Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/9/17


1. The Pope gave an interview saying, in Italian of course, that the United States of America, which he offensively grouped with Russia, China, North Korea and Syria, have “a distorted vision of the world.”

The Pope, who has spent the bulk of his adult life seeing the world through the narrowly focused lense of the Catholic Church, and who hails from a South American leftist state, thinks that the United States has a distorted view of the world. Wow. Besides the stunning hubris of this pronouncement, the Pope is engaging in an abuse of position and influence, and a remarkably short-sighted one. If he wants to exercise any influence at all over citizens of the world who have not been indoctrinate since childhood to regard him as a godly sage by virtue of a secret political vote by a bunch of superannuated Cardinals, he has to earn credibility by the evident quality of the statements he makes. Later on, in the same interview, the Pope made it clear that his  undistorted vision of the world involves endorsing open borders.

I think the Pope has a distorted view of the trustworthiness of celibate men who have access to young boys, so I really couldn’t care less what he thinks about U.S. policies when he can’t objectively and responsibly process the terrible realities in his own organization.

2. I’ve been reading and  listening to sportswriters since I was ten, and I have to say that I have little respect for the critical thinking skills of most of them. I was gobsmacked by an example of why this morning, as Steve Buckley, a long-time baseball reporter for the Hub’s #2 paper The Boston Herald, opined in a virtue-signaling mess of a column that “War heroes, not David Ortiz, deserve streets named after them.” David Ortiz, in case you live in a fallout shelter, is the recently retired iconic slugger of the Boston Red Sox. The team recently retired his number, and in a related honor, the city of Boston re-named a small street near the park after him. It had earlier named one of the many bridges in the city after him.

“We should reserve the streets, the corners, the squares, the playgrounds, to remember the men and women who died serving our country.” Buckley writes. Why? He never really gives a reason, he just tells us that this is the way it should be.  Why are the veterans who die in military service more honor-worthy than those who risked their lives but survived? Since when are society’s only real heroes military heroes? Is he a time-traveler from Ancient Sparta? Do contributions to society during peacetime or on the home front matter less to a community than what happens on a foreign battlefield?

What about fallen police officers and fire fighters? Not worth a street name? Philanthropists, inventors and innovators who made life better for all, launched businesses, created jobs, helped families and neighborhood thrive—these don’t warrant a little bit of  local immortality?  David Ortiz made millions of people happy. In a racially divided city, Ortiz, a black man, became the face of Boston sports, at least for those who were nauseated by Tom Brady’s smug countenance.  That was as important as his clutch home runs. Trivializing Ortiz’s contributions to Boston (the relationship of Bostonians to their infuriating baseball team is too complex to explain quickly to anyone who hasn’t been part of it) is trivializing the importance of entertainment and popular culture, which is nothing short of ignorant, especially in the United States. In the District of Columbia, a school is named after Duke Ellington. Good. In Los Angeles, for decades until California leftists finally removed it, a major airport was named after John Wayne. Excellent. And in Boston, the largest tunnel is named after Ted Williams, but maybe Buckley thinks that’s OK because Williams was a combat flier in two wars. (Pssst! Ted’s tunnel isn’t bearing his name because he crash-landed that jet, Steve!)

As a society and a species, we have a duty to remember those who have contributed to the culture we enjoy. There aren’t enough streets, schools, bridges and parks to honor them all, but they all deserve to be honored.

3. Speaking of baseball, now is a good time to get in my annual rant about how sports spreads consequentialism out of the way.

Yesterday I heard two more sports commentators reflecting on the wisdom of a particular contending baseball team trading promising minor league prospects for a key player who would be a “rental,” meaning that after this season, he would be a free agent, and the team acquiring him for a steep price in talent would have his services for less than half a season. “Of course they should make that trade!” one “expert” said. “Do you think, if one of those prospects the Cubs traded last year to get Aroldis Chapman (the fireballing closer who saved the final game of the 2016 World Series for the Cubs, helping the Chicago team end over a century without a championship) ends up in the Hall of Fame, that anyone in the organization or the city will regret making that trade? Of course not!”

“Right, ” said his partner. “Of course, if Chapman blows that last game, it would have been a terrible trade, and everyone would regret it.”

Idiots. The trade was ether smart or dumb when it was made. Whether it worked or not was moral luck.  Consequentialism, judging the ethics or wisdom of a decision by using information the original decision-makers didn’t have, creates false lessons and future bad decisions.

As usual, history holds enlightenment. The Boston Red Sox made basically the exact same trade the Cubs did in 1990. Trying to lock up the AL Eastern Division and shooting for the play-offs and World Series, the Red Sox had an injured closer and were desperate for relief pitching. General Manager Lou Gorman traded minor league thirdbase prospect Jeff Bagwell to the Houston Astros for reliever Larry Anderson, who had been nearly unhittable. He was also nearly unhittable for the Red Sox, and did exactly what he had been acquired to do. Unfortunately, the Red Sox wiped out in the play-offs. Anderson spurned the Red Sox and signed elsewhere for 1991 and Jeff Bagwell immediately emerged as a star, and later a superstar, in Houston. He will be going into the Hall of Fame. To this day, that 1990 trade is derided in Boston, and the late Lou Gorman is vilified for making it. Yet if the Anderson trade was a mistake, so was the Chapman trade. If the Chapman trade was a good one, so was Gorman’s.

It’s not only bias that makes you stupid. So does consequentialism.

4. Do those liberal commentators who expressed alarm at President Trump’s speech in Warsaw just hate Trump so much that it has de-Americanized their brains, or do modern progressives really hate U.S. values? If so, either the nation is in trouble, or they are.

Or perhaps they are just pretending to hate US values so they can attack Trump and make their Trump-hating pals and readers happy.

Rod Dreher wrote a stunning and accurate rebuke of those who have attacked Trump’s evocation of family, country, God, individual autonomy and free speech as “alt-right,” and passages in the speech like…

“The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?”

as somehow sinister. He writes…

I’m sorry, duckies, but how is this all that controversial? An American president, standing in the capital of a nation that suffered in the last century the domination of two tyrannies — Nazi and Communist — that tried to eradicate its culture, a nation whose Catholic faith kept its spirit alive and led to its rebirth — proclaims that there are things unique and valuable about Western civilization, and that we should remember those things, affirm them, and defend them. The shocking thing here is that this is controversial at all. It shows how decadent we have become.

Dreher flags commentators like  Peter Beinart in The AtlanticSlate’s Jamelle Bouie (His tweet: “Imagine being a political writer in this moment and being utterly unable to identify clear white nationalist dogwhistles”) and James Fallows.

He’s no Trump booster: Dreher  agrees with David Frum, who argued that Trump is not personally a very credible advocate for the values he praises in the speech. That’s another criticism rooted in anti-Trump bias, however. Donald Trump  the individual wasn’t extolling Western values. The President of the United States, representing the champion of Western values, was. As Dreher concludes, that progressives “have criticized the substance of the speech itself, as if standing up for Western civilization was a vicious, racist act” is ominous.


20 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/9/17

  1. Sheesh! I hope Buckley doesn’t get wind of some of the streets in ”TitleTown,” home of the 13 Time World Champion Green Bay Packers.

    They include, but aren’t limited to: Lombardi Avenue, Holmgren Way, Bart Starr Road, Reggie White Way, Donald Driver Way, etc.

    My fave? Brett Favre Pass.

  2. The question of who we as a society honor, how we honor them, and how we prioritize who to honor is one that’s just going to get thornier and thornier as society gets more and more tribal. Factors include the connection of the individual to the locale, the nature of the individual’s actions, the nature of the individual himself, and the degree of honor given in proportion to all these factors. In this case Ortiz was a local hero, and certainly worthy of a street near the ballpark being named after him, although if one was available I would probably prefer to attach his name to a park with a baseball diamond, since that would be closer to the nature of what he was famous for. Streets can be named to honor anyone, I think, although good sense would tend to dictate that they be named for someone who was somehow connected to the community – naming them for fallen veterans, fallen first responders, or deceased community pillars should all be no-brainers. The same applies to parks, although more thought needs to go into the choice, since any community is going to have fewer of them than streets. Still more thought needs to go into playgrounds, since the names are going to be seen by children and will need to be explained to them.

    Society’s heroes are certainly by no means military heroes only, although generally that is one kind of hero the majority will agree on, especially if that particular hero laid down his life in his country’s service. A soldier who falls in the line of duty isn’t somehow more virtuous than one who returns whole, biblical line about “no greater love” aside. However, generally the naming of streets, parks, etc., is done in the name of the deceased, as a memorial to a person who no longer walks among his community, but is thought of as someone whose memory should be kept alive, whatever he did.

    Contributions to culture are certainly worthy of remembering, although my first impulse would be to attach the names of actors, musicians, etc. to schools with artistic programs or performance venues if at all possible, again, to be closer to the nature of their work in life.

    BTW, according to Wikipedia, John Wayne Airport in Orange County is still just that. Bob Hope’s name was erased from Burbank airport, is that perhaps what you refer to?

    That of course refers to the bigger question of who to honor at all, and what to do with honor as societal values change. Most of us DO agree with honoring fallen veterans and first responders, however, many would disagree with honoring a fallen police officer, saying society needs to not honor those who hassle average people and make young black men an endangered species, or honoring a slain veteran, saying killers shouldn’t be honored.

    As to your question #4, Jack, I think the answer should be pretty obvious after all the discussion we’ve had here over the past year. The sad fact is that the left, particularly its elite, has come to scoff at traditional western values. The attitude of the liberal gentry sipping champagne and trading Trump jokes while waiting to go in to yet another $1000-a-plate dinner raising funds for Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris or whatever took the Clinton Foundation’s place is really not that far from the attitude that “A Few Good Men’s” Colonel Jessup snarls “we use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline.” at. At best they dismiss those of us who still hew to traditional values as quaint – to be patted on the head and sent back to be middle management – you go work your 60 hours this week and maybe we’ll think about a $500…make that $100… bonus for you at Christmas IF you’re a good boy. At worst they hate us – you just need to look back at all that venom spewed around the holidays after the election. To them this country’s a nice place, as long as they can be in complete control and not venture out of their lofts and penthouses except to get to the beaches in the summer, the leaves and apples in the fall, and the slopes in the winter. It’s a horrible place as long as they can’t be, with brutal police, crazy gun owners, and racist white wife-beaters everywhere. To them God is code for woman-hatred, family is code for gay-hatred, and honor is code for hatred of anyone not white.

    • “The question of who we as a society honor, how we honor them, and how we prioritize who to honor is one that’s just going to get thornier and thornier as society gets more and more tribal.”

      President Obama flew from MN to IL, right over America’s Dairyland, during the very contentious 2012 Gubernatorial Recall, during which time his presence may have rallied the Lefties.

      Fast forward to 2017: has WI generally, and the “Berkeley of the Midwest” (Madison, whose official bird is the “Pink Flamingo”) specifically, held a grudge for that very public rebuke?

      Not exactly.

      In classic “Stockholm Syndrome” fashion, local Lefties now have a proposal before the CommonSenseLess Council (which fell one vote shy of renaming Bassett Street “Ho Chi Minh Trail” in 1970!) to rename the City-County Building, after, and I quote, “the JFK of our generation.”

      How does the ”President Barack Obama City-County Building” grab ya?

      • Actually, “the JFK of this generation” is a fair description: a President who was idolized and admired for style and what he represented rather than actual leadership ability and tangible accomplishments.

        • Not disagreeing with your take, but would venture a guess it’s hell-n-gone from their intent, which would be lauding the ”accomplishments” of the “4th Greatest President EVAH,” such as they are.

          Erratum: The City of Madison’s official bird is the Plastic Pink Flamingo.

          • No doubt. As with Kennedy, actual accomplishments are hard to come by. The Peace Corps? Not getting involved in a nuclear war that JFK nearly blundered us into? The Space Program is legit.

            • As with Kennedy, actual accomplishments are hard to come by. The Peace Corps?

              Jack, you have your heroes, I have mine — one is a man, I think, of unobjectionable ethics, a voluntarily forgettable man:
              The Peace Corps was 100% from beginning to end (that end being President Nixon’s disgusting appropriation of it for political use) that of JFK’s brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, one of the few men I admire unreservedly, however much people have tried to box him in with political labels.

              After President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, President Lyndon Johnson appointed Shriver to take charge of the new Office of Economic Opportunity from whence several others of his brainchildren survived, though in drastically reduced form: Head Start for pre-school children and their families; the AmeriCorps, community staff and part-timers to assist families in education, health and safety; the Job Corps, Upward bound, … legal services, foster-parent guidance, helping students prepare for college, integrating public and parochial schools and many more.

              Shriver was a conservative, devout Roman Catholic who cared deeply about his country and who was totally committed to making it at least minimally fit for all. Rather than separating groups (i.e. being a real racist, classist, -ist of any kind), Shriver believed that freedom without economic opportunity was still second-class citizenship for anyone. He knew what a cost-benefit analysis was and how to make it work. He was insulted by being called “enthusiastic,” avoided personal publicity, and predicted the onset of some of today’s major problems, saying more than half a century ago, prodding gently as always, “I don’t think the Gallup Poll technique is going to be very helpful in determining the goals of our educational system.”

              And his wife (JFK’s sister) Eunice founded the Special Olympics.

              These were the civil servants in the kingdom of Camelot.

  3. Re: #3, but only sorta. Couple of questions…’Stro’s and Sox in the playoffs? And American League in the Series?

  4. 4. Do those liberal commentators who expressed alarm at President Trump’s speech in Warsaw just hate Trump so much that it has de-Americanized their brains, or do modern progressives really hate U.S. values?

    I think it’s the latter, although I might use “despise” or “have contempt for” instead of hate. The essential element is establishing a detachment from the culture, and using that safe harbor as a position from which to criticise. This separation certainly extends back at least into the 1960s.

  5. Besides the stunning hubris of this pronouncement, the Pope is engaging in an abuse of position and influence, and a remarkably short-sighted one.

    The pope is a progressive, a limosine liberal, living in a protected bubble. I have zero respect for the man and what he has done in that position. His little country within a country has WALLS and BORDERS. Und der kann mien arse lecken.

    “do modern progressives really hate U.S. values?

    They have come right out and said so… many times. I take them at their word, but I do not have to. Their actions are plain enough.

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