Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/17/2020: The Presidents Day Edition

Good morning, guys!

Thank-you for your service!

In honor of our Presidents, Ethics Alarms is  posting some of the best and most important Presidential speeches during the day. We’ll see how many I get up; there are a lot of excellent ones to choose from.

In all of these cases, whichever I post, a President was acting in one of the non-partisan functions of the office, when the President’s job is to represent all of our nation’s citizens. It is a disturbing fact that the current President has been virtually blocked from discharging these duties, as part off the long, relentless effort by the A.U.C.—the Axis Of Unethical Conduct: Democrats, the “resistance,” and the mainstream media—to deny his Presidency’s legitimacy and to reduce his support among the public to the point where it becomes politically feasible to remove him without an election.

The nation needs those non-partisan Presidential moments, because they symbolize unity and strengthen, rather than weaken, our bonds: throwing out the first pitch of the baseball season, attending the funerals of distinguished Americans, hosting the Kennedy Center Honors. It is not this President’s fault that he had been prevented from doing his job.

1. Why look! Here’s another example! Yesterday President Trump, having been invited to serve as grand marshal for the Daytona 500, uttered the traditional “Gentlemen, start your engines!” and boarded  his official limousine, nicknamed “The Beast”, and, with a U.S. and Presidential flag on the front fenders flapping in the wind, headed out onto the track, pacing the full field of cars.

The Horror. Tweeted Maggie Halberman, the usual co-author of New York Times front page features—inevitably negative– on the Trump administration,

Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! Obama and Bush throwing out the baseball season’s ceremonial first pitches, Obama using his limo for a Jerry Seinfeld comedy bit, and prominently attending an NCAA basketball tournament game–all good! President Trump serving as grand marshal at a NASCAR event? Unacceptably political.

This is smoking gun bias from the journalist the Times uses to inform its readers about what this President does.

2. Now Trump’s stupid tweets, however, are another matter entirely.  Politico reports on what District Judge Reggie Walton, a Reagan appointee,  had  to say about President Trump’s gratuitous social media commentary on the McCabe investigation:

The public is listening to what’s going on, and I don’t think people like the fact that you got somebody at the top basically trying to dictate whether somebody should be prosecuted. . . . I just think it’s a banana republic when we go down that road. . . . I think there are a lot of people on the outside who perceive that there is undo inappropriate pressure being brought to bear. . . . It’s just, it’s very disturbing that we’re in the mess that we’re in in that regard. . . . I just think the integrity of the process is being unduly undermined by inappropriate comments and actions on the part of people at the top of our government. . . . I think it’s very unfortunate. And I think as a government and as a society we’re going to pay a price at some point for this.

3.  I don’t know why Richard Dawkins would choose to leap into this particular cactus patch, but for some reason he tweeted this morning,

“It’s one thing to deplore eugenics on ideological, political, moral grounds. It’s quite another to conclude that it wouldn’t work in practice. Of course it would. It works for cows, horses, pigs, dogs & roses. Why on earth wouldn’t it work for humans? Facts ignore ideology….For those determined to miss the point, I deplore the idea of a eugenic policy. I simply said deploring it doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work. Just as we breed cows to yield more milk, we could breed humans to run faster or jump higher. But heaven forbid that we should do it.”

But of course, people were determined to miss the point, because Dawkins, in addition to being a scientist, a scholar and an ethicist (Wikipedia calls him an “ethologist.” Cool!), is an outspoken atheist, and a many hate him.

In this case, Dawkins is 100% right, and the various rebuttals to his statements are illogical, emotional, or worse. The Right Wing media was particularly dishonest—Nah, there’s no conservative news media bias!—with The Wire, for example, headlining his tweets, “Famed Atheist Richard Dawkins Bizarrely Defends Eugenics.”

By no possible interpretation could Dawkins’ statement be called a “defense” of eugenics. If I stated that the extreme nut-roll climate change fanatics who are advocating the extermination of humanity as the best way to address global warming —yes, there are such lunatics—were correct that it would work, but that the idea is certifiably insane, woukd that be defending self-genocide?

4. But then even mainstream media journalists have attacks of integrity now and then. Take ABC’s Martha Raddatz, previously noted on Ethics Alarms for her clear conflicts of interest which ABC chose to ignore in selecting her as the moderator for the 2012 Vice-Presidents candidates debate, and which she exhibited by allowing Joe Biden to interrupt, sigh, eye-roll, duck questions and generally act like a jerk.

Interviewing Tom Steyer yesterday, the other billionaire who is trying to buy the Democratic nomination for President, Raddatz insisted that Steyer concede the existence of reality.

Here’s that section of the transcript;

RADDATZ: Mr. Steyer, you say that you can take on Donald Trump on the economy. But the latest Quinnipiac national poll again released just this week says 70 percent of voters describe the nation’s economy as excellent or good. So how do you convince them that a change is needed when they think they’re doing so well under Donald Trump?

STEYER: I think if you take a look at what he says, everything he says superficially sounds right but is actually a lie. So when he says the economy is growing, I can show that, in fact, all the money’s going to rich people. When he says unemployment is low, which is true, I can show that the wages people are getting don’t support a family. And when he says the stock market is up, these are his three big statistics, it’s largely because of the huge tax break he gave to big corporations, but it also is — doesn’t matter that much because most of the stocks — 85 percent of the stocks are held by the top 10 percent of — 10 — ten percent of the richest Americans.

RADDATZ: But — but I want to go back to that 70 percent number…. you talk about the wealthy. They’re not all wealthy people. Seventy percent say the economy is good and they’re doing well.

STEYER: Well, I’m just saying to you, here we are on a show and you’re standing up for Mr. Trump’s version of the economy. And I’m telling you, what he’s saying is not true. And so —

RADDATZ: I’m telling you about a national poll. I’m not standing up for anybody. I’m telling — I’m telling you about a national poll.

STEYER: And what I’m saying is this, there is a different story of this economy and this country that has to be told. Mr. Trump has to be faced down about what he’s saying on the economy because he is running on the economy. That’s exactly what he’s going to say. He’s going to say, I’m great on the economy and Democrats stink.

RADDATZ: So how do you —

STEYER: I can take him on, on that because it has to be shown that this economy actually isn’t working for the vast bulk of Americans and this president is dangerous to them in terms of money and in terms of health care and in terms of retirement. That’s not being told. Democrats are going to have to take him on directly.

Translation of Steyer’s attitude: “My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with facts.” This is apparently going to be the main Democratic line of attack during the campaign, whoever gets the nomination, along with “Orange man bad,” of course: “Who are you going to believe, me, or your own two eyes?”

For the Democrats, this is shaping up to be the Jumbo campaign.

5. Today’s Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal update: Yesterday, I wrote about the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger claiming that Astros starJosé  Altuve “stole” his MVP award in 2017 because he was getting the benefit of his team’s illegal sign-stealing system. Astros shortstop Carlos Correa angrily defended the Bellinger’s allegation, saying, in effect, that Altuve was so good he didn’t need to cheat.

I decided to check: was Altuve notably better in 2017 than in the previous season, when the Astros weren’t stealing and relaying opposing catchers’ signs to pitchers?

Here are Altuve’s batting stats to date:

Note the 2016 and 2017 season lines. Altuve was a teeny bit better in 2017, but the seasons are basically identical. He also struck out more and walked less often in more at bats in 2017. If getting signs relayed to him was helping Altuve in a significant way, the stats don’t show it.

12 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/17/2020: The Presidents Day Edition

  1. I just think the integrity of the process is being unduly undermined by inappropriate comments and actions on the part of people at the top of our government. . . . I think it’s very unfortunate. And I think as a government and as a society we’re going to pay a price at some point for this.

    An actual, published criticism of Trump based on general ethical principles (in this case, regarding the appearance of impartiality in a criminal investigation).

    It is such a rare find.

  2. Re: No. 4; Steyer’s Art.

    Perhaps someone should tell Obama to cool it on the “this is my economy, not Trump’s” speechesif Steyer is to have a chance. Lately, St. Barack has been telling everyone who will listen that his econonic policies set the stage for thee current economy. If Steyer is correct and the economy us working for only some people, then St. Barack worked to benefit the top 10% to the detriment of the rest. Maybe, St. Barack wasn’t such a great president after all. Who knew?


    • On second thought, maybe Pres. Obama is correct. But for his disastrous economic, tax, insurance, domestic and foreign policies, we would not have had a Trump presidency. At least with Trump, he understands investments, tax and trade. Even NATO is towing the line.


    • It’s the same song and dance. People tried to credit Carter for Reagan’s strong economy, obviously Clinton’s policies were responsible for the strength of Bush’s, up until the crash, and now it is Obama’s genius that gave Trump a strong economy. Mere coincidence that the markets flounder up until shortly after they leave office – they merely inherited the messes that the Republican presidents left them, with their dunder-headed conservative economic policies, right?

  3. By no possible interpretation could Dawkins’ statement be called a “defense” of eugenics.

    I would argue to the contrary, for there are two issues present in Dawkins’ statement. The one issue is the ethics of eugenics, while the other is the feasibility of eugenics. In terms of the former, I agree the Dawkins is stating his stance against eugenics, but he is actively defending the feasibility of eugenics. Thus his tweet is in fact a defense of eugenics, if qualified.

    However, I would also argue that Dawkins sets himself up for contradiction in trying to denounce eugenics as unethical in one breath, but feasible in the next. For feasibility of eugenics must consider both the subject and and the means applied.

    Regarding the subject of eugenics, it is not a direct comparison between humans and animals. There is a qualitative difference between man and beast. Man has a psyche, an ego, an awareness of self, a consciousness and conscience that animals demonstrably lack. A cow does not know or appreciate the fact that it has been bred for more milk, or failing to produce the expected amount of milk, will be denied procreation. Man would be aware of the fact that he is bred for a certain trait, and would justifiably balk at being ask to forgo a basic desire — children — because his traits did not make a certain standard.

    Let us consider what would be required to establish eugenics. It would require an entity with sufficient oversight and power to direct human breeding. It would establish norms for who could breed with whom, and how to handle those whom it deems unworthy to continue breeding. It would also have to contend with any offspring that struggles against the system, such as refusing to be bred for the desirable traits. And there would be such people.

    That qualitative difference between man and beast fundamentally culminates in this distinction. Each human person is an end in themselves, whereas animals can be ethically treated as means. A human who discovers himself solely used as a means to an end will naturally and justifiably struggle against the situation that uses him for that means. In order, then, for eugenics to work, man’s struggle to be treated as an end, not a means, will force the overseeing entity to override, ultimately through liquidation, individual protest. A few generations into the experiment, and the overseer will require force beyond its power to obtain to maintain is totalitarian grip on its subjects, and it will ultimately fail.

    Thus I argue that Dawkins is wrong on the count of the feasibility of eugenics. In order for eugenics to be feasible, it must be possible to maintain totalitarian control and engender intolerable evils, To say eugenics is feasible is to say such control and such power to suppress the will of man is in fact attainable by humankind. I argue that while such control can exist in the short term, it cannot sustain itself.

    Finally, I believe Dawkins deserves a share of criticism for his comparison of eugenics as applied to men and eugenics as applied to animals. If he does not fully equate the two, he comes dangerously close, and he gives a word of encouragement to those who desire to see eugenics applied.

    • This is a thought-provoking discourse, Ryan, but it’s based on an unsustainable leap. “It would work” isn’t the same as “it’s feasible.” Dawkins says it would work “in practice” which assumes its practicable as a hypothetical proposition. Eugenics would work, but its not feasible. I’d list examples of other policies that would work and aren’t practicable, but I have to get my wife ready to have her arm examined…

      • Jack,

        I hope the appointment goes well! You and your wife are in our prayers.

        I would agree that as a pure logical proposition, the success of eugenics on human beings is not ruled out. Or to rephrase, there are no laws of logic that are directly violated by the proposition of eugenics applied to human persons. But in logic, there is also the distinction between logical possibility and actual possibility. Something could be logically possible, but not actually possible, and this is where I would ultimately stake my claim.

        As a non-ethical consideration to exemplify what I mean, take a computer built to model the entire universe (or multiverse, if you hold to parallel universes). It is logically possible for such a program to perfectly model the universe, because that doesn’t contradict any laws of logic, but such a program is not actually possible because there is not enough energy in the universe for it to compute such a model. I would argue that when you put in all the necessary considerations, we would find that human eugenics is not actually possible.

        But then, upon further reflection, I think it would also be important to qualify exactly what we mean by human eugenics. A tall man might want to marry a tall woman in hopes of having star basketball players for children. Do single-generational allowances constitute to eugenics? Or is eugenics considered possible if we can launch an initial program, even if it ultimately fails? Is it eugenics if we are only attempting to breed one, single superman, and are not concerned with altering the morphology of sizeable body of people? My statement on eugenics applied to humans not being actually possible is predicated on the definition that the eugenics we’re discussing is a perpetual effort to attempt to alter the morphology of certain populations. Perhaps making one population large and aggressive, and another population diminutive, docile, and delectable…

  4. 3. Wasn’t there a big issue with someone (can’t think of it off the top of my head, I think it was Jimmy the Greek) many years ago who said blacks were better at sports because they were bred to be stronger and faster to do more works as slaves.

    5. It doesn’t say that though. As you have also said on issues, we have no idea what his 2017 season would look like if there has been no cheating going on. 2017 was his best season in baseball, and that’s probably not a coincidence. For all we know, his season could have looked like his 2015 or 2018 seasons rather than anything else. While those were good seasons, they don’t remotely compare to his 2017 one (or even his 2016 season). We’ll never know if, or how much, he benefited from it as we don’t know what he would have done otherwise (if he had been doing so)

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