Last Resort Ethics Catch-Up, 6/19/2019

Desperately trying to salvage the day with the next one looking worse, and a lot of important ethics matters being swept toward the falls, were they risk being swamped by rapidly moving events…

1. Great sequence, unethical to make it…Not only was D.W. Griffith a film pioneer and a racist, he was also quite mad. If you haven’t see this sequence from D.W. Griffiths’ “Way Down East,” you must. That’s Lillian Gish on the ice floe, and actor Richard Barthelmess trying to rescue her for real. It was  shot on a frozen river as the ice broke up,  and Gish was really headed over the falls, though they were only a few feet high.  No stunt actors were used; Gish’s hair froze and she lost feeling in her hand from the cold. Her right hand was never quite right after that.

Things like this are what made actors’ unions necessary.

2.  What a mess.  The President’s Secretary of Defense nominee, Patrick Shanahan, resigned from the Acting-SOD role and removed his name from consideration in order to keep his family from being dragged through some awfully ugly mud, very little of which, it seems was of his making or germane to his qualifications for office.

Before their divorce, Shanahan’s ex-wife was arrested after punching him in the face; after the divorce, his son was arrested after attacking and nearly killing his mother with a baseball bat.  The Waltons this wasn’t. Shanahan tried to defend his son after that episode, arguing in a message sent to  his ex-wife’s brother  that his son had acted in self-defense and writing…

“Use of a baseball bat in self- defense will likely be viewed as an imbalance of force,” However, Will’s mother harassed him for nearly three hours before the incident.”

It was expected that Democrats would weaponize the memo against him in hearings, #MeToo-style.

Shanahan told  The Washington Post  that he wrote the memo in the hours after his son’s attack on his ex, before he knew the full extent of her injuries, to prepare for his son’s initial court appearance. He said  never intended for anyone other than his son’s attorneys and his brother-in-law to read it, but, of course, by showing the message to his brother-in-law it was no longer confidential.

Somehow, in a civilized culture, private tragedies like these should not become an impediment to public service. Yet it is hard to imagine how Shanahan thought it would not, since this is not a civilized political culture. Continue reading

Rushing Out The Door Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/11/2019!

Hello, I Must Be Going…

This will be quick…

1. Hoping it was a mistake, fearing it was not. When I wrote about how David Ortiz’s post-baseball life before his near-fatal shooting was full of nothing but promising options, I was not including “having an extra-marital affair with a Dominican crime boss’s wife” among them. Yet that’s the story coming out of Santo Domingo: Big Papi was the target of a hit. Ugh. Maybe it was all a big misunderstanding….

2. I could have written two separate posts about these ridiculous and ethicallyiaddled New York Times op-eds, but I’ll leave it to you:  first up is this thing, as an illegal immigration advocate uses the tit-for-tat and Sicilian ethics rationalizations to argue that letting foreign nationals cross our borders illegally is just reparations for what the United States owes “to other countries for their colonial adventures, for the wars they imposed on them, for the inequality they have built into the world order, for the excess carbon they have dumped into the atmosphere.” By all means, take your best shot at explaining why this theory is nuts, and then explain to me why any respectable newspaper would think it is worth publishing. Then Jamele Bouie, the former Slate race-baiting specialists whose extreme rants were so absurd, the Times decided to make him a regular columnist, issued this, in which he argues for sinking Marbury vs Madison and stopping the Supreme Court from blocking unconstitutional laws, because, you know, the people know best, even though most of them couldn’t name three entries in the Bill of Rights. It would make it easier to Leftist totalitarian regime to take over, though. Or, you moron, a conservative one.

Let’s have a poll!

3. I see fat people...As I’m sure you have noticed, more and more ads and TV commercials are featuring actors who range from chunky to obese. This is in response to the long-standing complaints that the media causes eating disorders and poor self-esteem by promoting unrealistic standards for female bodies. Now, we have a deadly obesity epidemic, and ads are sending the message that it’s normal to be fat. Is this really an improvement?

Ugh..late. Gotta run..back soon!

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/10/19: On Chaos, Pots, Bigotry, Hate Speech And Proving the Obvious.

GOOD MORNING!

And hang in there, David.

1. Ethics and Mortality.  My first harsh experience with the random cruelty of life came in 1967, when Red Sox slugger Tony Conigliaro, young, handsome, dating Hollywood starlets, playing for his hometown team and already a local idol while looking like a cinch to have a glorious Hall of Fame career, was hit in the face by an errant fastball thrown by Angels pitcher Jack Hamilton. That moment violently changed the course of Tony C’s  life, which ended with him in a semi-conscious state at the age of 45 after suffering a catastrophic heart attack seven years earlier that left him brain-damaged and disabled. I get choked up every time I think about Tony, but his tragedy taught me hard lessons. Don’t be smug; don’t get cocky. Do all the good you can and make the most of your life as quickly as you can, because random disaster can strike at any time.

I’m not sure that I needed to have that lesson refreshed, especially since it was also a cornerstone of my father’s philosophy that included refusing to worry about what he could not control. Nevertheless, last night came the news that David Ortiz, Red Sox Nation’s beloved “Big Papi,” had been shot in the back in his home town of Santo Domingo.  The assailant was apparently a motorcycle-riding thief (whom bystanders mobbed and held for the police—don’t you love it when that happens?). So far the news on David is promising, but the bullet pierced his stomach and damaged his liver, gall bladder and colon.

Prior to the attack, it would have been difficult to imagine anyone with a better life than Ortiz. He was still young, rich, with a thriving and stable family, recognized everywhere, and universally admired and loved as a symbol of unity and community. Ortiz’s biggest problem, he said in an interview last year, was deciding among the many attractive options  open to him in baseball, business, philanthropy, broadcasting and entertainment.

Well, he’s got bigger problems now.

I just saw an internet poll in which only 54% of the responders knew who David Ortiz is. I wonder how many know about Tony Conigliaro.

I’m depressed now.

2. When trying to defeat Kettle, running Pot may not be the ideal choice. One of the most common mantras of the Trump Deranged is that the President lies so much. One would think, would one not, that this theme would make it incumbent upon those trying to defeat the incumbent to keep their own public lies, hypocrisies and misrepresentations to a minimum. This, apparently, they cannot do.

For a while there the New York Times appeared to have chosen Senator Kamala Harris as its favored candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination, but the paper shows signs of  concluding, as any objective observer should by now, that she is a loser. Harris also does not have a friendly relationship with facts, as a recent Times “factcheck” of her recent statements on the stump demonstrated.

They didn’t find that any recent contentious substantive statement by Harris were true. They did find that three statements were “misleading” and one was an “exaggeration” (when the Times purported to list all of Trump’s mendacities, fudges, fantasies, exaggerations and misleading statements were referred to as “lies”), but this one they didn’t bother to spin: Harris had tweeted,

“Members of our military have already given so much. Raiding money from their pensions to fund the President’s wasteful vanity project is outrageous. Our service members deserve better.”

This is false, sayeth the Times:

“To build his border wall without the approval of Congress, Mr. Trump will draw from an account for military construction projects, a Treasury Department forfeiture fund and a Pentagon drug interdiction program. He has not announced plans to “raid” military pensions.”

To be fair, most of the Democratic field has been lying at a prodigious rate.

3.  Shut up, RBG. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s  remarks at a judges conference in New York last week included praise for rookie Justice Kavanaugh for hiring only women for his team of law clerks.  “Justice Kavanaugh made history by bringing on board an all-female law clerk crew. Thanks to his selections, the Court has this Term, for the first time ever, more women than men serving as law clerks,” she said.

Wow, that’s excellent progress, since we all know that men are toxic, rape-prone, violent,  sex-obsessed blights on humanity, as, in fact, Kavanaugh was accused of being at his confirmation by Justice Ginsburg’s fervent supporters. Kavanaugh’s hiring choices appear to have been grandstanding and pandering to the admirers of RBG who called him a sexual predator.  Ginsburg’s comments are bigoted. Why is having women rather than men as clerks intrinsically  wonderful?

4. Again: Progressives neither understand nor support the First Amendment. At last week’ s California Democratic Party Convention, Resolution 19-05.94 read as follows…

WHEREAS, Protecting First Amendment rights is critical, but is also limited to exclude hate speech using the concept that offending statements first should be viewed through the lens of the party experiencing the hate, and that Jews, LatinX, African-American, Asian Pacific Islander, Muslims, Disabilities and LGBTI communities can be targets of oppression and hate speech for a variety of reasons.

It is fair to say that we have been sufficiently warned that progressives believe that only they are qualified to define “hate speech,” which includes, for example , “Make America Great Again” and “The Triumph of the Will,” as well as, to generalize, any speech they find inconvenient.  Such an exception in the First Amendment would permit the Left to muzzle dissent and opposition using the iron boot of the law…which is exactly what they seem to want to do.

Serious question: How can anyone in their right mind trust these people?

5. Just musing here...but is it ethical to spend scarce research funds to prove what is, or should be, obvious? I know, I know: lots of conventional wisdom is wrong, so many things that “everybody knows” turn out to be false when researchers look closely. Still—does the fact that dog-owners get more exercise than those without dogs really need independent confirmation? If I don’t take my Jack Russell Terrier, Rugby, out for a good 45 minute walk, he will do everything short of pulling a gun on me to exact his revenge. (My previous Jack, Dickens, did pull a gun on me once. I’m not kidding.)

Another recent study revealed the shocking conclusion that people who are attractive and conventionally good-looking have an automatic advantage in all aspects of social interaction over those who are not attractive or disfigured. Is there anyone on Earth who doesn’t know that? Beautiful people know it, and rely on it. Ugly people know it because they experience the bias every day.

 

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/9/17

GOOD MORNING!

1. The Pope gave an interview saying, in Italian of course, that the United States of America, which he offensively grouped with Russia, China, North Korea and Syria, have “a distorted vision of the world.”

The Pope, who has spent the bulk of his adult life seeing the world through the narrowly focused lense of the Catholic Church, and who hails from a South American leftist state, thinks that the United States has a distorted view of the world. Wow. Besides the stunning hubris of this pronouncement, the Pope is engaging in an abuse of position and influence, and a remarkably short-sighted one. If he wants to exercise any influence at all over citizens of the world who have not been indoctrinate since childhood to regard him as a godly sage by virtue of a secret political vote by a bunch of superannuated Cardinals, he has to earn credibility by the evident quality of the statements he makes. Later on, in the same interview, the Pope made it clear that his  undistorted vision of the world involves endorsing open borders.

I think the Pope has a distorted view of the trustworthiness of celibate men who have access to young boys, so I really couldn’t care less what he thinks about U.S. policies when he can’t objectively and responsibly process the terrible realities in his own organization.

2. I’ve been reading and  listening to sportswriters since I was ten, and I have to say that I have little respect for the critical thinking skills of most of them. I was gobsmacked by an example of why this morning, as Steve Buckley, a long-time baseball reporter for the Hub’s #2 paper The Boston Herald, opined in a virtue-signaling mess of a column that “War heroes, not David Ortiz, deserve streets named after them.” David Ortiz, in case you live in a fallout shelter, is the recently retired iconic slugger of the Boston Red Sox. The team recently retired his number, and in a related honor, the city of Boston re-named a small street near the park after him. It had earlier named one of the many bridges in the city after him.

“We should reserve the streets, the corners, the squares, the playgrounds, to remember the men and women who died serving our country.” Buckley writes. Why? He never really gives a reason, he just tells us that this is the way it should be.  Why are the veterans who die in military service more honor-worthy than those who risked their lives but survived? Since when are society’s only real heroes military heroes? Is he a time-traveler from Ancient Sparta? Do contributions to society during peacetime or on the home front matter less to a community than what happens on a foreign battlefield?

What about fallen police officers and fire fighters? Not worth a street name? Philanthropists, inventors and innovators who made life better for all, launched businesses, created jobs, helped families and neighborhood thrive—these don’t warrant a little bit of  local immortality?  David Ortiz made millions of people happy. In a racially divided city, Ortiz, a black man, became the face of Boston sports, at least for those who were nauseated by Tom Brady’s smug countenance.  That was as important as his clutch home runs. Trivializing Ortiz’s contributions to Boston (the relationship of Bostonians to their infuriating baseball team is too complex to explain quickly to anyone who hasn’t been part of it) is trivializing the importance of entertainment and popular culture, which is nothing short of ignorant, especially in the United States. In the District of Columbia, a school is named after Duke Ellington. Good. In Los Angeles, for decades until California leftists finally removed it, a major airport was named after John Wayne. Excellent. And in Boston, the largest tunnel is named after Ted Williams, but maybe Buckley thinks that’s OK because Williams was a combat flier in two wars. (Pssst! Ted’s tunnel isn’t bearing his name because he crash-landed that jet, Steve!)

As a society and a species, we have a duty to remember those who have contributed to the culture we enjoy. There aren’t enough streets, schools, bridges and parks to honor them all, but they all deserve to be honored. Continue reading

From “The Ethics Incompleteness Principle” Files: Anomalies And The Boston Red Sox Uniform Number Retirement Standards

The Ethics Incompleteness Principle argues that no rule works in all circumstances, so you have to be alert to when making exceptions is appropriate. The concept is illustrated by how the Boston Red Sox retire uniform numbers.

I will explain…

Major League Baseball teams retire the uniform numbers of players who they want to honor in perpetuity. The number is displayed somewhere in the ballpark, and no player on that team can ever wear it again.

Doing this requires standards, however, or else the honor becomes diluted and the retired numbers include those that seem increasingly strange and arbitrary as time goes by. The New York Yankees have retired so many uniform numbers that no single digit will ever again grace the back of a Yankee star. Moreover, several of the individuals who sanctified those numbers include players who never were and never will be called “great,” like Bernie Williams, who led the league in exactly one category, once, in his entire career, and whose Similarity Score index contains all very good but not great outfielders, the most similar being Paul O’Neil, a former Yankee star whose uniform is not retired. Another retired Yankee uniform number is that of Roger Maris, who only played for the Yankees for six years, many of them unremarkable. Having one’s uniform retired in the Bronx along with those of Babe, Lou, Mickey and Joe appears to mean “Somebody in charge really liked him.”

Well, at least that’s a standard that is easy to maintain.

The Boston Red Sox, in contrast, were not going to have a retired uniform glut. The franchise established an iron set of criteria for the honor, with three prongs:

1. The player must be an inarguable Red Sox great who played at least 10 years with the team.

2. The player must be an elected member of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

3. The player must retire as a member of the Red Sox.

Today the Red Sox are retiring the number of David Ortiz, who retired himself at the end of last season. While he might well be voted into the Hall of Fame, he may not, for complex and controversial reasons. The Red Sox, who could reasonably argue that Ortiz has been the most popular and important player in the team’s history (though Ted Williams was the best) rightly concluded that to delegate to the  Hall of Fame voters the determination of whether Ortiz’s #34 would be retired with lesser Boston heroes made no sense. Thus his uniform number will momentarily obliterate that second prong, which had already been waived once. In that case, the beneficiary was Johnny Pesky, a classic anomaly and line-blurrer. Continue reading

The Wrenching Problem Of David Ortiz, The Human Slippery Slope

papi_fame

Ethics conflicts force us to choose when multiple ethical principles and values point to diametrically opposed resolutions.  Often, a solution can be found where the unethical aspects of the resolution can be mitigated, but not this one. It is a tale of an ethics conflict without a satisfactory resolution.

I didn’t want to write this post. I considered waiting five years to write it, when the issue will be unavoidable and a decision mandatory. Toda, however, is the day on which all of Boston, New England, and most of baseball will be honoring Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, who will be playing his finale regular season game after a 20 years career.  His 2016 season is quite possibly the best year any professional baseball player has had as his final one; it is definitely the best season any batter has had at the age of 40 or more. Ortiz is an icon and a hero in Boston, for good reason. Ortiz was instrumental in breaking his team’s infamous 86-year long “curse” that saw it come close to winning the World Series again and again, only to fail in various dramatic or humiliating ways. He was a leader and an offensive centerpiece of three World Champion teams in 2004, 2007, and 2013. Most notably, his record as a clutch hitter, both in the regular season and the post season is unmatched. You can bring yourself up to speed on Ortiz’s career and his importance to the Red Sox, which means his importance to the city and its culture, for nowhere in America takes baseball as seriously as Beantown, here.

That’s only half the story for Ortiz. Much of his impact on the team, the town and the game has come from his remarkable personality, a unique mixture of intensity, charm, intelligence, generosity, pride and charisma. After the 2013 terrorist bombing of the Boston Marathon, which shook the city as much as any event since the Boston Massacre, Ortiz made himself the symbol of Boston’s anger and defiance with an emotional speech at Fenway Park. Then he put an exclamation point on his defiance by leading the Red Sox, a last place team the year before, to another World Series title.

Performance-based arguments against electing Ortiz to baseball’s Hall of Fame are, at this point, untenable. Entering his final game, Ortiz had 541 home runs, (17th all-time), 1,768 RBI, (22nd), and 632 doubles, (10th).  He is only the third player in history to have more than 500 home runs and 600 doubles.  He ranks among the greatest post season hitters in baseball history with 17 home runs, 60 RBI and 21 doubles. His postseason average is .295 with an on base percentage of .409, a slugging percentage of .553 and a .962 OPS (the sum of the two.) Most great players did worse in the post season than during the regular season, for the obvious reason: the competition was better. Ortiz was better, which informs regarding his character and dedication.

The one lingering argument against admitting Ortiz to a ranks of Ruth, Williams, Aaron, Mays, Cobb, Hornsby, Griffey and the rest is that he has spent most of his career as a designated hitter, the American League’s 1973 invention, much reviled by National League fans and baseball traditionalists, designed to allow real batters relive fans from watching pitchers make fools of themselves at the plate. This makes him “half a player,” the argument goes. No designated hitter has ever been elected to the Hall, so that argument has prevailed so far. It was always a weak one—how did being lousy fielders like so many Hall of Fame sluggers make them greater players than one who never hurt his team at all with his glove? Now that a designated hitter has shown himself to be in the elite ranks of all the greatest batters, the argument sounds more like hysterical anti-DH bias than ever.

I should also note, before getting to the main point of this post, that I love Ortiz. I am a life-time Red Sox fan, Boston born, bred and marinated, and Big Papi is special. He is one of the most interesting and admirable sports figures of my lifetime, and what he has meant to my city and my favorite sport is beyond quantifying. Few great athletes demonstrate persuasively that they are also great and admirable human beings. Ortiz is one of them.

Nonetheless, it is crucial that David Ortiz not be elected to the Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible five years from now, and that he never be admitted. On the matter of assessing the fitness for baseball honors of those who defiled the game by inflating their statistics, changing the outcome of games and harming players who abided by the rules, David Ortiz is a human slippery slope. Ortiz deserves to be in the Hall based on all admission criteria, including character and sportsmanship, but his admission will open the doors wide for players who are unfit, polluting the Hall of Fame and baseball’s values forever.

It’s not worth the trade off. This is the ethics conflict: one cannot be fair and just to “Big Papi” without doing widespread harm to the sport, and I would argue, the entire culture. Continue reading

Well, THAT Question’s Answered: No Parting Gifts For A-Rod

No-GiftI wrote in an earlier Ethics Quiz that the retirement of Yankee Cheat and Head Creep Alex Rodriguez tomorrow would put the Boston Red Sox in a difficult position tonight. Should they honor him, as the Yankees will honor Red Sox star David Ortiz in his final appearance in Yankees Stadium? Or should they  eschew any recognition, since the Boston fans hate Alex’s guts?

Apparently, as often is the case, the problem was not as difficult as my ethical alarms were telling me. The Sox won’t even give A-Rod a cupcake. There will be no recognition of his career, other than the symphony of boos that will rain down on him from the Fenway Faithful every single time he comes to bat.

Good.