Saturday Afternoon Ethics Amusements, 7/16/2022: The Snotty Professor, Don Lemon’s Defiance, Obama Being Obama…Plus Dog Name Games

Speaking of amusements…the big sports news in my neck of the swamp is that the Washington Nationals have announced that they will be seeking to trade Juan Soto, their 23 year-old superstar. Why? Well, Soto is a free agent after the 2024 season, and if teams with young stars want to avoid the free agency auction uncertainty, they need to sign them up to long-term contracts before the Sirens start singing. The offer to Soto was for a guaranteed 15 years, at $440 million for the package. Soto is one of the three or four top talents in the game. A franchise that can’t hold on to such a cornerstone has to ask itself whether it has any business selling tickets. The Nats are arguably the worst team in the National League after last season’s tear-down that saw them trading every other good player except Soto. Washington’s baseball fan support is tenuous: it has lost two previous teams after the fan base got disgusted. This isn’t Boston, LA, New York, St. Louis, Chicago or Philadelphia, whose fans will keep coming to games no matter what. On the other side of the fairness issue, many will ask how a contract for nearly a half-billion dollars isn’t enough for a 23-year old. It could be mad greed; it could be the fact that his agent is Scott Boras, who routinely seeks the highest imaginable payday among for his clients regardless of other less green considerations because it means the most money for him, and it could be that Soto doesn’t feel like ending up as Mike Trout has, playing out a long contract with a team (the Angels in Trout’s case) that is perpetually lousy. Moreover, the Nats offer, while the largest in MLB history in total cash, would only give Soto one of the top 15 current contracts in yearly salary. It’s only for about $29 million a year.


1. On more high-falutin’ matters…Social Psychology Quarterly has a much praised (by its rarefied readers) study out called “When a Name Gives You Pause: Racialized Names and Time to Adoption in a County Dog Shelter.” It is another academic effort to show how racist America is. The thesis: dogs with names identified with white culture are adopted more quickly than dogs with names with connections to black or Hispanic culture. Of course the study claims that the research proves the thesis.The report, which is hilariously detailed for such a trivial topic, put me in mind of a Bill James essay (yes, back to baseball) about the strong  confirmation bias of researchers when they have devoted a lot of time and resources to a project. The hardest conclusion to publish is that your theory was garbage, he noted, and said that he never starts huge studies because he feels they are inherently unreliable.

I read the dog name study—not carefully, but thoroughly enough. It looks like a confirmation of the ubiquitous presence of cognitive dissonance, not racism. Sure, if the dog is a pit bull mix named “Killer,” some people may be hesitant to take a chance: rescues carry risks no matter what their names. Most people adopting dogs are white, ergo dogs with names that seem positive in white culture may have a little edge. I wouldn’t use this study to try to defend Critical Race Theory.

Incidentally, my sweet-tempered pit bull mix was previously named “Macho.” We wanted to adopt him the second we saw his photo.

2. You can’t fire me—I’m black, gay and cute! CNN’s prime time host Don Lemon openly defied CNN’s new owners who had issued a directive that the network needed to reclaim its reputation as an objective, non-partisan news source. But  Lemon, the alleged broadcast journalist who is already a pure shill for progressives and Democrats, decided to rely on the King’s Pass.

Appearing on CNN’s New Day, Lemon attacked the GOP as a threat to democracy—that’s a Democratic Party talking point—and warned journalists to avoid the “false equivalence” of covering both parties objectively.

“We sit around and we talk about these things and we want to give this false equivalence to Democrats and Republicans. That is not where we are right now. Republicans are doing something that is very dangerous to our society and we have to acknowledge that. We have to acknowledge that as Americans, we must acknowledge that as journalists because if we don’t, we are not doing our jobs,” Lemon declared. “They have to answer for those questions if they come here on CNN, they must answer for that. If they go on MSNBC, they must answer for that. If they go on ABC, they must answer for that. And they cannot expect to be coddled when they go on to a news organization or if they step in front of a crowd of supporters or voters or Americans.”

Lemon may be black, gay and cute, but he is also unprofessional, none too bright, and a hack. However, he did openly admit just how biased his industry is, and how smugly satisfied journalists are with that state of affairs. (EA earlier this week noted this poll.)

3. Revealing anecdote from an unethical book. Dr. Ronny Jackson, a White House physician in three administrations, decided to cash in with “Holding the Line,” a memoir that violates the implicit professional trust he had engendered among those he worked with and served. The book comes out comes out on July 26, and until people refuse to read these betrayals, we will get more and more of them, making the efficient and effective operation of government agencies and the White House increasingly difficult. One of Jackson’s betrayals of trust is at least enlightening.

In 2020, when Jackson was running for Congress, he unethically determined that he should use his professional status as a physician to declare Candidate Biden unfit to be President. Referring to one of Biden’s routine brain-misfires, he tweeted, “Remember the cognitive test that I gave @realDonaldTrump? The one he aced! Sounds like somebody else might need some testing done!! Scary!!”

Jackson writes that within 20 minutes of tweeting, he received an email from his former boss, President Obama:

“I have made a point of not commenting on your service in my successor’s administration and have always spoken highly of you both in public and in private. You always served me and my family well, and I have considered you not only a fine doctor and service member but also a friend. “That’s why I have to express my disappointment at the cheap shot you took at Joe Biden via Twitter. It was unprofessional and beneath the office that you once held. It was also disrespectful to me and the many friends you had in our administration. You were the personal physician to the President of the United States as well as an admiral in the U.S. Navy. I expect better, and I hope upon reflection that you will expect more of yourself in the future.”

First, it was unethical for Jackson to pretend to diagnose Biden without an examination. Second, that email was a private one, and Obama had good reason to assume that Jackson would keep it private.

Finally, the email shows how complicit Obama was in foisting a weak, fading old man off on the American public as a qualified presidential candidate. Of course Obama knew Jackson’s assessment was correct; it didn’t take a medical degree to see what Biden had become, or a political science degree to realize what the Democrats were doing. Obama is as responsible for the current mess in the country as Biden is. [Pointer: Steve-O-in NJ]

4. A WaPo conservative columnist gives Democrats valuable advice, but they don’t want to hear it. Ethics Alarms already reported on the smoking gun responses of Senate hearing witness Prof. Khiara Bridges of Berkeley Law School to the questions of various GOP Senators regarding abortion and trans ideology. Foreshadowing Megan McArdle’s column yesterday, I wrote, “It is telling that so many progressives thought the professor’s performance was deft. In fact, it called into question her fitness to teach law, and her openly hostile attitude toward the Republican Senators was indefensible.”

More people should read Ethics Alarms, you know. Or maybe they do...for McArdle took off from the EA verdict, and wrote in part,

Many progressives cheered to see Professor Bridges school a reactionary Republican. But conservatives also cheered, because they see a gift to Republican election campaigns.

Unlike a Rorschach test, however, this one has a right answer, and the progressives have it wrong. Moreover, the fact that they can’t see just how badly this exchange went for their side shows what a big mistake it was to let academia and media institutions turn into left-wing monocultures.

Within those rarefied circles, Bridges’s answers were exquisitely and exactly correct. She allowed no hint that late-term fetuses might have moral value, because that might suggest their interests could be weighed against those of the, well, pregnancy-capable. Nor did she concede an inch to the idea that biology can trump gender identity. And when she ran out of patience with Hawley’s questions, she pounced in exactly the prescribed manner: Your questions are transphobic, Senator, and you are putting trans people at risk of violence or suicide by denying their lived reality…

In most of America, “Does a late-term fetus have value?” is a softball. And when Hawley leaped in to ask whether women are the ones who give birth — a question few Americans today would struggle with — she resorted to extended question-begging. That might be fine for a Berkeley classroom. But it just won’t do for a political debate in which the majority of voters disagree with you.

Anyone who has ever tried to convince anyone of anything should be able to see that Bridges’s approach was counterproductive. Why, then, did so many articles and tweets cheer the way she “SHUT DOWN” Hawley?

Because there is one place that snickering, eye-rolling and so forth are very effective: within an insular group, where they help delineate the lines of acceptable belief. A sufficiently incredulous “Are you suggesting … ?” effectively signals a silent corollary: “… because if you are, we’ll shun you.” It tells people that this topic is not up for discussion.

Within progressive institutions, “that’s transphobic” is another such signal, and it works … within progressive institutions. In fact, it works too well; it leaves them unprepared to argue with outsiders.

Read the entire essay, and do check the comments. Despite the fact that McArdle’s point is beyond rational argument, a large number of Post readers attack her by demonstrating how right she is, with retorts like…

  • “I have canceled my subscription to the Washington Post.”
  • “This op-ed completely missed the point, misread the room, & frankly makes me wonder about the leadership at WaPo.”
  • “What glee we are having schooling the professor. A black one at that. Oh boy. Such joy to know professors are worthless and we without degrees are the truly better educated ones. Let’s say it together: we are all insecure idiots! Yay.”
  • “Professor Bridges was saying exactly what she needed to say. There was zero reason for the dipwad to even raise the issue of trans men or non-binary. What the H. does it have to do with the issue under discussion.”
  • “Oh poo, Megan, the GOP reps and senators are the worst for running over people, interrupting, antagonizing. A weensy bit of push-back from women who aren’t having it and you wet your pants. Grow up.”

Several Post readers did make the obvious observation that comments like the above–there are about 7,000 of them out of the 11,000 total I’d guess—nicely support McArdle’s analysis.

5 thoughts on “Saturday Afternoon Ethics Amusements, 7/16/2022: The Snotty Professor, Don Lemon’s Defiance, Obama Being Obama…Plus Dog Name Games

  1. Re: No.4 and the Hawley Smackdown.

    Is McArdle really ethical? I couldn’t read the op-ed as it is behind a paywall but from the excerpts, she seems to be saying, “Prof? Why are letting our cat out of the bag? You know Republicans and Neanderthals can’t deal with the complexity of human existence. Why give them reason to attack us? I agree with everything you said but your comments make us look bad. Shhhhhhhh.” At no point does she take the wise professor to task for her arrogance and insolence, and frankly, her tenuous grasp on reality. Follow the science? What science?


  2. There’s really not too much that’s bad that you can’t say about Don Lemon. For a man approaching 60 he should be a lot wiser. He’s been drunk on the air more than once, cried on the air when he was supposed to be delivering something like news more than once, and now is pushing bias as a good thing. Yet, if anyone dares challenge him on this, he just says they can’t deal with the fact that he’s black and successful. No, Don, it’s not that we can’t deal with your color or your success, it’s that you’re an asshole, you think you have all the answers, you won’t even entertain the possibility that someone else might know something you don’t, and you stopped trying to be even semi-professional years ago. CNN is welcome to keep you around, but I changed the channel years ago, and if they really are serious about regaining their objectivity, they need to punt you out onto the street. No worries, MSNBC will probably pick you right up, and you can keep right on being the hack you are.

    I agree in principle, what Dr. Jackson did was objectively wrong. A medical professional is not supposed to offer a diagnosis without a proper examination, and emails should remain private. However, he did not take any of the actions he took in a vacuum. The Democrats spent five years throwing accusations that Trump was cognitively impaired in some way, and they made damn sure that anything he said in private that could be embarrassing in public became public. They have no moral high ground to complain, harangue, or bitch that Dr. Jackson broke protocol or betrayed confidences when that’s exactly what they did for years. It also shouldn’t come as a surprise that when one side is ruthless and throws standards out the window, that eventually the other side will do the same, if only to level the playing field, because losing by the rules is still losing, and losing exhausts its limited appeal really fast.

    The Democratic party also has a tendency to be short-sighted and not necessarily think through what would happen if the other side did to them as they did to it. Harry Reid didn’t necessarily think what might happen if the parties flipped in 2013 when he decided to blow up the filibuster for appointees except the SCOTUS so Obama’s judges could sail through. A year later they did, two years after that the SCOTUS domino fell when they tried to stop Trump’s first SCOTUS nominee, and the rest is history, ending with the recent one-two punch of the overturning of the NY concealed carry law and the Democratic Holy Grail Roe v. Wade. Now everyone can see exactly what the Democratic party did here. In the simplest terms, they swindled the country. They carefully crafted this image of Biden as this rock-steady, experienced, kindly grandfather figure who was still sharp as a tack and political moderate who would unite this badly divided country and stop it from spinning out of control like that orange kook had allowed. Luckily, this image was never really put to the test because of the pandemic. Lo and behold, once the votes were counted and the oath of office administered, that carefully crafted image faded away and the truth was revealed. So here we are. Yet, the Democratic party still dares to say that the GOP is an existential threat to democracy. Every member, from the blue-collar worker in some small town on the Great Plains all the way up to Trump himself, is suspect because 300 idiots did something a lot less than the riots of 2020. Every one of us is a danger because a wiser SCOTUS chose to undo an exercise of raw judicial power by a mediocre judge on a more mediocre court that gave every woman the “right” to kill a gestating human life. Now some are talking about impeaching judges and justices, despite their miserable two-time failure to impeach Trump. They haven’t even thought about what might happen once they are out of power and that ultimate weapon is turned against them.

    I don’t need to read Megan McArdle’s article, I have seen all of what’s in it in the game called pigeon chess and the Biblical proverb at Matthew 7:6 about casting pearls before swine. There is no point in engaging with people like Professor Bridges, and even less point in engaging with brainless idiots like those commenters like you reference. Either you agree with them and you are not needed, or you disagree with them and you are cancelled.

  3. Are #1 and #4 linked? Since most adoptees are white, do they avoid dogs with hispanic and black names because they are afraid of being confronted about it by progressives? Could this be considered cultural appropriation? Might they be accused of considering minorities to be dogs, or people who should be on a leash? Best to avoid that.

    As usual with progressives, it is probably impossible for a white person to make a choice that isn’t considered racist. If you don’t adopt the dog with the hispanic or black name, you are racist because you don’t like minorities. If you do adopt the dog, you now have a dog with a minority name and you are demeaning minorities.

  4. When I am looking for an animal to adopt, the name is irrelevant. I don’t even ask what the shelter has named it, it’s usually dull and unimaginative. It’s been a long time since I’ve adopted a dog because I don’t have the time to spend at home with it, but I don’t think I would take a different approach than I have with cats. I look at the animals (or the photos, if I’m looking online) and look for one that is the right age and gets along with other animals. If I do notice the name, it’s mostly to think I should adopt it to give it a better name.

    Out of curiosity, I looked up the dogs available at my city’s humane society. There’s a pretty husky mix named Simba. How would you categorize that? It’s an African name, but a character from a Disney movie is such a white person choice. TV or movie character names seems to be popular with the shelters around here.

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