Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/21/2022:Chilly Ethics…

(I know that’s not a very holiday-cheery graphic, but it’s how this Jack feels—like Jack Nicholson playing Frozen Jack Torrance in “The Shining”—after walking Spuds this chilly morning…)

A few notes before we start in earnest…

  • Relatively few lawyers in the D.C. area (that I have talked with on the topic)seem to think Rudy Giuliani either should be disbarred or will be for, in the over-heated words of the D.C. Bar’s ethics prosecutor, “weaponizing his bar license.” Those who do see doom for Rudy seem to be in the  group of  hyper-partisan lawyers (bias makes you stupid!) who want to make it impossible for Donald Trump to get effective legal representation, which allies the attack on old Rudy with the recent referral to the Justice Department for prosecution of the former President from a transparently partisan “Get Trump!” investigation in the House.
  • Ed Larson, the Pulitzer-winning historian who collaborated with me on “The Essential Words and Writings of Clarence Darrow” (a great Christmas gift!) has just written a new book, “American Inheritance: Liberty and Slavery in the Birth of a Nation.” It promises to be excellent, and a scholarly as well as fascinating tonic for “1619 Project” nonsense.
  • An unscientific survey: based on lawn decorations in Alexandria, Virginia, secular Christmas has now completely obliterated the religious holiday, and we have returned to the holiday’s pagan origins. I’ve been counting: inflatables of Will Farrell in “Elf” (8 to 1) and Chevy Chase being electrocuted in “Christmas Vacation” (4-1)  outnumber any references to Jesus’s birth…indeed, a single, lonely creche is the only hint of that event among over a hundred homes in my neighborhood. Snowmen dominate the lawn genre completely here. Back in my Arlington, Massachusetts days, it was common to see multiple manger scenes on every street and road.

1. Diversity follies…The Washington Post completely beclowned itself by allowing academic race-hustler Erika Edwards to author an op-ed titled “Why doesn’t Argentina have more Black players in the World Cup?” Apart from the obvious and correct answer, “Because the players the team has are the best players, and you don’t choose athletic team squads via affirmative action,” there is also the fact that the percentage of African-Argentinians in the country is 0.37%. Never mind: the Post allowed Edwards to imply the country was racially biased against blacks anyway. Said critic Ignacio Manuel García Medina,

Why is Argentina’s national team any more racist for not having any black players than Japan’s national team for having only Asians? Why is not Cameroon’s team racist for not having any whites, Latinos or Asians? The answer seems obvious: because The Washington Post is only interested in bombarding us with the white supremacist narrative that the left loves and exploits so much.The Washington Post‘s ridiculous article would prove that those who boast most about respect and tolerance for other cultures are actually the ones who look down on others. The readers of The Washington Post deserve much more than articles that pretend to be well-documented but think that soccer teams and countries should be like a Netflix movie.


2. Speaking of discrimination, Harvard, currently before the Supreme Court defending its discriminatory race-based admissions policies, apparently has an anti-Semitism problem (again). The annual report for the year 2021 released by the AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit dedicated to combating antisemitism, ranked Harvard as the top school for “assaults on Jewish identity.” With 25 incidents reported, Harvard’s total nearly doubled the University of Chicago, which came in second with 13 incidents in 2021, with instances of antisemitism split into three categories: redefinition, denigration and suppression.

I know: small sample size. Meanwhile, Harvard’s percentage of Jewish admittees has sunk to its lowest level in many decades: 10%. That’s still an “over-representation,” since the actual proportion in the general U.S. population is less than 3%.

3. Not quite as unethical as the Post screed about soccer team diversity but worthless nonetheless is the recent New York Times op-ed telling us that we have to stop eating meat to save the planet: “No One Wants to Say ‘Put Down That Burger,’ but We Really Should.”

Whether the theory is sound or not, the reality is that people in the U.S. will eat what they want to, and fantasies about how, in the words of the screed,

…humanity needs to start shrinking our agricultural footprint and expanding our natural footprint, after thousands of years of doing the reverse. This will be an extraordinary challenge, because we’ll also need to produce more than 7.4 quadrillion additional calories every year to feed our growing population, in an era when climate-fueled droughts, heat waves, floods and blights could make it harder to grow food.

Yeah...stop wasting my time. Advocating policies and worldwide measures that can’t happen isn’t ethical, it’s incompetent. My favorite bit: “It’s at least possible that we could shrink agricultural footprints by shifting our diets toward meat made without livestock, like the plant-based substitutes offered by companies such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat or maybe someday cultured meat grown from animal cells.” No, it’s really not. My wife inadvertently bought a plant-based chicken pot pie, and I dutifully tried it, hoping for the best. Yecchh. I’d rather eat the package. Eating such crap is progressive virtue-signaling, like adults under the age of 60 wearing masks in their cars.

4.Apparently this is “Diversity Day”…The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in favor of two biological male athletes who competed in girls’ sports when it dismissed claims brought against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference by four female track runners last week. This may end up in the U.S. Supreme Court; I hope it does. Failing judicial intervention, women are going to have to start boycotting unfair sports competitions while prominent female athletes speak out against this bonkers capitulation to woke madness. That will take some guts, because protesting trans incursions on women’s sports requires feminists who are typically allied with the progressive mainstream to take the same position as conservatives they are usually calling fascists.

Will enough women choose ideological purity over ethics and the integrity of women’s sports? I guess we’ll find out.

5. “Everybody knows that diversity is beneficial….” Harvard has a terrific alumni magazine even if the university itself is falling apart in chunks. In the December issue, an analysis of the current challenge to the school’s discrimination against Asians and whites in its admissions policies repeats the assertion over and over that a diverse student body, measured in racial and ethnic terms, guarantees a better education, beginning with Justice Powell’s dicta in the1978 SCOTUS case, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. Justice Lewis Powell  wrote in his controlling opinion that “The ‘nation’s future depends upon leaders trained through wide exposure’ to the ideas and mores of students as diverse as this Nation of many peoples.” Nowhere does the article present any studies or data that suggest is true; there aren’t any. It is just conventional wisdom. Nor does the article address the obvious contradiction presented by the widespread support of  the continuing vitality of “traditionally black colleges.” Are they less effective at education because they are not “diverse”?

Baseball analyst Bill James once wrote that whenever a proposition was supported by “everyone knows its true,” his bullshit alarms went off. So do mine.

14 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/21/2022:Chilly Ethics…

  1. Nor does the article address the obvious contradiction presented by the widespread support of the continuing vitality of “traditionally black colleges.” Are they less effective at education because they are not “diverse”?

    In the eyes of the Left, they are diverse, because “diverse” really just means “less white”. WaPo did a little “quiet part out loud” thing on Nov 27 in an article on diversity at UC Berkeley:

    UC-Berkeley is undeniably diverse. Just 20 percent of its undergraduates are White

    • An incident years ago really reinforced to me that the left uses the term “diverse” when what they really mean is “not white.” There was a new teacher at my child’s school. This teacher was telling us that she last taught at a reservation school. She said the school was “very diverse”. I’m quite familiar with this school. It is in a small reservation located in a remote coastal mountain community. It is bt far, the least diverse school in the state. It is about as diverse as a school in Japan. There are still white kids in the most black parts of Baltimore than there are non-indians in a remote indian village.

  2. Re #1. Just shaking my damn head.

    #2. One is tempted to wonder about the legitimacy of these claims (and the objectivity of the source). 25 is still a relatively small number, considering the size of the university. But if those claims are grounded in actual evidence, then 25 is indeed far to large a number.

    #5. I would argue that the question isn’t whether diversity is good: it is. But it comes at a cost: is it so valuable that the overall quality of the faculty/student body/whatever is adversely affected? There was an IDEA initiative at the university from which I recently retired. That’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access, for any jargon-impaired readers. I may or may not have gotten into trouble for asking what happens when D and E are in opposition.

    • It depends on what you mean by diversity. Diversity of opinion seems to actually be good, in that it has tangible improvements in peoples ability to think when incompatible ideas are tested against each other and their results checked. Diversity of skin tone has no objective benefit, and when pursued for it’s own sake will clash against diversity of opinion, in exactly the same way as directly pursuing uniformity of skin tone does. It’s irrelevant to any form of “good” that sane individuals care about.

      Since the default understanding of Diversity, as used by the left, refers to skin-tone/race/heritage, do you have some justification for “It is” other than a purely instinctive faith based one?

  3. Here are some interesting opinions I have seen over the years about the above topics
    Unpopular Opinions:
    3. It matters because they are going to get rid of the meat whether you like it or not. So far this year, the US government has required the killing of 47 million chickens. They decided to use PCR test to ‘detect’ bird flu and ramped the number of cycles used well over the recommended 25 (as they did with the COVID tests). In other words, there may not be a bird flu problem, but we have an egg and chicken problem now. But don’t worry, the edible inset factories are coming on line soon.

    4. Gender may not exist. Sex exists. You can tell if someone is male or female. They have different DNA, different hormonal profiles, different bone structure. Archeologists can tell if a thousand year old skeleton is male of female. This is not true of gender. The idea of gender seems to be a 20th century idea. Feminists trying to be more masculine and people like John Money popularized the idea that sex and gender are different. Much as Dr. Connie Wilbur created an entire mental illness and mass hysteria called multiple personality syndrome with the hoax Sybil, Money seems to have created the transgender movement today with his hoax articles. When this gender idea became really popular in the 90’s, I was told that sex is your biological makeup, but gender is how you feel. You can’t change your sex, but you can change your gender Now, this means that to change your gender, you just need to change the way you feel. You don’t need to change the way you look, act, or even dress. If you want to cut your genitals off and take different hormones, you are trying to change your sex not your gender. The people being called transgender today are actually transsexuals according to what gender theory said until recently. This seems to be another data point in the idea that every slippery slope argument you can make about a leftist idea is true. Like multiple personalities, does the transgender craze only tells us about how far people can be manipulated by authorities and the media, not about the normal nature of humanity?

    5. It was always interesting that diversity was ONLY important for European cultures. Asian and African cultures weren’t being told to import more people from India and Europeans were being told they should leave such places or that they were a detriment to society. Out of all the civilizations on Earth, had European Civilization proven that it alone was incapable of creativity, survival, or innovation and needed those from the rest of the world?

    Now, MY opinion on 3. I found out how they make the fake ‘meat’ taste more like meat. Plants convert nitrogen to ammonia (to make amino acids) in rhyzobia nodules. The rhizobia bacteria in those nodules use an enzyme called nitrogenase to do this. Nitrogenase needs an anaerobic environment to do this. To get rid of the oxygen, rhizobia use leg-hemoglobin (really similar to myoglobin). The rhyzobia are collected, the miniscule amount of leg-hemoglobin is extracted, and it is put in the fake meat. The similarity of leg-hemoglobin to the myoglobin in meat is what gives it a meat-like flavor. OK, so you are trying to tell me that culturing VAST amounts of rhyzobia and extracting the small amount of leg-hemoglobin with the massive amount of waste byproduct is LESS environmentally damaging that a cow grazing on the Western grazing lands? For example of enzyme extraction, some people I knew who did research in this would take 200 lbs of cow liver, extract it to isolate a few grams of enzyme with over 100 gallons of liquid waste left over.

    The second point about this is that the Western grazing lands can ONLY be used to graze cattle, you can’t farm it for vegetables. So, if you stop grazing the cattle, there is less food, not more. You can argue that raising meat is less efficient that vegetables, but 30% of something is better than 0%. Methane in total is a small contributor to the greenhouse effect (water is ~65%), so that argument is silly, especially considering the amount o f methane the same people intentionally released into the atmosphere when the Nordstream pipeline was destroyed. How many billion cow-years of methane was that?

    So, why do they want to get rid of our food? They want to get rid of meat and they are shutting down the fertilizer plants so we can’t grow grain or vegetables. The Netherlands is shutting down 3000 farms because of ‘nitrogen emissions’ tied to global warming. What ‘nitrogen emissions’ are they talking about? They never seem to say. They claim we can use ‘natural fertilizer alternatives’. They conned Sri Lanka into trying this. Just look how it worked out.

  4. A) Can someone explain to me why Congress, who argued that Trump’s tax returns were needed for legislative purpose, is planning to release them publicly? It seems to me that the SCOTUS gave them access for a particular purpose. Does Congress have the power to release a private individual’s tax returns? And if yes, why did they not simply argue they wanted to make them public. If not, what remedies are available to a citizen if Congress violates the taxpayer’s privacy rights.

    B) I really appreciated Michael R’s point below. (Not to the exclusion of the rest of his commentary)

    “It was always interesting that diversity was ONLY important for European cultures. Asian and African cultures weren’t being told to import more people from India and Europeans were being told they should leave such places or that they were a detriment to society.”

    This can be demonstrated at the micro level with respect to gentrification. The argument made is that gentrification destroys and displaces minorities. Yet, virtually every housing developer must include significant amounts of low-income housing.

    If the benefits of DIE are so great, is the workforce at Black Entertainment TV, NBA, NFL, MLB representative of the population at large. No, and for good reason. Thus, the argument that diversity alone builds better teams of employees is fallacious.

    C) In the omnibus spending bill currently up for a vote includes a provision for working to limit population growth is areas of high biodiversity. This would suggest that the government is seeking to funnel all population growth into high density housing. Given that there is a movement now to limit human “breeding” to temper climate change is it possible that the Feds could redirect funding whose mechanism is based on the number of children in a given area to harm those living in more rural areas.

  5. So much good material in this post, but I’ll respond to #3.

    The writer speaks of an era of “climate-fueled droughts, heat waves, floods and blights [that] could make it harder to grow food.” So…an era just like any other era in human history, where climate sometimes helps us and sometimes kicks us in the teeth. There have been droughts, heat waves (remember the Medieval Warming Period, folks?), floods and blights forever. Cows aren’t going to change that.

    Much like CO2, CH4 makes up almost nothing in greenhouse gases when compared with good ole H2O, the largest greenhouse gas by orders of magnitude. Lots more cows and pigs won’t make one iota of difference in climate, but Fake-Steak served to me at a Ruth’s Chris will definitely raise my temperature.

    It was our grandson’s birthday yesterday and we’re braving an incoming blizzard to take him to eat tonight. I’m getting me a big juicy burger (with a cow-induced ice-cream chaser), holding up my first three fingers, and telling the NYT to “read between the lines.”

    • Much like CO2, CH4 makes up almost nothing in greenhouse gases when compared with good ole H2O, the largest greenhouse gas by orders of magnitude…

      This idea appears here and in other comments. While some environmentalists do indeed ignore such things, it is only fair to present a more nuanced view offered by other environmentalists. That view says that the raw numbers don’t tell the whole story, because there is a positive feedback loop involved that drives up the water content of the atmosphere by evaporating or transpiring more of it, a loop driven by both the water and the other greenhouse gas content of the atmosphere. That would mean that even a small increase of (say) methane would make a small increase of water, but then that in turn would make another small increase of water, and so on until even a small initial driver from the methane would lead to a large increase in greenhouse effect. Thus the methane matters by being an exogenous rather than an endogenous thing in the process.

      Now, that reasoning is also open to scrutiny – if you ever see models and numbers to scrutinise – but it is not as simplistic as ignoring larger drivers in favour of smaller drivers and then assuming that the sizes of any effects are simply direct and roughly proportional consequences of the sizes of the initial drivers (of which, to be sure, methane is among the smallest).

      • That might be valid except that such a feedback loop with water hasn’t been shown. Since the earth only warmed slightly in the 20th century and the oceans warmed none, it doesn’t seem to be happening. Also, saying that small contributors are more important than big contributors never works out mathematically. As for water, if they were interested in global warming, they would start a campaign against the reservoirs and begin storing the water underground where 50% of it won’t evaporate. THAT would reduce the temperatures in the cities at night, which is the main effect of ‘global warming’ that is evident in the measurements.

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