Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/14/2019: Climate Change, Cuba, Con-Artists And More

Good Morning!

Why can I almost never can find a lot of encouraging ethics stories on a Sunday?

1. Climate change thought. I just watched a PBS round table consisting of non-stop doom-sayng and Trump-bashing on climate change policy. I don’t know if these scientists/pundits/activists are using climate change as a ploy to eliminate democracy and install a Leftist totalitarian (benign, of course) world government, or if they really believe that such a system is the only way to save the Earth. Either way, however, it is impossible to listen to them objectively and not think, “Huh. The only way the draconian [that’s a word named after a despot, you know] solutions that you claim are our sole chance at survival can be implemented is with a massive dictatorship. And after the solution has “worked,” if it works, that totalitarian government will of course dissolve itself and go back to supporting liberty and democracy.  Sure it will. How stupid do you think we are?”

If the only way to save the Earth is to forfeit liberty, I, for one, stand with Patrick Henry. The climate change radicals are good matches to the anti-war and anti-nuke activists in the late Fifties and early Sixties who chanted, “Better Red than dead!”, and who thought “Eve of Destruction” was profound prophesy.

2.  Cuba, Obama, Trump and Baseball. I don’t know what to make of this one.: it’s a fascinating utilitarian question.

President Trump cancelled an agreement negotiated by the Obama administration that allowed Major League Baseball teams to pay the Cuban Baseball Federation for Cuban players who would then join MLB teams. Under the previous system, only players who defected to the United States, often at great peril and sometimes using human traffickers, could ply their baseball talents in the U.S. and be paid accordingly.

The Trump administration saysthat the deal constitutes a violation of trade laws because the Cuban federation is part of the Cuban government. In other words, the Obama deal allowed the Cuban government to sell human beings to U.S. companies—baseball teams. “The U.S. does not support actions that would institutionalize a system by which a Cuban government entity garnishes the wages of hard-working athletes who simply seek to live and compete in a free society,” said Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the National Security Council. “The administration looks forward to working with M.L.B. to identify ways for Cuban players to have the individual freedom to benefit from their talents, and not as property of the Cuban state.”

The cancelled deal was always suspect as one of several concessions President Obama gave to Cuba without Cuba instituting any human rights reforms in exchange.  And why were baseball players the only Cuban citizens allowed to escape to freedom this way? Why not doctors, scholars, and scientists? Continue reading

The Massie-Kerry Exchange: Sadly, Everybody’s Stupid

First I encountered several conservative media references to an exchange between former Secretary of State and Presidential candidate John Kerry and Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky.  This occurred at at a House committee hearing Tuesday on “The Need for Leadership to Combat Climate Change and Protect National Security.” The sense of the references was typified by this headline in Townhall: “Watch Incoherent John Kerry Get Destroyed Over His Bogus Climate Change Claims.”

Then, almost immediately later, I found Rolling  Stones account of the same exchange. It’s click-bait headline: “Is This the Dumbest Moment in Congressional History?”

Talk about Roshomon! How could both of these accounts possibly be accurate? Was Kerry reduced to a babbling fool by the Republican Comgressman’s deft cross examination, or did Massie embarrass himself? The truth was that everyone involved on all sides of this mini-foofaraw was, and is, stupid in one way or another, including the biased bloggers and pundits who saw what wasn’t there.

For Kerry to represent himself as any kind of expert on climate change is so silly even Democrats shouldn’t fallfor it. Yet here is Rolling Stone, saying outright, “Kerry is an expert on climate change who helped broker the Paris climate accord.” Kerry, like Al Gore and so many others whose belief in climate change doomsday predictions is based on politics rather than their comprehension or even review of the science, is just mouthing what he has been briefed to say. He has no background in science, no demonstrated aptitude for it, and has a well-established record of saying really dumb things about subjects he should be able to understand. The Paris accord was a diplomatic agreement, not a scientific one, and, of course, was symbolic and meaningless.  Kerry is an expert on symbolic and meaningless.

Massie is an MIT grad and trained as an engineer, so one could fairly expect that he is a little more legitimately conversant in climate science than Kerry, though he hardly proved it this day. He did prove that he’s no lawyer. Setting out to discredit Kerry’s climate change expert status should have been easy: just show a typical climate change model chart, like this one, Continue reading

A Jumbo! One More Time: If You Trust PolitiFact, You Are As Biased As They Are

“Airplanes? I don’t see any airplanes!”

There are no good political factchecking organizations. Some are more ethical than others. Snopes is terrible, biased, and unreliable unless it is really checking urban legends. The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler tries, but he works in the progressive bubble of Democrats who run the place, and he is corrupted. The Annenberg Foundation’s Fact-Check.org claims to be non-partisan and often succeeds, but of late it too has entered political advocacy into a category that is supposed to be only about objective facts.

As a general proposition, it is fair to call the  exercise of “factchecking” inherently misleading and so ripe for abuse that any fact check by a media organization should be viewed with extreme skepticism.

This goes double for PolitiFact; indeed, someone saying that this is their favorite fact checker has triggered signature significance. Nobody who is properly sensitive to partisan bias and committed to objectivity can possibly trust PolitiFact, a feature launched by a Democrat newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times, and recently taken over by the Poynter Institute, which I once respected as a voice for ethical journalism. Like its industry, however, it is corrupt. Either that, or Poynter isn’t providing oversight for PolitiFact.

This is res ipsa loquitur. PolitiFact, like many other media hacks from the Left, meaning almost all of them, is trying to provide cover for the “Green New Deal” that the Democratic Party has foolishly embraced, by throwing up dust, word-salads and lies. The current approach is pure Jumbo, the Ethics Alarms category for a lie in the style and scale of Jimmy Durante’s classic, trying to steal an elephant and upon being stopped by a constable and asked what he was doing with a pachyderm on a rope, exclaiming, “Elephant? WHAT elephant?”

Here’s Politifact, lying: Continue reading

Ethics Observations On “The Green New Deal,” Part II : What’s Going On Here?

In retrospect, waiting a couple of days before completing the Ethics Alarms analysis of the “Green New Deal” was a propitious decision. The results of the ethics, integrity and IQ tests that this fiasco represents can clarified considerably. The key question to begin most ethical analysis is “What’s going on here?” Well..what is?

1. Incompetence. The Ethics Alarms reader poll asking which of the provisions of the GND would, by themselves, mandate rejecting the leadership and judgment of any public figure endorsing them showed about 58% choosing “all of them,” with the infamous “providing economic security for all who are unwilling to work” coming in a distant second. I erred terribly in not providing a positive option for readers who see nothing wrong with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s batty manifesto. Ethics Alarms gets 3000-4000 visits a day, and surely some readers must have flunked this test. After all, Democrats are counting on a large segment of the population being similarly obtuse. This is my own bias at work. There are some episodes involving ethics where I really cannot comprehend how anyone with all their faculties and raised a U.S. culture can possibly reach a different ethics verdict that I have. Ethics is hard, but it isn’t THAT hard. The fact that there are, apparently, progressives and useful idiots who can read the screed without giggling is itself ethics alarms-worthy. The culture, including crucial components like education, journalism, and the world of politics, is failing our society by allowing warped perceptions and unethical values to take root. If this were not true, no elected official would dare propose a document like the Green New Deal.

2. Dishonesty and deception. It sounds like a mad conspiracy theory, but it is difficult for an objective observer not to conclude that the GND is part of a long-term plan of propaganda and indoctrination to replace American democracy with a leftist totalitarian regime. The kinds of measures being promoted in the GND—forget for a moment that most of them are literally impossible—cannot be achieved through democratic means, except in the broad sense of the public voting to give dictatorial powers to the government. The process flows from eco-fascism, which employs fear-mongering about an inevitable environmental catastrophe to provide justification for sacrificing individual liberty in the pursuit of “safety.” This is, as readers of world history knows, the traditional trade-off sold by totalitarian regimes. Yes, it is true that the quality of life and personal freedoms of the American public would both be severely constrained by the car-less, plane-less, nuclear energy-less, combustion engine-less, money-less and cow-less future that the socialist Democrats propose, but the alternative, we are told, is death and destruction. Academy Award-winning actress Ellen Page ranted on Stephen Colbert’s alleged late night comedy show (It is a partisan propaganda program with jokes) that “We have been told…that, by 2030, the world as we know it, that’s it. That’s it!” Colbert, who has the undeserved reputation as a truth-teller and sage, nodded sympathetically, saying that “until the water started swamping Manhattan, or just washes away Mar-a-Lago,” the public and media wouldn’t take the existential threat seriously. “You don’t want to think such terrible things are going to happen!”

Oh sure you do, if it will give you leverage to gain power over the nation. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/8/18: “Unconscionable, Despicable, And Indefensible”

Good morning!

1. The Hader Gotcha strikes again. Let me be clear: this is unconscionable, despicable, and indefensible. (Aside: Do you like that trio? In “Perry Mason,” the lawyers always objected that a question was “incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial,” because it sounded nifty. I’ve never heard that objection made in a real trial, or read it in a transcript.) To remind you all, during the baseball season, beginning with young All-Star pitcher Josh Hader, multiple baseball players were embarrassed when someone with ill intent searched their old Twitter feeds to search for tweets that could be deemed racially offensive, hostile to gays, or disrespectful of women. I dubbed this miserable practice as “The Hader Gotcha.“All of the players had to grovel apologies to their team mates and the public, as “woke” sportswriters condemned them and lobbied for MLB to punish them for impulsive social media comments made before they could vote, before they were celebrities, and when their followers consisted of fourteen or so pimply-faced jerks. The same basic principle was employed to smear Brett Kavanaugh, the unfair and factually false preemption that conduct and attitudes displayed by minors indicate what their character is in adulthood.

Well, I guess it’s nice to know that not only whites, baseball players and conservatives are victims of this crap. Mere hours after winning the Heisman Trophy as the nation’s outstanding college football player, Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray had to apologize today for anti-gay tweets he made in 2011-12 , when he was 14 and 15 years old.

In case you are keeping score, because I am, the culprits here are an irresponsible, vicious news media, totalitarian-leaning leftists who want to police thoughts and intimidate the public into ideological conformity, and social media lynch mobs.

2. Sure, Donald Trump is the fear-monger. The increasingly hysterical and hyped warnings and soothsaying by various climate change-promoting bodies are either causing over-sensitive, scientifically ignorant and gullible members of the public to descend into despair, or members  of the news media are deliberately trying to cause fear and panic—at least based on the broadcast lament of MSNBC’s Katie Tur. The anchor told her audience that life was meaningless without a mass effort to combat the horrors of the warming planet. Discussing a New Yorker article on the topic, she said,

“I read that New Yorker article today and I thought gosh, how pointless is my life, and how pointless are the decisions that I make on a day-to-day basis when we are not focused on climate change every day, when it’s not leading every one of our newscasts?”

Unconscionable, despicable, and indefensible? No, just irresponsible, unprofessional, and stupid. And they wonder why so many people can’t take these hysterics seriously…

3. And the winner is…Plan K? Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy thinks that the sentencing statement on Michael Cohen means that the President is very likely to be indicted on a charge of violating federal campaign finance laws  by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who has openly been pursuing a “get Trump” campaign. The theory would be election law violations in the pay-offs to Stormy Daniels, even though paying off a kiss-and -tell threat is usually legal, and even though election law violations are typically handled with fines, not indictments. McCarthy writes,

When it was discovered that Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign was guilty of violations involving nearly $2 million – an amount that dwarfs the $280,000 in Cohen’s case – the Obama Justice Department decided not to prosecute. Instead, the matter was quietly disposed of by a $375,000 fine by the Federal Election Commission.

Yes, but Obama’s Justice Department’s mission was to run interference for the President, and there was not an ongoing effort to find some way to undo a presidential election. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/23/18: (It’s My 38th Wedding Anniversary)

Good Morning!

1. A Thanksgiving Story. Yesterday, as we have in recent years since our available family has been inexorably shrinking or moving away, Grace and I, plus my son and his girl friend, went out to a favorite D.C. restaurant for our celebration. A very large party was next to our table, and when I overheard a comment or two, I figured out who it was. The extended Dole family, headed by former Senator Liddy Dole and former Senate Majority Leader, Presidential candidate and Vice-Presidential candidate Bob Dole, now 95, was having a holiday gathering with at least three generations on hand. My Dad deeply admired Dole’s military sacrifices in World War II as well as his wit, and both Doles had spent a lifetime in public service, so I decided to send the table a bottle of champaign with the Marshall family’s regards.

I expected at most a smile and a wave. Liddy Dole, however, came immediately over to our table, and chatted for quite a while, energetically expressing her  and Bob’s gratitude for the gift. Later a Dole niece came over to do the same, and I got a handshake and some nice words from Bob as we left. I would have assumed that lots of tables at the packed eatery would have sent some token of appreciation the Dole’s way, but we seemed to be the only ones. Indeed, we seemed to be the only ones who knew who they were. “Sic transit gloria mundi.”

It was funny: Liddy Dole did a wonderful job covering with opening comments that could have suggested that she had met us before, a skill anyone in public office must master. I managed to make it clear in my remarks that we hadn’t met, but her gratitude appeared genuine rather than formal.

So the Marshall family had a memorable collision with political history and Washington royalty! Best bottle of champagne I ever bought…

2.  If Obama wants to protect his own legacy and project a positive image of the Presidency, he really should shut up. During a summit this week for the Obama Foundation in Chicago, former President Barack Obama said,

“Climate change, we’re going to have to come up with some new technologies to solve the problem as much as we need to. Although even on something like that, right now I could take off the shelf existing technologies, we could reduce carbon emissions by, let’s say 30 percent, without any, you know, it’s not like we would have to go back to caves and, you know, live off, you know, fire. We could have electricity and smartphones and all that stuff, which would buy us probably another 20, 30 years for that technological breakthrough that’s necessary. The reason we don’t do it is because we are still confused, blind, shrouded with hate, anger, racism, mommy issues. “I mean … we are fraught with stuff.”

Stuff like, oh, reality. The U.S. is deeply in debt, in no small part due to Obama’s own mismanagement of the budget, and a trillion dollar infrastructure bill is overdue. Estimates—and on climate change, all we have is estimates, of what it would cost to reduce carbon emissions by 30% range from another 1.7 to 3 trillion dollars, and many estimates tell us that even that wouldn’t do enough, whatever “enough” is. “It’s not like we would have to go back to caves and, you know, live off, you know, fire’ is a masterpiece of “It’s not the worst thing” duplicity. OK, Big Shot, what would it mean? Of course, Obama has no idea. He’s just blathering, and at a level not much superior to the blathering President Trump gets regularly skewered for. Yes, we are indeed confused, because climate change research and hype are now indistinguishable thanks to messengers like Obama, but how the hell do “hate, anger, racism, (and) mommy issues” have anything to do with the issue other than to serve as standard left-wing insults at anyone who doesn’t agree with them?

The use of racism as a default explanation for any and all opposition has reached the point of self-parody. I wonder when the half the country not being victimized by it wakes up and sees how unfair and destructive this is… Continue reading

Late And Fevered Ethics Musings, 11/15/18: Pardon Hillary, And More Surprises

Ugh.

I can’t tell you how much I hate operating at quarter-steam like this. I have an ethics seminar to get through in two days, so I’m trying to be responsible. Luckily I have to deal with this about once every three years or so.

1. Baseball rejects consequentialism! New York Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom won the National League Cy Young Award after leading the majors in earned run average, meaning that he gave up fewer runs per 9 innings of any pitcher. Indeed, deGrom’s major-league-leading 1.70 ERA was two-thirds of a run lower than the next closest NL hurler, Philadelphia‘s Aaron Nola (2.37), and the second best by any starter this century.  Despite his own excellence, his team, the disappointing New York Mets, lost most of his starts, and deGrom only had a 10-9 record for the season. Traditionally the Cy Young honor, meant to designate the best pitcher in each league, has gone to the pitcher who won the most games while not disgracing himself in other categories. With the advent of statistical analysis, however, it has even dawned on the most meat-headed sportswriters that all a pitcher can do is prevent the other team from scoring, and if his team can’t score behind him, it says nothing about his ability at all.

In other words, doing “good” must be judged by what an individual does, not what happens that is beyond his control as he does it or after. Continue reading