Afternoon Ethics Round-Up, 2/12/2019: It’s Kamala Harris Day, Among Other Things…

Howdy…

1. Without the decency to say, “Well, we didn’t find anything.”  From CNN: “After two years and 200 interviews, the Senate Intelligence Committee is approaching the end of its investigation into the 2016 election, having uncovered no direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to both Democrats and Republicans on the committee.”

The honorable, fair and honest thing for Senate Democrats (and Democrats generally) would be to state clearly and unequivocally that they found no evidence of “collusion,” and therefore were going to stop insinuating that collusion took place. But these are not honorable, fair and honest people, but people who are determined to undermine public trust in the President, elections, the government and democracy, because they would rather have power in a ruined, crippled government than not have power at all. Thus Committee co-chair, Sen. Mark Warner, D.-Va.,  told reporters, “I’m not going to get into any conclusions I have, [but] “there’s never been a campaign in American history … that people affiliated with the campaign had as many ties with Russia as the Trump campaign did.”  This ranks among the most weaselly statements in recent memory. “Ties” is a deceitful term wielded by the news media—by its definition I have ties to Russia. People “affiliated with the campaign” having business dealings with Russia or Russians, or communications with Russia, are not the same as the campaign having “ties” to Russia. Warner’s statement is, at its most trivial, sour grapes, and at its worst, a deliberate smear.

One Democratic Senate investigator told CNN (anonymously of course),”Donald Trump Jr. made clear in his messages that he was willing to accept help from the Russians. Trump publicly urged the Russians to find Clinton’s missing emails.” After all this, that’s the smoking gun? An obvious, off the cuff joke Trump made on the stump? “We were never going to find a contract signed in blood saying, ‘Hey Vlad, we’re going to collude,'” another Democratic aide sniffed. This is, of course, a dishonest version of Hillary’s “It wasn’t the best decision” (referring to her illegal decision to hijack official emails into a private server) rationalization. No, Hillary, not only wasn’t it the best decision, it was a terrible, suspicious, indefensible decision, and no, anonymous partisan hack, you were not only not going to find a contract signed in blood, you weren’t going to find any evidence of illicit, illegal, impeachable contacts at all.

The Democratic Party has allowed its defeat in 2016 to rot the party and its supporters to the core.

2. Baseball and lawyers! As I discussed here, Baseball’s Today’s Game Committee (formerly known as the Veterans Committee) elected OF/DH Harold Baines to the Hall of Fame in a decision that was not only logically indefensible, but obviously tainted by conflicts of interest and the appearance of impropriety, since associates and friends of Baines dominated the voting process. Now one of the pro-Baines voters, Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa (full disclosure: he works for the Red Sox now) has written an article  defending the decision. What is interesting about the article is that LaRussa, though few remember this, is trained as a lawyer, and his defense of picking Baines uses one legal advocacy device after another. Bill Baer, at NBC Sports, isn’t a lawyer, but he does an excellent job with his reply brief to LaRussa’s tortured and statistically deceitful arguments.

3. Let’s start a pool! Which of the gazillion Democrats running for President will commit the most verbal gaffes and require the rationalized defense, “Well he/she still doesn’t lie as much as Trump does!”? Obviously Joe Biden will be a popular choice for the title, as his foot is more or less positioned in his mouth up to the knee, but I think it will be a very competitive contest. For example (from Reason): Continue reading

Cold Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/10/18: You’ve Got Ethics To Keep You Warm!

Brrrrr!

Maybe this will help...

1. Starting with the important stuff: Baseball’s badly-named Today’s Game Era Committee announced that long-time right-fielder/designated hitter Harold Baines and towering closer Lee Smith had been voted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Smith, who retired as the all-time saves leader and is now third behind two Hall of Famers, was a defensible pick, but not Baines. The Committee’s job is to look back on players who were rejected in the regular Hall of Fame voting process and see if some of them fell through the cracks who were Hall caliber. There are only 16 members of the committee, and an ex-player needs 12 votes to enter Cooperstown. The sixteen members included at least four with strong ties to Baines, and they  presumably argued eight more members into letting him squeak by.  Bias made them stupid. Those four, which included Baines’ former manager and the owner of the Chicago White Sox, which retired his number, should have had to recuse themselves because of conflicts of interest.

Baines led the league in an offensive category, once, when he had the best slugging percentage in the American League. He never finished high in the Most Valuable Player voting. Most of the players who compare most closely to him are not in the Hall. The big thing Baines had going for his candidacy as a very good but not great player was that everybody liked him. He’s sort of the opposite of Curt Schilling, who is clearly Hall-worthy but whom most sportswriters hate—too religious, too conservative, too mouthy.

Now the argument for admitting other good but not great players will be, “But he was better than Harold Baines!” This is how conflicts of interest undermine the integrity of institutions.

2. When Naked Teachers have no excuses.  The Naked Teacher Principle holds that when a teacher allows a nude photo of herself or himself to circulate on the web where it can be seen by students, that teacher cannot complain when and if it leads to their dismissal.  A teacher really can’t complain if she sends the photo to a student intentionally, which is what Ramsey Bearse, 28, a former Miss Kentucky now teaching at Andrew Jackson Middle School in Cross Lanes, West Virginia, did with a 15-year-old former student , according to the sheriff’s office. She faces four felony counts of distributing or displaying obscene matter to a minor.

3. Pondering whether to include an open Ethics Alarms forum as a regular feature. Many of the blogs I frequent for story ideas do this late at night. Ethics Alarms has done it once when I was forced to be away from a keyboard for most of the day, and I was impressed with the results. Those forums on the other blogs often devolve into silliness, bad jokes, memes and worse, and I would insist that an “open forum” on Ethics Alarms be restricted to raising and discussing ethics and ethical topics. Continue reading