The Last Christmas Music Post Of 2019: Regarding The “Definitive” List [UPDATED and CORRECTED]

Over at Glenn Beck’s “The Blaze” someone named Chris Field offered what was audaciously headlined “These are the definitive recordings of 35 favorite Christmas carols: Don’t argue, just listen: A perfect list.”

Is it still clickbait when a link virtually screams “CLICKBAIT!”? Maybe, but if someone is going to claim that they have made a “perfect list,” he had better do a better job than  this. My earlier comments today about Pauline Kael apply: some of this guy’s assessments of what is “definitive” disqualify him as a useful or credible authority. For example, Field, who reveals himself as an Ella Fitzgerald fan boy, chooses Ella’s rendition of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” as ‘the best, saying, “If you think Garland’s rendition is better than Ella’s, you’re probably also a Liza Minnelli fan.” Well, I’m not a Liza fan; she sounded nothing like her mother, and Garland’s rendition is better, indeed the “definitive” version. Old Blue Eyes’ rendition finishes second for sure, but Judy’s tumbling scales were never more affecting or emotionally eloquent, and this is her song. Similarly, Field picks Andy Williams’ version of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” as “the best.” That’s ridiculous. I know this song especially well: I watched “The Hollywood Palace” as a kid the night Bing Crosby introduced it. I’ve written about it on Ethics Alarms, researched it, put it into a Christmas revue and staged it. Crosby’s version is the only one that manages to give the song sufficient heft and gravity: he shifts deep into his chest baritone in the final verse, and decades after hearing the song for the first time, Bing still gives me chills. Lots of male singers, including Williams, have done respectable covers, but they are all chasing Bing.

Look, anyone can have a preference for any professional version of any of the Christmas standards and carols, and there is no point arguing about it. However, if one is going to use the descriptor “definitive,” it has to involve more than personal taste. What is the singer’s connection to the song? Why is it identified with him or her, or is it? Do other singers obviously evoke that singers’ performance? Generational familiarity aside, is the version generally recognized as being definitive? Has the singer’s version become iconic? If one were describing the singer, would the song immediately come to mind?

Here’s my definitive list of the definitive versions of Christmas standards: Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Pitch, 10/26/2019: Calvin Coolidge Was Right, Baseball is Wrong, And Other Revelations

Here it comes!

1. Oh-oh...I was worried about this. Early in the baseball post-season there were rumors flying that MLB had deadened its baseballs after a 2019 season that saw records shattered for homer frequency. I wrote (somewhere this month: I can’t find it) that if the sport really did mess with the balls at this point it would be a massive breach of ethics, changing the conditions of the game when the games mattered most.

So far, the conspiracy theorists have been bolstered by the statistics.

 Baseball researcher Rob Arthur revealed in a Baseball Prospectus report on October10 that after nearly 20 postseason games, home runs were occurring at at half the rate the 2019 season’s homer frequency would predict. Arthur allowed for the fact that better pitchers and hitters  made up  playoff teams, and still  concluded that the ball was not flying as far as it did during the regular season. “The probability that a random selection of games from the rest of the regular season would feature as much air resistance as we’ve seen so far in the postseason,” he wrote, “is about one in one thousand.” A follow-up report by Arthur again found significant variation in the flight of the ball this postseason.

This isn’t good.

2. It’s not even 2020, and the New York Times isn’t even pretending  to be objective. Two examples from today’s Times:

  • In a story about Tulsi Gabbard announcing that she would not run for re-election to the House, the Times spun for Hillary Clinton, writing, “Last Friday, Hillary Clinton suggested that Republicans were “grooming” her for “a third party run”, though Ms. Gabbard has denied any such plans.” What was notable about Clinton’s smear was that she said that Gabbard was “a favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far.”  This is a variety of “fake news” that the Times excels at, telling only part of the story to manipulate public perception.
  • Headline (Print edition) : “Speaking at Black College, Trump Ridicules Obama For Effort on Racial Equity.”  Wow, what a racist! Attacking efforts at racial equity! In fact, the President criticized the paltry results of Obama’s efforts to advance racial equity. He in no way ridiculed Obama for making those efforts.  Again, the Times is now a master at playing to its anti-Trump readers confirmation bias.

Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/29/18: (Yes, #4 Should Be A Free-Standing Post, But I’m In A Hurry…)

Good Morning!

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

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/23/2017: Oh, Lots Of Stuff…

Let’s clear the runway; flights are being delayed…

1 Please, somebody do me a favor and read Fattymoon’s Medium piece  on why he doesn’t comment here any more. Let me know what it says. I don’t know if it’s another “I hate Jack” web piece, but I have feelings too, and miles to go before I sleep. He should have posted it here, and assuming it is as quirky and thoughtful as many of Fatty’s posts were, I might have made it a Comment of the Day. Posting it elsewhere without a heads up is a Golden Rule breach.

2. Jamelle Bouie’s racialist demagoguery in Slate is an ongoing embarrassment to the once readable web-mag, and in a recent exchange on Twitter, he showed that he’s not too quick on the uptake either.  Tweeting about the planned hit job on the President plotted by Rep. Wilson and an angry, grieving anti-Trump Gold Star wife. Bouie wrote,

“Trump and the White House have an unmistakable pattern of going after prominent black women.”

Quick! Hands: who believes that if the Democratic Representative who accused the President of being  insulting on his condolence call had been a white male, Trump would have behaved any different? Anybody? This is Bouie personified: he will engage in race-baiting no matter how forced, unfair and absurd it is.

I’m not a Ben Shapiro fan, but the conservative pundit knows a hanging curveball in his wheelhouse when  he sees one. He responded,

“Yes, McCain, Hillary, Barack Obama, Cruz, Jeb!, Rosie O’Donnell, Kim Jung Un are all black women”

And he didn’t even mention Bob Corker!

Exposed, owned, embarrassed and squashed, a wiser, smarter progressive would know enough to shut up and allow his idiocy to be gently wiped from cultural memory by the sands of time…like in about ten minutes. But no, Bouie shoots back,

“Nice. A retweet from Honest Conservative Ben “The genocide of Native people’s was Actually Good” Shapiro”

YES! A perfect example of a real, genuine, ad hominem attack, the kind that says, “I have no rebuttal for your devastating argument, so I’m just going to say that you’re personally horrible, so your arguments don’t count.” I’ve gotten so sick of explaining to commenters that their accusations of ad hominem are mistaken and ignorant that I put a warning in the Comments guidelines. “Your argument is idiotic, so I think you are an idiot” is not ad hominem (not nice, but not ad hominem). “You’re an idiot, so your argument must be idiotic” is ad hominem. Now I have a perfect example–from an editor at Slate! (If you think ad hominem  is logical, then you are unqualified to be an editor, even if you aren’t a race-baiting anti-white bigot.)

Not surprisingly, Shapiro knocked this one out of the park too, tweeting,

“Thanks for the ad hominem non sequitur, guy who says every Trump voter is an evil racist”

3. If there was any doubt that John McCain’s recent escalation of his anti-Trump, burr-under-the-saddle, “I’m going to make you rue the day your denigrated my prisoner-of-war heroism” campaign is personal and motivated by revenge, his gratuitous swipe at the President’s deferment from the draft almost 50 years ago should eliminate it.  That is personal, it is a cheap shot, it is intentionally disrespectful, and it is deliberately throwing raw meat to the President’s enemies.

It is also a Golden Rule breach: how would McCain react if Trump referenced the Keating Five scandal just to impugn McCain?

A lame duck who may well be dying, McCain has apparently decided that he can misbehave, settle scores, and undermine his party’s President with impunity. Somebody should tell him that he is dismantling his own reputation and legacy in the process, revealing himself as petty, vindictive, and willing to place his own vendetta over national interests and his duty as a U.S. Senator.

This is one more reason that he should resign.

4. While we are mentioning embarrassment, it appears that the news media is not yet embarrassed by treating as substantive news the self-evident set-up and subsequent escalation of a non-incident into another manufactured anti-Trump race scandal . It should be.  Imagine: yesterday all of the Sunday talking head shows gave far more time to this transparent hit-job than to the revived Russian influence allegations involving the Clintons. ABC and NBC have yet to mention that story at all; CBS, five days after it broke, gave a few seconds to it on “Face the Nation.” The excuses for this from journalists sound an awful lot like “Hey! We buried this story once; she shouldn’t have to report on it now.” FACT: As of this moment, there is more public evidence suggesting that Hillary Clinton was colluding to help the Russians than there is to suggest that President Trump did anything improper in that regard.

Back to the Rep. Frederica Wilson smear-job: The Congressional Black Caucus  called for Chief of Staff John Kelly to apologize for his remarks defending the President.  “We, the women of the Congressional Black Caucus, proudly stand with Congresswoman Wilson and demand that General Kelly apologize to her without delay and take responsibility for his reckless and false statements,” the female lawmakers said in a statement.

The wife of the late La David Johnson, meanwhile, has been making the rounds of talk shows. To recap: a woman who was determined to hurt Trump made sure that a Congressional Black Caucus member who had boycotted the President’s Inauguration was listening in on his condolence call, then collaborated on accusations of disrespect. When Trump denied their characterization–at best an example of likely confirmation bias if there ever was one —he was accused of racism, since both women are black. Then other members of the Caucus expanded the attack to Trump’s Chief of Staff, implying that he is racist as well.

This might have been a bit more convincing if the entire Caucus hadn’t declared their revulsion at Trump before he took office. Who believes that any criticism from this quarter is anything but cynical, political, and unfair? Meanwhile, as this was going on, esteemed CBC member Maxine Waters declared that she was going to “take out” the President, presumably not meaning that they were going on a date.

I note that even many of my Democratic, anti-Trump Facebook friends are rolling their metaphorical eyes at this one. Some of them—many, in fact— are still capable of feeling sympathy when a President is being mistreated.

5. I’ve been getting better at suppressing my head explosions, and just in time: Harvey Weinstein has supposedly completed rehab for his sex addiction already. What was that, less than a week? What an insult to everyone’s intelligence for Weinstein to say he was getting “help” for his “problem.” It couldn’t have been too much of a problem if it could be fixed in few days. The other side of the ethics coin is this: going into rehab has been the routine PR response whenever a Hollywood figure misbehaves. We should thank Harvey for making it clear for all time that this is often, perhaps usually, a cynical sham. Continue reading

Bret Stephens’ Capitulation To New York Times’ Anti-Second Amendment Culture

The New York Times, to nobody’s surprise, is all-in to assist its progressive compatriots in using  every tragedy involving guns to strip away the core individual right to bear arms.  The op-ed pages and website , have, once again, become an oppressive barrage of anti-gun fanaticism and disinformation. Take this morning, for example. There is Timothy Eagan’s claim that the Second Amendment is a “cancer in the Constitution.” “The Second Amendment,” he writes, in the process of declaring the individual right enshrined in the Amendment abd confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court as null and void, “as applied in the last 30 years or so, has become so perverted, twisted and misused that you have to see it now as the second original sin in the founding of this country, after slavery.”

Other aspects of American ideals, traditions, values and cultures that Eagan’s allies on the Left also consider cancers would include, I imagine, the Electoral College, Due Process (see: the Obama Education Department’s now defunct “Dear Colleague” letter), Freedom of Speech (“Hate speech kills!”), Freedom of Religion,  Equal Protection,  the Commerce Clause and, of course, the requirement that impeachment has to be based on a substantive crime. We get it, Tim: the Constitution is an infuriating roadblock to turning the U.S. and its culture into a clone of Sweden.

Then there is David Brooks, once the token conservative among the Times otherwise leftist columnists until his brain was removed while he slept and thoroughly washed. In today’s exhibit of Brooksian pseudo-intellectual gobbledygook, he bemoans “the left’s massive failure to persuade.” (The failure to persuade in this case is based on an escalating failure to be honest, vilifying adversaries, and the fact that the left’s strategy is based on emotion a biased presumption that the right to bear arms is “a cancer on the Constitution.”) Brooks also begins with that assumption, but as usual buries his motives in false objectivity: he writes, for example,

“The research doesn’t overwhelmingly support either side. Gun control proposals don’t seriously impinge freedom; on the other hand, there’s not much evidence that they would prevent many attacks.”

Then he declares the controversy an “epiphenomenon”—I think I know what that means, but I don’t trust writers who use words like that—to end with,

“Today we need another grand synthesis that can move us beyond the current divide, a synthesis that is neither redneck nor hipster but draws from both worlds to create a new social vision. Progress on guns will be possible when the culture war subsides, but not before.”

Brooks began with the presumption that “progress on guns” means acceptance of the anti-gun position on guns. Of course he did.

The day before, the New York Times’s new token conservative columnist had thrilled the anti-gun Left with his latest column, ‘Repeal the Second Amendment.

He deserves credit in one respect: unlike his liberal colleagues who would kill the individual right to gun ownership by incremental cuts, at least Stephens is honest. His arguments, however, are lazy and shallow. Indeed, the entire piece reads like clickbait , or perhaps something written with an editor’s gun—well, crossbow—at his head.

He writes, “From a law-and-order standpoint, more guns means more murder. “States with higher rates of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides,” noted one exhaustive 2013 study in the American Journal of Public Health.”  This is a fake and misleading stat arrived at by including suicides among actual murders. Since 1990, the homicide rate has dropped like stone while gun ownership has risen. “More guns mean more murder” is not even a defensible opinion; it certainly isn’t fact. He should have checked with David Brooks on that.

The whole essay is like this, however, He begins by writing, “I have never understood the conservative fetish for the Second Amendment.” It’s not a “fetish,” and it’s not intrinsically conservative. Belief in the Second Amendment springs from a commitment to individual liberty and inherent suspicion and distrust of expanding governmental power that insists that only the State, and not the citizens it is supposed to serve, should possess deadly force.

In a terrific rebuttal in The Federalist, David Harsanyi writes, “As an American-Jew whose ancestors came here escaping both Nazism and communism, I totally ‘get’ the Second Amendment ‘fetishists.’And when I read columns like the one Stephens wrote today, I definitely get it.”  For Stephens’ argument reduces to “Resistance is futile”–Come on, he asks, how are a bunch of pathetic citizen gun owners going to resist the government? Better to just submit: I swear, we can trust these people! I work with them every day! They only want the best for everyone!” Stephens writes like he has Stockholm Syndrome. Continue reading

Hold Websites Responsible For False Advertising And Fake News

I had noticed last week that several supposedly respectable websites I check on had a news link that claimed that Michael Douglas had died. It was so pervasive I googled the news. Nope. Completely false. Total clickbait and a lie. Still, those fake headlines stayed up for days.

On The Daily Beast right now, looking exactly like one of the left-leaning news aggregator’s features, is a story headlined “Rush  in Total Ruins.” Then we have the revelation that Facebook profited from accepting links to false stories, paid for by Russian organizations seeking to undermine public faith and trust in democratic institutions. Facebook also has delivered to my page death hoaxes involving Clint Eastwood, Tiger Woods, Diana Ross, Raquel Welch, and Brad Pitt among others. Many of these are phishing schemes.

Websites that claim to be trustworthy and credible cannot agree, for whatever price, to place lies under their banners. They have a duty of due diligence. If they breach it, they should be liable. Even if the law can’t punish them based on  content, it should be able to punish such sites for aiding and abetting fraud for profit. How hard would it have been to check whether Michael Douglas was alive or not? How much time would it take to have an intern check to see whether Rush Limbaugh’s career is endangered? Newspapers have always excised discretion regarding ads, accepting their responsibility to keep their readers from being scammed. From what I am seeing now, websites accept no similar responsibility.

There have to be consequences. Continue reading

Follow-Up! Defending Prof. Kevin Allred’s Right To Make An Ass Of Himself On Social Media

When we last visited Montclair State University Women’s Studies Professor Kevin Allred, he was about to be sacked at Rutgers for  tweeting

“Will the 2nd amendment be as cool when i buy a gun and start shooting at random white people or no…?”

In that case, I agreed that the university had little choice but to remove Allred from the campus, noting that Allred,  as an employee, an adult (theoretically) and an instructor, should have known better than to broadcast his provocative musings in 140 characters or less to the world at large, rather than confining them to class. He should also have  known that campus shootings aren’t a joking matter after the Virginia Tech attack. If he had the sense to write “someone” rather than “I,”  avoided “when” to make it clear this was a hypothetical, the situation would probably have not arisen. Then, I wrote,

  “…Rutgers would only be risking outraged parents demanding to know why a prestigious school thinks it’s responsible to have their students going into debt to pay for courses like the one Allred teaches.”

After he had to leave Rutgers, Montclair State hired him to teach the same course on “the music and career of Beyoncé Giselle Knowles Carter.”

I know, I know.

Now Allred is in hot water again, this time for tweeting,

Trump is a fucking joke. This is all a sham. I wish someone would just shoot him outright.” 

He then retweeted the image of Kathy Griffin holding a model of the  President’s severed head. Continue reading