Category Archives: Business & Commercial

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/9/2018: Twitter Revelations

Good Morning!

I know I’ve been belly-aching about the decline in views on Ethics Alarms this year. There are a lot of theories, but one certainty: I’ve written fewer posts.  Beginning in July, I’ve had an unavoidable two-hour commitment during the work week that has compressed my schedule, and removed crucial time that would normally be used, in part, to create one or two additional blog commentaries. The task also left me fatigued and frequently caused time crunches with other projects. That commitment finally ends after today. I would celebrate, but I don’t have the energy.

1. Twitter bites Bill James. James, the free-thinking, courageous baseball iconoclast often credited with creating the discipline of sabermetrics, has been an inspiration to me for decades in his relentless commitment to banishing bias, majority beliefs and conventional wisdom from his analysis. (“Signature significance,” often mentioned here, is Bill’s term.) Yesterday, I learned that Bill was once again the target of fury within the baseball establishment (it doesn’t “get” Bill, and never will), this time because of a series of tweets he issued in discussing baseball with some followers.  Inspired by Washington Nationals free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper’s rejection of a 300 million dollar offer from his club, Bill was musing about the conventional wisdom that players. especially stars, are the reason people watch baseball. Among other tweets, he wrote,

“If the players all retired tomorrow, we would replace them, the game would go on; in three years it would make no difference whatsoever. The players are NOT the game, any more than the beer vendors are…The entire GAME is the product…We’re all replaceable, the players as much as the beer vendors. If they’re unhappy about that, talk to God about it; I don’t make these rules.”

This attracted the ire of the Players Association, which deliberately or  foolishly misconstrued what James was trying to convey. As a long-time reader of James’ work, I have seen this theme before. It’s a simple (but too complex for most players and broadcasters, essentially) proposition: even if the over-all quality of the players was reduced, the game being played would look and feel the same, its thrills, strange bounces and dramatic turns would be unchanged, the new, lesser players would yield new stars, and the popularity of the sport would not be significantly diminished. James makes such observations to jolt people out of comfortable assumptions, and force them to think. Too many people in baseball don’t want to think, or don’t know how. James also suggested that for a baseball player who was paid $3,000,000 a year to feel underpaid was ridiculous in some respects. Of course the Players Association and the players themselves couldn’t let that go without objection.

James is a consultant to the Boston Red Sox, and the team felt it had to reject James’ theories in this matter…mustn’t make the union mad, after all. The team wrote:

“Bill James is a consultant to the Red Sox. He is not an employee, nor does he speak for the club. His comments on Twitter were inappropriate and do not reflect the opinions of the Red Sox front office or its ownership group. Our Championships (sic) would not have been possible without our incredibly talented players — they are the backbone of our franchise and our industry. To insinuate otherwise is absurd.”

Of course, James never said that the game could be played without players.

To his credit, and typical of him, James took full responsibility for the mess. “I understand that the Red Sox are not in business to offend people, and certainly regret that I gave offense to anyone,” he wrote. That was clearly not an apology, nor was it intended as one. James has not retracted his statements. He has said that he should have been clearer. Speaking of his rebuke from the Red Sox, he said,

“I’m not offended. None of us in the organization — or, like me, sort of attached to the organization although not exactly in the organization — none of us should give offense unnecessarily. If I did that — and obviously I must have — it isn’t their fault; it’s mine. I do think that my remarks, taken in context, could not be misunderstood in the way that they have been. But it is pathetic for a writer to say ‘I’ve been misunderstood.’ Our job is to make ourselves understood.”

Yesterday, I heard one of the Sirius-XM Major League Baseball hosts ridicule the idea that a millionaire player shouldn’t feel underpaid, citing the salaries move and TV stars get. But James point, if anything, is more valid in reference to that industry. In my tiny corner of professional theater, I have encountered literally dozens of actors, actresses and artists who are as talented and accomplished as many, indeed most, of the stars who get paid multiple millions for their performances. If every film actor alive decided to emigrate to Denmark, it would take less than three years to replenish the talent pool. It would not even take one.  For the most part, he public goes to see good movies, not stars. Movies, not actors, are the product.

2. Just so you know that I’m a nice guy...A lawyer representing someone I criticized in a post from several years ago contacted me and asked if I would take the post down. His client, he told me, has been periodically contacted on social media by individuals who have read my post, and she is embarrassed by the episode I was writing about. The lawyer did not demand that I remove the post. He did not claim that I had defamed anyone; he conceded that I had published an opinion within my range of expertise, and that he had no grounds to force me to do anything. He just said that his client would be very grateful if I took down the post.

I checked the statistics. I rather liked the essay, but it had attracted few comments, no more than a hundred or so people had read it, and the topic was now moot. I took it down.

3. The Bad Guys (cont.) Matt Yglesias is an infamous left-wing pundit, and not a very bright one, in my experience. Naturally, he writes for Vox. In the wake of another leftist mob setting out to intimidate those with whom they disagree (Note: I will NOT take down a post if a mob outside my house demands it) Yglesias tweeted,

I think the idea behind terrorizing his family, like it or not as a strategy, is to make them feel some of the fear that the victims of MAGA-inspired violence feel thanks to the non-stop racial incitement coming from Tucker, Trump, etc….I agree that this is probably not tactically sound but if your instinct is to empathize with the fear of the Carlson family rather than with the fear of his victims then you should take a moment to reflect on why that is….I met a woman who didn’t leave the house for months because she was afraid of being picked up by ICE and never seeing her US citizen kids and husband again. What sense was there in terrorizing her family?…I honestly cannot empathize with Tucker Carlson’s wife at all — I agree that protesting at her house was tactically unwise and shouldn’t be done — but I am utterly unable to identify with her plight on any level.

The entire series is signature significance for someone with no ethical comprehension or bearings whatsoever. There is nothing here but bias and rationalizations, and no news  organization who employs such an ethically-handicapped writer can be trusted or taken seriously. Because an illegal immigrant is frightened of the fair and legal consequences of her own actions and choices, it is legitimate for a mob to terrify the family of conservative news commentator. Allow me to add intellectual bankruptcy to Yglesias’s undeniable maladies.

Now he’s deleted all of his tweets. Too late! We know you’re a vicious, biased idiot, Matt.

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Social Media

Verizon Lies. (In My Opinion, Of Course)

I think have mentioned here before the frustration of not having high-speed internet available where I live, in Alexandria, Virginia, ZIP 22305. unless I surrender to the horrors of Comcast, which I will not do. According to a source at Verizon, my carrier, the problem is that the City of Alexandria insists on what sound to me like kickbacks from the company in order to get approval to install the necessary hardware. There may be other reasons: I don’t care. I keep seeing Fios ads directed at my locality, and keep getting told that it is unavailable. This has significant business consequences for ProEthics and me. I would like to do have video commentary, and we don’t have the speed to upload one, to give just one example.

Yesterday, I received this email from Verizon:

Important service message for PRO ETHICS LTD: Fios is now available at your location.

There are service updates available for your business. Call us to find out about new service and product options.  We want to make sure you’re getting the right service and value for your business. So, we reviewed your  account and discovered that our latest product and service upgrades could help PRO ETHICS LTD increase
efficiency and productivity. Call us today-we’ll take you through the available service options and give you a Firm Price Quote.

Call your Rep at 888.704.7905 or schedule an appointment.

Sincerely,
Stephen E. Marinetto, Marketing Director, Verizon Business Markets

So informed, I called my “representative.” The results of my call? Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, The Internet

Question: You Are Offered 300 Million Dollars To Do What You Want To Do Where You Say You Want To Do It For The Next Ten Years. Why Would You Say, “No”?

This, we recently learned, is exactly what Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, 25, did when his team, the Washington Nationals, made him such an offer at the end of the 2018 season.

Harper has frequently stated that he loves playing in Washington, and would like to continue his career there. He is also regarded as the most valuable baseball free agent since Alex Rodriguez entered free agency almost 20 years ago and received a record contract. (You know what happened to him, right?) His agent, Scott Boras, has said in the past that a realistic target for Harper on the open market is $400,000,000, and most experts thinks Boras is nuts.

I see only three possible explanations for Harper turning down the Nationals offer: 1) He’s an idiot, 2) he is getting irresponsible and conflicted advice from his agent, or 3) he was lying when he said he wanted to play in D.C.

If your answer is “4) He’s greedy,” I submit that this is indistinguishable from #1. I defy anyone to explain how their life is enhanced in any way  by making 40 million a year rather than 30 million. Harper has no children, but since “I’m doing this for my kids” is the default rationalization used by players when they accept the highest bid,  I also defy anyone to explain how his theoretical children would have significantly better or different lives if Daddy makes an extra 100 million over the next 10 years—especially since another mega-million dollar contract will probably come into play after that. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Finance, Sports, U.S. Society

The Flight Connection Dilemma, Or “It’s Hell Being An Ethicist”

Increasingly, I find myself wondering whether everyone who travels on business regularly encounters the vast range of irritations, outrages and generally unpleasant experiences I do, or if it’s just me. This time, on an over-night trip to Boston, I had important medicine confiscated by the TSA, got trapped in a hotel elevator, ran out of the house without my computer, injured my mouth when a sharp piece of food pierced a gum, and, of course, my flight was delayed. This time the delay would cause a genuine hardship: I had an important and time-sensitive task to complete involving the welfare, indeed safety, of two family members, and it meant that I had to be home no later than 6:40 pm.

When we finally landed at Reagan National, which is less than a 20 minute cab ride from my home if the lights and traffic break well, there was still a slim chance that I could make my deadline, IF the plane emptied quickly. The flight attendants said that there were several passenger who probably had tight connections, and asked them to raise their hands so everyone could stay seated to help them bolt the plane and try to make their flights.

Being human, my mind filled with rationalizations for raising my hand. I did have a tight connection, sort of. The urgency of my need to leave the plane wasn’t necessarily less than any of my fellow passengers. In fact, it was objectively important. And really, what would be the harm if I raised my hand? What might that cost one of the passengers trying to make a connection, 5 seconds? Ten? And how did I know everyone raising their hands really had a plane to catch?

But crap. I’m an ethicist. Raising my hand would be a lie, and there were no substantial or legitimate justifications for it. So I kept my hand down. I missed my crucial appointment, and it is going to cause me and two family members a lot of unpleasantness. Nonetheless, it was the right thing to do.

Right?

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Daily Life, Professions

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 11/4/2018 (Part II): Halloween Leftovers, Hot Yoga, And Polls

Today’s extended Warm-Up continues…

5. Halloween ethics left-overs:

  • Nah, there’s no Trump Derangement…In Hastings, Michigan, young Benny Drake wore a Donald Trump mask and costume around the neighborhood to solicit candy. At one house, the woman who answered the door threw candy at him and “asked me if she could slap me,” Drake said.

Benny should build a wall around her house.

  • Confession: I once wore a KKK-themed costume to a party. In Fort Smith, Arkansas, a Ku Klux Klan costume won a Halloween contest and a prize at the Lil’ Dude Tavern. After the photo of the costume “went viral,” the bar was attacked on social media and condemned by the local NAACP. A few points:

a) Many of the news media reports discussed the costume but wouldn’t share the photo with readers or TV viewers, presumably out of fear of upsetting some of them. This is incompetent and cowardly journalism, in the same category as writing about the Danish anti-Muhammad cartoons without showing them, or writing that an “epithet” set off a controversy without stating what the epithet was.

b) I assume the ethics issues here are the same as in the Hitler costume controversy, correct?

c) When I wore a KKK-themed costume decades ago, it was after a prominent white supremacist had been killed in a plane crash. KKK costumes always looked a lot like ghosts to me,  so I made a hybrid ghost-KKK costume and carried a travel case with the victim’s name on it and the airline’s sticker.  And I won a prize, too: for Costume in the Worst Taste.

  • I don’t understand this one at ALL.  In Vermont, a trick-or-treater received a bag of poop deposited in his candy bag. According to police, who investigated, it was just a mistake. How could something like that be a mistake? If the bag contained rat poison or an “explosive device,” would “Oops! Silly me!” still be an effective explanation? What if the kid ate the poop, and got violently ill? Same result?

Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, The Internet

The Astounding, Clueless, Unethical And Doomed Hiring Of Brodie Van Wagenen

‘Conflicts of interest? I have no idea what you mean…’

Disclaimer: This is NOT a baseball ethics post. This is a business ethics post about a major ethics issue,  and the business happens to be a major league baseball team.

This week the New York Mets stunned the baseball world by hiring Brodie Van Wagenen—that’s him on the left—as its new general manager.

He is not only being hired to manage the business of a major league baseball team without having ever worked for a baseball organization in any capacity. That would be strange enough. He is also a player agent who has been the representative of several key players currently under contract to the Mets, meaning that he acted for them in negotiating against the team he now heads.Van Wagenen made $25 million in commissions last year on player contracts.

Anyone whose ethics alarms weren’t set ringing like the bells during the Great Chicago Fire by the Mets decision doesn’t understand what a conflict of interest is. Guess who this category includes. Yup: Van Wagenen and the New York Mets.

In a press conference at Citi Field, Mets executives were asked about the conflicts issue, which should have been predictable, mandating a careful, thorough answer.  As a player agent for Creative Artists Agency (Van Wagenen has divested himself of all shares in the company and future commissions…at least he figured out that much) Van Wageman’s responsibility was to negotiate the most lucrative contracts for his clients. As the a general manager for the New York Mets, his responsibility is to build a successful team within its resources, regardless of the best interests of his former clients, the players he worked with over the past 18 years. When the “C” word was raised bu reporters,  Mets President Fred Wilpon interrupted before Van Wagenen could answer  and said that he had spoken with the commissioner’s office and Major League Players Association chief Tony Clark, adding, “We have provisions in Brodie’s contract to deal with any conflicts of interest.”

Oh! Well never mind then! The contract deals with it, and the Mets have spoken to people! All taken care of!

Neither Wilpon nor Van Wagenen would say what those provisions were, but I guarantee this as an ethics specialist: the only provision that could effectively deal with Van Wagenen’s conflicts would be “Van Wagenen can’t be the Mets general manager.” Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Sports

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/29/2018: Codes, Cars, Carter And The Caravan

Boy, this really IS a good morning!

(The warm-up may rely a bit more on links and quotes than usual…as Bob Cratchit tells Scrooge, “I was making rather merry yesterday.”)

1. Breaking News: Jimmy Carter is right! Former President Jimmy Carter, now 94, has injected himself into the Georgia governor’s race by asking Republican candidate Brian Kemp to resign as secretary of state. Carter’s argument is that there is an appearance of impropriety in his being officially responsible for an election in which he is a candidate, and that his resignation is essential  to preserve public confidence in the outcome of Kemp’s race against Democrat Stacey Abrams. Carter’s made the request in an Oct. 22 letter .

“One of the key requirements for a fair and trusted process is that there be a nonbiased supervision of the electoral process,” Carter wrote, explaining that stepping aside “would be a sign that you recognize the importance of this key democratic principle and want to ensure the confidence of our citizens in the outcome.”

When he’s right, he’s right. Kemp should resign, and his lamer than lame rationalization for not doing so, that it isn’t really he who supervises the election but his staff, would be sufficient reason not to vote for him in the gubernatorial election.

2. Ethics Dunce: Red Sox owner John Henry. You would think the progressive owner of the Boston Globe could restrain himself from blatant virtue-signaling while his team was celebrating its historic season and World Series victory, but no. Henry saluted his team for being “diverse” in his post-game remarks. Nobody sane cares how diverse, whatever that means (Where were the women, John? Where were the Asians? The differently-abled? Muslims? LGBT representatives?), a pro sports team is as long as it wins, and if it doesn’t win, its check-offs on an EEOC form won’t make it any better or its losing more palatable. The 2018 Red Sox were assembled according to the skills and talents of its personnel, with race and ethnicity a non-factor. What mattered is that the team’s manager (he’s Puerto Rican, and I don’t care) proved himself a natural leader who created a selfless, courageous, professional culture on his team, none of whom mentioned race, religion or creed all season, and properly so.

The compulsion to spurt progressive cant at every opportunity is pathological. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Research and Scholarship, Sports, Workplace