Post-“Procedure” Ethics De-Brief, 7/26/2019: Drunk-Blogging Edition [CORRECTED]

WHaT tImE iS It, aNYway?

The nurse said that I was to handle the rest of the day as if I were “impaired,” so I guess this is “drunk-blogging,” an allegedly humorous practice that is a trademark political Stephen Green, aka. Vodkapundit when he covers a long and annoying event, like candidates debate or the Mueller testimony. In this case, I don’t have any choice, but I will say this: the first commenter who rags on me for a typo will be srroy! [CORRECTION NOTE: Prodded by JutGory’s comment below, I fixed the several typos in the post, except the one that was intentional. I’m better now.]

1. Welcome to my world, Ann. Althouse just banned “Inga,” a relentlessly snotty and intractable commenter on her blog who is one of the few knee-jerk progressives hanging out there. Ann mentions that she wishes there were a lot more liberal commenters at Althouse, which makes me feel a little better. Her blog has also suffered an ideological exodus in recent years, and Ann thinks of herself—correctly— as a non-partisan contrarian, though she has guest-hosted at Instapundit.. She certainly strives for objectivity (as well as unpredictability), but she has also been very critical of the “resistance” and the media’s treatment of President Trump, as every fair commentator should.

Then again, she refuses to link to Ethics Alarms, so to hell with her…

2. When the U.S. becomes Greece, think of these days, these unethical leaders, and the incompetent public that supported them. The recent budget deal between the President and Congress to explode the budget, ignore the deficit and bring the national debt even closer to a suicidal level is bipartisan betrayal. Although it is especially galling for a President with a “bottom line” orientation to capitulate, Trump is no worse in this respect than Obama, or any of his predecessors going back to Lyndon Johnson. At some point, the American public can only look in the mirror and admit that it has had the power to demand responsible fiscal government, and refuses. We will regret this.

I voted for the late Ross Perot in 1992 for many reasons, but the main one was that I felt he deserved credit for making the debt his signature issue, and for his courageous and clear explanations of the crisis. Since his candidacy, there have been no serious political leaders who have tried to muster consensus that spending has to be cut, that so-called entitlements are out of control, and that our debt is unsustainable. Rand Paul was recently savaged for simply insisting that a new expenditure–expanded assistance for 9-11 first responders–be paid for. Our economy is suffering because of a ridiculously antiquated infrastructure, but it will take trillions to repair.  Politicians are waiting for a crisis, like when city sewer systems break down all across the East Coast, or bridges start collapsing with cars on them–and this is coming. Social security is nearing the point where someone’s going to have to give up something. California could have retrofit its buildings in anticipation of the Big One, but would rather play Russian Roulette. I’m just picking these out of the air randomly—I’m impaired, after all—but I could go on and on.

While the President rammed through  tax cuts without cutting expenditures, his likely opposition tries to buy the votes of the fiscally idiotic with promises of expensive goodies, like “Medicare for All” (more trillions), guaranteed income and free college. The absurd Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, (who has no chance, but really how much worse is she than Warren, Sanders, Harris and the rest?) has proposed a thoroughly irresponsible “climate change” plan with about a 10 trillion dollar price tag, and it is mostly made up of Authentic Frontier Gibberish, virtue-signaling and unsupportable assumptions.  Before a public even slightly aware of the dangers of the exploding debt (or a public that has anything but the vaguest notion about what real science is and the uncertainty of climate change projections, such a proposal would be political hara-kiri. Gillibrand considers it a last ditch effort to rescue her campaign.

Oh, heck, just read her alleged plan. I could vivisect it here, but why should I have all the fun? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/23/18: The All-Disposable Edition…Legal Ethics, Budgets, And Grocery Bags

Good Morning…

1. More Professionals Behaving Badly: The news media has widely reported that Ted Olson of the law firm Gibson Dunn refused Donald Trump’s request for his legal services. Olson, who is best know for arguing  the Bush side of Bush v. Gore that ended the 2000 Florida recount,  had declined to comment on this to the media but a partner in the firm Gibson Dunn’s “global co-chair” issued a tweet that Olson was not going to be representing the President. This is a straight-up violation of an attorney’s ethical duty  of confidentiality to a prospective client.

In other Trump lawyer news, the media is also widely reporting that John Dowd resigned from the President’s legal team over the President’s refusal to accept Dowd’s advice that he not agree to give testimony to the Special Prosecutor. Telling the news media that—telling anyone that—would also be a breach of confidentiality on Dowd’s part.

2. Per se legislative incompetence. Once again the Senate and the House passed a huge bill with massive implications and consequences without reading it. The legislation funds the federal government for the remainder of the 2018 budget year, through Sept. 30, directing $700 billion toward the military and $591 billion to domestic agencies. The military spending is a $66 billion increase over the 2017 level, and the non-defense spending is $52 billion more than last year. It also further explodes the deficit and the debt that bring the United States one step closer to a ruinous financial reckoning. The Democrats have been happily on this path for the entire 8 years of the Obama administration, but the Republicans rode to power in part because the public recognizes how insane this is. The GOP couldn’t even muster a cut in the arts spending that it has been promising since the Reagan administration, or to finally cut ties with public television, though Big Bird fled the nest years ago. Continue reading

Few Political Stories Make Me Angry. This One Makes Me Angry. And Frightened.

brideg-collapse

In these three posts—Blame Everyone for Infrastructure Ruin: Unethical, Irresponsible Priorities from Reagan to Obama (2010); Ethics Heads-Up: When the President Talks About “Investment in Infrastructure,” Pay Attention (2011); Hole-in-the-Roof Ethics: If Obama Asks For Massive Infrastructure Renewal, the GOP Must Support It. (2011), I laid out the unanswerable case for making national infrastructure renewal a priority. Let me just quote from the three, to save me typing time…

In the early Eighties, I oversaw an independent study funded by the Highway Users Federation and the National Chamber Foundation called “Transport Tomorrow,” exploring the immediate need for transportation infrastructure repair and expansion in all modes of transportation: roads, railway, waterway, and airports. In the process of learning how dire the need for massive construction and repair was if America’s future commercial needs were to be met, the study commission made a disturbing discovery: urban water and sewer systems were crumbling too. There was literally not enough money to fix all the roads, bridges, tunnels, water mains and sewer pipes that had to be fixed, and the consequences of not doing so would be economic paralysis and worse, disease and even social unrest.In the face of this looming and undeniably real disaster, the Reagan Administration did—pretty much nothing. Neither did the Bush, Clinton and Bush II administrations…

Seldom is a solution to a problem so obvious, and so conducive to bi-partisanship. It is a solution to two problems, really: America’s dangerously rotting infrastructure, and the nation’s dismal unemployment rate. Spend the money, trillions if necessary, to repair and replace existing roads, railway beds, waterways, sewer systems, airports and bridges.  It still won’t get us where we need to be, but we’ll be much better off than if we let the current deterioration continue, and we’ll save money in the long run, too—real savings, not phony health care reform savings that evaporate once reality kicks in.

There is no justification not to do this, nor is there any legitimate excuse for any elected official not to vote for it. (And no, not wanting to give the President a victory is not legitimate…or ethical, or patriotic.) Repairing the infrastructure isn’t “discretionary spending,” it is essential, unavoidable and cost-effective spending, unless it is diverted into new boondoggles and pork. No new structures, unless they replace unrepairable old ones. No light rail systems or bullet trains; what is needed is basic maintenance and repair….everywhere. It is already late, but “better late than never” has seldom been as appropriate.Will fixing the infrastructure add to the deficit? Not really, because it already is an expense that we know will have to be made, or else. If the sewer systems and waterworks break down, we start dying. If bridges collapse, we die too. That isn’t even mentioning the increasing costs in energy and commerce caused by a decaying transportation system. The sooner we pay for it, the less it will cost, so sooner is per se better for the economy, and it is perfect timing given the employment crisis.

Yes, Obama better have a way to pay for it, with real budget cuts and reasonable taxes. If he plays politics with the proposal by making it impossible for the GOP to support (as some pundits, like the Post’s Eugene Robinson, have advised), shame on him. This has to be paid for, but it also has to be done…If Obama puts a fair, reasonable, relatively pork-free proposal on the table, Republicans would be despicably unethical to reject it.

As we now know, the Obama Administration proposed, and the GOP Congress opposed. This is a long-term bi-partisan failure, but it must be remembered that Obama had no credibility on this issue, and he never did propose a a way to pay for it “with real budget cuts and reasonable taxes.”

I was reminded of this issue when I read yesterday about how engineers have concluded that over 9% of the nation’s bridges are structurally deficient. Bridges are just part of the infrastructure disaster to come—just wait until the 200-year old sewer and water systems in some cities start breaking down, and we have Flint, Michigan times a thousand—but they are illustrative of our government’s failure. Continue reading

Observations On The First Trump-Clinton Debate

first-2016-debate

It was as predictable as it was tragic: on Drudge shortly after the debate, his debate poll showed that over 90% of Matt’s readers—almost as high a percentage as that of black Americans who believe Barack Obama has been a great President—believed that Donald Trump won. At CNN, the percentages weren’t as lopsided, but still reversed: about 70% believed Hillary won. Confirmation bias rules supreme in such settings, and bias makes us stupid. Fortunately, as my analysis of these two awful candidates should have proven by now, I have no biases in this race. I would like to see both candidates lose,and badly. Indeed, as both are the political equivalents of virulent cancers on the culture and potentially the office they seek, I would like to learn that both have mysteriously vanished without a trace, like Judge Crater, Ambrose Bierce, Rick Moranis, or Gilbert O’Sullivan

Observations on last night’s debate:

1. The conservative websites are whining about Lester Holt serving as the “third debater” last night. In a word, baloney. Holt did all right, not great,  in an impossible role, primarily by letting the combatants talk; in fact, a heavier moderator hand would have been preferable.  The birther question to Trump and the “Presidential look” questions were undoubtedly moderator shots at Trump, but shots like that are opportunities too. Trump didn’t handle either well. Character is the issue with Trump, not policy, and those were character questions that he should have been prepared for. Maybe he was; maybe those pathetic answers were Trumps’ idea of good ones. Yes, Holt pressed Trump on the ultimately irrelevant issue of whether he was or was not in favor of the Iraq invasion and when, but that was also an appropriate approach for a moderator, and it gave Trump a chance to clarify his position, if one can ever use “clarify” and “Trump” in the same sentence.

As an aside, I wonder if “Sean Hannity can back me up” is the lamest defense ever uttered in a Presidential debate. It may be.

2. Trump was Trump, that’s all, and perhaps a slightly less offensive and more substantive version than usual. Hillary was smug, with a frozen smile and an expression that said, “Boy, is this guy an idiot!” all debate long. That’s a big mistake, for virtually nobody likes smug. Trump’s expression toward Hillary was usually one of a wary and respectful foe. He was listening, she was sneering. Her repeated call for “fact-checking” was weak, and appeared to be appeals for assistance. Continue reading

The Drunk Lesbian Couples Study, The Golden Fleece, And Fiscal Responsibility

golden-fleece

Old Dominion University has recieved a $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to conduct research on the pressing issue of whether lesbian couples drink too much due to stress.   The grant states that

“Sexual minority women (i.e., women who self-identify as lesbian and bisexual) report more heavy drinking, more alcohol-related problems, and higher rates of alcohol use disorders as compared to heterosexual women. Despite this awareness, no studies have examined how relationship factors and partners’ alcohol use contribute to hazardous drinking among female sexual minority couples.”

Professor Jonathan Turley, who flagged this story, adds, “There may be a good reason for that.”

I almost made this an Ethics Quiz, asking if funding such research with taxpayer funds was responsible. I don’t present ethics quiz question when I am certain of the answer, though, and the more I thought about this, the more I began thinking of the late Senator William Proxmire’s Golden Fleece Awards.

In 1975, Proxmire launched the award with a press release announcing that the National Science Foundation had “won”after spending $84,000 to fund a study on the origins of love. For more than a decade, the Democrat from Wisconsin used his awards, which were chosen by Proxmire’s hand-picked panel of budget hawks, scientists and others, to focus attention on frivolous spending by dozens of government agencies, including the Department of Justice, the National Institute of Mental Health, and NASA, on trivial issues and mysteries. He also got a lot of publicity for the stunt, and sometimes even managed to kill the Golden Fleece-winning projects with the public outrage they generated.

Naturally, scientists hated this, and had contempt for Proxmire, whom they called “anti-science.” One scientist he mocked even sued Proxmire for defamation, in a case that reached the Supreme Court. In another example of alcohol-related research being called into question, Proxmire gave the award to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in 1975 for funding research into alcohol and aggression in fish and rats, stating that ” the most effective way to understand human conditions and problems is to observe human behavior.” University of California psychobiologist Harman Peeke, whose project was halted midstream by the fleece, bitterly responded,  “I would really enjoy having Proxmire make a proposal to give people alcohol and ask them to fight. That’s simply unethical and immoral.”

There were and are five core objections to Proxmire’s awards, which shadow government research projects to this day: Continue reading

Blame Tom Toles For This Post: NO, Obama Can NOT Honestly Claim That He Cut The Deficit

Toles deficit

While we’re on the topic of misleading statements, as in lies, foisted on the American public by the President of the United States, I now have to bring up his boast in his State of the Union speech that “We’ve done all this while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters.” [Don’t get me started with “all this.”]

I was going to leave this infuriating line alone, I really was, because when you get on the topic of deficits, the numbers-spinners have a field day. Then I saw Tom Toles’ cartoon, above, for the Washington Post.

Toles, if I haven’t made it clear before, is the worst of a breed that is itself a disgrace to journalism, a form of editorial content that is immune from the ethical restrictions that are supposed to govern journalism. It is the ultimate “clown nose on/ clown nose off” scam, and Toles exploits its license beyond the nauseating limits set by his over-rated predecessor, the equally biased but not quite as shameless Herb Block….you remember, the guy who drew all businessmen as obese, cigar-chomping robber barons out of the 1890s, and conservative Congress members as cavemen. Yeah, he was subtle and fair all right. Toles is much worse.

By what version of English and logic can anyone say that Obama reduced the deficit at all, much less by “almost three-quarters? Here is the chart of the deficits since 2005 in dollars: Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Joe Biden, The Republicans, And The Lawn Chair Test”

"Cheer up!" said the voice. "Things could be worse!" So I cheered up, and, sure enough, things got worse!

“Cheer up!” said the Voice. “Things could be worse!” So I cheered up, and, sure enough, things got worse…

This will be the second Presidential election for Ethics Alarms. As I learned in the first one (2012), keeping politics out of the posts and discussion are futile. Nonetheless, I will work to stay away from policy debates unless there is clear ethical content,  as  with illegal immigration, abortion, income distribution or gun control. Leadership is the second topic that Ethics Alarms encompasses, in part because character and the ethical handling of power are so important to ethical leadership. Competence is also an important component. An indirect message of the recent post about Joe Biden was that the United States, though it always needs competent leadership in the White House, needs it even more than usual, and potential candidates for the job do not appear to have it.

Veteran Ethics Alarms commenter Michael R has delivered a useful and troubling addendum to what I wrote. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post Joe Biden, The Republicans, And The Lawn Chair Test: Continue reading