced ages when virtually all athletes go into decline, and all those players who turned up at spring training 25 pounds heavier and looking like Lou Ferrigno, and a few of those players breaking career and season records that hadn’t been approached in decades, were using illegal and banned performance enhancing drugs.  When this dawned on him, two steroid users, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, had shattered Roger Maris’s record for home runs in a season in the same year—what a coinkydink!—and another, the grotesquely inflated Barry Bonds, had not only broken the new record but was on the road to surpass Hank Aaron’s career homer record. Continue reading

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Oooooh, Sneaky, Uber!

fine-print

Fine print alert!

Uber, the controversial  ride-sharing giant, quietly changed its terms of service to foist mandatory arbitration on its users. This is a common tactic of large corporations lately, taking away consumers’ rights to sue when they are harmed due to negligence. Arbitration is often full of hidden biases, with a natural  financial motivation for less-than-ethical arbitrators to tilt in the direction of the companies that pay them.

The change means that a passenger injured in an Uber vehicle due to its driver’s negligence would be required to arbitrate any claims for personal injuries before the American Arbitration Association, because the passenger had technically agreed to the terms and conditions of the Uber contract every passenger must accept. How would  long-time customers know about the change from the original Uber conditions? They wouldn’t, unless they regularly cruised the company’s website.

On July 29, 2016, Judge Rakoff from the Southern District of New York ruled that the notice of Uber arbitration terms was not sufficient to let riders know that  they were waiving the right to sue, and thus the mandatory arbitration provision was unenforceable. Uber’s response was to send an email to its users, announcing that it was updating its terms effective November 21, 2016.  Uber also instructed its users to read the new Terms and stated it had “revised our arbitration agreement.”  Now they have you, because Uber users can no longer claim that they didn’t know about the new terms. When you use the service, you are stuck. You have waived the right to sue.

There is a large “but,” however.

An Uber user can still reject the November 21, 2016 Terms by providing Uber with written notice by mail, by hand delivery or by email within 30 days of November 21, 2016. Like many companies, Uber’s “notice” consists of a hard-to-find section on its website. The mechanics of rejecting the new terms information are virtually buried on Uber’s legal page, and read, Continue reading

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Ugh! Here’s One More Unethical Practice (Of Many) Trump Needs To Eliminate From His Repertoire, And Quickly

trump-tweet-at-union-head-jpg

It’s pretty simple, though President Obama hasn’t figured it out in in eight years:

The President of the United States must not attack or criticize private citizens or negatively characterize their actions, nor should he interfere with local matters, criminal justice, the courts, the news media, or private businesses,  unless it is absolutely necessary, which it almost never is. This applies to his treatment of journalists, celebrities, athletes, local officials, accused criminals, military personnel, lawyers, other professionals…

…and union representatives.

Chuck Jones, the president of the local chapter of the United Steelworkers union that represents Carrier employees in Indianapolis, told The Post on Tuesday that the Trump exaggerated the number of jobs he claims to have saved, since 550 of the union’s members will lose their jobs anyway. Trump immediately sent the tweet above, directly attacking Jones by name. Shortly after the tweet, Jones says, he began getting threatening phone calls. “Nothing that says they’re gonna kill me, but, you know, ‘You better keep your eye on your kids. We know what car you drive.’ Things along those lines,” he told the Post.

I’m not surprised, but Trump’s “punching down” would be just as wrong if there was no response at all. This is an abuse of power. It is an abuse of influence. It is an abuse of office, and once he is President, it will be an abuse of the “bully pulpit.” The conduct is bullying,  as well as irresponsible, dangerous, and stupid.

I did call it, though! My post in April about Gov. Rick Scott attacking a citizen, in his case a coffee shop critic, in a campaign ad ended with this statement:

It is hard to imagine a more petty, needless, demeaning example of “punching down.” Jennings isn’t running against Scott; she is just a citizen critic, if an especially rude and nasty one. For a governor to focus an attack ad on a mere citizen is an abuse of power and position. It is ethically indefensible.

It is exactly what Donald Trump would do, though.

It is far worse for a President-Elect to punch down, of course; it’s even unethical for a Presidential candidate nobody thinks can win to do it. Trump’s pre-emptively calling Bowe Bergdahl a traitor is now a fair trial problem in the ex-prisoner of war’s court-martial. This is a terrible habit to indulge, and it opens the door to far more harmful misuses of Presidential power.  Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce: Liberty University

That's McCaw on the left, Starr on the right, with the Baylor women's basketball team.

That’s McCaw on the left, Starr on the right, with the Baylor women’s basketball team.

Football is a sport, but in American culture its primary impact is as an ethics corrupter. The latest revolting example of this is occurring at Lynchburg, Virginia’s Liberty University, a prominent Christian fundamentalist institution founded by Jerry Falwell, the late TV evangelist and Religious Right icon. The school  is supposedly dedicated to imbuing its students with moral values, but if it comes to choosing between the Ten Commandments and pigskin glory, guess what comes out on top?

Last week, with great fanfare, Liberty hired Ian McCaw as its new athletic director. “My vision for Liberty is to position it as a pre-eminent Christian athletic program in America,” McCaw said during a news conference.

This is his first paying assignment since May, when he left his job as the athletic director at Baylor, also a Christian university. His departure was made essential after a thorough investigation that found that those overseeing Baylor’s  football team as well as the management of  the athletic department—that is, McCaw— had been informed of multiple gang rapes and sexual assault by team members and had ignored it, as any good football-loving Christian would….especially when a star was involved.

Baylor’s summary of its confidential investigation, overseen by the law firm of Pepper Hamilton, found that athletic program administrators and football coaches learned of accusations of gang and date rape over many years and did not report them or take appropriate action. This, the report found, “reinforces the perception that rules applicable to other students are not applicable to football players.”

Ethics Alarms calls this “The King’s Pass,” or “The Star Syndrome.” It is antithetical to moral and ethical principles, and, in theory, religion.

The report concluded that the “the choices made by football staff and athletics leadership, in some instances, posed a risk to campus safety and the integrity of the University.” Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy, Sports

Never Mind “Fake News,” How Do We Protect Ourselves From “Fake Newsweek” And An Industry That Won’t Police Itself?

madam-president

From The Washington Examiner:

A Newsweek editor admitted Wednesday that he and other staffers didn’t actually read their recalled commemorative “Madam President” election issue before it was published.

Newsweek political editor Matthew Cooper said Wednesday on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that the magazine’s issue, which incorrectly anticipated a Hillary Clinton win, was not produced by Newsweek but by a third party.

“Well, no one on our staff wrote that,” Cooper said. “Again, we subcontract out to a company.”

Cooper later stated that  “we did not review it before it went out.”

Carlson, who was aghast, asked at one point what would have happened if the sub-contractor, a hack outfit called Topix Media Lab, had printed “Mein Kampf” in the special edition under Newsweek’s banner.  “That would have been even worse,” answered Cooper. Continue reading

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From The “When Ethics Alarms Ring” Files: The Saga Of The Kind Repo Man

car-paid-off

Jim Ford is a repo man, the co-owner of Illini Recovery Inc., a company in Southern Illinois. Pat and Stanford Kipping were in arrears in the monthly payments for their car, a 1998 Buick, and he was engaged to repossess it.

The past due amount  was about $350, and the payment amount was $95 a month. The Kippings are elderly retirees, and when he met with them in their home, his task became more and more unpalatable. “I had to get the hell out of there,” he recalled. He was feeling more guilty by the second, and was especially bothered by their explanation that health care costs, especially rising prescription drug expenses, caused them to fall behind on their payments. Ford could see himself in that same dilemma some day.

The Golden Rule can be a bitch.

He felt so badly about taking the car that he stopped to phone a bank official only a block  or so after seizing the car, and asked if he could just pay off the whole loan on the couple’s behalf. That, he learned, would be a red tape nightmare. Instead, Ford followed a friend’s advice and  launched an online fundraising effort in his own name. That attracted support from Ford’s friends and business associates, and in about 24 hours, the appeal had raised the necessary amount, and more.

The Kippings got their car returned and completely paid for, along with an oil change, detailing, and repairs. They also received an extra $1,000, and the week of Thanksgiving, the gift of a turkey from Jim Ford and his friends. When Ford arrived to deliver the car, family members,neighbors and a reporter from a local paper were waiting to be part of the moment.

“They were really really happy,” Ford said. “I don’t know. I was just glad I could help somebody out.”

When ethics alarms ring, good things  happen.

 

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The CNN “Joke About Donald Trump’s Plane Crashing”: Now THAT’S A “Nothingburger”

But it’s nice to know that some people at CNN now know how Billy Bush felt.

A website called FTVLive  obtained video of CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux talking to her crew and her producer before going live on CNN, as they waited for Trump’s  press conference. His plane to yet land.

On the video, a producer can be heard saying “When I do this, it means his plane’s landed’ and later, she seems to be saying, dead-pan”That means his plane’s crashed….just kidding” There is some incomprehensible chatter briefly after that.

Thanks to some websites like Mediaite on a slow news day, this gourmet “nothingburger” was widely and critically circulated. “The crew decided to joke around about a pretty grisly topic,” intoned Mediaite’s  Justin Baragona.

This, believe it or not, prompted CNN to issue an apology! This…

“An unfortunate and inappropriate remark was made by one of our producers off camera yesterday. We have apologized to the Trump transition team, and the Producer has been disciplined.”

Oh, balderdash. There was nothing “unfortunate and inappropriate” about that comment, which was not an expression of hostility to Trump, or anything else but on the job self-mockery. I would make that joke. I have made essentially that joke in various settings. At a surprise party for my mother, for example: “OK, I’ll make this sign when she’s coming up the walk, this sign when she’s at the door, this sign if she trips at the door and falls down the stairs, and this sign if she’s attacked by the neighbor’s dog.”  So what? (It got a big laugh by the way. Would Justin have laughed? I don’t care.) Continue reading

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