Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/20/18: I Promise, I’m Looking Hard For Uplifting Ethics Stories For The Holidays. And Failing….

Good morning!

(If I don’t get the lights on the tree  today, I’m hurling myself into a pit of rabid reindeer…)

1. Open Forum report: Another intense, varied, and impressive performance by the Ethics Alarms crew in my absence yesterday. 23 different commenters raised and debated the following issues, many of which I haven’t touched yet, because I am wholly inadequate to my task. Among them:

  • The ethics of fighting a specious criminal charge,
  • Texas’ school districts for making employees sign a pledge not to boycott or advocate against Israel?
  • The bump stock ban
  • The plea deal of Jacob Walter Anderson
  • “The Innocent Man”
  • The Xmas package-snatcher trap.
  •  Stepha Velednitsky
  • “Without Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times” by Joel Richard Paul.
  • The yellow vest protests and the meager US coverage of them
  • Prada Monkey
  • Trump’s decision to  pull out of Syria

2.  Favorite dishonest and manipulative note out of many in the 12/18  Times:   Reporters Carl Hulse and Julie Davis write in“Tennessee Senator, A Proven Deal-Maker, Won’t Seek Re-election”…

Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and one of the last bridges to bipartisanship in the Senate, announced on Monday that he would not seek re-election in 2020…His decision to leave is more evidence that Washington has become less attractive to legislators interested in steering a middle course on seemingly intractable issues such as education and health care….

Fake news, and deliberate distortion. In fact, Alexander’s decision may have nothing to do with the job becoming “less attractive to legislators interested in steering a middle course,” and his own words, meaning his own stated reason for leaving, don’t suggest that at all. Alexander is 78. In 2020, he would be 80, meaning that by the end of a new term he would be 86, or sick, or dead. “I’ve had my turn,”  Alexander is quoted as saying. “Everything comes to an end sometime, and it is good to know when that should be.” He also said that he wants to leave the Senate “at the top of my game.”

The current U.S. news media is untrustworthy, dishonest, incompetent and despicable, and frankly, I am beginning to regard anyone who continues to deny this the same way. Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms Moral Luck And Butterfly Effect Files: Geoffrey Tandy And The False But Fun Story Of How An Ignorant Typo Won World War II

Some pretty cryptogams…

Bear with me: This is a fascinating story, but not exactly the story I thought it was.

Yesterday my wife and I watched an episode of the Travel Channel’s Mysteries of the Museum, a historical oddities and trivia show that explores the stories behind museum exhibits around the world. Grace is a student of World War II history and is especially interested in the work at Bletchley Park, where the top secret work on breaking German codes went on, including the exploits of Alan Turing, the eccentric genius who broke the Enigma Code and managed to invent the computer in the process. The episode was advertised as the amazing and little-known tale of how a typographical error won World War II.

The story: Geoffrey Tandy was the British Museum’s “seaweed man,” and a certifiable eccentric. For one thing, he was a bigamist, heading two families that were not aware of each other.  Tandy was also pals with poet T.S. Elliot, and more fond of writing esoterica than scholarly papers. Some typist somewhere along the line in his personnel paper work had misconstrued Tandy’s area of expertise, which was cryptogams,  primitive seedless plants such as algae and lichens, as cryptograms, which are ciphers and codes. Thus papers circulated the wartime bureaucracy stating the marine biologist was really an ace code breaker. This got the puzzled algae specialist mistakenly assigned to Bletchley, where he was a fish out of water, or a lichen out of his element, or something. The real code-breakers quickly figured out that Tandy was useless, but since nobody was supposed to know what was going on in the old building, he was stuck. Tandy spent two years filing papers and making tea.

Then, just like Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, unforeseen events conspired to make his special abilities crucial. Several sodden notebooks holding vital clues, including Bigram Tables, to the mysteries of the German Enigma code were recovered from a sunken U-boat.  Unfortunately but understandably, they were soaked through with sea water, and apparently damaged beyond repairing. Tandy, however, knew an old cryptogam trick he had used to preserve tiny marine algae! Obtaining special absorbent papers from the museum, Tandy was able to carefully blot and dry the sodden pages, making them readable. As hoped, they yielded the crucial missing information Turing needed to break Enigma, acknowledged by all as a turning point in the war, as well as a Turing point. Continue reading

Late And Fevered Ethics Musings, 11/15/18: Pardon Hillary, And More Surprises

Ugh.

I can’t tell you how much I hate operating at quarter-steam like this. I have an ethics seminar to get through in two days, so I’m trying to be responsible. Luckily I have to deal with this about once every three years or so.

1. Baseball rejects consequentialism! New York Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom won the National League Cy Young Award after leading the majors in earned run average, meaning that he gave up fewer runs per 9 innings of any pitcher. Indeed, deGrom’s major-league-leading 1.70 ERA was two-thirds of a run lower than the next closest NL hurler, Philadelphia‘s Aaron Nola (2.37), and the second best by any starter this century.  Despite his own excellence, his team, the disappointing New York Mets, lost most of his starts, and deGrom only had a 10-9 record for the season. Traditionally the Cy Young honor, meant to designate the best pitcher in each league, has gone to the pitcher who won the most games while not disgracing himself in other categories. With the advent of statistical analysis, however, it has even dawned on the most meat-headed sportswriters that all a pitcher can do is prevent the other team from scoring, and if his team can’t score behind him, it says nothing about his ability at all.

In other words, doing “good” must be judged by what an individual does, not what happens that is beyond his control as he does it or after. Continue reading

Presenting Two (Terrific) Baseball Ethics Comments Of The Day By Slickwilly

I apologize for combining these two deserving comments into a single post, but the baseball season is over, and as much as I try to make the case that readers who are tragically immune to baseball’s charms should still read and ponder the ethics posts this most ethically complex of sports inspires, most don’t, and I also have a backlog of Comments of the Day that feels like a 400 lb monkey on my back.

First is Slickwilly’s Comment of the Day on the Halloween post, Unfinished World Series Ethics Business. He is discussing this iconic moment, when a crippled Kirk Gibson limped to the plate as a pinch-hitter against the best closer in the game at teh time, Dennis Eckersley:

Used a clip from one of your posts to teach my kids last night: Game 1 of 1988 World Series last at bat.

The mental aspect of Baseball was NEVER more apparent than in that at bat. The names and teams are irrelevant. Dangerous runner at first as the tying run, two outs, bottom of the ninth inning. Crippled power hitter is substituted to bat for the bottom of the lineout, in hopes of a base hit.

Pitcher, a professional at the top of his game, has not allowed a home run since late August: a powerful matchup indeed!

First two pitches are fouled away. Pitcher starts messing with the batter by throwing to first (where there was no chance of an out.) Two more foul balls and the count is still 0-2. Pitcher continues to throw to first, where the runner is taking progressively larger leads.

Batter hits almost a bunt down the first base line: foul. However, we see how badly the batter is hurt: he is almost limping and could never reach first base on an infield hit. Indeed, he is so banged up he did not take the field during the warm ups: a sign that the manager never expected to play him. (One suspects that a pinch runner would be used, should a base hit occur.)

The mental game continues with the pitcher, way ahead in the count, throwing hard-to-hit pitches in an attempt to make the batter strike out. The batter gets a hold of a pitch: foul ball. Pitcher throws outside again. Now the count is 2-2. More throws to first, and the runner is a legitimate threat to steal second as the count evens up.

The pitcher throws way outside, and the runner steals second, getting into scoring position. Now the count is 3-2, and the advantage goes to the batter: a base hit can tie the game!

The batter hands some of the crap back to the pitcher: calls time out just as the pitcher has his mental focus for the deciding pitch. The batter takes his stance, and HIS focus is unshaken: you can see it in his stance, how he holds his head, how he holds his bat, everything. This man suddenly exudes confidence, and the pitcher can see it. Everyone in the ballpark can see it!

Sometimes, in Baseball, a thing is meant to be. I cannot explain it, but there are moments where you know you are about to see greatness, where all of the little factors are lining up to produce a great play. There is a feeling in the air at such times, and it is palatable even on video and across decades of time. For those who worship at the altar of Baseball, these are the moments that make the game great.

Pitcher throws a low slider (betting on a junk pitch!) and as a result, hangs out what Baseball fans affectionately call ‘red meat’ for the batter, who gets EVERY BIT OF THAT PITCH AND SENDS IT ON A TOUR OF THE RIGHT FIELD BLEACHERS!

The second of Slickwilly’s CsOTD came in response to Question: You Are Offered 300 Million Dollars To Do What You Want To Do Where You Say You Want To Do It For The Next Ten Years. Why Would You Say, “No”? 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

While Working On Keeping My Gorge Down So I Can Address The Latest Anti-Kavanaugh Tactics, Here Are Some Preparatory Musings And Polls Galore!

I’ve been searching my college memories…

Memory I: As a junior, I engineered an elaborate prank to steal a sofa from two classmates and friends who had swiped a sofa from two other students in their dorm. It almost worked, too: the pay-off was going to be when they visited our suite and saw their sofa there. The plan fell apart, and the original owners even got their sofa back.

Question: Should this episode, which technically involved attempted theft, disqualify me for some positions as an adult and professional?

 

Memory II: I dimly recall that one of my roommates once put a traffic cone over his head and face, carried a broom as a baton, and paraded naked around a room in our suite singing “Can’t get enough of those Sugar Crisp!” as another roommate was engaged with a date.

Question: Is this incident legitimate information to send to a potential employer?

 

Notes: Continue reading

Travel Notes…[UPDATED]

Every trip I take seems to require some ethical clarification…

  • Lose-lose. At our hotel in Ft. Lauderdale, a convention of either transvestites, transgender individuals, or some combination of the two dominated the hotel. The organization was “Himmaher”…I think I’m spelling it right. [Correction: I wasn’t. And that wasn’t the organization; it was the name that was listed for the gathering, and the name was HIMMERSHE. Thanks to Zanshin in the Comments below for the correction.]

I had several illuminating encounters. I don’t know that this is true of all such people, but the members of this association or club all seemed to want to make any non-club member they saw as uncomfortable as possible. Yes, that’s unethical. How you choose to dress, what you choose to have lopped off, and who you want to sleep with could not interest me less, and that is the  attitude a society like ours should strive to encourage. (None of those things should engender and advantages, either.) But what these people seemed to be seeking was imposed ethics zugswang. If you looked directly at them, the response was a chip-on-the-shoulder, “Go ahead and stare, honey: neverf seen a freak before?” If you appeared to be avoiding staring—I regard a six-foot ex-male standing in the middle of a hotel lobby in a  wig, skimpy bathing suit, 6 inch heels and speaking loudly in a base voice as parading a psychological problem or ten, and deserving the same social courtesy I would offer to a Tourette’s victim or a hebephrenic—then the individual decided to make it a project to get you to stare, as if your failure to provide the attention they craved was an insult.

Yeah, I know this is a stage, similar to the early stages of the gay rights movement. Continue reading