(If I don’t get the lights on the tree today, I’m hurling myself into a pit of rabid reindeer…)
1. Open Forum report: Another intense, varied, and impressive performance by the Ethics Alarms crew in my absence yesterday. 23 different commenters raised and debated the following issues, many of which I haven’t touched yet, because I am wholly inadequate to my task. Among them:
- The ethics of fighting a specious criminal charge,
- Texas’ school districts for making employees sign a pledge not to boycott or advocate against Israel?
- The bump stock ban
- The plea deal of Jacob Walter Anderson
- “The Innocent Man”
- The Xmas package-snatcher trap.
- Stepha Velednitsky
- “Without Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times” by Joel Richard Paul.
- The yellow vest protests and the meager US coverage of them
- Prada Monkey
- Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria
2. Favorite dishonest and manipulative note out of many in the 12/18 Times: Reporters Carl Hulse and Julie Davis write in“Tennessee Senator, A Proven Deal-Maker, Won’t Seek Re-election”…
Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and one of the last bridges to bipartisanship in the Senate, announced on Monday that he would not seek re-election in 2020…His decision to leave is more evidence that Washington has become less attractive to legislators interested in steering a middle course on seemingly intractable issues such as education and health care….
Fake news, and deliberate distortion. In fact, Alexander’s decision may have nothing to do with the job becoming “less attractive to legislators interested in steering a middle course,” and his own words, meaning his own stated reason for leaving, don’t suggest that at all. Alexander is 78. In 2020, he would be 80, meaning that by the end of a new term he would be 86, or sick, or dead. “I’ve had my turn,” Alexander is quoted as saying. “Everything comes to an end sometime, and it is good to know when that should be.” He also said that he wants to leave the Senate “at the top of my game.”
The current U.S. news media is untrustworthy, dishonest, incompetent and despicable, and frankly, I am beginning to regard anyone who continues to deny this the same way.
3. Second favorite dishonest and manipulative note in the same edition: The article is “Trump Parkland Panel Attacks Protections For Minority Students.” The online versions of many Times articles have headlines that are less partisan and misleading than the print editions. On-line, this piece is headlined “Trump Officials Plan to Rescind Obama-Era School Discipline Policies.”
That’s a straight, informative headline. The print edition reflects the bias and tone of the article, which implied a racist motive behind the plan to reverse the irresponsible and racialist Obama Education Department directive that schools had to pull back on disciplining African-American students because a “disproportionate” number were being suspended. Here was the highlight, though:
“The commission’s focus was part of a broader effort to reject the previous administration’s race-conscious education efforts, which have included siding with Asian students suing Harvard to end affirmative action…”
Wow. Let’s pass over the illiterate composition—it should be “has,” not “have included,” since the subject is “a broader effort,” not “efforts”—and move right to the fact that supporting a race discrimination suit by Asian-American students (not “Asian”) is demonstrating hostility to the benign Obama era “race-consciousness,” which included, at least at Harvard, Princeton, and other “woke” schools, rejecting qualified Asian-American citizens because they aren’t the right color.
4. Yeah, but President Trump lied about the size of his Inauguration crowd…Two reports that the Senate Intelligence Committee published this week showed that Google, Twitter and Facebook “evaded” and “misrepresented” themselves and the extent of Russian activity on their sites. The companies were also criticized for not turning over complete sets of data about Russian manipulation to the Senate, concluding “Regrettably, it appears that the platforms may have misrepresented or evaded in some of their statements to Congress.”
That is to say, they lied under oath. Consequences?
5. How TV makes the public stupid, Chapter 16,895,943: For some reason I ended up watching ten excruciating minutes of “Deal of No Deal” last night. The contestant had one briefcase unopened, and two left to choose. The remaining amounts in the three briefcases were $400,000, $ a million dollars, and a hundred bucks. The dealer agreed to give her $500,000 for the briefcase she had chosen but not opened, ending the game. The woman and her family were ecstatic, but Howie Mandel, the host, cautioned: “Now wait. You don’t know if you made a good deal or not!” In other words, if the container she “sold” had the million inside (it didn’t), then she made a “bad deal.”
No, Howie, you idiot. This is another plea to consequentialism, the destructive but popular concept that whether a decision is right or wrong, ethical or unethical, wise of dumb depends on subsequent results or information that were unknown when the decision was made. The contestant’s decision was exactly the same whether the suitcase had just a hundred dollars or the million. Her deal was to accept a half-million dollars in hand rather than risk a 66.6% chance of getting a lot less money. Put another way, she accepted $500,000 to surrender a one in three chance to win a million dollars, but also to avoid the same odds of just getting a hundred dollars.
It was a good deal no matter what was in the brief cases.
6. Oh, why not? Here’s yet another untrustworthy, dishonest, incompetent and despicable journalism note. Reporters Without Borders correctly reported that the U.S. had the fifth-most journalists killed in the line of duty in 2018, tied with India and behind Afghanistan, Syria, Mexico, and Yemen. So naturally this was how it was reported:
Welcome to our Brave New World. Words have consequences – and calling us the enemy of the people and “fake news” has led to this: https://t.co/u5y50K7akW— Brian J. Karem (@BrianKarem) December 19, 2018
The grand total of journalists killed in the U.S. this year was six. (The global total was sixty-three.) On June 28th, a lunatic who had a personal grudge with a local Maryland newspaper, Capital Gazette, killed four employees. It was the single worst attack on journalists in modern U.S. history, but it was also just one incident. The other two deaths were journalists covering Tropical Storm Alberto in North Carolina who were killed when a tree fell on the highway.
Alex Griswold points out, ” The Reporters Without Borders report also tracked the number of journalists imprisoned, taken hostage, or “disappeared” on the job. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. appears on none of those lists. By using only verified deaths as a metric for “danger,” countries like Turkey, China, Iran, and Egypt get a pass because they prefer to merely imprison and torture journalists.”
7. Hypocrisy on parade! New York State Senate Bill S2857A, sponsored by Kevin S. Parker, would “amend the insurance law, to require firearm owners, prior to such ownership, to obtain and continuously maintain a policy of liability insurance to cover any damages resulting from the use of such firearm.” I wonder how many advocates for this not-so-subtle effort to make accessing a constitutional right so burdensome that it would be impossible for most citizens protested indignantly efforts by states like Texas to impose burdens on abortion clinics and pre-abortion requirements on those seeking the procedure? My guess: almost all of them. Yet it’s the same illegal device, and one that the courts have routinely and rightly rejected.
Such people don’t care about or respect the Constitution. They just want to protect the rights they approve of.