From The Ethics Alarms Archives: “The Forgotten Meaning of Labor Day”

The 1894 Pullman strike

It may be hard for Americans to get inspired to celebrate Labor Day for what it is supposed to honor, especially with teachers unions working to keep America locked down and students barely educated in pursuit of a partisan political agenda, and pro athlete unions bullying sports leagues into ruining their product by turning them into political propaganda vehicles, and the postal workers union partisan bias eroding trust in the upcoming election. Nonetheless, there is a good reason to celebrate Labor Day.

This Ethics Alarms post from 2012 explains what that reason is.

Labor Day commemorates one of the great ethical victories of American society, and not one in a hundred Americans know it. Labor Day marks the end of summer, and a time for retail store sales, and the last chance to get away to Disney World, but few of us think about the real meaning of the word “labor” in the name, and how it is meant to honor brave, dedicated men and women who fought, sometimes literally, the forces of greed, political influence, wealth and privilege in this country to ensure a measure of safety, consideration, fairness and justice for the hardest working among us.

Today labor unions are controversial, and with good reason. Many of them have been run as criminal enterprises, with deep connections to organized crime; many operate in a blatantly coercive and undemocratic fashion. Union demands and strong-arm tactics, while providing security and good wages to members, have crippled some American industries, and limited jobs as well. Today the unions  get publicity when one of them tries to protect a member who should be punished, as when the baseball players’ union fights suspensions for player insubordination or even drug use, or when school districts are afraid to fire incompetent teachers because of union power, or when the members of public unions protest cutbacks in benefits that their private sector counterparts would be grateful for. It is true that today’s unions often embody longshoreman philosopher Eric Hoffer’s observation that  “Every great cause begins as a movement, degenerates into a business and ends up as a racket.” *

That not what Labor Day honors, however. It is celebrating the original labor movement that began at the end of the 19th century, and that eventually rescued the United States from an industrial and manufacturing system that was cruel, exploitive, deadly and feudal. Why the elementary schools teach nothing about this inspiring and important movement, I do not know. I suspect that the story of the American labor movement was deemed politically dangerous to teach during the various Red Scares, and fell out of the curriculum, never to return. Whatever the reason, it is disgraceful, for the achievements of the labor movement are every bit as important and inspiring as those of the civil rights movement and the achievements of our armed forces in the protection of liberty abroad. Continue reading

I’ll Try To Stop This From Being A Rant, But I’m Not Promising Anything…[Corrected]

When The Great Stupid starts affecting my enjoyment of baseball, it’s personal.

I’m not watching another baseball game this “season,” and whether I ever do again is up for grabs. Someone in Major League Baseball’s marketing department should take notice, because when the game loses people like me—that is, lifetime, sophisticated, passionate fans, it’s in trouble.  For almost 15 years, I never missed a single Boston Red Sox game.  I’ve watched games in 13 different parks and stadiums; I shared a season ticket to the Baltimore Orioles for several years. I managed hundreds of Strat-O-Matic table top baseball games; along with two friends, I created and marketed a Red Sox trivia game in 1986. In 1978, I risked my job at Georgetown by walking out of a mandated staff meeting because the Red Sox-Yankee single game play-off was about to start, and  I wasn’t about to miss it.

I just gave a Smithsonian Associates program on baseball. Most of all, much of my personal philosophy was built on baseball observations and experiences. Fenway Park is the single place on earth where I am entirely happy, and I choke up every time Robert Redford gives his “God, I love baseball” speech in “The Natural.”

This week, however, baseball players refused to play their games in solidarity with an obnoxious NBA protest. I take it as a personal insult, and the fact that MLB took no action against the players as signature significance. These people are not merely unethical fools, but unethical fools who are smug and arrogant about it.

I will not waste my valuable time and fragile emotions rooting for such people. I have more self-respect than that.

This week’s madness..CUE!!!!

…began with the NBA’s players spontaneously deciding to boycott their games. Again, the supine league decided to let them do it, making vague virtue-signalling noises about how they support the players’ activism in pursuit of “social justice.” Well, let me refine that: it really began when the evil NFL, which happily makes billions encouraging players to destroy their brains, decided at the outset of the George Floyd Freakout to not only allow widespread Kaepernicking, but to encourage it. Next we had pro baseball and basketball  trying to top each other in betraying their obligations to fans of their teams and sport by endorsing not just political messages embraced by players and exhibited in the stadiums, but offensive or infuriatingly meaningless ones. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 8/23/2020, As If Anyone Needs To be Warmed Up Today…

Hot enough for ya?

1. False narrative, bad analogy. The popular media narrative is that President Trump is in a similar position to George H.W. Bush in 1988, when polls at this point showed him trailing Democratic Presidential nominee Michael Dukakis by a large margin. Conservative media had cited the comparison earlier this summer to make the simple point that being behind in the polls in July is relatively meaningless. Lately the mainstream media has been flogging the analogy in order to continue its doomsday prediction for the Trump campaign.

“Bush ’88 rally could be map for Trump ’20” is somehow deemed worthy of a front page spot in the Sunday Times. To begin with, that’s fake news of the “future news” variety. (“…or, it might not be.”) More importantly, it’s straw man: the article exists to to show that President Trump may not be able to prevail, because, you see, having begun with the false assertion that his situation is similar to Bush’s, the Times explains that the situations aren’t that similar at all. The bad analogy is created to rebut it.

In fact, the differences between the Bush challenge in 1988 and Trump’s in 2020 mostly favor the President. Bush was never a popular figure; he was distrusted by conservatives, and only was nominated because an epicly popular President, Ronald Reagan, anointed him as his approved successor. (Barack Obama, in contrast, avoided “anointing” Biden.) A strong Democratic opponent would have beaten Bush; Dukakis was weak. He was ahead in the polls when nobody outside of Massachusetts knew what  he was like. Trump has a large base of passionate supporters, something Bush never had. He is an incumbant (Bush was not), and if they run, incumbents almost always win. Bush was an awful debater; Trump has proven effective in debates. And while Dukakis was completely supported by the liberal wing of the party, Biden has critics on the hard left, among feminists (the non-hypocrite faction), and African Americans. The Democratic party of the 1980s had not spent four years trying to overturn an election. Moreover, polls are less reliable now than they were before news media bias began warping them, and Trump’s support, as the last election showed,  is especially hard to measure. Continue reading

Proportionality And The Cancellation Of Thom Brennaman

“Proportionality” is an ethical principle, one that has been recognized for centuries.  In the Josephson Institute’s “Six Pillars of Character,” it is included under the “pillar” of Fairness. Plato explained that he concept of ethical retributive justice must be  committed to  three principles:

  • That those who commit wrongful acts deserve to suffer a proportionate punishment;
  • That it is intrinsically morally good if a legitimate authority gives such wrongdoers the punishment they deserve; and
  • That it is morally impermissible to intentionally to punish the innocent, or to inflict disproportionately large punishments on wrongdoers.

This brings us to the case of Thom Brennaman, play-by-play broadcaster for the Cincinnati Reds and the son of retired and revered Marty Brennaman, also a veteran baseball announcer. Last night, Brennaman the Younger was caught on an open mic describing someplace as the  “one of the fag capitals of the world” after the Fox Sports Ohio feed returned from a commercial break in the top of the seventh inning in the first game of a doubleheader at Kansas City. This led the Reds to pull Brennaman off the air after the fifth inning of the second game, and the announcer was quickly suspended.

The team quickly released a statement:

Note “horrific.” That “horrific” word can be heard near the beginning of the famous song above from “Company,” lyrics by Broadway icon Stephen Sondheim (who is gay). To my knowledge, no audience members have ever walked out of a performance upon hearing it. Sondheim, now in his eighties, did recently concoct an alternate lyric for those productions that are determined to be politically correct. He’s a prudent man, I guess. I wish he hadn’t.

The word is apparently so horrific that I had to search all over the web to find out what it was. Most accounts said that the announcer used an “anti-gay slur,” and left it to readers’ imagination what was said. This is crummy, craven, virtue-signaling and incompetent journalism. If the story is about the uproar over a word, a news reporter is obligated to say what the word is. When the ESPN report only said that the word used was “horrific,” I thought it was something I had never heard before. It’s a slur, that’s all. It’s a word. Continue reading

Goodyear’s “No Tolerance” Policy Is Cowardly, Unethical, And Wrong, And The President’s Response Was Worse.

An angry employee took that photo of a slide used in a diversity training  program.  Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company’s has a “zero-tolerance policy”,” and like almost all such policies, the employee or committee charged with developing it lacked the wisdom, perspective, legal guidance, common sense, and ethics skills to do it competently.  The employee says the obviously incompetent slide above was presented at the Topeka plant by an area manager and says the slide came from Goodyear’s corporate office out of Akron, Ohio.

“If someone wants to wear a BLM shirt in here, then cool. I’m not going to get offended about it. But at the same time, if someone’s not going to be able to wear something that is politically based, even in the farthest stretch of the imagination, that’s discriminatory,” said the whistle-blower. “If we’re talking about equality, then it needs to be equality. If not, it’s discrimination.”

Bingo. A lawyer could hardly do better. Here’s one, Professor Turley, regarding the slide: Continue reading

Wuhan Virus Ethics: The Conflicted Pitcher

Mike Clevinger: star pitcher, loyal team mate, jerk.

It’s baseball meets the Wuhan virus in today’s ethics showdown. Not surprisingly, since baseball players have the approximate ethics acumen of a typical member of Congress, the virus wins.

Essential background: Major League Baseball is desperately trying to complete some semblance of a season, with the key word being “semblance.” There are no fans in the stands; double headers games are only seven innings, and teams have NFL-style “taxi squads” instsead on minor league teams. Baseball has also installed strict protocols involving masks, social distancing, and players avoiding physical contact. One team, the Florida Marlins, has already had a virus breakout that took almost half the active roster out of circulation. This resulted in lots of canceled games and the reworking of other teams’ schedules. (Ironically, the Marlins taxi squad players have done almost nothing but win since they took over. That’s baseball, Ray!). Now a second team, the S, Louis Cardinals, has had multiple players test positive because a player came in contact with an infected non-team member, than joined the other Cardinals on a plane. St. Louis has missed two weeks of games. MLB knows that much more of this will make continuing the season, weird as it may be, impossible. Teams have been warned of dire consequences if they don’t  keep their players—you, know, millionaire morons with the emotional maturity of Adam Sandler—in line.

Now, the rest of the story. Continue reading

Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/10/2020: Stelter Gaslighting, “Neither Rain Nor Snow,” A Good Lawsuit, And Orwellian Marketing [CORRECTED!]

Goooood Morning!

The song is from one of my favorite Broadway cast albums. The show (which I directed in college) is something of a mess, but the songs are terrific. Anthony Newley was a talented songwriter (with writing partner Leslie Bricusse) and a triple threat performer who was just a little bit too intense for some people. Among his best known songs with Bricusse are “The Candyman,” “Feelin’ Good” (from “Greasepaint,”) “Gonna Build A  Mountain” and “What Kind of Fool Am I?” (from “Stop the World, I Want To Get Off.” “On a Wonderful Day” is sung on the album by Cyril Richard, whom older readers will remember as the definitive Captain Hook, menacing Mary Martin in the live TV versions of “Peter Pan.”

1. This is wonderfully hilarious. Brian Stelter strikes again. From his CNN show yesterday:

STELTER: “When you see entire media companies essentially exist to tear down Joe Biden, is there an equivalent of that on the left, tearing down Trump?”

GUEST: “There really isn’t.”

Do any CNN viewers really believe this? How much gaslighting can a CNN talking head get away with?

2. Res Ipsa Loquitur. Running a small business trying to struggle through the lockdown when our main income is from live presentations, my wife and I are finding cash flow tougher than ever. Today we were alerted by the USPS that a large check we have been waiting for was delivered two days ago. (It wasn’t.) A few weeks back, we received what looked like an important letter addressed to someone in Spokane, Washington. Yet I will be encouraging voter suppression if I suggest that mail-in ballots are a disastrous idea.

It’s interesting: the same people who insist that the United States is out of step if it doesn’t emulate “other developed nations” in such matters as government health care and banning capital punishment are oddly silent about the overwhelming hostility to voting by mail in Europe. Paul Bedard points out,

Most developed countries, especially in Europe, ban mail-in voting to fight vast fraud and vote buying that had threatened the integrity of their elections, according to an exhaustive review of voting rules and histories in over 30 major nations. In the European Union, 63% have put a ban on mailing in ballots except for citizens living overseas. Another 22% have imposed a ban even for those overseas. And most of those that allow mail-in ballots require some form of photo ID to get one, according to the report from the Crime Prevention Research Center shared with Secrets. “These countries have learned the hard way about what happens when mail-in ballots aren’t secured. They have also discovered how hard it is to detect vote buying when both those buying and selling the votes have an incentive to hide the exchange,” said author John R. Lott, the center’s president.

Meanwhile, we don’t have to rely on Europe’s example to figure out this is a terrible and dangerous idea. From NBC:

More than 1 in 5 mail-in ballots were rejected in New York City during the state primary June 23, the city’s certified election results revealed this week. City election officials rejected 84,000 ballots — 21 percent of all those received by election officials. More than 403,000 ballots were returned to election officials, according to city data, but only about 319,000 absentee ballots were counted, the certified results showed… The U.S. Postal Service, unused to the deluge of prepaid mailers, reportedly left postmarks off ballots, leaving thousands of them to be rejected because it was unclear they were sent on time.

If I were conspiracy-minded, I’d suspect that Democrats want chaos in the November election–all the better to reject the results and take to the streets. Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/9/2020: Whining, Lying, Slipping, Faking, Scaring….

Good morning.

I detest that sappy Ray Stevens song, and have since the first time I heard it. But I have to try something…

1. There’s no whining in baseball! Note to MLB players: heroes and role models don’t whine.  Players have been making excuses for their flaccid play—of course, only the players who aren’t playing well are complaining—that the lack of a crowd makes it difficult to  bear down during games. The Red Sox broadcasters, including two former players, keep talking about this over and over again. Two games ago, Red Sox newcomer Alex Verdugo, in his second season, made a great catch to take away a home run, and the only cheering to be heard (I’m not including the fake crowd noises) was coming from Verdugo himself.  “In a normal game, he’d be getting  a standing ovation! A curtain call out of the dugout!” said Dennis Eckersley.

Oh, cry me a river. These guys are supposed to be professionals, and they get millions of dollars to play a game for living, one they supposedly love. I don’t believe they need crowds screaming to “get up” for big moments, and if they do, something’s wrong with them. Every kid who played sandlot baseball manged to perform at his or her best because that’s what competitors in any game do.

Then there’s Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez, who is off to a miserable start. His excuse? Part of the MLB protocols during the pandemic prohibits players from in-game use of video equipment. Martinez is used to looking at videos of his at bats during games to pick up on any flaws in his swing, so he has complained that not being able to have access to the usual devices  is contributing to his slump.

Not surprisingly, the former players in the booth have not been particularly sympathetic to his plight, having played in those dark ages when baseball players just played baseball during the games.

2. Telling us all we need to know about “Defund police,” the current Democratic Party, Minnesota,  the former co-chair of the Democratic National Committee, and the mainstream media…MN Attorney General Keith Ellison recommended last month that women not call police to report when they’ve been raped. Ellison, who coincidentally has been accused of rape himself, said,

“If you’re a woman who’s been a victim of a sexual assault, and the assailant ran away, wouldn’t you rather talk to somebody who is trained in helping you deal with what you’re dealing with, as opposed to somebody whose main training is that they know how to use a firearm? Right?”

That’s the kind of  statement I would expect from a teenage social justice warrior like David Hogg. Ellison is the top law enforcement official in the state, and his definition of a police officers is that that their main skill is using a gun? Continue reading

Is It Time To Declare Teachers Unions “Enemies Of The People”? [CORRECTED]

.Back when Silent Calvin Coolidge was Governor of Massachusetts, his response when much of the Boston Police Department went on strike in 1919 was to draw a line in the metaphorical sand that has stiffened the spine of many executives since, notably Ronald Reagan when the air traffic controllers tried to extort the nation. Responding to labor leader Samuel Gompers, who asserted that the police were in the right, Coolidge responded via telegram on September 14, 1919 , “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anyone, anywhere, any time.”

Public unions are an ethics abomination, permitting employees to essentially hold the public hostage. The current conduct of teachers unions, flexing their muscles and attempting to use their leverage over children to push an ideological agenda largely unrelated to education, may not be endangering public safety in the strict terms of Coolidge’s day, but we need a new Calvin to expand his principle  to hold that there is no right to strike against the public welfare. Continue reading

Baseball Ethics While Watching Baseball, Part 1: “Nothing”

I should be writing an evening ethics potpourri, but I’m watching the Red Sox, who have been terrible, play the Mets, who I detest, so I’m too distracted. But while I was sitting here, two baseball ethics issues popped up. I can chew gum and walk at the same time, but I can chew gum and think about gum.

The first issue is schadenfreude-related. John McNamara died today in his eighties. He’s the Boston Red Sox manager most fans, including me, hold responsible for the Sox losing to the Mets in the 1986 World Series`. I’m sure Johnny Mac, as he was called, was a wonderful husband and father, but he was a lazy, terrible manager who got jobs when lazy, terrible team owners wanted to choose an organization man who wouldn’t rock the boat. He was incompetent, basicly, like so many middle managers in conventional businesses who take jobs away from better, harder-working, smarter people because they know how to play the right games and suck up to the right people. As a baseball manager his stock in trade was inertia. He had a flat learning curve, assumed problems would solve themselves eventually, and never took risks.

He was the epitome of a hack, in short. Such employees and professionals are a blight on society and civilization, but it’s not intentional, and not exactly their fault that there are too many of their breed, and that collectively they make life for the rest of us more nasty, brutish and short than it should be. Continue reading