Now THIS Is Hubris…Also Arrogance, Incompetence, Abuse Of Position, And Propaganda

In ancient Greek mythology and drama, the state of hubris inevitably led to disaster, usually at the hands of an annoyed god. If only we had appropriately annoyed gods on a mountain somewhere who would tale aim at Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, James Corden, Samantha Bee, Jimmy Kimmel and Trevor Noah. All are alleged comedians who have been gifted with long-running platforms on television, supposedly to make Americans laugh. All have also, with the exception of Corden, spent the past five years or more using their platforms to mount a one-way attack on approximately half the nation and its values, as well as, of course, the previous President. In doing so, these six (again, Corden really has tried to be apolitical) have spread misinformation and hate, exacerbated national division, and deliberately made topical comedy unbearable for millions of people who desperately needed a laugh.

To put it in technical terms, they suck. I wouldn’t cross my yard to meet any of them, and the sooner every one vanishes from the American scene, I don’t care how, the healthier the country will be. Their primary error is confusing being smart with being smart alecks. It’s an easy mistake to make…if you aren’t very smart.

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Short Week Ethics Short Takes, 9/10/2021

What are the odds that Randy Newman’s satirical song would be attacked today as offensive and accused of making short people feel unsafe? I think pretty high in favor, don’t you?

I was thinking about this after watching “Movie 43” last night, an astounding 2013 project in which a huge, all-star cast was recruited into doing a series of sophomoric, gutter humor skits that had bad taste galore but not much humor or wit beyond “Oh my God, I can’t believe they did that!” Still, while the movie got horrible reviews (although the critics calling it “The Worst Movie Ever Made” beclowned themselves: I can name 20 worse ones off the top of my head) and bombed, I am pretty sure that it would spark boycotts and “cancellations” today for being so spectacularly politically incorrect. Watching it, I was nostalgic for the time when artists could cross lines and not have a virtual price placed on their heads. In just seven years, we have come to a place where Americans are terrified of enraging the woke. I think watching Movie 43 is good tonic for that, and also good practice for those who want to purge their inner weenie.

1. One more bit of proof that we should not trust “experts,” scientists, or academics. Harvard cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker has written several best-selling books, such as “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” (2011) and “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress” (2018) and is regarded as a public intellectual. Yet when the New York Times asked him, Do you see any irrational beliefs as useful?,” Pinker answered,

“Yeah. For example, every time the media blames a fire or a storm on climate change, it’s a dubious argument in the sense that those are events that belong to weather, not climate. You can never attribute a particular event to a trend. It’s also the case, given that there is an availability bias in human cognition, that people tend to be more influenced by images and narratives and anecdotes than trends. If a particular anecdote or event can in the public mind be equated with a trend, and the impression that people get from the flamboyant image gets them to appreciate what in reality is a trend, then I have no problem with using it that way.”

Yes, this respected intellectual believes that deceiving the public is justified if it leads them to support the “right” policies and beliefs. He, and those like him, are the real threats to democracy.

My Harvard diploma is already facing the wall; staring today, I’m going to spit at it when I pass by…

Coincidentally, today I was asked to write something for my class’s reunion book. What should I write?

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Ethics Hero: Steven Koonin, Former Obama US Department of Energy Undersecretary for Science

believe-it-or-not

Believe it or not, a former Obama official has authored a book, “Unsettled,” that raises many of the weaknesses, fudges and media-silenced discrepancies in the official climate change narrative. His name is Steven Koonin, and of course he is being savaged by reviewers and scientist alike. You won’t see him interviewed on CNN or on any climate change panels on the major networks. Fox News might put him on, but that will just prove that he’s one of the bad guys. That’s how it works.

Yet Koonin’s book appears to be more than reasonable.

The book is an expansion of a controversial opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal he wrote a few years ago headlined “Climate science is not settled”. I missed it, and of course the mainstream media didn’t want to talk about it. Despite what progressives, Democratic policy-makers and your Facebook friends will tell you (and what most of the public believes thanks to careful disinformation or reporting by journalists who got Cs in high school Science class, climate science is not settled. Koonin is bothered by the same feature that Ethics Alarms has commented on many times: scientists can’t accurately predict what the future climate shifts will be.

The book’s argument is in three parts:

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/29/21: Beautiful Morning, Ugly Ethics

This date in 1972 witnessed one of the more egregious examples of liberal judges using political ideology and capriciously-applied ethics to avoid following the law. In Furman v. Georgia,the remnants of the Warren Court, now under conservative Chief Justice Warren Burger, who dissented, prevailed in a narrow 5-4 decision that ruled the death penalty to be “cruel and unusual” under the Eighth Amendment. This was about as far away from “originalism” as the Court could get, since the Founders obviously did not regard executions as unusual at all, and cruelty has always been a subjective concept. But the Court left the metaphorical door open for new Congressional legislation that could make death sentences constitutional again if it included standardized guidelines for juries that would ameliorate “arbitrary” applications of capital punishment. Four years later SCOTUS reinstated the death penalty, which was overwhelmingly supported by the public, and in 1977, Gary Gilmore, a career criminal who cruelly and unusually murdered an elderly couple who refused to give him their car, faced a firing squad in Utah, a fate he definitely deserved.

1. I wish I had the time and fortitude to detail just how bad this New York Times Magazine article is, but I don’t, and maybe nobody with a life does. So I’ll just leave it to you to read it: “What if American Democracy Fails the Climate Crisis?” in the New York Times “Climate Issue.” Despicably, the Times handed the article over to openly and egregiously Left-biased journalist Ezra Klein, the founder of Vox and a dedicated practitioner of journalism as progressive propaganda. This means that only one point of view pervades the exercise, differing only in degrees and minor details. Even the title is loaded with assumptions that poison fair discourse, and I hope I will not be spoiling the suspense by pointing out that the “solution” Klein and his of-one-mind panelists (including one of the authors of the risible so-called “Green New Deal”) is a Leftist take-over of the U.S. and preferably capitulation to world government. I was going to list the most outrageous and dishonest quotes, but that would have taken up the whole post. The “I mentally checked out here” moment was in the introduction, in which Klein writes, being “hopeful,” “A rising generation understands the urgency of the moment, even if their elders do not.” That rising generation understands nothing about climate science, much like their “elders,” but have been indoctrinated into thinking they do. That’s “hopeful” for a nascent totalitarian like Klein. The rest of the issue is substantially deceit and propaganda, like the article about how climate change is already ravaging islands like the Bahamas, focusing on Hurricane Dorian as if there is any way to trace its origins to the topic of the issue.

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Ethics Quiz: The Doomsday Projection

From: EcoWatch:

Deforestation coupled with the rampant destruction of natural resources will soon have devastating effects on the future of society as we know it, according to two theoretical physicists who study complex systems and have concluded that greed has put us on a path to irreversible collapse within the next two to four decades, as VICE reported.

The research by the two physicists, one from Chile and the other from the UK, was published last week inNature Scientific Reports. The researchers used advance statistical modeling to look at how a growing human population can cope with the loss of resources, mainly due to deforestation. After crunching the numbers, the scientists came up with a fairly bleak assessment of society’s chance of surviving the climate crisis.

“Based on the current resource consumption rates and best estimate of technological rate growth our study shows that we have very low probability, less than 10 percent in most optimistic estimate, to survive without facing a catastrophic collapse,” the authors write in the study abstract.

From all the issues that the climate crisis raises like rising sea levels, increases in extreme weather, drought, flooding, and crop failures, scientists zeroed in on deforestation since it is more measurable right now. They argue that forest density, or its current scarcity, is considered the cataclysmic canary in the coal mine, according to the report, as The New York Post reported.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quizto conclude this weekend pf nonsense and frustration:

Is this story responsible to report as news without a lot more context? Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Observations On A Tender, Obnoxious, Unethical Screed”

Bill Weir’s nauseating open letter to his newborn son River—GACK! ICK! BLECHHH! —- was so unethical in so many ways that I almost needed a ventilator to finish reading it. When I had finished posting on the monstrosity, I was awash with regret that I hadn’t the space nor the time to write the letter Weir should write, and was hopeful that one of the many acid-penned bards among the talented  commentariate here would take up the challenge. I was not disappointed.

Here is Steve-O-In-NJ’s Comment of the Day, one of his finest, on the post, “Observations On A Tender, Obnoxious, Unethical Screed”:

The article is utter garbage, written by someone untrained in science, but trained in making up stories. One day when River is grown up, assuming he makes it there and isn’t driven off the deep end by constant teasing, I hope he reads this article and asks him, just like Greta, “how dare you?” How dare you use my birth to push your own agenda and your employers’ agenda? How dare you plaster pictures of me as a newborn infant all over the internet where anyone can see them? How dare you reveal the circumstances of my conception to the world? I’m an individual. I am not an accessory to flash around like a new pair of sustainable dockers. I am not a prop for your causes. I am not an illustration to make a point next to pictures you cherry-picked to tell the story you wanted.

I’m not a half bad storyteller myself, and I’d tell quite a different story if a son were born to me. I always said if I had a son I’d name him Charles James, after my grandfather and father (ironically also now after two heroes of my own writing). So, if he were born, I’d say this: Continue reading

Observations On A Tender, Obnoxious, Unethical Screed

My original impulse was to post  this as an ethics quiz, with a heading like, “Is Bill Weir’s essay as bad as I think it is?”

Bill Weir is CNN’s climate correspondent. His wife just gave birth to a son, for which Ethics Alarms gives him a hardy congratulations and will wait for its metaphorical cigar. However, Weir chose to use this life event for an astoundingly long, self-indulgent, and in several ways unethical post on CNN’s site headlined, “To my son, born in the time of coronavirus and climate change.”

Read the thing, if you can stand it. Commenter Other Bill sent it to me with the query, “Is it ethical for this guy to have a child?” He was engaging in hyperbole, but the thrust of the question is valid. Here’s how the essay begins:

Against all odds you were conceived in a lighthouse, born during a pandemic and will taste just enough of Life as We Knew It to resent us when it’s gone. I’m sorry. I’m sorry we broke your sea and your sky and shortened the wings of the nightingale. I’m sorry that the Great Barrier Reef is no longer great, that we value Amazon more than the Amazon and that the waterfront neighborhood where you burble in my arms could be condemned by rising seas before you’re old enough for a mortgage.
The scent of your downy crown makes my heart explode. The curl in your Tic Tac toes fills me with enough love to power New York City.

Gack! I’m sorry, I have to take a break. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/4/2020: Marching To Georgia Edition

Hello, I must be going…

Desperately trying to get this post out before the walls close in. I’m doing a program for an always receptive BigLaw firm in Atlanta, and its a program I know well, and I’m still anxious about it. It doesn’t help that I have some kind of cold, but the show must go on…

1. Super Tuesday musings…

  • Last night, I stumbled on  a Fox News panel discussing the Julie Principle at length regarding Joe Biden’s brain farts and Trump’s Tweets! They didn’t use that term, of course, but it would have helped explicate what they were trying to say, which was that once you’ve decided to accept the flaws of a candidate, more evidence of those flaws won’t change your support.
  • Speaking of… Joe Biden got his sister and his wife mixed up during his victory speech. If there was ever a question of how much the country doesn’t want socialism, the fact that so many Democrats preferred to vote for this sad husk than capitulate to Bernie should answer it.
  • How proud I am of my home state, which told the world that even voters who know  best, and presumably support to some extent, Elizabeth Warren don’t think she should be President. Thus they validated Abe Lincoln’s rule: you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Warren was the 2020 field’s worst demagogue and biggest hypocrite, as well as one of the most shameless liars. As I write this, she hasn’t dropped out yet, perhaps because she doesn’t want to help Sanders, whom she still resents for saying that a women couldn’t be elected President. Well, he was right as far as she is concerned. Good.

Warren was easily my least favorite of the Democratic contenders from an ethics standpoint. After I posted on Facebook about one of her many deceptions, a friend, apparently seriously, commented that I seemed to have a real bias against her. It reminded me of one of Martin Short’s brilliant improvs as idiot celebrity interviewer “Jiminy Glick,” when he cracked up Mel Brooks by asking, “Now what is it that you have against Hitler?”

2. Wait, he did WHAT??? Cedric Sunray, a college recruiter from Oklahoma Christian University,  visited Harding Charter Preparatory High School in Oklahoma City last month and met with 110 juniors and four teachers in the gymnasium to talk about opportunities at the college. He then asked the students to line up from darkest to lightest skin complexion, and then line up from “nappiest” to straightest hair.  As the students lined up, some of the teachers left to report the request to school administrators, who intervened. Sunray was quickly fired.

Sunray later wrote that the exercise was meant to be an “icebreaker” and that he has made the same presentation dozens of times at other institutions. Really? And nobody complained?

The president of Oklahoma Christian University, John deSteiguer, visited the prep school to apologize to students and staff members. Too late, I’d say. Any school that would let someone like Sunray represent it is too inept to be trusted. Continue reading

Monday Morning Warm-Up, 3/2/2020: Idling, Stigmatizing, Lying

Good Monday!

1. Totalitarianism watch.  Idling one’s car for longer than three minutes, or more than one minute while adjacent to a school, is illegal in New York City. There have been anti-idling laws since 1972, but they were previously examples of the law being used to encourage conduct rather than enforce it. Now, with socialist Bill de Blasio at the city’s helm, the laws are being enforced with a vengeance.

The city is offering bounties to  citizens who report their neighbors, for example. “If you witness a vehicle idling illegally, you can potentially receive a reward for your enforcement efforts through our Citizens Air Complaint Program” says a city website.

Nice.

The theory is that forcing people into not idling their car will mitigate climate change, just like forcing people to ride bicycles and to stop having children when the Left gains sufficient power and the Green New Deal is within reach. Cars idling for no reason is a pet peeve of mine, particularly when they idle in a parking space with cars waiting while the driver checks his or her messages on a cell phone. There are, however, good reasons for idling. I have idled while recharging a dead battery for example. I have idled in sub-freezing weather to keep the car warm while my wife, who had a cold, ran into a 7-11 to buy some cough medicine. The blunt boot of the law does not belong in this matter, like many matters that today’s progressives and socialists want to turn into government edicts.

Oh—the PR geniuses in de Blasio-land decided that the ideal spokesperson for the anti-idling campaign is washed up rocker Billy Idol. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/15/20: Dresden, Bloomberg, Snopes, Climate Change, And “The Chalkening”

Good Morning…

1. Dresden bombing ethics. February 13-15, 1945 witnessed the Allied firebombing of Dresden, Germany, with the resulting deaths of between 22,000 and 135,000 civilians. depending on whose propaganda you choose to believe. Regardless of the number, the destruction of the German cultural center and questionable military target so late in the war—after its loss in the Battle of the Bulge, Germany’s defeat was just a matter of time—was instantly controversial, and is still intensely debated today.

The attack, which dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on the city, destroyed more than 1,600 acres. By all accounts, the human toll was horrific. Lothar Metzger, a survivor, wrote,

We saw terrible things: cremated adults shrunk to the size of small children, pieces of arms and legs, dead people, whole families burnt to death, burning people ran to and fro, burnt coaches filled with civilian refugees, dead rescuers and soldiers, many were calling and looking for their children and families, and fire everywhere, everywhere fire, and all the time the hot wind of the firestorm threw people back into the burning houses they were trying to escape from.

Was the firebombing of Dresden a war crime?  If the Allies had lost the war, it would have become a war crime. As we have discussed here before, the concept of war crimes is confounding and hypocritical at best. If the attacks were deemed essential to ending the war as soon as possible, then they were ethically defensible.

Much of the debate over the years has focused on whether the bombing was terrorism. Of course it was, as were the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and General Sherman’s March to the Sea. Terror is a legitimate weapon in warfare, when the objective is to destroy the enemy’s will to fight. Attacks on civilians for revenge and to inflict gratuitous death and pain for no legitimate strategic purpose are unethical . The distinction is usually in the eye of the beholder.

Wikipedia has an unusually thorough article on the Dresden attack, and I found this paper interesting as well. Continue reading