Morning Ethics Expectoration, 4/15/2021: I’m In A Really Bad Mood (And Ethics Is Just A Part Of It…)

Let’s see what revoltin’ developments we have accumulated, shall we? But first, some positive news…

1. Bernie Madoff has died in prison. Good. If there was ever a case for using capitol punishment for crimes other than murder and treason, Bernie is it. He was convicted of orchestrating the biggest Ponzi scheme in American history and was serving a 150-year sentence that he managed to escape by dying in prison of natural causes at age 82. He was a stone-cold sociopath who destroyed his family, foundations, charities and lives, all out of greed. On the plus side, his exploits did spawn two excellent dramatic portrayals, one by Robert De Niro and the other by Richard Dreyfuss. I liked Richard’s better, but after his disgusting conduct during the Trump years, Robert is permanently unwelcome to my eyeballs.

So much for the good news…

2. Don’t tell me again how poor Pete Rose deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Pete was the second Ethics Dunce of them all, way back in 2004, here. Knowing well that baseball had an iron-clad, one strike and you’re out forever rule forbidding players, coaches and managers from betting on games, he did it anyway (as a manager) because, see, he is Pete Rose, and the rules don’t apply to him, but mostly because he’s an idiot. So he got banned from the game and the Hall of Fame despite being the all-time hit leader, ahead of Ty Cobb. He’s a walking, talking ethics corrupter, prompting fans and writers to resort to rationalizations to explain why he should be forgiven.

Now we have this:

Continue reading

Now THIS Is Moral Luck And Chaos Theory! How An Unethical Practical Joke Got Its Target a Plum Job, And Pete Rose Banned From Baseball

Yes, this one is about baseball. Trust me, I can find baseball ethics stories even when there’s no baseball. It is also about moral luck, how unethical conduct can have good results and vice-versa, and Chaos Theory, which posits that in complex systems, even insignificant changes can  set into motion unpredictable chain reactions, and where they stop, nobody knows.

On Oct. 2, 1983, the Boston Red Sox said goodbye to Carl Yastrzemski at Fenway Park. I was there, along with my wife, thanks to the kindness of a good friend  (who eventually real-life de-friended me over a political disagreement in an episode I will never understand. I don’t like to think about it,) Yaz got a great send-off for his final game, with an hour-long pregame ceremony, the retirement of his No. 8 jersey and a letter, read aloud to the crowd, from President Reagan. Yaz, memorably, rounded the park, touching the hands of the fans, and dramatically ripped off his jersey as he went down the steps of the dugout for the last time as a player. I’ll never forget it.

Since the retirement of a Red Sox legend after 22 years was the biggest story in the city as well as in baseball,  the Boston sports talk radio show “The Sports Huddle” on WHDH decided to play a little joke. Let me interject here that “The Sports Huddle” was always a vile feature of the sports scene in Boston, uncivil, unfair, with loutish hosts and the kinds of callers who epitomized the worst stereotypes of Boston fans.  It’s gone now, and good riddance. But I digress….

The show decided it would be funny to ignore Carl Yastrzemski, who the show and its callers had been generally vicious about for a decade, and to devote its four-hours on Yaz’s day to a joke tribute to as unremarkable a baseball figure as they could find. The producers settled on the first-base coach of  the Montreal Expos,  55-year-old Vern Rapp, who had once managed the St. Louis Cardinals without distinction, and who had announced that he would end his baseball career at the end of the the 1983 season. Of course, only the most hard- core baseball fans in Boston would have any idea who Vern Rapp was.

The Sports Huddle jerks decided to play it all straight, presenting a solemn ,extended tribute to the mediocre, obsure,Expos coach. They tracked down former minor league teammates of Rapp’s,  friends  from his time in St. Louis, and  Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon, interviewing them all about Rapp’s fine qualities as a baseball man and human being, and how much baseball would miss him. Then they interviewed Rapp himself. Nobody suspected that it was all a put-on.

At least nobody dumped a bucket of blood on his head, like they did to Carrie White. Continue reading

Evening Ethics Reflections, 2/11/2020, While Waiting For Joe Biden To Go Down

Hi!

It looks like Joe Biden will end up fourth or worse in the New Hampshire primary, and if he does, it will all be over but for the shouting, or in Joe’s case, the blathering. This was pre-ordained from the second Joe entered the race: how anyone knowledgeable and paying minimal attention could see Joe was a shell of his former self, and his former self was never anything to get excited about in the first place. I have never believed that President Trump thought Biden was a threat to defeat him; if his determination to unravel the Biden’s influence peddling in the Ukraine had a personal component, it was that he just wanted to stick it to Joe and expose his hypocrisy. We will never know, I guess. But I assume trump knew he didn’t need to “cheat” to beat Biden.

It’s amusing and somehow fitting that Joe’s inexplicable “Lying dogfaced pony soldier” outburst is serving as a tipping point, with a lot of people suddenly smacking their heads “I could have had a V-8!” style and thinking, “Hey! This guy really is an idiot!” Yes, he really is. The fact that the bland Amy Klobuchar is surging as the new moderate (relatively) savior of the party shows just how bad Biden has been, and also just how unforgivably incompetent and unattractive a field the Democrats have offered America in 2020. On the hopeful side, at least Democratic voters have recognized Senator Warrren as the manipulative, untrustworthy demagogue she is. If a Massachusetts leftist Senator can’t beat Buttigieg and Sanders in New Hampshire, she’s not going to win anywhere.

All of this couldn’t happen to a more deserving party.

1. The President thinks Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame. Of course he does. Our President has an unhealthy tolerance for liars and rogues. There has been a depressing outbreak of renewed sympathy for Rose, the game’s all-time hits leader who was banned from baseball for life after being proved guilty of betting on baseball games while a manager, betting on games his own team, the Reds, was playing, and lying about both over many years. The reason is the recent sign-stealing scandal, because, of course, one cheating scandal mitigates a completely different offense that didn’t have anything to do with cheating.

Naturally, there’s a tweet… Continue reading

Six Ethics Lessons As Bill James Falls Into His Own Research Trap

Baseball philosopher, iconoclast and analyst Bill James is one of my heroes for his amazing ability to look past conventional wisdom with an open mind. Beginning as essentially a self-published pamphleteer writing out of his basement, James’ counter-traditional explorations of baseball statistics eventually changed how baseball was watched, assessed, scouted and played, simply on the strength of Bill’s  ideas and his facility in explaining them.

His talents could be used in many other fields–James has recently branched out into examining famous unsolved murders—but it is also true that many of the ideas he has developed in relation to baseball have wider applications. For example, James was the source of the concept of “signature significance,” which is a staple here at Ethics Alarms.

His writing also taught me that bias makes us stupid, and about the insidious power of rationalizations.  Many of James’s observations seemed intrinsically obvious once he made and explained them, and the fact that  baseball executives, writers and players could have been so wrong about their own game for so long seemed incomprehensible. But the reasons were what they always are, in all fields. People are biased toward what they have always believed —confirmation bias–and the “It’s always been this way” variation on the most powerful rationalization of them all, “Everybody does it”  breeds blindness and  intellectual laziness. Continue reading

Shrugging Off Cheating: It Is As I Feared…[Corrected]

Unfortunately, MAD is no longer around to protect our values…

My favorite Christmas gift this year, as it has been in recent years, is the new Bill James Baseball Handbook, which will be my primary bathroom reading for the next ten months. Oh, it’s not as much fun as the old Bill James Abstracts, but in those days, three decades ago, Bill was revealing then-unknown nuances of the game that spawned  the elaborate (and still developing) analytical tools that have changed how baseball is played, watched, and understood.

James typically writes a few long, Abstract-like articles for the Handbook, which has many contributors, and he is, as always, fascinated by the selection criteria for the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. My gift is especially timely, because his observations in the Handbook dovetail nicely with the recent voting by sportswriters on the latest entering class, including Derk Jeter, naturally, and perhaps others. The results won’t be announced for a while.

Bill did research this past year to determine who the public wanted to see elected to the Hall among players who had not yet been deemed worthy ( meaning that they hadn’t been listed on at least 75% of the ballots cast, or are not yet eligible for various reasons, including players who are still active. The results, as he explored the gap between public opinion and past voting, were disturbing, if not exactly shocking. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/1/17

 

Good Morning, World!

1. Follow-Up on the 7/28 morning post: Sometimes a popular public figure’s words and conduct so obviously show a deficit of character that I wonder if those who admire him or her are not paying attention, or are creeps themselves. “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling is officially in this category. First, I do not care for foreigners who obsessively bash our leaders, however bashable. They don’t have standing, in most cases, and their opinions are by definition uninformed if they don’t live here. Most obnoxious of all, however, in Rowling’s case, was her indefensible conduct regarding her recent infamous fake news tweet that circulated to her mob of followers a deceptively edited video showing President Trump cruelly ignoring a boy in a wheelchair, when he in fact stopped, crouched, and spoke to the child. She did this (“When someone shows you who they are, believe them.’ – Maya Angelou” was the snotty accompanying comment) on July 28, and the same day it was widely debunked, with the actual video being circulated on the web. No response came from Rowling, even as her tweet and libel continued to be liked and retweeted by “the resistance.”

On July 30, even CNN’s Brian Stelter, with extra time on his hands because his alleged news media ethics show avoids criticizing bias in the news media, flagged the bad tweet, and asked why Rowling hadn’t retracted it. Come on, Brian, you know why! It is for the same reason CNN continues to use unethical journalism to attack the President: they don’t believe he’s worthy of fairness or honesty.

Finally,  after various conservatives dredged up this year-old tweet from Rowling to show her hypocrisy and shame her with her own chosen words…

and after left-wing, fellow Brit Trump-basher Piers Morgan expressed frustration with her, and after PunditFact, a spin-off of PolitiFact, rated Rowling’s claim “Pants on Fire,” and after the boy’s mother herself denied that Rowling’s version occurred, the author finally retracted the tweet and took it down. She also tweeted this unethical apology:

Re: my tweets about the small boy in a wheelchair whose proferred hand the president appeared to ignore in press footage, multiple sources have informed me that that was not a full or accurate representation of their interaction. I very clearly projected my own sensitivities around the issue of disabled people being overlooked or ignored onto the images I saw and if that caused any distress to that boy or his family, I apologise unreservedly. These tweets will remain, but I will delete the previous ones on the subject.

This is a miserable apology, containing the stinking tell of the non-apology apology, “if anyone was offended” in this case the equivalent “if that caused any distress.”  The two people she non-apologizes to had no reason to be “distressed,’ since the tweet wasn’t an attack on them. This is not an apology at all, since it does not apologize ..

…to the person fraudulently attacked, President Trump, as well as his family and supporters

…to those deceived by her retweeted lie, and

…to the people who trusted her and became accessories in the false attack

…for taking four days to take down a lie that had been thoroughly exposes as one.

On the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale, it is a bottom of the barrel #10:

An insincere and dishonest apology designed to allow the wrongdoer to escape accountability cheaply, and to deceive his or her victims into forgiveness and trust, so they are vulnerable to future wrongdoing.

This rot is actually worse than a #10, as Rowling dares to ladle soppy virtue-signalling onto it. She only falsely attacked the President of the United States and spread a lie around the world because she is so, so sensitive and concerned about the treatment of handicapped people! Don’t you understand? It’s because she’s so compassionate and good that this happened!

It is my experience that good people can usually manage a sincere and remorseful apology to those harmed by their words or conduct.

2. This unethical lawsuit could sustain a stand-alone post, but I refuse to devote one to it as a matter of principle. Continue reading

From The Law vs Ethics Files: The July 24, 1983 Pine Tar Incident, When Baseball Chose Ethics Over Law, And Was 100% Wrong

I have written on this topic before, but this is the famous incident’s anniversary, and I have come to believe that the lesson learned from  the pine tar incident is increasingly the wrong one, and the consequences of this extend well beyond baseball.

On July 24, 1983, the Kansas City Royals were battling the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. With  two outs and a runner on first in the top of the ninth inning,  Royals third baseman George Brett hit a two-run home run off  Yankee closer  Goose Gossage to give his team a 5-4 lead.  Yankee manager Billy Martin, however, had been waiting like a spider for this moment.

Long ago, he had noticed that perennial batting champ Brett used a bat that had pine tar (used to allow a batter to grip the bat better) on the handle beyond what the rules allowed. MLB Rule 1.10(c) stated: “The bat handle, for not more than 18 inches from the end, may be covered or treated with any material or substance to improve the grip. Any such material or substance, which extends past the 18-inch limitation, shall cause the bat to be removed from the game.” At the time, such a hit was defined in the rules as an illegally batted ball, and the penalty for hitting “an illegally batted ball” was that the batter was to be declared out, under the explicit terms of the then-existing provisions of Rule 6.06.

That made Brett’s bat illegal, and any hit made using the bat an out. But Billy Martin didn’t want the bat to cause just any out. He had waited for a hit that would make the difference between victory or defeat for his team, and finally, at long last, this was it. Martin came out of the dugout carrying a rule book, and arguing that the home run shouldn’t count.  After examining the rules and the bat, home-plate umpire Tim McLelland ruled that Brett used indeed used excessive pine tar and called him out, overturning the home run and ending the game.

Brett’s resulting charge from the dugout (above) is video for the ages. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: “The Big Hurt,” Frank Thomas [UPDATED]

An ethics whiff for Frank Thomas

An ethics whiff for Frank Thomas

Baseball, and all its annual ethics puzzles, begins in about two weeks when Spring Training gets underway.  Meanwhile, I have to tolerate everyone talking about Tom Brady and the Cheating Patriots as the NFL makes billions encouraging  Americans to cheer for the gradual lobotomizing of young athletes for their pigskin entertainment. Still, even the off-season of America’s Pastime provides ethics fodder.

Frank Thomas, the 6’6″ 300 pound ex-first baseman, never was suspected of using steroids before he was elected to the  Hall of Fame, in part because he was naturally so huge and strong that if he had used steroids he would have ended up battling Godzilla in Tokyo. “The Big Hurt,” as he was called, was and is an outspoken opponent of steroid use in baseball, but speaking at  the annual White Sox fan convention last week, he proved that he is an ethics bush-leaguer.

The recent Hall of Fame vote  elected two players, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez, long rumored to be users of performance enhancing drugs, and the vote totals showed  increased support for uber-steroid cheat Barry Bonds and accused steroid-user Roger Clemens. The New York Post reported that Thomas said, without mentioning names, after he was asked how he felt about the election results, Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: Fox Sports And Major League Baseball

The ex players are (R to L), Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, banned Pete Rose, rapidly being forgotten Raul Ibanez, and the nearly universally detested Alex Rodriguez.

The ex players are (R to L), Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, banned Pete Rose, rapidly fading from memory Raul Ibanez, and the nearly universally detested Alex Rodriguez.

Among the commentators at the desk in the pre- and post game show for FS1 (that’s Fox Sports One) as it carries the National League Championship Series between the Cubs and the Dodgers, are Pete Rose, and Alex Rodriquez.

Pete Rose, baseball’s all-time hits leader, is banned from baseball for gambling on the game while a manager. This has been taboo since the 1919 World Series was fixed by gamblers. (Donald Trump has never accepted that the Cincinnati Reds won). Rose lied about whether he bet on baseball for over a decade, then he lied about whether he bet on his own team a little longer. In the meantime, he served prison time for tax evasion.

Alex Rodriquez eventually was suspended from baseball for more than a season for using banned performance enhancing drugs, years after he tested positive for steroid use and told the public sincerely that it was “one mistake” and he’d never do it again. He is also a serial liar. Eventually the increasingly cynical and ethically-addled younger sportswriters may vote him into the Hall of Fame, but he is second only to Barry Bonds as the worst of the worst. Currently, he is regarded as flunking the Hall’s character and sportsmanship requirement. Duh. Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: The New York Yankees

Yankees

Ah, thaaat’s better: the old, values-free, win-at-any-price New York Yankees we’ve grown to know and hate.

The Yankees today announced the acquisition of left-hander Aroldis Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for four minor league prospects of no great note. Chapman is arguably the most dominating late inning closer in baseball, as well as its hardest throwing pitcher: the left-hander averaged  99.5 mph on his fastball last season, and threw more balls in excess of 100 mph than all other major league pitchers combined. So why were the Yankees able to acquire him so cheaply?

Well, it’s because Chapman was regarded as virtually untradable due to his being investigated  by MLB for choking his girlfriend, and this was not the first instance where he was involved in alleged domestic violence.  The Dodgers had a trade for Chapman in place earlier this month, but pulled out when the team learned the details of the choking incident. (As usual, the girlfriend refused to press charges, and is gambling that she’ll end up rich rather than dead.) Most believe that Major League Baseball will suspend Chapman for up to 40 games under its new domestic violence policies.

Hey, but after that little hiccup, Yankee fans, the Pinstripes will have three beasts in the bullpen to close out games, with the three highest strikeout percentages in all of baseball from 2014-15 in Chapman (46.3 percent), Andrew Miller (41.6 percent) and Dellin Betances (39.5 percent)! What’s a little girlfriend choking when you can get talent like that? Continue reading