New Week Morning Warm-Up, 3/4/19: Luck, Fairness, And Delusion

Looking forward to the best ethics week yet…

…but not really expecting it.

…Maybe I’ll get lucky.

1. A Progressive war on luck. Yesterday, NPR, which we all pay for, offered a long segment that was ostensibly about “luck,” but it actually was an extended argument for socialism and a political ad against President Trump. “One we move from talking about merit to concentrating on opportunity, then we have changed our focus from scarcity to abundance,” some Ted-talker said. “Then there is no need for walls.” The general thrust of the program, which included at least one speaker (I didn’t stay to hear all of the agitprop) who literally didn’t know what luck is, was that successful people think that hard work and talent is what got them where they are, when in reality it was all, or mostly luck. Thus the idea being pushed was that national policy should eliminate, or at least minimize, the effect of mere chance on human affairs. This means, once you read between the line, government distribution of resources, jobs and benefits to ensure the “fairness” that the random vicissitudes of cruel fate so often eschew.

As I touched on in a recent discussion of Clarence Darrow’s progressive principles, the rejection of personal responsibility and the very idea of free will has permeated progressiveness from its origins. It is, and has been, an anti-American construct that runs against the core principles the nation was founded on, but the theory has always appealed to those who welcome the opportunity to blame others, or just cruel Fate, for their own mistakes and failures.

That said, of course luck plays a massive and sometimes decisive role in our lives. That’s called “life.” Ironically, one of Clarence Darrow’s favorite poems (I know I have posted this before) makes the point:

Whist by Eugene Fitch Ware

Hour after hour the cards were fairly shuffled
And fairly dealt, but still I got no hand;
The morning came, and with a mind unruffled
I only said, “I do not understand.”

Life is a game of whist. From unseen sources
The cards are shuffled and the hands are dealt;
Blind are our efforts to control the forces
That, though unseen, are no less strongly felt.

I do not like the way the cards are shuffled,
But yet I like the game and want to play;
And through the long, long night will I, unruffled,
Play what I get until the break of day

2. Speaking of controlling “opportunity”…which usually means constraining liberty and autonomy, officials at Lakeland Regional High School in Wanaque, New Jersey have forbidden prom goers from hiring limos or private vehicles to arrive and leave in. The boilerplate official explanation is that the change ensures safety for all students, but it also is an effort to create “equality” because not all students can afford a limousine or party bus. Of course, not all students can afford a prom gown or to rent a tux. Why not ban formal wear, and have a simple dress code that all families can afford, like jeans and a T-shirt?

The school will charge each student $15 for transportation costs.

3. Thank-you, Captain Obvious! Avner Zarmi has written an essay in which she argues that President Trump’s “style” undermines his effectiveness. Ya think? What was Avner’s first clue, I wonder?

If the President could restrain his inner jerk as effectively as his predecessors (for he is far from the biggest jerk to occupy the White House—my vote would be with JFK, but there is lots of competition) and if he wasn’t opposed by a hostile news media determined to magnify his deficits and ignore his accomplishments, he would have a 60% approval rating.

4. And this is why there is a national emergencyContinue reading

Unethical Website Of The Month: HealthNews NJ.com

One of the most patently dishonest campaign tactics is for a candidate to put up a fake website purporting to report “news” that is really there to attack his or her political opponent. Who would do such a thing? Well, one good bet would be a U.S. Senator who already narrowly escaped conviction on bribery charges because his providing political favors to a “friend” who showered him with gifts could be proven to result from a quid pro quo arrangement.

Sure enough, the new website HealthNewsNJ.com, with the exception of a tiny-print disclosure at the bottom of its home page does all it can to convince readers that it is an independent news site.  In reality, it is a campaign-run hit site put up by the campaign of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) to attack his opponent, Bob Hugin, the former CEO of the pharmaceutical company Celgene. A typical post on the website, which runs below a byline crediting it to “HealthNewsNJ Staff,” is titled: “How greedy drug company CEO Bob Hugin gouged cancer patients and enabled Donald Trump.” On Facebook, the site’s page calls itself  a “news and media website.”  Neither it nor the HealthNewsNJ  Twitter account mentions a tie to Menendez or his campaign.

Putting up a fake website like this is signature significance. Menendez is willing to deceive the public. He’s a liar, by definition. He cannot be trusted.

Luckily for him, he’s running in New Jersey, so it probably won’t matter.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/8/2018: George Washington, Elaine Chao, Brown-Haired Fox News Babes And Clumsy Cheerleaders

Good Morning!

1. Diversity at Fox News! There was a brunette co-anchor sitting with Bill Hemmer this morning. I almost spit out my coffee, Now if the network would only hire a female newsreader who wouldn’t be a credible contestant in a beauty pageant, the culture might advance a bit…

2.  Can an employer refuse to hire an asshole? The NFL Players Association has filed a grievance  on behalf of free-agent safety Eric Reid,  alleging collusion that has denied him a job for the upcoming 2018 season, and arguing that no NFL rule mandates players stand during the playing of the national anthem, that the league has indicated it respects “the rights of players to demonstrate,” and the collective bargaining agreement states “league rules supersede club rules.”

The grievance loses, or the NFL is in big trouble. Well, it is already in trouble, but more trouble. Demonstrating players annoys fans and hurts business. The NFL may force teams to allow jerks like Reid and ex-player Colin Kaepernick to interfere with Sunday head-bashing frolic by imposing their half-baked politics on the proceedings, but team can certainly choose to pay million dollar contracts to players who have better judgment, and are thus more trustworthy employees.

3. At George Washington University, it’s The Political Correctness Morons vs. The Conflict-Averse Spineless! I can’t believe I’m writing this. No, of course I can: I’ve predicted it.

The following on-line petition has garnered the requisite number of signatures among George Washington University students, and now will get an official response:

“We, as students of the George Washington University, believe it is of great exigence that the University changes its official mascot. The use of “Colonials,” no matter how innocent the intention, is received as extremely offensive by not only students of the University, but the nation and world at large. The historically, negatively-charged figure of Colonials has too deep a connection to colonization and glorifies the act of systemic oppression. Alternative nickname recommendations are “Hippos,” “Revolutionaries”, or “Riverhorses.”

They apparently don’t teach American history at GW.  The nickname  for the athletic teams  is “The Colonials” because the United States, prior to its liberation, were called “the Colonies,” because they were colonies. Colonials are those who have been colonized, not those who do the colonizing. The mascot, meanwhile, is called “George,” because he is a caricature of George Washington, who led the Colonials to victory over Great Britain, and anyone who can’t puzzle that out shouldn’t be in college.

The petition represents the mutant offspring of a one night stand between The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck and The Niggardly Principles.

Who will win? Oh, the Morons, probably. On campuses the Morons almost always defeat the spineless administrators, as well as common sense and rationality. [Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur]

Oh…here’s George:

4.  Speaking of spineless…The cheerleading  coaches at Hanover Park High School in New Jersey decided that there would be no more try-outs for the squad. The school’s athletic director said that after a single mother complained about her daughter not making the cut, the policy would be changed in favor of “inclusion.” The school board released a statement saying: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/3/17

Good Morning!

1. “He was right, dead right, as he sped along, but he’s just as dead as if he were wrong.” This was a refrain (from an actual epitaph) my Dad used to recite to hammer the principle into my head: being right is often not enough. I wonder if Chris Christie ever heard it? The Governor of New Jersey is vacationing with his family at a state beach he closed to the public , along with all state parks, as a result of a budget stand-off with the legislature. Technically and legally, he has every right to do this, since governors of the state have the use of a residence on that beach, and the detail that watches it when the Governor is in residence is not affected  by the government shut-down. Christie, in his trademark blunt manner, has responded to criticism by saying, in essence, “I’m governor and you’re not.” He’s right that he’s not taking a special privilege by using his residence when the beach is closed to the public. He’s right that he has no alternative to closing government services when the legislature doesn’t meet the statutory mandate for approving a budget. It doesn’t matter: he also has a duty to preserve trust in the government and democracy. His vacation in a place that he’s made off-limits to the public, no matter what the justification, has the appearance of impropriety, and more than an appearance of arrogance and a broken ethics alarm.

2. The big story yesterday—I can’t believe I’m writing this—was the President tweeting a silly tricked-out video purporting to show him wrestling CNN. This was, to anyone not determined, due to a near fatal level of confirmation bias and the Trump Hate Brain And Conscience Eating Amoeba, to interpret every word and act by this President as evidence of evil, a joke. Sure, it was also gloating, and trolling, and sophomoric, and unpresidential but the long, long list of talking heads and pundits who solemnly pronounced  this foolishness as “advocating violence against journalists” all revealed themselves as untrustworthy, dishonest, or hysterical. This kind of incompetent reaction is why Trump keeps doing this.

Our broken news media will have to be torn down before it can be restored to the objective and non-partisan institution a healthy democracy has to have to survive. If President Trump’s japery accomplishes this—I would prefer journalism to come to its senses internally, but that clearly is not going to happen—that’s a rich silver lining to the cloud of his Presidency. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/26/17

1. I am puzzled that no respected journalism source—assuming arguendo that there is one—hasn’t taken on the New York Times’ alleged list of President Trump’s “lies,” which was in my Sunday Times and released on-line earlier. I will do it today, but it shouldn’t fall to me, or other similarly obscure analysts. Why, for example, hasn’t the Washington Post taken this golden opportunity to prove how biased, dishonest and incompetent its rival is? Because, you see, the list is disgraceful, and smoking gun evidence of the Times’ abdication of its duty to its readers, except its own perceived duty to give them around the clock Trump-bashing.

The other thing I’m puzzled about is why I continue to subscribe to the New York Times.

2. One possible reason: The Sunday Times is now a weekly collage of the various derangements, false narratives and  obsessions of the Left, and worth reading just to witness how 1) bias makes you stupid and 2) how unmoored to reality one can be and still be judged worthy of op-ed space. Here, for example, is “Black Deaths, American Lies” (the print title), a screed by Ibram X. Kendi, a professor of history at American University in Washington, D.C. (Disclosure: I was also a professor at American University. But I was an honest and apolitical one.)

The first line is, “Why are police officers rarely charged for taking black lives, and when they are, why do juries rarely convict?” This is deceit: an honest scholar wouldn’t have written it, and an ethical editor wouldn’t have allowed it to get into print. The sentence implies that officers are less rarely charged and convicted when they take white lives, and this is not true. In the print version, the article is headed by a touching photo of a street memorial to Mike Brown, whom we now know got himself shot. The Black Lives Matter narrative that Brown was murdered is still carried on by racist activists, ignorant members of the public, cynical politicians  and unethical figures like Kendi, who lend their authority to divisive falsehoods.  Kendi then focuses on the Philandro Castile shooting, as if its facts support his thesis. They don’t. First, the officer was charged, though he shouldn’t have been. Second, we have now seen the video, which clearly shows that after telling the officer that he had a gun, Castile reached into his pocket and began pulling out his wallet as the obviously panicked officer shouted at him not to pull out his gun. Just as the video proves that the officer was unfit to be a cop, it shows that he was in fear of his life and why. He could not be convicted of murder on that evidence. Never mind: The professor writes, Continue reading

Finally, A 2017 Inspiring Ethics Story! A 5th Grade Basketball Team Teaches Adults About Priorities And Values

st-johns-vote

I love this story out of New Jersey.

A Catholic Youth Organization 5th grade basketball team out of Clark, New Jersey had played all season with an 11-child roster including nine boys and two girls. In late January the director of the CYO league informed the team that the word had come down from the archdiocese that playing as a coed team offended Jesus or something and thus violated league protocol T team would either have to remove the two girls from the team or forfeit the rest of its season.

The adults running the team had screwed up, you see.

Oops. Sorry kids. Our bad, you pay for it.

These options were unacceptable, and any 10-year old would see it. In fact, any 10-year old did. Continue reading

New Jersey Tries An Ethics Experiment

bail-reform

New Jersey, a state for which many would say ethics itself would be a novelty, has taken the lead in a truly revolutionary criminal justice experiment that resolves an ancient ethical dilemma in favor of mercy and compassion. Beginning on January 1 this year, New Jersey  judges are expected to release all but the most dangerous and untrustworthy defendants pending their trials, often with certain conditions, rather than  to require cash bail as a condition of avoiding jail.

In 2014, voters decided to amend New Jersey’s Constitution and virtually eliminate bail, responding to a national movement to reform a system that has always discriminated against poor defendants. Although bail requirements are usually modest for most offenses (a bail bondsman typically charges a defendant 10% to post the entire bond), many defendants are still unable to pay even small amounts. Then they wait in jail, often losing their jobs and causing hardship for their families. Continue reading