Of COURSE The United States Has To Spend Trillions On Infrastructure Renewal, And Of Course Ignorance, Incompetence And Dishonesty Will Screw It Up. Again.

Welcome to the first Russian doll Ethics Alarms post, in which a series of essentially identical essays are nested to shout out a truth that hasn’t changed in decades. That truth is that the infrastructure of the United States is getting progressively worse.

Sub-truths nested in that one include these:

  • This was an urgent crisis 40 years ago, and has only been getting worse since.
  • Both parties and all Presidents since—Nixon? Johnson?—are equally responsible, because they all  participated in “kicking the can” down the rotting road for political gain. This was and is political cowardice. Maintaining the infrastructure is one basic function of government, like national defense and law enforcement, that both Big Government and limited government advocates can agree on. However, since infrastructure rot is only a headline matter when bridges collapse, airliners crash or sewer pipes burst spreading disease and death, it’s a long term expense with benefits that the public won’t see immediately, if at all. Their grandchildren, however, will have better lives.
  • Politicians prefer short-term benefits, like sending checks directly to potential voters (and favored interest groups) under the fantasy of “economic stimulus.” This is a bi-partisan breach of duty and ethics.
  • As with everything else, the news media is stunningly incompetent in explaining the facts. I just heard two Fox News talking empty-heads arguing about whether sewer and water pipes were “infrastructure.” This is because much of the partisan attacks on Biden’s proposal has focused on the relatively small proportion of the financial requirements that will pay for  “roads and bridges.'” Of course sewer and water pipes are infrastructure, and indeed among the most dangerous parts of a nation’s infrastructure to let deteriorate, as ours have in too many major cities to count. You people (Dana Perino and Bill Hemmer in this case) are incompetent idiots, and should be working at a 7-11. Also included in the “infrastructure,” in case you care: canals, airports, railways, public transportation, barges, ferries, waterways, traffic signals, the power grid, and more. You are making the public even more ignorant than they already are. You’re a disgrace. I hate you.
  • Jobs are not infrastructure, but to listen to the advocates of renewal,  you would think that creating jobs is the main reason to undertake the effort. This is disinformation, and also unforgivable.
  • A rotting infrastructure hurts the economy in thousands of incremental, sinister, unavoidable ways, making goods more expensive, people poorer, limiting economic growth, and yes, costing jobs, with all of these effects getting worse over time.
  • No, the nation can’t afford to do what needs to be done–which is what will lead to national disaster if it is not done. That is because we have allowed the national debt to reach the red zone, and again, both parties are to blame, Republicans for irresponsible tax cuts, and Democrats for creating out-of-control social programs. However, whether we can afford it or not, we have to do it, spend the money, raise the taxes, be responsible…or we are dooming the nation. That is the situation cowardly, incompetent, venal and dishonest leadership has created.
  • I see little hope that President Biden’s efforts are any more serious or that they will be any more successful than the proposals that have gone before. It is true that even some infrastructure repair is better than none, but Democrats and progressives have painted themselves, and the nation, into a corner.

For example, the Biden administration has blocked a major highway expansion in Houston, Texas, claiming that the project is racially discriminatory and harmful to the environment. The state was about to begin a proposed widening of certain sections of Interstate 45 that has been years in planning when the Department of Transportation invoked the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to temporarily shut it down pending further review, Politico reported.

The department’s intervention is supposedly  a “test case” for Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, has claimed  “racial injustice” in highway construction and vowed to make “righting these wrongs an imperative” under his leadership. Local activists say that the highway expansion would disproportionately harm black and Hispanic communities by displacing more than 1,000 homes, hundreds of businesses, five houses of worship, and two schools along the stretch of highway.

If race, class and the environment are going to be the priorities, then essential infrastructure maintenance is impossible. It is that simple.

Continue reading

Inauguration Day Ethics Warm-Up, 1/20/2021: Welcome And Good Luck, President Biden!

Biden P

1. Too late! Fox News fired Chris Stirewalt yesterday. He is the veteran politics editor who was the prime onscreen face of the supposedly conservative-tilting network’s election night projections that Joseph Biden . had defeated President Trump in Arizona. Arnon Mishkin, a long-time Democratic Party pollster, was Fox News decision desk chief for the 2020 presidential election. He called the state of Arizona and its 11 electoral votes for Joe Biden at 11:20 p.m. Eastern time on election night, not long after the polls closed. Fox news anchor Bill Hemmer, standing at the Fox News election map, expressed surprise. “What is happening here? Why is Arizona blue?” he asked. “Did we just call it? Did we just make a call in Arizona?”

Stirewalt quickly came onscreen to defend the network’s decision, explaining that vote margins were too great in Arizona for the Republican candidate to overcome. He assured viewers that “We’re going to be careful, cautious, and earnest,” adding that “Arizona is doing just what we expected it to do and we remain serene and pristine. He dismissed voter fraud claims, “Lawsuits, schmawsuits — we haven’t seen any evidence yet that there’s anything wrong.” Mishkin also came on camera later to defend the call. I found him supercilious and obnoxious.

Reflecting on the decision to fire Stirewalt, the usual media suspects are pointing out that in the end, Fox’s call was correct. That’s pure moral luck. Fox News was the first news outlet to call Arizona for Biden, anmd when your brand is the news network that balances the hard progressive, Democratic, anti-Trump bias of 95% of the news media, that’s a stupid unforced error. Stirewalt has to be aware of the company’s brand and best interests. Why jump the gun to call a state Trump probably needed to win? Furthermore, Stirewalt’s “Arizona is doing just what we expected it to do” sounded like spin, because it was. The polls, including Fox’s, had already been proven wildly off, and the voting “expectations” were based on polling.

It would not have cost Fox anything to wait to call Arizona, especially since networks declaring winners in states is subjective, unnecessary, and arguably manipulative. Regular Fox viewers were alienated, and this was predictable. President Trump denounced the networkand urged supporters to watch Newsmax and One America News instead. He should not have done that, but it was also predictable. Stirewalt was substantially responsible for losing Fox News viewers and revenue, and accomplished nothing.

He deserved to be fired. I would have fired him too.

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Sunday Ethics Reflections, 9/13/2020: “Hold On To Your Butts!”

1. Our aspiring leaders:

  • A 31-year-old female deputy and 24-year-old male deputy were shot while sitting in their patrol car at a Metro rail station in Compton, California. Protesters gathered outside the emergency room at the hospital where they were treated. The sheriff’s department found it necessary to tweet:  “To the protesters blocking the entrance & exit of the HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM yelling “We hope they die” referring to 2 LA Sheriff’s ambushed today in #Compton: DO NOT BLOCK EMERGENCY ENTRIES & EXITS TO THE HOSPITAL,. People’s lives are at stake when ambulances can’t get through.” President Trump tweeted in response to the shooting:

Incredible: flat learning curve. After all the uproar about calling people “animals.” And if the shooters are minorities…The only one who can lose this election for President Trump is President Trump.

  • The Times of Israel reports, based on a recording of a virtual fundraiser, that Joe Biden said that the recent development of Arab states normalizing relations with Israel was “something positive” President Trump is doing “accidentally.”

Stay classy, Joe. To be fair, that has been the narrative of the Democratic Party/”resistance”/news media alliance for four years: if something goes wrong, it is the President’s fault; if something goes right, it’s either wrong anyway because Trump is responsible, or it’s just luck or an accident.

2. And now, from the world of sports! Continue reading

Open Forum On Zoom Day!

Ugh. I have a Zoom seminar  on legal ethics to give today, which means dry runs, tech checks, and anxiety. I’ve concluded that I detest Zoom programs. You can’t read your audience, and for all I know they are doing crossword puzzles. Managing notes is awkward, graphics don’t look very good, and neither do I.

I  intend to be pantless as my silent protest against the whole fiasco.

Since I have no idea how and when posts will be emanating from 2707 Westminster Place, I’m opening up another Open Forum. As always, keep your commentary on topic (ethics and leadership), civil, witty, and substantive.

Now I’m going to review my notes…

Ethics Quiz: The Doomsday Projection

From: EcoWatch:

Deforestation coupled with the rampant destruction of natural resources will soon have devastating effects on the future of society as we know it, according to two theoretical physicists who study complex systems and have concluded that greed has put us on a path to irreversible collapse within the next two to four decades, as VICE reported.

The research by the two physicists, one from Chile and the other from the UK, was published last week inNature Scientific Reports. The researchers used advance statistical modeling to look at how a growing human population can cope with the loss of resources, mainly due to deforestation. After crunching the numbers, the scientists came up with a fairly bleak assessment of society’s chance of surviving the climate crisis.

“Based on the current resource consumption rates and best estimate of technological rate growth our study shows that we have very low probability, less than 10 percent in most optimistic estimate, to survive without facing a catastrophic collapse,” the authors write in the study abstract.

From all the issues that the climate crisis raises like rising sea levels, increases in extreme weather, drought, flooding, and crop failures, scientists zeroed in on deforestation since it is more measurable right now. They argue that forest density, or its current scarcity, is considered the cataclysmic canary in the coal mine, according to the report, as The New York Post reported.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quizto conclude this weekend pf nonsense and frustration:

Is this story responsible to report as news without a lot more context? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/7/2020: Writing The Morning Warm-Up While In A Foul Mood Is Like Grocery Shopping When You’re Hungry..

In other words, a bad idea…but I don’t have much choice.

1. Let’s see if talking about two ethics movies helps. In honor of Wilfred Brimley’s death last week, I watched “Absence of Malice” from the beginning for the first time in decades. The film is shockingly relevant. It deftly exposes both the culture behind unethical journalism and the abuse of government investigations, and in both cases the arrogant “the ends justify the means” mentality that infects both professions at fault. I venture that it is impossible to see the movie now and not think about Mike Flynn, the Times and CNN, fake news, the Russian collusion investigation, Adam Schiff  and the weaponization of leaks.

The main difference between the movie and what we have watched in real life over the last nearly four years is scope: “Absence of Malice” is about a local investigation, and there is an implication that what we see isn’t typical, but a single instance of a system going wrong because of a couple of “bad apples.” Now we know, or should, that the film was a harbinger of things to come.

All of the ethics points are made the Assistant US Attorney General James Wells, played by Brimley, when he gathers the involved parties at a courthouse in the movie’s climax. The whole scene isn’t on YouTube, which is too bad, but two of Brimley’s speeches stand out:

To the ambitious and arrogant reporter played by Sally Field:

“You know and I know that we can’t tell you what to print, or what not to. We  hope the press will act responsibly. But when you don’t, there ain’t a lot we can do about it.”

And referring to his subordinate, an ambitious and arrogant prosecutor played by Bob Balaban:

“We can’t have people go around leaking stuff for their own reasons. It ain’t legal. And worse than that, by God it ain’t right.”

The other ethics film I watched was “Hondo,” a John Wayne movie based on a Louie L’amour novel. Somehow I had missed it, even though I have seen almost all of Wayne’s “A” films, and quite a few of his “B” and “C” efforts as well. “Hondo” was a product of Wayne’s own production company. There are ethics themes in many Wayne movies, but perhaps this one qualifies more than the rest as an ethics film.

The movie has honesty and integrity as its main themes, and is especially interesting in the light of efforts by the cancel mob to paint Wayne as a racist. In “Hondo,” he plays a wandering gun-fighter who is part Indian, and whose respect for the tribes and sympathy for their plight in America is palpable. It’s an excellent and thought-provoking film; picking the Duke’s top ten is impossible, but “Hondo” is easily in his top 20.

2. The awful Senator Hirono. Hawaii Senator Maizie Hirono repeatedly refused to specifically condemn Antifa, retreating to “all violent extremists are bad” rhetoric. She ultimately walked out of Senator Ted Cruz’s hearing on “The Right of the People Peaceably to Assemble: Protecting Speech by Stopping Anarchist Violence” after he asked her to clarify whether she included Antifa in her definition of violent extremists. She refused, and then walked out of the hearing, taking six other Senators with her, and for the life of me I can’t find out their names because our news media is hopeless.

3. More on Cruz: Senator Cruz’s statement on Black Lives Matter during his hearing warrants circulation, and I’d love to hear all the lazy and craven Black Lives Matter shills respond to his points. He said this after Hirono said that “Defund the police” wasn’t intended literally:

What else does BLM the organization support? On its website it is called for a “boycott of white capitalism.” In 2017, they called on people not to spend any money with white corporations. And not only that, the BLM website says that one of their objective is dismantling the “patriarchal practices and disrupting the Western prescribed nuclear family.” That’s what they say their objectives are. Now the reason that matters is right now corporate America is desperate to demonstrate their virtue as we see great racial dissension.

So Black Lives Matter, BLM the group, raises money on ActBlue, the fundraising mechanism for virtually every elected Democrat in Congress. Among the donors to BLM the organization, according to public reports, include the company Ubisoft, which has given between $50,000 and $100,000. DoorDash, which has given reportedly $500,000. Amazon, which has given an unidentified portion of $10 million. Gatorade, which has given an unidentified portion of $500,000. Nabisco, which has given an unidentified portion of $500,000. Deckers, which has given an unidentified portion of $500,000. Microsoft, which has given $250,000. Dropbox, which has given $500,000 and Fitbit, which the amount given is not identified.

I would note Microsoft, the largest individual shareholder is Bill Gates. It’s more than ironic that Microsoft is funding an organization calling for boycotting all white corporations. Bill Gates is white. Microsoft is literally funding an organization calling for Microsoft to be defunded. Jeff Bezos, the largest owner of Amazon, who likewise is funding this radical Marxist group. Jeff Bezos is white too. And he’s funding an organization that is calling for the boycotting of Amazon.

This is dangerous and it’s worth understanding that when corporate America floods millions of dollars into explicitly Marxist terrorist organizations that glorify cop killers, that glorify violence, that the violence and terrorism that flows from that should not be surprising.

Bingo. Continue reading

Let’s Get The Week Off To A Positive Start With Encouraging Ethics Stories! Like…Oh. Never Mind…(Part 2)

Part I is here.

Still trying to empty my “annoying ethics notes” in-box. Bear with me…

4. It’s called “not caving to peer pressure.” Remember when that was a good thing? In the 75% black NBA—that means black supremacy, right?—any white player who doesn’t grovel before that Black Lives Matter idol, which has its name emblazoned on the NBA courts—is asking to have his home firebombed. Thus the only player with the guts and integrity to stand for the National Anthem—not standing is the position of the Democratic Party, remember—is black. Orlando Magic forward, Jonathan Issac,  became the first NBA player to demonstrate proper respect for the symbol of the nation that my father risked his life for, as the NBA resumed its season after a 20-week hiatus. All the other players and coaches from both teams, as well as referees, “took a knee” during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner, as the 22-year-old not only stood, but was not wearing a “Black Lives Matter” shirt.

Here was a typical reaction on social media:

Got that? Not caving to the mob is weak, and Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.

5. And while we’re on the topic of the National Anthem, I refuse to believe a majority of Americans will vote for the side that encourages this insanity. Last month, The USSSA Pride and Scrap Yard Fast Pitch, two independent professional softball teams that feature some of the top players in the world, began a seven-game series in Melbourne, Fla., facing little competition from other live sports. However, after the organization’s  general manager tweeted  to President Trump during the game that the teams were standing during the national anthem, all the players quit, vowing never to play for the organization again.

6. In case you wondered, the New York Times is still romanticizing and sentimentalizing illegal immigration.  So is Netflix. In its new documentary “Immigration Nation”—that gets an immediate ding from me, because it’s about illegal immigration, a crime, not immigration, an honorable, essential process—

Part of that effect comes from seeing agents push the boundaries of legality — most strikingly, how they routinely enter apartments when “invited” by cowed, uncomprehending immigrants, in a way that’s surprisingly similar to what you’d see in a TV cop drama. (Maybe that’s where they learned it.) Once inside the home of the target, probably an immigrant accused of a crime, they frequently find “collaterals,” additional people who can be rounded up simply because they’re undocumented.

That last clause is a classic. It’s not “simply because they are undocumented,” it is entirely because they are in the country illegally, violating our borders and laws, and if they left on their own, the wouldn’t have to be “rounded up.” Here’s another quote from the review,

But the real impact of the show’s early episodes isn’t the outrage you may feel over the thuggish tactics. It’s the wearying, demoralizing depiction of a self-perpetuating bureaucracy, one that churns through the lives of people it takes little notice of — as if your trip to the D.M.V. meant not just standing in an endless line, but then being shackled and put on a plane to Central America.

The lives of illegal immigrants are not the concern of ICE—they are the responsibility of their own countries. “Self-perpetuating bureaucracy” is meaningless pejorative rhetoric: what perpetuates  ICE is the continued breaching of our borders, encouraged and enabled by people like Hale. and, incidentally, the late John Lewis.

7. Here’s a revealing article that will blow your mindThese Girls Are Leading Black Lives Matter Protests.

The Times interviews several self-involved, self-righteous, passionate and completely ignorant young women who demonstrate that they are motivated entirely by free-flowing emotion without any concern for reality. Of course, the Times reporter feeds their narcissism, never challenging their certitude. If you wonder why so much of the George Floyd Freakout looks like it was organized by children, here is your answer: it is. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Observations On A Tender, Obnoxious, Unethical Screed”

Bill Weir’s nauseating open letter to his newborn son River—GACK! ICK! BLECHHH! —- was so unethical in so many ways that I almost needed a ventilator to finish reading it. When I had finished posting on the monstrosity, I was awash with regret that I hadn’t the space nor the time to write the letter Weir should write, and was hopeful that one of the many acid-penned bards among the talented  commentariate here would take up the challenge. I was not disappointed.

Here is Steve-O-In-NJ’s Comment of the Day, one of his finest, on the post, “Observations On A Tender, Obnoxious, Unethical Screed”:

The article is utter garbage, written by someone untrained in science, but trained in making up stories. One day when River is grown up, assuming he makes it there and isn’t driven off the deep end by constant teasing, I hope he reads this article and asks him, just like Greta, “how dare you?” How dare you use my birth to push your own agenda and your employers’ agenda? How dare you plaster pictures of me as a newborn infant all over the internet where anyone can see them? How dare you reveal the circumstances of my conception to the world? I’m an individual. I am not an accessory to flash around like a new pair of sustainable dockers. I am not a prop for your causes. I am not an illustration to make a point next to pictures you cherry-picked to tell the story you wanted.

I’m not a half bad storyteller myself, and I’d tell quite a different story if a son were born to me. I always said if I had a son I’d name him Charles James, after my grandfather and father (ironically also now after two heroes of my own writing). So, if he were born, I’d say this: Continue reading

Observations On A Tender, Obnoxious, Unethical Screed

My original impulse was to post  this as an ethics quiz, with a heading like, “Is Bill Weir’s essay as bad as I think it is?”

Bill Weir is CNN’s climate correspondent. His wife just gave birth to a son, for which Ethics Alarms gives him a hardy congratulations and will wait for its metaphorical cigar. However, Weir chose to use this life event for an astoundingly long, self-indulgent, and in several ways unethical post on CNN’s site headlined, “To my son, born in the time of coronavirus and climate change.”

Read the thing, if you can stand it. Commenter Other Bill sent it to me with the query, “Is it ethical for this guy to have a child?” He was engaging in hyperbole, but the thrust of the question is valid. Here’s how the essay begins:

Against all odds you were conceived in a lighthouse, born during a pandemic and will taste just enough of Life as We Knew It to resent us when it’s gone. I’m sorry. I’m sorry we broke your sea and your sky and shortened the wings of the nightingale. I’m sorry that the Great Barrier Reef is no longer great, that we value Amazon more than the Amazon and that the waterfront neighborhood where you burble in my arms could be condemned by rising seas before you’re old enough for a mortgage.
The scent of your downy crown makes my heart explode. The curl in your Tic Tac toes fills me with enough love to power New York City.

Gack! I’m sorry, I have to take a break. Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: The U.S. Congress. Again

Actor Mark Ruffalo (he plays the Hulk in The Avengers  movies, but it wasn’t because of that role) was invited to testify before Congress last year on public policy involving  public health, chemistry, toxicology, and epidemiology. He has no expertise in these areas at all. The reason was that he starred in “Dark Waters,” which I wrote about here.

Ruffalo is a 9/11 truther, believing  that the U.S. government helped destroy the World Trade Center. That would be enough for me to ding him as an authority on anything, but he has embraced other conspiracy theories as well, like this one.

Never mind: he was presented to the public as an authority on pollution whose opinions on environmental matters have weight. The don’t, and they shouldn’t.

This is a repeat offense. Members of Congress are addicted to the unprofessional and insulting stunt of inviting actors and performers to testify as substantive witnesses on topics that they acted about in movies. As a professional director, I can state with absolute certainty that if an actor is really an expert in something their character was supposed to experience or know something about, 1) that actor is very unusual, and 2) there will still be thousands of real authorities who know a lot more.

Nevertheless, Congress keeps doing this, apparently believing that the public is so naive and gullible that they really believe that because a performer credibly pretends to know what a script-writer prepares to make them sound like the know, they really are experts. Sadly, a lot of the public does believe that. (More sadly, a lot of actors do too) Continue reading