Morning Ethics Warm-Up, April 9, 2018: Experiment Results, Flowering Trees From Hell, And Ominous Signs From The Left..

Good morning…

…Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are…

1. Apologies for a lost Sunday. I was never able to get back to my computer yesterday. The combination of my responsibilities to the Georgetown Gilbert & Sullivan Society as it celebrated its 46th year of operation against daunting odds, some pressing client matters and important family matters just overwhelmed my schedule, plus I was wiped out by the early evening. Of course, based on the blog’s traffic this month and the continuing ethics rot, I console my self in the message of the most famous song from “Ruddigore,” GG&SS’s student production for the anniversary…especially the final line…

“This particularly rapid unintelligible patter isn’t generally heard, and if it is, it doesn’t matter.”

Ethics commentary in a nutshell.

2. However: The regulars came through in a pinch. The free swim produced at least four  Comment of the Day quality posts, including a history of the Gettysburg address. Thanks everybody. The experiment was a ringing success, and I will have more open forums in the future.

3.  This kind of thing is why I have a hard time taking environmentalist doom-saying seriously. We planted Bradford Pear trees, which are now blooming beautifully as is their wont, in front of our house almost 20 years ago. They have their downsides, to be sure, and you have to trim them back or they are likely to split or fall over. However, here is an environmentalist claiming that they are trees from hell, and who writes in part:

If you want to save the world, cut down your Bradford pear trees. I could not be more serious about this… This is my annual “Bashing of the Bradfords” column…If you ever go visit a plant nursery and want to know if it is a good nursery or not, ask if they sell Bradford pears. All reputable nurseries are well aware of the evils of this tree, and refuse to sell them. Don’t let someone talk you into a Cleveland Select or other pear tree, all varieties of “ornamental” pear trees are equally bad.

Save the world. Eliminate Bradford pear trees…

I don’t know who got the idea that that fear-mongering and outrageous hyperbole was an ethical and effective way to persuade, but they were tragically wrong. [See: “The Resistance.”]

4. More fallout on the Kevin Williamson firing:

A few weeks ago, The Washington Post’s deputy editorial page editor, Ruth Marcus, wrote two columns explaining why had either of her children been diagnosed with Down syndrome in utero, she would have accepted the “ghastly” nature of a second-trimester abortion and terminated the pregnancy. She conceded that people with Down syndrome can be happy and fulfilled, that both they and their parents might be understandably disturbed by the way abortion can effectively cull them from the world. But she concluded with self-acknowledged bluntness: “That was not the child I wanted.”…I regard [people like Marcus] — friends and colleagues and faithful readers — as essentially extremists, for whom the distinctive and sometimes awful burdens that pregnancy imposes on women have become an excuse to build a grotesque legal regime in which the most vulnerable human beings can be vacuumed out or dismembered, killed for reasons of eugenics or convenience or any reason at all…Kevin Williamson, a National Review scribe…was boldly hired by The Atlantic and then quickly jettisoned, after it came to light that he had not only suggested hanging as a penalty for abortion in a since-deleted tweet but also more carefully defended the idea of someday prosecuting women who obtain abortions the way we prosecute other forms of homicide.

…[A] part of me…thinks that this is a case study in exactly the problem establishment editors are trying to address by widening their pool of writers: the inability of contemporary liberalism to see itself from the outside, as it looks to the many people who for some reason, class or religion or historical experience, are not fully indoctrinated into its increasingly incoherent mix of orthodoxies.

By this I mean that my pro-choice friends endorsing Williamson’s sacking can’t see that his extremism is mirrored in their own, in a system of supposedly “moderate” thought that is often blind to the public’s actual opinions on these issues, that lionizes advocates for abortion at any stage of pregnancy, that hands philosophers who favor forms of euthanasia and infanticide prestigious chairs at major universities, that is at best mildly troubled by the quietus of the depressed and disabled in Belgium or the near-eradication of Down syndrome in Iceland or the gendercide that abortion brought to Asia, that increasingly accepts unblinking a world where human beings can be commodified and vivisected so long as they’re in embryonic form…

“There are several points to note about this sorry episode of mob hysteria and editorial cowardice. The first is that Williamson would never have been hired at The Atlantic were he not ostentatiously anti-Trump. For a conservative, that political coloration was the sine qua non, the nonnegotiable key to the palace. Alas, as Ann Althouse noted, Williamson “gave them the anti-Trumpism they wanted. But it was not enough.” Ideological conformity on central issues of The Narrative was also required. These he could not supply. …The rancid, totalitarian stench of enforced orthodoxy may be most patent on college campuses today. But the case of Kevin Williamson shows that those toxic plumes are wafting throughout the once-liberal institutions of American society….”

“I think the response to the Left’s purity campaign is to denormalize the institutions they control. Harvard, The Atlantic, etc. need to be treated not as mainstream cultural institutions, but as centers of leftist agitprop pure and simple. Because that’s what they’ve decided to be, and there’s no reason to treat them with the respect an actual mainstream cultural institution enjoys.”

“[H]iring a man away from his job, then firing him for being exactly who you knew he was is simply a skunk thing to do. Shame on [Atlantic editor Jeffrey] Goldberg, really.”

Me: It seems beyond debate at this point that the mainstream Left no longer supports, agrees with or is prepared to accept the American principles of free speech, free thought, free expression, and respect for opposing views. As odious as many Republicans are in many ways, I do not understand how any rational American can rationally give more power to the Democratic Party until it returns to sincere commitment to these core ethical—and democratic— values


35 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, April 9, 2018: Experiment Results, Flowering Trees From Hell, And Ominous Signs From The Left..

  1. On my farm property, the “wild” pear trees will quickly pop up on any area that is not regularly mowed, including borderline wetlands and steep areas that often CAN’T be mowed. I can verify the writer’s claims about the thorns, difficulty in removal, etc., as well. This was not an issue here before the planting of ornamental pear trees became common. Also, the pear trees contribute more than their fair share to the annual spring tree pollen problem, causing immense distress and discomfort to allergy sufferers. As the writer states, they also displace many native tree species and split apart in gusty winds which are common here. His hyperbole is not all that hyper. Others can do as they wish on their property, but my neighbors and I have declared them “lignum non grata” due to all the problems they cause. For me, it would be unethical to plant these trees knowing the downside to their continued cultivation.

    • I can verify the pollen, though in Northern Virginia, there are so many flowering trees of all kinds that I doubt the problem is exacerbated. You can see how the trees have spread driving through the mountains and countryside.

      On the other hand, I doubt that they threaten the world…

      • The guy’s article may verge on a rant, but he’s knowledgeable and passionate about his subject, as are you on any number of them. I think he even tips his hand by using a little tongue-in-cheek hyperbole to counter his over the top earnestness: “Save the world. Eliminate Bradford pear trees. Enjoy your coffee.” And unlike climate science, his concern seems to be based on actually verifiable botany. I don’t think it’s fair to lump him in with climate alarmists.

      • Back to trying a second time!

        They don’t threaten the world, but they threaten worlds within the world – the existence of which depend on resources, like other kinds of trees, that the invasive non-native pear trees crowd-out. There are other drawbacks, but I’ll leave it to you and readers to find good sources.

        I used to live in Northern Virginia, and proudly planted a Bradford pear on my newly purchased homesite. It looked great for the first few years. I pruned it maniacally, striving to avoid the low-angle branching while preserving the graceful bulbous overall shape. “Training” that tree was both fun and a challenge. I realized, the first time I pruned it, that the wood was so soft, there was probably nothing I could do to stop the tree from splitting in a storm eventually. The whole time I owned the tree, I was completely oblivious to the growing body of knowledge – call it certainty – about the tree’s unsuitability to North America.

        I did not live at that house for as many years as I had anticipated. Whoever the new owner was, probably got the word, or already had the word, before I did (and after I had moved out of state), that the tree is a bad choice. I can’t even recall now, how many years passed before I saw my old house again. It wasn’t long. The tree was gone. The spot where it stood was smooth lawn, looking as if no tree had ever been there.

        I agree with JimHodgson that the hyperbole is not excessive. Those trees are all but literally the kudzu of trees, if you know what kudzu is.

  2. I suspect the guy is right about Bradford pear trees. He makes a legitimate point, evidently.

    Growing up in Miami, Florida, we had a single malaleuca tree in our side yard. It was kind of neat. Its bark can be peeled off by kids and used as paper. Unfortunately, the variety escaped into the Everglades and has created acres and acres of water sucking, impenetrable thickets that choke out all other flora and fauna, just like the thickets I saw last week first hand in the tree’s native Australia.

    I see the Bradford was developed and promoted by the US Dept. of Ag. back in the ’60s. Good work, boys. Species introduction is problematic. Common and not malicious, but problematic.

    • Here in the Florida panhandle the bugaboo is the popcorn or Chinese tallow tree. Spread like crazy and hard to kill. Cutting them down to the roots doesn’t work you got to herbicide them or they return from the dead. Finally got rid of all of mine, I hope.

      • No tree dies when cut down to the roots. The roots possess enough energy to throw up new shoots. As long as a plant can get even a handful of leaves on the most minuscule twig, it will live another year. That’s why when we do tree removals, we stump grind 18″ down and grind the dominant roots 6″ deep out to the drip line of the tree. Even that is no guarantee. Even the farthest out roots can still throw up a shoot or two, that if allowed to leaf out will begin generating energy for the plant again, so even after our efforts we have to inform our clients that part of maintenance is ripping up every single shoot that pops up each year until it stops. Then the tree is dead.

    • I’m the Lorax, I speak for the trees!
      I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongue, and I’m asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs:
      Why do you hate the Bradford Pear Tree? That beautiful, sexy, Bradford Pear-Tree?
      It’s 2-thousand-eight-teen, and hate-speech is a crime!!

  3. I think Bradford pears are very pretty trees, but I want my trees to work for me. I plant ones that bear fruit. I think my Damson plum is just as pretty as the Bradford pear and I get plums. Reality Check: OK, my child and the neighborhood children get plums.

  4. 4. I think Roger Kimball hit the nail on the head. I’d also add that The Atlantic has not always been exclusively liberal. At one time it counted anti-establishment conservative Michael Kelly among its editors…until he became the first American journalist to be killed in action in Iraq.

    Since then it’s veered left, same as most established journalism, notably in endorsing Hillary, which was only the third time in its history it backed a presidential candidate (the other two being Abraham Lincoln first time out, together with pushing for abolition, and LBJ, viewing Barry Goldwater as dangerous). Obviously no Trump supporters need apply, but anyone who read it would know that and not waste his time. It was less obvious that no non-liberals or no pro-lifers need apply, and, even if that was an unwritten policy, it was on those who hired him to make clear what was and wasn’t acceptable prior to hiring him, and also to know if there was anything out there preventing him from meeting those criteria.

    These days, that means a potential journalistic employer must drill down into someone’s entire writing and social media history, and, if he finds something, rescind the offer. If he does not do so, there are just too many folks on the left with a purist and activist mindset who will do so, and, if they find something, publicize the hell out of it and say hey, this magazine hired someone who said this or that thing that is offensive to liberal orthodoxy. What’s more, that person or others will then look for the magazine’s advertisers and target them for boycotts, since, even if the magazine wants to stand up for the principle of free speech, they are likely to crumble like stale oatmeal cookies once their advertising revenue is in danger, and the advertisers will pull out faster than Onan once they hear the word boycott.

    I’m not sure what’s at the root of all this. The permanent and relatively accessible nature of social media and online archives makes it very hard for someone to bury anything he said in the past. It makes it very easy to take and forward anything anyone said in the past completely out of context, leaving the reader to only see some outrageous quote, not knowing whether the person said it as part of a discussion that got heated, or was being sarcastic, or was using hyperbole to make a point, or anything else. It also makes it almost too easy to dredge up something someone said three, five, even ten years after he said it. In the case of an article he might remember, but in the case of a tweet or quick post, he might not even remember he made it, leave alone what he was thinking when he made it. On the one hand it means no one can try to deny something, but on the other hand, it also means that flip or angry or otherwise politically incorrect things you post in a moment of less-than-full control literally CAN follow you the rest of your life, and, particularly if you are a conservative, WILL follow you the rest of your life.

    Those posts, tweets, whatever will follow you because, as Charles Krauthammer pointed out pithily but truthfully, conservatives may think liberals are dumb, but liberals think conservatives are evil. Conservatives are more likely to brush off things said by the left, unless it reaches Martin Bashir level, but liberals will not let anything even borderline questionable that a conservative says or does be forgotten, unless there is some advantage to letting it fade so they can play it with greater effect later. Some slightly right of center writer makes a tweet about it being “brass monkey weather” (slightly vulgar but non-racist UK slang for cold weather [i.e. freeze the balls off a brass monkey]) that an African-American activist reads down the line and concludes is racist. He says nothing at the time, since there is little to be gained from it. However, when this writer is later doing work for Time or Vanity Fair or some other mainstream publication, the activist forwards the tweet and makes sure it’s well-known, painting the writer as a racist. Rather than tell this provocateur to take a hike and stop trying to make trouble out of something said years ago, leave alone try to defend this tweet as the relatively innocuous attempt at humor it was or split dictionary hairs, the publication fires the writer, or pressures him into quitting (“sorry, but it’s best for all concerned if…”) , and the left rejoices, because one more voice that dissents from their narrative has been silenced. What’s more, the publication is then likely to apologize publicly for not catching this in the hiring process and not bringing in this racist, now please keep on buying our output and don’t give our advertisers grief.

    The American left has been moving progressively towards a more extreme position for probably two decades now, but anyone who’s been paying attention knows that. With that movement has come a growing intolerance for anyone of a different or opposing viewpoint, which anyone who’s been paying attention also knows. The likes of Leon Panetta, Sam Nunn, Henry Jackson, and Zell Miller have given way to the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary. The left has respect for free speech the way Obama had respect for separation of powers and the rule of law: they’ll work within it when they can, when they can’t, they’ll work around it. This includes digging into people’s pasts and tarring them however they can, or trying to make them so toxic no one will hire them. Technically they aren’t taking away their freedom of speech, just taking away their platforms. First Amendment? Who says this is about the First Amendment?

  5. We will plant a Bradford pear if a client insists, but yes, they are prone to splitting later in life. We recommend not going that route less because of their structural weaknesses (which primarily manifest later in their life), but because their lifespan is so short. They grow fast, which is nice, but fast growing trees are also fast dying trees.

    At 20 years, your Bradfords may have another 10 years. Here, we’d start considering options because a breakage is too much risk (20 is old for them here)…but that’s our climate. Northern Virginia may be longer.

  6. The Williamson issue is not about free speech at all, it is about the free market. The Atlantic decided it would not be in their best business interests to continue to employ someone who said that women who have abortions should be hanged, so they fired him. The only thing wrong with this is that they had a duty to check into his past statements before they hired him, and neglected that duty.

      • My understanding was they knew about the comment, but didn’t know he later doubled down on it. The point stands: they should have done their due diligence before hiring.

        • The point is, they did. What they also did is lose their nerve and broke the implied promise that hiring someone away from another job. You know someone has made a statement before you hire him, and fire him because he says, “I meant it’?

          • Apparently the level of due diligence they performed wasn’t enough. Then again, going through someone’s entire published output AND social media history with a fine-tooth comb is a lot to expect. I hope for Williamson’s sake he had some kind of term contract to protect his income against being fired the minute he stepped on the wrong person’s toes. Then again, one of the lawyers who used to work in my department was hired away by a different public entity to do police legal affairs. The rumor is that the then-police director here got wind of the offer, called up the chief she’d be working for at the other entity, who was now the chief of the county detectives, and told him cooperation between the two agencies was in jeopardy. Lo and behold, she shows up Monday morning after leaving her old job, and is told the job she was supposed to fill no longer exists, and is punted out onto the street, to search for a good year before finally landing another job, since the director made some other calls too.

  7. On the whole, I prefer the pre-Schnozzola “Ragtime Jimmy” at the serious piano with several incarnations of some of the best listening-and-dancing original “jass” bands ever — Stein’s Original Jass Band in 1915 which broke up into ODJB (recording the first jass two years later), Jimmy Durante’s New Orleans Jazz Band, and at least five permutations of the Original Memphis Five — until he segued into vaudeville in the mid-20s.

      • Guess again, joed. Over on the right, doing yeoman duty on clarinet (he doubled on sax) is Achille Baquet. Durante hired him in 1918 and he was with the band until 1920, then in steady demand with white bands, like the Happy Schilling Dance Orchestra, until his death in 1956.

        Baquet, a Creole of color, came from a well known New Orleans family of musicians, all clarinetists, his father Théogène Baquet having founded in 1879 one of the earliest recognized black orchestras, the Excelsior Brass Band.

        Baquet’s credits as a composer include “Why Cry Blues”, written with Jimmy Durante. According to a couple of credible sources Achille also co-wrote “Livery Stable Blues” with “Yellow” Nunez (Yellow was the New Black then), known as the first jazz recording ever sold. It was recorded by the Original Dixieland Jass Band (better known as the ODJB) on February 26, 1917.

        Jazz historian Richard M. Sudhalter — with whom I agree wholeheartedly having been raised by listening, blindly, by radio, phonograph and wire recorder, to trad/classic jazz from early childhood — called the history of jazz a “picaresque tale of cooperation, mutual admiration, cross-fertilization; comings-together and driftings-apart — all despite, rather than because of, the segregation of the larger society.”

Leave a Reply to joed68 Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.