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

The Klan’s Birthday Cake, Individual Boycotts And The Ethics Of Refusing to Give Service To Jerks

"Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday, Dear Racists..."

“Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday, Dear Racists…”

[UPDATE: Apparently, the “news story” that prompted this post is a fake. In that case, I want to thank the hoaxers for  inadvertently sparking a useful discussion—nothing in my post is dependent on the factual nature of the story. I wasn’t the only one fooled, and I originally noted the links on reliable sites. On the other hand, to hell with people who plant fake stories that are not obviously tongue in cheek or satirical: it’s a despicable practice, and abuse of the web, and right down there with public vandalism and creating computer viruses as unforgivable public conduct. I apologize to readers here for misidentifying a false story as true, but I’m not the unethical jerk involved. If anyone knows who that is, please forward their names. I have some choice words for them.]

As I wrote the first time I stuck my ethics big toe into this kind of controversy, I am conflicted over the current trend of forcing certain kinds of service providers to serve customers they just don’t feel like serving. I have consistently come down on the side of the rejected customer, even when the service, as in the case of bakeries and photography salons, edges perilously close to art. I think I am there still, but my resolve is weakening. I think. Let’s look at this again, in the context of the kind of recent case that always eventually occurs when one sits on the slippery slopes.

A three judge panel of a Georgia appellate court recently ruled in favor of Marshall Saxby, the Grand Wizard of a local KKK chapter, after he sued a local bakery for refusing to bake a cake for the KKK chapter’s  annual birthday party. Elaine Bailey, who owns Bailey Bakeries, said she rejected the Klan its activities violated her religious beliefs, and Saxby claimed that Bailey’s refusal of service discriminated against his religious beliefs.

The difficulty with making an ethical call on this case and others like it (and sort of like it, arguably like it or a little bit like it) is that the crucial question in ethics analysis, “What’s going on here?” cannot be answered with certainty or clarity. There are ethical arguments and ethical principles, on both sides, making the issue an ethical conflict (rather than an ethical dilemma). In an ethical conflict, we must prioritize among important ethical principles that are opposing each other.

Let’s answer “What’s going on here?” in some of the various ways this case allows, as if only one of these ethical principles were in play: Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Washington Post Columnist Michael Gerson


“Most theorists of self-government have maintained that certain modest virtues are necessary to democracy and free markets: deferred gratification, diligence, a prudent concern for the future. There is an ongoing American debate about the degree to which government can or should promote such virtues. But here is an extraordinary case of government actively undermining the moral underpinnings of market capitalism for its own benefit. It holds out the promise of sudden wealth without work or productive investment, engaging in a purposeful and profitable deception. A corrupting fantasy becomes a revenue stream, dependent on persuading new generations to embrace it. Perhaps we have given up on government as a source of moral improvement. Does this mean we must accept a government that profits by undermining public virtues? Nearly 20 years ago, William Galston and David Wasserman wrote, “While history indicates that gambling is too ubiquitous to suppress, moral considerations suggest that it is too harmful to encourage. The most appropriate state stance toward gambling is not encouragement, but rather containment.”’

——- Washington Post op-ed columnist Michael Gerson, on the implications of a new report by the Institute For American Values titled, “Why Casinos Matter.” Continue reading

Texting Ethics: The Lawyer’s Duty To Propose A Ridiculous Theory And The Judge’s Duty To Reject It

"You almost had me, Miss. Your plan was clever---you knew your boyfriend would answer that text message you sent, and timed your call so he would be driving on Dead Man's Curve. It was almost a perfect crime!"

“You almost had me, Miss. Your plan was clever—you knew your boyfriend would answer that text message you sent, and timed your call so he would be driving on Dead Man’s Curve. It was almost a perfect crime!”

Last year, a Superior Court judge in Morristown, New Jersey ruled that Shannon Colonna should not and could not be made to pay damages to David and Linda Kubert, who both lost a leg after her boyfriend, Kyle Best, driving his car, read Colonna’s text message and crashed into the motorcycle the Kuberts were riding.

The Kuberts are appealing the ruling, with their attorney, Stephen “Skippy” Weinstein, arguing before a three-judge panel that texters should have “a duty of care” imposed on them, making them potentially liable when they send a message knowing that the intended recipient is driving, as Best was. It’s a novel theory and a genuinely terrible one, an insidious concept that would allow plaintiffs to drag completely innocent parties into crushing personal injury litigation, and that over time would be certain to ooze into other areas. Good for lawyer Weinstein, though; he’s doing his job, which is zealous representation. The future mischief such a duty would wreak isn’t his concern, only getting the best result for his clients is. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Mayor Bloomberg’s Pizza Petard

"No pizza for you!"

“No pizza for you!”

I came thiiiiis close to making this an Ethics Hero post, then I realized that the story was a gag.

But fictional tales pose real ethics dilemmas: let’s see if you can resolve the one raised by this spoof.

According to the satirical  Daily Currant, Mayor Bloomberg, better known in NYC as the Nanny Mayor who has, among other measures, decreed how much sweet soda pop one is allowed to sell or purchase to consume, was having a business lunch at Collegno’s Pizzeria. When he asked for second slice of pizza, however, he was refused.

“I’m sorry sir,” the Currant quoted owner “Antonio Benito” as replying, “we can’t do that. You’ve reached your personal slice limit.” And he wasn’t kidding.

“OK, that’s funny,” the alternate universe New York Mayor remarked, “because of the soda thing … No come on. I’m not kidding. I haven’t eaten all morning, just send over another pepperoni.”

“I’m sorry sir. We’re serious,” Benito said. “We’ve decided that eating more than one piece isn’t healthy for you, and so we’re forbidding you from doing it.”

Bloomberg, in the Currant’s account, then snapped., saying:  “Look jackass. I fucking skipped breakfast this morning just so I could eat four slices of your pizza. Don’t be a schmuck, just get back to the kitchen and bring out some fucking pizza, okay.”

Benito stood fast! “I’m sorry sir, there’s nothing I can do. Maybe you could go to several restaurants and get one slice at each. At least that way you’re walking. You know, burning calories.”


If only it were true… Continue reading

Jordan Sheard And The No-Capital Punishment Slippery Slope

Ah, come, on, show some compassion! All he did was set a guy on fire for being gay! Anyone can make a mistake!

Ah, come, on, show some compassion! All he did was set a guy on fire for being gay! Anyone can make a mistake!

One of these days, when CNN’s designated miracle-worker Piers Morgan (because making Larry King look brilliant is a miracle) is extolling the superiority of the land of his birth over the stupid, violent, individual rights-obsessed U.S., someone should ask him about Jordan Sheard. Sheard, a sadistic 20-year old bully, set his sights on a young gay man, Steven Simpson, whose offenses included, in addition to his sexual orientation,  a speech impediment, epilepsy and having Asperger’s  Syndrome. Sheard forced Simpson to strip down to his underwear and wrote gay slurs over his body, covered him with tanning oil, and set him on fire.

At his birthday party. Continue reading

Maryland’s Question 7: A Lesson in Progressive Corruption

Think of the children!

Maryland is supposedly one of the most progressive states in the country. One can make one’s own calculations about what it means that such a state is ready to wholeheartedly embrace government-sanctioned gambling as the easy and cowardly solution to its fiscal problems, despite the fact that the populations most harmed by gambling are the very people good progressives are supposed to care about most. My assessment is that resorting to gambling for state revenue is irresponsible, callous, venal and hypocritical. But an unholy alliance of cynical liberals, who argue for gambling because its ill-gotten tax revenue will support education (and we all know that the more money you pay teachers, the better educated our children will be), greedy business interests, and libertarians, who regard gambling as “victimless,” is now poised to add casino table gambling to the state’s sanctioned traps for its poor, desperate, dumb, corrupt and addicted. should Maryland’s voters approve “Question 7” on the ballot November 6th.

How progressive. Continue reading

Matrix Chicken Ethics


Architecture Student and artist André Ford has sparked an ethics debate after proposing that chickens be raised for meat in vertical racks after  their frontal cortexes have been severed, rendering them brain-dead and essentially growing meat. The question is, would this practice be more ethical than current factory farming, less ethical, or does it make no difference?

Ford’s system would have the chickens suspended and immobile, with their feet removed. Tubes would supply water and nutrients directly into them while other tubes would carry away their waste. The chickens, of course, wouldn’t feel a thing, which one could argue is a superior state to the well-documented stress and misery they would experience in traditional chicken farms. Meanwhile, the costs of raising chickens would be (theoretically) reduced, in part because far less space would be required, and the process would also be cleaner—again, theoretically. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Unethical Quote of the Month: Canadian Judge Joanne Veit”

The Comment of the Day, by Eric Monkman, is one of many excellent comments on yesterday’s post on the words of a Canadian judge in allowing a woman who murdered her newborn infant to go free.

There are many threads in the discussion, and I am not caught up. I officially apologize to combatants Eric and tgt especially for not being able to respond in sufficient detail, or in some cases at all, to their thoughtful posts. This an example of the limitations of the blog comment format. I wish I could organize a conference call.

The discussion went into so many directions that the initial post’s point was distorted, in part by me. Here is how I would summarize it:

Judge Veit’s quote, the actual focus of the post, strikes me as ethically offensive because 1) the statement that “many believe” abortion is a less than ideal solution to unprotected sex suggests that abortion is acceptable as a primary method of birth control. The commenters object to my interpretation of the judge’s phrasing to mean that she personally believes the adverse of the statement, that abortion is an ideal solution to unprotected sex. (The ideal solution to unprotected sex is not to have unprotected sex.) OK. I see their point. I still read it differently, and my comments are based upon my reading. At best, it is a sloppy, imprecise statement. 2) The comparison, and equivalency, between grief for the child—who is dead, and who was killed by the person who was most responsible for her welfare—and grief for the murderous mother, who is alive, and who is avoiding legal sanctions for her crime, shows a warped set of ethical values. The implication is that the life of a child is no more important, nor has any more regard from the society, than the emotional comfort of the mother. I know that is the standard in Canada, and in much of the US. It is wrong.

The subsequent discussion about how acceptance of abortion leads to acceptance of infanticide was focused on the U.S., but mistakenly assumed that this was the order of events in Canada. It was not; I think that is affirmatively strange, as one would assume that a human life would not be less valued in a society as it became more viable. It doesn’t change my analysis regarding the U.S., however.

Eric asks some good questions which I will address at the end. Here is his Comment of the Day, on “Unethical Quote of the Month: Canadian Judge Joanne Veit”: Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Month: Canadian Judge Joanne Veit

“…While many Canadians undoubtedly view abortion as a less than ideal solution to unprotected sex and unwanted pregnancy, they generally understand, accept and sympathize with the onerous demands pregnancy and childbirth exact from mothers, especially mothers without support…Naturally, Canadians are grieved by an infant’s death, especially at the hands of the infant’s mother, but Canadians also grieve for the mother.”

—- Canadian Judge Joanne Viet, announcing that Katrina Effert, who strangled her newborn child and threw the body over a fence into the neighbor’s yard when she was 19, will serve a three-year suspended sentence with no jail time for the murder, reflecting a “fair compromise of all the interests involved.”

This is a cautionary ethics tale indeed for those who deny that a callous attitude toward human lives in the womb, giving them no standing against a mother’s desires and convenience, will gradually, inevitably, coarsen and warp a culture’s respect for life and its comprehension of wrong. [Addition: Many commenters have pointed out that Canada had designated infanticide as a relatively minor crime before fully legalizing abortion. That is a strange progression, though once infanticide had been declared “understandable,” abortions days were numbered. In the US, the gradual de-valuing of young life is moving in the more obvious way, from younger to older. The process, however, is the same.] Continue reading