Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 3/10/2019: Ethics Savings Time Edition!

It’s still morning according to MY watch…

1. When ethics alarms don’t ring...How could Philadelphia’s retailers and stores not have seen this problem? The city of Philadelphia has passed a law that will requiring retailers to accept cash, responding to increasing numbers that have gone “cashless.”The new law was signed by Mayor Jim Kenney last week and takes effect on July 1 . Violations could bring  fines of up to $2,000.

City Councilman Bill Greenlee co-sponsored  the bill. “It just seemed to me unfair that I could walk into a coffee shop right across from City Hall, and I had a credit card and could get a cup of coffee. And the person behind me, who had United States currency, could not,” he explained.

Good. Serving only people with credit cards is obviously discriminatory.

2.  More on the robocalling experiment. I previously noted that MLB is using the independent Atlantic League to try out some new rules, innovations, and suggested “fixes” for baseball. Only one is of obvious ethics interest: the electronic calling of pitches, which is a matter of integrity. Games should not be warped by crucial decisions that are obviously erroneous and that the game now has the technological tools to prevent. The rest of the measures being tested raise issues of their own:

  • The mound will be moved back two feet to 62’6″. Comment: I assume this is an effort to make hitting easier and pitching harder. I find it difficult to believe that anything this radical has a chance of being adopted.
  • Larger bases will be used (18″ instead of 15″). Comment: Okaaaay…
  • Defensive shifts will be banned. Comment: A terrible idea, constraining defensive creativity and the constant back-and forth change-and-response that has kept baseball dynamic. Let batters figure out how to beat shifts. They have the ability to do it.
  • A radar-enabled strike zone will be employed. Comment: It’s about damned time!
  • Time between innings and pitching changes reduced from 2:05 to 1:45. Comment: Good.
  • Three batter minimum for pitchers entering a game. Comment: This is to eliminate the single pitcher-per-batter trend in late innings that slows down the game with minimal benefits. I see no reason not to do it; there are similar rules already, such as requirements that a pitcher must pitch to at least one batter.
  • There will be no mound visits unless a pitcher is removed from the game or for medical issues. Comment: NO visits is draconian. All this will do is speed the intrusion of electronic communications between catcher and pitcher and pitcher and manager. Yechhh!

3. When lawyers should just shut-up. ABA Model Rule Of Professional Conduct 3.6 says in part:

a) A lawyer who is participating or has participated in the investigation or litigation of a matter shall not make an extrajudicial statement that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know will be disseminated by means of public communication and will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter.

It also says,

c) Notwithstanding paragraph (a), a lawyer may make a statement that a reasonable lawyer would believe is required to protect a client from the substantial undue prejudicial effect of recent publicity not initiated by the lawyer or the lawyer’s client. A statement made pursuant to this paragraph shall be limited to such information as is necessary to mitigate the recent adverse publicity.

The rule, which has substantially identical versions in all jurisdictions, needs to be enforced more stringently. It isn’t, I assume, because the bar associations are worried about a court striking down the rule as a First Amendment violation.

Here’s Jussie Smollett’s lawyer, media hound Mark Geragos, on the charges against his client.:

“This redundant and vindictive indictment is nothing more than a desperate attempt to make headlines in order to distract from the internal investigation launched to investigate the outrageous leaking of false information by the Chicago Police Department and the shameless and illegal invasion of Jussie’s privacy in tampering with his medical records. Jussie adamantly maintains his innocence even if law enforcement has robbed him of that presumption.”

ALL the publicity was initiated by Gallegos’s client! His crime was designed to get publicity!

Shut up, Mark. This is the kind of statement that does your client no good, and adds to the public’s distrust of lawyers.

I do give him credit for one thing, though: note that he says, “Jussie adamantly maintains his innocence,” and not “Jussie is innocent,” which he knows is a lie.

4. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!

  • Headline (NYT):Border at ‘Breaking Point’ as More Than 76,000 Unauthorized Migrants Cross in a Month.” Quote:”More than 76,000 migrants crossed the border without authorization in February, an 11-year high and a strong sign that stepped-up prosecutions, new controls on asylum and harsher detention policies have not reversed what remains a powerful lure for thousands of families fleeing violence and poverty.”

Gee, sounds like a national emergency to me! Nope: it’s Trump’s fault: “the Trump administration’s aggressive policies have not discouraged new migration to the United States.”

  • Because the Democrat’s watered down “anti-hate” resolution did nothing to condemn the anti-Semitic statements by Rep. Omar, some Republicans withheld their votes for it in protest. Here was how Politico spun it: “Republican leadership splits, and party splinters over hate resolution.”

5. I suppose this should be a stand-alone post, but I don’t want to write about Michel Jackson any more than I have to. It is now official [Pointer: JutGory]: “The Simpsons” is airbrushing away the classic 1991 episode “Stark Raving Dad,” because a key character was voiced by Michael Jackson. James L. Brooks, co-creator of the show, says that the 1991 episode guest-starring Michael Jackson will be pulled out of its archives, permanently, and will be removed from all platforms including DVD sets and streaming services. “It feels clearly the only choice to make,” Brooks says. “The guys I work with—where we spend our lives arguing over jokes—were of one mind on this.”  He added, “I’m against book burning of any kind. But this is our book, and we’re allowed to take out a chapter.”

Sure it’s book burning, and  “the guys Brooks works with” are probably all in favor of tearing down the statues of Confederate generals and monuments to slave-holding Founders, too. Brooks’ ideological clones are suddenly fans of censorship and hiding history when it becomes uncomfortable. There is so much wrong with this decision, it boggles the mind, but a few will suffice…

  • Why now? Oh, right: a documentary made a decade after Jackson’s death suddenly proves what couldn’t be proved in court, is that the theory?
  • Is Brooks really asserting that any artist who releases his or her art to the public is justified in unilaterally destroying it because of a personal motive? The artist has the right, yes. It’s also unethical. The work is no longer the artist’s, it belongs to the culture. This is why Stephen Spielberg has regretted and reversed his politically correctness-addled decision to change the guns carried by the federal agents in “E.T.” to walkie-talkies.
  • This is a time for Kant’s Categorical Imperative. If this is the right thing to do because of Jackson’s alleged misconduct,  then it must be absolute, an unconditional requirement to be observed in all circumstances and justified as an end in itself. That means that no work by Woody Allen, Bing Crosby, Bill Cosby, Errol Flynn, Richard Pryor, John Lennon (and by extension, The Beatles), Peter, Paul and Mary, Charlie Chaplin, Jerry Lee Lewis, and too many others to list, should ever again be available for the public to view, hear, or enjoy.
  • Presumably any film that O.J. Simpson appeared in must be vaporized as well, including “The Naked Gun” films and the greatest disaster movie ever made, “The Towering Inferno.”

The main thing is that “Stark Raving Dad” is a terrific episode.

This is flagrant narcissism, virtue-signaling and grandstanding by Brooks and his colleagues.

The Child-Molesting Pitcher, Chapter 2

Last spring, I posted an ethics quiz about Luke Heimlich:

Luke Heimlich is a rising college baseball star pitcher at Oregon State,  and may well have a future in Major League Baseball. There is a problem though:  Heimlich, 22,  pleaded guilty to  sexually molesting his 6-year-old niece when he was 15 years old. The further complication: he denies that he committed the crime, which was not just one incident but a pattern over two years. He told The New York Times that he only pleaded guilty to ” for the sake of family relations.” “Nothing ever happened,” he told the paper. The girl’s mother, however, says there is no question that he was guilty.”

The question then was whether Heimlich should be allowed to play college baseball. I wrote,

” what does it say about this man’s character that he pleaded guilty to get a lenient deal, and now blandly says that he was lying? I’d view him as more trustworthy if he admitted the crime, was remorseful and repentant, and accepted responsibility. If he did molest the girl, and still denies it, one can hardly say that he has been rehabilitated…”

I’m not sure I was firing on all cylinders when I wrote that, though. He pleaded guilty because that was, by far, the least risky course: I might have advised him to whether he was guilty or not. If he wasn’t guilty, then he’s telling the truth now about “lying” to avoid a harsher sentence for a crime he didn’t commit.

Meanwhile, the reader poll results indicated a strong majority favoring letting the pitcher get on with his life, and his baseball career.

And now, the rest of the story… Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/3/2019: “Thing’s Are Seldom What They Seem…”

Good afternoon!

1. Today’s source of maximum irritation. Remember those California wildfires at the end of last year that the news media kept reporting as proof of climate change and that prompted Democrats and talking heads to sneer in disdain at anyone, especially President Trump, who suggested that electrical equipment just might have been the cause? From NPR:

Pacific Gas and Electric says it’s “probable” that its equipment caused the Camp Fire in Northern California, the deadliest and most destructive in the state’s history.

California has not finished its investigation into PG&E’s culpability in last November’s fire that killed at least 85 people, destroyed about 14,000 structures, displacing tens of thousands of people and destroying the town of Paradise. However, the state’s largest utility, which filed for bankruptcy last month, said Thursday it expects the investigation will find that its damaged infrastructure sparked the fire.

Please let Ethics Alarms know how many of the news shows this morning mention this development.

2. Spring Training ethics note: Good news! Ethics Alarms has been campaigning for robo-umps at home plate to call balls and strikes for several years. Now MLB announces that it has finalized a three-year deal with the independent Atlantic League to have the league test rules innovations and equipment for the Show. This will include computer calling of pitches. Not so good news: it will also reportedly include moving the mound back, which is heresy.

3. Concern for Popehat’s Ken White.  There is not a smarter, more passionate, better blogger on the planet than lawyer Ken White, and while we have had our disagreements, his commentary on law and justice especially is a blessing for all Americans, even though most don’t have the sense to benefit from it. One of many reasons I admire Ken is that he has been candid about his battle with depression, a killer illness that too many people don’t understand. That malady runs in my family (or as Mortimer Brewster says in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “Runs? It practically gallups!”), and has been responsible for more than one suicide. Popehat once was a collective, but now it’s almost entirely Ken, with occasional drop-ins from the acerbic Mark Randazza. The blog’s last entry was January 4, almost two months. I’m worried, as are most of Ken’s fans I’m sure, and I am officially sending Ethics Alarms best wishes and love to one of the really good people in multiple roles: lawyer, blogger, public educator. Get back as soon as you can, Ken. We need you. Continue reading

Once Again, Baseball Agent Conflicts Are Hurting Players Who Don’t Understand Why

Baseball writers are the tools of baseball player agents, useful idiots who write on and on about the underpaid millionaire players and the unfair owners, who won’t pay them what they “deserve.” They scrupulously avoid educating readers about the unethical player agents who manipulate the system and the players for their own benefit, not their clients.  I have written about the unregulated and largely ethics-free baseball agents before, but their conduct this off-season is unusually revolting.

At the top of the list, as usual, is mega-agent Scott Boras, who cleverly treads the line between being an agent and a lawyer—he is both—while having too many stars under his thumb for the sports organizations or bar associations to hold him to account. For example, as a lawyer, Boras would be absolutely bound to tell his clients about a settlement offer, and would be subject to disbarment if he rejected an offer without communicating it to his client (you know, like you regularly see lawyers doing on TV and in the movies). However, there are no player agent rules that require an agent to communicate a team’s salary offer to a player. Agents can, and presumably do, reject offers without their clients ever hearing about them. This, of course, avoids the problem of a baseball star saying, “Oh, hell, that’s more money than I could ever spend anyway. I know it’s less than we talked about, but go ahead and take it.”

Agents have conflicts of interest so grand, and apparently so little understood, that meaningful consent from the client, theoretically the remedy, is virtually impossible. Let’s look at Bryce Harper, Boras’s client who is seeking more than $300 million dollars over a ten year guaranteed contract. Harper is 26 years old and has already made 49 million dollars, not counting endorsements. The functional utility of each dollar he earns is less than the one earned before in his situation. Realistically, there is very little difference between a $250,000,000 contract and a $300,000,000 contract to Harper, except from an ego perspective. The extra 50,000,000 won’t make any difference to him. Boras, however, is a different matter. Let’s say his cut of Harper’s salary is 5%.  He’ll get 15,000,000 if Harper signs for the high figure, but “only” 12,500,000 if Harper agrees to the lower figure. $2.5 million means nothing to Harper: he could throw it down the toilet, and wouldn’t feel a thing. The difference to Boras, however, is much greater in practical, and add to that the marketing advantage of being able to tell potential clients that he set the new all-time record for a free agent contract for his client. Continue reading

Question: How Do You Prove That The News Media Lies To You?

Answer: Know a lot about something.

This is about baseball, and is a little technical, so I’ll try to be brief for you (unfortunate) non baseball fans.

Manny Machado is a 26 year old super-star baseball player who just signed the biggest free agent contract in MLB history, a guaranteed 300 million dollar deal for ten years with the San Diego Padres. Baseball writers have been trying to get free agents huge contracts this whole off-season rather than just reporting on the negotiations and signings. Why? Because sports journalists are overwhelmingly pro-labor, pro-union, and anti-ownership, aka. business, capitalism, billionaires. (The players are just millionaires, so they’re cool.) The writers and sports pundits have been working overtime to get public opinion on the side of the players, even though the huge salaries make being a fan more expensive, especially for families.

After Machado signed, the pundits on the MLB cable channel put up a graphic justifying the contract by showing that Machado had a comparable WAR—that’s statistically-calculated wins his teams got (theoretically!)  by having Machado playing rather than some borderline, mediocre shlub—to all-time greats like Willie Mays by the same age. The chart was a lie, but you had to know something about baseball history and how they calculate a player’s WAR to realize it. Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Round-Up, 2/12/2019: It’s Kamala Harris Day, Among Other Things…

Howdy…

1. Without the decency to say, “Well, we didn’t find anything.”  From CNN: “After two years and 200 interviews, the Senate Intelligence Committee is approaching the end of its investigation into the 2016 election, having uncovered no direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to both Democrats and Republicans on the committee.”

The honorable, fair and honest thing for Senate Democrats (and Democrats generally) would be to state clearly and unequivocally that they found no evidence of “collusion,” and therefore were going to stop insinuating that collusion took place. But these are not honorable, fair and honest people, but people who are determined to undermine public trust in the President, elections, the government and democracy, because they would rather have power in a ruined, crippled government than not have power at all. Thus Committee co-chair, Sen. Mark Warner, D.-Va.,  told reporters, “I’m not going to get into any conclusions I have, [but] “there’s never been a campaign in American history … that people affiliated with the campaign had as many ties with Russia as the Trump campaign did.”  This ranks among the most weaselly statements in recent memory. “Ties” is a deceitful term wielded by the news media—by its definition I have ties to Russia. People “affiliated with the campaign” having business dealings with Russia or Russians, or communications with Russia, are not the same as the campaign having “ties” to Russia. Warner’s statement is, at its most trivial, sour grapes, and at its worst, a deliberate smear.

One Democratic Senate investigator told CNN (anonymously of course),”Donald Trump Jr. made clear in his messages that he was willing to accept help from the Russians. Trump publicly urged the Russians to find Clinton’s missing emails.” After all this, that’s the smoking gun? An obvious, off the cuff joke Trump made on the stump? “We were never going to find a contract signed in blood saying, ‘Hey Vlad, we’re going to collude,'” another Democratic aide sniffed. This is, of course, a dishonest version of Hillary’s “It wasn’t the best decision” (referring to her illegal decision to hijack official emails into a private server) rationalization. No, Hillary, not only wasn’t it the best decision, it was a terrible, suspicious, indefensible decision, and no, anonymous partisan hack, you were not only not going to find a contract signed in blood, you weren’t going to find any evidence of illicit, illegal, impeachable contacts at all.

The Democratic Party has allowed its defeat in 2016 to rot the party and its supporters to the core.

2. Baseball and lawyers! As I discussed here, Baseball’s Today’s Game Committee (formerly known as the Veterans Committee) elected OF/DH Harold Baines to the Hall of Fame in a decision that was not only logically indefensible, but obviously tainted by conflicts of interest and the appearance of impropriety, since associates and friends of Baines dominated the voting process. Now one of the pro-Baines voters, Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa (full disclosure: he works for the Red Sox now) has written an article  defending the decision. What is interesting about the article is that LaRussa, though few remember this, is trained as a lawyer, and his defense of picking Baines uses one legal advocacy device after another. Bill Baer, at NBC Sports, isn’t a lawyer, but he does an excellent job with his reply brief to LaRussa’s tortured and statistically deceitful arguments.

3. Let’s start a pool! Which of the gazillion Democrats running for President will commit the most verbal gaffes and require the rationalized defense, “Well he/she still doesn’t lie as much as Trump does!”? Obviously Joe Biden will be a popular choice for the title, as his foot is more or less positioned in his mouth up to the knee, but I think it will be a very competitive contest. For example (from Reason): Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 2/8/2019: Coming Out Of My Green New Deal-Induced Coma Edition

Good afternoon!

Sorry; this was all set to go up by 10 am until I read the Green New Deal, and it sent me back to bed.

1. Green New Deal-related, he typed warily: Let’s see if the news media and pundits are as scrupulous about transparent flip-flops when they come from a cute socialist. During an interview with NPR, host Steve Inskeep pointed out to Rep. Ocasio-Cortez how much government involvement it would take to implement the so-called Green New Deal,” She responded,

“It does, it does, yeah, I have no problem saying that. Why? Because we have tried their approach for 40 years. For 40 years we have tried to let the private sector take care of this. They said, ‘We got this, we can do this, the forces of the market are going to force us to innovate.’ Except for the fact that there’s a little thing in economics called externalities. And what that means is that a corporation can dump pollution in the river and they don’t have to pay, but taxpayers have to pay.”

Then, a few hours later, Chuck Todd that same day asked Ocasio-Cortez about the same issue: wouldn’t this require a massive government take-over of private enterprise? This time, she resorted to Authentic Frontier Gibberish and said:

“I think one way that the right does try to mischaracterize, uh, what we’re doing as though it’s, like, some kind of massive government takeover. Obviously, it’s not that, because what we’re trying to do is release the investments from the federal government to mobilize those resources across the country.”

When the truth proves unpalatable, resort to double talk. There is no reason to trust anyone who does this. They are trying to deceive you.

2. But—But–I thought putting Kavanaugh on the Court meant that abortion was doomed, since all the justices appointed by Republicans vote in lockstep! The issue was whether a Louisiana law that required doctors to have admitting privileges in hospitals before they could provide abortions should be stayed pending a Supreme Court challenge. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh wanted to deny the stay, with Kavanaugh writing in part,

[E]ven without a stay, the status quo will be effectively preserved for all parties during the State’s 45-day regulatory transition period. I would deny the stay without prejudice to the plaintiffs’ ability to bring a later as-applied complaint and motion for preliminary injunction at the conclusion of the 45-day regulatory transition period if the Fifth Circuit’s factual prediction about the doctors’ ability to obtain admitting privileges proves to be inaccurate….

The law has not yet taken effect, so the case comes to us in the context of a pre-enforcement facial challenge. That means that the parties have offered, in essence, competing predictions about whether those three doctors can obtain admitting privileges….

Before us, the case largely turns on the intensely factual question whether the three doctors—Doe 2, Doe 5, and Doe 6—can obtain admitting privileges. If we denied the stay, that question could be readily and quickly answered without disturbing the status quo or causing harm to the parties or the affected women, and without this Court’s further involvement at this time…. [D]uring the 45-day transition period, both the doctors and the relevant hospitals could act expeditiously and in good faith to reach a definitive conclusion about whether those three doctors can obtain admitting privileges….

Roberts joined the four Democratic appointees—the liberal wing, natch—to allow the stay. Conservatives are horrified, but all this means is that he’s evaluating the case on its merits as he sees it, not following a pre-determined ideological script in lock-step fashion, like, say, the four liberal justices he voted with.

It’s called integrity and independence. Good for Roberts. Maybe he can persuade other justices to view their roles similarly. Continue reading