The Kate Smith Ban, Chapter II: Oops! Kate Was Actually An Important Voice AGAINST Racial Prejudice! Now Can We Put Her Statue Back Up And Listen To Her Recordings Again?

Oh, how I love this development!

As Ethics Alarms discussed last week, The New York Yankees banned singer Kate Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America” at their games after some individuals claimed she was a racist because of the lyrics of two songs she recorded in the 30s. This was a stupid complaint, and the Yankees were cowardly to react to it as they did, but you know, the Yankees. (I kid: my Boston Red Sox were even more craven for  removing the name of their most essential owner, Tom Yawkee, from the street bordering Fenway Park as a virtue-signaling  surrender to Boston progressives.)

The NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers had  more reason to be loyal to Smith’s memory than the Yankees, for the singer was the team’s good luck charm, singing “God Bless America” at crucial Stanley Cup home games in the early 1970s. Not only did  the Flyers ban Kate’s rendition of the Irving Berlin patriotic anthem, it covered Smith’s statue in front of the team’s arena with a tarp, then took it down completely.

Nice. I wonder why they didn’t renounce their Stanley Cup victories, since now they are tainted.

Now it appears that Kate was falsely smeared, misrepresented, misunderstood and mistreated.  Continue reading

Cross-Filed Under ” Historical Airbrushing” And “Corporate Cowards”: Damn You For Making Me Defend Kate Smith, Even If It Means I Get To Bash The Yankees!

My father hated Kate Smith. Hated her. The jumbo alto radio star from the Thirties and Forties was still showing up on TV variety shows in the Sixties and Seventies, and my father always made us change the channel when she appeared. Smith had made a virtual career out of belting her four-square rendition of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” and Dad regarded it as patriotic pandering and exploitation. Thus it seemed appropriate that two teams we all hated in Boston, the New York Yankees and the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, periodically used the recording of Smith—and sometimes Smith herself— singing the song during games. Once 9-11 caused baseball to add the song during all games at the Seventh Inning Stretch (time to end that, by the way), Kate’s immortality seemed assured, especially in Yankee Stadium, where her rendition was rotated with a few other versions.

Then some enterprising social justice fanatics and “Hader Gotcha!” masters decided to do a deep dive and find something on Kate Smith. What they found was that among her hits in the Thirties were two songs that make Stephen Foster seem like Snoop Dog. One was “Pickaninny Heaven,” which described a “colored” paradise  with “great big watermelons,” and the momentarily famous “That’s Why Darkies Were Born,” which we will look at in some detail later. These presentist censors—remember, presentism is the fallacy of judging conduct from the past by the updated ethics and values of the present—protested to the Yankees, and that’s all it took to get Kate banished, presumably forever.  (The Flyers have also banned Kate.) The mighty Yankees whimpered in a public statement,

“The Yankees have been made aware of a recording that had been previously unknown to us and decided to immediately and carefully review this new information,. The Yankees take social, racial and cultural insensitivities very seriously. And while no final conclusions have been made, we are erring on the side of sensitivity.”

Continue reading

Ethics Hero: The New York Yankees

(Boy, do I hate having to post this.)

Aging Yankee starting pitcher CC Sabathia was ejected from his final start of the 2018 season for intentionally throwing at and hitting an opposing batter. This meant Sabathia would fall a couple of innings short of  pitching his 155th inning for the year, which would have triggered a half-million dollar bonus bonus. Not the CC needs the money: the not-quite-Hall of Fame caliber hurler has already earned about a quarter of a billion dollars plying his trade, and he’s still in his thirties.

Nonetheless, the Yankees decided that CC has been a loyal and exemplary employee, so they decided not to be technical about the bonus provision, and gave him the $500,000 anyway.

This is pure gratitude and generosity, and much as I detest the New York Yankees, attention must be paid. The Yankees have no reason to try to suck up to CC, who is already signed for next season and who is probably going to retire after it. They are simply signaling that they appreciate what Sabathia has done for them, the city and Yankee fans, and acknowledging that he lost those last few innings “protecting his team mates,” according to the ancient, often stupid, unwritten rules of baseball.

Still, a half-million bucks is one hell of a Christmas bonus.

 

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/31/18: Labor Day Weekend Edition

Good Morning.

This was in some respects the worst month in Ethics Alarms history, and I won’t be sorry to see it go. This weekend I will be spending more hours trying to cover ethics issues and developments while  knowing that an even smaller group of readers will bother to consider them, as they will off at beaches and mountain retreats, or sweltering at backyard barbecues. I have to admit it’s discouraging, and makes what needs to feel important and stimulating feel like an unsatisfying slog instead. Well, if you’re reading this, it’s not your fault.

1. Ethics estoppel. I couldn’t believe I read more than one local account of last night’s Detroit-Yankee game, a crushing loss for New York, complaining that Tigers DH Victor Martinez’s game-tying homer in the 9th “wouldn’t have been a home run in any of the other 29 Major League stadiums.”  Wow. The unmatched dominance of the New York Yankees over all of baseball has been significantly aided by its uniquely short right field fence ever since the original Yankee Stadium was built to provide cheap right field home runs to Babe Ruth, who hardly needed any help. Even though the shot to right isn’t as easy as it used to be (those old Yankee Stadium dimensions are illegal now), the Yankees still build their offense around that fence, and it is substantially responsible for the fact that the team leads all of baseball in home runs, and games won by cheap home runs.

Yankee fans and media are estopped from complaining when an opposing player benefits for a change. What utter gall!

2. Worst management ethics ever. President Trump is again tweeting about what a lousy job Attorney General Jeff Sessions is doing. Is he trying to make Sessions resign? Why? Why doesn’t he just fire him? This is a guy who became famous using “You’re fired!” as a trademark. Undermining a subordinate in public can’t possible make him or her perform better. It also signifies a dysfunctional organization and chain of command. In Sessions’ case, it makes the target look like a pathetic weenie devoid of self- respect. If my boss complained in public about me, I would resign that very day, with a brief statement that no professional should have to endure such gratuitous abuse from a superior, and that I would not. Continue reading

Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/4/18: Baseball And Bisons And Jerks, Oh My!

Good Morning, Fenway!

Going to make sure the Sox beat the Yankees again today?

1. Nice. The Democratic National Committee declined to play the Republican National Committee in their annual softball game this year.

You know, I now actively search for examples of Republicans behaving like divisive, snotty assholes, because I’m really sick of being accused of favoring that hollowed out, irresponsible. principle-free party. But when it comes to demonizing the opposition and bottom-of-the-barrel civility, the Democrats always seem to lap the field. Of course, this latest insult is pure virtue-signaling to the “resistance” base. Where a responsible party would be trying to lead its members and followers in the direction of comity and respectful disagreement, the DNC is taking a stand in favor of ideological apartheid.

2. This is great: I get to criticize the New York Yankees! Do say a little prayer, or something, for poor Chance Adams, the New York Yankee farmhand summoned to pitch today’s game against the Boston Red Sox with the Yankee season on the line.

The Yankees have the second best record in baseball, but also have the misfortune to play in the same division as the team with the best record, the Boston Red Sox. If the Yanks finish second, their play-off, and thus World Series chances, will rest on a single game between them and the other  American League Wild Card team, who will almost certianly have a better starting pitcher on the mound. New York has lost the first two games of a four game series in Boston, dropping them from 5 and a half games behind the Sox (not too bad, with 50 games to go) to 7 and a half games ( scary, when chasing a team with a current winning percentage of just under .700). If the team falls 8 and a half games behind, especially with its best player injured, gargantuan slugger Aaron Judge, that one game crap shoot will become the most likely scenario.

Thanks to some bad luck and some miserable management of the pitching staff, the assignment of navigating the Good Ship Yankee away from the shoals of ignominious defeat has been shifted to the shoulders of Adams, who 1) has never pitched in a major league game before, 2) will be facing the top offense in baseball, 3) in front of the famously rabid Fenway Park faithful, and 4) isn’t all that good. This is profoundly unfair. It almost seems as if Yankee management wants to use the rookie as an excuse for failure.

Meanwhile, he will become an infamous answer to a trivia question, like ill-fated Booby Sprowl, a Boston rookie pitcher who was thrust into a similar crisis by Boston manager Don Zimmer when the position of the two teams was reversed in 1978. Like Zimmer, Yankee manager Aaron Boone had other options that didn’t involve over-burdening a green young athlete of uncertain skills. For example, he could resort to a “bullpen game,” like the Tampa Bay Rays have been doing, with surprising success, all season. After all, the Yankees have the best and deepest bullpen in the universe.

Of course, baseball being baseball, anything can happen. Maybe Chance Adams will shock the baseball word with a pitching gem, and become a Yankee legend. Stranger things have happened. That, however, will be pure moral luck, and will not change the fact that Adams should not be put in this position.

Now what I really want to know is whether Chance was named after John Wayne’s character in one of my favorite Westerns. “Rio Bravo”… Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/2/18: Those Tricky Things Called “Standards” [Updated]

Goooood MORNING, Cape Cod!

(I miss you, but I miss your clams more.)

1. It is amazing the amount of publicity the Manafort trial is getting. I actually heard a Fox News correspondent argue that Manafort’s indictment proves that the Mueller investigation isn’t a “witch hunt.” I see my anti-Trump Facebook friends making the same claim. Bias makes you stupid. No aspect of the charges against Manafort relate to “Russian collusion,” and if the news media were not determined to convince the public that proof of impeachable offenses were just over the horizon and that Mueller was getting closer, closer, CLOSER, this would be a minor news event, if a news event at all. In fact, the Manafort trial is evidence that the Mueller investigation, whether the special prosecutor intends it to be or not, is functioning like a witch hunt. Any associate of the President past, present or future is on notice that he or she is a potential target, involving potential expense, embarrassment, and smears by the media. The political objective of the investigation is to make governing impossible, by causing widespread fear of guilt by association among those who might assist the President.

Virtually any past President you name had shady friends and associates who would be at risk from a Mueller-style “see-what-dirt-we-can-dig-up” operation. The GOP planted the seeds for this tactic with Whitewater. Republicans have no standing to complain, but Trump does.

2. THIS must be impeachable, somehow. CNN headline: “Donald Trump has no earthly clue about how real people buy groceries.”

The crux of the complaint is that the President used buying groceries as an example of basic requirements of life that involve the uses of IDs, as part of a riff on the need for voter identification laws. The “he doesn’t buy his own groceries!” accusation was last used against George H.W. Bush, when he expressed “what will they think of next?” amazement at computer checkout devices. “[The President] has no earthly clue what the average person, living paycheck to paycheck, making ends meet, is dealing with day to day. Going to the grocery store is not about presenting identification, but it can be about figuring out how you’re going to pay for groceries,” bleats Jen Psaki, Obama’s former communications director, so we know she’s unbiased.

Virtually NONE of our national elected officials have bought their own groceries in years, and probably decades. The significance of this is so infinitesimal that it would escape detection by the naked eye. I hate buying groceries. I admire and envy anyone who has progressed to the stage in life where they can have some compensated minion do the job for them. Meanwhile, this is one of—what, a million? Is that too many, or two few?—examples of habitual Trump critics pouncing on one of his–what, a trillion?—careless verbal gaffes and trying to make them seem more damning than they are. Trump could have, quite accurately, cited many other normal transactions less crucial to the nation than the integrity of the ballot box that require IDs, like renting a car, checking into a hotel, getting auto registration renewed, or buying a bottle of scotch. He chose, for reasons buried somewhere in his unique mind—buying groceries, which as a mistake. I don’t care. I question the priorities and intelligence of anyone who does care.

Especially someone who tries to lie to her readers with this whopper: “In 2008, when then-candidate Barack Obama was running against Sen. John McCain, a clear turning point for the campaign came when McCain could not remember how many houses he owned. ” Sure Jen. That was the turning point! I remember it well: I said to my wife, “Oh NO! This is like Gerald Ford saying that Poland wasn’t behind the Iron Curtain! McCain is doomed! Doomed, I tell you!” And when Hillary couldn’t shake her email scandal, I remember thinking, “You know, this is just like McCain not remembering how many houses he owned!”

And the fact that the economy crashed right after McCain’s gaffe was just frosting on the cake.

3. This is defend Sonny Gray Day. In addition to being ambushed by an attempted Hader Gotcha and stinking up Yankee Stadium with a terrible performance against the Baltimore Orioles, now a minor league team, Gray is being criticized in New York because he smiled as a he walked off the mound while boos, jeers and catcalls reigned down on his head by the typically classy Yankee fans.

What was he supposed to do? Weep? Rend his garments? Booing an athlete who has done nothing to indicate that he wasn’t trying, but who merely failed, is asshole behavior. Gray’s smile meant, “Boy, these fans are ridiculous. Well, what can you do? This is New York.” Indeed. The smile was about the only thing Sonny did right yesterday. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/24/18: Democratic Censorship, Republican Idiocy, Trump Tweets And Baseball Ethics

Good Morning!

1. Good norms, bad norms, good President, bad President…Good: the announcement that the President is “considering” terminating the security clearances of former Obama officials John Brennan, Jim Clapper, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Michael Hayden, and Susan Rice. Well, mostly good; the message that the President is “looking into it” feels suspiciously like a “Shut up or else” threat. The President should just pull the clearances immediately.

How many of you never realized that people like Comey and Brennan kept their clearances after leaving their jobs? I didn’t, and what a dumb and irresponsible rule that is. Apparently Senator Rand Paul sparked the move by tweeting that Brennan’s ridiculous “treason” accusation warranted a loss of clearance. I’d go further: the demonstrable determination of all of the named former official to assist “the resistance” and oppose the policies and very existence of the Trump administration makes ending their access to classified information mandatory.

If someone has a non-partisan, reasonable argument why the President shouldn’t just do this immediately, I’d love to hear it, especially as it applies to Comey and McCabe, who were fired.

Unequivocally bad, as in irresponsible, incompetent, undignified, unprofessional  and self-destructive, was Trump’s all-caps tweet threatening Iran after another one of that nation’s “mother of all wars” statements. Diplomacy by tweet is per se ridiculous and reckless, so saber-rattling by tweet is obviously worse. If there is a serious message to be sent, then the President should send it formally and in a professional manner. Since all-caps communications are annoying and offensive no matter where they appear, they are doubly so coming from a nation’s leadership. There is no way to interpret that Trump tweet in a way that is complimentary to the President.

2. This is one more reason my wife just told a GOP Congressional Committee fund-raising caller to never darken our phone-lines again: I really thought this story was a hoax, but unfortunately it is not. In the second episode of Showtime’s Who Is America?, Sacha Baron Cohen’s unethical “let’s humiliate people Democrats don’t like by tricking them” TV show, Cohen persuaded Jason Spencer, a Republican state representative from Georgia who apparently has the IQ of a sea sponge, to pull down his pants and scream “Nigger!” on camera.

Georgians must be so proud.

Cohen claimed to be an Israeli terrorism expert named Col. Erran Morad, and recruited Spencer for a training video on how elected officials can protect themselves from terrorists. Cohen as Morad asked Spencer to act like a Chinese tourist in order to take selfie-stick photos up a suspected terrorist’s burka, so he did.  Cohen asked  Spencer to scream the “N-word” because using the “forbidden” word would help ward off terrorists, so the idiot legislator did, and with alarming gusto. (Then Baron Cohen said, “Are you crazy? The ‘N-word’ is “noony,” not this word, this word is disgusting!”)  Morad told Spencer that terrorists are so afraid of gay people that they think they will become homosexual if you touch them with  bare buttocks, so Spencer obediently took off his pants and pressed his hindquarters against his Israeli trainer, shouting, “‘Murica!”

Not surprisingly, there are calls for Spencer to resign; he has already lost his primary. Of course he should resign; an idiot like him should never have been allowed to run as a Republican in the first place, nor should such dolts have won an election, and he won two. What Cohen does is unethical, but it does have its compensations. Spencer, for his part, whined that “It is clear the makers of this film intended to deceive me in an attempt to undermine the American conservative political movement.”

No, you irredeemable fool, idiots like you undermine the American conservative political movement, and always have. Continue reading

The Yankees Demonstrate How Athletes Get Brain Damage

During last night’s game against the Phillies,  New York Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner crashed into the wall  making a terrific catch. He fell to the ground, clearly stunned, then got to his feet, shaking his head like a cartoon character after being conked on the noggin.

Baseball’s concussion protocol requires that a game be stopped and a player evaluated on the field by a trainer if there is an episode that carries a substantial risk of concussion. If the trainer detects any signs of a concussion, the player must be removed and examined further. None of this happened after Gardner’s collision with the wall. He finished the game, going hitless.

Asked about his head later, Gardner said that he felt good. But the protocol isn’t up to the player, nor should it be. Players often refuse to acknowledge injuries, and Gardner is the perfect example of the kind of player who won’t. He is famously tough, and he is also a veteran on a Yankee team with several hungry young outfielders who would love to take his job. It was a Yankee first baseman, after all, who took a rest for one game and lost his job to Lou Gehrig,  permanently. Nobody wants to be the next Wally Pipp. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up. 6/5/18: Cakes And Fakes

Good morning…

1. Dummies or Liars? In a comment about yesterday’s 7-2 SCOTUS ruling favoring the Christian cake shop in another baker vs. gay couple controversy, Still Spartan wrote, ” I also don’t want to spend the next few months explaining the ruling to non-lawyer liberals who already are beginning to tear their hair out because they don’t understand the opinion.” Unfortunately, that’s exactly what she will have to do, and the rest of us, as there is already a deliberate effort underway to misrepresent the decision and deceive members of the public too lazy to read Supreme Court opinions, or too under-educated to understand them. (It really isn’t that hard.) This is fear-mongering, and also an effort to undermine the Supreme Court, which can be expected to be blocking a number of left-driven totalitarian measures in the not-too-distant future.

For example, on “The Late Show,” where a disturbingly high percentage of millennials get their news commentary, the smug, insufferable Stephen Colbert described the ruling this way:

“It’s a bad day for gay rights in America. And also for cake rights because this morning, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake to celebrate the marriage of a same-sex couple. That is tough news. But to lighten the blow the Supreme Court did send the gay couple a lovely cake” which was a cake in the shape of the middle finger.

Hilarious! And a complete misrepresentation of the opinion. The question is, did Colbert and his writers really not understand the ruling? What are the odds that any of them read it? If they didn’t know what the ruling was, isn’t it irresponsible to pass along false information? Or did they know that the opinion in no way undermined the rights of gays to be served in public accommodations like everyone else, but found, and correctly so, that the process was rigged against the baker because of open hostility to religious freedom? If so, the “joke” was deliberate misrepresentation.

The fact that the lie would have been in service of a joke is not a justification. Spreading falsity in public is harmful, and it does not matter who does it, or why.

2. From the “Stop making me defend the New York Yankees!” files:  This is an integrity vs. cash test for Major League Baseball. ESPN announced that it was picking up the Yankees’ one 1 o’clock Sunday, July 8 game with the Blue Jays in Toronto for its 8 p.m. Sunday night Game of the Week. This decision, however, was announced after the Yankees and Orioles players agreed to make up last week’s rained out game as part of a doubleheader on July 9.  As now scheduled, the Yankees will have to play three games in a 24 hour period. The Yankees would probably not leave the ballpark in Toronto until midnight, then have to go through customs, getting into Baltimore at 4 or 5 a.m., into their hotel rooms around 7, and be due at Camden Yards in a few hours.

This is potentially dangerous to the players (baseball is hard to play while asleep), and also undermines the team: the Yankees are expected to be in a neck-and-neck race with the Boston Red Sox for primacy in the American League East, and a single game could be crucial. If the Yankees are forced to play Sunday night on July 8, the Yankee management and players are threatening to retaliate against ESPN by refusing all interviews with ESPN broadcasters. Of course, killing those in-game interviews will only improve the broadcast.

Then the Yankees will claim that the Red Sox were colluding with ESPN, and there will have to be an investigation… Continue reading

Ethics Dunce, One Way Or The Other : Former Yankee Slugger Mark Teixeira

Mark and Robbie…

Major League Baseball is still buzzing about the shocking half-season suspension of Seattle Mariners second baseman Robbie Cano, which I wrote about here. Among the more unethical buzzes were the comments from former New York Yankee star Mark Teixeira, now a baseball analyst for ESPN, who played with Cano before he left the Yankees as a free agent. Asked about Cano’s testing positive for an agent used to mask steroid use, Teixeira said,

“Yeah, I don’t really want to get into too much detail. I love Robbie. I’m just not surprised. I don’t really want to go too much further, but I think a lot of people are kind of saying the same thing….Let’s just use this situation here. Robbie Cano’s assistant was on the list for Biogenesis. [Biogenesis was the sports medicine clinic involved MLB’s 2013 PED scandal that resulted in the suspensions of 14 players, including Yankee superstar Alex Rodriquez and former National League MVP Ryan Braun.] Now, of course, [Cano] had an assistant, you know, buy stuff for him. Alex Rodriguez got popped by Biogenesis, and [former Yankees outfielder] Melky [Cabrera] got popped. They were best friends. When someone gets lumped into that group, it’s because there’s evidence. There’s a paper trail. There’s a smoke trail.”

Foul. Continue reading