Morning Ethics Catch-Up, 12/28/2022: Debt! Drunk! Jerk! Gall! Wham!

This is the first ethics grab-bag in seven days, a record. I missed several historical dates with ethical import, none more notable than the 1914 Christmas Truce, which Ethics Alarms has discussed several times. It is remembered, for the most part, with dewy-eyed nostalgia: British and German soldiers on opposing sides at the Western Front, defying orders from superiors, pretended the war didn’t exist and left their trenches, put their weapons and animus aside, sang carols, shared food, buried their dead, and perhaps, depending on which source you choose to believe, even played soccer against each other. Awww. Somehow I couldn’t remember if I had ever fallen for this malarkey, so when I was considering writing a “Bah, humbug!” Christmas Truce post on December 25th, I began by checking the Ethics Alarms archives. The last time Ethics Alarms took up the topic was in 2020, and the post concluded in part,

I was moved to write about this event after reading one article that said that it demonstrated “the importance of choosing to see past our momentary hatreds.” How does it demonstrate that? The “truce” saved no lives; it didn’t shorten the war, lead to more mercy and compassion, orpromote understanding. The victors in the First World War still enacted such punitive measures against the Germans that it seeded World War II.

Soldiers who operate under the delusion that warfare is a noble pursuit tempered with honor and mutual respect are deluding themselves. The idea is to kill people, and to end the war as quickly as possible. The “Christmas Truce” was incompetent and naive.

1. “Where have you gone, Ross Perot? Our nation turns its stupid eyes to you…” Congress got together to pass a wildly irresponsible 1.7 trillion dollar spending package, so it is now officially clear that neither party is paying any attention to the National Debt. What the hell. they’ll all be dead before it triggers a financial catastrophe, so why should they care? The public will keep voting for them, because the schools don’t teach basic mathematics skills, and nobody understands economics including economists. America’s debt has now reached 31.3 trillion dollars. Boston Globe business and finance reporter Jim Puzzanghera pointed out last week that this level of debt represents a “rapidly growing death spiral” for our nation. Actually, the level of debt thirty years ago threatened the same death spiral—that was when Ross Perot ran for President with a campaign infomercial in which he explained with simple charts why federal spending was out of control and eventually the U.S. would regret it. A lot of Americans got the message, too–but they’re all dead or senile now.

The federal government has to pay interest on the debt; it will pay nearly $400 billion in interest in 2022, and that figure is currently projected to climb to about $1.2 trillion over the next decade. The GDP now is virtually the same as our national debt. The interest on the debt will equal more than 3% of the nation’s entire economic production over the next decade. The CBO projects that figure will eventually surpass 7%, and the CBO’s record lately suggests that the real figure will be higher. The Bipartisan Policy Center think tank told Puzzanghera that a debt like that is like termites in your home’s porch: “They’re working away at it, you don’t see them, but one day you step out on that porch and you go through it.”

Except that our elected leaders do see them. They just don’t care.

2. CNN’s new CEO has decreed that its news anchors may not get drunk on the air during the network’s New Years Eve broadcast. Apparently Chris Licht feels that “on-camera drinking eroded the credibility of CNN personnel and damaged the respectability they may enjoy among viewers.” Ya think? Yes, professionalism is such an alien concept at CNN that an official edict had to come down to explain it. Since New Year’s Eve is a big sock drawer day at our house, I needed to be reminded of previous antics by these allegedly responsible and professional journalists: Red State provided a helpful retrospective:

“… there’s no word yet on whether any CNN personalities will be allowed to smoke a joint on live TV, as happened in 2017 or jump into a liquor-filled tub with a drag queen, which happened in 2019What probably happened is that Licht saw clips of [Don] Lemon from pastcelebrations” including the 2021 New Year’s Eve Live event, where Lemon went on a wild, drunken rant about being a “grown a** man” and not caring what his critics said about him, to at one point twerking…”

3. 2022 Ethics Alarms Award! Jerk Lawyer of the Year. I missed this story from July. California attorney Timothy Scott had just lost a motion to dismiss a suit. He said, on the record,

“…I hope this doesn’t sound unctuous, but just to end the weekend on a good note, I want to thank the court staff. I want to say to have a good weekend to Mr. DeMaria. I want to say have a good weekend to Ms. Frerich. And I want to say have a good weekend to both MTS counsel. I’ll See you next Tuesday. See you next Tuesday.”

The judge accepted the statement without rancor, as I would have, because he, like me not up-to-date in my Urban Dictionary research (even though I’m in it!), did not realize that “See you next Tuesday” is code for “cunt.” Fortunately the judge was quickly enlightened on this matter, and called Scott into his chambers for a little chat. Incredibly, the lawyer’s defense was that he didn’t think anyone would know what he meant. The judge was not impressed, saying in his subsequent statement on the incident,

It was also revealed during the in-chambers meeting that Mr. Scott intentionally made the statement with the full knowledge of the meaning of the phrase. Mr. Scott tried to explain that his deliberate use of the phrase was an “inside joke” between him and one of this firm employees which he expected no one in the courtroom would detect. However, it is not a joke to this Court that Mr. Scott made this egregious and offensive insult intentionally to two female attorneys via a coded message. In fact, but for Ms. Lagasse bringing it to the Court’s attention, this wrongdoing would have been undetected. Mr. Scott not only attempted to deceive all counsel, but also this Court, into believing he genuinely was wishing everyone a nice weekend when in fact he was purposefully directing a derogatory epithet toward the female defense attorneys who had just prevailed in a nonsuit in this case.

The California Bar’s disciplinary committee is now deciding what to do with this jerk.

4. This takes gall: The New York Times has an article headlined, “As Covid-19 Continues to Spread, So Does Misinformation About It.” Misinformation regarding the Wuhan virus and its pals is now defined as “whatever facts, guesses, opinions, conclusions and theories the biased and politically corrupted health experts, government officials and, yes, the complicit mainstream media don’t want interfering with their guesses, opinions, conclusions and theories, not to mention outright lies represented as “science” for the greater good.”

“The ideas still thrive on social media platforms, and the constant barrage, now a yearslong accumulation, has made it increasingly difficult for accurate advice to break through, misinformation researchers say,” sayeth the Times propagandists, never mentioning that the difficulty has been primarily created by the CDC and World Health Organization changing what was supposed to be “accurate advice” repeatedly. Surfaces? Touching your face? Masks? “Social distancing”? The effectiveness of vaccines? Religious gatherings for services, funerals and weddings were dangerous, but George Floyd mass demonstrations were fine. Citizens were told not to travel for Thanksgiving, and the elected officials who told them that traveled to large family affairs themselves. Based on “science,” solo drivers in Virginia were apprehended by police. Playing tennis was prohibited in Alexandria. California police arrested a man surfing by himself with no one else in sight for violating pandemic protocols. The Times hyped the deadliness of the virus, representing 90-year-olds with multiple maladies as dying “from” the virus when they really died “with” the virus.

Then the Times, since hypocrisy and uber-gall apparently isn’t enough, bemoans a reduction in censorship:

Twitter is of particular concern for researchers. The company recently gutted the teams responsible for keeping dangerous or inaccurate material in check on the platform, stopped enforcing its Covid misinformation policy and began basing some content moderation decisions on public polls posted by its new owner and chief executive, the billionaire Elon Musk.

It’s disgusting, but the Times is banking on its readers being too biased and corrupted to be disgusted.

5. Wham Derangement? A Swedish couple, Tomas and Hannah Mazetti, became so sick of hearing the Wham Christmas song “Last Christmas” during December that they resolved to take action. They are trying to raise $15 million dollars to buy the copyright so they can bury the tune forever, and to that end organizes an online fundraiser for the project. So far, the Manzettis have been able to raise just $62,000 from about 325 people who, like them, have nothing better to do with their money than throw it away on a quixotic quest to ban a pop song.

10 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Catch-Up, 12/28/2022: Debt! Drunk! Jerk! Gall! Wham!

  1. 1. “What the hell. they’ll all be dead before it triggers a financial catastrophe, so why should they care?”

    I wouldn’t be too sure about that. I think I can hear the fat lady warming up her vocal cords just offstage.

    “A lot of Americans got the message, too–but they’re all dead or senile now.”

    Well, not all of us. I have been harping about this even before Perot took the stage. I was red pilled about the growing deficit in a college American Government course taught by a card-carrying John Bircher after Nixon took us off the gold standard, and never forgot what I learned. “Fiat currency always settles to its real value; zero.”

    • … “Fiat currency always settles to its real value; zero.”

      Actually, it always settles to its real value, what the tax base will bear (which is how and why colonialists used it as one of their techniques for exploitation; in the trade, it was called Chartalism). But bad management or outside constraints can reduce what the tax base will bear to zero, so that’s the way to bet.

  2. 1. Frankly, I think a drunken CNN newsreader (high-jinks aside) might actually be inclined to tell the truth, instead of rotely following the lies, liberal propaganda and nonsense they usually “report.” I would love to see one news reader break into drunken laughter at the ridiculousness of what CNN calls the “news.”

    2. Not being economically astute enough to reply intelligently, I will make the ‘mommy’ comment. It is my son who will have the supreme pleasure of watching our economy, and our country, fail. Add that to the list of crimes our leaders have committed.

    3. Never heard of this coded insult; horrified, of course. And thanks, Jack, for teaching me that our society is even less civil and more dimwitted than I had thought. And believe me, having the IQ 80s running things has not had me in a good place for a long time.

    4. Covid… and we are continually told that a cure for cancer is coming soon. Right. We know nothing about the Wuhan virus except where it came from. “The single biggest threat to man’s continued dominance on the planet is the virus.” —Nobel Laureate Joshua Lederberg.

    5. No comment on your final “weird news” mention.

  3. #5 Full disclosure: I detest the song, so bias may be making me stupid; at least they are pursuing a commercial purchase of the song to suppress it, rather than getting it “cancelled” for its contents or sins (real or imagined) of its singer. The song is offensive to the ears, but this is America, and people have the right to hear commercially-available trite drivel if wish!

    • “Quixotic” certainly comes to mind. But if the rights to that song are worth fifteen million dollars, what does that tell you about the value of the national debt. Our dollars are worthless.

  4. Regarding the catastrophic national debt. A lot of people, including many in congress, see it as a kind of surreal number and comprehension of its ramifications have exceeded their grasp.
    I’ve always contended this debt is one that can never ever be paid off (and when I first said that the debt was about 10 trillion), and even to attempt the a modest reduction or even to hold the line would be met with the most intense resistance.
    In summary, this ever increasing debt will be the country’s undoing and leading to societal collapse. the only question left is: When?

  5. 4) I am reminded of the recent stories about the latest nuclear fusion breakthrough. I believe I have read that story, touting a new breakthrough, perhaps once a decade most of my adult life.

    Nuclear fusion has been only a decade away (or so) for the past half century ore more.

    We certainly were naive growing up, believing that fusion was just around the corner. And where is my flying car? We were told there would be flying cars with autopilots. Can’t count the number of stories that matter-of-factly had flying cars, not to mentioned fusion powered flying cars…..k

  6. … The idea [of war] is to kill people, and to end the war as quickly as possible…

    No. That is just one approach to it, and only aimed at immediate objectives rather than ultimate goals and purposes at that. Roughly speaking, it is the Clausewitzian formulation of how to conduct war, without going into his further insights of war as “an extension of diplomacy by other means”.

    But that formulation only applies when certain background circumstances hold, largely to do with what key resources form the controlling constraints (manpower, agriculture, other industry, terrain, logistical corridors, etc.). It is typical of the past century and a half or so, in theatres of concern to the west (broadly understood). Yet it is a poor formulation of eighteenth century European warfare before the Revolutionary Wars, and of wars in other places even in the past few centuries. The former often focussed on strategic resources, like forts and their hinterlands, and the latter often made use of long and draining campaigns of attrition that would have let the enemy bounce back if they had been ended prematurely (the Chinese Civil War is a case in point). ‘The “Christmas Truce” was incompetent and naive’ would not have applied in comparable situations in the Middle Ages, the wars of Alexander’s successors or the Roman Civil Wars, because of the potential there and then of effecting changes of sides by combatants.

    … nobody understands economics including economists…

    A certain German statesman* once said, “the trouble with my generals is that they don’t understand economics”. He was getting at that very same narrow focus about the nature of war that I brought out just above; the generals wanted flexibility of manoeuvre, not appreciating (as their boss did) that it was very, very important not to compromise access to crucial logistical resources, such as Rumanian oil and German industrial production. So the boss’s stand fast orders made enough sense to buy about a year of time, as they “only” traded off men but secured those – by then far more critical – resources for longer. This does rather illustrate what the Clausewitzian formulation leaves out, when used by rote rather than as a source of insight. Post-war apologias by those same generals often made out that the boss hadn’t known what he was doing; but the trouble was that he did indeed understand, only he didn’t share the funny ideas some others have about the value of soldiers’ lives.

    * Yes, that one.

    The federal government has to pay interest on the debt …

    No, it does not have to pay interest on the debt; it has lots of variations on the theme of repudiation at its disposal, just as it did when it was last a debtor nation (“it wasn’t us, the U.S.A.! it was all those states and local authorities!” – and never mind the off the books exercise of moving the bad debts to them**), and it will have those at its disposal right up until the day it becomes practical for creditors to apply a modern analogue of the nineteenth century technique of seizing the customs houses and garnisheeing the tariffs. But I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the last turns of the spiral gives creditors a foothold for that, say by privatising certain kinds of indirect revenue collection in favour of outside owners – no more “we owe it to ourselves” then.

    ** In his life of Keynes, Robert Skidelsky estimated that U.S. welching on debts owed to Europeans was comparable in magnitude to the later Marshall Aid.

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