Monday Morning Summary Of What Would Have Been In The Sunday Ethics Warm-Up That I Was Supposed To Post But….Aw, Forget It. Here’s Some Ethics Stuff…

Good morning.

Boy, am I glad THAT week is over.

1. Moral luck saves the 2019 baseball post-season…for now. MLB missed a major disaster when an umpire missed a clear strike three (he ruled a foul) on Yankee slugger Gary Sanchez in a tied and crucial game between the Houston Astros and New York.  It was the 11th inning, meaning a tie-breaking run would mean a likely Yankee victory.  THAT would have meant that the Astros would have lost the first two games of a seven game series at home, a hole that very few teams in baseball history have been able to overcome.

Sanchez  struck out on the next pitch, and a Carlos Correia home run in the bottom of the inning sent the Astros to Yankee Staudium in a series tied 1-1. The botch was moot, and will soon be forgotten. But if he Sanchez hit a home run or otherwise led the Yankees to a decisive score, the ALCS might have been completely turned by a blown call captured on video for all to see.

And there would be no excuse: the rules allow no appeal on that kind of play, but there has to be.

Yes, it was “moral luck” again. The fact that the worst didn’t happen doesn’t change the seriousness of the fact that only luck saved the day and prevented a blot on the integrity of the whole 2019 post-season. Maybe it would have been better if the bad call had altered the game, the series, and the World Series. Maybe then baseball would stop waiting for the high-profile disaster caught on video that will force it to have ball and strikes called by technology. It took an umpire’s obvious blown safe call in what should have been the last out of a perfect game to make baseball go to replays, and anyone who watches many games knows how many times a reversal changes game outcomes. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/3/2019: “Thing’s Are Seldom What They Seem…”

Good afternoon!

1. Today’s source of maximum irritation. Remember those California wildfires at the end of last year that the news media kept reporting as proof of climate change and that prompted Democrats and talking heads to sneer in disdain at anyone, especially President Trump, who suggested that electrical equipment just might have been the cause? From NPR:

Pacific Gas and Electric says it’s “probable” that its equipment caused the Camp Fire in Northern California, the deadliest and most destructive in the state’s history.

California has not finished its investigation into PG&E’s culpability in last November’s fire that killed at least 85 people, destroyed about 14,000 structures, displacing tens of thousands of people and destroying the town of Paradise. However, the state’s largest utility, which filed for bankruptcy last month, said Thursday it expects the investigation will find that its damaged infrastructure sparked the fire.

Please let Ethics Alarms know how many of the news shows this morning mention this development.

2. Spring Training ethics note: Good news! Ethics Alarms has been campaigning for robo-umps at home plate to call balls and strikes for several years. Now MLB announces that it has finalized a three-year deal with the independent Atlantic League to have the league test rules innovations and equipment for the Show. This will include computer calling of pitches. Not so good news: it will also reportedly include moving the mound back, which is heresy.

3. Concern for Popehat’s Ken White.  There is not a smarter, more passionate, better blogger on the planet than lawyer Ken White, and while we have had our disagreements, his commentary on law and justice especially is a blessing for all Americans, even though most don’t have the sense to benefit from it. One of many reasons I admire Ken is that he has been candid about his battle with depression, a killer illness that too many people don’t understand. That malady runs in my family (or as Mortimer Brewster says in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “Runs? It practically gallups!”), and has been responsible for more than one suicide. Popehat once was a collective, but now it’s almost entirely Ken, with occasional drop-ins from the acerbic Mark Randazza. The blog’s last entry was January 4, almost two months. I’m worried, as are most of Ken’s fans I’m sure, and I am officially sending Ethics Alarms best wishes and love to one of the really good people in multiple roles: lawyer, blogger, public educator. Get back as soon as you can, Ken. We need you. Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 10/24/2018: Catchers, Judges, Photographers, And Journalists Behaving Badly. Then There Are The Bombers….

Good afternoon!

You might as well know: I’ve been what they euphemistically  call “under the weather” recently. Ethics is getting in the way of my naps…

1. About those bombs…Not much that needs to be said about the explosive devices sent to Soros, the Clintons, Obama and—it fits–CNN, except this: it was inevitable. With conservatives being harassed and attacked in public places, Fox News offices and Republican offices being vandalized, and Democratic leadership and the media openly feeding the hate while rationalizing extreme incivility ( Philippe Reines, former adviser to Hillary Clinton, on MSNBC regarding mobs harassing Mitch McConnell and others: “People are doing these things because it’s all that’s left.” Gee, I guess there were some other tactics left after all, eh, Phil?), that some unstable wacko would decide to bring a gun to knife fight was a near certainty. Naturally, the news media and Democrats want to blame Republicans for the crimes. That’s not going to defuse the situation, and it’s also wrong.  The blame falls on all of those who have encouraged the rhetoric of hate and uncivil conduct rather than conducting political debate in a manner that doesn’t shame democracy.

You can make that list as easily as I can. When the Oklahoma City bombing occurred, the extreme anti-government rhetoric—by the standards of those times, at least–of the Right was fairly accorded the bulk of the blame for raising anger to a dangerous level. This time, the hate machine is being operated around the clock by the Left, and for two years without a break or a significant easing on the accelerator—indeed, it is pretty much the Democratic theme of the 2018 elections.

2. It’s a huge bat! It’s a black-robed blur! It’ SUPER JUDGE! In Chehalis, Washington, Judge R.W. Buzzard left the bench and chased  after two handcuffed inmates when they made a run for it from his Washington state courtroom. 22-year-old Tanner Jacobson and 28-year-old Kodey Howard bolted for the door and down  four flights of stairs, but the judge grabbed Howard just as he was about to exit the courthouse, and Jacobson was caught by police apprehended Jacobson a few blocks away.

As with the cases of bank tellers and grocery clerks who spontaneously play vigilante, the judge was exceeding his authority and interfering with law enforcement. This wasn’t his job, and is not the kind of image the judiciary wants to project. He should be disciplined, but probably won’t be.

Sheriff Rob Snaza said of the incident, “These things don’t happen very often.” No kidding. And they shouldn’t happen at all.
Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/15/18: Overthrowing The Government, Replacing Umpires, and Fooling Some Of The People Who Never Did Their Science And Math Assignments [UPDATED!]

Good morning…

1. Baseball Ethics: Again, Robocalls, please! Last night, Game #2 of the American League Championship Series between the 2017 World Champion Houston Astros and some team from Boston again showed why Major League Baseball must install automated ball and strike calls and automatic video review if the game is going to have any integrity at all. Regarding the latter, there was a play in which a Houston batter’s swing and miss for strike three was erroneously called a foul ball by the home plate umpire, and the replay claerly showed that the bat had missed any contact by inches. Nonetheless, the batter got another chance. He struck out (“no harm, no foul” literally) a second time, but that was just moral luck. If he had hit a home run, altering the game’s outcome, the system would have been changed with lightning speed: Ye Olde Barn Door Fallacy.

Regarding the constant missed call and strike calls that risk changing the outcome in every game, the previous game in the serious contained a classic example. In a close contest with the two runners on base and a 3-2 count, Red Sox batter Andrew Benintendi was called out on a pitch about six inches outside the strike zone. Instead of the inning continuing with the bases loaded and the AL season RBI leader, J.D. Martinez, coming to the plate, the inning was over. Listening to the ex-players like TBS color man Ron Darling babble excuses and rationalizations is almost as infuriating as the obviously wrong calls. “Well, the ball wasn’t too far off the plate” and “That pitch has been called a strike earlier tonight” and “The umpires have a difficult job”: Shut up, Ron. The strike zone is set by the rules; a ball is either a strike or it isn’t, so a call is either correct or it’s botched. Blatantly missed calls were “part of the game” in an earlier era when nothing could be done about them, but that’s not true now. Baseball is supposed to be determined by the skill and performance of the players, not by random, unpredictable mistakes by the bystanding officials. Can you imagine a criminal defendant sent to prison in a trial where the judge repeatedly allowed inadmissible evidence against him because he misinterpreted the law, and the appeals court shrugging and rejecting an appeal with a unanimous opinion that said, “Hey, mistakes happen! It’s part of the system’s tradition and charm!”

2. Run, Fauxahontas, Run!  Fake Native American Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) announced that she finally did have her DNA tested. No cheapie home test for this aspiring Cherokee: she had the DNA test performed  by Carlos D. Bustamante, a Stanford University professor (and Democrat) and expert in the field who won a 2010 MacArthur fellowship for his work on tracking population migration via DNA analysis.  He concluded that “the vast majority” of Warren’s ancestry is European, but he added that “the results strongly support the existence of an “unadmixed Native American ancestor,” and calculated that Warren’s pure Native American ancestor appears in her family tree “in the range of 6-10 generations ago.” That’s a big range: six generations would make her 1/32nd American Indian, but ten generations would make her 1/1024th Native American. Nothing in the test proves she has the Cherokee ancestry she claims.

UPDATE: Apparently the Globe reporters and editors are among the math-challenged. Mid-day, it issued a second correction:

“Due to a math error, a story about Elizabeth Warren misstated the ancestry percentage of a potential 6th to 10th generation relative. The generational range based on the ancestor that the report identified suggests she’s between 1/64th and 1/1,024th Native American,” the Globe explained.

This means Warren is somewhere between 0.09 and 1.5 percent Native American, not between .19 and 3.1 percent as originally claimed.

Continue reading

Todd Frazier’s Cheat And The Umpire’s Revenge

Why is the umpire standing on home plate?

In a Mets-Dodgers game a week ago in Los Angeles,  Mets third baseman Todd Frazier leaped into the stands to catch a foul ball. Climbing out, he quickly showed the umpire his glove with the ball in, the umpire signalled an out, and then Frazier tossed the ball to a fan. Did I say the ball? I should have said a ball. The ball Frazier showed the umpire wasn’t the ball hit by the Dodgers’ Alex Verdugo, but a white rubber ball, presumably belonging to a spectator,  that he grabbed after the real one rolled out of his glove during his fall. Frazier claimed that first he thought it was the real ball,  but when he realized it wasn’t, tried to sell the non-catch anyway. And it worked!

“It is Hollywood,” Frazier said later in the week. “Sometimes you’ve got to act out a little bit….I was trying to get out of there as quick as possible. I saw someone pointing at the right ball and I was like, ‘All right, I’m just going to have to play this off.’ I got in the dugout and was telling people I was flabbergasted that I even got away with it.”

There are gray areas is baseball gamesmanship. I wrote an essay about the topic several years ago, and ruled what Frazier did clearly unethical, for several reasons. It was not like the common situation when a player traps a ball in the outfield and acts like he made the play. If the umpire calls an out, the fielder has no more obligation to correct the umpire to the detriment of his team than a batter has an ethical duty to say, “No, ump, that wasn’t a ball four, it was strike three. You missed the call. I’m out.” Frazier actively deceived the umpire by placing the dropped ball in his glove out of the umpire’s sight. Worse, he even used a fake ball to sell the deception. With the exception of the rubber ball, the trick was reminiscent of a famous World Series cheating controversy: Continue reading

Labor Day Ethics Leftovers, 9/4/18: Big Lies, Big Jerks, Big Mistakes [UPDATED]

 

Good morning!

1. So, so predictable. Yesterday was fun: I assumed that the post about the undeniable pettiness, incivility and hypocrisy at Senator McCain’s funeral service in D.C. would prompt multiple exclamations of “But…but…Trump deserves it!”, “He’s worse!” and “What about what Trump does?” I was not disappointed. Each one of these desperate efforts to avoid facing the issue discussed and admit reality is signature significance for having crippling flaws in one’s ethics analysis abilities, gaping holes in one’s basic understanding of right and wrong, and a victim of stupidity-inducing bias. Nothing in the post excused or referenced the President’s own conduct in any way.

2. Baseball ethics. No, it is not unethical for pitchers to carry crib sheets. During the top of the eighth inning in Saturday night’s Phillies game against the Cubs in Philadelphia, third base umpire Joe West noticed the Phillies  pitcher looking at a card he had pulled from his pocket, and confiscated it. The card contained scouting reports on how to pitch a Cubs batter. The advanced analytics baseball teams now use to devise how to position fielders and pitch to batters are too detailed for the typical player to commit to memory. Lots of them carry little cheat sheets, sometimes in their hats. Although lots of old school players and tradition-loving fans hate the development, it’s here, and there are no rules against it.

Never mind: Joe West, who is one of the more arrogant and autocratic umpires, felt that the piece of paper constituted a “foreign substance” under the rules, and thus surmised that it was prohibited by the provision designed to stop pitchers from making the ball do tricks by surreptitiously applying K-Y Jelly or slippery elm. Yup, ol’ Joe thought the pitcher, Austin Davis, was  going to use the card to doctor the baseball. Good thinking, Joe! MLB quickly set him straight the next day, announcing that West, as he often is, for he is an awful umpire,  was mistaken.

The fact that West couldn’t figure that out himself, and that he is the longest tenured MLB ump, tells you why we will have robo-umps calling strikes within five years or less.

3. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! Today’s nauseating example of mainstream media’s refusal to report and comment on the news objectively comes from the New York Times—Surprise!—which writes sympathetically about the Democratic Party’s dilemma as it tried to derail the Supreme Court nomination of Bret Kavanaugh. There’s no filibuster any more! Multiple Democrats tell the Times how unfair this is. Guess whose name is completely absent from the article? Why, former Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who resorted to the so-called nuclear option to pass Barack Obama’s judicial nominations over Republican opposition. “They are making a mockery of the process, and that is because the No. 1 goal …. is to stack the bench with ideologues, because they know they cannot achieve their goals through the elected branches,” said the Republican leadership at the…no, wait, that quote is from Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the current Democratic leader. He doesn’t mention that his predecessor is the reason the system is “broken.” At least the Times, in one brief sentence , acknowledge that “Democrats” eliminated the filibuster for federal judges below SCOTUS level. They do not make it clear that this shattered a long-standing Senate tradition, and that it made the GOP follow-up of killing the device for Supreme Court nominations both politically feasible and inevitable.

The Times also does not remind readers that its editorial board applauded Reid’s move at the time. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/23/2018: An Overdue Pardon, A Questionable No-Hitter, A Stupid Tweet, A Modest Hero…

Yes, I’m still here…

For one of the very few times since 2009, there were no posts yesterday. I’m sorry. I was pressed on a client’s urgent deadline from 7 am to 11 pm, with errands and sanity breaks in between, and never could get my schedule or brain cleared sufficiently to work on Ethics Alarms.

1 This is the news media. This morning, HLN  has spent 5-10 minutes every hour covering the birth of Queen Elizabeth’s latest grandchild. He’s a boy, in case you were on pins and needles. This isn’t fake news, it’s non-news. Why is this important? What possible use does detailed information regarding the latest addition to the succession train (he’s fifth in line) of an increasingly anachronistic monarchy have to the U.S. public? I’m looking at the morning New York Times, and literally 98% of its contents are more newsworthy.

Among the events broadcast in connection to this non-event was an elaborately dressed “town cryer” in London, ringing a bell and reading from a scroll to announce the royal birth. After CNN’s remote cameras recorded this memorable moment, it was revealed by a London correspondent that the elderly man dressed like a Tower Beefeater is a wacko, with no official significance whatsoever. Then a half hour later, HLN showed the wacko’s act again, sans any wacko label, but text that said, “Moments ago.” Thirty minutes is “moments”? Then we got new post-birth news, the London odds-makers take on what the likely name of this completely unimportant future prince will be. The odds on “Jack” were 9-1. Said Robin Meade’s sidekick Jennifer Westhoven: “Jack? Wouldn’t that be ‘James’?”

No, you ignorant moron. A., Jack is a real name. I can prove it, and B. It is a nickname for John, not James.

Yeah, we should trust these people.

2. Trump Tweets. Okay, what is this? President Trump, flush with success over questionable reports that North Korea has decided to halt nuclear testing (you know, like Iran, and equally trustworthy), tweeted,

Now, it is easily determined that the North Koreans have not agreed to “denuclearization.” Meetings haven’t even taken place. The tweet is fantasy. This is the kind of thing the mouth-foaming Trump haters point to as an example of the President’s “lying.” A statement that can’t possibly deceive anyone else, coming from someone who habitually makes such statements, is a falsehood, but whether it is a lie is questionable. Does Trump believe this tweet, at least when he wrote it? I suspect so. He communicates–indeed, he thinks— in cloudy generalizations and concept clouds. Is this tweet and its ilk spectacularly irresponsible and self-destructive to his ability to be respected and believed? Oh, definitely. Stupid and embarrassing too. But a lie? I’m not sure. “Trumpism” might be a better term.

Calling out NBC with “fake news” in front of a tweet with fake news is certainly audacious stupidity, however.

3. Now the Good Trump (maybe): Reportedly, spurred by the suggestion of Sylvester Stallone, the President is considering a pardon for Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion (1908-1915) who was hounded by the government and personally destroyed, mostly because of his proclivity to have relationships with white women. Johnson’s primary crime was being a successful, defiant, black man at the height of Jim Crow. The play (and movie) “The Great White Hope” tells his story, which is an American tragedy; Ken Burns also made a superb documentary about Johnson.

Johnson was convicted of violating the Mann Act, for transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes, in his case, miscegenation. Eventually he served time in a federal penitentiary. There have been calls to grant Johnson a posthumous pardon for at least a decade. A 2008 bill requesting President George W. Bush to pardon Johnson in 2008 passed the House, but failed to pass in the Senate. Senator McCain,  Representative Peter King, Burns and Johnson’s great-niece requested a presidential pardon for Johnson from President Obama in 2009, and again in  2016, in honor of the 70th anniversary of Johnson’s death in a car accident. A vote by the United States Commission on Civil Rights also called on Obama to “right this century-old wrong.” There was also a Change.org petition. Obama never acted, causing a firestorm of protest from the Congressional Black Caucus.

No, I’m kidding: it was hardly mentioned in the news media or by black activist groups. And Jack Johnson’s life, despite the fact that hardly anyone under the age of  50 could tell you anything about him, mattered. If President Trump finally does the right thing and clears Jack Johnson’s name, I wonder how progressives and the news media will attack him for it?

4. Wait, why wasn’t he texting, “I’m so terrified!”? James Shaw Jr., 29, rushed a shooter armed with an AR-15 (and not wearing pants) who had opened fire yesterday in a Waffle House in Antioch, Tennessee.  Four people had been shot dead and many other were injured before Shaw grabbed the gun’s barrel, pulled it away and threw it over the Waffle House counter. He suffered a gunshot wound and burns from grabbing the gun’s barrel.  Although his actions are credited with saving many lives,  Shaw Jr. denies that he’s hero. “I was just trying to get myself out. I saw the opportunity and pretty much took it,” he says.

Real heroes seldom regard themselves as heroes. The fact is that he took action, placed himself at risk in doing so, and had the right instincts, exactly the ones this culture is supposed to nurture but increasingly does not: take control of your own fate, and do what needs to be done.

Trust me on this, James (can I call you Jack?): You’re a hero. Continue reading