Week-Launching Ethics Warm-Up, 10/4/2021: A Happy Ending To A Pit Bull Saga, A Congressional Leader Makes My Head Explode, And More [Updated]

launch

Singer Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose on October 4, 1970. The anniversary prompts me to make an unkind observation that I was tempted to make after reading all of the tributes and expansive rhetoric praising “The Wire” actor Michael K. Williams after he died of an overdose of fentanyl and heroin on September 6. For at least a hundred years, anyone who takes heroin does so knowing that it is addictive and frequently fatal. My attitude toward Joplin, Williams, John Belushi, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Billy Holliday, and many other artists who have killed themselves this way involves more anger than sympathy. The world was robbed of their gifts because they were reckless. In the case of black artists, they endanger their admirers by creating a romantic aura for what is, in the final analysis, stupid and irresponsible conduct. How hard can it be not to start using an addictive substance that you know might kill you? The fact that the drug is illegal should be a big clue.

1. And speaking of the joys of recreational drugs...In a new study published in Psychological Medicine, researchers in the University of Birmingham’s Institute for Mental Health and the Institute of Applied Health Research found a strong link between “general practice recorded cannabis use” and mental ill health. Senior author Dr. Clara Humpston said: “Cannabis is often considered to be one of the ‘safer’ drugs and has also shown promise in medical therapies, leading to calls for it be legalized globally. Although we are unable to establish a direct causal relationship, our findings suggest we should continue to exercise caution since the notion of cannabis being a safe drug may well be mistaken.”

Continue to exercise caution? Who’s exercising caution? Popular culture and upper-middle class whites have been issuing pro-pot propaganda for half a century, while mocking government efforts to discourage widespread use and acceptance of another destructive recreational drug. Now nearly every state is on a path to legalize it, especially because they smell tax revenue.

2. KABOOM! Here is what Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), the chair of the House Budget Committee, said on CNN yesterday regarding the Democrats’ 3.5 trillion infrastructure and anything-else-they-can-tie to it bill:

“The number itself is meaningless. I mean, I read Joe Manchin’s statement, I’ve listened to him, he has no understanding of how the federal government monetary system works when he compared it yesterday to his household income, that has no relevance to what we can do. It’s not a question of what we can afford. The federal government can afford anything that it feels it needs to do and right now that’s what we ought to be focused on. So that’s kind of the position I took in the budget committee, that’s the position I will take going forward.”

Yes, an elected official actually said that in public, and there goes my head. Well, heck, if the federal government can afford anything, I don’t understand why it isn’t paying for everyone’s food, a nice big home with a swimming pool for every citizen (and illegal resident too!), a nice cushy yearly income whether someone works or not, automobiles, porn…no asset inequality! I had no idea that paying for all this wasn’t a problem!

These are the people running out government. We have entrusted them with the welfare of the nation. They say things like this, and people believe them. How many?

3. Goodbye to an ethical ex-child star. Former Disney child actor Tommy Kirk of many childhood favorite films— “Swiss Family Robinson,” “The Shaggy Dog,” “The Absent-minded Professor,” and of course, “Old Yeller”—as well as the original “Hardy Boys Mysteries” on TV—died last week. His career was derailed in his early 20s by drug and alcohol problems and being gay in an era where Disney stars had a wholesome image to uphold. When the calls stopped coming, Kirk quietly moved on with his life He quit drugs and started a carpet and upholstery cleaning business. Except for an occasional movie role as a lark, he limited his show business activities to autograph conventions. The Disney Company named him a Disney Legend, an honor recognizing extraordinary contributions to the company, in 2006. Kirk always was open about accepting responsibility for his career’s collapse, while others in his circumstances have been bitter. “I don’t blame Disney for firing me,” he told one interviewer. “I was on drugs, and I was fooling around in ways totally incompatible with a family-oriented studio. I’ve accepted it. I’ve accepted the fact that my career was ruined by my behavior and no one and nothing else.”

4. “Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!” After NASCAR driver Brandon Brown won at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama over the weekend, NBC Sports reporter Kelli Stavast tried to interview him while fans were loudly chanting, “Fuck Joe Biden!” in the background. Like the loyal state media hack she is, Kelli did her best to obscure reality from the TV audience, saying to the racer, “As you can hear the chants from the crowd, ‘Let’s go Brandon!'” Nice try.

5. ‘U.S. Senator takes advantage of a law when she has a right to do so’ isn’t even newsworthy, much less scandalous. Nevertheless, someone at Fox News thought it was fair and balanced to take a cheap shot at U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a disabled U.S. military veteran, with the headline, Democrat Tammy Duckworth slammed for getting tax break on her Illinois home.” That’s “slammed” by Fox News, when you get right down to it, though they rely on a single ill-conceived critique by a Chicago paper to justify the clickbait. [The original headline, which Fox was apparently shamed into changing, was “Democrat Tammy Duckworth hasn’t paid property tax on her Illinois home since 2015, report says.”] Fox’s own story makes it clear that like 27,000 homeowners in Cook County, Duckworth is the beneficiary of one of the exemptions that the Illinois General Assembly has passed. Duckworth, 53, pays no property taxes because she has a disability rating of 70% or higher as determined by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Duckworth lost both legs and some use of her right arm after the helicopter she was piloting was hit by a rocket-fired grenade in Iraq in 2004. Some guy thinks she makes too much money to warrant such a break. Well, work to change the law, then. Every U.S. citizen has every right to reap the benefit of the law when they are eligible, and Duckworth’s sacrifice in service to her country justifies relief from property taxes, or any taxes at all, if a legislature so decided. [Pointer: valkgrrl]

6. That’s a good boy! Want a biscuit? In Coweta County, Georgia, a home intruder was killed by the homeowner’s two dogs. When the owner returned home last, he discovered a dead man on his front porch.  The dead man had a criminal record, and it appears that no charges will be filed against the owner…or the dogs. When new reports suggested that authorities might put the dogs down, emails and phone calls poured in objecting. Now it appears that they will be returned to the owner. After all, the owner could have legally shot a burglar, but the dogs were going to be punished for protecting the owner’s home? Justice appears to have prevailed. This is especially note-worthy because the dogs, based on their photos, both appear to be some variety of pit bull mix.

34 thoughts on “Week-Launching Ethics Warm-Up, 10/4/2021: A Happy Ending To A Pit Bull Saga, A Congressional Leader Makes My Head Explode, And More [Updated]

  1. Re 6.

    The idea that people would put dogs down for that angers me. The only response to something like this is some variant of what you said. Of course, I’d lean toward, “Good boy, here’s a steak,” but biscuit is fine. By the way, I’m not really a big fan of dogs and I understand appropriate responses. What are these bozos?

  2. 5: They changed the headline.

    The original headline, the one at the time I sent it to you, read “Democrat Tammy Duckworth hasn’t paid property tax on her Illinois home since 2015, report says.”

  3. 2. John Yarmuth represents the Louisville area, which is not only a dependable liberal Dem district but right now is hungry for a chunk of infrastructure money to spend on Ohio River bridges, deteriorating highways and God knows what else the Dems are calling “infrastructure” these days. Still, his boneheaded statement made me literally laugh out loud. This is a Congressman? Did he not take high school economics? Daily I grow more convinced that our addled national “leadership” is not going to face reality and change course in time, and the whole economic house of cards is going to collapse within the next couple of decades. Going to re-inventory my supplies of beans, bullets and band-aids now.

    • This guy makes barely thirty-something congress women from the Bronx who have “Tax the Rich” emblazoned across their butts and say “we’ll just print more money!” look like Nobel Prize winning economists.

  4. Right leaning media seems to have a habit of using the “x slammed for doing y” headline pattern. The criteria used for qualifying something as a slam is almost always tenuous at best. Half the time they use a smattering of tweets made by random people as the justification for saying someone got slammed. A “slammed” tweet can have a million likes and 10k supportive replies, but 4 or 5 Twitter randos making snarky comments somehow qualifies as being slammed in the journalists estimation. A “slammed” statement can have a roaring crowd cheering it on when it is made, but if a handful of random people later type angrily about it on Facebook or an obscure journalist on a blog no one reads gives a scathing critique, the statement somehow qualifies as “slammed” by journalistic measures.

    It is juvenile, misleading propaganda clickbait, and I wish they would knock it off.

  5. Part of the Duckworth issue bothers me. Let me start where I am in complete agreement ” Duckworth’s sacrifice in service to her country justifies relief from property taxes, or any taxes at all.” I am not as sure about just because you meet a legal criteria you should take advantage of getting something from the government. It is that kind of thinking that leads us to item #2 in this post.

    I have been bothered by the way we assess disability. Conceptually, such tax exemptions for the disabled and infirm assumes the recipient has a limited ability to create income. In today’s world where brainpower is highly valued and through high tech prosthetics one’s actual physical disability is no longer economic death sentence it seems there may be a need to reevaluate what constitutes a disability. For example, a soldier with a TBI -traumatic brain injury – may not evidence any outward signs of disability and be classified by the VA as moderately disabled but may not be able to hold down continuous gainful employment due to cognitive issues that effect behaviors that are caused by but not associated with the soldiers TBI. This soldier would not qualify as disabled using the VA scale. Who is more disabled the someone like Tammy Duckworth or a TBI patient whose short term memory is shot and lashes out at co-workers out of frustration?

    I posit that the VA’s 70% disability threshold is arbitrary. In fact I question the entire concept of what constitutes a handicap. Are short people disabled because they cannot reach the top shelf at the market? Are obese people disabled because they cannot walk around a grocery store without getting out of breath? I am always bemused by the number of oversize pickup trucks with handicap plates or permanent placards in the windshield. How can a handicapped person climb 3 feet up into the truck, let alone need such an oversize vehicle when he needs a electric cart to peruse the aisles of the store.

    Instead of creating more people with a disability psychology by evaluating people on what they cannot do maybe we should focus them on being exceptional at what they can do. Obviously, any person with the ability to successfully run for Congress should not be considered disabled but perhaps differently abled. We are all differently abled. Many people are living exceptionally fulfilling lives despite having some physical infirmity while others wallow in self pity because they fail or choose not to see how to exploit their own abilities.

    With that said, I believe any soldier who was seriously injured in battle should be exempt from all taxes in perpetuity without classifying that person as disabled.

  6. Re #6. I wonder if this isn’t an example of moral luck. The victim seems to have been up to no good, so everyone cheers that the dogs eliminated a criminal. But what if, instead, the owner had been in an accident and had asked a friend, perhaps one who had never been to the house, to feed the dogs or let them out to relieve their bowels and bladders? Would the dogs have done the same to the friend?
    I do understand that dogs are excellent judges of character and perhaps even of motive, and might well have reacted differently, but can we count on that? Best I can do is “maybe.”

    • Curmie I suppose your hypothetical could occur but I do not know a single soul, who has never been to the house or even interacted with my dogs or cats, I would ask to feed or otherwise look after them. The first is obvious, large dogs who do not know you are a danger. You simply don’t walk up to any dog and assume they will embrace you affectionately you ask permission from the owner before attempting to engage with the dog. Dogs have to be introduced to a person by the owner to allow the dog to not perceive the person as a threat. Second, my animals are family and I don’t want someone I have never invited to my home taking care of a pet.

      A better example could be what if emergency services have to enter the home. Different group but potentially the same outcome.

    • As little sympathy as I have for criminals (and burglars, in particular), this bothered me too. It helped a bit that other accounts noted that there was evidence he had been in the house, but I don’t see it established that that’s where the dogs were. If they were outside, were there precautions against their being able to attack a census-taker or Girl Scout selling cookies?

      There’s a difference in acting under “castle doctrine” laws that presume a right to defend oneself, in person, against intruders with unknown intent, and setting “mantraps” on unoccupied property ( Katko v. Briney ). That brings up another issue…Now that the dogs have shown the ability and proclivity for deadly behavior, could leaving them unconstrained, even locked in the house, now be considered the equivalent of setting a trip-wired shotgun, or some-such illegal defense?

  7. 2. If you think John Yarmuth makes your head explode, you should see the radioactive, mile-wide crater that was my house. After all, he is the elected representative of my district.

  8. “The number itself is meaningless. I mean, I read Joe Manchin’s statement, I’ve listened to him, he has no understanding of how the federal government monetary system works when he compared it yesterday to his household income, that has no relevance to what we can do. It’s not a question of what we can afford. The federal government can afford anything that it feels it needs to do and right now that’s what we ought to be focused on. So that’s kind of the position I took in the budget committee, that’s the position I will take going forward.”

    Translation: We print the money so we can print all we need. None of this is our money so we don’t have to sacrifice anything. Better still, if we do have to pay it back others will pay it back in cheaper dollars long after we are all dead and buried. They can simply print more later ‘cuz’ we all know the time value of money states a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow. We also don’t have to risk voter agitation because the imputed tax on the people due to inflation. We can simply blame it on those evil corporations who are greedy who pass on higher costs to consumers and don’t want to pay their fair share which is whatever we say it is at any given time. My advice to my constituents divest your holdings in wallet makers and buy wheel barrow stocks they made a fortune during the Weimar Republic. Sheets of dollar bills make excellent wallpaper.

    I bet 50 percent of the public would buy into that translation.

  9. “Good doggies! Want a treat?”

    “No thanks. As you can see, we just ate.”

    Jokes aside, it occurs to me that if a death like this occurs in a state that does not have a Castle Doctrine, could the owner still be held liable?

  10. 6. But Jack, now that the dogs have tasted man-flesh, naturally they can no longer be satisfied with mere kibble! How can they go back to loyally guarding their beloved master’s home when they hunger for his marrow?

    …Why, with Insert Dog Pun Here dog food, of course! Extensive clinical trials show that it’s the only meal dogs prefer over human meat! (It’s also the only dog food that’s certified 99% free of deuterium!) No dog is a danger on a diet of Insert Dog Pun Here!

    ***

    Author’s note: It seems my sarcasm escaped the lab and mutated into some sort of spoofcasm.

  11. 2.) This isn’t just something he made up. Modern Monetary Theory posits that the government can fund massive programs (like the Green New Deal, say) by simply printing more money. AOC is one proponent of this theory.

    6.) I’m surprised the guy made it back out of the house to the porch. Perhaps he managed to stay upright and bled out from wounds to the limbs. In regards to the general question of owning dogs prone to severe violence, just as long as the owner is fully responsible for the dogs actions, I don’t have a problem with it. If, hypothetically, the dogs in this story escaped from the house and killed some neighbourhood kid, I would think life in prison for the owner would be appropriate (not sure is that is what the law currently is).

    • Deckhand
      Modern monetary theory was devised by well below average Econ students whose understanding of world history dates back only to the year of their birth.

      • One follow up point to MMT. Our dollar’s value is based on the value it can acquire from others. If we print trillions of dollars in new currency to pay people to do little or nothing nothing gets produced so no value is created. Unless we create value we will have no exports and without exports no foreign producers will sell to us because we have nothing they want. Money is a medium of exchange that eliminates the requirement for the double coincidence of wants. If the Yuan displaces the dollar as the global currency Americas poor will be no different than a poor Somali

    • Sorry, other d_d. I hadn’t read your mention of AOC’s keenness on printing money before I mentioned it above. I’d say she’s the picture when you look up who came up with MMT. She did get an Econ degree from BU. And I think she has stayed in a Holiday Inn once or twice.

      • OB
        A lesser known prof named Mosley pushed the idea that monetizing debt in the 70’s has little opportunity cost and has been picked by other academics who have no business in the profession. If GDP equals MV=PQ then any increase in M or V where M is the supply of money and V is the velocity and Q (real output) remains unchanged then only nominal GDP will rise and will require a continued increase in M to maintain purchasing power. Massive increases in M by monetizing debt or quantitative easing creates bubbles and aggravates disparities in wealth.

        • Not a problem, Chris. Just “Tax the Rich!” And anyway, “They didn’t build that!”

          Cue Kevin Klein: “ASSHOLES!”

  12. “The number itself is meaningless. I mean, I read Joe Manchin’s statement, I’ve listened to him, he has no understanding of how the federal government monetary system works when he compared it yesterday to his household income, that has no relevance to what we can do. It’s not a question of what we can afford. The federal government can afford anything that it feels it needs to do and right now that’s what we ought to be focused on. So that’s kind of the position I took in the budget committee, that’s the position I will take going forward.”

    Yes, an elected official actually said that in public, and there goes my head. Well, heck, if the federal government can afford anything, I don’t understand why it isn’t paying for everyone’s food, a nice big home with a swimming pool for every citizen (and illegal resident too!), a nice cushy yearly income whether someone works or not, automobiles, porn…no asset inequality! I had no idea that paying for all this wasn’t a problem!

    His error is to use an inappropriate and narrow construction of “afford”, and yours is to fail to notice that and address it when you in turn use an inappropriate and broad construction of “afford” (and the related “paying”). It’s not inappropriate and broad for many purposes, just for this purpose of a rebuttal when it should correspond to his construction so as to show what’s wrong with that.

    There are no problems with what he proposes, at the level of the doing of it, as there is no obstacle at that level to “printing the money”. The problem he did not address – which your terminology does not bring out – lies in the ramifications of that (like the currency evaporating, first slowly and then quickly). As soon as you adopt his terminology you play his game, which gets in the way of showing his ilk the difficulties.

    • Valid and perceptive point, except that the U.S. can’t afford “anything the government wants to do” in either sense of the word. It can’t “afford” to keep paying larger and larger amounts of interest, which is just lost money. It can’t afford inflation, which is the inevitable result of printing money to cover expenses. Most of all, it can’t afford to convince the public that public projects have no costs.

      • Sadly, I think you are missing the point with Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY). All of our government employees and the Federal Reserve now ascribe to Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). This is exactly what Rep. Yarmuth was alluding to. Under MMT, the government can print as much money as it wants for anything it wants. The government prints money to cover spending, taxation is solely to adjust the behavior of the society. So, Yarmuth is entirely correct under the enlightened MMT. The government can spend as much as it wants, it just has to print the money to do so (raise the debt limit). The only problem comes in the form of inflation, but you can lie about inflation (CPI).

        In reality, MMT is currently destroying the economies of the world, which is why they are speeding up the replacement (digital currencies). However, Yarmuth, Pelosi, Powell, and all the others are just mimicking what they have been told by all the cool kids. MMT is the truth and the way. Manchin, in their eyes, is to be mocked for his antiquated understanding of economics.

  13. Item 1- Regarding celebrity, or anyone’s, death from an overdose of fatal drugs. The issue, I believe, is that we have been lulled into thinking that addiction of any sort is a “disease.” Our attention has been diverted from the reality that addiction and substance abuse is a “choice.” It starts with a choice and can end with a choice. That final choice can lead to death or it can lead to life. The former is exemplified by Janice Jackson and myriad others. The latter is exemplified by the choice made by Mr. Tommy Kirk.
    Item 2- Senator Duckworth’s disability paid her property tax in advance. I have no problem with it at all. However, there is a dire need to access the VA disability determination system. The math and logic of VA disability are incomprehensible and I am one of its recipients.
    Item 3- Democratic economic math is equally incomprehensible. We are being lulled into thinking that trillions of dollars of expenditure equal 0 costs. Like the addiction above, the way to stop this addiction is to choose to say “NO”.

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