Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 8/23/2020, As If Anyone Needs To be Warmed Up Today…

Hot enough for ya?

1. False narrative, bad analogy. The popular media narrative is that President Trump is in a similar position to George H.W. Bush in 1988, when polls at this point showed him trailing Democratic Presidential nominee Michael Dukakis by a large margin. Conservative media had cited the comparison earlier this summer to make the simple point that being behind in the polls in July is relatively meaningless. Lately the mainstream media has been flogging the analogy in order to continue its doomsday prediction for the Trump campaign.

“Bush ’88 rally could be map for Trump ’20” is somehow deemed worthy of a front page spot in the Sunday Times. To begin with, that’s fake news of the “future news” variety. (“…or, it might not be.”) More importantly, it’s straw man: the article exists to to show that President Trump may not be able to prevail, because, you see, having begun with the false assertion that his situation is similar to Bush’s, the Times explains that the situations aren’t that similar at all. The bad analogy is created to rebut it.

In fact, the differences between the Bush challenge in 1988 and Trump’s in 2020 mostly favor the President. Bush was never a popular figure; he was distrusted by conservatives, and only was nominated because an epicly popular President, Ronald Reagan, anointed him as his approved successor. (Barack Obama, in contrast, avoided “anointing” Biden.) A strong Democratic opponent would have beaten Bush; Dukakis was weak. He was ahead in the polls when nobody outside of Massachusetts knew what  he was like. Trump has a large base of passionate supporters, something Bush never had. He is an incumbant (Bush was not), and if they run, incumbents almost always win. Bush was an awful debater; Trump has proven effective in debates. And while Dukakis was completely supported by the liberal wing of the party, Biden has critics on the hard left, among feminists (the non-hypocrite faction), and African Americans. The Democratic party of the 1980s had not spent four years trying to overturn an election. Moreover, polls are less reliable now than they were before news media bias began warping them, and Trump’s support, as the last election showed,  is especially hard to measure. Continue reading

When Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring: The Michael Bublé Video

International singing superstar Michael Bublé has  been joined by his wife, Luisana Lopilato, on Instagram Live every day during the pandemic, entertaining his homes-bound fans. However, as you can see in the video above, a moment last week in which he elbowed Luisana with a hint of malice during a recent video livestream had creepy vibes, and it disturbed many viewers. The moment took only a second: as she started speaking over him, he made deliberate contact with her in a flash of anger, and she apologize to him. The celebrity news media, always eager for a scandal, publicized and criticized the incident, as the singer was flamed on social media.

I heard about the episode, and approached it assuming that it was a #MeToo over-reaction, with the singer becoming an innocent target being prepared as q sacrifice  for the greater good of womankind. Then I saw the clip, as well as some of the others shown in the  video above. Boy. I don’t know.

What I saw would make (and has made, in the past)  me very nervous if I observed the same kinds of interactions and body language between any couple I engaged with socially. How hard should it be to display good manners and not engage in questionable conduct like that on a live TV broadcast? The fact that the singer reacted instinctively in such an ugly manner strongly suggests that this is normal conduct for him, or worse, that he was restraining himself. Continue reading

The Houston Astros May Be Trailing In The World Series, But With Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman They Have A World Champion Ethics Dunce…[UPDATED]

‘Why am I smiling! Because I love our closer! He’s got a great fastball, and a great left cross! Aw, lighten up!’

What an idiot.

What an ethically clueless idiot.

The prelude: Last season, the Houston Astros, now embroiled in a World Series with the underdog Washington Nationals, embarrassed themselves by violating the team’s own stated domestic abuse policy by trading for closer Roberto Osuna from the Toronto Blue Jays. The 23-year-old Osuna had just completed a 75-game suspension from MLB for allegedly beating up his wife. The Blue Jays had announced that he would not be a member of their team going forward, despite the fact that he was regarded as one of the best late-inning relievers in the game. Even though the Astros had previously announced a “no-tolerance” policy toward domestic abusers, the team enthusiastically proclaimed their acquisition of Osuna, saying, among other hypocritical  and self-contradictory blather, that the team was “confident that Osuna is remorseful, has willfully complied with all consequences related to his past behavior, has proactively engaged in counseling, and will fully comply with our zero tolerance policy related to abuse of any kind.” At the time, I partially translated the ridiculous double-talk thusly:

…In the interest of winning and because the ends justify the means, we are suspending our “zero-tolerance” policy regarding “abuse of any kind” to tolerate a player whom Major League Baseball has determined to be a very serious abuser. I don’t know how we’re going to tell another player who is credibly accused of less serious abuse that we won’t tolerate his presence on the team when we just voluntarily brought an abuser onto the team, but never mind: there’s a pennant to win. I’m pretending that Roberto has complied with all consequences related to his past behavior when he is currently pleading not guilty in his pending Canadian trial on battery charges, in the hope that most fans aren’t paying attention.Thank you.”

The Astros are NOT the favorite team of feminists, #MeToo advocates, or anyone who does not appreciate the King’s Pass being given to men who slap women around.

The latest episode:  From Sports Illustrated: Continue reading

Exhibit A On Why It Is Crucial To Understand Moral Luck: The Samuel Lee Scott Affair

St. Louis Bail Project is under attack for bailing out Samuel Lee Scott, who was in jail pending domestic abuse charges and couldn’t pay the court-ordered bond. Once Scott was free, he went home and killed his wife.

The bail system, which is being re-examined across the country, obviously discriminates against the poor. The idea underlying bail is to get the accused out of jail before trial, since he or she is by definition not guilty, and to create  a financial incentive for the accused to appear for trial. The system penalizes poverty, so non-profits like  the St. Louis Bail Project use their resources to allow poor defendants to have the same options rich ones do. It is an ethical mission.

The fact that this one bailee committed murder is pure moral luck regarding the Bail Project. The Project does not second guess the judge’s decision to allow bail, or the system’s determination that Scott wasn’t a flight risk or a danger to the community. Indeed, there may have been no reason to expect that Scott would kill anyone. That he did was moral luck, and cannot be logically or fairly applied retroactively to the St. Louis Bail Project’s decision to pay his bail. The fact that bail was set indicates that the system did not regard him as a threat.

The episode could justifiably spark a debate regarding when and if domestic abusers should be provided with an opportunity to go home, and whether bail in such situations should include a requirement that they live apart and stay away from the alleged victim. What it should not do is cause organizations like the St. Louis Bail Project to doubt the importance of their mission.

Ethics Observations On The Michael Avenatti Arrest

Welcome to karma, Michael Avenetti!

News item:

“Attorney Michael Avenatti has been placed under arrest on suspicion of felony domestic violence and was booked early Wednesday evening.

Los Angeles Police Department officer Jeff Lee said the domestic violence report was taken on Tuesday in West Los Angeles and the arrest was made Wednesday.
“We can confirm that today LAPD Detectives arrested Michael Avenatti on suspicion of domestic violence. This is an ongoing investigation and we will provide more details as they become available,” the LAPD Twitter account posted Wednesday. In a statement, Avenatti called the allegations “completely bogus.”

…Avenatti posted $50,000 bail and left police custody Wednesday evening. He told reporters waiting outside the station, “I have never struck a woman. I never will strike a woman.”

“I am confident I will be fully exonerated,” he added.

…Avenatti emerged this year as a regular antagonist of President Donald Trump, beginning with his legal representation of Stormy Daniels and his frequent media appearances..he has publicly flirted with a potential bid for the Democratic presidential nomination to challenge Trump in 2020. The alleged domestic violence incident could dash Avenatti’s prospects as a potential insurgent Democratic candidate and clash with the image he has presented of himself as an advocate for women, including Daniels in her clash with Trump and an accuser against recently confirmed Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The Vermont Democratic Party canceled Avenatti’s appearances for Friday and Saturday following his arrest, and it will refund all ticket sales, said Christopher Di Mezzo, the party’s communications director.

This story is like a great, big, ethics piñata that got hit squarely by a stick and spilled ethics candy all over the floor!

Observations:

1. Is it unethical to take pleasure in the misfortune of another, even a grandstanding, publicity-obsessed gasbag who makes me want to burn my bar card? Nah, not when the inspiration for mirth is condign justice. Like Michael Cohen, the shenanigans of Avenatti were signature significance for a phony and a charlatan, and his fall was just a matter of time.

We should always take pleasure in the exposure of such public figures, however it occurs. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/21/18: “Ho Ho Hey Hey!”

Good morning!

1.  Oh! You’re bigots and fools, then! Got it. I was watching a mob of—I don’t know, feminists? The “resistance”? chanting yesterday at the Senate: “I believe Anita Hill! I believe Blasey Ford!” I believe that the only reasonable translation of this particular chant—all chants make protesters sound dumb, some chants more than others; at least this one doesn’t start with “Ho ho, hey hey!”—is “I believe whatever story supports my political agenda, and I believe people according to what they are, rather than based on any objective criteria!”

I guess it’s not sufficiently catchy.

2. In case you aren’t nauseous enough...Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick will be one of the eight honorees of Harvard University for their contributions to black history and culture, the university announced yesterday.

Kaepernick, distinguished for his incoherent on field protest  during the national anthem, instantly setting off the NFL’s version of  #MeToo, as in “I want make my own pointless, annoying protest that I can’t adequately explain!,” thus costing the NFL fans and billions of dollars, will receive the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal from Harvard’s  Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. The deliberately divisive honor to Kaepernick, who favors socks with cartoons of pigs in police uniforms, is apparently the work of Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the Hutchins Center and Barack Obama pal. You may remember Professor Gates as the race-baiting catalyst for Obama’s “beer summit,” after Gates impugned the character of a Cambridge police officer. No personal agendas here!

The award supposedly honors individuals who “Emerging from a variety of backgrounds and professions…represent the quest for knowledge, freedom of expression, and pursuit of truth that are foundational to black history and culture, and that were foundational to Du Bois as a thinker and activist.”

Yup, that sure sounds like Colin Kaepernick!

3. Ed Whelan, call your ethicist! Ed Whelan, an attorney and president of the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center, upped the craziness quotient in the Kavanaugh confirmation process and took a First Class seat on the Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck by announcing that Ford’s accusation from three decades ago was based on mistaken identity, and that another student, whom Whelan named and thoroughly doxxed, along with publishing his yearbook photo, was the real alleged assailant.

Well, you can’t just accuse a random private citizen of sexual assault, or even alleged, unsubstantiated sexual assault while a drunken high schooler. I know Ed went to Harvard College and Harvard Law School, but even then, he’s no idiot. I have to believe that this isn’t just an unfounded accusation, because  Ed knows that he’s asking for a lawsuit if it is. He wrote:

“By one week from today, I expect that Judge Kavanaugh will have been clearly vindicated on this matter. Specifically, I expect that compelling evidence will show his categorical denial to be truthful. There will be no cloud over him.”

Whelan has to deliver on a statement like that, or have his own reputation permanently scarred. The only explanation I can come up with is that Kavanaugh’s  twin has already agreed to admit to being at the infamous party and having some kind of episode involving Ford. Of course, there will be no reason to believe him, either.

Still, I may go to the Senate and chant, “I believe Brett Kavanaugh, I believe his secret twin!”

Just for fun. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/31/18: The Self-Deception Edition

Goodbye, July, 2018!

(and don’t come back!)

1. Ethics translation time! Baseball’s current World Champion Houston  Astros just traded for young, exciting closer Roberto Osuna from the Toronto Blue Jays. This raised some eyebrows, because the 23-year-old Osuna is just completing a 75-game suspension from MLB for allegedly beating his wife. The Blue Jays had decided that they wanted no part of Osuna, and that he would not be a member of their team going forward, despite the fact that he is regarded as one of the best late-inning relievers in the game.

Anticipating some criticism from Houston fans and baseball fans in general, who usually don’t like cheering for disgusting people,Astros GM Jeff Luhnow released a statement  following the trade, saying,

 “We are excited to welcome Roberto Osuna to our team. The due diligence by our front office was unprecedented. We are confident that Osuna is remorseful, has willfully complied with all consequences related to his past behavior, has proactively engaged in counseling, and will fully comply with our zero tolerance policy related to abuse of any kind. Roberto has some great examples of character in our existing clubhouse that we believe will help him as he and his family establish a fresh start and as he continues with the Houston Astros. We look forward to Osuna’s contributions as we head into the back half of the season.”

Translation:

“Our team has had bullpen problems all season, and as of now we have no closer, even as the team has lost three games in a row [now it’s four], two of our best players are injured, and we’re beginning a series against the Mariners, who are just a few games behind us. So in the interest of winning and because the ends justify the means, we are suspending our “zero-tolerance” policy regarding “abuse of any kind” to tolerate a player who Major League Baseball has determined to be a very serious abuser. I don’t know how we’re going to tell another player who is credibly accused of less serious abuse that we won’t tolerate his presence on the team when we just voluntarily brought an abuser onto the team, but never mind: there’s a pennant to win. I’m pretending that Roberto has complied with all consequences related to his past behavior when he is currently pleading not guilty in his pending Canadian trial on battery charges, in the hope that most fans aren’t paying attention.”

“Thank you.”

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/25/2018: What Do Kellyann’s Husband And The NFL Kneelers Have In Common? [Updated]

Morning in my home town, Arlington Massachusetts (where they seem to have found another body in Spy Pond….)

Good Morning!

1. George Conway is unethical. It’s really as simple as that. Kellyanne Conway’s husband George, a lawyer, has decided to take advantage of his wife’s notoriety to grab unearned influence and fame for himself. He has become a regular twitter critic of the President, routinely blasting the Administration through mostly re-tweeted commentary from other sources. This, of course, makes the Trumpophobes ecstatic, embarrasses his wife, and gives George 15 hitch-hiked minutes of fame.

Let me count the ways this is wrong:

  • He’s not contributing anything valuable to the public debate, just bolstering his wife’s enemies.  Social media-users who can’t muster their own arguments and who only appeal to authority should not be taken seriously, and if George wasn’t undermining his wife, he wouldn’t be.
  • Who he is married to is the only reason anyone pays any attention to his tweeting. Surely he knows this. Surely he knows that the result is his wife’s embarrassment, and that he he is actively working against her. This is not a James Carville-Mary Matalin act, where both spouses are independently regarded as powerful political consultants. This is spousal sabotage.
  • He’s risking his wife’s career for his own aggrandizement. I’ll say this for Trump: he’s more forgiving than I would be. I would give Kellyanne an ultimatum: get your husband to stop undermining us, dump him, or quit. This is analogous to the crazy estranged husband who keeps coming to his wife’s place of business to harass her. The employer’s completely justified message: “We can’t have this. It’s your problem; fix it, or we will.”

2.  ‘We don’t care: he’s a racist whatever he does.’ President Trump announced his long-rumored pardon of black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson yesterday. (The Times has an interesting feature about Johnson’s travails here.) Praising the President for this long over-due exoneration, an NAACP spokesman said…nah, I’m kidding, the civil rights organization didn’t say anything. However, the Congressional Black Caucus, which had urged President Obama to finally right this decades-long wrong, said…no, they had nothing to say either.  [ Correction: Originally I wrote here that John McCain, who sponsored a resolution asking for Obama to pardon Johnson,, did not signal praise for the pardon. He did, and I apologize to the Senator for the error. Thanks to Dan Abrams for the information.]

There is no reasonable argument against pardoning Johnson, and there never has been. Apparently Obama was hesitant–but then he was always hesitant—this time because Johnson had a reputation for domestic abuse. Thus I presume that the female contingent in the White House pulling Barack’s strings—Valerie and Michelle—along with the all-important advocates for the Democratic Party’s feminist base wouldn’t let him do it. Obama, a lawyer, or so I hear, must have realized that Johnson’s racist persecution by the government for being a  famous and defiant black man who openly had white female companionship had absolutely nothing to do with domestic abuse, and that misconduct a controversial figure may or may not have engaged in unrelated to an unjust criminal conviction shouldn’t play any part in a pardon assessment.

That Barack. So principled. So courageous…

3. I like David French, but...his recent op-ed for the Times attacking the NFL’s ruling on National Anthem protests going forward—if a player won’t stand respectfully, the he must stay off the field, in the locker room—is ethically obtuse. French’s point is that conservatives should champion free speech at a time when the Left is trying to suppress it. That’s a good point, and I agree wholeheartedly, but it has nothing to do with the NFL’s kneelers. I suspect that French wanted to make this argument, and negligently grabbed at the NFL policy as his chance to make it.

He writes in part, Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Eric Schneiderman Scandal

I probably shouldn’t say this, but the guy always looked a little scary to me….I sure would never get in bed with him.

The New Yorker revealed yesterday that four women who had relationships with Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, accused him of violent abuse. In response, he  issued the kind of explanation that is usually as damaging as the allegations it responds to : Schneiderman, 63, denied abusing the women, and said, “In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity. I have not assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in nonconsensual sex, which is a line I would not cross.”

Ah! As long as it’s not rape, he’s OK with it then.

This did not help. Demands that Schneiderman resign flooded the internet and airwaves, including one from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. By the end of the day, Schneiderman, who had been a champion of both the #MeToo movement and the anti-Trump “resistance,” had resigned. His statement:

“In the last several hours, serious allegations, which I strongly contest, have been made against me. While these allegations are unrelated to my professional conduct or the operations of the office, they will effectively prevent me from leading the office’s work at this critical time. I therefore resign my office, effective at the close of business on May 8, 2018.”

The irony and hypocrisy are strong with this one. In 2010, as a state senator, he introduced a bill to make intentional choking to the point of unconsciousness a violent felony. Coincidentally, one of his accusers quoted in the New Yorker revealed

“It just came out of nowhere. My ear was ringing. I lost my balance and fell backward onto the bed. I sprang up, but at this point there was very little room between the bed and him. I got up to try to shove him back, or take a swing, and he pushed me back down. He then used his body weight to hold me down, and he began to choke me. The choking was very hard. It was really bad. I kicked. In every fiber, I felt I was being beaten by a man.”

 The state chapter of the National Organization for Women, Bill Clinton’s fan club, endorsed Schneiderman in his successful bid for attorney general, citing his “unmatched work” in “protecting women who are victims of domestic abuse.” Once elected, his office published a “Know Your Rights”  brochure for victims of domestic violence…you know, when you get beat up by the man you are sleeping with.  Schneiderman had rushed to the front of the #MeToo movement, filing a lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein’s company and seeking to re-open a prosecution against the harraser/abuser/rapist mogul.

“We have never seen anything as despicable as what we’ve seen right here,” Schneiderman said of Weinstein’s conduct.

Weeeell, that may depend on one’s point of view. For example, one of the ex-AG’s bed-mates told The New Yorker, “We could rarely have sex without him beating me….He started calling me his ‘brown slave’ and demanding that I repeat that I was ‘his property.’”

Nice. Continue reading

Baseball’s Intrusive Domestic Abuse Policy

Last year I wrote about Major League Baseball’s domestic abuse policy, which is, pardon the pun, bats. Here is another example.

Red Sox knckcle-baller Steven Wright has been suspended for 15 games under the MLB-MLBPA Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy. Fifteen games is a lot: that’s three starts for a starting pitcher like Wright, and almost 10% of a player’s salary. Wright’s salary is about a million dollars for the upcoming season, and unlike an established star, he isn’t a multi-millionaire. Losing about a hundred grand will hurt, and not just him, but his whole family.

The suspension relates to a mid-December incident in Tennessee in which Wright was arrested and charged with domestic assault and prevention of a 911 call.  Wright was not charged with physical abuse to his wife or any other household members; this was apparently “verbal abuse”—the pitcher’s conduct was so emotional and threatening that his wife was frightened. A plea deal has the charges on the road to being discharged if Wright does not commit any infractions in the next year. He has told reporters that he and his wife are being counseled.

Never mind: Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred suspended him anyway, under this policy: Continue reading