Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/17/2019: The Deluded, The Narrative, “The Squad,” The Hedgehog, And Other Things…

PERK UP! There’s ethics to think about!

(I’m talking to myself here…I’m sure you’re fine)

1. Today’s ridiculous note on the heartbreak of  Self-Awareness Deficit. Republican Mark Sanford, the defeated  former U.S. congressman from South Carolina who is best known for having to resign as governor after going AWOL to visit his South American mistress, said yesterday that  he is considering mounting a primary challenge to President Donald Trump. (Psssst! Mark! The RNC has already said that there would be no debates, and the primaries are a mere formality.) Sanford says he will decide in the next month or so whether to oppose Trump for the 2020 presidential nomination.

The basis on which to run against Trump is character and ethics. Of the entire universe of legitimate potential challengers, an ex-governor who escaped impeachment by resigning after making a spectacle of himself has to be near the bottom, if not lying on it.

Somebody tell him.

2. Update: The Red Sox and the late Ken Poulsen’s son are still resisting common decency, I’m sorry to report. I wrote about the on-field presentation to Brett Poulsen last week, when he was awarded the 1967 World Series ring that his father had inexplicably never received despite being part of the that magical Red Sox season. Then we learned that the Sox infielder’s daughter Kendra had never been contacted by the team or her brother, so she and her children, Ken’s grandchildren had been left out of the ceremony. I’ve tried to alert the team and have passed the story along to a baseball writer friend, so far to no avail. Last night, NESN, the Red Sox-owned cable network, interviewed Brett in the stands during the Sox-Blue Jays game. Once again, the false impression was left that he is the only offspring of Ken Poulsen.

I’m sorry Kendra. This is wrong. I’ll keep trying. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: The Boston Red Sox [Updated]

Of late, a lot of institutions that have been important to me have disappointed or embarrassed me. Yesterday the Boston Red Sox made me proud to have been a devoted follower, fan and supporter for my entire adult life. This is a nice tale even if you don’t know a baseball from a kumquat. Trust me on this,

The ethics category is caring.

I have written about the 1967 Red Sox before.They taught me that miracles do happen, that underdogs sometimes prevail, and that perseverance and foolish hope are sometimes rewarded, while giving me the best, most exciting, most inspirational summer of my life. One of the bit players who had a role in that “Impossible Dream” season” was a Double A infielder named Ken Poulsen, an obscure farmhand  called up mid-season when the Sox bench was thin. He postponed his wedding for the chance to play in the big leagues, and had what is called ” a cup of coffee,” playing only five games, getting five at bats, and collecting one lonely hit, a double that had no impact on the game at all.

It was better than Moonlight Graham, but not much. Poulsen was soon returned to the minors and never reached the Major Leagues again. From the SABRE website: 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

ARGHHH! Worlds Are Colliding! Baseball Jack Is Being Consumed By Ethics Jack! The Boston Red Sox Board The 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck!!!!

Oh, great.

One of the odious ways “the resistance” and Democrats have “violated democratic norms” in order to destroy the Trump Presidency is to rob this President of his traditional ceremonial role in national life, the so called “king” function, which exists to unify the nation. The king function comes from the acknowledgment that the President is the head of state and holds the people’s office as the only official (along with the VP) elected by every citizen. Beginning with their substantial boycott of his inauguration and continuing, indeed accelerating, with such insults as encouraging boycotts by recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors if the President participated and the White House Correspondents Dinner’s elimination–just for Trump, of course, of its tradition of a holding a good-natured  one-night truce with whomever was President, this is a deliberate assault on national unity and the office itself.

The politicizing of the once routine and uncontroversial tradition of the President hosting a visit to the People’s House by championship professional and college athletic teams has been a particularly divisive part of the deligitimization strategy, putting teams and athletes into the position of rendering judgments on matters they are generally unqualified to consider, and encouraging grandstanding and virtue-signaling. With no previous President has accepting this honor been  confused with endorsing the President’s character or policies. Women’s teams continued to accept invitations to be honored by Bill Clinton, for example, and if there were any critics of their decision, they had small megaphones and few adherents.

With this President, every invitation has become politically charged, and presented an opportunity for teams and athletes to insult the President of the United States. This irresponsible smear of the President and weakening of his office was neatly seeded by one of the many Big Lies weaponized, Goebbels-style, in pursuit of this President’s overthrow and destruction: “Donald Trump is a racist.” This one (there are others, and I hope to finish my survey of the lot today) has endured by being repeated so often, and by so many, usually without any supporting evidence because there is no evidence. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/4/18: The Red Sox Do The Right Thing, France Does The Wrong Thing, The News Media Does Their Usual Thing, And All Sorts Of Stuff In Between…

Good Morning!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

1. The sad part is that this is newsworthy. The Boston Red Sox accepted their invitation to visit the White House and be honored for their World Series victory. In doing so, they buck the trend of the past couple years of championship teams “boycotting” what should be a unifying, purely ceremonial event of national pride (and fun, since that’s what sports are supposed to be about) in order to make some kind of incoherent statement of disapproval  regarding President Trump. Of course, this is all virtue-signalling, as if being expressly unpatriotic, disrespectful and divisive while insulting the President is a virtue. (Sportswriter love the boycotts.)

Boston manager Alex Cora is Puerto Rican, and had criticized the national response to the island’s hurricane emergency. Some thought that he would lead his team to snub the White House, but Cora is a smarter, wiser, stronger leader than that, as he showed all season long.

2. Great. France accepts government by mob rule. President Emmanuel Macron’s administration today suspended planned increases to fuel taxes for at least six months in response to weeks of  violent protests. The fuel taxes, which most heavily burden  French citizens least able to endure them, were expressly aimed at curbing climate change, though there isno evidence whatsoever that they would accomplish that. So it was a bad policy, but even bad policies should not be vetoed by mob rule. Macron’s capitulation to violent protests is cowardly—though so, so French—and undermines the rule of law, not just in France, but worldwide.

These are the times even the most hardened-Trump-hater should be grateful that the U.S. has a leader who cannot be extorted in this manner.

Should be, but, of course, won’t.

3. If they didn’t have double standards…well, you know the rest. Human rights groups say China has detained up to 2 million Uighurs, a Muslim minority in the country, to promote “ethnic unity” in the country’s far west. This week over 270 scholars from 26 countries released a statement drawing attention to “mass human rights abuses and deliberate attacks on indigenous cultures” taking place in China. “In the camps, these detainees, most of whom are Uighur, are subjected to deeply invasive forms of surveillance and psychological stress as they are forced to abandon their native language, religious beliefs and cultural practices,” the statement said.

Never mind. The news media is just thrilled that the President has called a temporary truce in the trade war with China, is meeting with its leader, and that the two countries may soon again be working together, creating jobs and wealth on both sides of the Pacific. Meanwhile, the same people cheering our efforts to accommodate China have pronounced the President a monster for not risking relations with the Saudi’s over the murder of a single journalist. Continue reading

Unfinished World Series Ethics Business

Today the victorious Boston Red Sox took their now traditional duck boat parade through Boston and down the Charles River, so even for the Sox, the 2018 season is officially done.  My job isn’t however, because there were two striking examples of moral luck and consequentialism during the World Series, and apparently I was the only one who noticed.

I. The “Bad News Bears” moment.

When Red Sox Game 4 starter Eduardo Rodriguez surrendered what seemed at the time to be a decisive three-run homer to Yasiel Puig, putting the Sox behind in the 6th inning 4-0, he angrily hurled his glove to the mound. Commentators joked about how he resembled the Bad New Bears’ combative, potty-mouthed shortstop Tanner in the Little League classic, but other than the ribbing, nobody criticized “E-Rod.” Indeed, his manager, Alex Cora, exonerated him for the home run, saying that he, the manager, screwed up by letting his tiring pitcher face the dangerous Puig.

Yet earlier this season, Boston reliever Carson Smith, regarded as an important member of the Red Sox relief squad, threw his glove in the dugout after giving up a home run, and partially dislocated his shoulder. He was lost for the season, and both team officials and Boston sportswriters blamed Smith for his injury. He injured himself you see. It was stupid and selfish, and showed him to be unprofessional and untrustworthy. Many thought Smith should be fined, or even released. Yet it was a completely freak injury. It wasn’t as if Smith had punched a wall or a water cooler. Baseball players throw their gloves all the time, and I’ve never seen it injure anyone. So why was Carson Smith treated as a pariah for throwing his glove, but Eddie Rodriguez doing the same thing shrugged off? The only reason is that Smith’s angry gesture happened to injure him , which nobody, including Smith, could have predicted. In fact, Rodriquez was more, much more, irresponsible than Smith, because he knew throwing a glove could cause an injury. He knew, because it happened to Smith. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Red Sox Rightfielder Mookie Betts

I guess in fairness I owe the Red Sox this one, after yesterday’s post.

Mookie Betts, the young Red Sox star widely assumed to be the American League MVP once the votes are tallied, had three hits in Game 2 of the World Series this week, and after the game, joined his cousin delivering food to the homeless outside the Boston Public Library. Betts did not summon reporters and photographers to the scene, in the immortal tradition of Babe Ruth, who always seemed to have a scribe nearby when he promised a sick kid at the hospital a home run that day. In the Boston tradition of Ted Williams, who regularly visited juvenile cancer patients without fanfare, Mookie did his charity work anonymously, wearing a hoodie so he would not be recognized. Someone recognized him nonetheless—this was Boston, after all, and Mookie is especially recognizable, so the local media got the story anyway.

Mookie seems too good to be true: he’s always modest and humble, he’s polite, he’s astoundingly talented, he’s nice, and he’s so  cute. I’m afraid to hope he’ll stay that way; Boston has had other lovable young stars who gradually became insufferable as their fame and paychecks increased (see Clemens, Roger). Mookie seems like the real thing, but you never know. For now, at least, he’s a terrific role model, not just for young baseball fans, but for other players and celebrities, present and future.