Let’s see what revoltin’ developments we have accumulated, shall we? But first, some positive news…
1. Bernie Madoff has died in prison.Good. If there was ever a case for using capitol punishment for crimes other than murder and treason, Bernie is it. He was convicted of orchestrating the biggest Ponzi scheme in American history and was serving a 150-year sentence that he managed to escape by dying in prison of natural causes at age 82. He was a stone-cold sociopath who destroyed his family, foundations, charities and lives, all out of greed. On the plus side, his exploits did spawn two excellent dramatic portrayals, one by Robert De Niro and the other by Richard Dreyfuss. I liked Richard’s better, but after his disgusting conduct during the Trump years, Robert is permanently unwelcome to my eyeballs.
So much for the good news…
2. Don’t tell me again how poor Pete Rose deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Pete was the second Ethics Dunce of them all, way back in 2004, here. Knowing well that baseball had an iron-clad, one strike and you’re out forever rule forbidding players, coaches and managers from betting on games, he did it anyway (as a manager) because, see, he is Pete Rose, and the rules don’t apply to him, but mostly because he’s an idiot. So he got banned from the game and the Hall of Fame despite being the all-time hit leader, ahead of Ty Cobb. He’s a walking, talking ethics corrupter, prompting fans and writers to resort to rationalizations to explain why he should be forgiven.
I was talking with a colleague about the most relevant movie to watch these days. As readers here know, the outbreak of elected officials letting power go to their heads led me to designate Woody Allen’s “Bananas” for that honor. (And yesterday I posited the relevance of “Airplane!” )Still, it’s hard to argue against my friend’s position that the right choice is “Groundhog Day.”
In the interest of sanity, I reject “Contagion” and especially “World War Z” or “Quaranteen.” (All good movies though.)
1. Right now it’s turned face to the wall, but today I’m putting a sheet over it…My college diploma becomes more embarrassing by the day. Harvard University has accepted nearly $9 million from the pandemic relief package. With a 40 billion dollar dollar endowment, Harvard is better off financially than the U.S. government.
[Notice of Correction:I wrote “million” instead of billion in the original post. Really stupid typo. I apologize.]
There is no excuse for the school accepting the money. It is getting widely criticized for taking it, and ought to be.
A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education said ithat Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “shares the concern that sending millions to schools with significant endowments is a poor use of taxpayer money. In her letter to college and university presidents, Secretary DeVos asked them to determine if their institutions actually need the money and, if not, to send unneeded CARES Act funds to schools in need in their state or region.”
In an episode of Spokesman vs Spokesman, a mouthpiece for the Ivy said, disingenuously,
“By federal formula laid out in the CARES Act, Harvard was allocated $8.6 million, with 50% of those funds to be reserved for grants to students. Harvard is actually allocating 100% of the funds to financial assistance for students to meet their urgent needs in the face of this pandemic. Harvard will allocate the funds based on student financial need. This financial assistance will be on top of the significant support the University has already provided to students — including assistance with travel, providing direct aid for living expenses to those with need, and supporting students’ transition to online education.”
This is an exercise in deflection and rationalization. The only issue is that Harvard has plenty of money to do all of this without any hand-outs from the government, and many other institutions need the money more, which is an easy calculation because no institution needs money less than Harvard does. Continue reading →
1. “Radical? What radical?” Stanford law professor Pam Karlan, who stood out as a neon beacon highlighting 2019 Democratic Party extremism when she turned her House testimony on impeachment into an unhinged, Trump-hate rant including a cheeap shot at Barron Trump’s name, was apparently too radical for Barack Obama, says Legal Insurrection. He appointed far more moderate Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, despite Democrats then being in control of both Houses.
“Fast forward to 2019, and this radical Obama SCOTUS reject is a star witness for the Democrat impeachment circus,” the blog notes. “It’s surreal how completely the Democrats have removed themselves from any semblance of rational thought when it comes to their impeachment obsession.”
If we regard the public as the jury and the House Democrats as prosecutors, how can one explain putting such an angry, ugly, biased and partisan fanatic on the metaphorical stand as an “expert witness”? Isn’t that gross incompetence? What’s going on here? In fact, let’s poll it. Who knows, maybe it will draw almost as much interest as the Peloton commercial poll, the second most active in Ethics Alarms history (so far). (But then there were more Google searches on “Peleton” than “impeachment” last week, so we know what American priorities are…)
2. Polls suggest that public opposition to abortion is rising again. Gee, I wonder why?
“Can you believe this?” wrote one on Facebook. “Knights of Columbus Belleville (all men) organized this absolutely shameful act ….and also posted it on their facebook page.” Erecting a the memorial is shameful. Got it.
Well, they were just warts and parasites, so she has a point.
The National Post reported that the coordinator of a protest over the memorial stone, Elissa Robertson, accused the Catholic charity of “attacking a women’s right to choose,” saying,
“It was designed to shame people. I think it was absolutely uncalled for and that money they put into this anti-abortion monument could have done a lot of good somewhere else. It ties into patriarchal values and this idea that women’s bodies are meant to be controlled by men. It’s a broader issue that ties into violence against women, it ties into health care, it ties into safety.”
It ties into climate change! It ties into racism! It ties into tooth decay!
If one has no regrets or shame about snuffing out nascent human lives, then how does the monument shame you? The abortion argument is very difficult to win on a factual or ethical basis, but advocates have learned that “How dare you!” and “Shut up!” are very effective.
Actress Jameela Jamil certainly isn’t ashamed. She’s refreshingly honest…and scary. In a November Harper’s Bazaar interview with Gloria Steinem, she said,
“I’m very outspoken about the fact that I, similarly to you, feel very passionately about a woman’s right to choose I’m someone who’s had an abortion, and I feel like I need to make sure that we prove it’s not always just emergencies. People have abortions, sometimes a woman just wants her liberty, and we have to normalize that it’s okay just to make that choice for yourself, because your life is as important as a newborn life that doesn’t even exist yet.”
Wait, if it’s not living, then why do you have to kill it? Is it really a fair to compare your avoiding an inconvenient responsibility or life disruption with another human being losing its life? Challenged on this, the actress responded on social media, “I SAID WHAT I FUCKING SAID and you’re clueless if you think I’m going to take it back. My life is more important to me than an unborn fetus’s one. Suck on THAT!”
Wait: I thought you said no life was involved.
This is the approximate level of thought, sensitivity and ethical analysis we hear from almost all pro-abortion activists. Basic competence and responsibility rules: if you can’t discuss a topic more articulately and thoughtfully than this, leave the issue to others. Here’s another one of Jamil’s clever arguments:
1 Christmas gift ethics. What’s your opinion of a relative who says that the only thing she wants for Christmas is for family members to donate to her favorite leftist candidate for City Council? I don’t recall the Christmas tradition being “Make people do whatever you would do” Day, do you? Let’s have a Christmas Eve poll!
2. Change: I now believe “the wall” is necessary and the President’s resolve is ethical. My change of heart comes after watching all Democrats and many Republicans simultaneously say they want secure borders and then continue to encourage illegal immigration with their rhetoric and votes. The wall is necessary to send an unequivocal message, which has been Trump’s message since he announced his candidacy: “Come here legally, or don’t come. If you get here by breaking our laws, you are not welcome and will never be welcome, no matter what you do.”
Anti-Trump GOP Senator Bob Corker claims that the showdown over authorization of funding for the Wall is a “made-up fight, so the president can look like he’s fighting, but even if he wins, our borders are going to be insecure.” It’s not a “made-up” fight at all. Republicans have been afraid to upset Hispanic-Americans and Democrats want nice, reliable, left-voting poor folks to swell the voting rolls, so they have sent deliberately mixed messages, particularly regarding the “Dreamers.” If a wall did nothing other than stop “migrant caravans,” it would be worth it.
Trump also promised a wall. Breaking promises is not the same as a lie, unless the promise was a lie when it was made, but Trump, who we have been told lies incessantly, has also been far more determined to fulfill campaign promises than any President within memory. (Obama promised to address the national debt. He promised to have the most transparent administration in history. He promised that lthe use of chemical weapons by Syria would be the “red line.” He promised to be President of all the people, not just Democratic base demographic groups. He promised that if you like your heath care plan…well, you know the rest.)
It is the Democratic position on the wall that is a sham, because the money involved is a relative pittance. They are grandstanding, and the President is not.
3. Slot machine ethics. How did I miss this? Three Las Vegas visitors who hit multi-million dollar jackpots playing slot machines are fighting the casinos’ efforts to void the pay-offs on the grounds that the machines “malfunctioned.” The episodes all occurred earlier this year. Unless there is a prominent notice on or around the slots pointing out that there is a limit to the payoff in any single play and specifying what the limit is, I think the casinos are obligated to live with losing whatever one of their evil, manipulative, Skinnerian machines cough up.
This isn’t like a malfunctioning ATM machine. Players are led to believe that whatever comes out when they pull the lever or push the button is theirs. If casinos can say that their machines malfunctioned and they are not responsible for the result, then gamblers should have the same option: “I’m sorry, but my limit on gambling losses was just $500. I shouldn’t be responsible for the additional $10,000 I lost on blackjack, because I malfunctioned.” Continue reading →
1. Why does anyone pay attention to what Dan Rather has to say about the trustworthiness of the news media?Interviewed in some Trump-bashing forum or another, the man who was fired from CBS for using a fake document to bolster an anti-President Bush story argued that President Trump was waging a “war on the press” in order to “undermine the public’s trust in the rule of law, ” and that he was making “some headway” in undermining the press’s legitimacy.
To the contrary, Dan Rather and his biased news media colleagues have been 100% responsible for undermining the public’s trust in journalists. All of the Presidents attacks and insults would come to nothing if it were not so obvious, which more evidence every day, that the news media was biased, incompetent, dishonest, and pursuing a partisan agenda. Indeed, the fact that CNN, MSNBC and other news sources still resort to Rather as a credible commentator is enough to justify distrusting the new media all by itself.
2. Yup, those Republicans won’t return to civility…Kathy Griffin, trenchant as always and teeming with wit, has now called President Trump a “stupid racist piece of shit.” It is time to definitively establish that the “Trump is a racist” slur is a Democrat/”resistance” Big Lie, and nothing else. There is no evidence that Donald Trump is a racist. I have reviewed the episodes that supported support that contention, and ultimately they boil down to “If you aren’t a progressive, you’re a racist.” Trump opposes illegal immigration, and the dishonest advocacy of open borders has relied on intimidating supporters of this self-evidently correct position by tarring them as racist. Trump challenged Barack Obana’s birthright citizenship exactly as he challenged Ted Cruz’s citizenship in the 2016 campaign for the GOP nomination. (Ted’s not black, in case you hadn’t noticed.) The argument that this proves Trump is a racist is a failed syllogism: Many racists were birthers, Trump was a birther, ergo he’s a racist. False. He’s an asshole. He would have trolled any President, of any color, with the same idiotic accusation if it suited his purposes. But, again, the Democratic play-book for eight years now has dictated that any criticism of Obama is suspect of racist motives. And, of course, the President must be racist because he wants to limit the number of Muslims who enter the country from hotbeds of terrorism.
The hypocrisy of Trump’s foes using the Nazi Big Lie tactic while accusing him of being a fascist is so obvious that it’s hard to believe everyone doesn’t see it. I admit, it’s a versatile Big Lie, allowing pundits to equate Trump’s advocacy of “nationalism,” meaning opposition to the world government dreams the Democratic Party (and quite a few Republicans) have been promoting since Woodrow Wilson (who WAS as racist) with “white nationalism.”
Griffin’s “evidence”? The President said the White House might pull the press credentials of April Ryan, who happens to be black. If CNN was real news organization, it would have fired Ryan, who is a biased, ideologically-driven hack, long ago. Here are the Ethics Alarms Ryan files. Here is what April Ryan considers legitimate questioning of the White House Press Secretary:
“Sarah, is slavery wrong? Sarah, is slavery wrong? Does this administration think that slavery was wrong? Sarah, does this administration believe slavery was wrong?”
The new Rationalization #23, The Dealer’s Excuse. or “I’m just giving them what they want!” now bumps Woody’s Excuse: “The heart wants what the heart wants” to sub-rationalization status as 23A.
Good. Woody Allen doesn’t deserve a free-standing rationalization.
While narcissist Woody’s contribution to the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations list states that something is ethical if you want it badly enough, as in, “I really, really want to have sex with my adopted daughter,” its recently revealed parent hold that conduct becomes justifiable and benign if there is a market for it. Woody’s excuse is bad, but this is worse. For one thing, it’s usually disingenuous. Those who employ the Dealer’s Excuse aren’t providing a service out of altruistic motives, but out of the profit motive. They want the money they can make by doing unethical things that make society uglier, dysfunctional and dangerous, and they really don’t care if their customers come to a bad end or bring miseries to others.
The most famous exposition of The Dealer’s Excuse is in “The Godfather,” as Don Corleone and the other mafia heads discuss their “business.” The Godfather is balking at adding drugs to the mob’s businesses, and says:
When — when did I ever refuse an accommodation? All of you know me here — when did I ever refuse? — except one time. And why? Because — I believe this drug business — is gonna destroy us in the years to come. I mean, it’s not like gambling or liquor — even women –which is something that most people want nowadays, and is forbidden to them by the pezzonovante of the Church. Even the police departments that’ve helped us in the past with gambling and other things are gonna refuse to help us when in comes to narcotics. And I believed that — then — and I believe that now.
Prolific commenter slickwilly wrote in one of the Comey threads,
Jack, we need a post on how the Spurs were aided in their win by either a) James Harden point shaving, or b) someone slipped him date rape drugs How ethical are the accusations?
I had been vaguely aware of the surprise rout the short-handed San Antonio Spurs inflicted on the Houston Rockets to win their NBA play-off series, but as the NBA is far-off my ethics radar due to the fact that I consider it a fake sport played by too many ethically-challenged athletes who achieved fame and wealth thanks to the corrupt college basketball system, a direct query like this was required to get my attention. Here is what happened, courtesy of the Sporting News, as the Houston Rockets superstar delivered an epic choke when his team needed it most:
With Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker out for Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals, James Harden was expected to dominate the Spurs.
Instead, Jonathon Simmons and LaMarcus Aldridge led a perfectly executed game plan by Gregg Popovich to hold Harden and the Rockets to just 75 points in a 39-point win. Harden made just two field goals, had six turnovers and registered a minus-28 as Houston shot just over 30 percent in the loss.
In the wake of the Spurs’ playoff series-clinching, 114-75 rout of the Rockets on Thursday, it was hard to know which was more shocking: that San Antonio could play so well without Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker, or that James Harden could play so poorly. The Houston star scored just 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting in more than 36 minutes of play, looking nothing like a leading contender for NBA MVP honors…Harden not only failed to take advantage of the absence of the league’s best perimeter defender, he was stunningly ineffective in the final four minutes of regulation and through the five-minute overtime period. In that span, Harden scored four points on 1-of-6 shooting, turned the ball over four times, and committed two costly fouls, including an offensive foul on what could have been a game-winning possession with seconds left in regulation.
This is not just an example of a star player having a bad game, like “Casey at the Bat.” Harden is regarded as a strong contender for the 2017 NBA MVP award. Nobody could remember a similar example of a healthy NBA super-star playing so poorly for so long in a crucial play-off game, and there is no sport where a single great player’s performance can make the difference between victory and defeat more surely than basketball. Harden has not explained his flop, so people are making excuses for him. The popular theory seems to be that he was suffering from a concussion following an elbow to the head suffered in the previous game two days earlier. This is pure speculation, however, and as the Post notes, Continue reading →
The ex players are (R to L), Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, banned Pete Rose, rapidly fading from memory Raul Ibanez, and the nearly universally detested Alex Rodriguez.
Among the commentators at the desk in the pre- and post game show for FS1 (that’s Fox Sports One) as it carries the National League Championship Series between the Cubs and the Dodgers, are Pete Rose, and Alex Rodriquez.
Pete Rose, baseball’s all-time hits leader, is banned from baseball for gambling on the game while a manager. This has been taboo since the 1919 World Series was fixed by gamblers. (Donald Trump has never accepted that the Cincinnati Reds won). Rose lied about whether he bet on baseball for over a decade, then he lied about whether he bet on his own team a little longer. In the meantime, he served prison time for tax evasion.
Alex Rodriquez eventually was suspended from baseball for more than a season for using banned performance enhancing drugs, years after he tested positive for steroid use and told the public sincerely that it was “one mistake” and he’d never do it again. He is also a serial liar. Eventually the increasingly cynical and ethically-addled younger sportswriters may vote him into the Hall of Fame, but he is second only to Barry Bonds as the worst of the worst. Currently, he is regarded as flunking the Hall’s character and sportsmanship requirement.Duh.Continue reading →
Three Olympic boxers received “severe reprimands” from an International Olympic Committee last week for betting on fights during last month’s Rio de Janeiro Games in violation of Olympic anti-betting rules.
The IOC said the three boxers received only reprimands rather than retroactive disqualifications or bans because a disciplinary panel determined “there was no intent to manipulate any event” and the athletes have apologized.
Donnelly, an evident idiot, said that he was in fact not aware of the prohibition against betting, though he had signed the documents agreeing to the restrictions. He hadn’t read them, he said. He claimed that he bet against himself without intending lose his match to win those bets. He reasoned that if he lost the match, winning the bets ( he made two on his opponent) would be some compensation for his defeat.
Good thinking there, Steve.
Your EthicsAlarms Ethics Quiz of the Day…
Is a reprimand just and sufficient punishment for an Olympic competitor who bets on himself to lose, as long as he loses the bet and not his competition?
Powerball, like all government-sponsored lotteries, is unethical in every way except that it is not fixed, at least as far as we know. The excitement over lotteries is also depressing. The whole scenario is like something out of a movie about a dystopian culture in which only a lucky draw can rescue citizens from despair and failure—this, in a society of unique personal freedom and opportunities for success. The worst aspect of lotteries—arguably, since there are so many bad things about them—is that they are cruel cheats. As often as not, indeed more often than not, winning a jackpot just provides conclusive proof of why the individual needed a lottery to achieve even temporary affluence. The poor decision-making skills, inadequate education and self-destructive tendencies of many of these winners lead to disaster and financial distress incredibly quickly; many have lost all of their winnings within five years or less,.
It doesn’t have to be this way. There are people, many of them, who have the skills, ideas, talents and character to achieve great things for themselves and society if they had a little help, like some spare time and extra cash. Some of these people achieve a great deal without the time or cash, but might do more good for society with some help.
I would like to see a merit, ambition and potential-based “lottery,” which individuals enter with an explanation of their aspirations and some valid support for their ability to achieve them. Have the entrance fee reasonable, say, twenty bucks, and allow nominations to be submitted by others for a lesser amount, say, ten. Wait until the pool reaches an appropriate size, like 20 million dollars, and have a selection committee choose finalists to interview. In the end, a group of worthy candidates are awarded a million dollars (or more, or less—I’m not designing details here) to see what they do with it. There will be no further strings attached.
Naturally there will be frauds and failures; it will be the job of the selection process to try to sniff out and avoid them, but some duds will slip through. Never mind. This would still be a “lottery” that has a fighting chance of benefiting society rather than a lucky few who spent money on an upscale, state-promoted version of the numbers game they should have been investing in a college fund for their kids or in a degree for themselves.
It would have a chance of making life a little better, rather than worse, which is what the current “games” do.