Morning Ethics Warm-Up,2/25/2020: Remembering “Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Bee” [CORRECTED]

Notice of a correction: in the first version of this post, I mistakenly wrote that the famous photo above was  of the first Liston fight. It was not: this was the dramatic scene that ended the rematch. Thanks to Tim Levier for reminding me.

Good Morning!

1. Cultural literacy thoughts: I wonder…how many Millennial Americans—or among the post-boomer generations—recognize the context of the photo above? On this date in 1964, a brash 22-year-old black boxer named Cassius Clay (1942-2016) pulled off one of the great upsets in sports history, defeating world heavyweight boxing champ Sonny Liston, an 8-to-1 favorite, in a seventh-round technical knockout. The now iconic photo above captured the dramatic finale of the 1965 rematch, ending the speculation that Clay’s victory over the previously frightening Liston had been a fluke.

Indeed, the 1964 fight was just the beginning of a remarkable story.

After his stunning victory, the sudden celebrity attended a victory to a private party at a Miami hotel. In attendance was Malcolm X, the outspoken leader of the rising African American Muslim group known as the Nation of Islam. Two days later, Cassius Clay announced he was joining the Nation of Islam, and renounced his “slave name”  to adopt  the Muslim name, Muhammad Ali. As Ali, he became one of the most influential social and political figures of his era, affecting civil rights, politics, public attitudes, language and culture…and sports, of course, as  professional boxing’s greatest champion. After successfully defending his title nine times, Ali surrendered it in 1967 after he refused induction into the U.S. Army on the grounds that he was a Muslim minister and thus  a conscientious objector. His stand against the Vietnam War galvanized national opposition to the war, especially among students and the young. In 1971,  the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Ali’s draft evasion conviction, and in 1974, he regained his heavyweight title in a match against George Foreman in Zaire, enshrining his phrase “rope-a-dope” in our lexicon. Eventually Ali became  the first boxer to win the heavyweight title three times. His post-retirement diagnosis  of pugilistic Parkinson’s syndrome and the sad spectacle of the once loquacious and witty athlete’s slow decline into near speechlessness and impaired motor functionscontributed to the collapse of boxing’s popularity. Ali was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan, and lit the Olympic flame at the opening ceremonies of the1996  Summer Games in Atlanta, Georgia.

My mother, who like virtually everyone in her first generation Greek family was uncomfortable around blacks, once met Ali, who was seated next to her at a Harvard College function when she was Assistant Dean of Housing. She said later that he was the most charming, charismatic, beautiful man she had ever met in her life.

2. You can lead an idiot to child-proof packaging, but you can’t make him think. A study in the Journal of Pediatrics aimed at figuring out why there has been a steep rise in accidental poisonings of U.S. children according to CDC figures has come to a disturbing conclusion. Researchers analyzed nearly 4,500 calls to five U.S. poison centers in Arizona, Florida and Georgia over an eight month period in 2017. They found more than half of the prescription medicine poisonings occurred because parents and grandparents removed  pills and medicines from child-proof packaging to make them more easily accessible, to help the adults remember to take them, or more convenient for travel. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Hymnal, 2/23/2020: Bernie Freakouts, And Other Amusing And Unsettling Ethics Phenomenon

It’s a glorious Sunday in Alexandria!

I hope you have the same good fortune wherever you are…

1. What a fun season the Astros are facing...Yesterday, in their first Spring Training game, the Houston Astros were booed by their own “home” fans in West Palm Beach, Florida. They will have an overhwelming amount of pressure on them this year in addition to being  pariahs in every ballpark in te American League. If they don’t win their division again, or approach the 100+ wins the team has amassed ever season since 2017,  the narrative will be that tis proves that it was the team’s cheating, not its superior talent, that had made them champions. Of course that will be a false conclusion, since there are many factors that could diminish the Astros in 2020, such as the loss of their best pitcher, Gerrit Cole, to free agency.

There were other ethically dubious moves by the Astros yesterday. Although teams are required by an MLB directive to include at least some team regulars in Spring Training games, since spectators are paying substantial amounts to attend, manager Dusty Baker had only minor leaguers in the line-up, apparently wanting to delay and minimize the fan abuse heaped on his team. Thus a line-up of players who had absolutly nothing to do with the sign-stealing that marred the Astros’ 2017 season and World Series victory absorbed the anger of the fans intended for the no-shows.

Meanwhile, ball park personnel confiscated signs brought by some fans to express their disapproval. The signs weren’t obscene or vulgar, just critical, like “Houston” with an asterisk,  implying that the Astros’ 2017 World Series title would be forever blemished by the team’s cheating. That sign is telling the undeniable truth.

Can’t have that.

2. Now here’s an old tradition that does not need to be revived...

Continue reading

Oh, Great: Baseball Turned Bernie Sanders Into A Socialist

First the sign-stealing scandal, and now this.

It is, apparently not exactly a new revelation that having his juvenile heart broken by a baseball team set Bernie Sanders on the dark road that had stops in Moscow and the Workers’ Paradise, but it is a timely moment to expound on the tale, readying as the Vermont Senator is to tear the Democratic Party asunder.

Many distinguished Americans of a certain age, from historian Doris Kearns Goodwin to Old Blues Eyes himself have waxed nostalgic about Walter O’Malley’s great betrayal, when he yanked the beloved Brooklyn Dodgers away from their iconic Ebbets Field home to the corrupt embrace of La La Land.

As  baseball fans know *or should), the year was 1957. The Brooklyn Dodgers, affectionately called “Dem Bums” by  the locals, had finally rewarded their community with a World Series championship over the hated Bronx-dwelling Yankees in 1955. Then, on a day that lives in infamy, Dodgers owner O’Malley announced that the team was leaving. (So were their National League rivals, the New York Giants, heading to San Francisco.) The Dodgers were a massive part of the Brooklyn community’s self-image, and the degree of trauma  it suffered cannot be underestimated. Bernie suffered too, and the scars still ache. Sanders told the Times in a recent interview:

“It was like they would move the Brooklyn Bridge to California. How can you move the Brooklyn Bridge to California?… I don’t want to tell you that was the sole reason that I’ve developed the politics that I’ve developed. But as a kid, I did see in that case about the greed of one particular company. And that impacted me.”

And here we are. In one of the more dramatic examples of Chaos Theory in action and the Law Of Unexpected Consequences, an upheaval in the  national pastime started the dominoes tumbling that threaten the Democratic Party and the nation’s economic stability 63 years later. What fun! Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/13/2020: I’m So Sorry I Missed Your Birthday, Mr. Lincoln.

I am awash with shame.

Yesterday was Abe Lincoln’s birthday, and I didn’t remember until late last night. This is the inevitable result of Presidents Day, the lazy combination of Lincoln and Washington’s birthdays into one floating holiday that lumps all our Presidents together as if they were equally laudable. (They are all laudable, but not equally.) Thus Franklin Pierce gets as much love from our calendar as Abe and George, which is ridiculous. ( President Pierce’s birthday I remember, because it’s the same date as my wedding anniversary, November 23.) In the old days before the blight of Presidents Day, school children would spend both February 12 and 22  learning about and doing projects related Lincoln or Washington. Without either of these great leaders, we probably don’t have a nation today, or if we do, it would be a vastly diminished one. Our first and Sixteenth Presidents tower over the rest in leadership ability, vision, and impact on our history and culture. Both deserve their own holiday, because every American should take at least a day out of every year to remember these two icons and honor their essential contributions, at great sacrifice, to the existence of the United States of America as well as the welfare of all of its citizens, past, present and future.

Today, most Americans couldn’t describe what Lincoln said at Gettysburg, and that’s not a recent phenomenon. In the classic movie “Ruggles of Red Gap,” a barroom full of Americans in a Western frontier town are unable to recall Lincoln’s message, but the very British butler, recently immigrated, can. Charles Laughton, who played the butler, continued to deliver Lincoln’s masterpiece throughout his career after that scene became the highlight of the movie. You can watch it here—I’d embed it, but there is no YouTube version.

1. Self promotion dept. I’ll be participating in a live podcast later today, discussing the ethical implications of nepotism. Details to come.

2. Still more developments in the Houston Astros cheating scandal. Earlier this morning I watched a live press conference from the Astros Spring Training camp about the sign stealing scheme. From a public relations standpoint, the spectacle made the Astros problems worse.

Stars  Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve spoke for a grand total of 90 seconds, sounding for all the world  like American prisoners of war in North Korea. Owner Jim Crane did most of the talking, which was unfortunate for the Astros and baseball. He  took no responsibility at all for what went on in 2017, though he was at the top of the organization chart: this is called the “Ken Lay excuse.” Worse, Crane repeatedly refused to acknowledge that using a secret camera to relay to the Astros dugout the opposing catchers’ signs telling pitchers what to throw, which were then relayed to  Astros batters by players banging on trash cans, constituted cheating. All Crane would say was “We broke the rules. We can argue about what you want to call it.”

Worse still, Crane said that it was impossible to say whether the team’s full year of sign stealing, including the playoffs and the World Series (which the Astros won), gave his team a competitive advantage. “Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t” he said. “Our opinion is this didn’t impact the game. We had a good team. We won the World Series and we’ll leave it at that.”

In later interviews with the players after the press conference, it sounded like everyone had been prepped to keep saying “2017” over and over, because there are lingering suspicions that the Astros scam extended into 2018 and 2019. As commentator Matt Vasgersian mused afterward on the MLB cable channel, if the Astros had won a championship cheating all the way through 2017 and hadn’t been caught, why would they suddenly stop the next season? Continue reading

Evening Ethics Reflections, 2/11/2020, While Waiting For Joe Biden To Go Down

Hi!

It looks like Joe Biden will end up fourth or worse in the New Hampshire primary, and if he does, it will all be over but for the shouting, or in Joe’s case, the blathering. This was pre-ordained from the second Joe entered the race: how anyone knowledgeable and paying minimal attention could see Joe was a shell of his former self, and his former self was never anything to get excited about in the first place. I have never believed that President Trump thought Biden was a threat to defeat him; if his determination to unravel the Biden’s influence peddling in the Ukraine had a personal component, it was that he just wanted to stick it to Joe and expose his hypocrisy. We will never know, I guess. But I assume trump knew he didn’t need to “cheat” to beat Biden.

It’s amusing and somehow fitting that Joe’s inexplicable “Lying dogfaced pony soldier” outburst is serving as a tipping point, with a lot of people suddenly smacking their heads “I could have had a V-8!” style and thinking, “Hey! This guy really is an idiot!” Yes, he really is. The fact that the bland Amy Klobuchar is surging as the new moderate (relatively) savior of the party shows just how bad Biden has been, and also just how unforgivably incompetent and unattractive a field the Democrats have offered America in 2020. On the hopeful side, at least Democratic voters have recognized Senator Warrren as the manipulative, untrustworthy demagogue she is. If a Massachusetts leftist Senator can’t beat Buttigieg and Sanders in New Hampshire, she’s not going to win anywhere.

All of this couldn’t happen to a more deserving party.

1. The President thinks Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame. Of course he does. Our President has an unhealthy tolerance for liars and rogues. There has been a depressing outbreak of renewed sympathy for Rose, the game’s all-time hits leader who was banned from baseball for life after being proved guilty of betting on baseball games while a manager, betting on games his own team, the Reds, was playing, and lying about both over many years. The reason is the recent sign-stealing scandal, because, of course, one cheating scandal mitigates a completely different offense that didn’t have anything to do with cheating.

Naturally, there’s a tweet… Continue reading

OK, I Have No Idea What This Is. Help Me Out. Please.

Alyssa Nakken played first base on the Sacramento State women’s softball team from 2009 to 2012, being named all-conference three times  and Academic All American all four years. She  earned a master’s degree in sport management from the University of San Francisco in 2015, and interned with the San Francisco Giants’ baseball operations department for a year during that period.

Now she has become the first female major league coach.  New San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler added her to his staff. Whether it was his idea or not is unknown.

What is her job? The Associated Press is a bit vague:

“Nakken will be in uniform and helping the Giants with everything from cage work to infield practice,” its feature says. The AP adds:

Kapler and Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi have all the confidence in Nakken’s ability to help build clubhouse continuity through stronger bonds between young players and veterans…A polished speaker who has become adept at hiding any nerves, Nakken is taking initiative early. She put on a two-day coaches retreat this week that included a “culinary experience” — much more than “a food tour,” she said — through San Francisco’s historic and diverse Mission District..

Nakken doesn’t claim to be an expert on hitting or pitching. She plans to assist coaches on both sides, and will also work a lot on outfield defense and baserunning. Nakken will be in uniform but not in the dugout during games, rather working with players in the cage to keep them ready..

Do you see my problem? Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/8/2020: “Procrastinating To Delay Writing About Another Debate” Edition [CORRECTED]

Good morning.

Way, way too much ethics-related politics this past week. I keep getting complaints about all the political content, and it annoys me too, but I don’t know what kind of alternatives I have. Back in the sane days, the idea of a House Speaker planning on tearing up the official copy of the State of the Union speech would have been the stuff of Saturday Night Live…when SNL would make fun of Democrats, anyway. I’m trying to keep the politics to a minimum. I swear.

1.  The Astros cheating scandal, cont. Would you wonder about this answer? A.J. Hinch, the ex-Houston Astros manager who was fired and suspended by Major League Baseball for allowing an illegal sign-stealing scheme to be used by his players for the entire 2017 World Champion Astros season, finally sat down for an interview.   When he was asked whether Houston players had utilized buzzers in their uniforms to receive signsduring the 2019 season as some have claimed based on inconclusive evidence and rumors, Hinch only would answer, “The Commissioner’s Office did as thorough of an investigation as anyone could imagine was possible.”

Why not “No”? That was what reporters term a “non-denial denial.”

2. If they advised her to run her sick child through the washing machine and he drowned,  would that be their fault too? The death of a four-year-old boy named Najee is being blamed on an anti-vaxx Facebook group.

The boy had been diagnosed with the flu and the doctor had  prescribed Tamiflu. His mother sought advice from the Facebook group “Stop Mandatory Vaccination” on how to treat her son’s’ illness. The members told her to give the boy vitamins, botanicals, zinc, fruits and vegetables, and to skip the medicine.

“Ok perfect I’ll try that,” she responded. Later that night, Najee had a seizure and died. Continue reading