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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Now THAT Was A Stupid Lie!

caitlyn-jenner

Ah, memories! On the old Ethics Scoreboard, I had a feature called the David Manning Liar of the Month. From the description:

David Manning was an imaginary movie reviewer that Sony quoted when one of its movies was so lousy no real movie reviewer would praise it. When this long-running public fraud was brought to Sony’s attention, the company’s response was, in effect, “So who believes movie reviews?” Thus Sony’s phony critic and the company’s cynical defense of him stand for the dubious proposition that as long as your self-serving lie is in a trivial arena (usually entertainment) where dishonesty and misrepresentation are commonplace, or is a lie that nobody believes, it isn’t reprehensible. The fact is that these casual, obvious or trivial lies and the liars who spread them (almost always for profit) further degrade the value of honesty in American society, and pave the way for more destructive lies and liars waiting in the wings. All public deception is harmful, so The Ethics Scoreboard regularly recognizes The David Manning Liars of the Month, and urges the public to make them come clean…

Thus it gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling, like finding an old toy, to read that Caitlyn Jenner, running for governor of California to revive her flagging celebrity now that the Kardashian gig is over, issued a completely pointless lie that was bound to be discovered.

CNN’s Dana Bash asked Jenner if the transgender former Olympic champions had voted for for Donald Trump in last year’s election.

“I didn’t even vote,” Jenner replied. “Out here in California, it’s like, why vote for a Republican president? It’s just not going to work. I mean, it’s overwhelming. It was voting day, and I thought, the only thing out here in California that I worry about, which affects people, is the propositions that were out there. And I didn’t see any propositions that I really had one side or the other. And so it was Election Day. And I just couldn’t get excited about it. And I just wound up going to play golf and I said, eh, I’m not doing that.”

But the record showed that she did vote. It was easy to check. Writes Politico, “Her claim to be a non-voter in that seminal 2020 election was baffling for a gubernatorial candidate trying to establish her political credibility, especially since records show she did participate in the contest.”

It’s not baffling. It’s typical: a disturbing number of Americans, especially celebrities and politicians, believe that lying is no big deal, so they don’t think being caught in obvious lies damages their reputation. Their attitude is “Hey, it’s worth a shot!” When they are caught, their reaction is, “Whatever.”

The disturbing thing is that they may be right.

Afternoon Ethics Delights, 4/6/2021:

The U.S. entered The Great War on this date in 1917, surely among the most disastrous decisions the nation has ever made. Unfortunately, almost all of the debate over whether we “should” have gotten involved in the seemingly pointless quarrel among the European powers is polluted by hindsight bias, consequentialism, and a disregard for moral luck. Yes, it’s true that The Great War led to a far worse one, and that Germany winning what became World War I probably would have kept Adolf Hitler painting houses. But that’s cheating: we can only assess the legitimacy of the U.S. entering the war on the basis of what was known at the time.

1. Baseball uniform ethics. Oh yeah, this makes a lot of sense. The Boston Red Sox uniforms have been red, white and blue for almost a century—perfect for the team’s annual Patriot’s Day game, which occurs in the morning so the crowd can watch the end of the Boston Marathon. Only Massachusetts, Maine and Connecticut celebrate Patriot’s Day, when Paul Revere (and his two friend) rode to warn the Boston suburbs that the British were coming in 1775.

Well, Nike is now pulling baseball’s strings (there is evidence that the company that employs Colin Kaepernick as a spokesperson helped push MLB into punishing Atlanta for Joe Biden’s made-up racist voting law claims), and part of its deal with the sport is that it will design new uniforms for many of the teams. Here are the uniforms the company thinks the Boston Red Sox should wear to celebrate Patriots Day, since those old colors just reflect the flag of the racist nation founded on the backs of slaves:

They look like eggs.

And of course, no red socks.

2. The rest of the story! Remember this post, about San Francisco’s lunatic school board declaring that one-third of the city’s school names, including those honoring Washington, Jefferson,  Lincoln, James Madison and both Roosevelts , Presidents Monroe, McKinley, Herbert Hoover and James Garfield; John Muir, the naturalist and author; James Russell Lowell, abolitionist poet and editor; Paul Revere,  Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,  Daniel Webster, and current California Senator and former city mayor Diane Feinstein must be replaced so as not to honor individuals who were, in the words of an over-acting character in “The Birds”,

Rendering the equivalent of Tippy Hedren’s slap to these idiots has been, well, just about everybody, from historians, scholars, parents, anyone with an IQ above freezing, and even San Francisco’s reliably woke mayor. Implementing the re-naming was also expected to embroil the city in litigation. So now, the school board, after pausing its grand cancellation project, is expected to overturn its decision after wasting a lot of time and money, and making the city appear even more absurd than it usually does, which is quite an achievement.

You would think that someone on the school board would have been sufficiently smart, competent, responsible grounded in reality to predict the fate of such a mass historical airbrushing. Nope!

This isn’t called The Great Stupid for nothing, you know.

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Comment Of The Day: “Oppressing The Twitter Troll”

censorship cartoon

This is Glenn Logan’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Oppressing The Twitter Troll”:

I always like to look at the law, and at the charges, to see if they are particularized and actually allege a violation.It seems to me the particular law at issue is 18 U.S. Code § 241 – Conspiracy against rights. The relevant text would seem to be paragraph 1:

If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same; orIf two or more persons go in disguise on the highway, or on the premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured—

What the government is alleging here, apparently, is essentially a conspiracy to cyber-bully. Attempting to convince others to vote a certain way or not to vote at all is called “electioneering” and is not only legal in the United States, but protected speech under the First Amendment, as well as widely practiced by all political parties 24-7-365, legally and peacefully. The law criminalizing conspiracies to deprive persons of rights was passed during the civil rights era and was plainly directed at the Klu Klux Klan and similar organizations.

As we all know, those groups would intimidate voters of all races, but primarily black people and their sympathizers, by burning crosses, lynchings, threats, and other violent actions to suppress or affect voting against the groups’ interests. Most of their methods were illegal under state and federal law to begin with, but the law in this case provided an additional tool to attack those who plannedlawless actions against the rights of others as well as those who carried them out. It is a bit like the Civil RICO laws, which were primarily aimed at those who directed corrupt mob actions but almost never participated in overt criminal activity.

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Oppressing The Twitter Troll

Twitter troll meme

Federal prosecutors accused Douglass Mackey, 31, described in news reports as a “Twitter Troll,”of coordinating with co-conspirators to spread misinformation on Twitter in 2016 that Hillary Clinton’s supporters could vote by sending a text message to a specific phone number.

Mackey was arrested a week ago in the first criminal case in the country alleging voter suppression through the use of false tweets.

Seth DuCharme, the acting United States attorney in Brooklyn, whose office is prosecuting the case, said, “With Mackey’s arrest, we serve notice that those who would subvert the democratic process in this manner cannot rely on the cloak of internet anonymity to evade responsibility for their crimes.” The alleged crime is a conspiracy to “oppress” or “intimidate” anyone from exercising a constitutional right, such as voting. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Prosecutors allege that 4,900 really gullible and lazy Hillary Clinton supporters were fooled by Mackey’s scheme into trying to vote for her using a phone number publicized on social media. Mackey and his co-conspirators joked online about about tricking “dopey” liberals.

There is no question that what Mackey et al. did was unethical, dishonest, unfair and sinister. However, I find it hard to understand how he can be prosecuted while the deceptions of others whose efforts to mislead voters and either dissuade them from voting or get them to vote for a candidate they otherwise would not have were far more widespread and had far more impact on election results. My guess is that this charge is harassment, and harassment based on partisan intimidation.

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On Kamala, King, Lies, The Media And The Julie Principle

King and Harris

Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris has a favorite story she likes to tell about her childhood, most recently in Elle Magazine. The article begins with the anecdote: Harris was attending a civil rights march in Oakland, California as a toddler. She fell out of her stroller, and,

“‘My mother tells the story about how I’m fussing,and she’s like, ‘Baby, what do you want? What do you need?’ And I just looked at her and I said, ‘Fweedom.’”

The story also appears in Harris’s 2010 book “Smart on Crime” as well as her book published in 2019 titled “The Truths We Hold.” Yet it sounded strangely familiar to some people this time around, and sure enough, it seems that the tale is oddly similar to a story Rev. Martin Luther King related in his famous interview published in Playboy a half-century ago. During the interview, King recalled an incident:

“I never will forget a moment in Birmingham when a white policeman accosted a little Negro girl, seven or eight years old, who was walking in a demonstration with her mother. “‘What do you want?’ the policeman asked her gruffly, and the little girl looked him straight in the eye and answered, ‘Fee-dom.’ She couldn’t even pronounce it, but she knew. It was beautiful! Many times when I have been in sorely trying situations, the memory of that little one has come into my mind, and has buoyed me.”

Now Harris is being mocked on social media and by conservative pundits for her apparently fake and stolen story.

Observations:

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Getting To Know Kamala Harris

Most Americans, even and indeed perhaps especially those who voted for the Biden-Harris ticket have scant knowledge of who Kamala Harris is, and for Democrats, that was a good thing.

She was chosen as Biden’s running mate purely because he had to pick a woman and one “of color,” and if Oprah wasn’t available, the field was far from stellar. Those who did know much about Harris, the Democrats who paid attention to her cringe-worthy debate performances and who watched her various giggling, pandering interviews, were sufficiently unimpressed to withhold their votes, even when the alternatives were as weak, or weaker, than the cognitively fading, accused sexual harasser former Vice President, and even while the news media was openly cheer-leading for her.

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Ethics Dunce, Rogue And Fool To Be Held Up As An Example Forever More: Dr. Anthony Fauci

Fauci

From the New York Times:

“In the pandemic’s early days, Dr. Fauci tended to cite the same 60 to 70 percent estimate that most experts did. About a month ago, he began saying “70, 75 percent” in television interviews. And last week, in an interview with CNBC News, he said “75, 80, 85 percent” and “75 to 80-plus percent….In a telephone interview the next day, Dr. Fauci acknowledged that he had slowly but deliberately been moving the goal posts. He is doing so, he said, partly based on new science, and partly on his gut feeling that the country is finally ready to hear what he really thinks. Hard as it may be to hear, he said, he believes that it may take close to 90 percent immunity to bring the virus to a halt — almost as much as is needed to stop a measles outbreak.

No, what is hard to hear, though at this point hardly a shock to anyone with a functioning brain, is that Fauci now admits he’s been lying….you know, “for our own good.”

Don’t heed the spin, the double-talk and the euphemisms: when someone tells you something other than what he or she knows to be true or believes to be true, that individual is deliberately attempting to deceive you by communicating what they believe to be untrue as true. That’s lying. No debate. No defense. That’s what it is, by definition. “I did it for your own good” is a rationalization.

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Ethics Warm-Up, 7/19/2020: And The Hits Just Keep On Coming!

1. Final plug, as the bat above (and in my hands) reminds me: If you are set up with Zoom (it’s free, you know), you still have time to register for the Smithsonian Associates program  tomorrow evening (at 6:45 pm, EST) wherein I hold forth on how baseball has influenced American culture, values and history. Yes, it’s $35 bucks, but it goes to a good cause, and may help the Institute hire more competent employees who don’t peddle junk like the chart on “whiteness.” You’ll be able to ask questions, and I’m storing these experiences for the Ethics Alarms Zoom experience to come. Read all about it here…

2. If a left-wing dim bulb like Jonathan Chait can figure this out, surely more are to follow. He writes in New York Magazine…you know, where Andrew Sullivan was regarded as too conservative?

The ideology of the racism-training industry …collapses all identity into racial categories. “It is crucial for white people to acknowledge and recognize our collective racial experience,” writes [ Robin DiAngelo, of temporary White Fragility” fame,] whose teachings often encourage the formation of racial affinity groups. The program does not allow any end point for the process of racial consciousness. Racism is not a problem white people need to overcome in order to see people who look different as fully human — it is totalizing and inescapable. Of course, DiAngelo’s whites-only groups are not dreamed up in the same spirit as David Duke’s. The problem is that, at some point, the extremes begin to functionally resemble each other despite their mutual antipathy…. In some cases its ideas literally replicate anti-Black racism.”

Ya think??? Continue reading

Susan Rice Again, Part 2

Continuing with the observations regarding this remarkable document…

4. I was once involved in an anti-trust lawsuit triggered when all of the competitors of the company I was working for gathered together and conspired on ways to sink my employer’s business. Before the minutes of the meeting, the group’s lawyers prepared a statement that that the group absolutely intended to obey all anti-trust laws, and the meeting would embody the ideals represented in those laws. Then they went ahead and, based on a recording of the meeting, planned ways to conspire against our business in direct violation of the laws they claimed to hold in such high esteem.

It was really comical; these idiots though that by having everyone sign a statement that they weren’t doing what they obviously were doing, this would provide some plausible deniability.

5. We now know that Rice’s bizarre memo was written upon the advice of the White House Counsel’s Office. Rice says she waited 15 days because it was her first opportunity to do so, since she had been so darned busy. It would be a more likely srory if Rice had any credibility at all, which she does not.

6. Let’s let Andrew McCarthy try to explain what’s going on here. The anti-Trump news sources will never give him a forum, so he’s related to Fox News, but McCarthy was spot-on in predicting the course of the Mueller investigation, as is as knowledgeable on the machinations of the Deep State as anyone. He explained in part,

How amusing to find President Obama’s national-security advisor, Susan Rice, suddenly calling for public release of the Flynn–Kislyak conversation intercepted by the Obama administration in late December 2016. I called for its release nearly three-and-a-half years ago. Dr. Rice, in a familiar pattern for her, has spent the ensuing years saying things that were obviously untrue only to reverse herself once the paper trail starts to dribble out.

….Rice has gone from claiming to have had no knowledge of Obama administration monitoring of Flynn and other Trump associates, to claiming no knowledge of any unmaskings of Trump associates, to admitting she was complicit in the unmaskings, to — now — a call for the recorded conversation between retired general Michael Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to be released because it would purportedly show that the Obama administration had good reason to be concerned about Flynn (y’know, the guy she said she had no idea they were investigating).

Naturally, we have now learned that Rice was deeply involved in the Obama administration’s Trump–Russia investigation, including its sub-investigation of Flynn, a top Trump campaign surrogate who was slated to replace Rice as national-security advisor when President Trump took office.

Regarding the memo, McCarthy writes, Continue reading