Tag Archives: John Paul Stevens

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/2/2018: The Unreliable Authorities Edition

Good morning!

1.  Another baseball ethics dispute! This is an exciting time of changes in the traditional wisdom of how to play Major League Baseball, all sparked by that new ethics bugaboo, Big Data. Now that so many aspects of the game can be measured and analyzed, tradition and assumptions rarely challenged are now under fire. One massive shift is, ironically, in the matter of shifts, radical defensive alignments in which players are not fielding their normal positions, but rather are places where computer spray charts for each batter suggest that the likelihood of fielding a ball is highest.  This can mean anything from one lonely fielder on the left side of the infield, or four outfielders.

Shifts are not new, but they used to be used on a handful of super-sluggers with dead-pull propensities, notably Ted Williams, who famously refused to bunt for easy hits to the unoccupied side of the field, and instead usually tried to hit through or over the shift. It has been estimated that the Williams Shift, combined with the player’s infamous stubbornness, cost him many points off of his lifetime batting average, especially since Williams defeating the shift by bunting might have discouraged its use.

But he was Ted Williams, the second greatest hitter of all time.  The question of whether lesser batters should bunt against shifts, for now many teams shift against everyone, has an easy answer: Of course they should.

In yesterday’s Twins-Orioles game, Twins starter Jose Berrios had  a one-hit shutout in the ninth inning. leading with one out and no runners on base. O’s rookie catcher Chance Sisco came to the plate—he has my favorite baseball name this season–and the Twins put on a shift like the one Ted Williams despised:

So, knowing he wasn’t Ted Williams and also knowing that in baseball even seven run leads aren’t a sure thing, Chance dropped down a bunt to the left side for a single. Berrios then walked two batter Davis and Manny Machado to load the bases, but finished his shutout by getting the next two outs without further disruptions.

After the game, the Twins players questioned the ethics of Sisco’s hit. Berrios said, “I just know it’s not good for baseball [to bunt] in that situation. That’s it.” Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario said, “Nobody liked that. No, no, no. That’s not a good play.” Second baseman Brian Dozier added, “Obviously, we’re not a fan of it. He’s a young kid. I could’ve said something at second base but they have tremendous veteran leadership over there. I’m sure they’ll address that. It’s all about learning. You learn up here.”

When do you “learn” not to try to win the game and get on base? For Sisco, a rookie, sending the message that shifting against him is a bad risk also is a wise career move. There is a long-standing, and stupid, unwritten rule in baseball that it is “bush league” to try to break up a no-hitter with a bunt, but extending that dubious logic to a mere shutout breaks the Stupid Meter.

2. Coffee is good for you, but be worried when you drink it. Continuing its rapid devolution into Bizarro World, just as increasing scientific evidence suggest that coffee is good for you, California is demanding that it carry a tobacco-like warning label. Last week a judge ruled that Starbucks and  other coffee companies in California must carry a cancer warning label because of a chemical produced while beans roast has been shown to cause cancer in high doses. California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act  requires companies with more than 10 employees to warn their customers about the presence of carcinogenic and toxic chemicals in their products, even in tiny amounts. Acrylamide, a chemical compound that is produced naturally during the roasting of coffee beans, is on the state’s list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. The judge ruled that the coffee company had the burden of proof  to show that acrylamide posed no significant health risk to coffee drinkers, even though there is no evidence that coffee does pose a risk. Continue reading

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President Trump And Secretary Mnuchin Join In The Fun Of “Let’s Pretend The Constitution Doesn’t Count!” Month

The most pathetic episode in the recent fad of pretending the Constitution is a gossamer wisp that can be altered by a prayer was probably 97-year-old retired SCOTUS justice John Paul Stevens  writing an op-ed re-litigating his minority dissent in District of Columbia v. Heller. That case held that the Second Amendment was an individual right (you know, like all the others in the Bill of Rights). In the process of making a wish for some future Leftist genie to grant, presumably along with banning “hate speech”  and the Republican Party (you get three wishes, remember) Stevens misrepresented the previous 1939 Supreme Court Second Amendment ruling, and appeared not to remember, or just be willing to leave his readers uninformed, that repealing the Second Amendment wouldn’t change any gun laws by itself.

It was kind of sad to watch anti-gun zealots on social media jump up and down with glee as old John Paul engaged in his nostalgia-fest. I had to wonder if the Times would have been similarly eager to publish a similar op-ed from one of the dissenters in Roe v. Wade or Obergefell v. Hodges. Okay, no I didn’t. I understand and am used to the double standard: conservatives are expected to accept the Supreme Court’s rulings as the law of the land when it goes against their beliefs, but rulings that offend liberal agendas are to be considered temporary. Thus I look forward to Justice Ginsberg’s upcoming op-ed on why the 2000 Florida recount should be started up again, and to my left-leaning Facebook friends sharing it with the breathless exhortation, “Read this!”

Insisting that the Constitution doesn’t say what the Court has ruled it says is oodles of fun, so we also had the nauseating spectacle of President Trump and his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin lobbying for  that failed nostrum from the Clinton years, the line-item veto. When Trump signed the $1.3 trillion spending package on March 23, thus moving the United States one step closer to fiscal calamity, he said that it was the last time he would approve such bloated spending, “Trust me, I’ll never do it again” being such a reliable promise in the world of politics.

The President said, 

“To prevent the omnibus situation from ever happening again, I’m calling on Congress to give me a line-item veto for all government spending bills.”

Okay, I don’t expect the current President to be up to speed on Constitutional law, but somebody in the administration has to know that this horse has not only left the barn, it’s run in the Triple Crown, been put out to stud, and ended up in a can of Alpo. Yet here is the Secretary of the Treasury on Fox News Sunday: Continue reading

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John Paul Stevens’ Gilbertian Nonsense

 

The Lord Chancellor-Stevens

A rather long preface is in order. Bear with me, please…

In the great, underperformed Gilbert and Sullivan operetta “Iolanthe,” W.S. Gilbert, a lawyer by training, devised a satirical judicial solution to a dire turn in the plot. Iolanthe, a fairy, violated Fairy Law by marrying a mortal, who happened to be the Lord Chancellor of England (he never noticed her wings, apparently.) The transgression commands the death penalty, but Iolanthe received a pardon on the condition that she allow her husband to think her dead, which she does for a couple of decades, much of which she spends doing penance at the bottom of a froggy stream, on her head.…but I digress.

When she learns, however, that her husband of yore is about to marry the sweetheart of her half-fairy son, who, though the Lord Chancellor doesn’t know it, is also his son, Iolanthe reveals herself and the paternity to the Lord Chancellor, who is duly stunned. This again triggers the death penalty and just minutes away from the finale, it looks like Iolanthe is going to end up like Carlo in “The Godfather,” as the fairy equivalent of Clemenza waddles on to the stage. (That’s how I would stage it, anyway.) Then this happens: Continue reading

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