Ray Fosse And A Lesson In How Ethics Evolve

People who don’t read the baseball-related posts here miss the point: sports in general and baseball in particular create ethical problems that clarify ethics in all fields. The story of former catcher and broadcaster Ray Fosse is a prime example.

Fosse, was an All-Star catcher, a multiple Gold Glove-winner, a two-time World Series champ, and a long-time broadcaster who died yesterday, of cancer at the age of 74. His claim on immortality is the famous play above, which ended the 1970 All-Star Game, back when baseball’s “Mid-Season Classic” was more than just a chummy parade of stars playing baseball with the intensity of an office picnic softball game.

In 1970, Fosse was in his first full big league season with the Cleveland Indians, and signaled that he could be one of the all-time greats at his position. He won a Gold Glove, received some MVP votes, and had a 23-game hitting streak from early June into early July (That’s a lot. especially for a catcher). Fosse made the All-Star team that year and had his rendezvous with destiny when, in the bottom of 12th inning of a tense, tie game, the Reds’ Pete Rose, famous for his hustle and trying to score the winning run from second base, was beaten by the throw home but smashed into Fosse at home plate, causing the catcher to drop the ball and winning the game for the National league. It was a thrilling play, one of the most memorable in the nearly 90 years history of the exhibition, but Rose separated and fractured Fosse’s shoulder. Fosse continued to play for the rest of the 1970 season but because doctors didn’t discover the injuries until the following season his body never healed properly. Fosse would suffer lingering effects from play for the rest of his life. He also was never as good a player again.

Rose was unapologetic, and most conceded that his tactic was a clean play. Fosse was blocking the plate, and the only way Rose could score was to reach home while making him drop the ball. The controversy was over whether it was ethical for Rose to risk injuring another player in an exhibition game. Had Rose epitomized a sporting ideal by playing hard to win—after all, he could have been hurt too—or had he engaged in poor sportsmanship?

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Ethics Quiz: Shock Therapy For The Disabled

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Here is an issue from July that I never had time to write about…

In a 2-1 opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit overturned a Federal the ban on the use of electric shock devices to modify destructive or otherwise problematic behavior by students with intellectual disabilities. The Food and Drug Administration sought to prohibit the devices in March 2020, saying that delivering shocks to students presents “an unreasonable and substantial risk of illness or injury.” The court ruled, however that the ban was a regulation of the practice of medicine, which is beyond the FDA’s authority.

The now banned ban only affected a single school, the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts. It is the only facility in the United States that employs the shock devices to correct self-harming or aggressive behavior. The center serves and houses both children and adults with intellectual disabilities or behavioral, emotional or psychiatric problems.

What ethics approach do we use to assess such a practice?

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Comment Of The Day: “Tit For Tat Ethics: The Anti-Biden-Pro-Trump Flags”

Mutual assured

Chris Marschner, in his Comment of the Day, once again raises the persistent ethics problem of when or whether unethical methods to foil the unethical acts and strategy of others become necessary, justified, and thus, except to the Absolutists, ethical. It is one of the great mysteries of ethics, and one that has never been answered to my satisfaction, or anyone’s satisfaction. This has many implications: the ethics of war is part of the controversy. So is capital punishment. And, of course, politics in general.

Here is Chris’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Tit For Tat Ethics: The Anti-Biden-Pro-Trump Flags”:

There is something to be said for the concept of Mutual Assured Destruction which is the ultimate Tit for Tat. The vitriol expressed against Trump and his supporter if left unchallenged will become the tactic of choice for all future challengers to the Democrat machine.

Political pendulums swing back and forth. The pendulum will not swing if sufficient numbers are not convinced that they are not alone. Complaining about what the AUC does has proven to be ineffective. Pick your poison – vulgar flags or riots. Flags such as these, while crass and vulgar, are simply tools to communicate that others feel as they do which gives more people an impetus for speaking out. The electorate seeks safety in numbers. These signs are no different that the BLM or End Racism signs in yards or “Tolerance” stickers on automobiles.

When the bully gets a taste of his or her own medicine the bully tends to behave differently. If there is a better way for the average person to broadly communicate a reasoned alternative perspective, when your local paper limits the number of letters to the editor for their position but promotes the printing of the paper’s preferred perspectives for whatever reason, well, I am all ears. These signs reflect who we are. Only when people see themselves in that mirror will they see just how ugly their own actions were.

Personally, I am tired of talking about the AUC [JM: For infrequent visitors here, the AUC is Ethics Alarms shorthand for the “resistance”/Democratic Party/ mainstream media alliance I call “The Axis of Unethical Conduct” for its behavior in response to the 2016 election.] and I am looking for ways to ethically combat their tactics. I will not, however, allow my liberties to be stolen through unethical practices so that I can be called an ethical player.

Prelude To “The Pandemic Creates A Classic And Difficult Ethics Conflict, But The Resolution Is Clear,” Part III… Ethics Quote Of The Century: President Donald J. Trump

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“Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.”

—–President Donald J. Trump, writing on Twitter in October, after he tested positive

When everybody is attacking and insulting the President now, especially those who didn’t have the guts to do so when he wasn’t a lame duck and they were still afraid of him, this seems like a propitious time to give him due credit for an important and perceptive statement that perfectly expresses the message of the final installment of an Ethics Alarms series that began way back in May.

The sentiment the President succinctly and eloquently expressed was quintessentially American, as well as identical to what other leaders have been lauded for in the past. President Trump, in contrast, was attacked and condemned for expressing this simple truth. He “downplayed the deadly threat of the virus” said the Times. “He isn’t taking the pandemic seriously!” erupted Vogue. After all, the virus “ruined” Amanda Kloot’s life! How dare he not tell as all to be terrified, and to make all of our plans and calibrate our decisions and goals based on the assumption that doom was nigh.

Funny, I don’t recall historians condemning FDR for “downplaying” the threat of the Great Depression when he said,

I don’t recall the British accusing Winston Churchill of downplaying the threat posed by Nazi Germany while hundreds of thousands of British troops were nearly trapped an Dunkirk, and he announced to Parliament, “We will never surrender!”:

This is because the news media, tunnel-visioned health experts, and elected officials who want to make Americans dependent of the government psychologically and factually, want the nation to be fearful. They want us to surrender to the pandemic. They want us to allow it to control out lives. And for most of this year, it has.

President Trump is among the Americans I would view most unlikely to utter an ethical statement, much less a great one, but this was a great statement, essential, inspirational, and right.

I assume this is sufficient notice of what the conclusion of Part III will be.

[If you review the linked post, note that every one of the ten stipulation I laid out in May are still accurate.]

Ethics Dunce, Rogue And Fool To Be Held Up As An Example Forever More: Dr. Anthony Fauci

Fauci

From the New York Times:

“In the pandemic’s early days, Dr. Fauci tended to cite the same 60 to 70 percent estimate that most experts did. About a month ago, he began saying “70, 75 percent” in television interviews. And last week, in an interview with CNBC News, he said “75, 80, 85 percent” and “75 to 80-plus percent….In a telephone interview the next day, Dr. Fauci acknowledged that he had slowly but deliberately been moving the goal posts. He is doing so, he said, partly based on new science, and partly on his gut feeling that the country is finally ready to hear what he really thinks. Hard as it may be to hear, he said, he believes that it may take close to 90 percent immunity to bring the virus to a halt — almost as much as is needed to stop a measles outbreak.

No, what is hard to hear, though at this point hardly a shock to anyone with a functioning brain, is that Fauci now admits he’s been lying….you know, “for our own good.”

Don’t heed the spin, the double-talk and the euphemisms: when someone tells you something other than what he or she knows to be true or believes to be true, that individual is deliberately attempting to deceive you by communicating what they believe to be untrue as true. That’s lying. No debate. No defense. That’s what it is, by definition. “I did it for your own good” is a rationalization.

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Ethics Quiz: The Robot Dog

Robot seals work too, apparently…

From a recent New York Times story:

When Linda Spangler asked her mother, in a video chat, what she would like as gift for her 92nd birthday, the response came promptly.

“I’d like a dog,” Charlene Spangler said. “Is Wolfgang dead?” Wolfgang, a family dachshund, had indeed died long ago; so had all his successors. Ms. Spangler, who lives in a dementia care facility in Oakland, Calif., has trouble recalling such history.

So Linda, who is a doctor, got her mother a dog.

Well, Mom thought it was a dog, anyway. It was a robot dog. Sensors allow it to pant, woof, wag its tail, nap and awaken, and users can feel a simulated heartbeat.

Hmmm.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Was this ethical?

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On Distributing The Wuhan Vaccine: An Old Ethics Dilemma With No Solution

I was waiting for this one.

Back when ventilators were the rage (before we found out that once you were on a ventilator, you were pretty much toast anyway–Science!), I had filed an article about the likelihood that Down Syndrome sufferers would be deemed unworthy of high priority when scarce equipment was being rationed. I never got around to writing about it, but I knew, like the giant swan in “Lohengrin,” the issue would be sailing by again. Sure enough, as the prospect of a Wuhan virus vaccine seems within view, the same basic question is being raised: if there aren’t enough vaccines for everyone, who gets the first shot  (pun intended)?

Well, there is no right answer to this one, unfortunately. All debates on the topic will become that popular game show, “Pick Your Favorite Ethical System!” or its successful spin-off, “What’s Fair Anyway?” That’s fun and all, but the debates are completely predictable.

The issue is essentially the same as the “meteor or asteroid about to hit the Earth” dilemma in movie like “Deep Impact,” where only a limited number of citizens can be sheltered as a potential extinction event looms. If you follow the Golden Rule or the John Rawls variation, you end up with survivors being chosen by lot, or pure chance. Kantian ethics also tends to reject any system that sacrifices one life for a “more valuable” one. Competent and rational public policy, however, has to take into consideration more factors than these over-simplified (and this appealing) ethical systems can.

Like it or not, a decision in the rationing of a vital resource problem has to come down to utilitarianism, or balancing. That means winners and losers, and the losers in such decisions always feel that the winners being favored is unfair. From their perspective, they are right. Policymakers, however, have a duty to society as a whole, and the long-term best interests of the whole population. Being human, they also have biases, and how they weigh the various factors involved in balancing interests inevitably is affected by their own agendas.

If the job of determining who got the vaccine first was delegated to Black Lives Matters, how do you think it would approach the problem? Continue reading

Oh Great. The Ethicist Goes Woke.

Boy, look at all that social distancing!

The New York Times Magazine’s Kwame Anthony Appiah, aka “The Ethicist,” chose to respond  to a question about the fictional ethical conflict posed by a Black Lives Matter supporter who is so torn. Should she follow her sense of moral outrage to participate in protests against systemic racism and police brutality (as proven by a single death -by-cop in Minnesota that had nothing to do with race, and a botched no-knock police search with a warrant that had nothing to with police brutality or race), even though it risks spreading the Wuhan virus?

It’s not a tough question in ethics terms. It really isn’t. Even leaving aside the clear (at least to me) verdict that the George Floyd protests themselves are unethical, being contrived, dishonest, destructive, and aimed at substituting one kind of racism for another while unfairly demonizing police, it’s no contest as a utilitarian calculation. The protests are accomplishing nothing positive while harming many and much, and would be unethical to participate in even if they did not contribute to the Wuhan virus resurgence—and if they don’t, then public health officials have been lying to us all along.

This isn’t a difficult balancing problem at all, but sadly, the usually rational Appiah tied himself into rhetorical knota to avoid saying, “Are you kidding me? Stay out of mobs! How could you even ask such a thing?” Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms Archives, August 21, 2014: “Wishing Ethics: What Should We WANT The Outcome To Be In Ferguson?”

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[This seems to be a propitious time to re-post this essay, from the peak of the Micahel Brown shooting upheaval. I’m going to wrestle my fingers to the ground and avoid making any comments on it now, and leave such reflections to the comments.]

The simple answer to the question in the headline is: we should all want the truth to come out, whatever it is, and be dealt with honestly and justly. I don’t think that result is possible, unfortunately, just as it proved impossible in the Martin-Zimmerman tragedy.If the truth could be determined, however…if an experimental, advanced video recorder just happened to capture everything that occurred between Officer Wilson and Mike Brown, including in the squad car; if it captured the incident from all angles, and we could hear and see everything that transpired between them, what would we want that to be, recognizing that the tragedy cannot be undone?

Would we want it to show that Mike Brown was murdered, that he was fleeing for his life when he escaped the car, then turned, fell to his knees ( as at least one witness claims) and was gunned down with his hands in the air? Obviously many Americans, including Brown’s family, the Ferguson protestors, many African-Americans, civil rights activists, police critics, politicians and pundits, have an interest in seeing this be the final verdict of investigators, for a multitude of reasons. The grieving family wants their son to be proven innocent of any fault in his own death. Others, especially those who prematurely declared Officer Wilson  guilty of “executing” Brown, have a strong interest in being proven right, for even though it would not excuse their unfair and irresponsible rush to judgment, such a determination would greatly reduce the intensity of criticism leveled at them.

[Side Note on Ethics Dunce Jay Nixon: That won’t stop the criticism here, however: Whatever the facts prove to be,  Gov. Jay Nixon’s comments are indefensible, and inexcusable. Now the Democrat is denying that they meant what he clearly meant to convey: calling for “justice for Brown’s family” and a “vigorous prosecution” can only mean charging Wilson, and that is what those calling for Wilson to be arrested took his comments to mean. If the Governor didn’t mean that, as he now claims, then he is 1) an ignoramus and 2) beyond incompetent to recklessly comment on an emotion-charged crisis in his state without choosing his words carefully.]

Or should we hope that the facts exonerate Wilson? After all, shouldn’t we want the one living participant in this tragedy to be able to have some semblance of a life without being forever associated with villainy? Certainly his family and friends, as well as member of the Ferguson police force who want their own ranks to be vindicated, and police all over the nation who have had their profession attacked and denigrated in the wake of the shooting, fervently hope that the narrative pushed by the demonstrators is proven wrong.

Others want to see Wilson proven innocent for less admirable reasons. They want to use the incident to condemn police critics, and undermine and discredit civil rights advocates, especially long-time ideological foes like Al Sharpton. They want Eric Holder to look biased, (he looks biased anyway, because he appears to be taking sides) and to make the case—one that a single episode neither supports nor can possible rebut—that police do not have itchy trigger fingers when their weapons are pointed at young black men.

From the standpoint of ethics, which means that the best outcome will be the one that does the most good for society, the choice is complex.  Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Declaration: I Know Who I Won’t Be Voting For In November, And Why”

When I wrote this post, I knew it would cause some consternation, and it did. I wrote it after becoming disgusted with Alyssa Milano, Kamala Harris, and all the other passionate #MeToo advocates who insisted that a decades-old, recovered memory, conveniently-timed, recited-in-a-baby-voice accusation against a distinguished judge nominated for the Supreme Court was sufficient to disqualified him for that office because respecting “women/victims/survivors” was a paramount and non-negotiable value in our society,  but that a more credible accusation by a Presidential candidate’s former staffer alleging a more serious sexual assault by that man should be shrugged off because beating Donald Trump is more important than those same values we were told could not be outweighed. 

I realized, as every day the latest outrageous trick, lie or plot from the Axis of Unethical Conduct (that’s Democrats, the “resistance”, and the news media) dragged me closer to a decision to vote to re-elect the President, that if I reached that decision I would be doing exactly what the #MeToo hypocrites are doing.

Oh, I could rationalize a difference: their convictions regarding Trump are based on propaganda, Big Lies and impeachment cabals, and they are, in the case of the Milano types, ignorant of the threat to democracy that today’s Left poses, and in the case of Harris, Klobuchar, Pelosi, Warren, and the rest, they are part of it.  My problem is different, as it stems from the fact that while one choice this November is undeniably worse than the other from an ethical perspective, making either choice requires me, as an ethicist, to contradict the principles and values I spend all day and all year trying to promote.

I have to pick an ethics system, and after reviewing the ethics decision-making models, I believe in my case, where integrity is crucial, the system to be applied is Absolutism, where the Rule of Universality applies. The only other choice is the most brutal form of utilitarianism, the ends justify the means. I feel that if I choose that I should author an apology to all of Biden’s #MeToo supporters (and Bill Clinton’s too) and pack it in.  Kill Ethics Alarms, close down ProEthics, and become a porn flick director.

Here is Humble Talent’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Declaration: I Know Who I Won’t Be Voting For In November, And Why:

I think that as a Canadian, I can take a step back and look at this from a different view from people in America.

Frankly, I get this. 100%. I’ve been really struggling talking to some of the people I used to talk with constantly, because I find them… aggravating. It’s like there’s an Anti Trump-Derangement Derangement, where people that have held conservative beliefs for their entire life all of a sudden turn on a dime to defend Trump from what they would have called out 10 minutes ago from anyone else. i get how it happens, Trump has been under siege for years and it’s sometimes hard to figure out whether or not the criticism laid at his feet is legitimate or not. But frankly, sometimes it isn’t hard at all to point out when the criticism is legitimate or not, it is, and the response from previously thoughtful commentators is so obviously mired in this deep morass of tribalism, except instead of a left-right tribalism, the crux of the differentiation is a type of blind loyalty to Trump. I don’t find that interesting, intelligent, thoughtful, or even particularly honest.

Loyalty to Trump is not a defining principle of conservatism. It’s even less of a defining principle to any other ideology, other than Trump’s cult of personality. Continue reading