Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/2/2018: Cheaters, Stoners And Head Explosions

good morning

(i lived in e e cummings’ old dorm room as a college freshman. never got him at all, but it would be great not to have to worry about the shift key)

1 Three wrongs don’t make a right. They track baseball’s Hall of Fame votes as they come in now, using those ballots that the baseball writers make public (not all of them do). It looks like neither Barry Bonds, nor Roger Clemens, the all-time “greats”—cheaters cannot be fairly considered great—who sullied the game and its records by using performance enhancing drugs, are not gaining support to the extent than many predicted, and will fall short again.

Good. That makes six years down and only four more to go before the two are no longer eligible for this method of entering Cooperstown. Not so good is the development that the newer and younger voters tend to support Barry and the Rocket while the older sportswriters they replace as voters did not. Why is this? Well, the young Turks don’t see anything wrong with illegal drugs, for one thing: they probably used–use?— them themselves. Next, they have been hearing the routine rationalizations and flawed arguments defending Bonds for 20 years, which can rot one’s brain—I know they have nearly rotted mine, and I know they are worthless. Mostly, I think, each succeeding American generation has less ethical literacy and competence than the one before. The field isn’t taught in grade school, is barely mentioned in the media, and unlike the good ol’ days of “The Lone Ranger,” “Father Knows Best”  and “The Defenders,” popular culture undermines an ethical culture more than it nurtures one.

There is also a new bad argument for letting in Bonds and Clemens, which would then open the floodgates for arguably worse baseball deplorables like Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez—who knows? Maybe even Pete Rose. That line of reasoning  is that since the Baseball Commissioner, Bud Selig, who averted his gaze while the steroid epidemic was infecting every team and the evidence was undeniable, was admitted to the Hall last year by his complicit cronies, the cheating players he enabled should be forgiven too.

That this is increasingly being cited a justification by the younger writers tells us that mothers aren’t teaching their kids that two wrongs don’t make a right any more.

2.Three wrongs don’t make a right, Part II. In related news, California went all-pot-head at midnight New Years Eve. My conviction that legalizing marijuana is an abdication of government’s responsibility to protect society, a leap down a deadly slippery slope, and the product of greed and cowardice hasn’t abated one iota, but I’m happy to have a large-scale experiment to prove me wrong—or right. Now we can expect a wave of stoners as well as illegal immigrants into the Golden State—ah, what a paradise it will be! This creeping crud in U.S. culture is also in part the result of a terrible example of “two wrongs make a right” fallacy—I’m sure you have either heard it or—yecchh—used it yourself. “Alcohol and tobacco are worse than marijuana, and they are legal!”

Yes, about that: guess what is on the rise and killing more people? From the New York Times a few days ago:

[A]lcohol overuse remains a persistent public health problem and is responsible for more deaths, as many as 88,000 per year. … [T]here has been about a 50 percent uptick in emergency room visits related to heavy drinking. After declining for three decades, deaths from cirrhosis, often linked to alcohol consumption, have been on the rise since 2006….[B]inge drinking — often defined as five per day for men and four per day for women — is on the rise among women, older Americans and minorities. Behind those figures there’s the personal toll — measured in relationships strained or broken, career goals not met and the many nights that college students can’t remember.

3. Gee, thanks, David, I love starting a new year with my brains on the ceiling...David Leonhardt, one of the many Democratic operatives with press credentials (Instapundit calls them)  writing for New York Times, exploded my head with his New Years column, “7 Wishes for 2018.” His wishes 1, 2, 6 and 7 each would have done the trick by themselves, but collectively it was Krakatoa all over again.

Here are David’s four wishes:

#1 Republicans stand up for the rule of law. The country’s most urgent problem is the possibility that the president will impede an investigation into illegal behavior by his aides and possibly himself.

President Trump clearly wants to do so. His allies are defaming Robert Mueller even though Mueller is a longtime Republican, a successful F.B.I. director and a decorated Marine who’s now pursuing matters of national interest, such as: Does a hostile foreign power have influence over American officials? And did the president use illegal tactics in his campaign?

Republicans stand up for the rule of law? REPUBLICANS STAND UP FOR THE RULE OF LAW? The criticism of Mueller is based on evidence that Meuller tainted his staff with  partisan anti-Trump attorneys and FBI agents. At the same time, more evidence has surfaced showing the degree to which the Obama administration and the FBI worked to clear Hillary Clinton of serious charges of wrongdoing, The Democratic National Committee was exposed by its own former chair of rigging its presidential nomination process; Democratic leaders ditched due process to purge their own elected officials based on accusations only, and threaten  to shut down the government if Republicans insist on enforcing immigration laws. Those laws are currently being undermined by many cities and one entire state, all run by Democrats. To legitimate complaints by Republicans that Meueller’s investigation is not objective, fair or ethical, the repeated response of Democrats is the Orwellian, “If you’re innocent, you have nothing to worry about!”

But David Leonhardt wishes that Republicans would stand up for the rule of law.


#2. Democrats do not waver. In the worst-case scenario, with Republicans allowing Trump to obstruct an investigation, I hope Democrats have no illusions about the depth of the constitutional crisis.They should refuse to pass any legislation, including to keep the federal government open, until a real Russia investigation restarts. They should use every available tool to block nominees. They should talk publicly about little else. American democracy will be in an emergency.

Leonhardt broke my intellectual dishonesty meter with this one. Democrats already are refusing to pass any legislation. Legally firing a Special Counsel who has allowed an investigation to become politicized and distrusted by much of the country is not “obstruction”—this the false Comey argument again, completely contrary to  law and fact. The Democrats have been trying to provoke a Constitutional crisis since Trump’s election. They sought to use the Electoral College to overturn the results. They have their leaders going around the country preaching impeachment without justification. They have intentionally undermined the President’s ability to govern, and employed slander, tortured legal theories, fear-mongering and hysteria to do it.

Leonhardt is peddling a “Through the Looking Glass” perception of reality. It’s called “propaganda.”


#6. Democracy thrives. Authoritarianism was on the rise in 2016 across both Europe and the United States…

  • I think that’s 2017, Dave. Now I know I do this kind of thing too often, but I’m just an unpaid, tiny, insignificant blogging ethicist, and you have a team of editors supposedly checking your work, and your junk is being read by millions.
  • The authoritarian canard is a smelly leftover from the “Trump is a Nazi” tactic that began “the resistance’s” year. I keep hearing it and reading it; I majored in leadership models and government, and I still don’t know what the hell Trump critics are talking about. No political adversaries have been imprisoned. Trump doesn’t bombard us with televised speeches. He hasn’t defied Congress. There are no school children being forced to sing odes to the Great Leader. As far as I can figure, the progressive theory is that a President asserting the powers of the office to which he has been legally elected is authoritarian when he isn’t a Democrat. Obama governed mostly by executive order, and set a terrible precedent by doing so. He passed his controversial health care bill by employing not one but two lies: the mandate wasn’t a tax (but he argued that it was a tax in the Supreme Court), and that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” His administration used threats to universities and local officials with “Dear Colleague Letters” to bend them to its will without the legal power to do so, while Trump’s administration ended that abusive practice.  Obama allowed his tax collecting agency to undermine political opposition. His justice department bugged a journalist. He defied Congress and illegally continued to bomb Libya after authorization expired. He committed the U.S. to the equivalents of treaties without the Senate approval the Constitution requires. He unilaterally refused to enforce immigration laws, and refused to defend DOMA in court, though he was obligated to do so by his oath of office.

It would be hard to imagine  Trump increasing the authoritarian conduct in the Oval Office short of declaring himself Emperor. Wish #6 is, again, just deceptive anti-Trump propaganda. By no measure has authoritarianism increased in 2017; the big jump in the needle was during the eight years of the Obama Administration. Trump talks tougher, that’s all. Tweets aren’t “authoritarianism.”

Wait...maybe David meant 2016 after all!


#7 Everyone finds an escape. This is a pretty heavy list, I realize. So I’ll end on a lighter note. I hope all of you find ways to escape our exhausting political times…


We could escape, you hypocrite, if you, your colleagues, your paper and its “resistance” feeding mainstream media organs stopped around the clock fearmongering, constant claims that doom is around the corner, fake news designed to increase distrust and anxiety, deliberate under-reporting of positive developments, and columns that begin, as this one did, with words like “I expect that future historians will look back on it as one of the darker non-war years in the country’s history.”

20 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/2/2018: Cheaters, Stoners And Head Explosions

  1. Leonhardt only got to write this junk because Charles Blow was off today. The NYT needs a writer like this guy like General Custer needed more Indians.

  2. 2- The new tax law did the booze industry a solid, which hasn’t gone unnoticed.

    “Tax cut on booze triggers fears of more abuse and drunken driving.”

    OTOH, taxes on terbacky have gone up ~ 1500 % since 1970. They were ~ 55 ¢ a pack when I quit Cold Turkey at the ripe old age of 19 on 02/041975; they’re nearly $9/pack these days.

    Like my Dear 92 1/2 year old Father says: “Are there any other reasons not to smoke?”

    • $9? That’s adorable. Up here in the frigid wasteland of America’s Warm, Fuzzy Hat, we are absolutely addicted to our sin taxes. Booze? Probably about 30% more expensive here than the states, even adjusting for the difference in dollar value. Smokes? $25 bucks for a pack of Players.

        • I mean, if you aren’t worried about doing things that are illegal, just buy your smokes on native reservations. Because Native Canadians are mostly exempt from Federal taxation, smokes are a little less than half the cost out there.

      • Yoikes!! Do they earmark any to specifically defray the “free” health care?

        “Canada and the US have a long and productive joint history of cooperative smuggling.”

        How long? Back to a young Hyman Roth in Godfather II:

        “We (Roth & Moe Greene) did our first work together, worked our way out of the street. Things were good, we made the most of it. During Prohibition, we ran molasses into Canada… made a fortune, your father, too.”

        • My theory is that once you make healthcare a public expense, you make well-being a public interest. There’s a certain amount of logic in taxing the living bejesus out of things that burden a system paid entirely with public dollars. I can’t say I’m particularly fond of the implications, but I recognize them.

            • This shows how little they know.
              Methane emissions from cows and other dual stomach creatures come primarily from belching and not farting.

          • Ah yes, the public interest/we’re all in this together/this is for your own good vs. the leave me the hell alone debate. You may not be fond of the implications; they terrify me.

          • HT, If public well being is important why not simply ban the importation of tabacco products instead of being a profit partner.

            How do taxes which are many times more than a per pack profit earned by the manufacturer make them less responsible for the public health issues related to tobacco use. Using that logic, a heroin dealer who doubles the price of its product and in turns spends the money on legitimate goods and services is economic stimulus.

    • I can’t imagine a world in which making alcohol expensive is any more effective than making it illegal. It’s just a way to tax the poor without having to say you’re taxing the poor.

      Rich people already take pride in how much more they pay for their liquor. They are not affected.

  3. “There is a power in our land, irresponsible, corrupt and malicious, ‘the press,’ which has created the intense feelings of hostility that have arrayed the two parts of our country against each other, which must be curbed and brought within the just limits of reason and law before we can have peace in America.” ~ William T. Sherman to U.S. Grant, 1862.

    Just read this in H.W. Brands’, “The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace” and thought it was timely.

  4. The Russia investigation won’t end until the Democrats get Trump’s head. Which means it may never end. And the longer it goes on, the more embarrassing it will be for them to give up on it. Which means it will continue. It’s the sunk cost fallacy.

    If Republicans pull the plug on it at any point, even years from now, they can be painted for all time as having obstructed justice (and surely when the smoking-gun evidence was JUST about to be found!)

    The best possible resolution at this point is that they drag in a few more Trump subordinates and prosecute them for whatever tangential wrongs they can find (lying to investigators, cheating on taxes, soliciting prostitutes, not saving receipts on business trips) and then they can declare the whole thing a success because Trump was “under investigation for years” is “disgraced” and his administration was “loaded with corruption.”

    Also, I live in SoCal and actually went out on New Year’s Eve for the first time in years. Wrecks everywhere. Not sure if that’s typical or not. Do we need Billy Sunday to come back and warn us about Mr. Booze?

  5. 1. The Hall of Fame Tracker is a wonderful use of the internet, with no graphic amenities at all, but just a clunky old spreadsheet:!8063&ithint=file,xlsx&app=Excel&authkey=!AAAsz3uDsmqy_Vw

    The proprietor, Ryan Thibodaux, began collecting and aggregating information in “Who I Voted For” columns about ten years ago, and is now routinely (and usually incorrectly) cited on ESPN and The MLB Network. The Times article linked in the post seems to be a pretty good rundown, probably because they took the time to talk to Mr. Thibodaux.

  6. Am I the only one who noticed this:

    The country’s most urgent problem is the possibility that the president will impede an investigation into illegal behavior by his aides and possibly himself. [my emphasis]

    Just exactly how in the world can a “possibility” be a problem? I consider the possibility of nuclear war with Russia, China, Iran or North Korea far more “possible” than the president impeding an investigation that is a) tainted and b) unlikely to produce any fruit. Nobody but a Democrat could consider the indictments handed down so far anything other than nest-feathering by Mueller et. al.

    To this point, Trump hasn’t “impeded” anything. All we have are Democrat and partisan media claims that he is about to do so, and they seem to come all the time from out of the ether. Yet to date, nothing. Professor Jonathan Turley recently wrote this:

    Despite this record, many continue to add new criminal acts to this pile. Just last week, Jill Wine-Banks, a former Watergate prosecutor, told MSNBC that Trump’s recent tweets criticizing the FBI and the investigation constitute new evidence of crimes. According to Wine-Banks, a president declaring his innocence, or denouncing charges as politically motivated, constitute “obstruction of justice, witness intimidation — and it’s obstructing justice.” She insisted that Trump was really “saying to agents, ‘You better not dig too deep, you better not find anything, because I will attack you.’ ”

    Of course, there were no calls for criminal charges when the Clintons were denouncing a “vast right-wing conspiracy” or supported a campaign to discredit Independent Counsel Ken Starr. More importantly, such a charge would not only leave obstruction as virtually limitless in its definition but would contravene a host of constitutional principles. [My emphasis]

    So because the Mueller probe hasn’t produced anything other than process crime indictments, and there have been no indications of any substantive charges of conspiracy by Trump or his close associates in any kind of criminal activity, we should be worried that the president’s right to freedom of speech is actually a kind of criminal act. If that craziness doesn’t make your head explode, nothing can.

    • Well, I am ashamed. You are quite right, Glenn, that is a screaming tell and ridiculous to boot. I posted a link to Turley’s piece yesterday, and should have connected those dots. “The country’s most urgent problem is the possibility that the president will impede an investigation into illegal behavior by his aides and possibly himself.” shows a biased and made-up mind: this can only be an urgent problem if the writer has decided that there is an actual, serious crime being covered up, and that the President “possibly” may wriggle out of it. It is the mindset of the resistance, it is the mindset of teh Times, it is the mindset of the news media. I am so conditioned to the attitude that its slipped right by me!

      • No need to be ashamed, you can’t pick up every nuance. That’s what us commenters are for, to pitch in and help.

        But also… KABOOM!

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