Samuelson On Climate Change Epilogue: A Telling—And Irresponsible— Rebuttal

terrestrial-wind-farm1

As one of the commenters to the recent post here about Washington Post op-ed columnist Robert Samuelson’s clear-eyed assessment of climate change hucksterism noted, Samuelson’s analysis isn’t exactly a bolt from the blue. Such inconvenient truths are seldom articulated in the mainstream media, however. (A similar article turned up in, of all places, The Huffington Post, which usually favors climate change fascists calling for the arrest of people like Samuelson and other critics whose blasphemy is ensuring the end of the human race.) Samuelson’s column prompted this Washington Post Letter to the Editor from Peter Hildebrand, who is director emeritus of the Earth Sciences Division of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. It caused me to spit out my morning coffee yesterday:

In his defeatist op-ed concerning climate change, “Can we set the planet’s temperature?” [Dec. 28], Robert J. Samuelson sold short human abilities for scientific understanding and for creative innovations that change and improve how we live. As the Paris climate accord notes, we have solid scientific understanding of our options for limiting Earth’s rising temperature, and, with this knowledge, we can set a path for achieving these goals.

Mr. Samuelson failed to realize that we are already in a second Industrial Revolution, an energy revolution, that will be as unstoppable and positive as the first one. The switch to a largely renewable energy mix is already underway, driven as much by economic opportunity and technological innovation as by a social imperative based on scientific understandings. Mr. Samuelson also failed to note that in order to ensure that our grandchildren have the comfortable life they deserve, this energy revolution is critically needed. We need to embrace and support this revolution, not fight it.

That’s some rebuttal, isn’t it? Samuelson presents facts that persuasively suggest that that the measures “agreed on” in Paris are based on speculation, unwarranted belief in inadequate energy alternatives, and unrealistic projections, and this climate change advocate, presumably a scientist, responds with, essentially… Continue reading

Robert Samuelson’s Objective, Reasonable Analysis Of Climate Change Policy: Now Watch Him Get Called “A Denier”

samuelsonI’ve been reading and marveling at Robert J. Samuelson’s commentary on economic matters for decades. He lacks the panache of George Will, the certitude of E.J. Dionne, the passion of Charles Krauthammer, the comforting wishy-washiness of Kathleen Parker, and the partisan alliances of almost everybody. He’s just smart, articulate, observant scholar who gives his readers a sharp and objective analysis that often defies conventional wisdom. He annoys conservatives and liberals in equal measure, and I suppose is not a scintillating presence, since he is almost never on TV talking head panels.

Finally, he put his cerebral skills to work on the issue of climate change policy. Here, in part, is what he has concluded… Continue reading

Boehner, Leadership And The Consequentialism Exception

At the end of John Beohner’s press conference responding to his sudden resignation, there was this exchange:

QUESTION: Can you talk about what you think your legacy is as you’re leaving? What are your most important accomplishments, and what are you going to do on November 1st? Are you moving to Florida?

BOEHNER: I was never in the legacy business. You all heard me say it, I’m a regular guy with a big job. And I never thought I’d be in Congress much less I’d ever be speaker. But people know me as being fair, being honest, being straightforward and trying to do the right thing every day on behalf of the country. I don’t need any more on that.

I will frequently inveigh here against the fallacy of consequentialism, the mistake of believing that whether conduct is ethical or not can be judged by its results. This leads inexorably to an “ends justifies the means” orientation and a misunderstanding of ethics. The ethical nature of an act can only be weighed according to how it was arrived at, its intent, and whether the conduct itself meets the tests of one or more ethical systems. Then moral luck takes over: an ethical decision can have catastrophic consequences and still be ethical, and the most unethical conduct can have wonderful results.

In life, however, and especially in some fields, ethics isn’t enough, and we all know it, or should. This is why consequentialism can’t be snuffed out of our thinking. There are fields of endeavor in which results are the primary standard by which we can—and should— judge whether someone was competent in the role he or she took on for themselves when others could have done the job better. In these fields being ethical isn’t enough, and often is grossly inadequate.  If one is a leader, for example, it cannot be right to lead those behind you to disaster, indeed to fail. In a field that is defined by the successful completion of a task that affects others, failure and ethics are incompatible. A failed leader is a bad leader. The objective in leadership is not just to “do the right thing,” but to succeed at ethical objectives in the right way. Continue reading

Angelina Jolie’s Worse-Than-Useless Syrian Lament

JolieAngelina Jolie has a solution to the Syrian civil war, the strategy Barack Obama is searching for! She said, solemnly, I’m sure:

“We need to see a new attempt to resolve the conflict and greater efforts to support more than 13 million Syrians who are in desperate need. The reputation and credibility of the international system is at stake with so many thousands of lives threatened in Syria.

Yes! Why didn’t anyone think of that? We need to resolve the conflict! Of course, Jolie would never approve of armed intervention, because she believes in non-violence. No, what is needed is, well, an attempt. You can read the rest of her noble, fatuous, narcissistic plea here.

I’m certain this will further enhance Ms. Jolie’s status as a humanitarian among the actress’s many sensitive, peace-loving followers. It would not surprise me if she adds to her list of awards because of it. Her words are worthy of the Pope, but to be fair, making empty, inspiring statements full of non-committal goodness is his job.

Whatever Jolie thinks she is accomplishing by making such an obvious, useless, pointless statement and having the news media duly report it as if she knew anything whatsoever about geopolitical tensions or could begin to suggest what “attempts” would consist of,  what she is in fact doing is exploiting an international tragedy to gild her own perceived virtue. Her statement advances no objective or contributes any wisdom. Indeed, it interferes with legitimate efforts to deal with this difficult situation, because such statements mislead the public about the painful, indeed ugly trade-offs and choices necessary to deal with despots and evil in the world.   I’m sure, if pressed to suggest what attempts she, in all her Hollywood-infused wisdom regarding foreign affairs, would advocate, she would insist that they be humanitarian in nature, and take into consideration the needs of all parties, as well as the root causes that lead to such violence and disruption. In other words, something. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: How Do We React Ethically To THIS?

"Oh, Naaaaancy! Naaaancy!

“Oh, Naaaaancy! Naaaancy!

Today,the Congressional Budget Office made this announcement, as reported by The Hill:

“The new healthcare law will cost the nation the equivalent of 2.5 million workers in the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated in a report released Tuesday. The nonpartisan agency found the healthcare law’s negative effects on the economy would be “substantially larger” than what it had previously anticipated. It said the equivalent of 2.3 million workers would be lost by 2021, compared to its previous estimate of 800,000. It also projected that labor force compensation would be reduced by 1 percent from 2017 to 2024 — twice its previous estimate — and that declining economic growth would add $1 trillion more to deficits.”

Well, of course. We, and by we I mean intelligent, objective people who pay attention to history and know how government programs work, knew this revelation, or some version of it, was coming along sooner or later. And yet, when the Affordable Care Act was being debated and railroaded through Congress–and that is a fair description of the strong-arm, gimmick-driven, dishonest and anti-Democratic manner in which  it was passed—critics who said the law would increase the deficit and the debt, not reduce them; that it would lose jobs, not create them, and that it would retard economic growth, not boost it were savaged by the media, commentators and Democrats, called obstructionists, cruel, liars and worse.

I particularly remember MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, arguably the most credible of her far left colleagues, furiously railing, while serving as a reporter at the Republican National Convention, about the utter dishonesty of GOP speakers who kept saying—in defiance of the CBO projections, mind you!—that the AFA would increase the deficit, not reduce it. Chris Matthews, to give credit where it’s due, intervened and said, in essence, ‘Well, now Rachel, you have to admit that the record of big federal programs has not been good in this respect.’ No, she wouldn’t admit it. Continue reading

Obamacare, “The March Of Folly,” And The Ethical Obligation To Accept Unpleasant Facts

Charge+of+the+Light+Brigade+Cavalry+Charge

Today, while listening to the furious efforts of such liberal talking heads as E.J. Dionne (NBC’s Meet the Press), Donna Brazile (ABC’s Sunday Morning With George) and Juan Williams (Fox News Sunday) to explain why the Affordable Care Act disaster is not really a disaster and why it should be full steam ahead even as the legislation is unraveling before our eyes, my mind kept jerking back to two disparate sources. One was Barbara Tuchman’s “The March of Folly,” the celebrated historian’s 1985 examination of how governments persist in doomed policies long after it is obvious to all, including them, that the effort is not only futile but disastrous. The other was “Peanuts:”

Sincere

For this is what the bitter-enders regarding the Affordable Care Act have become. Because the absurdly flawed and over-reaching legislation was well-intentioned, and because it was sincerely designed to help people who need and deserve help, and because the hearts of those who rammed it through the process, ignoring warnings, systemic checks and balances, prudence and common sense, were pure, the law just has to work. Former White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs literally said this to David Gregory on “Meet the Press” this morning. There’s just no choice, he said. The administration just has to make it work, that’s all. Anyone who has read Tuchman, or who has been alive longer than Justin Bieber, should get chills to hear sentiments like that. Continue reading

The 8 Useful Ethics Tips From “The Tale of the Well-Meaning Kidnapper”

Luis Trinidad, safe but confused

Luis Trinidad, safe but confused

Ethics Tip #1: If you are this stupid and irresponsible, it’s unethical to have children

A Bristol, Connecticut man parked his car outside a store with the doors unlocked, the motor running, and his two-year-old son in the back seat.

Ethics Tip #2: When you witness child endangerment, make sure rescuing the child does not require breaking the law, unless there are no other options to save the child. Calling the police is usually another option.

Outraged by the father’s irresponsible conduct, a citizen who happened to pass by the car, 24-year-old Devon Mills, decided to take matters into his own hands.

Ethics Tip #3: When you hear yourself saying, “This guy needs to be taught a lesson,” stop and think things through: that may be true, but you may not be the appropriate deliverer of the lesson, and the statement is an invitation to overstep one’s authority.

Mills decided that it would serve the father of the child and owner of the car right if he got scared out of his wits. Continue reading

Bonus Comment of the Day: “Naming Your Kid After Hitler…”

"Be proud of your name, little Adolf! It has a nice ring to it--sounds like someone important! And tell your little friend Joe Mengele that HIS name is fine, too. What's that? Well, sure we can go to Poland for your Spring Break! What a novel idea!"

I couldn’t resist this one, since I needed a hammer to close my mouth after I read it, because my jaw locked. The opinion is ridiculous, of course, but the comment is still enlightening: this is what happens when essentially good and virtuous instincts blind logic and common sense. The number of unethical, or just plain stupid things that occur when this happens is one of the tragedies of life. Or, to take a more charitable view, such a comment is what happens when someone has an essentially ethical position but picks the most inappropriate platform for it imaginable, and in trying to squeeze an important sentiment where it doesn’t belong, ends up discrediting an otherwise valid point. (Don’t do that.)

Here is Allan’s Special Bonus Comment of the Day, on Naming Your Kid After Hitler: 100% Legal, 100% Child Abuse. Hold on to your jaw: Continue reading

“The Ethicist” and His Definition of “Unethical”

Eureka! Bingo! At last!

While explaining in this week’s column why he hesitates to label a manifestly unethical practice unethical, The New York Times Magazine’s ethicist, Randy Cohen, clarified a couple of questions that have been bothering me for quite a while. Why do so many people react so violently to my conclusion that they have done something unethical? And why does Randy Cohen, a.k.a. “The Ethicist” so frequently endorse unethical conduct, especially dishonesty, when he believes it is motivated by virtuous motives? Continue reading