Afternoon Ethics Afterthoughts, 5/7/2021: On Quitting, Cancelling, Lying And Deflecting

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1. The dignity and integrity to quit. The big news in baseball yesterday was that the California Angels finally released Albert Pujols. Pujols is in the last year of a terrible 24 million dollar a year+ contract he signed as a free agent. For the last several years, he had negative value, meaning that the Angels would have been better if they just stuck a utility infielder in his slot in the line-up. When Pujols left the St. Louis Cardinals, he was already a lock of the Hall of Fame, much like Mike Trout today (also on the Angels) who could quit at 30 and still be regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. In 2019, I wrote about another washed up batter holding on to collect his exorbitant salary when he was no longer capable of earning it, the Orioles’ erstwhile slugger Chris Davis. I wrote in part,

[He] should call a press conference and do what some baseball players better than he have done when they realized they could no longer play at the level they were paid to. Quit. Retire. Say that he has too much respect for the game, his team mates, Baltimore, the Orioles, its fans, and himself to keep on with the embarrassing futility of trying to play major league baseball when he no longer has the skill to do so while receiving millions to fail. Then he should walk away, an Ethics Hero, and a model of integrity.

But Davis didn’t, of course. Davis earned $23,000,000 that year, and last year. He will earn the same amount this season and the next, to add to the 165 million he’s banked already. His OPS (On Base % plus Slugging %) the past three years: .539, .601, and .331. The average OPS in the Major Leagues is about .750. Nothing yet this year: he’s been injured. The Orioles hope he stays that way.

What Pujols is owed if he stays active is virtually monopoly money to him: he already has a third of a billion dollars from his baseball salaries alone, and many millions more from endorsements—and that’s just assuming he keeps his money in a sock. Reportedly Albert is greatly admired as a man of character, but if he was truly that, he would have the character to quit. Now.

2. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! Here’s a fun link: conservative pundit David Harsanyi traces (some) of the egregious media bias since Biden took office.

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Wait…Why Does Facebook Allow Non-Americans To Censor Our Political Discourse?

That’s impressive: Facebook’s “quasi-independent” review board is even more unethical than I thought.

That board’s membership was in my print version of the New York Times yesterday. If it’s on the web, it’s too well hidden for me, but here is the disturbing part: on the 20 person board, 15 of the “‘experts” don’t live in the United States of America.

Let’s make this clear: as Tom Slater of “Spiked!” correctly points out, Facebook’s banning of Trump ‘represented one of the most terrifying corporate interventions into democratic politics in recent memory. In removing Trump from its platform, used by around 70 per cent of adult Americans, Facebook was effectively standing between a president and his people, depriving him of access to what now constitutes the public square. This is an assault on democracy that makes the surreal storming of the Capitol pale into insignificance.”

Exactly. And to review a decision with massive consequences for our nation and its public, Facebook turns to distant arbiters who 1) have no stake in the fate of the United States at all and 2) lack the cultural values unique to this country of treasuring and protecting free speech and expression.

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Ethics Dunces: “Social Influencers” Dan And Nikki Phillippi, And, Come To Think Of It, Anyone Who Follows Them, And, Come To Think Of It, Anyone Who Follows ANY “Social Influencers”

But I digress, though I will continue that digression later, and maybe in an upcoming post.

Dan And Nikki Phillippi are “YouTubers,” meaning that have monetized successive facile and smarmy videos via Instagram and have made a million dollars out of it. Read about them here: if you see anything that suggests to you an IQ over 110 or any special expertise or wisdom, let me know. Nikki’s YouTube bio reads, “WELL HELLO! My name is Nikki. I used to make videos growing up just to show them to my family…now I make them and upload them to YouTube. HAHA I love all things girly, acting, singing, dancing AND helping people be the best they can be! I hope you feel inspired and happy when you watch my videos and I invite you to join me on my weird and crazy journey through life! LOL”

As far as I’m concerned, ending a bio with “LOL” is signature significance for someone I wouldn’t allow to influence me to come in out of the rain.

Dan and Nikki just put down their dog, a nine-year-old Bull terrier named Bowser, recently, and, since this is how they live, they monetized it with a video. [ Full disclosure: There’s a fair chance that our rescue dog Spuds is part Bull Terrier] They had previously been “sharing” about their new baby, Logan, now 1. The baby apparently grabbed at some of Bowser’s food, and the dog nipped him. Logan was not badly hurt, but they killed the dog anyway.

Bowser had apparently had a few aggressive incidents in the past, but that’s irrelevant: anyone who allows a baby or toddler to be in close proximity with their dog (or any dog) is 100% responsible if there is an episode like this. Moreover, any dog might react badly when a child tries to take away its food. In fact, you must not allow children and dogs to have food near each other.

In fact, I might react badly if a child tries to take away MY food…

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No-Hitter Ethics!

Hope

You see, this is why I am a lifetime underachiever. Here I am, desperately preparing for a challenging 3-hour seminar, and when Jutgory sends me a story about a controversy over what should count as a “perfect game” in baseball, I can’t think of anything else. Baseball and ethics. The combination gets me every time! So I am writing a post instead of doing my job. Pathetic.

For some reason, 2021 has been a big year for no-hitter definition categories. About ten days ago, Arizona Diamondbacks left-hander Madison Bumgarner threw seven hitless innings against the Atlanta Braves, winning 7-0. However,the game was part of a doubleheader, and this year, as in the 2020 season, twinbills consist of two 7 inning games. Bumgarner’s gem does not officially count as a no-hitter, because MLB declared many years ago that an official no-hitter must be nine innings, a shutout, a victory, and a complete game. This eliminated no-hitters that had been shortened because of rain but were still official games, and the strange games where a pitcher gave up a run or more because of errors or walks. It also wiped out one of the most famous no-hitters of all time.

Harvey Haddix of the Pittsburgh Piratesgave up no hits, walks or baserunners for 12 innings against the Milwaukee Braves on May 26, 1959 in a 0-0 extra-inning tie. He retired 36 consecutive consecutive batters until an error in the 13th ended the perfect game bid, then he gave up a hit, and eventually a run and the game. It was one of the greatest pitching performances of all time, but did not count, sayeth the rule-makers, as a perfect game or a no-hitter.

Not giving Baumgarner credit for a “no-no,” as no-hitters are called by their close friends, seems very unfair. The game was official and not shortened by the elements. He did everything he could do: it wasn’t his fault MLB is lazy and incompetent and decided to allow kiddie rule 7-inning games this season. (The excuse was, as with much that is outrageous, the pandemic.) I am quite sure that baseball didn’t think through such possibilities as a double-header no-hitter, and was stuck with a rule that really shouldn’t have applied.

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From The “Just Tell Me The Rules” Files: Are Alvin And The Chipmunks Racist?

The song you hear above was the brainchild of Rostom Sipan “Ross” Bagdasarian, a cousin of author and playwright William Saroyan. He performed under the stage name of Dave Seville, and using that name, had a novelty hit in 1958 with “I Told the Witch Doctor.” The song introduced the gimmick of speeding up a human voice to sound high pitched and funny, as with helium. The singing “witch doctor” (it was, of course, “Seville” himself) was returned to vinyl later in the same year as a chipmunk, actually three chipmunks, in a Christmas novelty song, “Christmas Don’t Be Late.” That hit, in turn, spawned sequels, eventually an animated TV series, and finally, two movies.

By current woke standards, having a “witch doctor”—generally thought of as a black member of a primitive African tribe—sounding silly and singing gibberish like “Ooh ee ooh ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang, ooh ee ooh ah ah ting tang walla walla bang bang” is racially demeaning (rather than what uninfected people would call “silly and harmless”) bordering on racist.

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Ethics Quiz: The Football Coach’s Tweet

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Once again, I am 90% certain, maybe more, what the right answer should be, but also again, I’m close enough to the cusp to have “reasonable doubt,” or as they would say in the Chauvin trial, “Never mind!”

Chris Malone, an offensive line coach at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga (UTC), , was fired two days after he tweeted,

“Congratulations to the state GA and Fat Albert @staceyabrams because you have truly shown America the true works of cheating in an election, again!!! Enjoy the buffet Big Girl!! You earned it!!! Hope the money is good, still not governor!”

The school responded, through its athletic director,

“Last night, a totally inappropriate social media post by a member of our football staff was brought to my attention. The entire post was appalling. The sentiments in that post do not represent the values of our football program, our Athletics department or our University. With that said, effective immediately, that individual is no longer a part of the program.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for today (as I head to my oral surgeon for the latest emergency…):

Was it ethical to fire him?

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A Word From Your Sponsor…

I’m giving a Zoom CLE seminar, 3 hours, for legal ethics credits, for the D.C. Bar this evening. If you are a lawyer, you might want to participate. The program is “Clarence Darrow’s Legal Ethics Lessons for Today’s More Ethical Lawyers 2021,” and features, as Darrow, my friend and long-time D.C. theater star Paul Morella. (You may recall him as a sinister young law firm associate in “The Pelican Brief.”) I do the ethics stuff.

Paul and I have done constantly evolving versions of this seminar for years, an adaptation of a one-man show I wrote for my late, lamented Arlington, VA theater company 20 years ago. Paul has continued to perform the show all over the country.

The link is here.

Now back to our usual scheduled programming….

Evening Ethics Cool-Down, 5/5/21: Toyota, Patents, And The Cheating Homecoming Queen

Frozen-Jack-Nicholson

I don’t want to over-use the “This Date In Ethics” concept, but attention must be paid: this was the day, in 1961,that Navy Commander Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. boarded the Freedom 7 space capsule to becoming the first American astronaut to travel into space.

In these times where so many aspects of our culture are working to imbue Americans with fear of living, when people wear masks in their cars and teachers are willing to cripple both the economy and children’s education to minimize their risk of catching a virus, it should be remembered that a young, healthy man risked his life and the chance of a fiery death to advance America’s science and the spirit of exploration.

1. For some reason (Cognitive dissonance?) I haven’t been checking Althouse as often since she decided that her readers were hogging too much attention on her blog by insisting on posting comments. She still has an admirable talent for cutting through the BS. Reacting to today’s announcement that Facebook’s “quasi-indepedent” board upheld FaceBook’s partisan and anti-democratic ban on Donald Trump’s posts. Ann writes, “I’m not surprised. If the decision had gone the other way, Facebook could have found some new offense and banned him again.”

Not could have, though; would have.

2. How is this fair or equitable? Once again, Toyota is giving a special discount to “recent college graduates.” This is, of course, ham-handed pro-college virtue-signaling, but wouldn’t you guess that non-college grads of the same age need such discounts more? In the TV ad, we see a nice, upper-middle class white girl from childhood to college—it sure looks like her parents can afford a car…or she can afford a full-price cheaper car. Interestingly, this is one of the relatively few TV ads running now that dares to feature a white character who doesn’t at least mitigate her ingrained evil by being part of a mixed-race family.

Special deals on products and services for special categories of Americans—yes, even veterans—are divisive and incoherent.

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Ethics Quote Of The Month: Dave Portnoy

“[I]t’s unfortunate that the powers that be at N Magazine are spineless jellyfish who are held hostage by the whims of the vocal minority. Meanwhile, I will continue to do my best to make Nantucket and America a better place while those who hate me can continue to throw cry parties for themselves about how I made a joke they didn’t like 20 years ago.”

–Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy mocking N Magazine, a publication focused on the life on Nantucket, Massachusetts, where he lives, for its nauseating apology to readers who criticized its May cover story on him.

Bravo. Now if every grovel to every grievance mob was certain to attract a similar response, maybe we would see fewer grovels. The fact that someone who spawned a company called “Barstool Sports” in Boston, where call-in sports radio is so outrageous that it has driven athletes to tears and where sports discussions would be banned at Basecamp  because they so frequently lead to battle, has been known to express himself, well, like he’s on a barstool, is absurdly obvious. The complaints to the magazine were as risable as the annual letters from Sunday school teachers to Sports Illustrated condemning its swimsuit edition is “immoral.”

But no. Though the article celebrated Portnoy’s documented charity work raising money for bars, pubs and small businesses (you can imagine what 2020 was like for a bar in Nantucket), the invertebrate publisher and editor of the magazine placed a nauseating grovel on the magazine’s Facebook page, saying “a number of people in the community have taken issue with offensive remarks and actions [Portnoy] has made in the past. We never want to hurt, offend, or disappoint any of our readers with the stories we publish. Accordingly, we formally apologize for any pain caused to those who have objected to this May cover….We now recognize and acknowledge our oversight in how this story would be received. We appreciate feedback, positive or otherwise, because ultimately it helps make us a better publication going forward.”

The Manchurian Candidate or Winston Smith could not have said it better.

That’s right: any time anyone decides that anything offends them, they must be apologized to, and efforts to cancel productive societal actors based on real or alleged “offenses” in the past must always be treated as valid and sacred. This kind of craven virtue-signaling is far worse for society than anything David Portnoy might have said on the most politically incorrect day of his life.

Now, when public apologies like N’s result in tangible negative responses—I’d cancel a subscription to any publication run by aspiring totalitarians like that—maybe this antidemocratic trend can be eradicated, as it richly deserves to be.

Hell, I might subscribe to “N” just so I can cancel my subscription.