Reparations Again.

Almost all of the Democratic Presidential wannabes are claiming that they support reparations for slavery. This is signature significance for shameless pandering and dishonesty, of course, and pretty redolent, in my assessment, of buying black votes. There are many, many things coming out of the mouths of the various demagogues, empty suits and crypto-socialists aspiring to unseat Donald Trump that are impossible–banning combustion engines, free college for all, ending the Electoral College, and many more—but reparations is a special species of fantasy, wrong in every way.

I have been periodically reading scholarly and not so scholarly debates about the feasibility  and justification for reparations for decades, and I have come to see this as less of a policy debate than a confession of defeat. Of course, every year that the timeline retreats from the end of slavery, the more logically untenable the mass hand-out of massive amounts of money that the nation cannot afford  to the descendants of slaves becomes. Ethically it was always untenable, and guaranteed, if such an irresponsible thing actually happened, to exacerbate racial divisions while creating endless demands for similar programs to benefit other groups, especially Native Americans. And why shouldn’t women receive reparations for all those centuries of forced labor and childbearing without civil rights, if the United States is going into the retroactive damages business?

Polling is a bad way to conduct a nation’s business, but sometimes the public can detect a true stinker when it sees one:. Reparations are unpopular with about 80% of the population, and I sense that even progressives just pretend to tolerate politicians who blather on about it because they know it’s all for show, and designed to harvest naive votes for more practical crazy leftist proposals.

Many of these proposals involve trying to somehow solve the gaps between black and white success and achievement in America, and mostly consist of rigging the system in various ways, especially now that Affirmative Action’s days are numbered, (and didn’t work that well anyway). Are a disproportionate number of blacks getting tossed out of school? Stop holding blacks to disciplinary standards—better yet, stop holding any students to disciplinary standards. Bad test scores making it more difficult to justify discriminating against Asian-Americans with better test scores? Eliminate testing as part of the college admission process!  Are too many African-Americans incarcerated? Legalize as many of the crimes as possible, and then  stop sending non-violent law-breakers to prison. These and other measures are no more fair of logical than reparations, just cheaper and easier to con or guilt Americans into accepting.

Back in March of 2016, I temporarily lost my mind in the wake of our first black President’s utter failure to address our race problems, despite his soaring rhetoric.  Charts from the Brookings Institution’s Social Mobility Memos blog were posted to the web, and starkly indicated that the  apparently intractable problems of American blacks that I studied in college had failed to improve in 50 years. I wrote this post, in which I  concluded, after a number of depressing observations, Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/5/ 2019: An Intersex Revolutionary War Hero! An Unethical Feminist Trailblazer!

Good Morning!

Well, it was nice while it lasted. Thanks to prurient interest in a minor “Naked Teacher Principal” post, traffic on Ethics Alarms this week resembled those heady days of 2016, before ultra-Trump polarization, liberal commenter cowardice and Facebook’s ban took over. Incidentally, despite many thousand of “clicks,” the post in question didn’t get a single comment from the first-time visitors, meaning that said clicks were meaningless and useless.

1. About “Ma” Fergusen. As promised yesterday in my note about “The Highwaymen”, here is the “Ma” Fergusen saga, which is an ethics feast, though not a tasty one. (Source: Texas Politics)

Miriam Amanda Wallace (“Ma”) Ferguson (1875-1961), was the first woman governor of Texas. She served as the first lady of Texas during the gubernatorial terms of her husband James Edward Ferguson,  who was impeached during his second administration for extensive corruption. When James  failed to get his name on the ballot in 1924, Miriam entered the race for the Texas governorship, promising that if elected she would essentially be guided by her husband and that Texas thus would gain “two governors for the price of one.” She defeated the Republican nominee, George C. Butte, and was inaugurated fifteen days after Wyoming’s Nellie Ross, Miriam Ferguson became the second woman governor in United States history. Thus “Ma” helped set the precedent for future examples of wives being elected (irresponsibly) to offices they were not qualified for as substitutes for their husbands. “Ma” wasn’t the feminist pioneer she has sometimes been represented as. She was the opposite–you know, like Hillary Clinton.

Ma Ferguson (the “Ma” comes from her initials) pardoned an average of 100 convicts a month, and there was considerable evidence that she and her puppeteer husband  were taking  bribes of land and cash payments. The Fergusons also appear to have leveraged highway commission  road contracts into  lucrative kickbacks. Though an attempt to impeach Ma failed, these controversies allowed Attorney General Daniel James Moody to defeat her for renomination in 1926 and win the governorship. She (that is,  puppetmaster Pa) was back in  office in 1932, as she won the governorship again on the wave of discontent over the Great Depression.

The portrayal of “Ma” as a strong, independent executive in “The Highwaymen” would have to be judged misleading.

2. Speaking of women, sort of...An intersex  hero and role model may have emerged through the dim fog of history. Scientific researchers at Georgia Southern University claim that after years of study, their examination of skeletal remains of Revolutionary War hero, General Casimir Pulaski, ‘the Father of the American Cavalry’ has revealed that he  was biologically female.

Imagine if these had been George Washington’s remains… Continue reading

Lunch Time Ethics Warm-Up, 3/8/2019: An Ethics Hogie! Dogs and Death, As Democrats Openly Embrace The Dark Side…

Yum Yum!

(I’m Atlanta bound on business and pleasure, but I’ll have significant downtime. With some luck and if my laptop doesn’t explode, it should seem like I never left.)

1. Not unethical, just stupid. I would have warned everyone in advance that I was going to be experimenting with the layout, but I didn’t know it myself. There was a surprise upgrade offer from WordPress that was too good to pass up, but I assumed (Felix Unger: “When you assume, you make an ass of u and me!” that the blog wouldn’t change until I changed it. Nope: the second I clicked on the payment button, the design blew up and was unreadable. Again, my apologies. And also again, this may not be the final design. I’ll be experimenting while I’m in Georgia.

2. But would they let Will Smith play Bill Jenkins? Bill Jenkins died last month, and naturally the news media paid little attention. He was an African-American scientist who was working as a statistician at the United States Public Health Service in the Sixties when learned of the horrific Tuskegee study, one of the worst ethical breaches in the history of U.S. medicine. The federal government deceived hundreds of black men in Macon County, Alabama into thinking that their cases of syphilis  wer being treated when they were not. The researchers were investigating what unchecked syphilis would do to the human body. The black men were being used as human guinea pigs, without their informed consent.

Appalled by the study’s unethical and cruel design, Jenkins spoke to his supervisor, who told him, “Don’t worry about it.” The supervisor was, in fact, monitoring the study. Jenkins defied him and wrote an article about the study that he shared with doctors and journalists. Nobody appeared to care. The study, which began in 1932 , continued through 1972, when another health service scientist exposed it and got it shut down.

Jenkins was haunted by the research and his inability to end it. He went back to school to train as an epidemiologist. The Times reveals the rest of the story:

“He would go on to devote himself to trying to reduce disease and illness among African Americans and other people of color, in part by recruiting more such people into the public health professions.

He was one of the first researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recognize how dramatically AIDS was affecting black men. He helped organize the first conference on AIDS in underserved neighborhoods and became the C.D.C.’s director of AIDS prevention for minorities.

And for 10 years he oversaw the government’s Participants Health Benefits Program, which provides free lifetime medical care to the men of the Tuskegee study and their eligible family members.”

3. Dog show ethics. (This is late, and I apologize to everyone, dogs included.) Lesson: even dogs have conflicts of interest. Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up: I Wish I Were Surprised, But I’m Not

NOW what?

Quite a bit, actually…

1. Res Ipsa Loquitur #1 The Democratic National Committee has barred Fox News from hosting its Presidential primary debates. I guess the Democrats don’t want any tough questions interfering with their efforts to rig the nomination this time around.

If there was ever better proof that the Democratic Party considers the mainstream media their captive allies, I don’t know what it would be. In 2016, Republicans subjected their candidates to outright hostile questioning from CBS and CNBC journalists, and Fox treated Donald Trump as roughly as a candidate can be treated in the Republican debates. I watched all the pre-nomination debates: Fox’s Neil Cavuto was among the very fairest of all panelists, and as Fox News has correctly said in its protest about the Democratic slur, Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, the proposed Fox News debate questioners, are at least as objective and professional as any Left-media journalists.

DNC Chair Tom Perez’s excuse for this blackball move is self-evidently dishonest: “Recent reporting in the New Yorker on the inappropriate relationship between President Trump, his administration and Fox News has led me to conclude that the network is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates. Therefore, Fox News will not serve as a media partner for the 2020 Democratic primary debates.” Oh, the New Yorker says so! That settles it then!

The GOP didn’t pull out of the Vice-Presidential debates in 2008 even though the NPR’s debate moderator, Gwen Ifill, had her pro-Obama book sitting at her publisher  waiting for he candidate to win. CBS wasn’t barred from hosting debates, event though David Rhodes, then president of CBS News, is the brother of Ben Rhodes, Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser. Meanwhile, Ben Sherwood, president of ABC News, is the brother of Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, an Obama  special assistant.  Claire Shipman, a national correspondent for ABC’s “Good Morning America,” was married to Jay Carney when he was President Obama’s press secretary. These were real, hard, conflicts of interest. The bias of the Fox News journalists is apparently based on the fact that they may run into Trump pal Sean Hannity in the lunch room.

The Democratic Party is prepared to do everything in its power to make sure the American public does not get properly informed regarding the character, skills and beliefs of its 2020 Presidential candidate, and is confident that every network but Fox can be depended upon to assist them in achieving that goal.

2. Almost certainly untrustworthy study of the week, but great for confirmation bias purposes:  According to an article in “The Atlantic,”  a survey conducted by the polling firm PredictWise that assembled a county-by-county index of American political intolerance  based on poll results determined that ” the most politically intolerant Americans… tend to be whiter, more highly educated, older, more urban, and more partisan themselves.”

That would explain the posts by my Facebook friends… Continue reading

Unethical Op-Ed Of The Year: “Time To Panic” By David Wallace-Wells

Just in time to lay a foundation for Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s hysterical and hilarious “Green New Deal,” the New York Times’ February 16 Sunday Review section devoted its front page entirely to an essay by David Wallace-Wells called “Time to Panic.” It is, of course, about climate change. The Times presented it on a scary red background, with an illustration of someone peaking through their fingers, as if they were watching a tense moment in a horror movie. (I actually do that, sometimes.)

The article is afear-mongering piece that extols fear-mongering, so it basically disqualifies its own credibility. The author’s credibility? It’s a mystery: I spent about 20 minutes on Google trying to determine what Wallace’s background is, and failed. The Times just says that he is an author, and has a whole book coming out, “The Uninhabitable Earth,” from which this junk is adapted. Various bios I could track downonly say that he is a “non-fiction writer”–I don’t know about that. So I’m going to assume that he is just a journalist who has adopted climate change as his hobby horse, and it seems to be working out for him. Since he’s not trained as a scientist–presumably if he had any actual independent technical understanding of climate science he would be waving that credential—we know that like Al Gore, Ocasio-Cortez and whichever Kennedy it is who want to lock up climate change “deniers,” his understanding of the topic is entirely second hand: he chooses to believe reports and summaries of scientific research that he  doesn’t know enough to critically evaluate. We also know that, like Gore and Ocasio-Cortez, who has floated the theory that the earth has only 12 more years before becoming Hell, he believes in hyping and over-stating in order to motivate the public. He says so outright: Continue reading

Question: How Do You Prove That The News Media Lies To You?

Answer: Know a lot about something.

This is about baseball, and is a little technical, so I’ll try to be brief for you (unfortunate) non baseball fans.

Manny Machado is a 26 year old super-star baseball player who just signed the biggest free agent contract in MLB history, a guaranteed 300 million dollar deal for ten years with the San Diego Padres. Baseball writers have been trying to get free agents huge contracts this whole off-season rather than just reporting on the negotiations and signings. Why? Because sports journalists are overwhelmingly pro-labor, pro-union, and anti-ownership, aka. business, capitalism, billionaires. (The players are just millionaires, so they’re cool.) The writers and sports pundits have been working overtime to get public opinion on the side of the players, even though the huge salaries make being a fan more expensive, especially for families.

After Machado signed, the pundits on the MLB cable channel put up a graphic justifying the contract by showing that Machado had a comparable WAR—that’s statistically-calculated wins his teams got (theoretically!)  by having Machado playing rather than some borderline, mediocre shlub—to all-time greats like Willie Mays by the same age. The chart was a lie, but you had to know something about baseball history and how they calculate a player’s WAR to realize it. Continue reading

Oh, No! Ebonics Again!

A court reporter in Philadelphia heard a witness say, “He don’t be in that neighborhood,” but transcribed it as, “We going to be in this neighborhood.” Yes, that’s the opposite the opposite of what the speaker meant, and  a soon-to-be published study finds that Philadelphia court reporters often make errors transcribing sentences that are spoken in what the New York Times and some linguists call “African-American English.” I call it bad English, and once again the claim is being made that it’s everyone else’s fault when people can’t talk.

Here’s a jaw-dropping statement from the Times article: “Decades of research has shown that the way some black people talk could play a role in their ability to secure things like employment or housing. The new study, scheduled for publication in June in the linguistic journal Language, provides insight on how using black dialect could also impact African-Americans in courtrooms.” Ya think? I confess when I hear anyone, black or white, express themselves with a sentence like “He don’t be in that neighborhood,” I tend to think that

  • Such an individual is not well-educated
  • Such an individual is not well-read
  • Such an individual is unlikely to think very clearly
  • Such individuals may not be very bright, not necessarily because he or she speaks in such a manner, but that because they lack the common sense to know that doing so will not leave a positive impression.

In short, it is not my fault if someone else can’t speak clearly, and claiming that a grammatical and syntactical dogs breakfast like “He don’t be in that neighborhood” is acceptable because a lot of people talk that way is a rationalization. More Bizarro World reasoning from scholars,

“People who speak African-American English are stigmatized for so doing,” said Taylor Jones, a doctoral student in linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the study’s authors. Mr. Jones added that there was nothing improper or broken about the dialect that some African-Americans inherited over generations, but negative stereotypes have influenced the way people hear or perceive it.

“If you’re taught that these people speak incorrectly, then it’s very easy to say, ‘Well, they don’t make any sense; what they’re saying is wrong,’” Mr. Jones said.

Those who argue that “He don’t be in that neighborhood” isn’t incorrect are essentially pointing us toward a cultural Babel where anyone can make up and adopt whatever dialect they choose, and insist that everyone else acceptand decypher it. That’s no way to run a business, a nation, or society. Clarity in language is essential, and must not be shrugged off as one more matter of personal choice. We have to communicate, after all. Continue reading