Baseball Ethics: Integrity, Records, And The “Juiced Ball”

 

The Boston Red Sox didn’t make the play-offs (and made me physically ill in the process), but that doesn’t mean I won’t find some baseball ethics to write about during October, which will cover the play-offs and World Series involving  five teams from each league. Some weeks ago commenter JutGory asked about the ethics implications of the so-called juiced baseball. and I was not in a mood to think that seriously about baseball, since the Red Sox were engaged in the final throes of an epic, inexplicable, season-long choke that, among other bad things, soured my wife on the game, undoing years of careful nurturing by me. I’m OK now, and Jut was right, the juiced ball does raise ethics issues.

Early on in the 2019 season, it was obvious that the ball was different somehow. The very first month had more home runs than is normal in the spring, and the phenomenon only got more extreme as the weather got warmer. Pitchers like Houston Astros ace (and likely Cy Young winner as the AL’s best pitcher) Justin Verlander and former Cy Young winner David Price called out MLB management directly, accusing them of messing with the ball to help the hitters. Baseball’s brass denied it initially, but eventually they had to admit that something was weird about the balls.

Researchers  confirmed  that the 2019 ball was traveling farther when hit with the same amount of force than the balls in seasons past. The change was determined to be that the balls’ seams were flatter, less raised, than they had been before. This reduced the drag when they were flying through the air, resulting in longer distances.

How and why this happened is  a mystery. Major League Baseball swears it was an accident,  but nonetheless the sport is completely in in control of the manufacturing of baseballs. It owns the company that makes them. The current theory is that this was a quality control issue or, perhaps, a quirk in which eliminating a flaw in the balls made them too uniform, too exact.

Among the ball’s many specifications, the degree to  which the stitches were raised had never been included. Continue reading

And Now For Something Completely Stupid: “Upbeat,” Unethical Website Of The Month,

Stay away from upbeat, Bart!

Let this incompetent, sloppy, website stand for all of its ilk across the web.

This is a pop culture site initially aroused my ire by tricking me into a slideshow. These are unethical devices used to artificially inflate traffic statistics; it would be like Ethics Alarms breaking every post into ten or more chapters that every view had to click on individually. The clickbait headline was “Hollywood Actors That Don’t Get Cast Anymore,” and the intro suggested that they all had been “blacklisted” for one reason or another. This itself is misleading and sloppy: when “blacklist” is used in reference to Hollywood, it means THE blacklist, the secret list of artists who the studios conspired not to hire because of the reality or rumors of Communist associations, sympathies and activities. To confound things, the slide show mixes in, as padding, I suspect, some figures who were blacklisted for alleged Communist connections.

There is no formal “blacklist” today, though some actors with conservative leanings claim, with some plausibility, that they have struggled after being placed on the bottom of the metaphorical pile because of Hollywood’s ideological intolerance. Communists, ironically, would be welcome in today’s leftist Tinseltown. Among those actors who picked the wrong era to be conservatives are James Woods, Patricia Heaton and the late R. Lee Ermey. Even they, however, couldn’t credibly claim to be blacklisted.

“Upbeat” doesn’t bother with these interesting cases, however. It would rather just make stuff up. Of Brendan Frazier, it says, “Fraser claimed that he had been sexually assaulted by [Phillip Burke] ..the former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association… and whether the allegations were true or not, Fraser has not appeared in a film since. He now spends his time in his mansion outside of NYC, raising his kids and horses.” Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Week: President Donald J. Trump.

As readers here know, flat learning curves on the part of leaders, and certainly Presidents, drive me crazy. Leadership is hard, and the leader who refuses to learn the right lessons when his or her conduct when a particular act or decision has disastrous results is  seriously and perhaps irreparably flawed, as well as untrustworthy.

President Trump has displayed so many flat learning curves in his tenure as President that is tempting to say that refusing to learn from mistakes and disasters is a conscious stylistic choice. Or perhaps that’s not what’s going on; perhaps the problem is not flat-learning curves, but rather the President’s well-established recklessness, his what the hell attitude that no matter what he does, he’ll come through it all right. In this latter interpretation, he has learned, but the wrong lessons.

At this point, I barely care. The problem, whatever it stems from results in incompetence. Like his idiotic tweet about the members of “the Squad” going “back where they came from,” teeing up the “Trump is a racist” ball for all of his foes; like the still ongoing controversy about his trivial statement about a hurricane hitting Alabama,;like his provocative bravado during the 9/11 commemoration reviving his disputed boast about going personally to Ground Zero, like too many careless and embarrassing appointments to list, this latest fiasco was a self-inflicted wound that was completely needless and yet has real, serious, potential consequences….like making people wonder how wise and safe it is to be governed by an executive who presides over perpetual ineptitude, laziness, and stupidity. Continue reading

When Your Friends Insist That There Is No Mainstream Media Partisan Bias, Ask Them To Explain This…

The won’t and can’t, but they’ll deny that there’s bias anyway. Like Joe Biden, they choose “truth” over facts.

In an infamous 2017 editorial, New York Times Editorial Page Editor James Bennet wrote, “In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl, the link to political incitement was clear. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs.”

Not only was this false, the theory had been thoroughly dsiproven years before. Palin’s map had nothing to do with violence. “20 House Democrats from districts we carried in 2008 voted for the health care bill,” the caption said. “IT’S TIME TO TAKE A STAND.”

It was a call to defeat Affordable Care Act supporters, not to shoot them. The theory, pushed by the Times’ Paul Krugman among other left-wing pundits after the Tucson shooting,  that Palin’s unremarkable advocacy inspired the attack, was unmoored to facts or logic. Loughner’s motives were vague, and he was insane, politically liberal,  and unlikely to have been following Palin’s website. Linking Palin to the tragedy (others blamed Rush Limbaugh) was just the kind of dishonest cognitive dissonance game we are seeing now, with Democrats and the news media blaming President Trump for recent shootings.

On the theory that the Times crossed the line from opinion to malice when it intentionally publicized a false,  six-year old smear, Palin sued the Times for libel. This week a federal appeals court revived the lawsuit, which had been thrown out by a lower court on First Amendment grounds. Continue reading

From Ethics Alarms’ “What Were They Thinking?” Files: Fly The Stupid Skies!

For some reason, the old United slogan “Fly the Friendly Skies…” was all I could think of when I encountered these two jaw-dropping news items in rapid succession last night.

On Southwest Airlines…

…Passengers boarding a Nashville-to-Philadelphia flight were startled to discover a flight attendant stuffed into one of the overhead luggage bins. Luckily this was a strange joke rather than the beginning of real-life murder mystery, but some of the passengers weren’t amused.  “I can’t get over how weird I find this,” one of them tweeted, adding “@SouthwestAir please get it together.”

Oh, it’s weird alright. It’s also unprofessional and unsettling. Flying is simply not a joking matter. In-flight staff are responsible for our lives, and we have no choice but to trust them. Any hint that they don’t take their duties seriously, are prone to goofing off, or have poor judgment undermines that trust.

Southwest’s response was to spin for its employee,telling Fox News,

“Southwest Employees are known for demonstrating their sense of humor and unique personalities. In this instance, one of our Flight Attendants attempted to have a brief moment of fun with Customers during boarding. Of course, this is not our normal procedure, and Southwest Crews always maintain Safety as their top priority.”

Reading between the lines, I’d guess that the attendant will not be facing smiles from the brass over her “attempt,” and will be facing some not so funny consequences for acting like a middle-schooler on the job.

Good.

But as the great Al Jolson used to say, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” “What were they thinking?” advances to “Are they capable of thought?” in this amazing tale from

Air Canada.

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Robert Mueller’s Disastrous Testimony And Its Significance, Part Two

Part I is here.

Random Observations on the Mueller testimony and aftermath:

  • Observing the desperate spin offered by frustrated “resistance” members, desperate Democrats and social media Trump-Haters has been almost as revealing as Mueller’s performance. The most positive  takeaway they could muster is that Mueller clearly said that his investigation didn’t exonerate the President. That’s meaningless. It is not a prosecutor’s job to exonerate anybody, ever. An investigation’s goal is to determine whether there is probable cause to determine that a crime or crimes have been committed, not to prove anyone’s innocence. The hearts of the impeachment mob leaped for joy briefly during the morning hearing of the Judiciary Committee when Mueller answered “yes” to Rep. Ted Lieu’s (D–Calif.) question whether he had declined to indict Trump because of an existing Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion stating that a sitting president couldn’t be charged with a crime. Ah-HA!  Mueller had found evidence of illegal activity committed by the President and was only prevented from indicting him by Justice Department policy! Start those impeachment hearings!

Never mind. In the afternoon hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, reversed himself,   saying that that OLC opinion prevented him from making any determination, period, of Trump’s culpability in obstructing justice. “As we say in the report, and as I said in the opening, we did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime,” Mueller told the Committee after specifically referencing the Lieu exchange.

“I want to go back to one thing that was said this morning by Mr. Lieu, who said, and I quote, ‘you didn’t charge the president because of the OLC opinion.’ That is not the correct way to say it,” Mueller said.

This did not prevent journalists, pundits and my Facebook friends from ignoring the second statement so they could falsely promote the first. “They got him to confirm that he didn’t make a charge because of the Justice Department memo,” said “Meet the Press’s” Chuck Todd in an NBC panel. No, they didn’t. That’s a direct lie, as well as fake news.

  • The contention that Mueller was only a convenient figurehead for what was designed as a partisan hit job was made more credible by Mueller’s confusion. Mueller’s chief deputy, the infamously over-zealous,  partisan and controversial prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, headed a group of mostly left-leaning investigators. Complaints about the apparent rigged nature of the investigation were met by reminders of Mueller’s party affiliation and reputation for fairness and rectitude. That defense was left in the dust.

Now the anti-Trump tenor of the report no longer suggests the objective conclusions of a political neutral, but the partisan bias of prosecutors with an agenda.

  • Mueller’s weakness also suggests an answer to the persistent question of why the investigation appeared to be so incompetently managed, as with, for example, the involvement of Peter Strzok.

It didn’t appear that Mueller was capable of competent oversight, or even paying attention.

  • The most damaging and disturbing Mueller answer by far was when he was asked about Fusion GPS, which hired Christopher Steele to compile the infamous Russian-sourced ‘dossier’ against Trump.  Mueller said that he was ‘not familiar‘ with it. KABOOM! How is this even possible, unless Weissman and the other anti-Trump Jauberts on his team kept the old man locked in a closet somewhere? The involvement of the Steele dossier undercut the legitimacy of his investigation, and the investigation’s leader  was that uninformed about its origins? Was this wilful ignorance? Blatant incompetence?

Finally, how could the investigators and Mueller justify following bread crumbs that led to indictments of various Trump administration and campaign figures for crimes unrelated to the subject of the investigation, but be oblivious to the strong indications of wrongdoing—the FBI’s FISA fraud, the conflicts of interest, the surveillance of Carter Page—related to the investigation itself?

  • In another ridiculous addition to the Ethics Alarms, “Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!” files—at this point, I  cannot maintain any respect for the intelligence and/or integrity of anyone who denies the obvious partisan bias of CNN, MSNBC, and the major networks—I watched CNN for over 30 minutes this morning to see how they would cover the hearings. Over at Fox News, of course, Mueller’s disturbing demeanor was being dissected in detail. The “Fox and Friends” blonde of the day said, sympathetically, that she would be “praying for him and his family,” since something is definitely seriously wrong.

At CNN, however, there was just a crawl representing Mueller’s testimony as straightforward, sticking to the report, and, of course, emphasizing the “no exoneration” statement and his answer to Lieu, retracted though it was. CNN showed no video of Mueller from either hearing, and its panels all focused exclusively on “where the Democrats go from here.”

Incredible. (Can something be simultaneously incredible and unsurprising?)The big news from the hearings, what those who didn’t have the time or stamina to watch them needed to know, was unquestionably Mueller’s frightening lack of preparation, clarity, or knowledge of the report he had signed and the investigation he had supposedly overseen, and how this undermined the report’s legitimacy, especially as an anti-Trump document.  Not only did he fail to give Democrats more ammunition for their coup as they clearly hoped it would, he undermined the credibility of the entire report.

Spin is one thing; intentionally hiding what occurred to make spin easier is something very different, and a major breach of journalism honesty and integrity.

  • Mueller’s repeated concern during his testimony regarding Russian interference in our elections, past and future, is being largely ignored by CNN and the rest because it directly points the finger of accountability to Barack Obama. The Mueller report  states that Russia began interfering in American democracy in 2014, with the operation becoming full-blown during the 2016 presidential election. The Obama administration knew this was going on, and took no discernible action.  In 2016, Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice told her staff to “stand down” and “knock it off” as they drew up plans to “strike back” against the Russians, according to  Michael Isikoff and David Corn in their book “Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump.”

Yet I continue to read attacks on Trump because he didn’t take adequate steps to foil the Russians,

  • Where is the accountability? House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler had said over the weekend that Mueller’s report showed “very substantial evidence” that President Donald Trump is “guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors” — an impeachable offense. “We have to … let Mueller present those facts to the American people, and then see where we go from there, because the administration must be held accountable,” Nadler,  said on “Fox News Sunday.” Yet Mueller’s testimony, orchestrated by Nadler,  confirmed none of this. Nadler was intentionally misleading the American public.

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Sources (for Parts 1 and 2): NBC News, Grabien, The American Spectator, Reason, Issues and Insights, The Hill,

Robert Mueller’s Disastrous Testimony And Its Significance, Part One

A transcript of the testimony is here.

The amazing thing is that the Democrats held the hearings at all. Mueller, as a matter of legal ethics and client confidentiality, was severely limited regarding what he  could say beyond what was already in his investigation’s report. Desperate to gain some public relations traction in their endless, nation-rending determination to end a legal and duly elected Presidency without the inconvenience of an election, one can only surmise that Mueller’s ethically problematical press conference led them astray, and not only astray, but into a disaster of their own making.

The first hint that something was amiss was Mueller’s request that an aide sit by him and assist in his testimony. That was not only unusual but ominous, and the Republicans on the committee quickly rejected it. Once Mueller started answering questions, it was painfully clear why this request had been made. He looked disoriented and confused. The 75-year-old Justice Department veteran had to ask committee members to repeat their questions repeatedly, as if he was having difficulty focusing. He often did not know whether the representatives were asking him questions or if they were reading from his own report. In  the first 90 minutes of the hearing, Mueller asked for clarification of questions more than 10 times. Under questioning from Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), Mueller asked: “And where are you reading from on that?” “I’m reading from my own question” was the answer.  “Then can you repeat it?” Mueller asked. The audience laughed. By the end, the audience had stopped laughing. As Obama strategist David Axelrod tweeted, the performance was “painful” to watch.  Mueller asked Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee to restate her question three times.  Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) asked the 14 word question, “Attorney #2 in the Inspector General’s report and Strzok both worked on your team, didn’t they?” and Mueller appeared to be confused by it.“Pardon me?” Mueller replied. After Gaetz restated his question, Mueller replied: “And the question was?” Asked by Head Trump-hunter Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) to explain what his investigation  found “in plain terms,” Mueller answered: “Well, the finding indicates that the president, uh, was not, uh, the president was not exculping, uh, exculpated, uh, for the acts that he allegedly committed.”

Ah! Well thank you, sir, that explains everything! Nadler looked as if he wanted to start banging his head on the table.

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