Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/19/2019: Easy Ethics Edition [Corrected]

I’m baaaack!

Ann Althouse has boasted that she has only missed one day of blogging since she started the Althouse blog, long before Ethics Alarms took its first metaphorical breath. This has enlightened me regarding how much time tenured professors must have on their hands. Missing a full two days of ethics commentary, as I did this week, makes me feel like an irresponsible slug-a-bed who is betraying loyal readers who depend on a service, but it was literally impossible for me to research a post, never mind write one, between hotels, meetings with my teaching partner, meals, travel and the seminars themselves. When I finally arrived at home and office, I almost immediately had to handle a long conference call in which I was quizzed on some tricky legal ethics issues, and then was officially brain dead for the rest of the evening. It is hard to think clearly about ethics when one is exhausted. And I still am, but the warm-up format is a relatively safe way to ease myself back into the saddle.

Thanks for your patience and understanding.

1. Getting the really important stuff out of the way first...Sean Spicer made his debut on “Dancing With The Stars.” I posted last month about the double -standards and bias of the pundits who criticized the show for having the former White House spokesman as a contestant, and their animus is still one more example of unethical mainstream media partisanship. However, Spicer taking a pay-off to look ridiculous on national television—he gets $125,000 for each week he “dances” before he is mercifully voted off—is unprofessional, even though increasing numbers of public servants are doing it. Spicer is giving media critics of the President another stick to beat him with, and denigrating his own role as well as the administration by casting himself as a clown.

Spicer was a slow loris even by the miserable recent standards of press secretaries, and emblematic of how the President’s pledge to appoint and hire “the best people” appears in retrospect as a cruel joke. I can’t say I feel sorry for him, still, in presenting himself as target, he has provoked the mistreatment media into exposing its pettiness and apparently irrepressible gratuitous hostility to the President. The New York Times covered Spicer’s terpsichoral misadventures in the politics section, so it could write sections like…

In the White House, Mr. Spicer held a job that has usually been considered a golden ticket to future respectability and financial comfort. His predecessors have landed in lucrative corporate gigs at Amazon and United Airlines, or become the hosts of their own television programs. But trading in his famously ill-fitting suit to become a trending neon GIF felt like the culmination of a different kind of post-White House journey, one that is q.uintessentially Trump.

The job has been a “golden ticket” for “respectability” for recent press secretaries of Democratic administrations, because the mainstream news media seldom had adversarial relationships with Presidents they helped elect. Of course, the Republican varieties who have been hired by Fox News aren’t respectable. Spicer’s fate is “quintessentially Trump” because the current President is the first that the press has refused to grant even minimal respect from the beginning of his administration. Continue reading

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

Thank God It’s The Friday Ethics Warm-Up, 8/23/ 2019

(Dreary, gloomy day outside; working on having a brilliant day inside.)

1. Feeling guilty about the Red Sox. I haven’t watched or listened to a game in over two weeks. The reason is that it’s just not fun, it’s too stressful, and I am already stressed to the max with non-baseball matters. I’m fairly sure this is the longest voluntary sabbatical I have ever taken from my team, and it is my team, throughout 80% of my life, a constant presence, inspiration and source of enlightenment. I have never relied on the team winning to justify my interest and loyalty. I just love the game, the suspense, the players and the endless supply of unpredictable stories and surprises.

BUT…this season has been uniquely frustrating. The Red Sox won 108 games last season on the way to the World Championship, and it was, especially by historical Red Sox standards, an insanely enjoyable ride. Virtually everything went perfectly, over the season, in the play-offs, in individual games.Whatever was needed to win, somebody always came through: it was like a movie. Baseball isn’t usually like that (well, except for the Yankees for about 50 years). I even said at the time, as my wife reminds me, “The Sox are going to pay big time for this one.”

Boston was confident coming into 2019 with virtually the exact same sqaud that had been unbeatable in 2018. Regression to the mean, however, is a force of nature, and especially with this team, for some reason. Since 1918, every single time the Sox have won the American League pennant, the next season was a bust, and often a horrible bust. Devastating injuries, unexpected bad years, clubhouse dissension, astoundingly bad luck: I’ve seen it all, and before, I’ve endured it all as a fair price to pay for the joys of the past and to come. This season, for some reason, I can’t take it, and I feel like an ungrateful wretch.

2. Got it: slavery is the cause of everything bad in the United States, and all whites want black people to get sick and die. Does anyone who can think clearly think this latest bit of dishonest guilt-tripping propaganda is going to help Democrats prevail, rather than  just harden racial and partisan divisions? Continue reading

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