Ethics Warm-Up: 9/29/2021: Falling Trust

September 29 should be celebrated as Barn Door Fallacy Day. More than the last historical episode I flagged as illustrating the phenomenon, the Tylenol poisoning fiasco (I’m taking Tylenol this very second, because I’m in agony) illustrated the human race’s irrational instinct to go overboard after an unprecedented event by installing measures that would have prevented it if a time machine were available.

Flight attendant Paula Prince bought a bottle of cyanide-laced Tylenol on this date in 1982, and was found dead two days later. Six other people had died in northwest Chicago, and investigators eventually realized all seven victims had taken Extra-Strength Tylenol poisoned with cyanide. Extra-Strength Tylenol was recalled nationwide, but the only contaminated capsules were found in the Chicago area. The poisoner was never caught, but the cost to consumers and corporations of the sudden rush to make all containers “tamper-proof” is in the billions. I think about that random killer every time a have to grab a knife to cut off what is supposed to be an easy peel-off paper seal to use a new bottle of Ketchup or to open new jar of peanut butter. Thank to our product liability jurisprudence: once there was a high-profile poisoning of a container, all manufacturers faced liability if their product was similarly contaminated. It was suddenly “foreseeable.”

Manufacturers have no choice, I suppose, and a statistical cost-benefit analysis that balances the expense of eliminating the tiny risk with the odds of another deadly incident carries unacceptable perils of reputational devastation if metaphorical lightning strikes twice. Then there is always the copycat phenomenon to worry about. Essentially, the Tylenol tragedy shows how societal trust among millions can be shattered permanently by a single sociopath.

Once Americans trusted each other not to poison food and drugs just because they could. Now we don’t. Can’t.

1. Officials who use religion this way undermine both their own credibility and religion. New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who took over after Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned, told members of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, “There are people out there who aren’t listening to God and what God wants. You know this. You know who they are. I need you to be my apostles. I need you to go out and talk about it and say, ‘We owe this to each other. We love each other.’ Jesus taught us to love one another. And how do you show that love, but to care about each other enough to say, ‘Please get vaccinated because I love you. I want you to live.'”

Ick, ptooi, yuck, gag, gack! So, the first female governor of New York is also an idiot, though not the first. Let’s see: pandering, exploitation, appeal to authority,and fear-mongering. The odds that an unvaccinated worshiper will die is less than 1%. “Jesus would want you to get vaccinated” is presumptuous and insulting.

Good luck, New York.

2. Paid liar ethics…is it fair to keep pointing out what a hack Jen Psaki is? I found myself defending one of her endless series of obfuscations and double-talk spin attempts to my wife, saying that every White House press secretary has an impossible job and has to engage in daily misrepresentation or excuse-making to a greater or lesser extent. Her response: an ethical person doesn’t take that job.

Jen was in top form two days ago, when she responded to reporters citing data indicating that President Biden’s proposed increase in the corporate tax rate from 21 to 26.5% would lead to lower wages for workers and higher prices. Psaki said, “There are some… who argue that in the past, companies have passed on these costs to consumers. We feel that that’s unfair and absurd and the American people will not stand for that.” 

There aren’t “some who argue” that. It is a matter of history and predictable cause and effect. Companies pass on costs to consumers. Fact. “It won’t happen because ‘we’ think that’s unfair” is magical thinking. It instantly reminded me of a memorable discussion with my parents when they were both in their late 80s.

My mother suddenly said, “Do people wake up feeling fine and then just drop dead the same day with no warning?” My father, who was always amused by my mother’s ongoing battle with mortality, said, “Of course! It happens every day, to millions of people! It could happen to either of us, today!” “Well, I just refuse to accept that,” Mom replied. “You have no choice but to accept it, Eleanor,” Dad said, laughing. “That’s how it works.” “Nope,” she insisted, not smiling a bit. “I don’t accept it.”

3. Open borders! No open borders! Open borders! No open borders! Even though I have little sympathy for aliens who break our laws “for a better life” (bank robbers are also seeking a better life, but at least they are citizens, and thus our problem), the Biden Administration and Democrats sending mixed messages to would-be immigrants is unethical. Another of the endless series of “pity the poor illegal immigrants” tales in the Times explains that Haitians who were settled in other countries relied on Biden, who had protected illegal immigrant Haitians in the United States from deportation and whom they assumed would relax entry requirements. “So they sold their belongings, left their jobs and pulled their kids out of school. And they headed north,” we are told. Then they were detained in Del Rio, Texas, and deported to Haiti. The Times says this was “without warning.” Well, the fact that U.S. laws dictate such a result is some warning.

“I thought the United States was a big country, with laws. They treated us terribly,” Nicodeme Vyles, 45, complains. He had been living in Panama since 2003, working as a welder and carpenter. Yes, we treated him terribly by enforcing those laws.

4. Fiscal responsibility ethics. The Biden Administration and Congressional Democrats want to pass one trillion dollar spending bill after another. The national debt now stands at $28.43+ trillion, and the entire gross national product last year was $20.93 trillion. Republicans ignored the deficit under Trump, with irresponsible tax cuts; the current administration is ignoring the deficit again, with exorbitant spending bills (although trillions

to be spent on the infrastructure, and as quickly as possible.) The public is nearly totally ignorant of the consequences of letting the debt balloon, because the news media doesn’t want to discourage support for progressive programs. The last national political candidate who made a good faith effort to explain how dangerous and irresponsible it was to ignore the debt was the late Ross Perot, who first ran for President in 1992.

Stein’s Law is often stated as “That which cannot continue forever, won’t.” Leaders and elected representative who willfully ignore it are unethical—irresponsible, untrustworthy, dishonest.

5. Something is missing in this framing of the argument? What could it be? Kurt Streeter, the social justice warrior and activist who pretends to write about sports for the New York Times, authored a supportive piece about the amicus brief filed by 500 female athletes to the Supreme Court regarding its upcoming abortion case, Mississippi’s appeal of a lower court’s decision that blocked the state’s law banning abortion after 15 weeks. Streeter focuses special attention on Crissy Perham, a three-time Olympic medalist. She inspires women by explaining how her abortion helped paved the way for a swimming career. She describes as “reproductive health” what was at stake, but there is no indication that health had anything to do with her choice. Something else that seems to have had nothing to do with her decision: presented the nascent human life she chose to end. Of the argument by the female athletes submitting the brief, Streeter writes,

“If women do not have the option of abortion, their lives could be disrupted and they will not thrive in sports at levels we’ve grown accustomed to — levels witnessed recently at the Tokyo Olympics, in the W.N.B.A. playoffs and the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York. Having the ability to say when or whether to become mothers directly connects to a key ingredient that has fueled the broad success of women in high-level sports: the ability to control, nurture and push the body to its limits, without breaks of months or years, and without the sometimes permanent physical changes that pregnancy can cause.”

OK, that’s one side of the utilitarian equation. What’s the other side? What is sacrificed so women can win medals and athletic championships?

Apparently nothing at all.

22 thoughts on “Ethics Warm-Up: 9/29/2021: Falling Trust

  1. RE #2: I think I’ve finally figured out why Psaki makes me want to throw bricks at my TV.

    White House Press Secretaries often – not always – but often – forced to be highly creative with how they present (or don’t present) the truth. It’s a brutal job, which is why most only last a couple of years (then again, most of them have bazillion dollar PR gigs waiting for them once they throw in the towel, which is really one of only a handful of reasons why anyone in their right mind would take the job in the first place).

    Certain press secretaries are really, really good at the job. Dee Dee Meyers did a good job for Clinton. George W. Bush had Tony Snow and Dana Perino, both highly competent, and Ari Fleischer, who I consider the most talented White House Press Secretary ever.

    But most of the rest just aren’t very good at the job.

    Psaki is among the worst I’ve seen. In addition to being blatantly dishonest, she’s smug and condescending. Ari Fleischer was and is smarter than anyone in the White House Press Corps, and the Press Corps knew it. That said, he was always respectful of them and treated them as peers. Psaki is contemptuous. She may in fact still be the smartest person in the Presidential Briefing Room, but unlike Fleischer, she seems determined to remind them of that at every single gaggle.

      • I always view people who are smug and condescending as not very intelligent and attempting to hide it at all costs. Prime example: Kamala Harris. Her badgering of Brett Kavanaugh in the Senate hearing was the most smug and condescending performance by an idiot I’ve ever seen.

        • “the most smug and condescending performance by an idiot I’ve ever seen.”

          That’s only because you haven’t had the…um…privilege of sitting in on a 77 Square Miles Surrounded By A Sea Of Reality School Board/CommonSenseless Council meeting.

          You should put that in the Plus Column!

        • Ilhan Omar’s attempt to bully Elliott Abrams was pretty smug and condescending too. She wasn’t looking for answers, just trying to attack him.

      • Yet there is a meme out there that says “I don’t know how she stays slim when she eats Fox reporters every day.” Actually that just proves that a lot of meme creators are idiots and hacks.

        • An X-Chromosomal Unit WH Press Secretary that regularly picked pieces of reporter’s (‘specially that whiny, flaccidly enfeebled b!tch Jim Acosta!) @$$e$ off’n the toe of her high heels with aplomb?

          It starts-n-ends with Kayleigh McEnany.

  2. Regarding #5, the abortion conundrum. I use the word conundrum in the sense of its last definition–“a conceit; a devise; a hoax.” I’m from the generation of feminists that pushed for abortion rights because women needed to be equal to men and have the same privileges as men who enjoy sex without negative consequences. This was always a troubling argument to me because none of the feminists wanted to accept personal responsibility for irresponsible behavior. It was a hoax that women have no control over their bodies until after they are pregnant. In my experience, virtually all of the unwanted pregnancies that occur between consulting females and males was instigated by uncontrolled alcohol consumption. The logic that a female isn’t able to exert control over her behavior, by definition, establishes the female’s inferiority to the male in the dyad. So much for equality . . .

  3. Surely the cost of safety packaging pales in comparison to what the advent of sky-jacking terrorists did to air travel. We used to be able to trust people who got on a plane wanted to arrive at the destination without incident.

  4. Just fixed about 15 annoying typos that Other Bill was kind enough to alert me too. Never got to do the final proof because I was being rushed out the door—my fault. Thanks Bill. Sorry, everyone.

  5. “Once Americans trusted each other not to poison food and drugs just because they could. Now we don’t. Can’t.”

    Except when it comes to ice cream. That’s just a free-for-all with zero effort made toward tamper-proofing the packaging. I guess ice cream naturally neutralizes poison?

    Regarding abortion and women’s sports, it will be a moot point in a decade or so if we continue the trend of allowing males to compete in women’s sports. There won’t be any professional female athletes left.

  6. Ick, ptooi, yuck, gag, gack! So, the first female governor of New York is also an idiot, though not the first. Let’s see: pandering, exploitation, appeal to authority,and fear-mongering. The odds that an unvaccinated worshiper will die is less than 1%. “Jesus would want you to get vaccinated” is presumptuous and insulting.

    Have you ever considered the possibility that the vaccine itself is the problem?

    The public is nearly totally ignorant of the consequences of letting the debt balloon, because the news media doesn’t want to discourage support for progressive programs.

    Yet again, the news media is the Greater Scope Villain here.

    Having the ability to say when or whether to become mothers directly connects to a key ingredient that has fueled the broad success of women in high-level sports: the ability to control, nurture and push the body to its limits, without breaks of months or years, and without the sometimes permanent physical changes that pregnancy can cause

    So why do they simply not get pregnant?

  7. Item 1. I shudder when I pick a quasi-gallon of ice cream from the supermarket freezer because of the “lickers.”

    Item 2. People who reference Jesus’ command to love one another yet forget his command to neither murder or be angry with others make me want to “throw stones.”

    Item 3. Jen Psaki lies to cover for the Biden/Administration lies. Reference above: Jesus said if you cannot be trusted in the small things you ought not to be trusted in the big.

    Item 4. Two conundrums- How did all these Haitians get from their island nation to Mexico in the first place? What did the Clinton Haitian Relief Foundation relieve?

    Item 5. Debt is a way of life for most Americans so it is not difficult to understand their lack of knowledge or interest in the national debt. BTW all the companies that advertise their ability to reduce your debt or relieve you of the consequences of not paying your taxes should be banned.

    Item 6. If she had stayed in the pool she would not have to have murdered her child. The world is in need of better parents, not better narcissists.

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