Afternoon Ethics Julep, 8/24/2021: Harry Truman Revelations For The Dog Days…

Mint Julep

1. Good Harry, bad Harry. I recently watched the 1961 interviews David Susskind did with Harry Truman in 1961. You can see them on Amazon Prime streaming. I was very impressed; I could not remember any President in my lifetime who appeared so candid, open, and sincere about his principles, certainly none of our recent POTUSes. Truman is not one of favorite Presidents; I regard him as a mediocre man thrust into a job far above his abilities who managed to do better than anyone could have predicted. He rose to the occasion as best he could, and that is deserving of respect. The interviews elevated Harry in my estimation.

Then, yesterday, I read a scholarly paper by Prof. Paul Campos of the University of Colorado Law School that shattered my newly grown regard for Harry. The Former Presidents Act (FPA), a 1958 statute provides ex-Presidents with millions of dollars in future taxpayer-funded benefits. One of the motives behind the House’s “snap impeachment” of Donald Trump was to ensure that he not be a beneficiary of the Act. (They failed. As Nelson Muntz would say, “HAHA!”) Campos’s research shows that while the FPA has always been explained as a response to former President Truman’s financial struggles in part because he refused to exploit his status as a former President cash in (like some Presidents of recent vintage), this was not just a false narrative, but a spectacularly false narrative. Campos writes,

Using recently released and until now unexamined archival evidence… in a complete contravention of the existing standard historical record, [it appears that] Harry Truman was, as a direct result of being president, a very wealthy man on the day he left the White House, with an estimated net worth, in relative economic terms, of approximately $58 million in 2021 dollars. …[T]his wealth was a result of both Truman’s enormous presidential salary — several times larger, in real terms, than the current salary for the office — and, more problematically, of the evident fact that Truman misappropriated essentially all of the multi-million dollar — in 2021 terms — presidential expense account that was set up for him by Congress at the beginning of his second term….[A]gain contrary to the current historical understanding, Truman made another fortune after he left the Presidency, by doing precisely what he claimed he was not doing, that is, exploiting his status as a former President to maximum economic advantage. Indeed, by the time Congress passed the FPA in response to Truman’s various claims that he was at least teetering on the brink of potential financial distress, Truman’s net worth was, in relative economic terms, approximately $72 million in 2021 dollars.”

Well, there goes that newfound respect! Truman was a member of the corrupt Prendergast political machine in Kansas City before entering national politics, so this isn’t as much of a surprise as it would be for some other icons.

Continue reading

Satire Ethics: Carrying A Joke Too Far

Unethical!

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s Australian wing applied to be formally recognized as anon-profit charitable entity, but was rejected on the grounds that the purported religion is nothing more than a “hoax.” Ya think? This is the deliberately ridiculous parody religion devised to mock all organized religions and those who believe in them. Pastafarians, as “believers” call themselves, have extended a gag web post ridiculing the logic of every other religion to the point of diminishing returns. Its “heaven” has a Stripper Factory and a Beer Volcano; its argument for the existence of the deity with noodely appendages involves the world distribution of pirates. Very funny. Now stop wasting everyone’s time. Ethics Alarms discussed two abuses of process by Pastafarians here and here, but as with the career of Jimmy Kimmel and the persistence of tofu, I assumed that this joke would have run its course by now. Sadly, no.

Adelaide, Australia’s Tanya Watkins is a self-described “captain” of the church (like on a pirate ship, see) , has made repeated attempts to have the “church” be granted incorporated association status. After her latest attempt was scoffed at by the Corporate Affairs Commission, Watkins sought a review by the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT), claiming the movement was formed for a “religious, educational, charitable or benevolent purpose”, thereby meeting the criteria of South Australia’s Associations Incorporation Act.

Hilarious! She should be fined.

Continue reading

The Vegan Parents: No, They Haven’t “Suffered Enough”

Review: “I don’t recommend this formula. It killed my baby.”

The vegan parents of a baby girl they condemned to a lifetime of brain damage pleaded guilty to negligently causing serious injury, thus avoiding jail time. They will  have to perform 12 months of community service, and will also have to undergo mental observation and treatment.

Talk about locking the barn door after the horse has escaped.

Having ignored all legitimate health advice regarding the nutritional needs of infants for a full year, the parents took their 12-month-old baby girl to an emergency clinic in August 2018 with her suffering from extreme malnutrition, open wounds, rashes, bruises, discoloration of her skin, internal bleeding and blood in her stool. Her condition, doctors said,  resembled those of babies being raised in countries during famines.

A week before, the father had sought the help of an online vegan website, writing,

“Hi my 1-year-old has stopped wanting to drink/eat and when she does, it’s not staying down or she starts to cough,” he reportedly wrote in the email. “What can I do to help her keep it down and allow her to drink? She doesn’t have a temp. She is on a fruit diet. Please help asap.”

The recommended solution: “stomach tea.” The parents had decided that they didn’t trust doctors after being told  told that their baby required more than the coconut water and health store powders that they began feeding her after she stopped breast-feeding. Continue reading

Tales Of The Great Stupid, Niggardly Principles Chapter

I am most grateful—I think—to  Ethics Bob Stone for bringing this story to my attention. It gives me hope, it really does, that we are quickly arriving at the point where the George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck will be revealed to all as being driven and enabled by people so silly and stupid, that there will be an ear-splitting slapping sound across the land, as Americans of sense and perspective bring their palms to their foreheads in the humbling realization that they have been taking seriously the blathering of fools and ignoramuses.

And with a ripple of embarrassed laughter, the suddenly enlightened  will immediately begin going about life as they once did, devoid of self-flagellating guilt for believing in  a land and a system where people are, or should be, judged by their talents, enterprise, accomplishments and the content of their character, and not, whether black, Black, white or other hues and shades, the color of their skin, their ancestors, or what their ancestors did or didn’t do. Thereafter this period of unrestrained hate and statue-toppling, the cancel culture,  fear, groveling, virtue-signaling and grandstanding will come to be known as “The Great Stupid,” and we will collectively wonder, as with the Dutch Tulip Mania of the 17th Century and Disco, how the Hell something so mad could have happened, and for so long. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/2020: Letting The Perfect Be The Enemy Of The Good, And Other Blunders

Why is today unlike any other day?

1. What’s wrong with this picture? This, courtesy of ABC News, was the scene on a New York City subway yesterday:

My question is this: how can everyone be cheering Governor Cuomo’s leadership during the pandemic crisis when this is still going on? I heard Cuomo say, in one of his briefings, “You can’t stop public transportation. You just can’t.” Yet if you are going to allow the above scene all day, every day in your state’s largest city, why bother with the rest of the measures? Just wall off the Big Apple and let everyone get sick.

2. And speaking of New York…and while we’re justly bashing China for all the lies and disinformation,  this blogger finds the charts , models and projections showing how the health care system will be overwhelmed by April 15 puzzling, and asks, Continue reading

Pandemic Ethics Overflow, Including The Funniest Story So Far [Updated]

1. The funniest pandemic-related story comes out of Australia, and it goes in the “Scientific incompetence” files. Or maybe the “Sure, we should always trust the judgment of scientists” file. From The Guardian:

An Australian astrophysicist has been admitted to hospital after getting four magnets stuck up his nose in an attempt to invent a device that stops people touching their faces during the coronavirus outbreak.

Dr Daniel Reardon, a research fellow at a Melbourne university, was building a necklace that sounds an alarm on facial contact, when the mishap occurred on Thursday night.

The 27 year-old astrophysicist, who studies pulsars and gravitational waves, said he was trying to liven up the boredom of self-isolation with the four powerful neodymium magnets….“I had a part that detects magnetic fields. I thought that if I built a circuit that could detect the magnetic field, and we wore magnets on our wrists, then it could set off an alarm if you brought it too close to your face…

So he made millions of people around the world slap their foreheads in amazement.

2. About those idiots who drank the fish tank cleaner: The emerging facts, after so many headlines blamed the husband’s death on the President’s misinformation, show this was more fake news. The Arizona woman who said that she and her 68-year-old husband ingested a substance used to clean fish tanks after hearing President Donald Trump enthuse about the potential value of chloroquine (but not fish tank ccleaner constaining the chemical)  as a cure for the Wuhan Virus is a Democrats, opposes Trump, and has given thousands of dollars to Democratic groups and candidates over the last two years. In late February, she gave to a Democratic PAC, the 314 Action Fund, that is part of the  “pro-science resistance.”It has even used the death of her husband to attack the White House.

Now the surviving fish tank-cleaner gourmet admits that she and her husband were both Democrats, not Trump supporters. But she  told NBC News that she took the fish tank cleaner to follow Trump’s advice.  “We saw Trump on TV—every channel—and all of his buddies and that this was safe,” she said last week. “Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much a cure.” Naturally, nobody checked her story: it was too good an opportunity to get Trump.

Now the women admits that she heard about the potential benefits of chloroquine, an antimalarial drug, in news reports, and decided at the “spur of the moment” to try  it “We weren’t big supporters of [Trump], but we did see that they were using it in China and stuff,” Wanda told the Free Beacon. “And we just made a horrible, tragic mistake,” she said. “It was stupid, and it was horrible, and we should have never done it. But it’s done and now I’ve lost my husband….We didn’t think it would kill us. We thought if anything it would help us ‘cus that’s what we’ve been hearing on the news.”

But at least she was able to spin the story so the  the news media would falsely say that the President was responsible for them drinking fish tank cleaner, so it wasn’t a total loss. Continue reading

From Australia, A Cancel Culture Chapter That I Don’t Understand At All

The above cartoon is the work of Michael Leunig, an Australian cartoonist of some note. Apparently the drawing got him into serious trouble with the social media and political correctness mobs Down Under. Color me completely bewildered, mate.

I have always regarded Australia as a having an admirably  rough, honest, brutally independent and common sense-based culture. Apparently I’m missing something; maybe one of Ethics Alarms’ Australian readers can explain what. (There have been about 24,000 views of the blog there so far this year; Australia is the second largest source of Ethics Alarms readers outside the U.S., after Canada.)

Because of the cartoon, Leunig, who has been creating cartoons professionally to express political and social commentary for half a century, is being threatened with cultural “cancellation.” He writes in part that the drawing has “brought so much hostile public reaction that I began to lie awake at night wondering why I had followed such a troubled, painful and precarious career path….

…[To]be so hated, insulted, slandered in the public domain for this – as I was – is indeed a dismal fate for the lone cartoonist. It speaks volumes about the current condition of civil society and tolerance. This is bigotry. The malice has been astounding and so extreme that it has plunged me into a deep contemplation about the nature of angry hatred. Indeed, I am coming to the view that there is an emerging new form of hatred in society which might be more of a mental illness than a passing emotion. Perhaps I would call it “free-floating, obsessive compulsive hatred”.

His son wrote of the effect on the cartoonist’s family: Continue reading

New Week Ethics Jolt, 2/24/2020: Uncivil Gravestones, Conflicted Zamboni Drivers, And Unintelligent Intelligence Experts

Hello, mates!

That hilarious novelty song, a big hit in the same year Kennedy was shot, is now too politically incorrect to play in the U.S. Is it also song non grata Down Under?

1. Unethical Headline of the Day. From the Washington Freebeacon, a conservative news site: Dem Megadonor, Gun-Control Activist Harvey Weinstein Convicted on Rape Charges. This unethical device is used a lot now, though seldom this flagrantly. It’s Cognitive Dissonance Scale gamesmanship, attempting to smear positions that the headline-writer opposes by linking them to conduct that they have no relationship to.  There is no logical reason why gun control or the Democrats should be implicated in a headline to Weinstein’s rape conviction. I’m not even sure the connection belongs in the news story at all.

2. Gee, I wonder why the President doesn’t trust his intelligence specialists. The Russian collusion conspiracy theory flared up again among the Trump Deranged after Shelby Pierson, the official in the intelligence community charged with election security, apparently botched her briefing to Congress.

Three national security officials told CNN that the briefer falsely (wrongly, mistakenly) said that Russia was planning to help Trump win re-election:

The US intelligence community has assessed that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election and has separately assessed that Russia views Trump as a leader they can work with. But the US does not have evidence that Russia’s interference this cycle is aimed at reelecting Trump, the officials said. “The intelligence doesn’t say that,” one senior national security official told CNN. “A more reasonable interpretation of the intelligence is not that they have a preference, it’s a step short of that. It’s more that they understand the President is someone they can work with, he’s a dealmaker.”

Since this comes from CNN, otherwise known as Bash The President Central, it cannot be dismissed as administration spin. My Facebook Friends reacted to the original story with utter glee, gloating that they knew Russia viewed Trump as a Russian asset.

If Trump fired her, and I wouldn’t blame him, he’ll be accused of a “purge.” Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Fallback, 11/3/2019: Poisoning Children For Their Own Good, And Other Alarming Developments

Whatever time it is…

1. Not exactly a shock, but we now know Ruth Bader Ginsburg lied in her 1993 Senate confirmation hearings. At a Georgetown Law Center event last week featuring both Clintons and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Bill Clinton told the audience that he queried the Justice-to- be about Roe v. Wade before nominating her to the Supreme Court in 1993:

[Ginsburg] knew this perfectly well, that I was under a lot of pressure to make sure I appointed someone who was simon-pure, which I had said I thought was important. But I was fascinated by a—either an article I had read or something I had read on Justice Ginsburg saying that she supported the result in Roe v. Wade but thought Justice Blackmun should have decided the case on the equal protection clause not the right to privacy. And I asked her the question and she talked about it just as if it was any other issue, no affect: “This is what I think, this is why I think it,” and she made a heck of a case.

That’s odd, because one of the written questions she responded to in the process was…

Has anyone involved in the process of selecting you as a judicial nominee (including but not limited to a member of the White House staff, the Justice Department, or the Senate or its staff) discussed with you any specific case, legal issue or question in a manner that could reasonably be interpreted as seeking any express or implied assurances concerning your position on such case, issue, or question? If so, please explain fully.

And the now-revered Ginsburg replied,

It is inappropriate, in my judgment, to seek from any nominee for judicial office assurance on how that individual would rule in a future case. That judgment was shared by those involved in the process of selecting me. No such person discussed with me any specific case, legal issue or question in a manner that could reasonably be interpreted as seeking any express or implied assurances concerning my position on such case, issue, or question.

Yet the former President directly contradicted this, in Justice Ginsberg’s presence.

2. Further lives unborn ethics notes: Continue reading

Australia Goes Right Past Nanny State To Dog-Walker State

The new Australia law’s sponsors…

And all you thought they would do to stomp on individual rights  was to take away everyone’s guns! No, that was signature significance, you see. A state that decides that it, and not its citizens, should decide how they get to protect themselves is not going to stop with that. As Clarence Darrow said in the Scopes Trial, “Fanatacism is ever busy and needs feeding.  Always it is feeding and gloating for more.”

Down Under they just passed something called the the Animal Welfare Legislation Amendment Bill. Among its provisions is one that holds that dog owners can face heavy  fines if they keep their dog confined for 24 hours. Unless they then allow the dog to  “move freely” for the next two hours or face prosecution. That’s just a sample, however: the Australian Capital Territory’s new law says…

A person in charge of an animal commits an offence if the person fails to give the animal —

  • (a) appropriate food; or
  • appropriate water;
  • appropriate treatment for illness, disease or injury; or
  • appropriate shelter or accommodation; or
  • a clean and hygienic living environment; or
  • appropriate grooming and maintenance; or
  • appropriate exercise; or
  • appropriate opportunities to display behaviour that is normal for  the animal; or
  • care that is appropriate for the animal’s well-being.

No vagueness there! Maximum penalties include heavy fines , imprisonment for up to a year, or both. The territory is the first jurisdiction in Australia to recognize animal sentience, which apparently means the legislators let dogs write the legislation. Not smart dogs, either. Basset Hounds maybe. Irish setters.

Here are the particulars on dog-walking: Continue reading