Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 5/4/2019: No Trump, No “Resistance.” Enjoy!

Good Morning!

This song, the only “hit” (kind of) by “The Carpenters” sung by Karen’s brother Richard, matches my conflicted mood today. Richard’s teasing and criticism played a part in killing his sister, who possessed one of the most wonderful voices of any popular female vocalist in U.S. history, but who was doomed by anorexia. I am also both perplexed and amused that someone with a lisp would choose a song that repeats “Saturday” as his break-out solo. I wonder if Karen teased him about that?

1.  More on high-testosterone competitors in women’s sports. As I recently wrote here, I am floating in an uncharted sea of uncertainty on this issue, especially regarding Caster Semenya, the intersex South African track star. I do know, however, that I applaud her defiance of the recent court order dictating that she will have to take testosterone-lowing medication if she wants to compete. After a race this week, which she won, as usual, Semenya was asked if she would take the drug. Her answer:  “Hell no.”

Athletic organizations are treading through a mine field here. If they regard taking performance enhancing drugs as cheating, as they should, demanding that certain competitors with natural physical and genetic advantages should take performance-handicapping drugs seems like a double standard.

2. Stop making me defend Woody Allen! I have been unable to watch an Allen movie, even old favorites like “Bananas,” “What’s Up. Tiger Lilly?,” and “Annie Hall,” without gagging since the comic/director cheated on Mia Farrow with her adopted teen-aged daughter, to whom he was a virtual father, and then married her. Thus I have watched none of his films at all. I didn’t need to make a judgment about his daughter’s claims that he sexually molested her, which Allen denies, and since I have no more evidence than the she said/he said (and my certainty that Allen is a certifiable creep), I can’t. However, once Dylan Farrow and her vengeful mother Mia renewed their accusations against Allen while #MeToo was raging,  virtually all of Hollywood turned on Woody, even actors who had worked with him well after Dylan first made her claims. What changed? Nothing, really, except that now they are afraid of social media retribution, so they are pretending to be horrified at what didn’t bother them previously and assuming Woody’s guilt because “believe all women” is the “woke” place to be.

Well, Woody is a creature of Hollywood: this is unethical and unfair, but as Hymen Roth would tell him, “This is the life you have chosen.” Translation: if you voluntarily spend your career in (and benefiting from, and contributing too) an ethically warped culture, don’t expect a lot of sympathy when it turns on you.

This is more troubling: apparently Woody has a completed manuscript of his memoirs, which would have once sparked a publishers auction and an eventual multi-million dollar advance. Now, however, no publisher will pay a cent for it, because “while he remains a significant cultural figure, the commercial risks of releasing a memoir by him were too daunting.”

That means that the publishers are afraid of boycotts. How courageous. Allen is a significant cultural figure as well as a talented humorist. His memoirs have cultural importance, and they belong in the historical record, loathsome as find the man. Easily as loathsome are William Jefferson Clinton and his wife, yet both of them managed to score 7 figure book advances for memoirs they didn’t even write themselves.

Essentially what is happening to Woody is human statue-toppling. He is being erased from the culture despite never having been charged with or tried for a crime (unlike Bill Cosby and O.J. Simpson) because it is a sign of virtue among sufficient numbers of people with social media access to assume he is guilty. The boycott and progressive bully culture is a direct threat to basic freedoms. I’d regain some respect for Woody Allen if he would say so. Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: The San Francisco Giants

To be fair, how was anyone to know that Barry Bonds was cheating?

We knew this was coming.

The San Francisco Giants will retire Barry Bonds’ number 25 in a ceremony before tomorrow’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bonds will become the 12th Giants player to have his number retired, following Bill Terry (3), Mell Ott (4), Carl Hubbell (11), Monte Irvin (20), Orlando Cepeda (30), Juan Marichal (27), Willie Mays (24), Willie McCovey (44) and Gaylord Perry (36). Christy Mathewson and John McGraw are regarded as having their numbers retired, but they played before uniforms had numbers.

None of the other eleven, before Bonds, cheated to reach the heights they achieved in the game, nor did any of the others corrupt the sport, its players, its statistics and records. The Giants knew Bonds was illicitly and illegally using steroids, of course, as did most Giants fans, but they were perfectly happy to enable his conduct and accept his lies because his drug-enhanced talent, which was already formidable, won games. It would have been, one theory goes, hypocritical for the Giants not to honor Bonds. After all, they were complicit and supportive as he amassed Hall of Fame numbers while using methods that disqualified him for the Hall of Fame, if not the San Francisco team.

The retired number, like Bonds’ entire selfish, corrosive, despicable career will now stand for the propositions that the ends justify the means, and the cheating works. That was what Barry was always counting on, and he pulled it off. Now a San Francisco institution is officially endorsing Bonds’ values.

Nice.

No wonder that city’s culture is so screwed up.

You can read the voluminous Ethics Alarms commentary on Bonds, who when I compile the long-promised list of Worst Ethics Corrupters will be a prominent member (right below Bill Clinton) , here.

Closing The Book On An Ethics Villain

Lance Armstrong is the worst sports ethics villain of all time, I believe—cycling’s Barry Bonds, but in a sport far more vulnerable to betrayal than baseball. Like Bonds, he cheated, many times and over a long period, taking victories away from more deserving athletes while enriching himself. While Bonds never had his public “I did not have sex with that woman” moment of brazen denial, Armstrong had many, all the while insulting and condemning his accusers. Bonds also never was a revered hero of children—Barry appeared to care about no one but Barry—while Armstrong deliberately made them part of his scam. When Armstrong’s elaborate schemes, lies and cover-ups were revealed, he made lifetime cynics of hundreds of thousands of young fans, and maybe more.

Armstrong, like Bonds, left his sport in disgrace but took with him great wealth, and, like Bonds, has never shown a smidgen of sincere regret or contrition—sociopaths are like that. Yesterday it was announced that Armstrong will pay $5 million to the federal government in settlement of a fraud lawsuit. The U.S. said that he owed $100 million to taxpayers for accepting sponsorship funds for his cycling team from the U.S. Postal Service while he was doping. Armstrong also agreed to pay $1.65 million to cover the legal costs of Floyd Landis, a former Armstrong teammate and the whistleblower in the case.

Eh, whatever. Lance can afford it. Despite various fines and settlements, he managed to escape his exposure with most of his ill-gotten gains safely salted away, spent or invested. Continue reading

Bud Selig Is The Barry Bonds Of Baseball Commissioners…So Why Was He Just Elected To The Hall Of Fame?

Bud. I had a more descriptive caption, but decided that it wasn't professional...

Bud Selig. I had a more descriptive caption, but decided that it wasn’t professional…

Let me state my bias up front: I detest Bud Selig.

He became Major League Baseball’s first non-Commissioner Commissioner when baseball’s owners decided that Fay Vincent was doing the job of independent, uncorrupted overseer of the game’s welfare and integrity too literally for their tastes, fired him, and installed one of their own. That was Selig, a wealthy auto sales impresario who owned the Milwaukee Brewers and never saw a dollar he wouldn’t debase himself for.

The owners suspected that Vincent, a smart and decent man, might use his power to block the looming baseball labor-management impasse, benefiting the players. They dumped him just in time to give the job to an “independent overseer” who had the Mother of All Conflicts of Interest in the upcoming war: he was management. . Sure enough, under Bud’s fair and balanced leadership, the most devastating work stoppage in baseball history arrived in 1994. It stopped the season late and wiped out the World Series. It killed the Montreal Expos, for all intents and purposes, crushed the baseball card and memorabilia industry (it still hasn’t completely recovered), and nearly sent the sport itself into a death spiral. Baseball was saved, not by Selig, but by a combination of luck, the inherent greatness of the game, and Cal Ripken, who broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game streak (I was there to see it!) in the season after the strike to remind fans and the nation of baseball’s glorious past and why they cared about it.

From that point, Selig oversaw explosive growth in the game’s revenues, exposure, merchandising, player salaries and popularity, He shattered a lot of traditions to do it: the elimination of any real distinction between the leagues, expanded play-offs, wild card teams (which I hate, since they allow second place teams to become champions over the teams that defeated them during the season, but then there was the 2004 World Champion Boston Red Sox…) inter-league play, instant replay, penalties for big-spending teams, baseball in November, and more. If you are an ends justifies the means fan, Selig’s your man. He ended his more than two decades as the sport’s top executive with the game stronger and richer than ever.

He did this, however, despite and in part because he quietly enabled the scourge of steroid use among players, permitted cheating to go on right under his nose, and was shocked…shocked! to discover that all those players who began topping their previous best seasons at advanced ages when virtually all athletes go into decline, and all those players who turned up at spring training 25 pounds heavier and looking like Lou Ferrigno, and a few of those players breaking career and season records that hadn’t been approached in decades, were using illegal and banned performance enhancing drugs.  When this dawned on him, two steroid users, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, had shattered Roger Maris’s record for home runs in a season in the same year—what a coinkydink!—and another, the grotesquely inflated Barry Bonds, had not only broken the new record but was on the road to surpass Hank Aaron’s career homer record. Continue reading

The Olympic Games Are An Ethics Train Wreck, And Have Been For Quite A While

Olympic mascots

The 2016 Rio Games Opening Ceremony was the apotheosis of a rotting tradition that has lost the slightest resemblance to its so-called ideals. The Olympics are a TV spectacle justified by dollars now, using fake and dubious values to obscure the obvious.

Some moments that gave my ethics alarms twinges last night—

  • Political propaganda. It’s sporting event, not a PSA for climate change regulations. Shut up and play. Or perhaps “Shut up and cheat” is more accurate.
  • Speaking of cheating, the ceremony featuring Tom Brady’s Brazilian model wife as a special effect was jarring, but maybe that’s just me.

This was all just yucky frosting on the unethical cake, however. Before the Games began, the continuing corruption of the Games was again approved when the IOC announced that 270 Russian athletes would be allowed to compete despite a major doping scandal last year that indicated that the Russians routinely cheated, and that there was no reason to presume that any Russian athlete wasn’t. Never mind: the desire for ratings—the US vs. Russia!—and/or bribes paved the way.

Meanwhile, the swimmers are competing in raw sewage. Ocean water along Rio de Janeiro’s famed beaches are contaminated with bacteria and viruses, so much so that the World Health Organization  warned athletes participating in open water sports to not swallow water, to cover any open wounds during competition and to wash off immediately after exiting the water. Why is the US subjecting its athletes to this kind of peril? Why are any of the nations?

I don’t watch football players damage their brains while the NFL pays them to do it, and I’m certainly not going to cheer young athletes risking brain eating amoebae so NBC can sell beer for Anheuser Busch.

When did the Olympics start churning my stomach? It may have been when the U.S. started using NBA stars in the basketball competition, and relishing the opportunity to beat amateur Angolan players 154-12. Yecchh. It may have been when I learned how the female gymnasts were kept sprite-like long into their teens by inhibiting their puberty, and how many young gymnasts were sexually molested on their way to Gold.  Or when I listened to some of my scuzzier male friends explain what they liked about watching them…. Continue reading

Gut Check For Obama: The Responsible Thing Is To Pull Out Of The 2016 Olympics

Rio2016-Logo-2

UPDATE: 6/18/13 Now this.

The responsible thing, in fact, would have been to pull out before now.

The Olympics, which were supposed to represent the ideal of pure, individual amateur (For love, not money) athletic achievement, metastasized into a bloated, hyper-nationalist insult to those ideals long ago. In addition…

…The Olympic organization is corrupt, accepting bribes to determine which nations host the games.

…The competitions are corrupt, with banned performance enhancing substances being used widely and with the assistance and knowledge of participating nations, in some cases. At the end of last year, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)  issued a report calling for Russia to be banned from international athletics at all levels for flagrant doping violations and a “deeply rooted culture of cheating at all levels” within Russian athletics.

Have the Olympics banned Russia? Of course not.

Meanwhile, an IOC investigation revealed that 23 athletes have tested positive in a massive doping scandal that could ban a total of 31 yet-unnamed athletes “from 12 countries and six sports” from participating in the 2016 Olympics.

…The games now have the shadow of terrorism hanging over them.

…Expenditures by hosting nations always divert resources into inefficient and unnecessary projects, as greater national and social priorities suffer in the pursuit of pride and prestige. Following a pattern that we have seen in other countries, some poor Brazilians  have  lost their homes as part of preparations for the games. Continue reading

The Alex Rodriguez Suspension, Barry Bonds, And The Slippery Slope

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez stretches before American League baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston

In a decision that further defines major league baseball’s cultural standards regarding performance enhancing drugs and the players who use them, New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez was suspended for the entire 2014 season and post-season by an arbitrator yesterday. Rodriguez, a long-time superstar who was once considered a lock to break baseball’s career home run record, and who is the highest paid player in the game, was suspended for illicit drug use without testing positive under the game’s union-negotiated testing system. He was, instead, suspended for a violation of the player’s Basic Agreement under baseball management’s right to police the game and do what is in its best interests.

The evidence that Rodriguez was a flagrant and long-time steroid abuser came from documents obtained from Biogenesis, a lab that developed drugs for athletes and others, as well as convincing testimony. Rodriguez had challenged the suspension in a grievance procedure after MLB handed down a 211 game suspension during the 2013 season. The arbitrator’s ruling, which is confidential, apparently concluded that the player not only cheated, but obstructed efforts to enforce baseball’s intensified anti-drug measures in the wake of the wide-spread use of PEDs in the 90’s and thereafter.

As expected, the result produced the usual complaints and rationalizations from the disturbingly large contingent of baseball fans and writers who remain obdurate regarding the offensiveness of steroid cheating, claiming that it was “a part of the game,” that the objections to it are inconsistent, and that baseball’s vilification of users is hypocritical. They had been practicing these and related arguments for months as they waited for the baseball Hall of Fame voting results announced last week, in which about 65% of the voters showed that they regarded steroid use as a disqualification for the honor, even when a player-user had excelled on the field. Rodriquez’s defeat deeply undermines the cause of the steroid defenders, and the likelihood that their argument will ever prevail. Continue reading

Here’s The Ethics Lesson From The Hall Of Fame Voting Results Tomorrow…

HOF

And that lesson is: sportswriters have no clue when it comes to ethical analysis, or any other kind of analysis, really.

Tomorrow the results of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame voting will be announced, and those former stars receiving at least 75% of the vote will be officially enshrined as immortals. Every year before the steroid era, the voting was preceded by weird arguments that made no sense, like the one about whether a former player should be a “first time electee.” Some writers would concede that a given player was great enough for the Hall, but not vote for him because “he wasn’t good enough to get in on the first ballot.” This was, and is, ridiculous, and unfair. The question is, “Was this player great enough to deserve enshrinement, when the standards are unchanging?” It’s a yes or no question. “Maybe next year” is not a valid answer.

Thus I suppose that it should be no surprise that these same clods, faced with some really difficult ethical lines to draw in the wake of the so-called steroid era, show themselves to be not merely dunces, but ethics dunces as well. I just heard a sportswriter, Marty Noble, tell a baseball talk show that he won’t vote for any player about whom there is any question whatsoever regarding whether he cheated with steroids, including doubts based on rumors, whispering campaigns, looks, suspicions and drug tests. But he still voted for some players, he says. Well, that’s just wrong, by his own standards—he can’t be 100% sure about anyone. He also said that while he can vote for up to ten players, and agreed that there are more than ten players this year who have strong Hall credentials, he’s only voting for three. Why? Because, he says, the induction ceremony is too long.

Yes, he’s an idiot. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: ESPN Blogger David Schoenfield

...reason is emotion, and emotion is reason...

…reason is emotion, and emotion is reason…

Every year about this time, a large group of baseball writers, not to mention fans, expose their ethics and analytical deficiencies by making terrible arguments for admitting steroid-using stars of note into baseball’s Hall of Fame. The voting for the Hall is going on now, you see, and this year a bumper crop of candidates were either proven steroid users or reasonably suspected of being so.

Also every year at this time, I pick one of those ethically-challenged writers as an Ethics Dunce. This year, the winner is ESPN’s David Schoenfield, by virtue of a sentence near the end of a recent post in support of Frank Thomas and Edgar Martinez, neither of whom are on the Performance Enhancing Drug suspicion list, as Hall of Fame candidates. Schoenfield wrote,

“The PED disagreements are all about emotion (“Cheaters!”) versus reason (“It was part of the game in that era, we don’t know who did what, etc.”).

Talk about a big, fat, hanging curveball over the heart of the plate! Continue reading

Ethical Apology Of The Month: Ryan Braun—Finally

Better late than never, Ryan...I'd almost given up on you.

Better late than never, Ryan…I’d almost given up on you.

Ryan Braun, the 2011 National League MVP who was suspended for the rest of this season for his use of illicit performance enhancing drugs and accepted that suspension without protest or appeal, has released a statement admitting steroid use and apologizing to all, including the testing sample collector whom he had earlier implicitly accused of trying to frame him with a false positive.

I think this ranks as a #1 on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale, and we don’t see those very often from public figures. That apology is defined as…

An apology motivated by the realization that one’s past conduct was unjust, unfair, and wrong, constituting an unequivocal admission of wrongdoing as well as regret, remorse and contrition, as part of a sincere effort to make amends and seek forgiveness.

Already, critics are taking pot-shots at Braun’s statement. This is, I believe, one reason people so seldom give full apologies: they are never accepted by so many angry pundits, who pick them to pieces. Baseball fans and others in the game have a lot of reasons to be furious with Braun, it is true. His genuine apology comes late, after a terrible one, and there is probably some truth to the theory that he or his PR advisors saw an opportunity to contrast his conduct with that of Alex Rodriquez, who is continuing to deny his PED use and is forcing steroid-hating fans and players to watch him play anyway, while he appeals and collects 5 figures in compensation per at bat. Braun is no Ethics Hero, for his options were limited. Nonetheless, I see nothing to criticize in his apology, and we want to see more apologies that rank at the top of the scale, we need to applaud them when they appear.

Here is Braun’s statement: Continue reading