Sick-Bed Ethics Warm-Up, 11/14/18: Ethics Among the Sneezes [UPDATED]

Good whatever it is….

1. Bottom line” Don’t trust Facebook. From the Times: “Facebook failed to closely monitor device makers after granting them access to the personal data of hundreds of millions of people, according to a previously unreported disclosure to Congress last month.” Surprised? As with Google promising moths ago that it was no longer reading our mail, then admitting months later that it had resumed the practice, the big tech companies have proven repeatedly that that we cannot believe what they say, or their motives, or their pledges of good will and public service. More from the Times story:

Facebook’s loose oversight of the partnerships was detected by the company’s government-approved privacy monitor in 2013. But it was never revealed to Facebook users, most of whom had not explicitly given the company permission to share their information. Details of those oversight practices were revealed in a letter Facebook sent last month to Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat, a privacy advocate and frequent critic of the social media giant.

In the letter, a copy of which Mr. Wyden provided to The New York Times, Facebook wrote that by early 2013 it had entered into data-sharing agreements with seven device makers to provide what it called the “Facebook experience” — custom-built software, typically, that gave those manufacturers’ customers access to Facebook on their phones. Those partnerships, some of which date to at least 2010, fall under a consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission drafted in 2011 and intended to oversee the company’s privacy practices.

Read the whole thing. I just assume that anything I put on Facebook, regardless of the alleged settings,will be sold to or otherwise obtained by potentially malign entities.

2. Just what we need now, a rogue First Lady. First Lady Melania Trump publicly called for the President’s deputy national security adviser, Mira Ricardel, to be fired.  In a word, well, two: Shut up. The felicitous circumstance of marrying someone who is later elected President of the United States confers no expertise or authority. The position of First Lady has no Constitutionally recognized duties, nor does it carry any real power. There is nothing anyone can do to diminish the influence and spouse may have with the President behind closed doors—and that is a problem—but she or the inevitable he must not confuse, confound or otherwise seek to influence affairs of state with public comments and opinions. Why Melania wants Ricardel fired is irrelevant. It’s none of her business.

I just want to point out that I sneezed six times while typing those last four words. Applause, please. Continue reading

The Ethics Incompleteness Dilemma and MLB’s Melky Cabrera “Solution”

Who cares what Melky wants?

[ When we last visited the messy Melky Cabrera situation, people were clamoring for baseball to rule Cabrera ineligible for the National League batting championship he seemed destined to win because the Giants outfielder had been suspended for the rest of the season for testing positive for steroids. The suspension froze his average, then as now leading the NL, and because he had already amassed sufficient at bats to qualify for the title, this meant that 1) he would benefit from what was supposed to be a punishment and 2) the most prestigious of all baseball season titles would be won by a proven cheater. I explained why taking the title away from Melky would be unethical as well as unwise:

“…There is a very good reason why the Constitution bans ex post facto laws—laws that make something illegal retroactively, so someone can become a criminal for something they did that was legal when they did it. Allowing such rules is an invitation to an abuse of power, culminating, in the worst case scenario, with the modern day equivalents of the Russian or French Revolutions, where people are executed for “crimes” that were not crimes at all. Even cheaters have rights, and one of them is to know what their risks are when they cheat. Cabrera knew that he risked suspension, a loss of millions in income, and permanent harm to his reputation and career. He did not know that he risked not winning a batting championship if he qualified for it, or being put in the stocks, being exiled to Portugal, or having his children subjected to human medical experiments. Should a player suspended for performing enhancing drug use after testing positive be disqualified from winning a batting championship that season? That seems fair and reasonable, but because Major League Baseball didn’t think of it when they were making the rules, it would be unfair for Cabrera to be subjected to such a penalty, which would embody the inherently unfair principle of an ex post facto law. Some people just can’t process this. People just shouldn’t get away with intentional bad conduct, they say. …Such people are unwittingly willing to dismember the bedrock principle of due process, which requires that we know by what rules and laws our conduct society will use to judge our conduct, and that we know what the penalties for violating them will be, or at least have a the opportunity to find these things out. No, of course it’s not fair for Melky Cabrera to win a batting championship by cheating, but a society that allows him to be penalized in ways he could not have anticipated using a rule imposed after the fact is an unfair society, and ethics is ultimately about building a more ethical society.”

Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Baseball who is always as likely to make a terrible decision as a good one, said that he would not take any action on the matter. But that was not the end of the story…]

Yesterday, Major League Baseball announced that Melky Cabrera would not be eligible for the batting title after all. Continue reading

Welcome to Carlos Zambrano’s Ethics Fun House!

Carlos Zambrano, bludgeoning his career into submission

Carlos Zambrano is the supposed pitching ace of the Chicago Cubs, though after signing a monster multi-year contract for millions, he has shown himself to be inconsistent, over-rated, and nuts. Yesterday the flamboyant hurler gave up five home runs, seemingly attempted to bisect the Braves’ Chipper Jones with a fast ball, and got ejected from the game. Then the ethics fun started:

Ethics Fun #1: Carlos cleaned out his locker, told a Cubs trainer that he was retiring, and left the premises before the game was over. A Major League ethics whiff. Continue reading

Baseball’s Free Agent Follies: Dumb Clients, Conflicted Agent

Baseball’s super-agent Scott Boras has his annual off-season conflict of interest problem, and as usual, neither Major League Baseball, nor the Players’ Union, nor the legal profession, not his trusting but foolish clients seem to care. Nevertheless, he is operating under circumstances that make it impossible for him to be fair to his clients.

This year, Boras has three aging outfielders in his stable, all with some Hall of Fame credentials, all with fading skills, and all without jobs. Their names are Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon and Andruw Jones. Thanks to a glut of unsigned hitters still on the market, the price for each of these three—once, when they were young, in the 8-figures a year range—is falling fast. According to an analysis by ESPN, only six, and possibly as few as three, possible teams are still looking to fill slots on their rosters suitable for Ramirez, Damon, and Jones, and none of them will sign more than one, if any. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week: San Diego Padres First Baseman Adrian Gonzalez

“In essence, if I take what you call a San Diego discount then I’m affecting their market. I’m affecting what they are going to make. It’s a lot like real estate. That’s the reason why. The way the game of baseball is set up, we have to protect each other. We have to do what’s best for each other.”

—-San Diego Padres superstar first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, explaining to an interviewer why he would sign with the highest bidder when he becomes a free agent next season, rather than stay in San Diego, his home, for a lesser salary.

If you don’t follow baseball, you might not know who Adrian Gonzalez is. He is a phenomenal young (28) superstar who has yet to earn the mega-millions that his skill would demand on the open market, because he has yet to fulfill his obligation to the team that brought him to the majors, the San Diego Padres. His time is coming, however: he will be a free agent after the 2011 season. The Padres, a small market franchise without a spendthrift owner, can’t and won’t pay as much to keep their best player as large market predators like the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels or Phillies will pay to acquire him. Gonzalez will be able to demand in the vicinity of 20 million dollars a year from these teams. The only hope the Padres have would be if Gonzalez, a longtime resident of San Diego and active in the community there, will accept less money to stay where he has roots, what is referred to as a “home town discount.” Continue reading

Revisiting the Obligation vs. Charity Issue in Baseball Retirement Benfits

In a recent post, Ethics Alarms discussed that demands of a group of former Major League baseball who receive inferior retirement benefits, because the changes made to the game’s pension and health insurance qualifications in 1980 were not made retroactive. The group has argued that it was unfair for the baseball clubs and players union to have voluntarily extended benefits to  pre-1947 players—players who played before there were any retirement benefits at all—and not them. The post argued…

“…The inclusion of the older players, from before 1947, was not the same: the group included many of the game’s greatest players, who could legitimately say that they were essential in building the industry that had made the current players so wealthy.  Leaving all the older players without any pensions or medical plans from Major League Baseball looked like ingratitude toward the men who, quite literally, helped make the teams and players rich. The sport owed them, and it was right for them to help the veteran group…[The 1948-1979 group], by definition, were not stars; for the most part, they were…journeyman spare-part players who barely held on to their jobs…The fact that players with one day of service in the big leagues today qualify for a health insurance no more entitles the Moonlight Grahams of the Seventies to the same than the million dollar salaries of today’s second-string catchers entitles retired catchers who made $30,000 a year to insist on retroactive pay at today’s pay scales. Baseball players are paid what their rarified talents are worth, and those who create today’s multi-billion dollar industry are worth much more than the players who toiled before the big cable contracts and merchandising kicked in…The fair thing is for people to live with the deals they freely agreed to as conditions of their employment, and when a future employee negotiates a better deal for the work you once did, the fair thing is to say to him, “Good for you!” It would be generous and kind for the Major League teams and players to close some of the disparity in benefits; I hope they do it. Nevertheless, they have no obligation to do it, and it is not a breach of fairness if they don’t.” [You can read the entire essay here.]

The post attracted a strong comment from Craig Skok, one of the players in the 1948-1979 group. He is an excellent representative of the plight of this group, because he just barely missed the cut-off for full benefits. He wrote… Continue reading

Obligation or Charity: Retired Baseball Player Pensions and Fairness

It is an old ethical problem: what is “fair”?  If you help someone, are you obligated to help everyone? Does charity have to be consistent to be fair? Does a potential beneficiary of generosity have a right to demand it? It is obviously good for those who are fortunate and successful to share the benefits of their success with the unfortunate and less successful, but is it unethical if they choose not to?

These are some of the ethics issues being raised in a controversy launched by the major league baseball veterans, now retired, who played  between 1947-1979. In those days, when free agency was just beginning and top players made six-figure salaries rather than seven or eight as they do now, a player needed four full years of  time on a big league roster to qualify for  medical benefits and an annuity. In 1980, however, new rules put in place by the Major League Baseball Players Association  granted health insurance benefits to those with just one day of service, and a pension after merely six weeks. The new benefits were not retroactive. Continue reading