Category Archives: History
Morning Ethics Round-Up, 8/16/18: Those Wacky Conways, And The Anti-Trump News Media Goes To The Dogs
1. A conspiracy theory about a conspiracy theory about conspiracy theorists...Last night, a CBS procedural that I am finally sick of, “Criminal Minds,” appeared to be taking sides in the Trump vs. the FBI wars, with a side-swipe at Alex Jones, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The episode set up a conflict between the Good FBI agents who are the stars of the show, and the crazy, paranoid, anti-government “Truthers” who see government law enforcement as sinister and manipulative. (There was special focus on the ridiculous Sandy Hook conspiracy theory, with one of the tough serial killer hunter breaking down in tears remembering the massacre.) The most vocal anti-FBI character in the episode, who sneered out her every line about the series heroes (bad direction, in my view), was revealed at the end as the “unsub,” the psychopathic killer.
For some reason this was the first time it occurred to me how much prime time network TV serves as a PR service for the FBI, with the virtue, bravery and unquestioned rectitude of the agency and its employees being central to multiple dramas. The propaganda is escalating too: Dick Wolf of “Law and Order” fame is launching a new CBS series called, creatively, “FBI.” You would think, would you not, that this would be an odd time to produce such a series, with the reputation and credibility of J.Edgar’s baby at an all-time, and most deserved, low. However, Hollywood and the entertainment industry now sees its role differently than seeking mere ratings.
There is nothing wrong with TV writers and producers bring their political agendas into our living rooms, and there’s not a thing we can do about it anyway, other than change channels. Rod Serling used to get awfully preachy sometimes on “The Twilight Zone.” This was mighty ham-handed pro-Peter Strzok advocacy, though by CBS, or at least it seemed that way to me.
2. Marital Ethics. This is weird. Ethics Alarms has discussed the unethical conduct of Kellyanne Conway’s husband George, who has become a popular “resistance” and #NeverTrump figure by tweeting virulent criticism of the President, who employs his wife. Now Kellyanne has escalated the problem with an interview criticizing her husband, telling a reporter that his sniping ” is disrespectful, it’s a violation of basic decency, certainly, if not marital vows.” Then, according to an AOL report, she asked that her comments be attributed to “a person familiar with their relationship.” The reporter, correctly, refused.
It is a breach of loyalty and respect for one spouse to criticize the other in the news media. It is cowardly and a breach of honesty to criticize one’s spouse and to try to remain unaccountable for it by pretending the critique came from someone else.
What a fun couple! What a strange couple. What an unethical couple… Continue reading
What time is it? I’ve lost track…
1. Keep being intentionally divisive, and eventually you’ll get division…I trace the irresponsible efforts to divide the nation and unravel the bonds of society to the 2000 election, and the false partisan claims that Bush’s was a “stolen Presidency.” Divisive rhetoric became an 8-year strategy of the Obama Administration, with blacks, Hispanics, illegal immigrants, Muslims, LGTB citizens and women being accorded special status as victims and groups in need of special consideration, while whites, men, straight citizens, wealthy citizens, Christians, and, naturally, conservatives and Republicans were consistently demonized and marginalized. Critics of the first black President were racists, critics of illegal immigration were xenophobes, critics of Hillary Clinton were sexist, and opponents of gay marriage were bigots. The resentment over this long-term and cynical strategy bore misshapen fruit in the election of Donald Trump, and now, says a Zogby Analytics survey, 39 percent of the country support states breaking away from the national government and country, with 42% of Democrats, who have continued to escalate the divisiveness by refusing to accept the election of President Trump as legitimate, leading the way.
This was where we were headed in 2000, and those who have been reading the Ethics Scoreboard and Ethics Alarms since then know I said so as forcibly as I knew how. Now we are at a point where one party’s leaders are calling for members of the opposing party’s administration to be harassed in public, an attitude that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.
In the latest example , Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited Houston last week and dines at two Mexican restaurants. The general manager of one of them posted on Facebook, “We had the honor to serve Mr. Jeff Sessions, Attorney General of the United States. Thank you for allowing us to serve you.” The post attracted such an angry reaction that it had to be taken down. [Pointer: Neil Dorr]
2. Of course! Why else would anyone not love Nancy Pelosi? The news media and its various pundits is deeply complicit in the unraveling of the bonds holding American together, as exemplified by the Washington Post’s jaw-dropping column claiming that Republican opposition to Democratic House leader Pelosi is entirely based on misogyny and sexism—you know, the same reasons I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton. Paul Waldman wrote,
“Can we stop treating this lie seriously once and for all? We all know what’s really going on. The Republican attack on Pelosi is about conservative identity politics, full stop. It’s partly the same kind of ugly misogyny that has driven conservatives for years, and that comes out whenever the prospect of a woman wielding genuine power rears its head. Women who display ambition are judged harshly, particularly by conservatives; it’s no accident that Bernie Sanders, whose policy ideas are much more opposed to conservatism than Pelosi’s, inspires nothing like the venomous loathing on the right that Pelosi and Hillary Clinton do.”
Comment Of The Day: Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/25/2018: “Thuggery, Double Standards And Hypocrisy…Actually, I Could Use This Title EVERY Morning”
Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/29/18: (Yes, #4 Should Be A Free-Standing Post, But I’m In A Hurry…)
I love “Onward Christian Soldiers,” of course, but this is my favorite Arthur Sullivan-composed hymn…
1. Reminding me of the basic unethical and cynical nature of state lotteries...A middle-aged African American woman sits outside of our local 7-11 pretty much all day, seven days a week. I’ve written about her before, most recently when she let the door slam in my face despite our family occasionally giving her food, cigarettes and a ten-dollar bill now and then. This morning she bought 40 dollars worth of lottery tickets.
And if she hit the jackpot, she’d be back sitting out front and begging for money in a year or less.
2. My Facebook. theory. You noticed, I’m sure, that Facebook took a 100 billion dollar hit to its paper value in less than 48 hours last week. It all could have been avoided by honesty, transparency, humility, avoidance of virtue-signaling, and fealty to free speech.
- Users should have been told, in automatic emails and in big, bold letters in disclaimers on the site, since too many of them are too dumb to figure it out, that anything they put on the free platform was fair game to be harvested, sliced, diced, used, sold, analyzed and exploited for any legal purpose, by any group, party, nation or organization, and if potential users didn’t like the terms, nobody was making them post.
- Facebook should have avoided pretenses of virtue. It provides a useful means of networking and communication as well as cost-free mini-blogs to people unwilling to maintain real ones. It does so to make money, not to make a better world…especially since social media arguably makes a worse one.
- It should have denied responsibility, in court if necessary, for “fake news” regardless of who created it. Any ad or “sponsored story” should have been so labelled, with Facebook’s position being “read and believe at your own risk. Check “facts” before you spread them around. It’s your responsibility, not ours.”
- Facebook should have had faith and belief in the freedom of expression and speech, and not attempted to censor “hate speech” or “fake news,” neither of which are subject to precise identification and analysis without the corrupting influence of bias. Indeed, Facebook was obligated to support the First Amendment, as a major cultural force.
- Facebook should have stayed apolitical. Instead, it joined the “resistance” freakout over Hillary Clinton’s loss, and signaled its virtue by agreeing with absurd and unsupported claims regarding the importance of fake and risible news stories on Hillary Clinton’s defeat.
Mark Zuckerberg is a classic example of a narrow, limited, juvenile savant whose one big idea gave him more power and influence than he was qualified to handle. Maybe losing all of that money will make him appropriately humble, but I doubt it. Such people almost never learn.
3. Is the U.S. State Department intentionally hassling trans women? This story makes a prima facie case that it is, and if that’s really what is going on, it is petty and wrong. It also is a classic Rashomon situation. Government bureaucracies are inherently inefficient, incompetent, and screwed up beyond all reason or toleration. (Oddly, progressives want more such agencies, with more employees. Go figure.) The story linked appears to show the system trying to make things difficult for a particular group, but the individual targeted only sees how she is being treated, so it appears like obvious discrimination. That, however, is a very subjective assessment.
A member of my family is in jail for a few months, and had been granted work-release privileges so he could continue his job and career. However, those in charge of the program were openly hostile to his efforts to complete the paperwork and arrangements. They kept changing the rules, increasing requirements, threatening him, and delaying the process. When he contacted his lawyer, he was told, “these people can do anything they want to, and get their satisfaction from boring, low-paying jobs by abusing people like you, meaning anyone who would normally be their equals or better, but who is now under their thumbs. You have no choice. Do what they want, or you will suffer. Simple as that.”
My jailed family member is white, male, educated, well-spoken and polite. Eventually, after he grovelled enough, everything was straightened out. “You know,” he said ,”It I were black, there is no way you could have convinced me that I wasn’t the victim of racism.”
It could be the same with the alleged trans discrimination in the passport system. When one of the alleged victims says, “Make no mistake, this was an intentional action by the State Department to withhold recognizing my gender,” she is being sincere and perhaps naive. It may have been an intentional action by low level State Department employees to be assholes because they could be. [Pointer: valkgrrl] Continue reading
“The U.S. economy had a blockbuster second quarter, with growth surging to a 4.1 percent pace the Commerce Department said Friday. That was nearly double the first quarter rate of 2.2 percent and the strongest pace in nearly four years. President Trump has been steadfastly claiming that his policies will catapult the U.S. economy into a much higher rate of growth — 4 percent over the next few years. That would be about double the growth rate in recent years. And it would almost certainly mean a big boost in the standard of living for many Americans, with higher wages and better public services as the government raked in more tax dollars from a booming economy.”
This isn’t from Fox News or Breitbart. It’s from NPR. (Sometimes even biased new sources have no choice but to just report the news.)
Stipulated: The anti-Trump deranged are now fully incapable of admitting that this President has done something right or that he is capable of doing something, anything, right. The New York Times already started pooh-poohing the positive report before it was released, with this story, Why Friday’s G.D.P. Number May Be a Size Too Big. (Hard copy headline: Get Ready For Sizzling Growth Data. Then Take a Deep Breath.)
Now I’m obligated to note that if President Obama’s stumbling, growth-restricting policies had produced a leap like this, no mainstream media news source would have offered anything but unrestrained praise, though Fox News might well have said, “Well it’s about damn time!”
OK, that’s out of the way.
How long does “the resistance” think it can get away with the intellectually dishonest, obviously unfair, self-indicting strategy of insisting on a parallel reality where double standards reign and no good news or welcome developments will ever, ever, prompt it to concede that the President was right, succeeded or improved the nation’s status? Indeed, why does it think it is getting away with that destructive, divisive and dishonest strategy now? Half the nation doesn’t trust the news media, meaning it cannot change anyone’s mind even when changing the minds is crucial. Democratic opposition to Trump appears to be personal rather than substantive, and it appears that way because it is.
The Ethics Alarms position, since it is an ethics blog (and yes, “The Ethics Alarms position” means MY position, Tim…) is that every single one of the reasons I wrote so many posts explicating them that led me to believe that Donald Trump should never be President stands. Every one. Nothing that he has done, and especially the manner in which he has done what he has done, alters my analysis in any way. However, he is President, so analyzing whether he should be is moot. Now the questions are…
- How well are his policies and initiatives working?
- What good are they doing for the country?
- What harm are they doing, or might they do, and how do we mitigate that?
- If there are long term benefits of his Presidency, what are they?
- If there are long term deficits, what are they, and and how do we mitigate them?
- How does the nation, the public and its institutions best ensure that the results of the President’s tenure on the nation and the culture are as beneficial as possible?
- What have I and other analysts been proven wrong about, and what does this mean for future analysis going forward?
None of these tasks can be done competently by anyone who is so soaked in hatred, partisan agendas and bias that they are determined to deny the President his wins and “I told you sos,” and there have been a surprising amount both. Nor is it helpful to be willfully blind to the President’s strengths when they become apparent, and some have become apparent.
For example, he cannot possibly be as stupid as I assumed in 2016, and had concluded many years before. President Trump is something else, and I’m not sure what the word for that something else is, or, I suppose, he’s the luckiest bastard who ever lived. I am relatively certain that in the grand cosmic scheme Donald Trump is what philosopher Isaiah Berlin, in his famous essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox” called a hedgehog, someone who, in words of the Greek poet Archilochus, “knows one big thing” as opposed to a fox, which knows many things. The thrust of the essay (and a later book) is that a lesson of history is that the hedgehogs tend to win out over the foxes.
Now I just have to figure out what the one big thing Donald Trump knows is. Based on the evidence so far, it is worth knowing.
Pointer: Ann Althouse