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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/15/2018: Remember The Titanic And The Bay Of Pigs Edition.

Good Morning.

This, the annual March-April Ethics Alarms traffic dip, is when writing the blog becomes a job, not a joy. I really have to learn to stop caring about click, follower and share stats. It’s pure ego—well, that and the fact that my wife keeps telling me that I should be spending the time on billable matters, or getting books out to publishers.

1. Ethics Observations on the Syria bombing:

  • I teach in my seminars that often decisions made early in ethical dilemmas cause future ethical decisions to become impossible, because only less-unethical ones remain. U.S. and international   policies regarding Syria  are as good an example of this phenomenon as there is. The United Nations, if it wasn’t worthless, would  have intervened to stop the humanitarian catastrophe early in the Syrian civil war. This isn’t hindsight: plenty of experts were saying so at the time. When it became clear, years ago, that this was a bloodbath tidal wave that was destabilizing the whole region (as well as killing untold numbers of civilians and children), U.S. led pressure should have been brought to bear on Assad. Now there are literally no good choices, nor ethical ones.

The United Nations is worthless, as well as toothless, gutless and principle free. If there was any justification for such an organization, it should be to prevent carnage like we have seen in Syria.

  • The U.S., British and French response to Assad’s use of banned chemical weapons was unavoidable, especially after President Obama had been thoroughly embarrassed and discredited by ignoring his own “red line” statement, and after President Trump had made his own veiled threats that amounted to “red line” pledges of his own.

Democrats were going to mock Trump if he did not have a military response to the latest chemical weapons war crime, and they are now criticizing Trump for following through. In doing so, they only make their own fecklessness, hypocrisy and expediency more obvious, if that were possible.

  • Was Assad emboldened by the President’s comments about how he was preparing to pull the military out of Syria? Who knows? Announcing troop movements in a combat zone before they occur is irresponsible and incompetent.

Obama did it repeatedly. Criticism of Trump’s equivalent conduct is valid.

  • Trolling the news media, the President used the phrase “Mission Accomplished!” after the attacks. Good. There is nothing wrong with the phrase, and the mission was accomplished. The mockery of President Bush for a banner he did not have anything to do with was a dastardly media hit job. Ann Althouse’s theory:

Trump is completely aware of how Bush was punched around for using that phrase in a celebration of a specific mission that in fact was accomplished, and he would like the naysayers to come after him the way they came after Bush, and when they do, he’ll show us all how to handle that kind of anti-military negativity.

  • Conservatives are angry about the bombing, even the ones who mocked Obama for being a weenie when Assad called his “red line” bluff. Alex Jones was actually weeping about the raid on his show . These people really are old-style Fortress America isolationists, and want the United States to abandon its traditional mission of being the world’s champion of the abused and helpless while modelling the ideals of democracy.

The non-interventionists are wrong. The ethical optics of the United States and Great Britain and France punishing a brutal dictator who flouts international law are perfect.

  • From the other side of the aisle, some Democrats are whining about the attack being unconstitutional, so some unscrupulous left-biased journalists are spreading the word. Now, the War Powers Act may be unconstitutional, but as long as it’s in force—and Democrats share responsibility for its continued existence—this is just more double-standard hypocrisy aimed at President Trump. The War Powers Act allows the President to take some military actions based on exigencies, as long as they do not extend into a protracted engagement.

This is why “Mission Accomplished” is an especially appropriate message. Continue reading

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Baseball Brawl Ethics [UPDATED]

I noted in the Morning Warm-Up that last night’s Red Sox-Yankee rumble put me in a good mood. I should elaborate: it’s not because I like seeing a New York Yankee player get a fat lip, although I do. It is because such episodes are usually rife with ethics good and bad, and this one was no exception. Here it is again…

It began with an earlier play. Yankee rookie DH Tyler Austin employed an illegal slide when he was forced at second base. A few years ago, the Dodgers’ Chase Utley broke a shortstop’s leg while sliding into him hard to break up a double play. The ugly injury was on national TV, because it was in the play-offs, and Major League Baseball enacted a major rule change.

From the beginning of professional baseball, runners had been allowed to plow into infielders trying to make the pivot at second base and complete a double play like linebackers blitzing a quarterback. The resulting collisions often wrecked knees, ankles and careers, and a ridiculous tradition developed. Umpires allowed infielders to come off the bag before they actually received the ball for the force-out, as long as they were close to the base. The out was called anyway: it was known as the “neighborhood play,” because the infielder’s foot was in the neighborhood of second. After Utley’s slide, baseball made the attempt to interfere with the double play by slamming into the fielder illegal, with the consequence being that the double play was called complete whether the relay throw to first was completed or not.

Ethically, I applauded the rule change. For one thing, the take-out slide was already illegal: runners aren’t allowed to interfere with fielders according to the original rules, but take-out slides were tolerated, indeed encouraged anyway. As often happens when rules are ignored, integrity suffered, resulting in that absurd “neighborhood” convention. The so-called baseball purists complained, and still are complaining, but trading illegal-but-allowed hard slides that required calling imaginary outs and needlessly injured players for some gratuitous violence in a non-violent sport was always an unwise exchange.

So now a baserunner bearing down on second base when a double-play may be in progress has to slide  at the base, not at the fielder. But last night, Austin had his leg high as he slid, and spiked second baseman Brock Holt, Holt, who never threw to first, had words with the Yankee, and both dugouts emptied, though no punches were thrown. It was an illegal slide, no question about it, but because Holt wasn’t interfered with, the umpires did nothing. No penalty out was called. Austin wasn’t thrown out of the game.

This is when the ancient baseball code kicked in. A Yankee had tried to hurt a Red Sox player with an illegal slide, and had gotten away scot-free. If the Sox did nothing to retaliate, they would be showing weakness. I have literally  seen this plot a thousand times. I said to my wife, watching the game with me, “The Red Sox are going to throw at Austin, and there will be a fight.”

Sure enough, Sox reliever Joe Kelly, who throws pitches between 96 and 100 mph, threw a fastball into Austin’s back  later in the game. Austin charged the mound, as you can see, and all heck broke loose.

Ethics notes: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, April 11, 2018: Caesar’s Wife At The EPA, Idiots On The Air, And Dreamers Demanding Discounts [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

1. Forgetting to heed the “Caesar’s wife” Principle. Whatever one may think about EPA head Scott Pruitt’s controversial policy directions as head of the environmental agency, all ought to be able to agree on this: he’s an idiot.

Here is a cultural literacy test: How many Americans under the age of—what, 45? 60? 104?—know what the term “like Caesar’s wife” means? When you have a target painted on your back because you are taking positions that are guaranteed to be anathema to powerful critics, like the news media, you are “like Caesar’s wife.” This should communicate something to you. In 63 BC, Julius Caesar, a man on the rise, was elected to the position of the Pontifex Maximus, the chief priest of the Roman state religion. The next year, his wife Pompeia hosted the festival of the Bona Dea (“Good Goddess”) in which no man was allowed to participate, at Caesar’s official residence. Publius Clodius Pulcher, a  rash young patrician, snuck into the celebration disguised as a woman, allegedly to seduce Pompeia. He was caught, prosecuted ( not for trying to shag Caesar’s wife but for the crime of sacrilege), and ultimately  acquitted. Nevertheless, Caesar divorced Pompeia, saying, “My wife ought not even to be under suspicion.”  Thus was born the saying, once well-known to educated individuals, that “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.”

Either Pruitt doesn’t know the reference, or doesn’t understand it. He has made himself vulnerable and a political liability to the Trump administration by the kind of grubby ethics violations so many of the administration’s recruits from the corporate world have engaged in. (And what does this tell us about that culture?)

David J. Apol, acting director of the Office of Government Ethics, sent  a letter this week to Kevin Minoli, the EPA’s  top ethics official,  asking the agency to take “appropriate actions to address any violations.”

Among the issues raised were Pruitt’s $50-a-night rental  of a Capitol Hill condominium from the wife of an energy lobbyist (This may not have been market value, the letter speculates, raising the question of whether it was a gift, aka “bribe.” Ya think? You can’t rent a decent garden tool shed for 50 bucks a night…), Pruitt taking an excessive number government-funded flights home to Oklahoma and back (He’s about the 78th Trump official to be caught doing this kind of thing—do these guys read the newspapers?), and worst of all, reports that agency staff members who raised concerns about these and other actions creating “the appearance of impropriety”  found themselves transferred or demoted.

“The success of our government depends on maintaining the trust of the people we serve,”wrote Apol. “The American public needs to have confidence that ethics violations, as well as the appearance of ethics violations, are investigated and appropriately addressed.”

Why yes! And anyone who holds high government office is supposed to know that. Anyone holding high government office in this administration, which is in the position of the thug sprung from police lock-up on a technicality to which an angry detective says before he strolls out the door, “If you so much as spit on the sidewalk, I’ll be there to pick you up,” should know that especially. When they are gunning for you, you have to be like Caesar’s wife.

The President should fire Pruitt for these flagrant abuses. He won’t, because he literally doesn’t think ethics matter. I wonder if he thinks stupidity and unrestrained arrogance matter… Continue reading

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Red Sox Star Prospect Michael Chavis Tested Positive For Steroids. The Team Should Fire Him

The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced today that third baseman Michael Chavis, who is the Red Sox’s No. 1 prospect has been suspended following their violations of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, and has received an 80-game suspension without pay after testing positive for Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, a performance-enhancing substance in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The suspension of Chavis is effective immediately. He was expected to be a candidate to come up to the big leagues and help the Red Sox in the stretch drive. His suspension hurts the entire organization.

Chavis tweeted a long and plaintive denial. And you know what the line is about that: “That’s what they all say.” Here is a sample…

“Over the past several months, I have been searching for an answer as to how a prohibited substance I have never heard of, DHMCT, was detected in my urine during the offseason. It is a question that unfortunately has not been answered, and I have run out of time for now to find an answer. As hopeless as this is for me, I am faced with the reality that maybe I never will. The only thing I do know is that I would never, and have never, purposely taken any prohibitive substance in my entire life.”

Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/6/2018: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Gooooood Morning!

1. From the Moral Luck files:

What you just saw is a bald eagle landing on Seattle Mariners starter James Paxton’s shoulder during the National Anthem before yesterday’s Mariners-Twins game.  Here’s a closer look…

The eagle got confused: it is supposed to go to his trainer, in one of the more spectacular Anthem displays that has ever been devised: I’ve seen this performance several times.  After the game, Paxton was asked why he didn’t try to escape. His answer:

“I’m not gonna outrun an eagle, so just thought, we’ll see what happens.”

Heck, he had already endured the horror of Dessa’s incredibly off-key rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” what’s a mere bald eagle attack? Seriously, Paxton’s quote is an ethics guide: Don’t panic, don’t act on emotion, assess the situation, see what happens, and act accordingly. Of course, the fact that this strategy worked out well helps: if the eagle had ripped his eyes out, everyone would be saying Paxton was an idiot not to run.

How I would have loved to see this happen to Colin Kaepernick!

2. How the President gets himself into ethics trouble. I just watched a clip of Trump speaking yesterday about California’s sanctuary cities. “The thing is that these cities are protecting bad people,” he said, with emphasis. Naturally, this will be characterized as racism. It’s not racism, however. The statement is just overly simplistic, and exacerbated in its inflammatory elements by the President’s rudimentary vocabulary, in which the only operable adjectives appear to be great, bad, horrible, wonderful, terrible, sad, and a few more. It is impossible to communicate about complex issues competently and fairly with such meager tools. Illegal immigrants have broken our laws and willfully so. That is not good, but it does not make all of them bad people….though many are. Continue reading

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Sunset Ethics, 4/5/2018: Sinclair, Opening Day Ethics, “The Crown” Ethics, And Fake News, Of Course.

Did everyone have a nice day?

1.  On the Sinclair broadcasting controversy. I was completely unaware of this, and Sinclair itself, until a couple of jerks accused me of cribbing my criticism of mainstream media bias from the company’s supposedly outrageous public statement. For the record, I don’t appeal to authority, and I make my own arguments. If other entities or pundits happen to reach the same conclusions, that’s to their credit. Go accuse them of following me. When a particular position stated by someone else strikes me as persuasive, I’ll credit the source.

Here is the script that Sinclair required the news anchors of its many local stations across the country. To save time, I’ll interject in BOLD

“Hi, I’m(A) ____________, and I’m (B) _________________…

(B) Our greatest responsibility is to serve our communities. We are extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that XXXX News produces.

(A) But we’re concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media.

True. There is no denying this, and while the left-wing news media denies it as part of refusing to reform and do its job objectively and responsibly, the fact that the entity correctly framing the reality of U.S. journalism today is a conservative one does not alter the truth. Any news organization could have, and should have, sponsored the same statement.

(B) More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories… stories that just aren’t true, without checking facts first.

This is also undeniable. The truth hurts. Tough.

(A) Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’…This is extremely dangerous to a democracy.

Completely accurate. It is terribly dangerous, and for a recent egregious example, look no further than the coverage of the anti-gun movement following the Parkland shooting.

(B) At XXXX it’s our responsibility to pursue and report the truth. We understand Truth is neither politically ‘left nor right.’ Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.

If Sinclair means this, good. And that is the standard it should be held to going forward.

(A) But we are human and sometimes our reporting might fall short. If you believe our coverage is unfair please reach out to us by going to XXXX News.com and clicking on CONTENT CONCERNS. We value your comments. We will respond back to you.

How can anyone object to this?

(B) We work very hard to seek the truth and strive to be fair, balanced and factual… We consider it our honor, our privilege to responsibly deliver the news every day.

(A) Thank you for watching and we appreciate your feedback”

Since the statement is non-partisan, accurate, much-needed and one that every single news broadcast news source could and should have read to its viewers, daily if possible, there can be no valid ethical objections to it.

Deadspin, which has too many ethics problems of its own to count, attacked the statement as  america’s largest local TV owner turning its news anchors into soldiers in Trump’s war on the media.”

What utter dishonesty! As I said, and documented on the space ad nauseum, it cannot be reasonably denied that the statement’s characterization of news reporting is fair and accurate. Just because the resistances’s reviled President says something is so doesn’t mean it isn’t so, nor does his embrace of the obvious mean that to acknowledge the obvious is to support him. Deadspin then assembled a propaganda video of anchors across the nation saying the same thing, to make the process look sinister. Clever, but if you can’t see this for the misleading sliming it is,  get help. (Or, if you are NPR, get private funding.) Anyone could do the same thing with every baseball broadcaster who reads the MLB script about who owns the material in the broadcast. Anyone could do the same thing with the instructions I and many other CLE trainers read at the beginning of webinar. It can be done with the Pledge of Allegiance. Statements are scripted when it is important to have a carefully considered message communicated without variation. There is absolutely nothing improper, unethical or inappropriate about a stations owner requiring newsreaders to state the station’s mission, philosophy and basic ethical principles.

In fact, it is inappropriate not to. The howls from the Left are the very embodiment of the meaning behind the Bard’s famous line in “Hamlet” (Act 3, Scene 2 ),

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

Except in this case, it would be, “The biased and partisan journalists who have been manipulating, hiding and distorting the news for years and hate being called on it doth protest too much.”

Methinks.

2. Another dumb “pay gap” controversy. I’m late slapping this one down. “The Crown, ” the Netflix series about Queen Elizabeth II, has been attacked by feminists, progressives and idiots—I’m sorry, but this is egregious—because actress Claire Foy, playing the Queen, was paid considerably less than co-star Matt Smith, who plays Prince Phillip.

The reason this was the case is that Foy, when she was cast, was a relative unknown, Smith, in contrast, had a ready-made fan base as one of the popular Doctors in “Doctor Who.” Thus he was worth more money to the producers in the beginning of the project. Marlon Brandon was paid much more than Al Pacino and James Caan in “The Godfather” for the same reason. This isn’t gender discrimination. This is business, specifically show business. Bigger stars get more money for legitimate and  obvious artistic and business reasons. Now there is a  petition to try to shame Smith into donating part of his salary from the series to Time’s Up.

This nonsense and gender-bullying. I needs to be sneered at and dismissed hard. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/2018: Baseball Lies, A Presidential High Crime, And A Judge Makes A Panty Raid

Wake Up!

1 Fake history, baseball style. Broadcasts of Red Sox games from Fenway Park in Boston refer to “the Pesky Pole,” the official name of the tall, yellow foul pole in right field. It is named in honer of the late Johnny Pesky, who also is honored in a statue outside the park—it featured him and his team mates and longtime friends, Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio, and Bobby Doerr. Pesky, with a couple of brief interruptions,was a Red Sox lifer, beginning with his 1942 rookie season, and ending with his death several years ago as an honorary coach. In between, he was Sox minor league manager, the big team’s manager, a hitting coach and a broadcaster.

The Pesky Pole got its name because the notoriously power-free shortstop reputedly hit several of the few he managed to slug in his career by knocking a pitch  around the marker, which arose from  what is now the shortest foul line in baseball. The  low Fenway right field fence veers sharply out from there to over 400 feet, so such homers are considered, and indeed are, lucky flukes. During his brief and undistinguished tenure as a Red Sox radio color man, former Red Sox pitching ace Mel Parnell repeatedly told the story about how Johnny won a game for Mel in 1948 with a pole-shot. This tale led directly to the team officially naming the pole on September 27, 2006, on Pesky’s 87th birthday, with a commemorative plaque placed at its base and everything.

Afterwards, and not before, someone actually checked the game records. Pesky never hit the home run  described by Parnell. He only hit six home runs in Fenway at all, and nobody knows how many hit the pole, looped around the pole, or even went to right field. (Pop-ups hit by Punch-and-Judy hitting shortstops sometimes landed in the screen over the left field wall for home runs, as the cursed Bucky Dent can attest.) Nevertheless, the fake history is in place: the Pesky Pole is named that because Johnny Pesky hit a famous home run off of it, or was famous for looping cheap homers around it, or something.

Baseball excels at creating fake history, the most notable being represented by the locale of its Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, New York. When the museum was envisioned, the accepted story about the game’s origin was the Union general Abner Doubleday invented the sport in 1839 and organized the first game in Cooperstown. After the construction was underway,  research suggested that everything about the Doubleday tale was rumor and myth, but baseball and the museum’s management, in one of the all-time classic examples of adopting the philosophy of the newspaper editor in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence,” went to great lengths to keep the original story before the public. Eventually some hard evidence surfaced suggesting that the game was invented by Alexander Cartwright, who was eventually inducted into the Hall as the game’s creator, while Doubleday is not. Nonetheless, the myth survives. Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, for example,  said in 2010 that “I really believe that Abner Doubleday is the ‘Father of Baseball.'” This is the equivalent of saying that one believes in the Easter Bunny.

Selig was later inducted into the Hall of Fame.

2.Believe it or Not! I would support impeaching  President Trump for his tweeting attacks against Amazon. This is such an abuse of Presidential power that it demands at least a Congressional reprimand or sanction. Amazon lost $53 billion in market value in the wake of the tweets, meaning that investors, retirees, and ordinary Americans lost wealth as well. It is unconscionable for a President of the United States to deliberately target a company, just as it is wrong for a President to punch down at a private citizen, but the consequences of doing what Trump has done to Amazon is far, far worse. The Wall Street Journal suggested in an editorial that if the attack on Amazon was politically motivated because Amazon mogul Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post, impeachment would be justified. Yes, that would be even worse, but it is not an essential element of this “high crime.” The President of the United States must not abuse his power by intentionally harming lawful businesses.

The foolish resistance is so focused on trying to impeach Trump based on exotic laws and imaginary conspiracies that it doesn’t see the real thing when it’s right in front of its face, and the anti-Trump media has so destroyed its credibility by embracing ridiculous impeachment theories that a valid one will just look like more of the same. Continue reading

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