OK, What’s Going On Here?

In the Washington Post yesterday, the Washington Post’s Sunday “Outlook” section included an op-ed in which  Lawrence Downes,  a former member of the New York Times editorial board, enthusiastically wrote about his new pastime:

[I have] right-wing culture war books from the Fox-News-angry-White-person’s superhero universe. Besides Hannity, I’ve got Lou Dobbs, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Rudy Giuliani and Bernie Kerik. The list is not comprehensive. It includes Karl Rove and Hugh Hewitt but not Newt Gingrich, Tucker Carlson or Donald Trump…The Fox folks seemed so bilious and out of place in that pleasant company, like toadstools among the daffodils. So I’d buy them up and take them home. Not for reading, which brought no pleasure, but for quarantine. The books are dispatches from a phony war, the one Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes helped gin up and got obscenely rich on. If you believe, as I do, that the plutocrat propagandists of Fox, talk radio and the GOP are lying liars who have vandalized our politics and country, then finding a Hannity or Ingraham book is like finding one of their bricks. The books piled up in my basement, out of circulation (which was the point) but always naggingly present, like asbestos. I wanted to be rid of them. And yet I paused, because even contemplating destroying books felt terrible…

I hit on the answer…. About once a week, I tear them into strips. I add them to the coffee grounds, potato and carrot peelings, onion and avocado skins, asparagus stubs, the papery bits of garlic, eggshells and dead flowers, and let the worms do the rest…

Turning propaganda into worm castings is not going to measurably reduce the amount of Fox News-iness in the environment. It is not strictly necessary. But if Hannity and company want to keep telling us that we are all at war, to keep stoking the flames and fanning the fear, then, for the good of this country, the people we love, the democracy we might lose and the world we want, so be it.

What’s going on here? Continue reading

Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/10/2020: Stelter Gaslighting, “Neither Rain Nor Snow,” A Good Lawsuit, And Orwellian Marketing [CORRECTED!]

Goooood Morning!

The song is from one of my favorite Broadway cast albums. The show (which I directed in college) is something of a mess, but the songs are terrific. Anthony Newley was a talented songwriter (with writing partner Leslie Bricusse) and a triple threat performer who was just a little bit too intense for some people. Among his best known songs with Bricusse are “The Candyman,” “Feelin’ Good” (from “Greasepaint,”) “Gonna Build A  Mountain” and “What Kind of Fool Am I?” (from “Stop the World, I Want To Get Off.” “On a Wonderful Day” is sung on the album by Cyril Richard, whom older readers will remember as the definitive Captain Hook, menacing Mary Martin in the live TV versions of “Peter Pan.”

1. This is wonderfully hilarious. Brian Stelter strikes again. From his CNN show yesterday:

STELTER: “When you see entire media companies essentially exist to tear down Joe Biden, is there an equivalent of that on the left, tearing down Trump?”

GUEST: “There really isn’t.”

Do any CNN viewers really believe this? How much gaslighting can a CNN talking head get away with?

2. Res Ipsa Loquitur. Running a small business trying to struggle through the lockdown when our main income is from live presentations, my wife and I are finding cash flow tougher than ever. Today we were alerted by the USPS that a large check we have been waiting for was delivered two days ago. (It wasn’t.) A few weeks back, we received what looked like an important letter addressed to someone in Spokane, Washington. Yet I will be encouraging voter suppression if I suggest that mail-in ballots are a disastrous idea.

It’s interesting: the same people who insist that the United States is out of step if it doesn’t emulate “other developed nations” in such matters as government health care and banning capital punishment are oddly silent about the overwhelming hostility to voting by mail in Europe. Paul Bedard points out,

Most developed countries, especially in Europe, ban mail-in voting to fight vast fraud and vote buying that had threatened the integrity of their elections, according to an exhaustive review of voting rules and histories in over 30 major nations. In the European Union, 63% have put a ban on mailing in ballots except for citizens living overseas. Another 22% have imposed a ban even for those overseas. And most of those that allow mail-in ballots require some form of photo ID to get one, according to the report from the Crime Prevention Research Center shared with Secrets. “These countries have learned the hard way about what happens when mail-in ballots aren’t secured. They have also discovered how hard it is to detect vote buying when both those buying and selling the votes have an incentive to hide the exchange,” said author John R. Lott, the center’s president.

Meanwhile, we don’t have to rely on Europe’s example to figure out this is a terrible and dangerous idea. From NBC:

More than 1 in 5 mail-in ballots were rejected in New York City during the state primary June 23, the city’s certified election results revealed this week. City election officials rejected 84,000 ballots — 21 percent of all those received by election officials. More than 403,000 ballots were returned to election officials, according to city data, but only about 319,000 absentee ballots were counted, the certified results showed… The U.S. Postal Service, unused to the deluge of prepaid mailers, reportedly left postmarks off ballots, leaving thousands of them to be rejected because it was unclear they were sent on time.

If I were conspiracy-minded, I’d suspect that Democrats want chaos in the November election–all the better to reject the results and take to the streets. Continue reading

Unethical Tweet Of The Month (And I Vow To Flag This Lie Every Time A Politician, Journalist Or Facebook Friend Attempts It): Joe Biden

Stipulated: The likelihood that Joe Biden really tweeted this is slim. Nonetheless, poor Joe is still accountable for his social media accounts and  the employees he  hires to represent him in cyberspace. This lie is his lie, and his lie is also six years old. Biden is stuck with the lie, because 1) he has no integrity and will say anything he thinks will get him elected and 2) because this lie still constitutes part of the foundation of Black Lives Matter, the organization most responsible for the riots disrupting cities across America along with the special bonus that anyone with the sense to reject their scam is immediately tarred as a racist, and maybe fired or forced to resign.

The use of the “Mike Brown was killed by a racist cop” lie is, at this point, smoking gun proof that an individual is  trying to aggravate and exploit racial distrust and hate to advance their own agenda. That makes them, to be blunt, scum.

During the depressing Democratic primary season, three Presidential hopefuls—Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, employed the lie, and I’m pretty certain every one of them knew it was false. The Democratic Party, which has cynically embraced Black Lives Matter, is, by extension, promoting the lie. Continue reading

Did You Ever Want To Reach Right Through A Letters To The Editor Section And Slap A Letter Writer Silly?

When I see a letter to a newspaper published that is indefensible logically and ethically, I often wonder, “Why did the paper print this?” Was the reason that the editors thought the letter made good sense, in which case, “Oh-oh!” Was the reason that it spoke for many readers with similar delusions, and thus would inform other readers that this, however dim-witted, is a common attitude or perception? Or, most ominous of all, was the reason it was published that the editors know the letter is badly reasoned, but think it will persuade other readers to accept a view that advances the paper’s ideological and political agendas?

I believe editors of letters sections are obligated to rebut dumb or misleading statements, either with their own responses or with other letters. The news media should not make people more ignorant, more biased, more stupid, and more misinformed. That our current news media does this now as a matter of course, and often deliberately, is one of the prime reasons I view the label “enemy of the people,” as inflammatory as it is, as fair.

I was thinking about this as I read the readers’ letters to the New York Times about Elizabeth Drew’s recent op-ed arguing that Presidential debates should be eliminated. As I’ve mentioned here earlier, her position was disingenuous and laughable: What a coinkydink that progressive pundits are suddenly opposing debates when the Democratic Party’s candidate is obviously trying to keep the extent of his mental decline from voters! Naturally the Times, being the Times,  permitted just one letter to get to press that expressed that analysis; only two of the seven letters published referenced Joe Biden at all. Continue reading

Oh Great. The Ethicist Goes Woke.

Boy, look at all that social distancing!

The New York Times Magazine’s Kwame Anthony Appiah, aka “The Ethicist,” chose to respond  to a question about the fictional ethical conflict posed by a Black Lives Matter supporter who is so torn. Should she follow her sense of moral outrage to participate in protests against systemic racism and police brutality (as proven by a single death -by-cop in Minnesota that had nothing to do with race, and a botched no-knock police search with a warrant that had nothing to with police brutality or race), even though it risks spreading the Wuhan virus?

It’s not a tough question in ethics terms. It really isn’t. Even leaving aside the clear (at least to me) verdict that the George Floyd protests themselves are unethical, being contrived, dishonest, destructive, and aimed at substituting one kind of racism for another while unfairly demonizing police, it’s no contest as a utilitarian calculation. The protests are accomplishing nothing positive while harming many and much, and would be unethical to participate in even if they did not contribute to the Wuhan virus resurgence—and if they don’t, then public health officials have been lying to us all along.

This isn’t a difficult balancing problem at all, but sadly, the usually rational Appiah tied himself into rhetorical knota to avoid saying, “Are you kidding me? Stay out of mobs! How could you even ask such a thing?” Continue reading

Observations On An Op-Ed Botch And Its Aftermath

New York Times snarkmistress Maureen Dowd wrote an op-ed  bemoaning the fact that no women have been on a Democratic ticket since 1984, when everyone was so sexist and mean to Geraldine Ferraro. Will everyone be so sexist again, now that Joe Biden is trapped into choosing a woman, whether there are any qualified or not?

Ann Althouse was among the early online pundits to point out Dowd’s gaffe–I would say obvious gaffe, but it apparently wasn’t obvious to her editor, or anyone else who saw the piece before it was published.  Uh, Maureen, does the name “Hillary Clinton” ring a bell? How quickly they forget! The Times eventually rushed out a correction, and the online version of the op-ed now says, “It’s hard to fathom, but it took another 36 years for a man to choose to put a woman on the Democratic ticket with him.”

There’s a lot more wrong than that… Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Depression, 8/8/2020: Irresponsible Parents, Irresponsible Voters, Irresponsible Troll-Makers

This is my state of mind today.

I began today driving for two hours to find a meeting for which I had been given the wrong address, and, like the fool that I have always been, didn’t bring along the phone number of anyone who could help me. It is during ordeals like this that I begin to reflect on what a failure and underachiever I am, and how I really don’t have enough time left for turnaround. All that privilege,  and good fortune, wasted. And I have no one to blame but myself.

Then I had to write about the stuff you’ll find below, and I got really depressed.

1. “Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias, and why aren’t you agreeing with what I say?” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got angry when PBS NewsHour” anchor Judy Woodruff dared to ask a question that cahllenged the Democratic Party position in dispute with Republicans on over the content of a “Phase 4” Wuhan Virus aid bill.

When Woodruff asked Pelosi about the “flexibility” GOP lawmakers are showing in terms of allocating more money for state and local governments, as well as Republican arguments that “much of the money” allocated in the CARES Act “has not even been spent yet,” Pelosi snapped,  “Well, if you want to be an advocate for them, Judy, if you want to be an advocate for them, listen to what the facts are.”

In other word, “Hey! You’re supposed to be on our side!”

Actually, ethical journalists are not supposed to be on anyone’s side, but that quaint ethics  concept has been abandoned by virtually all journalists, including  Woodruff.

“I’m playing devil’s advocate here,!” Woodruff protested. You know, the devil, Republicans—same thing!

2. Better yet, don’t ride the subway! Here is a Wuhan virus safety sign from the New York City subways.

In addition to telling people they should wear masks, it goes to the next level and wants people to avoid interacting at all. This is incompetent messaging and  shows a basic misunderstanding of humans in general and American in particular. It also makes me suspicious: Big Brother is still working to make as all compliant automaton. If we can’t talk, we can’t resist.

It reminds me of the early “don’t touch you face!” warnings. People touch their face thousands of times a day. That message made me skeptical of all the advice from “experts” and governments, and indeed, you hardly hear it any more.

Social interaction is essential to life. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Now THIS Is Racism…But It’s Joe Biden, So Never Mind.”

[Talented social justice warrior cartoonist Barry Deutch, aka. Ampersand, once would have been lurking to make the point of his cartoon above on Ethics Alarms, in the days before he self-exiled. I miss his reliable and articulate contributions, so I thought his cartoon would give him a free comment for nostalgia purposes. If he objects to it being used here, and he well might, I’ll take it down. (And, of course, the fact that one group benefited from racism in some respect is not a valid argument for others to benefit from racism against that group in response.)]

I was thrilled to see Comment of the Day auteur—we have several here—Humble Talent train his sites on  a long-time annoyance of mine in the culture wars, the intellectually indefensible claim that racism only can exist in one direction, with whites being prejudiced against blacks. This is one of the great fallacies of the race-relations debates, and until it’s banished forever to the Land of Self-Serving Lies,  I don’t see much progress being made. ‘It’s bad when YOU do it, but OK when I do it’ is, or should be, self-evidently hypocritical. When a group or individual tries to slip that one by, they lose all credibility, and worse, they endorse racism while condemning it. This has become epidemic in the dark days of the George Floyd Freakout, and just because a stunning number of whites, in the grip of  fear, apathy or cognitive disability, are temporarily submitting to it doesn’t make the concept any more valid.

Here is Humble Talent’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Now THIS Is Racism…But It’s Joe Biden, So Never Mind.”

“Racism = Prejudice + Power” isn’t, and was never, actually functional. I think they used “prejudice” because of the alliteration. “Racism = Discrimination + Power” just doesn’t roll off the tongue the same way. Their point was, I believe, and if anyone holding that view wants to correct me, I’ll be willing to listen, that Racism without power isn’t damaging the same way racism with power is, and so it shouldn’t be treated the same way.

There’s perhaps some truth to that; While I don’t particularly like it when people say hurtful things to me based on my race, I don’t think mean words have the same teeth as a two-tiered justice system. I’m not saying that’s what America has. It isn’t (at least not racially, laws are for little people, as the political elite love to showcase, and that’s not a racial divide). But hypothetically, a law that reinforced slavery, as an example, would be a whole lot more damaging to a person than mean words. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Stockton University (NJ), And Anyone Else Who Thinks A Photograph Of The President Of The United States Constitutes “Taunting”

“OH NO! TAKE IT AWAY! IT’S EVIL!!! EVIL!!!

I am about to conclude that schools and universities keep attempting to unconstitutionally smother students’ freedom of speech and expression because they think eventually the culture will just give in and let them enforce viewpoint conformity.

In the alternative, the people who run these institutions are just dumb as a box of nutcrackers.

Let’s take Stockton College in New Jersey, for example.

Doctoral student Robert  Dailyda used a photo of the President of the United States as his Zoom background during a July 1 virtual class. Some students complained, and he administration wrote in an incident report that the photo caused students “to feel offended, disrespected, and taunted.” Such students should have been told, in no uncertain terms, “Donald Trump is President of the United States, and the elected leader of the government of the nation in which you live. If his picture makes you feel offended, disrespected, and taunted, feel free to visit the campus mental health facilities. In the alternative, grow the hell up.”

Instead, ten days later and being Summa Cum Ethics Dunces, Stockton’s administrators called the student in “on the carpet”  to justify his political views, claiming that students were offended by the Zoom background of the Evil POTUS, Dailyda’s comments in the subsequent GroupMe chat in which he was attacked by other students in the class, and his subsequent Facebook post defending his rights to express his opinion. The university claimed that students also found that post “offensive, threatening, and concerning.”

The “offensive, threatening, and concerning” post read, Continue reading

Now THIS Is Racism…But It’s Joe Biden, So Never Mind.

I admit that I am still using the old, original, can’t-be-adjusted-to-fit-anyone-or anything-you-want-to-smear definition of “racism”: “the belief that different races possess distinct characteristics, abilities, or qualities, especially so as to distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another.”

That’s one reason that I know that the attacks on President Trump as a racist comprise a Big Lie.  No, criticizing a single Black individual, even nastily or unfairly, isn’t racism. Not favoring policies that confer advantages because of race isn’r racism. Even referring to third world countries with primarily black populations as “shit holes’—just to pick a hypothetical—isn’t racism. However, what Joe Biden said yesterday, during an interview with black and Latino journalists,

“Most people don’t know, unlike the African American community with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community, with incredibly different attitudes about different things.”

That’s racism, flat-out, no doubt about it, no spin possible. Not only that, it’s old school racism, like “them darkies just love their watermelon, and are happy pickin’ cotton in the fields!” In sexist terms, it is like saying that women are too emotional to hold leadership position. In a homophobia context, it is like saying that gay men are potential child molesters. The idea that blacks are monolithic and basically all alike was a Jim Crow staple, and like all racist tropes, is, or should be, nonsense on its face.

What Joe Biden said wasn’t a “gaffe.” His statement was clear and unequivocal; indeed it was one of the most coherent things he has uttered in public for a long time. It wasn’t a “gaffe,” except if you use the cynical Washington, D.C. definition of that word, which is “a politician saying in public what he really thinks.”  Back in 1988, when Ross Perot was scaring both parties with his third party run for the President, the NAACP tarred him as a racist because at one point in his address to the group he referred to them as “you people.” Imagine if he had said, “you people are all the same.” Yet that is exactly what Joe Biden said yesterday. Continue reading