A Non-Election Day Ethics Special! An Ethics Test For Baseball Hall Of Fame Voters

The major League Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown released its eight-player Contemporary Baseball Era ballot yesterday, as part of its revamped enshrinement process. A 16-person committee including of Hall of Fame players, baseball executives and veteran sportswriters will vote on the candidates at baseball’s winter meetings in December. A player must receive 12 votes to be elected.

All of the eight players failed to get enough votes through the regular voting process. The players on the list, limited to distinguished players who made their greatest contributions from 1980 to the present era, include…

  • Barry Bonds
  • Roger Clemens
  • Curt Schilling
  • Albert Belle
  • Don Mattingly
  • Fred McGriff
  • Dale Murphy, and
  • Rafael Palmeiro.

A clearer ethics test for the voters would be hard to imagine. The threshold question is whether last year’s admission to the Hall of Red Six icon David Ortiz, who once tested positive for an unidentified performance enhancing drug according to test results that were illegally leaked, will be regarded as sufficient precedent to admit Bonds, Clemens, and or Palmeiro. That Bonds was a long-time steroid cheat who did great damage to the game is undeniable. The evidence against Clemens is weaker, but still damning. Palmeiro had the distinction of going before Congress and proclaiming that steroids were the bane of the game and he would never sully himself by using them, and quickly thereafter testing positive himself. None of those three should be admitted to the Hall, and the presence of current Hall of Fame members, I hope, may ensure that they are not. Continue reading

Thoughts On Spain’s Artistic Law School Cheat

Yolanda de Lucchi, a law professor at Spain’s University of Malaga, recently shared photos on her Twitter account showing the most impressive exam cheating attempt she had ever encountered. One of her students tried to cheat on a law final by etching the criminal procedure law on eleven BIC pens. You can see what the pens looked like up close above. Here they all are:

If the student had put half the time into studying the material that he devoted to his baroque cheating technique, he wouldn’t have needed to cheat anyway. I was immediately put in mind of several Ripley’s “Believe it or Not!” oddities involving meticulous engravings of text on grains of rice, like this one, featuring the Lord’s Prayer:

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Baseball Ethics: Let Aaron Judge Hit! [Updated!]

Yankees slugger Aaron Judge hit his 60th home this season last week. Now Judge leads the majors in home runs, runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, total bases, WAR and several other statistical categories. Judge is hitting .316/.419/.703  with 60 home runs, 128 RBI, 123 runs, 16 stolen bases and 9.7 WAR (that’s “wins above a replacement player”). The 60 homers tie him with Babe Ruth for the long-standing so-called “154 game season record,” and put him one behind Roger Maris for the American League season record for homers, 61 (set by Maris in ’61, and celebrated in Billy Crystal’s excellent film, “61”).

61 represents another landmark, though, a more important one. It is the most home runs hit by a Major League Player who was not jacked-up on steroids. The list ahead of Maris reads, Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: A.I. Cheating In The Art Competition?

Once again, Artificial Intelligence raises its ugly virtual head.

The Colorado State Fair’s annual art competition rewards artistic excellence prizes in painting, quilting, and sculpture, with several sub-categories in each. Jason M. Allen got his blue ribbon with the artwork above, which he created it using Midjourney, a program that turns lines of text into graphics. His “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial” won the blue ribbon in the fair’s contest for emerging digital artists.

He’s being called a cheater. Just this year, new artificial intelligence tools have become available that make it possible for anyone to create complex abstract or realistic artworks by simply by typing words into a text box. The competition wasn’t paying attention, and in the era of rapidly moving technology, that’s always dangerous. Nothing in the rules prohibited entering a “painting” that was made using AI. Continue reading

If The Public Cannot Trust Accountants To Be Ethical, Who Can They Trust? Answer: Nobody

Let’s begin with a confession and an apology. On June 28, the SEC announced that it had charged Ernst & Young LLP with extensive cheating by its employees on exams required to obtain and maintain Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licenses. Moreover the Big Five firm withheld evidence of this misconduct from the Security and Exchange Commission’s Enforcement Division during the SEC’s investigation. EY admitted the facts leading to the SEC’s charges and agreed to pay a $100 million penalty. [You can read the SEC’s press release here.]

I have no idea how I missed such a major and troubling ethics story. It’s my job to keep up on such matters; I teach accounting ethics, though I haven’t had a training assignment for that profession since the pandemic hit. I apologize profusely. I will work to do better. While the various breaches of government, journalism, legal and business ethics that occupy most of my attention on Ethics Alarms are important, none are more ominous than this story. It really feels like the canary dying in the mine.

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Association Of Tennis Professionals Solution To Cheating: If Cheating’s Legal, It’s Not Cheating Any more!


Many tennis pros including stars like Serena Williams (recently retired) were coached from the stands by their personal svengalis during matches. This was against the rules, as well it should be. A tennis match is supposed to between the players on the court, not the players plus a brain trust making in-match decisions for them. Coaches gesticulating and communicating strategy was considered cheating.

Ah, but it was hard to catch, and “everybody did it.” Serena Williams’s coach was signaling to her during the 2018 U.S. Open, and got caught. After that match, Williams’s then-coach Patrick Mouratoglou told ESPN that he had tried to signal Williams but he didn’t think she saw him. (Theory: if you cheat but it doesn’t work, it’s not cheating. Rationalization: “No harm, no foul.”) He added that “every player” is coached during matches. (Rationalization: “Everybody does it.” )

It took a while, but in the tradition  of cowards and ethics weenies throughout history in too many fields to list, the ATP has decided to allow its players to be directed by allies in the stands. It’s a “test,” allegedly, one which began the week of July 11.  Of course it will be “successful”: it will eliminate cheating! Continue reading

A New Tale Of The Wuhan Virus Ethics Train Wreck: The Home Test Cheating Algorithm

Will there ever be any appropriate consequences for the Machiavellian politicians, incompetent health professionals, irresponsible teachers and fear-mongering journalists who collectively pushed the United States into a foolish, destructive and reckless lockdown in response to the Wuhan virus and its relatives? The harm inflicted on the nation, its culture and the public has been , and continues to be, catastrophic. In comparison to so many of the disastrous results of this deep self-inflicted wound, the travails of a young student unjustly accused of cheating doesn’t seem that consequential. What it demonstrates, however, is how many victims of the Wuhan Virus Ethics Train Wreck we don’t know about. I’m sure there are millions.

In truth, we know there are millions. For example, millions of people were forced to take bar exams, tests and quizzes alone at home on their laptops. Such conditions are not conducive to trustworthy or even meaningful tests, but never mind: the education community was willing to sacrifice learning for fear and bad science. Then there was the special bonus of getting rid of President Trump by knee-capping the economy.

At least remote proctoring companies boomed, offering web browser extensions that “detect keystrokes and cursor movements, collect audio from a computer’s microphone, and record the screen and the feed from a computer’s camera, bringing surveillance methods used by law enforcement, employers and domestic abusers into an academic setting.” Of course, as we learned in “War Games,” handing over critical tasks requiring judgments to machines has its drawbacks.

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“When Ethics Fails, The Law Steps In”…Or In This Case, Technology

That’s part of a feature from a 1920’s magazine about how catchers and pitchers communicate regarding pitch selection in baseball. (I had Earl Smith on one of my favorite Strat-O-Matic teams, the 1922 Giants!) Trying to steal signs so a batter would know what pitch was coming—a huge advantage—was long part of the game and considered legal and fair, as long as the efforts came on the field. Once a team started using  spies in the stands and secret relay systems not involving players, the practice became unethical.

In 2017, as exhaustively discussed here in these posts, the Houston Astros used a technology-assisted system of sign stealing to win their division, the American League play-offs, and the World Series. It was one of the three most significant scandals in the history of the sport, trailing only the Black Sox World Series fixing plot in 1919 and the steroid scandal on the Nineties. Baseball, as a sport that values continuity and nostalgia, hates to change, but as with its acceptance of replay challenges to over-turn bad calls by umpires, the sport cannot pretend that technology hasn’t rendered some aspects of the game obsolete. There are too many ways to use technology to steal signs now.

Major League Baseball, following the Ethics Alarms motto that when ethics fails, the law steps in (and usually makes a mess of things), tightened its rules and penalties for illegal sign-stealing, but wisely recognized that rules wouldn’t be enough. Baseball managers, coaches and player are not known for well-functioning ethics alarms, and the financial benefits of cheating can be substantial: several Astros players had spectacular years at the plate in 2017 far beyond what they achieved before or since. All of them are many millions richer for it.

And thus it is that Major League Baseball announced yesterday that teams this season will begin using electronic devices that transmit signals from catchers to pitchers. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “On ‘Decertification,’ Everybody’s Wrong (Or Lying)…”

Ethics Alarms is about ethics, not politics, but politics, especially in recent years, has increasingly been about the defining and flagging of unethical conduct. Typically elections have been an area in which both parties revel in accusing each other of dishonest and unethical conduct that they also engage in when it suits their needs; we recently saw, for example, the report on Democrats using “dark money” in the 2020 election cycle after condemning Republicans for their lack of transparency regarding campaign contributions, and either party climbing up on a metaphorical high horse over gerrymandering is laughable.

The accusations over the 2020 Presidential election are materially different, in part because 95% of the news media has taken a side the constitutes aggressive partisan activism: the claim that suspicions about the fairness and legitimacy of the vote count—in the absence of many safeguards that previous elections had made standard practice—were “disproven” and “groundless.” The use of ballot drop boxes, for example, raise the immediate specter of voter fraud, and one that is difficult to dispel. Did the actual voter drop off the ballot? Did that voter mark the ballot with his or her name on it? How secure is the box against tampering? The existence of such dubious devices in any close election guarantees public distrust, and should. Yet the news media is pushing the left’s false narrative that laws that ban drop-off boxes are “voter suppression.”

Here is Null Pointer on the matter, in the Comment of the Day on the post, “On ‘Decertification,’ Everybody’s Wrong (Or Lying)…”

One tip before you read: what is being described regarding elections is the condition Ethics Alarms dubs “Bizarro World Ethics.”


Let’s just look a some truths about the 2020 election and see if we cannot deduce what might be going on.

Truth #1: The Democrats got up to shenanigans in the 2020 election, and if the exact nature of those shenanigans were laid out to the people, the people would probably nearly unanimously agree the shenanigans amounted to cheating. The people would not unanimously ADMIT it was cheating, but they would know. The Democrats do not want the people on the left to know that they engaged in behavior that essentially amounts to cheating.

Truth #2: The election is not going to be undone. It was never going to be undone. Everyone who isn’t a complete moron knows it cannot be undone. Everyone who knows it cannot be undone is not going to admit that they know it cannot be undone, however, because a lot of people hate the Democrats and like to piss the Democrats off. Polling is useless.

Truth #3: The Democrats cheat. The Democrats have always cheated, at least at the regional level. Everyone on the right knows the Democrats cheat. Everyone on the left thinks a majority of people agree with them about everything, rendering cheating unnecessary. The people on the left would be shocked to find out that a huge percentage of the population does not agree with them.

Truth #4: The Republicans let the Democrats cheat. The Republicans have always let the Democrats cheat because political calculations produced an equation that said it was more politically expedient to let the Democrats cheat than to call them on it. The Democrats have escalated their cheating over time because they can. The Democrats accuse everyone else of cheating to keep the political calculations in their favor by confusing their base. Continue reading

The Russian Figure Skater And The Beijing Olympics’ Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Ethics Call

I suppose it should not be a surprise that these most unethical of all Olympiads (since the Olympics should never have been held in this totalitarian, ethics-free nation to begin with) would feature the most unethical decision imaginable. If I cared one whit about the disgusting charade in China and who wins what, I might really be upset. As it is, I’m just going to point out, dispassionate, the ethics rot on display.

Fifteen-year-old Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva  tested positive for trimetazidine, a banned substance that improves athletic performance, in the  urine sample that Valieva submitted at the Russian national championship on Christmas. The drug, known as TMZ, is a heart medication that can increase endurance. But the result was not confirmed and relayed to Russian officials or to her for more than six weeks. Russia’s antidoping agency said it learned of the failed test on February 7. On that day, the teen led the Russians to a gold medal in the team event.

Let’s stop right there. She tested positive for a banned substance, and that should have stopped her from competing in the Olympics. It doesn’t matter why the test results were delayed (the Russians cheat, and have always cheated). It doesn’t matter whose fault it was. Valieva was ineligible, and whenever it was discovered that she was ineligible, the only fair and ethical response was to disqualify her. This also meant that her team would be disqualified, because a disqualified skater helped it win the team event.

Ethics can be hard, but this conclusion isn’t hard. It is obvious and irrefutable. Because she shouldn’t have been competing at all, and would not have been had either someone in Russia not cheated or was incredibly incompetent, the skater had no right to be skating, and any athlete or athlete who would have won had she not been illicitly permitted in the Games has been treated unfairly, robbed, cheated, pick your term.

That ought to have been the immediate decision. Instead, Olympic “arbitrators” (Arbitrators are supposed to have impeccable ethics alarms, and not the ethical instincts of Hillary Clinton. Who are these fools?) ruled that Valieva not only wouldn’t be disqualified but could continue competing, but that any medals in any event in which she places the top three will not be awarded. The question of who wins what medal, and whether Valieva wins any, will wait until after her doping case is definitively settled, which may take months. 

Ethics Dunces. Irredeemable cowards. Morons. Continue reading