Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/18/21: “Thank Heaven For Alaska!” Edition

On October 18, 1867, the U.S. became the owners of Alaska after purchasing the huge territory from Russia for $7.2 million.The Alaska purchase consisted of 586,412 square miles, about twice the size of Texas, and cost about 2 cents an acre. Nonetheless, the deal was ridiculed at the time as “Seward’s Folly,” named after President Andrew Johnson’s Secretary of State who championed the purchase. In a spectacular triumph of moral luck, the U.S. taking Alaska from Russia may have saved the world. Had Russia, then the Soviet Union, had a foothold in North America where missiles could be stationed, the Cold War becoming World War Three may not have been avoidable. (Then there’s all that gold and oil and stuff.)

I’ve always found it fascinating the one of our most reviled and denigrated Presidents deserves the credit for securing Alaska, though he seldom is rewarded any. Johnson was a failure any way you examine his Presidency, but his best decision may have saved us all.

1. Passing a comprehensive infrastructure repair bill is critical, and not doing so is irresponsible, as this story out of Michigan should make clear (not that it hasn’t been clear for decades). State officials have told Benton Harbor residents not to drink, cook or brush their teeth with tap water because dangerous levels of lead are leeching into the water supply from deteriorating lead pipes. “The problems in Benton Harbor and Flint are extreme examples of a broader, national failure of water infrastructure that experts say requires massive and immediate investment to solve,” the reports state. “Across the country, in cities like Chicago, Pittsburgh and Clarksburg, W.Va., Americans are drinking dangerous quantities of brain-damaging lead as agencies struggle to modernize water treatment plants and launch efforts to replace the lead service lines that connect buildings to the water system. Health officials say there is no safe level of lead exposure.”

“We’ve basically just been living off our great-grandparents’ and grandparents’ investments in our water infrastructure and not been dealing with these festering problems,” says Erik D. Olson of the Natural Resources Defense Council, adding that the lead problem is part of “this ticking time bomb we have underground of lead pipes, of water mains that are bursting.”

Yes, and we’ve known this for at least 50 years. Nevertheless, the essential infrastructure repairs have been stalled because President Biden wants to hold them hostage to pass controversial and pricey social programs that have nothing to do with infrastructure. The failure to fulfill this basic responsibility of government is a bi-partisan botch and an inexcusable one stretching back to Lyndon Johnson at least. However, that does not excuse Democrats today for using the threat of infrastructure collapse to advance a their more controversial agenda delusions.

2. From the res ipsa loquitur files...In a nearly completely incoherent review of Katie Couric’s tell-all “Going There,” New York Times book reviewer Alexandra Jacobs does everything possible to rationalize and excuse Couric’s betrayals of colleagues and acquaintances and admissions of unethical journalism and worse. After all, says Jacobs, Katie is properly mortified by past “cluelessness, born of intractable white privilege.” Of Couric’s admission that she hid Justice Ginsburg’s (quote appropriate) criticism of the NFL Kaepernick clones, Jacobs writes, “Maybe journalistic objectivity isn’t all it was cracked up to be?” Of course a Times reporter would react that way. Regarding Couric’s unbelievable claim that she had no idea that her long-time “Today” colleague Matt Lauer was a serial workplace sexual predator, Jacobs writes, “Honestly, with all the enablers above her, it’s hard to fault Couric for being oblivious to a colleague’s compartmentalized exploits. If there’s one thing “Going There” conclusively proves, it’s that she always had a lot going on.”

Honestly, why should anyone trust a reviewer who writes something like that?

3. And more from those files…As I noted earlier, the decisive Game 5 in the season-long battle between the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers was ended by a called strike three on Giants batter Wilmer Flores, who had, as video replays showed, checked his swing. Umpire Gabe Morales wrongly ruled that the half-swing had crossed the plate. Asked if Morales, who saw the video afterwards, agrees that he blew the call, robbing the Giants of their last chance to tie or win the game (as they did against the Dodgers in the most famous play-off ever played, in 1951), the umpiring crew chief for the game, Ted Barrett, said, “He doesn’t want to say.” Nice.

4. This is why we cannot trust public schools: idiots like Gina Peddy run them. Peddy, the executive director of curriculum and instruction for the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, Texas, advised teachers that the new Texas anti-indoctrination law that requires teachers to present multiple points of view when discussing controversial topics requires them to provide material questioning the Holocaust if their classes cover the topic. The fact that the Holocaust took place and the extent of its horrors is not credibly disputed, and thus the topic is not controversial. Anti-Semites and pro-Nazi propagandists deny that the fact is a fact, but that is not a “point of view.” Peddy cannot distinguish between fact and opinion, or fact and ideology, and this disqualifying malady makes her presence anywhere in the public school hierarchy a threat to children.

5. Wow! CREW is bi-partisan for a change! Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW), a habitually pro-Democratic Party “ethics watchdog” that claims to be bi-partisan but isn’t, filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel requesting an investigation into whether White House spokesperson Jen Psaki violated the Hatch Act. The law, which is almost never enforced, prohibits federal government employees from engaging in campaign activity in their official capacity. The complaint cites Psaki’s comments during a press briefing when she was asked whether the White House views the governor election in Virginia as an important indicator or the nation’s mood. Psaki said she had to be careful to avoid campaigning from behind the podium, then proceeded to campaign from behind the podium, saying, “We’re going to do everything we can to help former Governor McAuliffe, and we believe in the agenda he’s representing.”

Yup! That’s a Hatch Act violation, just as White House Counselor under Trump, Kellyanne Conway, violated the Hatch Act, and just as multiple Obama officials violated the Hatch Act. And just like all of them, no action will be taken against Psaki. However, CREW has to periodically do things like this to maintain the fiction that it isn’t another progressive shill. This one was brilliant, because there was no chance whatsoever that a Democrat or the Biden Administration would be wounded by the accusation.

14 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/18/21: “Thank Heaven For Alaska!” Edition

      • This is why God invented municipal bonds. Lives are at stake? These are not ordinary times? If just one life? Think of the children?

        • Yes, and what is Benton Harbor and / or the state of Michigan doing to solve this problem? If there is a problem out there that is killing their citizens, shouldn’t that be a budget priority?

          I am in favor of the federal government acting to repair infrastructure — interstate highways, bridges, airports, etc. I don’t see how city water systems are an interstate phenomenon.

          I don’t wish to be heartless, but I am mightily tired of the federal government sticking its nose into every single facet of our life. Now they want to call concerned parents domestic terrorists, have banks report to the IRS every transaction we make in our bank accounts — but they cannot secure our borders or protect our troops and citizens.

          Perhaps this is a ‘bridge too far’.

  1. #0 – now if we can just buy Greenland.

    If the Arctic is thawing – it will become an ocean of geopolitical import. If the northern waters stay liquid for the entire year, then the shipping passages through Canada and other Arctic vectors will become hotly sought after routes as almost all Europe to Asia shipping will be shorter going north around North America instead of south to the Panama Canal or east through the Suez Canal.

    Additionally, increasing temperatures will make vast swathes of Canadian and Russian land arable for longer periods. While no longer the absolute backbone of being a superpower any more – massive amounts of farm land are a solid step in the right direction.

    IF global warming is happening (and it seems to be so), power will slowly shift north. And it would behoove the United States to secure one more flank in the Arctic before the competition sets in.

    • And thank God the Soviets weren’t able to get a foothold on the North American continent. They’d have been able to take over the American Academy through people like linguistics professors at MIT and you’d have Commies as the Senator from Vermont or the Representative from the Bronx! You know, crazy stuff like that.

  2. There is no excuse for a country like the United States not to have the most up to date infrastructure in the world. We are an insanely rich country, but we still have this nonsense. Where the hell is the money going? Between sin taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, income taxes, and all other taxes, the government has more than enough to meet these basic requirements. In fact, in any sane government, you first defend the rights of people with military and police while also providing infrastructure before you venture into anything else. Sometimes, the government acts like a landlord that wants to beautify a property as all the buildings inside the property have faulty electrical lines and toilets that constantly clog up. You have to meet the basics before you venture out into the non-essentials.

    • Yep. Municipalities have historically been given the task of simply running gravity fed water and sewer systems. Maybe they should stick to their knitting (and just be competent at it) before they take on curing racism.

    • Sanders-Grassley Audit the Pentagon Act
      “The Pentagon is the only federal department in America that hasn’t been able to pass an
      independent audit—decades after Congress required it to do so. The Audit the Pentagon Act
      would require the entire Defense Department to pass a clean audit by Fiscal Year 2022. Any DOD
      component that fails to do so would have one percent of its budget returned to the Treasury for
      deficit reduction.

      On September 10, 2001, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said, “Our financial
      systems are decades old. According to some estimates, we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions.
      We cannot share information from floor to floor in this building because it’s stored on dozens of
      technological systems that are inaccessible or incompatible.”

      And yet, almost two decades later, DOD still cannot account for trillions of dollars in transactions
      and has not come close to passing a clean audit. This, despite the fact that the Pentagon consumes
      more than half of the discretionary budget and controls assets in excess of $3.1 trillion, or roughly
      78 percent of the entire federal government.

      What have previous audits uncovered? The Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and
      Afghanistan concluded in 2011 that $31-60 billion spent in Iraq and Afghanistan had been lost to
      fraud and waste. Separately, in 2015, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction
      reported that the Pentagon could not account for $45 billion in funding for reconstruction
      projects. And more recently, an audit conducted by Ernst & Young for the Defense Logistics
      Agency found that it could not properly account for some $800 million in construction projects.”

      Still doesn’t answer Sooner’s question about *where* is all that cash going.

  3. RE: #2 – Wow. Book review as hagiography!

    Many years ago, the company I was working for scored a major placement on The Today Show – a very big deal featuring an Olympic athlete we’d sponsored, with an outdoor feature and all the outdoor nonsense that The Today Show does (or used to do – I haven’t watched it for several decades).

    The stars, of course, were Lauer, Roker and Couric. I’d been involved in a fair amount of broadcast production by this point, but this was another horse altogether. Roker was lovely – genuinely pleasant, curious, welcoming. And this was before he lost all the weight – you know that old saying that the camera adds 20 pounds? In Roker’s case, it seemed to REMOVE 20 pounds. The man was huge. But warm and charming. And he didn’t need to be; he wasn’t involved in any of our segments.

    Lauer was a good ol’ boy – easy going, chatty and pleasant between shots, all business when the light was on. He, too, was quite charming; there was never a hint that he was the scumbag he was later revealed to be.

    As for Couric: all the cheery ebullience and self-assurance she emitted on camera evaporated the moment the red light was off. The smile would disappear. And she was literally led shot to shot by a couple of production assistants who were constantly telling her what she was supposed to do next. She looked shy, uncertain, almost catatonic. And then the red light would come back on, and she was back to being Katie Couric – at least, as the nation knew her.

    Who knows? That was my one experience, and maybe she was just having a bad day. But by the end of that show, I had the distinct feeling that Couric was a phenomenal TV talent – but a puppet and a phony, nonetheless. I actually felt rather sorry for her.

    • Another crack EA commenter reporting from the ground.

      I’ve noticed women and girls have an uncanny tendency to light up like a flood light whenever there’s a camera pointed at them.

    • Interesting.

      Do the wackos in that direction counterbalance the wackos running our public schools? I don’t think so.

      I think it simply shows that there are some folks as far gone as our teacher’s unions and school boards.

  4. 4. There is a difference between an inferred fact and a raw fact. We collect raw facts (or “evidence”), which are readily observable (one might say “self-evident”), and then we construct inferred facts to explain them based on what kinds of consequences we’re willing to risk if we’re wrong. These inferred facts are ideally as simple as possible while still being consistent with each other and with the other raw facts we observe, and unlike raw facts, we can use inferred facts to make predictions about what will happen in the future based on our choices.

    We have an overwhelming amount of raw facts/evidence which lead us to conclude that the events called the Holocaust indeed happened. I would encourage teachers to present all the raw facts that lead us to the inferred facts we call “history”. Children can’t be expected to learn how to apply critical thinking to what they’re told as adults by “experts” if in school they’re fed only inferred scientific and historical facts without any of the raw facts/evidence or the process by which the former were derived from the latter.

    The idea that the Holocaust was somehow a hoax, though, barely warrants mentioning, unless you’re interested in a politically-charged mental exercise of deconstructing why someone would bother trying to deny that it happened. (I’d recommend starting with flat-Earthers first.) First you’d have to assert that a group of people would decide it was a good idea to perpetrate such a hoax (why?), and then they’d have to implement it (how?). Hypotheses along those lines are not plausible enough to become inferred facts, except to people who use motivated reasoning to delude themselves. I’m not sure why anyone would feel the need to do that for this subject, but humans can get unhealthily attached to hypotheses if they think they have moral implications (which they’re usually wrong about as well).

    The simplest inference from the evidence, that the Holocaust really happened as described, is quite precedented in human history, at least as far as the mentality behind it goes (and it wasn’t the last time either). Anyone who thinks it far-fetched that humans could systematically slaughter other humans is a poor student of human history in general.

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