Friday The 13th Ethics Nightcap, 5/13/2020: Kristol’s Integrity, Reiner’s Idiocy, Virginia Schools’ Incompetence

The first of several ethically dubious U.S wars began on this date in 1846, when President Polk asked for and received a declaration of war against Mexico. The U.S. wanted Mexico-owed territory: it’s pretty much as simple as that. In November of 1845, Polk sent  diplomat John Slidell to Mexico to seek boundary adjustments in return for the U.S. government’s settlement of the claims of U.S. citizens against Mexico, and also to buy California and New Mexico. When Mexico refused, the U.S. provoked a military response from the country when U.S. forces marched into the disputed territory at the Texas border, then used that as a pretense to fight. After two years of fighting, Mexico agreed to sell California and New Mexico after all, as well as to recognize the Rio Grande as the border with Texas.

1. Andrew Sullivan on Bill Kristol’s integrity deficit. George Will and Bill Kristol, once the King of Neocons and the proprietor of the conservative magazine “The Weekly Standard” are the two most prominent examples of Chablis Republicans who couldn’t bear an unmannerly low-class boor like Donald Trump bearing the conservative banner, so they abandoned all of the principles they spent their career advocating out of spite. Yes, I think that’s fair. In his substack newsletter, Andrew Sullivan correctly exposes the unethical stench of Kristol’s late-in-life conversion to wokeness, which he correctly diagnoses, along with Kristol’s character, thusly..

“[I]f you change your mind on an issue, at some point, explain why. What principles or ideas have you now abandoned? Which have you now embraced? What new facts have you learned? It’s a basic form of intellectual hygiene.

Which brings me to Bill Kristol…Now hugely popular among MSNBC Democrats, alert to racism and sexism and homophobia, Kristol has, these last few years, performed a spectacular ideological self-reinvention that makes J.D. Vance look like a man of unflinching consistency. And he has never even attempted to explain why…

Kristol is also now down with the “LGBTQIA+s”. He recently retweeted a critique of the Parental Rights bills across the country: “the pernicious intent of bills such as these: to stigmatize and shame gay and transgender people under the guise of protecting children from inappropriate conversations about sex.” Another Kristol retweet objected to the “grooming” meme: “Grooming is not acknowledging the existence of gay & transgender people to children.” Another retweet lamented that a Republican lost in Virginia because he favored marriage equality: “His sin was treating gays as humans worthy of equal respect and dignity… He wasn’t willing to be cruel to the Americans that Republican voters hate.”

Admirable in many ways. But again, is this the same Bill Kristol whose magazine, The Weekly Standard, was among the most fervent opponents of gay equality in America? In 1996, he published a piece arguing for a “reaffirmation by states of a sodomy law” if gay marriage advocates didn’t cut it out. The magazine sent out a letter on behalf of an anti-gay advertiser that raised the specter of “Radical Homosexuals infiltrating the United States Congress” with a plan to “indoctrinate a whole generation of American children with pro-homosexual propaganda.” …As I’ve said, it’s no sin, and even a virtue, to change your mind. But to have been so passionately on the extreme edge of one side of an issue he regarded as one of core morality, and then flip to the other side entirely — with absolutely no account of why — is not a mark of any halfway serious writer. To go from believing that gays need to be cured to Kristol’s current posture as defender of homos from Republican “hate” is amoral, unserious bullshit — both then and now…

The fake surety; the glibness; the ignorance; the opportunism…I guess there’s a kind of beauty to that. Once you get past the sickening, amoral, irresponsible unseriousness of it all.

2. Yes, I’d say this is an “appearance of impropriety.” One reason most of the Ethics Alarms stories about corrupt and otherwise misbehaving members of Congress is because such episodes are so enthusiastically covered by the mainstream media. Corrupt Democrats? Not so much. For example, try finding references to Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) of the San Fernando Valley on CNN, or the Washington Post, or the New York Times. Yesterday The Daily Beast (to its credit) reported that  Cárdenas paid nearly half a million dollars in campaign funds to a marketing firm….that was owned by his wife. Nice. From the report:

“Federal Election Commission records show that the Cardenas campaign routinely remits $4,400 to Essence Marketing at the start of every month, payments which the filings have described as ‘Consultant — Communications’ since the beginning of 2017…Interspersed with these regular outlays are larger, sporadic expenditures from Cardenas’s personal political action committee marked ‘Communications Consulting Services,’ as well as smaller emoluments designated ‘Reimbursement’ or ‘Event Supplies….It is unclear whether Essence received market-value payments for its services, since it is unclear exactly what services it provides and how those services changed as its compensation increased. Norma Cardenas’s LinkedIn page describes her as an ’emotional wellness facilitator’ with experience as a ‘life coach.’ The only education and certifications the page notes are in hypnotherapy and primordial sound meditation. Also unclear is what other entities and organizations are paying the congressman’s spouse. Essence’s Youtube page hosts just six videos, three of them are Cardenas campaign ads, but one is a promotion for a cleaning products company featuring Ms. Cardenas herself.”

Hypnotherapy! And what campaign doesn’t need a good hypnotherapist?

3. Why would parents tolerate this? Monday of this week students at dozens of schools across Virginia walked out of their classes in protest of the presumed SCOTUS reversal of Roe v. Wade. We are told that the walkout is the work of the youth-led movement Generation Ratify Virginia, but that’s misleading: if school administrators and teachers hadn’t given the OK to this completely non-education-related disruption of classes, it wouldn’t have happened. The adults were using the children to push their own political agendas. 45 schools said they would participate in the statewide “student day of action” for “abortion access.”

Were participating students required to read Roe as well as the Alito leak , and write a paper analyzing the two as a condition of participating? No! So they didn’t know what they were protesting about, and, in all likelihood, neither did the teachers and administrators who put them up to it.

4. Now let’s see other corporations send equivalent memos. Disney for example. An updated Netflix Culture memo  includes a new section called “Artistic Expression,” added in the wake of the wave of exiting subscribers. The memo says that the company will not “censor specific artists or voices” even if employees consider the content “harmful.” It then adds, “If you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you.”

5. And now for something completely stupid…

  • Are there really people so ignorant and hateful that they find this convincing?
  • Can someone set up Rob on a date with Joy Behar?
  • Mia’s tweet almost makes me inclined to start watching Woody Allen movies again. (Almost…)

11 thoughts on “Friday The 13th Ethics Nightcap, 5/13/2020: Kristol’s Integrity, Reiner’s Idiocy, Virginia Schools’ Incompetence

      • but you still call it a dissent rather than a decision or draft decision. Unless I missed something and a final decision came out in which it was a dissent?

        • My fault: that was a confusing use of “dissent,’ and I fixed it. I meant “dissent” in the literal sense: Alito was writing his argument against Roe, dissenting from the opinion. However in Court opinions”dissent” is a term of art: it was not formally a “dissent.” Sloppy writing.

  1. It wasn’t “after 2 years of fighting.” Mexico got its ass kicked. Winfield Scott’s army captured Mexico City. It really boiled down to which nation was going to control the southwest of the North American continent, same as the Punic War boiled down to whether Rome or Carthage was going to control the Mediterranean. In the end the question was answered decisively. Ethically dubious? Sure. However, the ethics of being a person as opposed to the ethics of being a nation are not necessarily the same. More later.

    • There was also a lot of cultural friction there. Mexico had been having economic difficulties and they had not been paying US companies for the goods they had purchased. When the US complained, the responses were basically “You American scum have some nerve to talk to aristocrats such as us in such a manner. Dogs like you will get whatever scraps we see fit to give you and you will be happy with it.” Mexico was (and still is, to some extent) an aristocratic society that looked down on all Americans as commoners. This was incredibly insulting to the country’s pride. I am not saying we didn’t want the territory, I am just saying there were a lot of other factors involved that contributed to the war.

      Also remember, we were not some big bully taking on the underdog Mexico. The world fully expected a humiliating defeat for the US. Mexico had a conventional, aristocratic, professional army. As usual, we had a rag-tag bunch of misfits. WInfield Scott, however, had a brilliant engineer who helped him take Mexico City. This person became an officer because engineering was a dishonorable profession for a Southern gentleman. The only way he could honorably be an engineer was as an army officer. His name was Robert E. Lee.

      • Yes, BUT. Polk was elected on a platform of expanding US territory. He openly sought California in particular, which is why he sent Slidell on the mission of purchasing it. Mexico refused to even receive hi, which is certainly a diplomatic insult, but not a provocation for war. Then Polk deliberately sent Zachary Taylor into the disputed territory between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande, which had been Mexico’s territory, and since the exit of Texas should not have changed that (it was the border of Texas under Mexican rule, though Texas claimed the Rio Grande as its border post independence), the American Army’s move was like Putin taking the Crimea. The Mexicans reasonable treated it as an invasion, fought back, and then Polk had his excuse, telling Congress that “American blood had been shed on American soil.”

        Polk was brilliant and ruthless. But there were good reasons that Abraham Lincoln regarded the war as unconscionable.

    • I have also read that most of the Mexican citizens in the disputed territory as well as the future states of New Mexico and California wanted to be part of the United States because they felt completely neglected by the Mexican government. Apparently, many Mexican citizens today would prefer that we had taken over the whole damned place. The country is systemically corrupt from top to bottom.

  2. 3. Although I find the involvement of the schools in this issue appalling at any level, I can take some small comfort in that -if all the involved schools were high schools- only 45 out of 623 high schools in Virginia is only a tad over 7%, which would seem a manageable number for voters to deal with by public outcry and decisive action in upcoming elections. I have already called two of my local school board members about this occurrence and given them notice that parents, grandparents and other citizens will likely be appearing with torches and pitchforks (metaphorically, of course) at the next board meeting if such an event were to be permitted here. I think they get it.

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