Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/14/2020: And The Ethics Beat Goes On…

Good morning.

That’s a perfunctory good morning, to be transparent. Mourning would be more accurate. Yesterday’s news that Red Sox manager Alex Cora, a man who had impressed me with his leadership ability, personality and, yes, ethical values, was exposed by an investigation as the primary instigator of cheating schemes that involved two baseball teams and World Series champions (the Astros and the Red Sox), disillusioned two fan bases, harmed his sport, and led, so far, to the fall of two of the games most successful and admired management figures. Cora is also the first minority manager the Red Sox have had, and was regarded as a transformational figure for the team and the city, both of which have long and troubled histories of prejudice and discrimination. Smart, articulate, creative, funny, brave, knowledgeable—all of his positive qualities, rendered useless by the lack of functioning ethics alarms.

1. Congratulations to Ann Althouse…on this, the 16th anniversary of her blog. With the demise of Popehat, she supplanted Ken White as my most admired blogger, and most quoted by far. The fact that her fiercely non-partisan analysis of ethics issues so frequently tracks with my own is a constant source of comfort for me , particularly during these difficult times. Ann has an advantage that I don’t—“I only write about what interests me” is her description of her field of commentary— because this blog is limited to ethics and leadership. Fortunately, Ann is interested in ethics, though she seldom says so explicitly.

2. Bernie vs Liz. Feeling that Bernie Sanders was pulling away as the standard-bearer of the Leftest of the Democratic base as her own support appears to be waning, Elizabeth Warren went low, and had her aides reveal the content of what was supposed to be two-hour a private summit between the fake Native American and the Communist sympathizer in December 2018. According to them, Bernie told Warren that he disagreed with her assertion that a woman could win the 2020 election. Bernie denies it. Observations:

  • This kind of thing stinks, though it is kind of fun to see Democrats dirtied by it instead of President Trump. Anonymous accounts of what was said in phone conversations and private meetings in which the participants reasonably believed they could speak freely are unreliable, untrustworthy and unethical.
  • The Warren camp’s spin on Bernie’s alleged statement is that it shows he’s a sexist. That makes no sense. If I say that I can’t win the election in 2020, does that mean I’m biased against myself? There is no logical reason to assume an opinion like “A woman can’t win is 2020” represents bias, though it could. I will state here and now that a gay man can’t be elected President in 2020, even if that man weren’t a pandering asshole like Pete Buttigieg, but I am not anti-LGBTQ is any way. The statement reflects my objective analysis of the state of the culture.
  • I suspect that Sanders meant, “YOU can’t win in 2020, nor can Kamala Harris nor any of the other equally weak announced female candidates.” The truth may hurts, but that doesn’t make it biased
  • (Psst! Bernie! A delusional septuagenarian socialist who honeymooned in the Soviet Union can’t win either!)

3. No, the fact that there are no more African-Americans running for President doesn’t mean an African-American can’t win. It means weak African-American candidates like Cory Booker, who just dropped out, and Kamala Harris, who is long gone, can’t win, not because of their race, but because they can’t convince voters that they could do the job.

It has been noted that there will be more billionaires on tonight’s debate stage than minorities. That just means that spending millions like Monopoly money can keep an obviously hopeless candidate like Tom Steyer (and Mike Bloomberg) around a bit longer.

4. Are the Oscars about artistic excellence, or diversity? The reaction to yesterday’s nominations were as I assumed they would be: indignant and incoherent. How many people care what the demographic and gender mix of the nominees are? I sure don’t, and never did. How many people pay attention to whether a film’s director is male, female, black, white or Asian? All that matters is whether a movie is entertaining, and whether the actors are effective in their roles. Yet to read the various articles today, one could easily get the impression that the mission of the Academy Awards is to distribute the honor equally among demographic groups.  The root of the problem is an ethical one: all award systems are warped by bias, because people are biased, and bias is a large factor in personal taste. The complaints about diversity can be reduced to “You should use our biases instead of yours.”

5. That the Democratic Party’s leaders have been somehow maneuvered into supporting Iran in order to condemn President Trump should go down in history as one of the great cognitive dissonance disasters of all time. One reason the scale is so powerful is that in addition to Trump being aligned on the opposite side from Iran, President Obama, who must never be criticized, aligned himself with Iran. Obama did nothing to support the people of Iran when they tried to rebel early in his administration; he made an unconscionable deal with the terrorism-sponsoring state. (“…the Democrats are not pro-terrorist. They’re simply intent on protecting the historic agreement that legalized the nuclear weapons program of a terror state,” writes Lee Smith in Tablet.) The result of the dissonance has been startling. Democrats and their journalist allies have sought to mitigate the documented crimes of a dead Iranian general. They have argued that the President was responsible for the Iranians shooting down a plane with 176 souls on board while its military was trying to kill American soldiers. As another round of protests against the government erupts in Tehran, as reports suggest that the regime is using live ammunition against them, not one of the Democratic Presidential candidates has so much as tweeted support for the demonstrators.

Meanwhile, Iran  State TV’s news anchor resigned saying, “It was very hard for me to believe the killing of my countrymen. I apologize for lying to you on TV for 13 years.” Iran’s only female Olympic medalist, Kimia Alizadeh, defected, saying,  “I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran…They took me wherever they wanted. I wore whatever they said. Every sentence they ordered me to say, I repeated. Whenever they saw fit, they exploited me. I wasn’t important to them. None of us mattered to them, we were tools.”

And still the Democrats are lending support to the mullahs. While proudly gay Pete Buttigieg was flogging the party’s dishonest talking point that the dead airline passengers constituted blood on the President’s hands (after Iran’s cover-up attempt failed), the Jerusalem Post reported,

The Islamic Republic of Iran publicly hanged a 31-year-old Iranian man after he was found guilty of charges related to violations of Iran’s anti-gay laws…the unidentified man was hanged on January 10 in the southwestern city of Kazeroon for… sexual intercourse between two men, as well as kidnapping charges…Iran’s radical sharia law system prescribes the death penalty for gay sex[.] …”The LGBT community in Iran has lived in terror for the last 40 years,” said Alireza Nader, CEO of Washington, DC-based research and advocacy organization New Iran. “Next time Foreign Minister Zarif speaks in Washington, the host and audience should ask him why his regime is one of the top executioner of gays in the world.” Iran’s mullah regime executed “between 4,000 and 6,000 gays and lesbians” since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Pandering Pete (I should suggest that nickname to the President) has found no time to condemn Iran for slaughtering gays, though he has lectured Christians about their hypocrisy for not supporting gay marriage.


19 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/14/2020: And The Ethics Beat Goes On…

  1. On 2:

    It strikes me as…. Interesting. Bernie’s campaign has flat out said that Liz’s campaign is lying. That’s a pretty strong message from Bernie, who has a history of demurring when it comes to the other people on that stage and their dishonesty. He can’t even claim that he’s not used to being lied about, the DNC went after him *hard* during the 2016 primaries (which had nothing to do with Clinton owning the DNC, oh no no no no no).

    I have no concrete reason to believe Bernie over Liz, I have no insider information, I just know that Warren lies *a lot* about political things related to discrimination and womanhood, or ancestry, or how cold it is outside. Warren is *better* at lying than Hillary, but I think she lies about as often. Bernie, on the other hand, said in 2015 was that the only reason he entered the primary was because Liz would not. Bernie *obviously* had no qualms about a woman winning the presidency in 2016.

    So…. This could be the one time out of all the times she’s asserted that Warren is facing sex-based discrimination, and Bernie could have absolutely flipped the narrative in two years, or the girl who cried sexism is at it again…. Which is a great argument for not weaponizing your vagina for political means, particularly when you’re full of shit…. Because I believe Bernie.

  2. 5) The US has and will support any level of violence against a people when it serves its interests. Somewhere between 100,000 and 250,000 deaths have been attributed to the ramifications of the US invasion of Iraq. But who cares about that, right? The US bends any invasive action to suit its narrative purposes. Or the narrative is bent to serve whatever action is taken. They shift and morph as need be.

    If it had been and if it were now in the interests of the US to support the ‘Mullahs’, so-called, they’d have supported the ‘Mullahs’.

    The issue here with events in Iran is not US concern for ‘civil rights’ but specific geo-political aims. The US has specific interests in the region and worked, consciously, to destabilize the region. There is said to be an ‘end goal’ for all of this. I am unsure at this point what the goal is.

    One strange result of ’embroilment’, in combination with the US’s own domestic crises, is moral and ethical confusion. The ‘concerns’ of the US are thoroughly corrupt and they have been since the interventions began. This is what ‘Swamp’ means unless I have got it very wrong: corrupt influences at the heart of government.

    These are not *struggles to gain political liberty for an oppressed people* and anyone who tells you that . . . “is selling something”.

    One side, and then the other (R&D), will grab hold of these issues and questions and twist them to their specific purposes.

    But what is the ‘real truth’? And what is the real ethics concern? Ah, no one has any idea. They are *lost in their lies* and the lies are stacked one upon the other.

    US meddling is often designed to create tensions and conflicts which are exploited for cynical purposes. There are general tactics of espionage. Similar to Russian Active measures (aktivnye meropriyatiya) where any different tool, be it a lie or the truth, is used when necessary. That whole story of Iraqis tossing the babies of out incubators was a lie of this sort.

    Everything is submerged and infiltrated with lies and it becomes very difficult to sort through things.

    Nevertheless, it is unquestionably true that there is a severe regime in control of Iran, the reasons for the social conflicts do not fit into a neat list. They are complex.

    What an odd twist that an inept army shot down a civilian plane! And that the result seems to be the weakening of the present Iran régime. All of this, at least for now, seems to serve the US purposes. But it also appears to be ‘moral luck’. I remain . . . suspicious.

    • “The US has and will support any level of violence against a people when it serves its interests. Somewhere between 100,000 and 250,000 deaths have been attributed to the ramifications of the US invasion of Iraq. But who cares about that, right?”

      Iraq was an international outlaw playing a stupid game of pretending to have WMDs while denying them. The nation violated terms of a ceasefire that the UN refused to enforce because of its own corruption. The invasion was justifiable, but botched–wars have to be waged competently. Still, bad actors in the world eventually have to be deterred; it’s best if their population deters them so someone else doesn’t have to. The US was not the main beneficiary of Saddam’s end.

      We’ll never know how many Saddam and his psychopathic sons might have killed if the US didn’t take out, but its fair to sa “a lot”—toting up the Iraq adventure casualties is misleading in the extreme.

      • In some there never seems to be cognition of likely results were their preferred options pursued. Like many, they cannot see how much worse things would probably be without intervention even if from a flawed, powerful, but most generally better alternative than they propose. In short, America bad, never mind those worse or much worse.

        This is the crux of my running gag with regard to Chomsky. He, as with so many academics, are revulsed by American power, but have great difficulty seeing the future their choices would have created. They have the glorious benefit of 20/20 hindsight, while America makes policy looking at the present and prospects for the future. And sometimes we make awful mistakes in that process.

        • That is *pure opinion* Jim. I do not disrespect your opinion per se. I am not convinced that it is the full truth though.

          Your ‘gag’ about Chomsky is not a gag. It is a mechanism you employ to hold to a fixed view and narrative. But I have said this a dozen times in two dozen different ways.

          Obstinacy makes us deaf . . . for all that we have ears.

          • But yours are not opinion…instead they are parroting of hopeless perpetual critics, contrarians, and deconstructionists. I can read and regurgitate reams of stuff, too, but I’ll pass.

            You can dislike my opinions all you want. Enjoy your cracker, whenever the Chomskys of the world allow it, Polly.

            • No, here you are wrong. The ideas I have, have come to me over a long period and through an involved study. My power-analysis could be said to be “Chomskian” if we consider Machiavelli’s analysis of power and political systems (and molding of perception) to be real and considerable.

              The analysis of power that interests me, is one that the Founders made when they examined their situation vis-a-vis the colonial power. You see? The themes that I work with are intimately and structurally tied to those of the Founders.

              But I suggest that you examine yours. Yours are not. You explain and ‘apologize’ for American power and you use very questionable rhetorical tricks to do so. I am not angry at you for that per se. I can also make the same rhetorical arguments.

              Your self-deception takes place when you *hear* any critical posture as having no creative and productive value. Then you apply some easy label to *vilify* it or to ridicule it (and you-plural, here, do this as a group and as an example of groupthink and group power-dynamic) so you do not have to do much difficult thinking.

              My larger point is that a Dissident Right is coming onto the scene. I hope it will, eventually, influence pseudo-conservatism positively. My ideas — which *you* can barely listen to because of these weird barriers that you have established (a perverse romantic patriotism with self-deceiving strains) keeps you from considering the larger picture. You-plural are incapable of seeing the larger picture I present.

              It is not that I dislike your opinions. It is that your *opinions* need to be complemented & expanded. As they stand they are largely useless — for anyone, including yourselves. They will have no part in getting out of the very difficult and developing situation America (and Europe) faces.

              • This is the Chomsky/libertarian fallacy. Any effort to project power internationally for altruistic or national purposes risks the ravages of moral luck and hindsight bias. The presumption of evil intent, however, is simply anti-American bias, and completely unwarranted by fact, common sense, or human nature.

                • It’s not ‘presumption’ though: it is knowledge.

                  But you (-plural) won’t be able to force or trick me to take an absolutely condemnatory posture. My critique is limited, reasoned, rational, historical and coherent.

                    • Knowledge of US history, especially in the Postwar era.

                      About cooperation with ‘brutal dictatorships’ when it is expedient, and then ‘condemning’ them also when expedient.

                      My critique is ‘rational, fair, accurate, reasoned’ and also balanced.

                      I don’t ‘presume’ in this, I have knowledge. (That is what I meant).

                    • Expedient is a cheap and misleading word. Yes, teaming up with the USSR and Stalin was necessary to defeat Hitler, a far worse threat. Tough utilitarian trade-off. “Expediency” suggests the path of least resistance. Hardly. Similarly, the US sincerely believed in the “domino theory” in the Sixties, and believed world communism was an existential threat. There was nothing in it for the US to fight for the rice paddies and jungles of Vietnam, just a determination that Communism had to be stopped. Bad theory, poorly waged war, bad result. That doesn’t make the motives or even the reasoning wrong, or wrongful.

                    • I chose the word carefully, not frivolously. I understand the view that you hold to and express. There is some truth in it and I do not deny that truth. But there is much more to the larger picture. The purpose of your *narrative* (it seems to me) is to keep the one who hears it and believes it from having to look into all these events, from Vietnam to Panama (and so many other ones), with a critical eye. The function of your *narrative* is to undermine the need for a critical posture.

                      Expedient is a cheap and misleading word.

                      1. Suitable or efficient for accomplishing a purpose: thought email was the most expedient way to communicate with distant relatives.
                      2. Convenient but based on a concern for self-interest rather than principle: changed his position when it was politically expedient.

                      My understanding is that foreign policy is often largely determined according to expediency. And to the degree that business-interests are the primary concern, economic and political expediency will more often than not operate. I think this is an entirely coherent suggestion.

                      If by *cheap* you mean *too easy* or perhaps *incomplete* as a descriptive term, well, solution there is easy: reveal the entire picture. Study it, understand it, and then explain it. To my mind that is what ‘telling the truth about how power functions’ is. You and Jim (and some others) interpret any critique of any sort as a ‘cheap attack’. Well, there are those who make cheap attacks, I admit. But *cheap* might also mean *reductive* and I notice that many often employ reductions when they act as apologists for American power.

                      Is any part of what I am saying so controversial? No. And the apologists of American power and its use can easily discern power machinations among others, but have a difficult time turning a critical eye inward.

                      Yes, teaming up with the USSR and Stalin was necessary to defeat Hitler, a far worse threat.

                      That is, still, opinion, though I admit that it has become solidified into *statuary*.

                      Any alternative history scenario is rendered impossible: one can only speculate. And when people *speculate*, often, they just inject their own agenda. So, some have said that *they* should have helped Germany to devastate the USSR; not empowered the USSR. I am not sure if Hitler was a greater danger than the USSR. Not in the larger view.

                      I am of the view that alternatives were possible. And they might have allowed different outcomes. But who can sat if these would have been better or worse: no one. It is a vain endeavor.

                      That doesn’t make the motives or even the reasoning wrong, or wrongful.

                      If I accept your *narrative* alone, yes you are right, the decisions made were perhaps only mistakes. But when I include in the larger picture other factors — and I do, and I have — the moral and ethical picture is not a simplistic binary narrative as you present, but one that involves corruption, and even profound corruption.

                      I read Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America by Kathleen Belew, and I took away from here general thesis that this war was vastly destructive to America. She pursued a specific angle of course, but I connect that war a corrupt business and governing class in ways, I gather, that you do not. The Vietnam War had numerous motivating factors, and they can all be examined and analyzed

                      1. To examine methodically by separating into parts and studying their interrelations.

                      And similarly so can all the operations of the US in the Middle East over the last 40-50 years and certainly in Iraq specifically (which is the point I started with, and hold to).

        • It is not related to what we have been talking about, but I thought, Jim (and others) that you might appreciate this (if you have not yet seen it). I watched the first part and though I can see its bias (its advocacy) it is still very interesting and germane to much of what is discussed here.

      • If I were able to believe what you believe things would certainly become ethically and morally more easy.

        If I were able to reduce complex political and historical realities to simple narratives it would also make taking a side easier.

        What is curious — from my perspective — is that you very clearly spot the systemic corruption when you describe the Clintons and most recently the Foundation. So, you notice and recognize it. But you don’t recognize, or don’t want to recognize (?) the many levels of corruption, the layers of corruption, or lying, of the interests of powerful players, in helping to create — and also supporting for a very long time — the régime of S. Hussein in Iraq.

        Most all of this is a part of geo-political games & machinations and the interests that are served are business interests. And that is what the term ‘our interests’ always means.

        Am I unable to comprehend that this is how geo-political games are played? No. Am I en thrall to the false idea that states and nations serve other goals than those defined by *interest*? No. Then why do I focus on these critiques? Very simple: I want people to tell the truth about what power is and how power functions. The entire American Narrative is, in many ways, a false & deceiving narrative. I say ‘in many ways’ and that does not include ‘all ways’. The goals and aspirations of America in defining ‘liberty’ and setting new possibilities in motion, all this I see and understand. But what has happened, and how this has changed, and yet how the Righteous American Narrative (of bringing light to a benighted world blah blah blah) has become, in large degree, a false & lying narrative.

        Now, today, the ‘reality’ is different. I assert and some informed and also intelligent analysts who are not Progressive Lefties also assert that the US ‘has an empire’. That mean, a large and wide-ranging group of *interests* all over the world. Was it *evil* or *bad* that the US took advantage of its powerful position in the Postwar to set up and administer (this definitely included use of the military) the New Order that had been established? I would not say that. But I would definitely say that this project and these projects are of a different sort than that proposed through the independence-endeavor. Now, it is imperative not that the US ‘establish liberty’ but that it apply methods of control to keep its domains where it has business interests ‘safe for those businesses’. And that is why I say — and that is why everyone recognizes! — that when necessary the US will support ‘monsters’ so-called. It is a question of political expedience within the larger framework. The examples of ‘supporting monsters’ are legion. They are part-and-parcel of the general record of history.

        I suppose that you will offer some charming rhetorical sophistry to counter (weakly) what I am saying here, and I always hope that you will not hold my tendency to ‘bold speech’ (parrhesia) against me. My endeavor is to dismantle lies, but such a project, at least on the face, is disconcerting to all interested parties. The more interest, the greater the tendency — the need really — to elaborate falsehoods.

        To be able to define how *the industry of falsehood* got itself going in our modernity is what has interested me and interests me still. It is connected with the powerful media who define *perspective*; it is connected to public relations (better known as propaganda); and has to do with the ways-and-means that intellect and intellectuals are *seduced* by Power. Inevitably, all of these factors & forces combined are precisely those that have a stake in ‘dumbing down’ a population. In the worst case there arises a ‘political police’ and these ‘patrol’ the social conversation and when they encounter opposition they send out their agents to neutralize those who are *not seeing correctly*.

        All of these things are ‘shadowed’ in our present. They have shown their heads. The mechanisms of ‘control’ and ‘enforcement’ are present and they are being used. Not will be used, but are being used. Threatening ideas must be neutralized when the ‘larger interests’ are at stake. And Power will make those sorts of decisions when it must. Power is very different, and always infinitely more strong, than Liberty, which is always weak.

        Again, if I could think and *see* as you do, how much easier it would be. But it seems to me that I am looking at things, and am concerned about things, that are simply not on your radar. They are *inconsiderable* and not part of *thinkable thought*.

        The meaning of Swamp (as i understand this term) is far more extensive for this reason. Swamp means the situation of corruption but also the established mechanisms of corruption. I have written about my ideas and my view (here) and I do not think I have gotten even ONE affirmation of being on a proper track and an ethical track. This is amazing to me!

        But, I am aware that I am dealing with American Conservatives who have only a fluctuating relationship with the ‘core Constitutional values’ that the nation was founded on and who — this explains them — are largely *apologists for power and power’s machinations*.

        And this is why they have become nor irrelevant . . . but enormous blocks. Basically, they serve ‘the Swamp’. Is there an alternative? If there is it has to be defined by the use of bold thought and bold definition: a willingness to tell the truth against the current of lie.

        • But, I am aware that I am dealing with American Conservatives who have only a fluctuating relationship with the ‘core Constitutional values’ that the nation was founded on and who — this explains them — are largely *apologists for power and power’s machinations*.

          This has to be better defined. I see American Conservatives as ‘romantics’. They hold to a romantic-patriotic view and use that as a fortress and buttress against having to ‘face reality’: the reality of what the US has become.

          Because they seem to have no choice but to hold to this view, distorted and misleading as it is (it needs a thorough *correction*) they cannot serve the present as it needs to be served. They cannot really be *conservative*.

          It is really very complex and requires whole expositions.

  3. 2. The progressives have finally moved so far left that they have to devour each other: they know they are no longer able to speak to the middle. Hard to get votes when you demonize those you wish to vote for you. The only game left for the democrats is to fight HARD for the radical leftists, effectively playing violin while their party burns.

    3. I love that the only remaining candidates for POTUS are old whites. Gives the lie to ‘the party of diversity,’ no?

    Of course this is Trump’s fault.

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