We have come to quite a disturbing point in our political culture when an elected official can be designated an Ethics Alarms Ethics Hero for doing nothing more than telling the truth. Yet here we are.
The House Majority Whip wasn’t revealing any great secret, just telling the truth about what Joe Biden and so many other Democrats have been lying about—well, one of the the matters they have been lying about. Asked on MSNBC about the inflation affecting typical citizens that they feel might be caused by Democrats spending like there is no tomorrow, Rep. Clyburn answered, “Well, let me make it very clear. All of us are concerned about these rising costs, and all of us knew this would be the case when we put in place this recovery program. Any time you put more money into the economy, prices tend to rise.”
Oh. So it wasn’t the pandemic, or Trump, or Putin as the President and his paid liar, Karine Jean-Pierre, have been saying for months, or “unanticipated and large shocks to the economy” as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen claimed in June. It was all the spending by Democrats, like the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Biden signed in March, that sent prices soaring, and Democratic leadership knew it would do exactly that. And I guess they weren’t too concerned, since they went ahead with the huge spending bill anyway, even though the Administration was already exploding the National Debt.
Well, thanks for the candor, Congressman. We knew this anyway, but its refreshing to hear one of those most responsible admit it.
The push to cancel student loan debt is another example of the Left embracing a terrible, foolish, indefensibly unethical policy for no better reason than hope that it will allow them it to gain political power. Word around Washington is that President Biden is “seriously considering” canceling up to $50,000 in student debt for all. Translation: Biden’s puppeteers/handlers/advisers are probably trying to get him to do it, insane and irresponsible as it may be, but Joe may be inclined to do it on his own, because 1) he’s just not very bright; 2) he’s not very bright and his cognitive functions have been deteriorating in front of the whole nation; and 3) he never had any integrity anyway.
The late Rush Limbaugh, commenting on Mitt Romney’s loss to Barack Obama in 2012, lamented that “You can’t beat free stuff!” He said that Democrats were always willing to buy votes by promising to pay for more or making “the rich” or private business do so, from living wages for jobs not worth them, to national health, to free college degrees and more. Tilting the U.S. to socialism and a “nanny state”? If that’s what it takes to win, sure! Turning the national debt into a ticking time bomb that future generations will have to suffer for? Why not? Student loan forgiveness is as good an example of Rush’s point as I can imagine.
This will be an interesting test of the gullibility and brain mass of the American public. Faced with epic inflation greatly worsened by the Democrat’s wild spending sprees, incompetent handling of supply chain disruptions, and virtue-signaling suppression of oil production that cannot possibly have any ameliorating effects on global climate change whatsoever, the Donkey High Command has apparently decided on a carpet-bombing “Jumbo” strategy: “Inflation? What inflation?”
We have discussed already the “Putin price hike” mantra Jen Psaki keeps repeating. Last week, I saw a White House release admitting the inflation explosion but noting that if you took out food and gas prices, the rate of inflation increase had declined thanks to deft Biden policies. This, of course, brought back memories of former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry’s immortal statement that if you didn’t include all the murders, D.C. crime rate was actually pretty good! Nancy Pelosi, Psaki and Biden have all distorted the meaning of a letter from a group of acclaimed economists endorsing the trillion dollar infrastructure bill to falsely claim that they said spending all that money would reduce inflation, so, SEE? It’s can’t be Biden’s fault! (The letter actually said, correctly, that repairing and upgrading the infrastructure would make commerce more efficient and less costly in the long-term. As the Washington Post confirmed, they were not making any statement about current inflation.)
Last week we learned that the Biden new military budget assumes only 2% inflation, meaning that its numbers are fictional.
We have to keep baseball ethics alive even if baseball itself is in a state of suspension: the owner and players are, for the first time in decades, arguing about how to divide up their billions, everything from roster size to minimum salaries are on the table, and as of now, the two sides aren’t even talking with the season just a couple of months away. One of the issues to be settled is whether the National League will finally capitulate and adopt the designated hitter rule, which was accepted in the American League on this date in 1973, a day which many traditionalist fans then and now regard as an unforgivable scar on the integrity of the game. Baseball has always been celebrated for its equity and balance: as it was envisioned, every player on the field had to both hit and play defense. The DH, which is a batter who never uses a glove, also allowed the pitcher to be a defense-only specialist, never picking up a bat which, advocates of the new rule argued, was a result much to be wished, since the vast majority of hurlers are only slightly better at hitting the ball than your fat old uncle Curt who played semi-pro ball in his twenties. All these decades years later, the National League and its fans have stubbornly maintained that the DH was a vile, utilitarian gimmick spurred by non-ethical considerations, mainly greed. When the rule was adopted, American League attendance lagged behind the NL, which also was winning most of the All Star games, in part because that league had embraced black stars far more rapidly than “the junior league.” The DH, the theory went, would make games more exciting, with more offense, while eliminating all the .168 batters in the ninth spot in every line-up.
I had a letter published in Sports Illustrated in 1973 explaining why I opposed the DH as a Boston Red Sox fan. Since then, I have grudgingly come to accept the benefits of the rule: it gave the Sox David Ortiz, allowed Carl Yastrzemski to play a few more years, and let American League fans see such all-time greats as Hank Aaron at the plate after they could no longer play the field. It was a breach of the game’s integrity, but it worked.
1. At least that’s fixed. The Supreme Court issued a corrected transcript of the oral arguments in the Biden vaccine mandate case, and it now accurately records Justice Gorsuch as saying he believes the seasonal flu kills “hundreds…thousands of people every year.” The original version wrongly quoted him as saying hundreds of thousands, which allowed those desperately trying to defend the outrageously wrong assertions by Justice Sotomayor regarding the Wuhan virus to point to Gorsuch and claim, “See? Conservatives are just as bad!” Prime among these was the steadily deteriorating Elie Mystal at “The Nation,” who, typically for him, refused to accept the correction. Sotomayor is one of the all-time worst Supreme Court justices, though she will be valuable as a constant reminder of the perils of affirmative action. Her jurisprudence makes the much maligned Clarence Thomas look like Louis Brandeis by comparison. Continue reading →
Singer Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose on October 4, 1970. The anniversary prompts me to make an unkind observation that I was tempted to make after reading all of the tributes and expansive rhetoric praising “The Wire” actor Michael K. Williams after he died of an overdose of fentanyl and heroin on September 6. For at least a hundred years, anyone who takes heroin does so knowing that it is addictive and frequently fatal. My attitude toward Joplin, Williams, John Belushi, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Billy Holliday, and many other artists who have killed themselves this way involves more anger than sympathy. The world was robbed of their gifts because they were reckless. In the case of black artists, they endanger their admirers by creating a romantic aura for what is, in the final analysis, stupid and irresponsible conduct. How hard can it be not to start using an addictive substance that you know might kill you? The fact that the drug is illegal should be a big clue.
1. And speaking of the joys of recreational drugs...In a new study published in Psychological Medicine, researchers in the University of Birmingham’s Institute for Mental Health and the Institute of Applied Health Research found a strong link between “general practice recorded cannabis use” and mental ill health. Senior author Dr. Clara Humpston said: “Cannabis is often considered to be one of the ‘safer’ drugs and has also shown promise in medical therapies, leading to calls for it be legalized globally. Although we are unable to establish a direct causal relationship, our findings suggest we should continue to exercise caution since the notion of cannabis being a safe drug may well be mistaken.”
Continue to exercise caution? Who’s exercising caution? Popular culture and upper-middle class whites have been issuing pro-pot propaganda for half a century, while mocking government efforts to discourage widespread use and acceptance of another destructive recreational drug. Now nearly every state is on a path to legalize it, especially because they smell tax revenue.
The big legal ethics story of the day is a Wall Street Journal report showing that 131 federal judges, appointed by nearly every President from Lyndon Johnson to Donald Trump, have violated federal law by failing to recuse themselves in cases where either they or family members held a financial interest in one of the parties, meaning that the judge’s decision could have resulted in a direct or indirect benefit. This is, of course, a conflict of interest. Even if the judge was as trustworthy as a saint and would never dream of allowing such a conflict to interfere with his or her judgment, allowing these cases to appear before them violates the judicial ethics canon requiring judges to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
The Wall Street Journal report found that the judges failed to recuse themselves from 685 court cases since 2010. About two-thirds of all federal district judges had holdings of individual stocks, about one of every five of these heard at least one case involving those stocks without withdrawing. When these judges participated in such cases, about two-thirds of their rulings on motions favored the party that their or their family’s financial interests would benefit from prevailing.
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.
Is our entire system ‘rigged’? Look at the feedback loop the Fed is currently in:
A. “We don’t have inflation because inflation would cause the government to collapse under the interest of $30 trillion in debt.” B. “We have inflation due to unrestrained printing of money, so foreign government dump Treasury bonds that pay little interest and are being devalued by inflation.” C. Interest on the Treasury bonds increase to attract customers. D. This can’t happen, so the Fed declares there is no inflation, prints a lot of new money to buy the bonds off the market to make the bond more valuable (because there are fewer of them). E, This still isn’t enough and only half the bonds are purchased. F. The fed prints more money to buy the bonds that didn’t sell to keep interest rates from increasing due to inflation from printing…
Return to A... Certainly looks rigged. Cue hyperinflation!
Guest Post by Andrew Nelson and Rich in Ct, with a note by Humble Talent
[I would say that finance is among my worst topics along with soccer and calculus. My request for clarification on the current GameStop controversy and its ethics implications attracted helpful responses, and I am combining them into one collaborative post. First, Andrew:]
Gamestop, a publicly traded company, was seen as undervalued by some users of an internet forum, in this case, a reddit forum called r/wallstreetbets. That same stock was seen as on the brink of collapse by a hedge fund management group, Melvin Capital, who decided to short sell….
Here Humble Talent clarifies:
A short sell is when someone, usually a broker, is holding stock in a company they think is overvalued. They owe their client X number of shares, regardless of the price. So if you have 100 shares of Game Stop stock at $4, and you think it’s going to $2, you sell at $4 and then rebuy the stock at $2, pocketing the difference and letting your client swallow the loss. It’s a loss they would have swallowed one way or the other, so they’re not really hurt, per se. Basically, you’re betting that a stock will go down in value. If the stock instead increases in value, you lose the difference. I think it breaks a fundamental fiduciary duty and should be illegal, but it’s where we are.
So what happened here was that a lot of people thought Game Stop was overvalued, it was listed at approximately what I said it was, between $3 and $4 per share. Short sellers were banking on it decreasing in value, so they sold all their client’s shares. Now that there’s been a ridiculous noise buy on these stocks, and they’ve *increased* in value 1000% (real number) instead of decreasing 50% (expectation) the firms that short sold the stock are going to have to find stock to buy to make their client’s portfolios whole. Which means that they will have to buy thousands of shares back at $400 when they sold them at $4, instead of $2, which they expected to. That 2000% difference over all those shares represents tens of millions of dollars, just on the Game Stop shares.
Basically, a bunch of unethical portfolio managers got their paws slammed hard in the cookie jars of their client’s portfolios, and it’s magnificent.
….Whether through intent or accident, these two groups converged on Gamestop at roughly the same time.Regardless of original intent, the users of the reddit forum got more and more people to buy into that stock, causing the price per share to inflate drastically. It’s sitting at over $400 per share when I last checked. A similar situation is happening with AMC stock, though with less drastic inflation.
[I realized…I’m a little slow sometimes…that it was silly to call outstanding posts on Ethics Alarms Open Forums “comments” when they are, in fact, stand alone essays. With this example by Michael West, Ethics Alarms will, when appropriate, designate such commentary as guest posts. That will not mean that my answer to all of the people who tell me they love Ethics Alarms and want to contribute with product promotions or articles on haberdashery, insect larvae or cosmetics will be changing. It’s still NO. JM]
This will be a tough nut to crack. We’re heavily “interdependent” with them economically (but we don’t have to be). We’re becoming direct competitors in the eastern Pacific.
From an “all nations are equal” point of view America has the distinct positional advantage. We have allies ringing the Chinese periphery on one side. As frontiers are described, nations prefer a “peripheral zone” around their “cultural core” before the nation even reaches the “fringe” or the “frontier”.
For the vast majority of American history, the core was the “Boston-Washington corridor”, with the periphery being the “North” +West Coast and the “fringe” being “the South and the West Coast” and the frontier being “the Southwest” and Alaska + Hawaii, with outposts in the wide ranging Pacific. America has been “comfortable”.
China…with landmasses in it’s ideal “peripheral zone” being oriented towards the United States: Japan and Taiwan, and several being neutral but more inclined to the USA, such as Vietnam….and with landmasses in it’s “fringe and frontier”, such as Indonesia and Singapore, being oriented towards the United States, has never enjoyed the “comfort” that the USA has felt.
But that’s okay…because all things are not “being equal”. I don’t care that a Communist country that inflicts as much pain on it’s landed periphery and fringe- Tibet and Western China- that it would love to inflict on its Pacific periphery. They are the Bad Guys.