Category Archives: Quotes

Satchel Paige Would Approve: From The Ethics Alarms Slippery Slope Files

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?” said Leroy “Satchel” Paige, the greatest Negro Leagues pitcher of them all, and —who knows?—maybe the  greatest pitcher of all time, in any league. Imagine: Paige wasn’t allowed to play against white players in the Major Leagues until 1948 when he was over 40, and he still was hard to hit. Satch is a great symbol for the ageless and those of us in denial: he pitched in his last Major League game in his 60’s, throwing three scoreless innings against the Boston Red Sox. Paige’s whimsical  idea that age is just a state of mind has now been carried to its illogical conclusion by Dutch citizen Emile Ratelband, a “positivity trainer” who  calls himself a “young god,” and who has asked a local court to legally change his birthday from March 11, 1949 to March 11,1969, the BBC reports.

Heck, why not? If someone with a Y chromosome and all of their original external organs can say they “identify” as a female and use the ladies room, join the Girl Scouts, and have the protection and support of the law and the woke, why not declare age simply a matter of attitude and mind over matter? It’s just the next frontier in the politically correct realm of reality denial, and I would say, and I know Satchel Paige would say, if  how someone feels is sufficient to legitimize that defiance of concrete reality, treating age as similarly flexible is more than reasonable. Just a stroke of a pen by a judge, and poof! You’re as young as you feel. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/30/18: Scary Ethics Stories!

Good Morning!

(And HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my brilliant, talented, always challenging, Trump-hating lawyer little sister, Edith Sophia Marshall!)

1 Quiz results: about 90% of responders found the drag Python sketch about a ladies club re-enactment of Pearl Harbor funny. Whew. As for the one voter who said that it was unfunny because it made light of human tragedy and violence, I’m glad you never attended any of the stage comedies I directed.

2. Ending birthright citizenship for illegal immigrant offspring? President Trump told Axios in an interview that he was preparing to issue an executive order to end birthright citizenship for children of immigrants here illegally. “It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t…You can definitely do it with an Act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.”

I have found no authorities who agree with Trump’s lawyers, if indeed they are telling him that. If they are, I don’t blame him for listening to them: if there was ever a President who was legally clueless, it’s this one. Some conservatives are livid about the suggestion (obviously all illegal  immigration-boosting liberals are as well), noting that this proposal is exactly as unconstitutional as Obama’s immigration-related EOs. I tend to agree with them. Ethically, the birthright rule is an incentive to break the law and anachronistic, since it originated when there were no legal restrictions on immigration nor reasons to have any. if the question gets to the Supreme Court, however, it will pose an integrity test for the conservative justices. Their philosophy is that you can’t just re-write or ignore the Constitution when it gets in the way of desirable policy, and this is a perfect example.

It is also very possible—likely?— that the President was using this trial balloon to energize the anti-illegal immigration base as the “caravan” continued its march. Continue reading

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Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up After The Red Sox Complete An Unprecedented Late Inning Comeback In The World Series HAHAHAHAHA!, 10/28/18: Obama’s “Norms”, Goodbye Apu, #MeToo Hypocrisy, And “Roshomon,” Chicago-Style

Focus, Jack, focus!

1. Not the World Series, ETHICS! And speaking of ethics…

  • What kind of lie is this? Rich Hill, the Dodgers starting pitcher last night who almost unhittable, said in an interview that he “liked” his team’s chances of winning the Series despite being behind 3 games to 1. World Series history and basic math says that the chances are “slim.” He likes the slim chances? Does he really like them? Does he believe liking them means they are more likely to break his way?

Is he just lying to buck up his team and its fans, when he really doesn’t “like” the chances at all, not being, you know, an idiot? Does that make it a “good lie”?

  • The Fox World Series broadcast team of Joe Buck and John Smoltz is incompetent. In a potentially game-changing play in which the Boston catcher’s throw attempting to complete a home-to-first double-play sailed past first, allowing the game’s first run to score, the two alleged experts said that there was no interference. Wrong. There was interference, and it was obvious: Bellinger, the Dodgers runner, was on the infield grass rather than the yard-wide running lane to the right of the baseline, which exists precisely for plays like that, when the catcher needs a lane to throw unimpeded to first base to get the out.  It should have been called runner’s interference, completing a double-play and ending the inning without a run scoring. Instead, the run scored on the errant throw from Boston catcher Vasquez, and the next batter, Yasiel Puig, hit a three-run homer to give L.A. a 4-0 lead. There was no discussion of the rules and issues involved.

But after the game, over at the MLB cable channel, former Yankees manager Joe Girardi and baseball analyst Harold Reynolds graphically illustrated that the interference should have been called. This is what the Fox broadcasters are paid for: to explain the nuances of the rules and the game to the average World Series viewer, whose baseball acumen is rudimentary. The umpires missed the play, even though as Reynold pointed out, it was called many times during the season. Umpires are reluctant to call interference of any kind during the post-season, because it’s messy, and guarantees controversy and an on-field arguments.

  • For an unusual first ball ceremony, former Red Sox-Oakland Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley (Now an ace Boston TV color man, known New England-wide as “Eck”) threw a pitch to ex-Dodgers catcher Steve Yeager as Kirk Gibson stood in the batters box. Gibson, you should recall, hit the famous “The Natural” home run off Eckersley to win Game #1 of the 1988 World Series, after limping to the plate as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the 9th inning. How many ex-players would voluntarily re-enact their worst moment on the field on national TV? Imagine Ralph Branca throwing a ceremonial first pitch to Bobby Thompson.

Eck personifies humility and exemplary sportsmanship.

  • Trump Tweets, Baseball Division. This made me laugh out loud, I have to admit. During the game, the President criticized Dodgers manager Dave Roberts decision to replace Hill with his first baseball tweet:

“It is amazing how a manager takes out a pitcher who is loose & dominating through almost 7 innings, Rich Hill of Dodgers, and brings in nervous reliever(s) who get shellacked. 4 run lead gone. Managers do it all the time, big mistake!”

I wish the President would confine all of his tweeting to second-guessing managers and coaches. It’s obnoxious, but harmless. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, presented with the tweet during his post-game press conference, handed it ethically and well. Steely-faced, he asked, “The President said that?” and responded, sufficiently respectfully, “I’m happy he was tuning in and watching the game. I don’t know how many Dodgers games he’s watched. I don’t think he was privy to the conversation. That’s one man’s opinion.”  Roberts was referring to the fact that Hill told him that he might be getting fatigued. Nonetheless, lots of people other than the President questioned Robert’s decision.

It is pure hindsight bias, of course, as well as consequentialism. If the Dodger bullpen had held a late-inning  4-run lead as every previous World Series bullpen had, nobody would be criticizing Roberts.

2. The confiscated handicapped van. [Pointer: Michael Ejercito] Andrea Santiago’s $15,000 van with a customized wheelchair lift was confiscated  by the City of Chicago as an abandoned vehicle. She has polio and multiple sclerosis, and the family claims the vehicle was parked legally and obviously not abandoned. This is a Roshomon situation, for the accounts of the city and the family are irreconcilable. Chicago’s Department of Streets & Sanitation sent this statement: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/25/2018: Parlor Games! [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

I know that’s a photo from last night’s Red Sox World Series victory, but thinking about this catch by Andrew Benintendi it has certainly brightened MY morning…

(Psst! Joe, you idiot: George Wallace was crippled for life by an attempted assassination.) Said Joe Biden at a political rally two days ago, “This president is more like George Wallace than George Washington!” Long before Trump came along, Joe told African Americans that Mitt Romney would but them back in chains. I know it’s unfair to focus on Simple Joe (or Hillary, or Maxine, or Elizabeth, or Nancy, or Keith…) to characterize Democrats, but according to polls, this guy is currently the party front-runner for the Presidential nomination. [Pointer: Ann Althouse, who rejoined, “Because he doesn’t own slaves?”] Joe really is a boob, but he makes for good parlor games. My favorite comments in the Althouse thread…

“He’s more like George Washington…they both got elected president.”

“Trump is more like Elizabeth Warren because they’re both not Indians.”

“Because he doesn’t own slaves?” No, because he worries about black unemployment. Washington never worried about that.

“Because Wallace was a Democrat, like Trump was his whole life until 15 minutes before he ran for president?”

2. Fake News. New York Times headline:Pipe Bombs Sent to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and CNN Offices.”

How much more dishonest can a single headline be? There were no “pipe bombs,” but hoax bombs, and the hoax bomb sent to “CNN offices” was addressed to John Brennan. The headline deceitfully aims to suggest that the target was the news media.

3. I figured this out when I was 17 years old. A new book called The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing, by Merve Emre, (Doubleday, 336 pages, $27.95) explains that the iconic personality test is junk science. I first took the test in high school, when my parents paid a psychologist to advise me where to apply to college. He complained that the battery of tests I took had contradictory results. Yes, that would be because it was so obvious how to manipulate them, and also how insulting they were, since any fool could see the little pigeon holes the tests were trying to stuff you into. Essentially, the test was designed to create bias on the part of employers. Writes Reason,

“This book is a useful study of how a dubious idea can gain traction if it arrives at the right time.”

There’s another parlor game: which dubious ideas are gaining traction now, supported by junk science, junk research, or false assumptions? Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “A Sudden Impulse Poll On Cultural Literacy”

To all of those waiting to have their Comments of the Day posted, all I can say is that I’m sorry, and that I’m having trouble getting my own posts up lately. The languishing COTDS will appear in unpredictable order, but they will appear.

Extradimensional Cephalopod had, as usual, fascinating observations to convey on the question of the importance of cultural literacy I raised based on a reference to “Alice in Wonderland.” I don’t agree with his position–some cultural scaffolding is permanent, and must be—but it’s well worth pondering.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “A Sudden Impulse Poll On Cultural Literacy.”

Incidentally, a majority of those answering the main poll recognized the quotes, which cheered and surprised me. As for the complaint that the second poll was limited to parents, that was the point. Do parents pass along cultural touch points like Lewis Carroll? Do the schools? That poll was for parents.

I’m eventually planning to write an article about this sort of thing. It’s essentially a concern that we’ll all end up like Ozymandias. (Cultural references can help compress concepts into easily transmissible packages, for better or worse, case in point.) For now, since I don’t have much time tonight, these somewhat disjointed thoughts will have to do.

Is the ultimate fate of all classics to become footnote? To a large extent, yes. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb would put it, fame is in Extremistan. For comparison, Mediocristan is the domain of physical properties, which often follow a normal distribution (e.g. most people are average height, and there are fewer and fewer people at heights that vary more and more in either direction from the average). Fame, however, doesn’t do that. Necessarily you have many people who are known by few and the people with the most fame are few in number.

My perspective on this issue is that everything in civilization is a scaffold. It exists to help us to get to the next place, hopefully a better one, and then it is taken down. This includes even memories, since memory is a resource that culture uses and we only have so much memory to go around, at least in our day-to-day lives. What we remember must have some functional benefit, even if that function is nostalgia. We can learn about the past, but only inasmuch as we enjoy it or as it helps us create the future. Its value is considerable, but can be concentrated more efficiently than having everyone know all the esoteric details of it at all times. Anything about the past that doesn’t help us or make us feel anything can be temporarily forgotten until such time as it becomes relevant again (hopefully before it’s too late for us to use that remembered knowledge). Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: Michelle Obama

Like it or not, Michelle Obama has established herself as a cultural role model, and millions of American respect her statements and opinions and take them to heart. As clearly contrary to reality as  her now-famous “When the go low, we go high” remark was—its is difficult to remember the last time the Democratic leadership “went high”—the statement would have been an ethical one if it were true, and was still arguably aspirational, unless regards it as cynical public deception.

(Which, I confess, I have…)

This week, as important voices in her party increasingly courted hate, anger and violence among members of the public in the wake of Operation Smear Kavanaugh failing so spectacularly, the former First Lady refused to encourage the mob, and told the Today Show,

“Fear is not … a proper motivator. Hope wins out, and if you think about how you want your kids to be raised, how you want them to think about life and their opportunities, do you want them afraid of their neighbors? Do you want them angry? Do you want them vengeful?…Which motto do you want them to live by? And I have to think about that as a mother.”

Continue reading

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Your Tuesday Evening Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck Report

I. Let’s give a whole car to USC.

Nearly 100 students  attended a rally at noon on Monday demanding a tenured professor be fired after he sent a reply-all email last Thursday to the student body noting that “accusers sometimes lie.”

Professor James Moore, a tenured professor at the University of Southern California, replied to a campus wide email fatuously demanding that students  “Believe Survivors” on the day of Christine Ford’s testimony with a reply-all message that…

“If the day comes you are accused of some crime or tort of which you are not guilty, and you find your peers automatically believing your accuser, I expect you find yourself a stronger proponent of due process than you are now.”

For a teacher, this was a responsible and important point to make. It is also undeniable, except in dishonesty, ignorance and hysteria. So what was the campus response?  Hundreds of  emails from “concerned” students and alumni condemning the engineering professor. USC students Audrey Mechling and Joelle Montier  organized a Facebook rally against him, entitled “Times Up for James Moore.” Nearly 100 students gathered to shout, “Times Up, No Moore!” The crowd then paraded its bias and ignorance, and marched  to the office of Dean Jack Knott. He, of course…

...sided with the protesters...

“What [Professor Moore] sent was extremely inappropriate, hurtful, insensitive. We are going to try to do everything we can to try to create a better school, to educate the faculty,” said Dean Knott to the crowd. “This is going to be a multi-pronged effort. We are going to have a faculty meeting later this week around implicit bias, sensitivity towards [sexual assault]….”

That’s academia today! At Georgetown, a professor tweets that white males should be killed and castrated, and the administrators shrug and say she has a right to her opinion. AT USC, a professor corrects  indefensible cant that rejects basic ethical and judicial principles, and a dean says that he must be punished.

People actually pay to send their children to be warped by these places.

II. Let’s always believe survivors who know how to beat lie detectors.

The fact that Dr. Ford had been declared “truthful” in her polygraph test was always one of the worst reasons to believe her, but now that test throws legitimate suspicion on her account. The machines are notoriously unreliable, but the argument was that the fact that Ford was eager to take the test indicated her confidence in her account. Today, Fox News received this letter from a man who claims to be Ford’s ex-boyfriend:

Of course, it could be completely innocent that a woman who suddenly dredged up a forgotten alleged incident just in time to use it to derail the confirmation of a SCOTUS nominee her party opposes and submitted to a lie detector test as evidence of her veracity considered herself an expert on beating lie detector tests.

III. Ethics Hero meets Ethics Dunce Continue reading

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