Ethics Hero: Michael Shellenberger

Michael Shellenberger was a Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment,” and he was and is the founder and president of Environmental Progress. Now he has a  best-selling  book, Apocalypse Never, published at the end of last month. I haven’t read it, and I wouldn’t have the expertise to know whether it was right or wrong. It could be that he is violently rejecting the official climate change hysterics line to fill a profitable contrarian niche, though that would be out of character based on his reputation. It may just be that he is telling the truth, and exposing what was, or should have been, pretty evident for a long time. As he puts it his article,

On behalf of environmentalists everywhere, I would like to formally apologize for the climate scare we created over the last 30 years. Climate change is happening, it’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem. I have been a climate activist for 20 years and an environmentalist for 30, so I may seem like a strange person to be saying this.

But as an energy expert asked by the US Congress to provide objective expert testimony and invited by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to serve as an Expert Reviewer of its next Assessment Report, I feel an obligation to apologize for how badly we environmentalists have misled the public.

Well, we knew that, didn’t we? The usual people denied it, but was so, so obvious that from Al Gore on, this was science weaponized for political and partisan purposes, by scientists seeking grants and peer approval. One doomsday prediction after another came and went, one model after another failed, and yet the refrain persisted. Climate scientists who were tempted to break ranks were intmidated: as galileo demonstarted, it is not a field often distinguished by courage and sacrifice. Shellenberger writes,

“[U]ntil last year, I mostly avoided speaking out against the climate scare. Partly because I was embarrassed. After all, I am as guilty of alarmism as any other environmentalist. For years, I referred to climate change as an ‘existential’ threat to human civilization and called it a ‘crisis.’ But mostly, I was scared. I remained quiet about the climate disinformation campaign because I was afraid of losing friends and funding. The few times I summoned the courage to defend climate science from those who misrepresent it I suffered harsh consequences. And so I mostly stood by and did next to nothing as my fellow environmentalists terrified the public.”

The cancel culture is after Shellenberger even as I write this, for he’s perceived as a traitor.  Forbes, which initially published his mea culpa, pulled it down after being bombarded with social media protests, then gave no substantive explanation for why. Well, they really didn’t have to, I suppose.

Shellenberger lists “some facts few people know,” such as,

  • Humans are not causing a ‘sixth mass extinction’
  • The Amazon is not ‘the lungs of the world’
  • Climate change is not definitively making natural disasters worse
  • Fires have declined 25% around the world since 2003
  • The amount of land we use for meat — humankind’s biggest use of land — has declined by an area nearly as large as Alaska
  • Carbon emissions are declining in most rich nations and have declined in Britain, Germany, and France from the mid-1970s
  • Netherlands is becoming richer, not poorer while adapting to life below sea level
  • We produce 25 per cent more food than we need and food surpluses will continue to rise as the world gets hotter

…and more, then later lists some of the conclusions from his book, among them:

  • Factories and modern farming are key to human liberation and environmental progress
  • The most important thing for saving the environment is producing more food, particularly meat, on less land
  • The most important thing for reducing air pollution and carbon emissions is moving from wood to coal to petroleum to natural gas to uranium
  • 100 per cent renewables would require increasing the land used for energy from today’s 0.5 pc to 50 pc
  • ‘Free-range’ beef would require 20 times more land and produce 300 pc more emissions

…and he asks, “Why were we so misled?”

We know the answer to that, too.

Ethics Hero: Fox Sports 1’s Marcellus Wiley

Well, here’s one ex-NFL player who doesn’t have brain damage.

Marcellus Wiley is a sports commentator for Fox Sports. On his show “Speak for Yourself,” Wiley made the rational and ethical argument against pandering to Black Lives Matter. Like me, and unlike virtually every virtue-signaling corporation and groveling politician, Wiley, a Columbia grad, actually read the group’s mission statement.

What a concept! All of your friends and Facebook followers, all of the Democrats and artists, all of the academics and university administrators, all of those who are publicly pledging fealty to an organization they know little about because its name is a catchy slogan (though a subversive one, like “It’s okay to be white”) ought to be held accountable when the fog clears. I want to hear Joe Biden explain how he supports the goals of Black Lives Matter as the group states them. “Oh, not that,” he’ll say. “Oh, of course not that one either.” If you support an organization, you support its mission, all of it. You are accountable for what the organization does if the power you help it acquire is used to accomplish what the group said it intended to accomplish. Continue reading

What A Difference A Month Makes: Re-Watching “Trumbo”

It was only in May that I had a quick note in a morning warm-up declaring the 2015 film “Trumbo” an ethics movie. That it is, but subsequent developments have made me realize it is much more, including frightening.

The film, starring Brian Cranston as the most famous member of the “Hollywood Ten,” now is a glass of ice water recieved full in the face, shocking viewers into the realization that the George Floyd Freakout is the catalyst for a second wave of McCarthyism. This one varies from the first in that the current version is being fueled by the Left rather than conservatives, and that it is far more violent, and potentially more dangerous.

After watching the film again and reviewing the history, for “Trumbo” is easily the best film about the blacklist, there is no question in my mind that this is true. Previously, I regarded the use of “McCarthyism” as a useful if over-used metaphor, like “witch-hunt.” (“McCarthyism” usually refers to the oppression and intimidation of the entire “Red Scare” period, including the blacklist, which was Fifties for “cancelled.” The “Hollywood Ten” were victims of the fascist House Un-American Activities  Committee, which was separate from the vicious Wisconsin GOP Senator, but “House Un-American Activities  Committee-ism” doesn’t roll off the tongue well.) Now it is evident that we are witnessing  in the United States  a mutated clone of what occurred across the country in the beginning of the 1950’s, with “racist” the current label being used to bully, silence, and ruin careers and lives, rather than “Communist.” Continue reading

Wednesday Ethics Jolts, 6/17/2020: I Think We Have Our Answer To Question 13….

Look out!

It’s Wednesday, Wednesday got me thinking about the Wednesday Addams, which got me thinking about Charles Addams, which reminded me of that Addams cartoon…

Yes, this is how my mind works, as if you didn’t know…

1. “You know: literate morons.” The National Book Critics Circle (NBCC), of all people, decided to give us an example of where the George Floyd Freakout can lead. The president of the NBCC drafted the obligatory institutional pander affirming Black Lives Matter and circulated it to the board for its approval. One contrarian and sane board member, a board president named Carlin Romano, said he disagreed with much of the letter, didn’t want to “distract the great majority of the Board from its mission,” but couldn’t resist explicating his objections, including describing the systemic racism premise as “absolute nonsense.” He did not, he wrote, believe that the publishing business operated with “the full benefits of white supremacy and institutional racism” and that “white gatekeeping had been working to stifle black voices at every level of our industry.” Such claims, he wrote, amounted to “calumnies on multiple generations of white publishers and editors” who had fought to publish authors of color. “I resent the idea that whites in the book publishing and literary world are an oppositional force that needs to be assigned to reeducation camps.”

In her reply,the current president told Romano that she’d always appreciate his perspective. It “shines unlike anyone else’s,” she wrote, adding, “your objections are all valid, of course.”

As a result of her respectful acceptance of a reasoned dissent, more than half of the 24-member board of NBCC  resigned, including, of course, all of its non-white members. The president resigned too. Romano has not. In response to another member’s accusation that his criticism had displayed ” racism and anti-blackness,” he countered, “It did nothing of the sort. I’m not racist and I’m not anti-black. Quite the contrary. I just don’t check my mind at the door when people used to operating in echo chambers make false claims.”

Ethics Hero.

2.  Pandering BLM Groveler of the Year? I’m pretty sure nobody will be able to top NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. After dismissing Colin Kaepernick and his fellow NFL kneelers as a distraction to the game and an annoyance to fans, he is now not only encouraging the players to demonstrate on the field for “racial justice,”—if he thinks such workplace stunts will stop with mere kneeling, he really is a dolt—he is now encouraging NFL teams to sign Kaepernick, who hasn’t played  for three years. He hasn’t been signed because the distractions his political grandstanding carried with him couldn’t begin to be justified by his declining quarterbacking skills, and that’s the case now more than ever. Does Goodell really think capitulating to the mob will keep him and his league safe? Is someone holding his family at gunpoint somewhere, or is he really this ignorant?

3. Wait, why haven’t I read all of this before? On Medium, Gavrillo David argues that there may be enough evidence to insulate Derek Chauvin from a murder conviction. he cites six facts in support of his theory: Continue reading

Ethics Hero Emeritus: Virginia Hall (1906-1982), “The Limping Lady”

World War II continues to be the richest source of forgotten or obscure ethics heroes, and no figure fits that description better than American super-spy Virginia Hall.

Only in the last few years, as newly intense focus has been placed on  women’s contributions to society and history, has Hall’s story come out of the shadows: three books about Hall have been published, and  two movies are awaiting release, one to be streamed on Netflix. In Hall’s case, her anonymity was substantially her own doing. She had no interest in fame or accolades, and decisively rejected them. Hill left no memoirs, granted no interviews, and spoke rarely about her exploits, even to her family.

She was born into a wealthy and privileged Baltimore clan that assumed its daughter would follow the well-trod path of a debutante and eventually the wife of an appropriate young man from her own class. But Virginia was different, “capricious and cantankerous” in her own words.  She liked guns and adventure. She once went to school wearing a bracelet made of live snakes, just to shake up her teachers and class mates.

Hall attended Radcliffe and Barnard, then went abroad to study in Paris. She wanted to be a diplomat or even an ambassador, but received no support from the State Department. There were only six women among the 1,500 U.S. diplomats at the time, so she settled for a clerical job at a U.S. consulate in Turkey. While hunting birds in her spare time, she accidentally shot herself in the foot, and gangrene set in. Her left leg was amputated below the knee. Hall named the wooden leg that became her constant companion thereafter “Cuthbert.”

In 1937, she again applied to the Department of State to enter the diplomatic corps , this time being turned down because of a rule against hiring people with disabilities as diplomats, an especially odd restriction for a nation led by a disabled President. She quit her job as a consular clerk two years later, and at 34, joined the war effort before America did, becoming an ambulance driver in France in 1940. When France was invaded by the German army, Hall fled to Great Britain.  By purest chance she came in contact with a representative of British intelligence. Hill offered her services to the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), which trained her in weapons, communications, security, and resistance activities.

So it was that an American woman with a wooden leg  became one of the first British spies sent into Nazi-occupied France in 1941, posing as a reporter for the New York Post.

Primarily working out of Lyon, Hall organized agent networks and recruited French men and women to run safe houses, all while evading the Gestapo, which called her “The Limping Lady.” She became a master of disguise, often changing her appearance several times in a day and managing to become invisible despite the impediment of “Cuthbert.” She even had her nice, straight, American teeth ground down so she could pass as an elderly peasant woman, which was a favorite false identity. Continue reading

Let’s See If Professor Loury Gets Cancelled For This…

We noted Brown Prof. Glenn Loury last week when he protested Brown’s pandering message of support for the protests/riots for containing no actual content, just unsupported generalities, much like the annoying virtue-signaling PR posts you are seeing from the marketing departments of BestBuy, PetSmart, and the NFL. (Aside: EA has received enough submissions of such grovels to do its promised awards, once I have the time to sift through them.) Now he is interviewed in the City-Journal, and stating what I think is the most inconvenient truth of them all regarding the George Floyd Freakout. Fortunately he’s an African American, so nobody will try to call him a racist. (There is a lively debate about whether Brown will be pressured to fire him, however, since we are in a “no dissenting from the mob” free speech lockdown.)

It is fair to assume that his well-reasoned position won’t get any publicity outside of conservative news sources, and that he won’t be given a chance to be on a CNN panel where he would be likely to demonstrate that his debating Don Lemon or Chris Cuomo is like me debating an avocado.

Read the whole interview, please, but Loury says in part, Continue reading

Ethics Hero: “Harry Potter” Author J.K. Rowling

The issue is not Rowling’s controversial opinions regarding transgender individuals. For the record, they are not exactly congruent with my own, which is that once an individual has transitioned physically to another gender, we should respect that new identity. I do not believe, and will never believe, that individuals can change their gender by just saying so, or that the government should make laws that enforce that fiction. No matter what “The Crying Game” told us, people with male sex organs (I am not talking about anomalous intersex individuals whose physical sexuality is ambiguous) have to be officially male for public policy purposes.

None of which is relevant to why J.K Rowling is an Ethics Hero. Rowling, who is more active on social media than is wise, used Twitter to question  an article’s use of the phrase “people who menstruate” instead of saying “women.” “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased,” she wrote. Predictably, trans activists and much of the “woke” establishment now want Rowling “cancelled.” The LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD called her tweets “anti-trans”—this is the gender wars equivalent of calling anyone who criticizes Black Lives Matter “racist”— and wrote: “JK Rowling continues to align herself with an ideology which willfully distorts facts about gender identity and people who are trans. In 2020, there is no excuse for targeting trans people.”

Rowling did not “target” anyone. She disagreed with the use of a clumsy and misleading term for “women.” Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Senator Rand Paul

I am not a Rand Paul aficionado, but Congress and the government would be far, far better off if more elected officials possessed his integrity and courage.

Currently he is being attacked, as those with integrity and courage often are, for objecting to the text of a piece of pure legislative grandstanding called the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, which would make lynching a federal crime. “You think I take joy in being here?” Paul said. “I will be excoriated by simple minded people on the internet who think somehow I don’t like Emmet Till or appreciate the history or memory of Emmett Till.”

Indeed he has been, but Paul’s point is unassailable:  there hasn’t been a lynching in this country in more than 50 years, so the bill has approximately the same urgency as the Albert Packer Anti-Cannibalism Act, or a law making slave-hunting a federal crime. Most Senators, indeed all of them except Paul, seem to be willing to pass by unanimous consent this bill designed to further pander to the George Floyd demonstrators/rioters/looters, perhaps because some commentators and activists in their enthusiasm called Floyd’s death a “lynching.” Justice Thomas, as I recall, also called the effort to smear him and block his ascent to the Supreme Court by producing pre-#MeToo accuser Anita Hill a “high tech lynching.” But neither were lynchings; as Lincoln observed, calling a dog’s tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.

Among his many objections to the bill, Paul pointed out that nearly none of his colleagues have read it, that it was sloppily written, and that too many laws get passed this way. “Someone has to read these bills and make sure they do what they say they’re going to do rather than it be just a big PR effort,” he said.

I can vouch for that: I read the bill, it is incomprehensible, and it’s primarily a  mea culpa for Jim Crow pretending to be a bill. It  goes on and on about the history of lynching and how it once was a terrible problem, but never suggests that anyone is still being lynched, because no one is.  Never mind: the anti-lynching law, we discover when we get to the very end, will apply to any “hate crime” in which an individual is harmed by police out of racial animus. It is, in fact, an entire law embodying the hot rationalization of recent weeks, #64, Yoo’s Rationalization, or “It isn’t what it is.” Continue reading

Ethics Alarms 2020 Election Update: Nearing A Tipping Point, Part 1

Less than a month ago, I wrote this post, explaining why, despite the near complete ethical bankruptcy of and rejection of democratic values by the Democratic Party and its allies, I would nonetheless refuse to vote for President Donald J. Trump in November. I wrote,

Absent my professional and public assessments as a professional ethicist, I would have no difficulty at all in officially concluding that Donald Trump is the preferable, indeed essential, choice to lead the country in the next four years when the alternative is a party that has revealed the corruption and antagonism toward American ideals as has the Democratic Party. But President Trump, as I pointed out repeatedly in 2015 and 2016, is the antithesis of the kind of leader my knowledge and expertise  indicates should ever be placed in a leadership position of any kind, or in a position of power and trust.

For me to vote for such an individual would render my credibility in my profession, and what is more important, my personal and professional integrity, void.

An ethicist cannot, in my view, support or vote for Donald Trump as President, nor can an ethicist, at least this ethicist, have any position but the rejection of the current iteration of the Democratic party as antithetical to American values.

I have not reached the point of reversing myself on this crucial decision for me personally, professionally, and as an American. Not yet. I feel, however, that the time may be approaching where my case of ethics zugswang cannot be honestly addressed by refusing to take a side. This week, in particular, has forced me to consider that a tipping point may be at hand.

As I have written before, whatever cosmic script-writer came up with the harebrained idea that someone as personally repellent and ethically inert as Donald Trump should be thrust into the position of being this great nation’s crucial last defense against the rising totalitarianism and fascism of the left is a sadist with a sick sense of humor. It is increasingly difficult to deny, however, that this is the ethical conflict that America finds itself in. At the point, fast approaching, when I have to confront the conclusion that defeating the Democrat/”resistance”/ mainstream media collective is the only way to ensure that the United States and its values remain viable and intact, refraining from making a noxious choice will no longer be an option.

Three stories today accelerated the likelihood of my having to face that tipping point:

I. Writing at the Washington Post, staff cultural reporter Alyssa Rosenberg argued that the networks should cancel all the cop shows on television. You can read the thing here; if I have to explain what is frightening about her argument, then you are already too far gone to be cured. This, it is increasingly clear to me, is the agreed-upon modus operandi  of the American Left. Since they cannot advance their agenda by logic, arguments, civic debate and persuasion, they will accomplish it by intimidation, mind control, indoctrination, and censorship. We must like what they like, hate whom the hate, and believe what they believe, and every aspect of the culture, including entertainment, must advance that objective.

This is, of course, how Orwellian cultures operate, and we have witnessed a steady and barely opposed drift toward this as the preferred path to power by the Democratic Party.  Rosenberg believes that citizens should not be allowed to see TV programs that don’t comport with the Left’s now mandatory view that police must be regarded as racist villains and law enforcement be  seen as a malign force. The Post op-ed follows on the heels of the New York Times capitulating to its “woke” staff’s demand that non-conforming (to the Times’ world view) opinion pieces be rejected for publication. The news media’s activist agenda is out of the shadows and indisputable. Continue reading

Ethics Alarms 2020 Election Update: Nearing A Tipping Point, Part 2

The first two stories pushing me to a tipping point are discussed in Part 1, here.

This is the third.

3. Brown University issued embarrassingly rote agitprop in support of the George Floyd protests, and Brown Professor of Social Sciences and Economics  Glen Loury, an African American, searingly called them on it.  The letter is a template for the indoctrination virtually all students now receive at elite institutions of higher learning; it could have issued from any one of a thousand schools. Like Twinkies or Lucky Charms cereal, the letter is devoid of nutrition, though of the intellectual variety. Loury published a rebuttal. He’s an ethics hero. Here is Loury’s letter: Continue reading