One More Time: Leadership, Moral Luck, Accountability, And Scapegoating, Baseball-Style.

Here is part of the statement released by  Boston Red Sox owner John Henry yesterday after the team fired its head of Baseball Operations, essentially the team’s General Manager, Dave Dombrowksi:

“Four years ago, we were faced with a critical decision about the direction of the franchise. We were extraordinarily fortunate to be able to bring Dave in to lead baseball operations. With a World Series championship and three consecutive American League East titles, he has cemented what was already a Hall of Fame career.”

Wait…HUH? He was hired four years ago, the team won three consecutive American League East titles (for the first time in the franchise’s history), a World Series Championship (following an epic 2018 season that saw Boston win 108 games) and he’s fired? What did he do, sexually harass players? Flash the owner’s daughter? Continue reading

Saturday Night Ethics Dump, 8/31/2019.

Still trying to clear the ethics Augean stables…

1. Fox News headline: “The Dangers of Vaping.” Fake news! The story following that headline explained that teens were falling ill of serious lung difficulties after using what we once called “electronic cigarettes” to inhale THC. There is little convincing evidence that using e-cigarettes as they were designed to be used causes any lung problems. Thus the headline is as accurate as leading off a story about tainted beef with “The Dangers of Eating.”

2.  Another old ethics question comes around again. In 2017 I questioned the wisdom of the Miami Marlins baseball team loudly honoring the memory of Jose Fernandez, a rising pitching star who got himself and others killed by driving his speed boat while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. died July 1 in his hotel room

There is a level of recklessness, irresponsible conduct, arrogance and stupidity that cannot be excused, and whatever the level is, Fernandez exceeded it. The fact that he was killed himself was moral luck: imagine if only he had survived. Fernandez would be facing homicide charges and serious prison time….and would deserve it all. He had a family, a child, a city, a baseball team, and a sport all relying on him, and he decided to risk it all for coke, booze, and a speed boat ride, killing not only himself but two other human beings, who had families and responsibilities of their own. He was  no hero. He was a deadly, selfish, asshole.

No other message should be sent to the kids who once admired him that that one. Honoring Fernandez now would be a particularly ugly example of The King’s Pass or The Star Syndrome, Rationalization #11 on the list. A non-celebrity did what Fernandez did would be guaranteed posthumous infamy. The fact that the pitcher was a baseball star doesn’t make him better than that; if anything, it makes him worse.

Now we learn that Anaheim Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, a 27-year-old Angels pitcher who died on July 1 in his hotel room,  perished because he had mixed multiple opioids with alcohol. The Red Sox are playing in Anaheim, and the Angels players are all wearing tributes to Skaggs on their uniform, a prominent “45.” True, Skaggs didn’t get others killed by his irresponsible behavior, but his death was still the result of conduct that needs to be discouraged, condemned, and certainly not romanticized. The Angels can honor their dead team mate privately, but a public display that suggests that Skaggs’ death was anything but a self-made tragedy send a dangerous and irresponsible message. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/8/2019: Hating Hate By Hating The Hateful Haters

Good morning.

Are you nuts? I’m not. Yet.

1. You want deranged? This is deranged. MSNBC put analyst Frank Figliuzzi on the air to explain the Nazi symbolism at the White House.  Figliuzzi is a former FBI assistant—think about that as you read this—and he has been given media credibility of late because he had  predicted that white supremacist violence was potentially imminent due to President Trump’s rhetoric. Of course, I predicted months ago that the relentless divisive rhetoric from “the resistance” would get someone killed soon, and nobody’s calling me to blather on TV…and I’m not insane, like this guy.

Figliuzzi alerted MSNBC World about the sinister numerical connection between neo-Naziism and the Trump administration’s decision to fly flags at half-mast until August 8 in honor of the victims of the Dayton and El Paso shootings.

“If we don’t understand how they think, we’ll never understand how to counter them,” he said. “The President said that we will fly our flags at half mast, until August 8. That’s 8/8. Now, I’m not going to imply that he did this deliberately, but I am using it as an example of the ignorance of the adversary that’s being demonstrated by the White House. The numbers 88 are very significant in neo-Nazi and white supremacy movement. Why? Because the letter ‘H’ is the eighth letter of the alphabet, and to them the numbers 8-8 together stand for ‘Heil Hitler.’ So we’re going to be raising the flag back up at dusk on 8/8. No one is thinking about this.”

Once again, this calls for Sidney Wang...

The reason that nobody is thinking about this, you idiot, is that it is deranged. How crazy can “the resistance” get and not start a stampede to the President, in reflex revulsion to the lies, the disrespect, the paranoia, the smears and the hysteria? The Times this week was musing about why Trump’s approval ratings are rising even as the mainstream media has been proclaiming that he’s a Nazi racist and responsible for every shooting in America.

To ask the question is to answer it.

(I just realized my piano is a Nazi…) Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Those Home Run Promises

I know I’ve run the video above recently, but it’s especially relevant here.

Besides, it’s funny, I need a laugh, and I may watch it every day for the rest of my life.

According to reports, Red Sox star Mookie Betts promised Make A Wish Foundation child Nico Sapienza before last night’s game with the New York Yankees that he would “step his game up against the Yankees and hit a homer.”

Betts hit three.

That’s impressive, and a storybook ending. However, no player knows if or when he can hit a four-bagger. None can hit home runs on demand, not even the Great Bambino.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is it ethical for a  ballplayer to promise a sick child that he will hit a home run ?

High Noon Ethics Warm-Up, 7/23/2019: Tennis Players, Baseball Players, An Unethical Football Player, And Tarzan

Where did the morning go?

1. Men don’t matter, so apparently this isn’t worth worrying about or criticizing... The same kind of body dysmorphia that has had feminists and psychologists attacking the media and popular culture for warping women’s concepts of acceptable and desirable body types is affecting men just as negatively, it seems. It’s just that nobody cares.

From Barbie to “Baywatch,” the culture’s emphasis on absurdly proportioned and gorgeous, never-aging women has been blamed for poor self-image, anorexia, breast implants, botox, obsessive dieting and exercising, and weight loss scams. The culture’s relatively recent obsession with male physiques that once would have been regarded as freakish, however, is seldom criticized.

Where once he-men and heart throbs like Clark Gable, John Wayne and even Tarzan himself, Johnny Weissmuller, didn’t hesitate to appear in films looking fit but hardly muscle-bound, like this

and this…

and this…

..now even minor minor male characters on TV, in ads and movies have to show bulging pecs, swollen delts and a rock-like six pack, despite the fact that such bodies, unlike those of Gable, the Duke and Johnny, are impossible for most men to attain while maintaining a healthy and productive life-style.

A study published in June found that 22% of men aged 18-24 reported muscularity-oriented disordered eating. Lead researcher Dr Jason Nagata of the University of California says, “The drive for a bigger, more muscular body is becoming very prevalent. Their entire day is spent at the gym trying to bulk up. They may also be taking illicit supplements like steroids.”

Men, however, seldom seek treatment for the problem, and media and social critics continue to concentrate on the pop culture’s unhealthy effects on the body images of girls, not boys.

2. More reason to detest Tom Brady. Here’s father Tom Brady forcing his 6-year-old daughter to jump off a cliff:

Nice.

Hey! I get to use three favorite Ethics Alarms terms in one mini-post! This is res ipsa loquitur for irresponsible parenting. It is signature significance as well, because no good parent would do this to so young a child, even once. And it is moral luck: if Brady’s daughter had been injured in the jump, and she easily could have been, Brady would be widely and justifiably condemned, and possibly charged with child endangerment. That she was not hurt was just moral luck: it doesn’t change the ethics verdict on his conduct at all. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Run-Down, 7/20/2019: Perry Mason, Kamala Harris, And Home Runs-On-Demand

I’m calling it a run-down because I’m run down….

1. More “phantom document” ethics. Last moth I wrote about the ethically dubious “phantom document” tactic, in which a lawyer alludes to a document he or she either does not have, or suggests a document has content it does not in order to trick a witness into recanting testimony.

I just saw the Eighties made-for-TV movie “Perry Mason Returns” that rebooted the classic series (and not so well) for an aging Raymond Burr. The great defense lawyer comes out of retirement to defend old legal assistant Della Street (Barbara Hale), who has been accused of murder. In the trial’s climax, Perry’s investigator Paul Drake, Jr. (played by Hale’s real-life son, actor William Katt of “The Greatest American Hero” fame) bursts into the courtroom and hands Perry a document, which he then holds as he asks the witness (Richard Anderson, playing a different role than he played in the original series) he was in the midst of cross-examining, “Would you like to reconsider your testimony? Would you like me to read a sworn statement from Bobby Lynch, in which he says you hired him to kill Arthur Gordon?”

The witness confesses that he planned the murder that Della was being tried for, and framed her. Della goes free! Perry then tells Della that there was no sworn statement. “I didn’t say I had a sworn statement,” he chuckles, “I just asked if he wanted me to read one.” Continue reading

More On The Acosta-Epstein Scandal: Leadership, Moral Luck, Accountability, And Scapegoating

Veteran commenter Glenn Logan expressed  doubts about the fairness of current criticism of the Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta (above right) for his approval of a ridiculously lenient plea deal for jet-setting sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein (above left). Glenn’s objections  prompted me to search for prior posts here on the ethics issue of high level accountability for disasters and fiascos. In this morning’s warm-up, #3, I discussed the reasons I feel the criticism of Acosta is justified (re Glenn’s complaint that journalists are determined to destroy Acosta because of his connection to their primary target, the President, my response is that  critics being biased and having unethical motives doesn’t mean their criticism is necessarily wrong), and concluded,

“Finally, there is the basic ethical issue of accountability. Prosecutors allowed Epstein’s lawyers to talk them into a ridiculously lenient plea deal with minimal prison time for a privileged criminal and sexual predator with endless resources and a high likelihood of recidivism. It was completely predictable that he would continue to harm women after his release, and the new charges against Epstein show that he did exactly as expected.It is appropriate that someone’s head roll for this, and Acosta’s is the logical choice.”

Glenn responded that this sounded more “like scapegoating than accountability.” “’Somebody must pay,’ he said, “is not convincing to me.” Hence my search of the Ethics Alarms archive. This is a topic of long-standing interest for me, in great part due to my military-minded father.

I also recently watched the Netflix series “Bad Blood,” about Montreal’s Mafia. The accountability of leadership is a recurring theme in that series:  we see the father of the future head of the powerful Rizzuto family telling his son as a boy that he is now responsible for caring for and cultivating several tomato plants. “If a plant produces good tomatoes,” the father explains, ” you will be rewarded. If a plant produces poor tomatoes, you will be punished.” Even if the reasons a plant fails to produce good tomatoes has nothing to do with the son’s efforts and were beyond his control, the father goes on to say, “I will still punish you. For that is the burden of leadership. When that for which a leader is responsible goes wrong, he must be accountable and pay the price whether it is his fault or not. Only then is he worthy of his followers trust.” Continue reading