Christmas Ethics Stocking Stuffers, 12/25/21

One of my favorite Christmas songs, introduced by one of my favorite singers…the remarkable story of “Do You Hear What I Hear?’, written during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, was last told in a  2018 Ethics Alarms post.

1. Because women and minorities must be the “heroes” of everything…Washington Post “gender” contributor Monica Hesse contributed a truly fatuous (but predictable) column yesterday explaining that Mary (Donna Reed) was the “real hero” of “It’s A Wonderful Life,” which  had its 2021 updated ethics companion published here on Christmas Eve. Hesse’s one use to society is to demonstrate repeatedly that if the only tool one has is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. All Hesse’s column shows is that she doesn’t understand the movie or its message despite claiming to love it.  George is the hero of the story, but he doesn’t realize it—that’s the point. Next on the hero standings has to be Clarence the Angel, who does stop George from killing himself, as well as teach him that that he hasn’t been a failure, the misconception that leads George to the bridge. Mary certainly does her part, but reframing the film as one centering on her is like  so many other such distortions during The Great Stupid: it requires woke biases to smother perspective, common sense and facts. Here’s Hesse’s whole case:

When, in one flashback, a market crash threatens to sink the Bailey Building & Loan, whose idea is it to donate George and Mary’s honeymoon funds to keep things afloat? Not George’s. Panicked customers are storming the lobby when Mary shows up with fistfuls of cash. When George wants to throw rocks at an abandoned house, it’s Mary who suggests they restore the house instead. The film’s final, triumphant scene is only made possible because while George’s genius plan to correct his uncle’s error involves jumping off a bridge for the life insurance policy, Mary is racing around town rustling up donations.

Well, A) the honeymoon money was the money George had saved, and Mary offered to give it up without consulting her new spouse: it wasn’t hers to give, as I noted in the IAWL post; B) calling Mary’s determination to renovate a derelict house “heroic” is quite a stretch, and Hesse’s representation of the scene is false. Mary never says she wants to renovate it; she says, “It’s full of romance, that old place. I’d like to live in it,” which sounds more like hyperbole than an expression of dedication to the cause of historic building restoration. Then she picks up a rock and breaks a window. C) Mary’s canvassing for cash would never have led to that grand finale if Clarence hadn’t stopped George from killing himself. Besides, most of Mary’s fundraising was unnecessary: all she needed to do was call up poor Sam Wainwright, whom she and George betrayed and mocked, and exploit his tenderness for Mary and inexplicable affection for George. Sam’s generosity made all the other donations superfluous.

2. And while we’re on the topic of asinine woke columns, MSNBC writer Hal Brown objects to the 60-year-old tradition of NORAD “tracking” Santa’s’ sleigh on Christmas Eve. “It’s about time that we decoupled St. Nick from the world’s most powerful military,” he says, arguing that American culture shouldn’t make the military seem benign. “The messier business of war that goes on in the background doesn’t jibe with the Christmas spirit,” he says. Of course, this is 100% irrelevant to any kids whose sense of Christmas magic is enhanced by the light-hearted routine. Better to have children programmed as anti-American protesters of our imperialistic ways at the earliest opportunity: that’s the MSNBC way. Then this prototypical MSNBC propagandist tries to make a connection between NORAD’s fake reindeer-tracking and “the ongoing sanitization of military operations for public consumption…with the Department of Defense serving as the sole adjudicator of the civilian deaths it has caused and the lone dispenser of accountability…[resulting] in an obscuration of the true toll that airstrikes take on the people living below.”

For good measure, he includes a gratuitous swipe at Donald Trump, who had no more to do with the NORAD Santa tradition than any other President since 1960. But the memo has obviously gone out: It is the duty of every woke journalist to take every opportunity, no matter how attenuated, to smear Donald Trump, because he must not be allowed to run for President again.

3. Hey! Here’s an idea! Someone should start a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting the individual rights of Americans! The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which once had a mission to defend constitutional rights, is collecting signatures for a petition urging the Biden administration to “cancel up to $50,000 in student debt per borrower by the end of 2021.” Reason points out, “The Constitution does not guarantee a right to a debt-free college education [and] continuing to collect payments on student loans violates no one’s civil liberties.” Writing on the libertarian publication’s website, Jacob Sullum observes, “This initiative is yet another sign that the venerable organization has strayed so far from its historic mission that it is becoming indistinguishable from myriad progressive advocacy groups.” He goes on,

The ACLU argues that “student debt is a racial justice issue,” because it is “a crushing burden that falls heaviest on Black communities, and especially onto Black women.” By this logic, any problem that disproportionately affects a particular racial group is likewise a racial justice issue and therefore, by the ACLU’s reckoning, a civil liberties issue….The ACLU’s promotion of a broad progressive agenda is not just a divisive distraction. It is an invitation to expanded government power that undermines individual freedom. 

4. Trump Derangement NYT column of the year? Frank Bruni may have delivered it with his “My Gay Retort to All the Grimness,” in which he argues (after an interminable paean to Bruni”s gayness, or something, about which I could not care less) that Joe Biden is a successful President because he’s not Donald Trump, and that’s enough. “With his election in November 2020 and his inauguration in January 2021, our country got better,” Bruni writes, “and it got better because it replaced a president who deliberately and gleefully stirred hate with one who, whatever his shortcomings, has a discernible heart. It got better because it replaced a president whose regard for democracy — for anything, really — is determined by the treasures and pleasures that it confers on him with one who can see his place in a grander, nobler picture.”

This may set a new record for confirmation bias. The rest of the essay is made up of ad hominem attacks and the familiar Big Lies. Trump was a “threat to democracy,” though Bruni never can quite explain how. He was a “would-be autocrat,” though the President who replaced him has shown a far more willingness to abuse Presidential power. Trump was “immoral”—says a loyal supporter of the Clintons. Biden, unlike Trump, Bruni says, has a “discernible heart.” If you say so, Frank! The amazing thing is that Bruni isn’t the most Trump-Deranged columnist in the Times’s stable.

11 thoughts on “Christmas Ethics Stocking Stuffers, 12/25/21

  1. 2. I’m not sure why anti-military types would have a problem with NORAD. It’s like a security system; it’s defensive intelligence regarding sovereign airspace. Are they really objecting to the existence of a system to track what happens in North American airspace so that people can’t just fly planes over the continent and drop bombs on people? Or are they blurring things by saying, “aggressive war is bad, therefore the military is bad, and therefore defensive military installations are also bad”?

    Furthermore, the author missed the opportunity to write, ““the ongoing Santa-ization of military operations for public consumption…”

    • I take it you haven’t run into too many pacifists in your life. Yes, there are moderates who just think that the American military establishment should be pared back and limited to a defensive role. However, there are still plenty of full on pacifists who think that the military is EVIL, and shouldn’t exist.

  2. Not many good news in the ethics front apparently. But it’s Christmas. So I wish you Jack and all readers a merry one. And in the words of Tiny Tim, God Bless Us Everyone!

    EA is a small but good part of my day and I thank you all for being here.

  3. 3. Conflict of Interest. I bet tons of ACLU staffers have massive student loan obligations they’d love to be out from under, as do doubtless nearly all of the staff at places like the NYT and WaPo and the Boston Globe and LA Times. Maybe they could have obtained more worthwhile degrees, or they could work in the for-profit sector? Will the student loans for myself and for my daughter I paid off years ago be forgiven retroactively so I’ll get back the amounts paid plus interest at the IRS’s imputed rate? If not, why not? And if they start giving free college tuitions, when do I and my wife get back the tuition we paid for ourselves and our kids? Needless to say, this whole progressive plank annoys the hell out of me.

  4. 1. I don’t have a dog in this particular hunt, but as a kid, I thought Donna Reed was the most beautiful and attractive woman on earth. Womanhood perfected.

  5. Merry Christmas!!
    #3. What about the ones who paid as they went? I had loans, they’re paid. It took me a decade. Now, I have paid for my kid to go to school, mostly, and they are basically implying to me it was a mistake (because now they get college paid for but I’m out $$,$$$.$$ and now they want me to pay via taxes for someone else’s kid to go to college (and day care and preschool if they get their way). I don’t like it. I paid for myself and my kid. If I wanted to pay for someone else’s kid, I would donate to a scholarship or grant or provide one my own self to the local schools. Why does it ALWAYS have to be through the government? No one is stopping anyone from just paying off a kids tuition, offering a scholarship or grant.

    • Exactamundo. As Bart Simpson would say. I bet Bart and LIsa and Maggie are getting student loans. If they ever grow up. Bart will probably get a poly sci degree and become a Senator.

  6. 3. I think the whole “student debt” issue should be reframed.

    Q1: Why do so many people need to go to college?
    A1a: To learn how to think, in theory.
    Rejoinder to A1: They should be learning to think in primary and secondary schools, and in their families and communities.
    A1b: To get jobs that require college degrees.

    From A1b:
    Q2: Why do they need jobs that require college degrees?
    A2a: So they don’t have to live in poverty.
    Rejoinder to A2a: Something’s wrong with the economy if a person can work a full-time job, college degree or no, and not be able to earn a modest living. We might want to investigate and address the factors that cause that. For all we know, it could be we’re really that overpopulated, or automation really is replacing human jobs.
    A2b: So that their community can have voices and influence among the rich and powerful.
    Rejoinder to A2b: The rich and powerful already have undue influence in my opinion; I’m not sure that changing their demographics is going to benefit anyone. A better version of my hypothetical answer is that it would enable members of a community who reach a higher socioeconomic status to mentor and connect other members of their community, increasing social mobility for the entire community. I can get behind that. If we know that’s what we want, there’s many ways to do that.

    Q3: Why do so many jobs require college degrees?
    A3: They don’t, but education inflation means it’s convenient to select for people who have college degrees over people who don’t. Most of the degrees aren’t even directly relevant for the work people end up doing.
    Addendum to A3: Maybe we should have a way of identifying what core skills we want people to know and how they can build on them in different directions or adapt them to various purposes. That way people will be prepared for multiple types of career.
    Addendum to addendum to A3: Picking up the basics of a new field isn’t hard enough to justify the expense of a college degree anymore, in my opinion; it’s calibrating those skills to effectively apply them to problems in that field that’s the difficult part. People barely get that calibration from college anyway, in my experience, so I’m not sure what the big deal about college is. Online courses seem to have have become as effective as college, if not more. Once a person has got the basics, they have to calibrate them on the job like anyone else. Companies failing to mentor their employees is another story…

    In short, once again humans are arguing about how much money to throw at a problem when they don’t have a clear idea of how the solution is supposed to work or even what a desired outcome would look like. So much human potential is locked up in conflicts where people don’t understand what anyone wants, including themselves.

    I’m going to have to step in so people can at least learn how to talk about how to run a civilization. Then we can start collaborating on the messy details.

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