Lunchtime Ethics Snack, 1/17/2020: Dirty Money, Dirty Baseball, And “Parasite”

Yum or Yecchh?

1. And the baseball cheating scandal is still roiling! I feel sorry for ethics enthusiasts who are missing out on this fascinating episode because they shut down when baseball is mentioned. One emerging issue that focuses on “woke” (and in some quadrants, sadly, female) leadership models has become evident. The two managers fired in the sign-stealing scandal were part of the “new wave” of “collaborative” baseball managers that teams embraced in recent years. They are sensitive to the players’ needs; they don’t give orders as much as set flexible boundaries; they are not confrontational, and they absorb and guide the culture of the clubhouse rather than dictate it. Then we learn, in MLB’s report on its investigation, that when Houston’s A.J. Hinch discovered (in 2017) that his bench coach and his players were operating an elaborate sign-stealing operation that he knew violated the rules , he made it known that he disapproved, but never ordered them to stop. Now baseball commentators are saying that the Astros need to hire an “old school” manager (like the ones who have been put out to pasture over the last five years) who will be leader, who will lay down the law, and who won’t shy away from confrontation for fear of not being “collaborative.”

Duh. How did anyone come to think effective leaders should do otherwise? Leaders need to lead. Leading doesn’t have to be autocratic, but a leader who acts like Hinch did in this matter is no leader at all.

In another revelation regarding the scandal, the report by Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred states that when Manfred put teams on notice in a Sept. 15, 2017 memo that using electronic means to steal and relay opposing teams’ signs during games would henceforth be  severely punished, Houston General Manager Jeff Luhnow “did not forward the memoranda and did not confirm that the players and field staff were in compliance … Had Luhnow taken those steps in September 2017 it is clear to me that the Astros would have ceased both sign-stealing schemes at the time.”

This is gross managerial negligence, and it puts Lahlow’s self-serving statement that he had no involvement in his team’s cheating in perspective. Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Refresher, 1/15/2020: Firing, Tweeting, Protesting, Talking Friends Into Suicide…

Hello?

Traffic here inexplicably dead yesterday and today. Is there a secret ethics convention nobody told me about? There is, isn’t there? I’m hurt…

1. It’s too bad so many readers don’t pay attention to the baseball posts, because a lot of fascinating ethics issues with general applications arise…like right now. Yesterday, as already mentioned in an update to yesterday’s post and a couple of comments, the Boston Red Sox “parted ways with Manager Alex Cora by mutual agreement.” (He was fired.) In a press conference I just watched, the Red Sox brass said that Cora, who was both successful and popular in Boston, was let go solely because of the MLB investigation report regarding his involvement in cheating while serving as a coach for the Houston Astros in 2017, and the allegations of cheating  while managing the Sox in 2018, still under investigation, played no part in the decision. What they meant is that the Astros cheating was going to result in a long suspension for Cora anyway, so the team didn’t need to wait for the bad news regarding his cheating in Boston.

The weirdest thing about the press conference is that none of the four Sox officials would do anything but praise Cora, his character, his judgment, his dedication to the team, his devotion to baseball. Gee, why did they fire this saint, then? Alex Cora’s character is obviously flawed, or he wouldn’t have masterminded major cheating schemes that cost the Astros 5 million dollars and four key draft choices while losing the jobs of two men who advanced his career. Cora’s judgement also stinks, because his actions have now cast a shadow over two teams, their championships, and the records of the players his schemes benefited.

If he was so dedicated to the team, why is  it now facing a public relations and competitive disaster because of his actions? If he was devoted to baseball, how did he end up at the center of a scandal that undermines the perceived integrity of the game? Continue reading

Apologies And Other Fallout From The Baseball Cheating Scandal (Updated, And Updated Again)

Ex-Astros manager Hinch and “dead man walking” Alex Cora, the cheating mastermind.

Since I posted the initial commentary on Major League Baseball’s tough punishment of the Houston Astros for their illegal sign-stealing (there are legal ways to steal signs too), there have been some interesting developments with ethical implications.

The full MLB report  can be read or downloaded here.

  • One promising development is the widespread discussions of organizational culture that have been taking place in the media. When Astros owner Jim Crane announced that he was firing GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch, both suspended for a year by the Commissioner of Baseball, he made it clear that the team needed to reform its culture, which had metastasized from  “play to win”  into a “win by any means necessary.”  There were signs of this in Houston long before the sign-stealing was known, when in 2018 the team traded for relief pitcher Robero Osuna while he was suspended for domestic abuse and facing trial—even though the Astros had previously announced a “no-tolerance” policy regarding players and domestic abuse. The team really needed a closer, you see.

The Astros culture, we now can see, was thoroughly compromised by ethics rot, and eliminating one or two managers won’t fix the problem immediately.

  • A prime enabler of that rot was Jeff Luhnow, who traded for Osuna. After he was fired yesterday, he issued this apology:

Continue reading

Breaking: Major League Baseball Clobbers The Houston Astros For Their Sign-Stealing Scheme, And Red Sox Manager Alex Cora Is In The Cross-Hairs

In November, I proposed that the Houston Astros should be punished severely for their sign-stealing during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, the first of which resulted in a World Series Championship. Major League Baseball’s investigation is complete, and today the wrath of the Baseball Gods rained down on the team. MLB didn’t take my advice (stripping the team of its titles), but the actions it dis take were surprisingly and appropriately tough.

The Astros, you will recall,  used illegal cameras and video monitors to steal the signs of opposing catchers at Houston’s Minute Maid Park, then signal those signs to their hitters before pitches by banging on trash cans. This occurred throughout the 2017 regular season and postseason, and during the 2018 season as well. Baseball’s Commissioner Rob Manfred suspended Astros Manager A.J. Hinch and General Manager Jeff Luhnow, fined the team $5 million (the most allowed under the MLB rules)  and took away the team’s top two draft picks in both 2020 and 2021. Hours after the announcement, the Astros fired both Hinch and Luhlow, with owner Jim Crane  saying, “We need to move forward with a clean slate. [We] will not have this happen again on my watch.”

All of this is as it should be. The MLB investigation indicated that Hinch had not been involved in the sign-stealing, but was aware of it and allowed it to continue.

Now the saga moves on to, <sigh>, the Boston Red Sox. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/2/2020: A Rich Assortment Of Jerks And Assholes To Begin The Year.

 It’s finally Getting Back To Normal Day!

I don’t know about you, but I feel like everything’s been one big, holiday/stress/disruption blur since I enlivened Thanksgiving dinner by keeling over. There should be  law preventing Christmas and New Years from falling on Wednesdays, which effectively kills two full weeks. I’m behind on everything, and I don’t know what I could have done to avoid it…

1. Sigh. This is what we have to look forward to in 2020…Ezra Klein, the Left-biased Washington Post journalist who founded Vox, which he then staffed with all Left-biased journalists, tweeted out the link a nine-month-old Post article stating as fact that counties hosting Trump rallies saw massive spikes in hate crimes compared to counties that didn’t host Trump rallies. By Wednesday afternoon, Klein’s tweet had been re-tweeted  more than 7,000 times and had more than 14,000 likes. It also polluted many Facebook feeds.

Klein didn’t tell his 2.5 million followers  that the article relied on a study that had been debunked months ago by  Harvard University researchers Matthew Lilley and Brian Wheaton.  “The study is wrong, and yet journalists ran with it anyway,” they revealed in in Reason magazine four months ago. That’s four. 4. IV. F-O-U-R.

Lilley and Wheaton tried to replicate the original study—if a study is valid, you can do that.  They discovered that “adding a simple statistical control for county population to the original analysis causes the estimated effect of Trump rallies on reported hate crimes to vanish. “Given how little scrutiny was required to reveal the flaws in the thesis that Trump rallies cause hate incidents, one cannot help but wonder whether its viral status was aided by journalists predisposed to believe its message,” the researchers noted.

Ya think?

Klein’s tweet is still up. It’s false and inflammatory, but it advances one of the key Big Lies (that would be #4), so he is running with it anyway. Do you wonder why those on opposite sides of the partisan divide have different views of reality? This kind of thing is a primary reason.

Enemy of the people.

2. The first “I don’t understand this story at ALL” of 2020:

 In July 2018, Michael J. Reynolds. a New York City police officer, was in Nashville for a three-night bachelor-party trip with six other officers. At one point in the festivities,  Reynolds, who is white, kicked in a black woman’s door in a drunken rage, threatening her (“I’ll break every bone in your neck…”) and her sons while calling them “niggers” and showering them with obscenities. He was arrested, tried, and sentenced to 15 days in jail with three years’ probation after pleading no contest to four misdemeanors, court records show. Nevertheless, he remains an employee of the N.Y.P.D. More than 10,000 people signed an online petition demanding his dismissal and supporting the woman whose home he invaded.

Theories? Never mind unions, due process and mandatory investigations: the incident took place a full year and a half ago. There is no excuse for this. Reynolds apologized and said that he was so drunk he doesn’t remember the episode. Oh! Then that’s OK, Officer! Let’s all forget the whole thing!

As it habitually does, the New York Times reached a false analogy, writing,

The case of Officer Reynolds is again focusing scrutiny on the pace of the Police Department’s disciplinary process. In a prominent example of how it can drag on, five years passed before Officer Daniel Pantaleo, whose use of a prohibited chokehold contributed to the 2014 death in police custody of Eric Garner, was fired and stripped of his pension benefits in August.

Ridiculous. There were legitimate issues involved in Pantaleo’s case that made the proper discipline in his case complicated and controversial. There are no reasons for controversy here. Continue reading

Cancel Culture Ethics: Two Gaffes, Two Polls

Chuck Bonniwell and Julie Hayden, a husband and wife team, co-hosted the “Chuck and Julie “show  on KNUS AM TalkRadio in Denver. Riffing about the impeachment this week, Bonniwell said,  “All right, here, a little after 1:30, talking about the never-ending impeachment of Donald Trump. Then he added, chuckling, ” You know, you wish for a nice school shooting to interrupt the impeachment news….”  Julie quickly jumped in, saying, “No! No! Don’t even — don’t even say tha!. No, don’t even say that! Don’t call us. Chuck didn’t say that!”Still laughing,  Bonniwell tried a save, finishing his handing sentence with “in which no one would be hurt.”

Jason Salzman of the Colorado Times Recorder, who said that after hearing Hayden’s plea for listeners not to call their complaints about her husband’s joke, he “called anyway.” Sandy Phillips, who lost her daughter in the Aurora theater shooting, posted on Twitter: “This guy should be fired. Total ignorance. Shootings hurt us all … just ask witnesses and first responders. You don’t have to be shot to be wounded.”

Bonniwell isued an apology the next evening after 24 hours of criticism on the “Chuck & Julie” Twitter feed, saying,  “I made an inappropriate comment meant as a joke. I’m sorry it was not received that way.”  Too late. KNUS fired Chuck and Julie later that evening:

Was this a fair decision?

I’m not sure it was. As I have held here on other occasions, those who take extemporaneously for a living, especially when they are expected to be amusing, are constantly walking a high wire. Occasional gaffes, including moments when certain metaphorical landmines are tread-upon or lines are crossed, are inevitable, and the more creative and bold the talent, the more likely such events are. A no-tolerance policy is unreasonable, and it is virtually always the ethical approach to treat the first such error with a warning or punishment short of dismissal. Virtually, because there may always be single gaffes that are so terrible and potentially destructive to the talent’s employer that firing is the only response.

Thus the question here is whether Chuck Bonniwell’s comment falls in the latter category. My view si that it does not: Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: Santa In A MAGA Cap”

The issue of whether a mall should have fired a long-time Santa who posed for gag photo in a MAGA cap inevitably invited comparisons with the Naked Teacher Principle, which holds “that a secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for  children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result.” There are many variations of the NTP, including the recently visited Naked Congresswoman Principle, which cost Rep. Katie Hill her seat.

The question: Is there, or should there be a “President Trump-supporting Santa Claus Principle?

Here is Alizia’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Quiz: Santa In A MAGA Cap”

“I think this one might fall into The Naked Teacher Principle.”

I think I can understand why you would say that, but I think there are a few problems with that assessment. I will try to explain:

First, a school teacher who engages in sexual misconduct, is transgressing in a limited area. Our social norms — though this is changing of course — does not allow teachers of children to appear to be loose sexually. Long ago, and more especially for women who were teachers — and mostly women were teachers — it was part of cultural norms that a teacher have a ‘chaste appearance’.

But in a sense there is no issue of ‘speech’ involved when and if a teacher posts a naked photo. That is, there is no ‘speech content’ or political opinion expressed. If there is a ‘speech’ issue it is only of a vary limited sort.

The Santa who had his photo taken with a Trump hat should never have had to apologize to anyone. He was completely free to take such a photo of himself. There is no possible argument that could be brought out in a so-called free society that could successfully take the man’s right away. Continue reading