Tag Archives: reponsibility

When “Ick!” Strikes Out Ethics: The Intensifying Robo-Umpire Controversy

[I see that I last wrote about this issue in April, and before that, in June of 2016, and in 2012 before that.Well, it’s worth writing about again, and again, until ethics and common sense prevails.]

This weekend Major League Umpires held a silent protest, wearing armbands in support of colleague Angel Hernandez, whose competence was publicly questioned by Detroit Tiger player Ian Kinsler. In fact, Angel Hernandez is a terrible umpire, and terrible, indeed, even mildly fallible umpires have a problem now that they never had to worry about in the good old days: their mistakes are obvious and recorded for all to see.

Yesterday Red Sox color man and former player Jerry Remy was reminiscing during the Red Sox -Yankee game broadcast about one of his few home runs. He said he had struck out, missing with his third swing by almost a foot, and was walking back to the dugout when the umpire called him back, saying he had foul-tipped the ball. “I know that was wrong, but I’m not going to argue I’m out when the ump says I’m not.” Remy said. He went back to the plate, and on the next pitch hit a home run. “Of course, they didn’t have replay them,” Jerry added.

Before every game was televised and before technology could show wear each pitch crossed the plate, balls and strikes were called definitively by umpires, many of whom proudly had their own strike zones. “As long as they are consistent with it ” was the rationalization you heard from players and managers. It was, however, a travesty. The strike zone isn’t a judgment call; it is defined, very specifically, in the rules. A pitch is either within the legal zone or it is not. A strike that is called a ball when it is not, or vice-versa, is simply a wrong call, and any time it happens can affect the outcome of the at-bat and the game. If you watch a lot of baseball, you know that we are not just talking about strikeouts and walks.  The on-base average when a batter is facing a 2 balls, one strike count as opposed to a 1-2 count is significantly higher. The wrongly called third pitch can change the result of the at bat dramatically.

Since the technology is available to call strikes correctly 100% of the time, why isn’t the technology being used? Actually it is being used, in TV broadcasts. The fan can see exactly when the umpire misses a call, and the broadcasters talk about it all the time. “Where was that?” “That was a gift!”  “Wow, the pitcher was squeezed on that one.” Once, a missed call in a game was virtually undetectable, because one could assume that the umpire had a better and closer view than any fan or broadcaster could have. Now, there is no doubt.

Yet the players, sportswriters and broadcasters still overwhelmingly argue against the use of computer technology to call balls and strikes. It’s amazing. They know, and admit, that  mistaken  ball and strike calls warp game results; they complain about it when it happens, point it out, run the graphics repeatedly to show how badly a crucial call was botched, and yet argue that a completely fixable problem with massive implications to the players, the games and the seasons, should be allowed to persist.

These are the rationalizations and desperate  arguments they advance: Continue reading

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The Umpire’s Botched Call, Moral Luck, And When Using Technology Becomes Ethically Mandatory

The Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday, but if they hadn’t, we might be seeing the beginning of tidal wave of public opinion demanding that available technology be employed to avoid catastrophic umpire incompetence.

Washington had a 3-0 lead entering the bottom of the ninth. The Braves mounted a rally,scoring one run and then loading the bases with only one out. At that point Nationals manager Dusty Baker  removed struggling closer Blake Treinen  for Shawn Kelley

Kelley got his first batter to foul out, and then appeared to strike out Chase d’Arnaud, swinging. The game was over: the Nationals came out to congratulate each other, and the ground crew moved onto the field. d’Arnaud, however, argued to home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor that he had foul-tipped the ball into the dirt before the Nat’s catcher caught it. Bucknor agreed, and everyone was called back onto the field.

Kelley struck out d’Arnaud again, so no harm was done. But  videos of the “foul tip”  showed that the batter hadn’t come close to hitting the ball on the pitch Bucknor ruled a foul tip. He missed it by a foot.

If d’Arnaud, given an unearned second chance, had cleared the bases with a ringing double, the baseball world would be going nuts right now; that he didn’t was just moral luck. It went kind of nuts anyway. Bucknor is a terrible umpire, as his awful calls showed throughout the game, which was a typical performance for him. If the botched foul tip call had occurred later in the season during a crucial game, or during the post-season,  it might finally prompt Major League Baseball to use available technology and have balls and strikes called electronically, or at least have a fail-safe review system where an umpire viewing pitched on a TV monitor could instantly overrule a terrible, obvious, game changing call by the home plate umpire.

At this point, it is irresponsible for MLB not to use the Bucknor botch as impetus to make these changes now, before a disaster, realizing that a lucky near-miss shouldn’t be treated any differently. It won’t, however. It will wait until the horse has not only escaped the barn, but escaped the barn and trampled some children, before putting a lock on the door.

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It’s Theater Ethics vs. High School Ethics, And Incredibly, Both Win

New Jersey’s Cherry Hill School District announced last week that the planned Spring student production of the 1998 Broadway musical “Ragtime” would continue to be rehearsed and would proceed, despite the complaints of some parents. However, student actors would not use “nigger” and other racially-charged terms in the original script. They would be changed or eliminated, the District said.

A spokeswoman for the district, said at the time that officials had already been discussing the possibility of censoring the Cherry Hill High School East production when the Cherry Hill African American Civic Association and the NAACP offered their remedies: censorship, political correctness, and bye-bye free expression and thought. Of course this was their reaction. It is simple-minded, but typical of left-wing political correctness tyranny. It doesn’t matter what ideas are being conveyed, certain words cannot be used to convey them. Whenever possible, the heavy boot of government should crush the non-conforming expression. Also “of course,” lily-livered school administrators initially offered no opposition. Duck the controversy, and the real issues be damned. After all, it’s just a high school musical.

Unfortunately, there was the little issue of licensing agreements. “Ragtime” is a work of art, not that the NAACP cares, and artists have a right to control how their work is performed, even in Cherry Hill. The contract under which the school was allowed to produce the show specifies that the script and songs must be performed as written, no exceptions.

The National Coalition Against Censorship, the Dramatists Guild of America, and Arts Integrity Initiative wrote a smart letter urging the school officials “to reconsider and reverse [the] decision to censor “Ragtime”:

“Ragtime’s” use of racial slurs is an historically accurate and necessary aspect of a play that explores race relations in the early 1900s. Ragtime helps minors understand the brutalities of racism and the anger that has historically accumulated, partly through the use of racially offensive language. In contrast, censorship of such language ignores historical reality and presents a falsified, whitewashed view of race relations. Censoring the play will only perpetuate ignorance of our past. While we empathize with concerns about the emotionally disturbing effects of hearing or uttering racial slurs, we believe such concerns are to be resolved through educational means, not by censoring a renowned text. In our experience, similar concerns… have best been confronted through dialogue rather than censorship.”

Then the students, who had been rehearsing the show since before Christmas (no, real high school performers can’t prepare an elaborate show of professional quality in a few days, as “Glee” would have us believe), created a petition on Change.Org: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, Popular Culture, Race, Rights, U.S. Society

Dear Guy In My Legal Ethics Seminar: No, Gene Autry Was NOT A Pornographer, And Shame On You

ORG XMIT: NY21 Singing cowboy star Gene Autry is shown in an undated file photo. Autry, who parlayed a $5 mail order guitar into a career as Hollywood's first singing cowboy, died Friday, Oct. 2, 1998. He was 91. His death came less than three months after the death of his great rival, Roy Rogers.

In a legal ethics seminar last week, I was talking about ethics codes and referenced Gene Autry’s version of The Cowboy Code as an example of how most ethics codes could be easily adapted to other professions. I noted that Gene had an amazing career for such an unimpressive looking and sounding performer, with five stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the only individual with that many. (Live performance, radio, TV, movies, and recordings).

“He was also a big producer of pornography!” an elderly lawyer in the front row piped up.

“What?” I said. “Gene Autry? Where did you hear that?”

“Oh, it’s true,” he insisted. “Made him a lot of money. He covered it up pretty well, but the truth came out.”

“Well, I’ll check on that. If true, it’s disillusioning. Thanks.”

But it was not true. I have a lot of material–Gene was active in both show business and Westerns, as well as baseball, so his career was and is very interesting to me—and I searched it and the web for any hint of a pornography reference. I can’t even find a web hoax alleging it.

Not only did that unsolicited bit of false biographical information undermine the point I was making about ethics codes, it spread false information about, by every account, a very nice man and an idol to millions. Now almost a hundred people have it in their heads that the guy singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” and “Back in the Saddle Again” left the studio and filmed orgies.

I don’t know who the guy was that did that to Gene, but it was an irresponsible, reckless thing to do. You can’t make a statement like that in public and smear a great man’s reputation unless you are absolutely certain of your facts.  Obviously he wasn’t sure of them, because they are complete fiction. It’s the kind of thing Donald Trump would say.

Here’s Gene:

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Etiquette and manners, Popular Culture

KABOOM!* The YMCA Camp Slavery Re-Creation And I Can’t Believe I’m Typing This…

Another day of fun at the YMCA Camp!

Another day of fun at the YMCA Camp!

Maybe the reason I can’t believe it is that it’s difficult to believe anything when one’s brains decorate the walls.

The Detroit News  reports, in a story that I initially assumed was a hoax, that the YMCA Storer Camps in Jackson, Michigan included an  “educational” activity called “Underground Railroad”) in which black children were asked to play runaway slaves, as some teachers and camp instructors acted as slave masters, chasing them down using real horses. Once captured, the children were “auctioned off.” One of the young “slaves” complained to her mother, who wrote an e-mail to the elementary school that subjected its charges to this fun exercise, reading in part:

“As the mother of an African American son and daughter, I am dismayed that Pardee Elementary would authorize and condone such an extremely racially insensitive and damaging activity…The slave masters (camp instructors and teachers) had certificates which allowed them to pay for the slaves, and the students were required to hold up the certificates when they were bought or sold.”

“My daughter said she was scared,” another mother complained. “One of the guys (camp instructors) re-enacted killing a deputy. They should not do that in front of a 10-year-old, and not when kids are hundreds of miles away from home. If they want to teach black history, they should do that in the classroom.”

Ya think? Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, History, Kaboom!, Professions, Race

Toward An Ethical Lottery

Powerball

Powerball, like all government-sponsored lotteries, is unethical in every way except that it is not fixed, at least as far as we know. The excitement over lotteries is also depressing. The whole scenario is like something out of a movie about a dystopian culture in which only a lucky draw can rescue citizens from despair and failure—this, in a society of unique personal freedom and opportunities for success. The worst aspect of lotteries—arguably, since there are so many bad things about them—is that they are cruel cheats. As often as not, indeed more often than not, winning a jackpot just provides conclusive proof of why the individual needed a lottery to achieve even temporary affluence. The poor decision-making skills, inadequate education and self-destructive tendencies of many of these winners lead to disaster and  financial distress incredibly quickly; many have lost all of their winnings within five years or less,.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There are people, many of them, who have the skills, ideas, talents and character to achieve great things for themselves and society if they had a little help, like some spare time and extra cash. Some of these people achieve a great deal without the time or cash, but might do more good for society with some help.

I would like to see a merit, ambition and potential-based “lottery,” which individuals enter with an explanation of their aspirations and some valid support for their ability to achieve them. Have the entrance fee reasonable, say, twenty bucks, and allow nominations to be submitted by others for a lesser amount, say, ten. Wait until the pool reaches an appropriate size, like 20 million dollars, and have a selection committee choose finalists to interview. In the end, a group of  worthy candidates are awarded a million dollars (or more, or less—I’m not designing details here) to see what they do with it. There will be no further strings attached.

Naturally there will be frauds and failures; it will be the job of the selection process to try to sniff out and avoid them, but some duds will slip through. Never mind. This would still be a “lottery” that has a fighting chance of benefiting society rather than a lucky few who spent money on an upscale, state-promoted version of the numbers game they should have been investing in a college fund for their kids or in a degree for themselves.

It would have a chance of making life a little better, rather than worse, which is what the current “games” do.

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Government & Politics, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunce: Washington Redskins Quarterback Robert Griffin III And Any Other Celebrity Who Has Somebody Other Than The Celebrity Send Out Social Media Messages In His Or Her Name

RGIII

I’m really sick of the “an intern did it” or ” a low level employee did it” explanation when a social media tweet, re-tweet, “like” or message goes wrong and causes an uproar that causes trouble for a celebrity or politician. It’s your name, the person sending the message is your employee and agent who you have authorized to communicate in your name. For the purposes of social media, they are you. Take your medicine, be accountable, own what “you” say online, or get off social media. It’s really as simple as that.

Robert Griffin III is the central figure of a pro football drama that many of those outside of Washington, D.C. or, better yet, those who recognize that pro football is ethics rot put in colorful uniforms to maim minds and and make money every Sunday for more than half the year. Once an NFL rookie of the year, a blooming super-star black quarterback in a majority black city, and the lord of all he surveyed, RGIII, as he is almost exclusively called locally, has fallen far, brought low by bad coaching, injuries, and his own hubris. His one great advantage has been the Skins’ owner’s infatuation with him, as Croesus-like Daniel Snyder runs his franchise like Fantasy league team, and also into the ground.

So how does “RGIII,” a.k.a. the anonymous kid who sends out his tweets and other messages when the star is busy doing what young millionaires do, decide is a great is a great way to show his loyalty to his patron and the man who pays his salary? “He” likes a post from an angry fan that features the hashtag, #inpeachdansnyder.

RGIII, recognizing that this was an especially bad time to tick off his guardian billionaire (he had just been benched by the Redskins’ coach), sent out his own, genuine, reallyreallyreally what he thinks post blaming his intern:

@rgiii I just wanted to set the record straight on this one. I did not “like” that IG post ridiculing our team. I have not been social media active consistently for awhile now and am ultra-focused on working to get back on the field and trying to help this team. One of our interns who helps with Instagram liked the post. As soon as I was made aware of it, it was immediately unliked. That is not how I feel and I appreciate your understanding.
#HTTR

No, actually “you” did like that post, Mr. Star. And if you have “not been social media active,” stop paying someone you obviously don’t supervise to keep you socially media active.

I’m glad they benched you.

(At least Donald Trump makes his own offensive tweets.)

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