Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up After The Red Sox Complete An Unprecedented Late Inning Comeback In The World Series HAHAHAHAHA!, 10/28/18: Obama’s “Norms”, Goodbye Apu, #MeToo Hypocrisy, And “Roshomon,” Chicago-Style

Focus, Jack, focus!

1. Not the World Series, ETHICS! And speaking of ethics…

  • What kind of lie is this? Rich Hill, the Dodgers starting pitcher last night who almost unhittable, said in an interview that he “liked” his team’s chances of winning the Series despite being behind 3 games to 1. World Series history and basic math says that the chances are “slim.” He likes the slim chances? Does he really like them? Does he believe liking them means they are more likely to break his way?

Is he just lying to buck up his team and its fans, when he really doesn’t “like” the chances at all, not being, you know, an idiot? Does that make it a “good lie”?

  • The Fox World Series broadcast team of Joe Buck and John Smoltz is incompetent. In a potentially game-changing play in which the Boston catcher’s throw attempting to complete a home-to-first double-play sailed past first, allowing the game’s first run to score, the two alleged experts said that there was no interference. Wrong. There was interference, and it was obvious: Bellinger, the Dodgers runner, was on the infield grass rather than the yard-wide running lane to the right of the baseline, which exists precisely for plays like that, when the catcher needs a lane to throw unimpeded to first base to get the out.  It should have been called runner’s interference, completing a double-play and ending the inning without a run scoring. Instead, the run scored on the errant throw from Boston catcher Vasquez, and the next batter, Yasiel Puig, hit a three-run homer to give L.A. a 4-0 lead. There was no discussion of the rules and issues involved.

But after the game, over at the MLB cable channel, former Yankees manager Joe Girardi and baseball analyst Harold Reynolds graphically illustrated that the interference should have been called. This is what the Fox broadcasters are paid for: to explain the nuances of the rules and the game to the average World Series viewer, whose baseball acumen is rudimentary. The umpires missed the play, even though as Reynold pointed out, it was called many times during the season. Umpires are reluctant to call interference of any kind during the post-season, because it’s messy, and guarantees controversy and an on-field arguments.

  • For an unusual first ball ceremony, former Red Sox-Oakland Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley (Now an ace Boston TV color man, known New England-wide as “Eck”) threw a pitch to ex-Dodgers catcher Steve Yeager as Kirk Gibson stood in the batters box. Gibson, you should recall, hit the famous “The Natural” home run off Eckersley to win Game #1 of the 1988 World Series, after limping to the plate as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the 9th inning. How many ex-players would voluntarily re-enact their worst moment on the field on national TV? Imagine Ralph Branca throwing a ceremonial first pitch to Bobby Thompson.

Eck personifies humility and exemplary sportsmanship.

  • Trump Tweets, Baseball Division. This made me laugh out loud, I have to admit. During the game, the President criticized Dodgers manager Dave Roberts decision to replace Hill with his first baseball tweet:

“It is amazing how a manager takes out a pitcher who is loose & dominating through almost 7 innings, Rich Hill of Dodgers, and brings in nervous reliever(s) who get shellacked. 4 run lead gone. Managers do it all the time, big mistake!”

I wish the President would confine all of his tweeting to second-guessing managers and coaches. It’s obnoxious, but harmless. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, presented with the tweet during his post-game press conference, handed it ethically and well. Steely-faced, he asked, “The President said that?” and responded, sufficiently respectfully, “I’m happy he was tuning in and watching the game. I don’t know how many Dodgers games he’s watched. I don’t think he was privy to the conversation. That’s one man’s opinion.”  Roberts was referring to the fact that Hill told him that he might be getting fatigued. Nonetheless, lots of people other than the President questioned Robert’s decision.

It is pure hindsight bias, of course, as well as consequentialism. If the Dodger bullpen had held a late-inning  4-run lead as every previous World Series bullpen had, nobody would be criticizing Roberts.

2. The confiscated handicapped van. [Pointer: Michael Ejercito] Andrea Santiago’s $15,000 van with a customized wheelchair lift was confiscated  by the City of Chicago as an abandoned vehicle. She has polio and multiple sclerosis, and the family claims the vehicle was parked legally and obviously not abandoned. This is a Roshomon situation, for the accounts of the city and the family are irreconcilable. Chicago’s Department of Streets & Sanitation sent this statement: Continue reading

Ethics Q & A On Obama’s Speaking Fees

Former President Barack Obama received a $400,000 speaking fee for an appearance at an A&E Network event  yesterday, just as controversy was building over Obama accepting the same fee to appear at a Wall Street firm’s conference.

What’s going on here?

The ex-President is cashing in, that’s what’s going on here. This has become standard operating procedure for former POTUSes, beginning with Gerald Ford, who was showered with criticism by Democrats and the news media for signing with the William Morris agency and picking up what was at the time considered obscene speaking fees from corporations and foreign governments. Ford’s fees are dwarfed by Obama’s, but then Barack is a much better speaker than the late President Ford was. (Almost anyone is.)

Jimmy Carter showed admirable restraint by not devoting his post-Presidency to enriching himself off of his years in office, but Ronald Reagan took some mega-fees to speak abroad. The Clintons, as we know too well, instantly went from rags to riches by selling their celebrity, an exercise that was especially dubious because Hillary was on the rise. Obama’s speaking fees are just one more step along the cashing-in path that both he and Michelle had already begun traveling with the astounding 65 million dollar deal the couple signed to write their biographies.

Some questions and answers on the ethics of Obama’s payday:

1.  Is Obama ‘s acceptance of all this money ethical?

In a vacuum, it’s hard to argue that it isn’t. He set a fee, and someone is willing to pay it. Hillary’s fee was $250,000; if she can get that much for her dry-as-toast delivery as a former Senator, Secretary of State and First Lady, Obama’s a bargain at $400,000. As a private citizen, he has the same right any of us do to sell his books and speeches at whatever the market will bear.

I, for example, get $37.56 for an hour long speech, and am glad to get it..

2. But it isn’t in a vacuum, right?

Right. Obama still has power and influence; he still promises to be a voice in the Democratic party. He’s not exactly a private citizen, and no ex-President is. Taking such a large payment from a Wall Street firm, after all of Obama’s rhetoric (and that of Bernie Sanders, the non-Democrat now being paraded as a leader of the Democratic party) condemning Wall Street has the decided whiff of hypocrisy about it. Not only, that, but as with Hillary Clinton and Bill, the payment of such jaw-dropping amounts for minimal service natural raises questions of pay-offs. Obama’s administration famously sought no criminal sanctions for Wall Street executives despite their  role in what Obama called “driving the economy into a ditch.” How do we know this wasn’t part of an installment payment to Obama for services already rendered, a quid pro quo? We don’t.

It is also hard to make sense out of those fees if they aren’t paying for something more than an hour long speech.

3. So these fees create “the appearance of impropriety?” Continue reading