Ethics Observations On “The Green New Deal,” Part II : What’s Going On Here?

In retrospect, waiting a couple of days before completing the Ethics Alarms analysis of the “Green New Deal” was a propitious decision. The results of the ethics, integrity and IQ tests that this fiasco represents can clarified considerably. The key question to begin most ethical analysis is “What’s going on here?” Well..what is?

1. Incompetence. The Ethics Alarms reader poll asking which of the provisions of the GND would, by themselves, mandate rejecting the leadership and judgment of any public figure endorsing them showed about 58% choosing “all of them,” with the infamous “providing economic security for all who are unwilling to work” coming in a distant second. I erred terribly in not providing a positive option for readers who see nothing wrong with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s batty manifesto. Ethics Alarms gets 3000-4000 visits a day, and surely some readers must have flunked this test. After all, Democrats are counting on a large segment of the population being similarly obtuse. This is my own bias at work. There are some episodes involving ethics where I really cannot comprehend how anyone with all their faculties and raised a U.S. culture can possibly reach a different ethics verdict that I have. Ethics is hard, but it isn’t THAT hard. The fact that there are, apparently, progressives and useful idiots who can read the screed without giggling is itself ethics alarms-worthy. The culture, including crucial components like education, journalism, and the world of politics, is failing our society by allowing warped perceptions and unethical values to take root. If this were not true, no elected official would dare propose a document like the Green New Deal.

2. Dishonesty and deception. It sounds like a mad conspiracy theory, but it is difficult for an objective observer not to conclude that the GND is part of a long-term plan of propaganda and indoctrination to replace American democracy with a leftist totalitarian regime. The kinds of measures being promoted in the GND—forget for a moment that most of them are literally impossible—cannot be achieved through democratic means, except in the broad sense of the public voting to give dictatorial powers to the government. The process flows from eco-fascism, which employs fear-mongering about an inevitable environmental catastrophe to provide justification for sacrificing individual liberty in the pursuit of “safety.” This is, as readers of world history knows, the traditional trade-off sold by totalitarian regimes. Yes, it is true that the quality of life and personal freedoms of the American public would both be severely constrained by the car-less, plane-less, nuclear energy-less, combustion engine-less, money-less and cow-less future that the socialist Democrats propose, but the alternative, we are told, is death and destruction. Academy Award-winning actress Ellen Page ranted on Stephen Colbert’s alleged late night comedy show (It is a partisan propaganda program with jokes) that “We have been told…that, by 2030, the world as we know it, that’s it. That’s it!” Colbert, who has the undeserved reputation as a truth-teller and sage, nodded sympathetically, saying that “until the water started swamping Manhattan, or just washes away Mar-a-Lago,” the public and media wouldn’t take the existential threat seriously. “You don’t want to think such terrible things are going to happen!”

Oh sure you do, if it will give you leverage to gain power over the nation. Continue reading

Mid-Day Ethics Warm-Up, 1/24/19: Return To The Ethics Trenches Edition

Bvuh.

My old friend Robin Langer claimed when we were kids that “Bvuh” was the stupidest-sounding syllable that could be uttered in any language. It accurately expresses my state today, after a business trip that involved 6 hours of delays in two flights into and out of Ft. Lauderdale.

1. Is this fair? I’m in no shape to judge. Our second flight, last night, was delayed over an hour because Jet Blue delayed take-off for more than an hour so a plane of travelers from Aruba could make their connection to D.C. That’s funny: I’ve missed connections when my flight was a half-hour late landing. So the deal with Jet Blue is that your flight is late if your plane or its connections have problems (like the late arriving aircraft that caused me to arrive the night before at 12:30 am instead of 7:30 pm), and it’s also going to be late if any other flights are late, is that it? We got on the plane last night with the entire front of the plane empty, waiting for the Arubans.

2. CNN is now completely insane. Both airports play nothing but CNN on the TVs in the terminal—someone might want to review that policy, which probably originated from the period when it was a news channel, like when Bernie Shaw was on the air—and the guy sitting next to me on Jet Blue last night had CNN playing on his seat screen the whole three hours we were on the plane. It’s incredible: there are virtually nothing but anti-President Trump stories on CNN, without a break or end. Anti-Trump spin (“Of course Nancy Pelosi should block his speech!”), unsubstantiated anti-Trump hearsay (“Cohen says he was “threatened” by Trump!”), anti-Trump panels (“What has Mueller found and how soon should the House impeach him?”), and anti-Trump gloating (“The art of the deal hasn’t produced a deal, has it? Nyah nyah!”) One after another. Relentless. It is much, much worse than it was on my last trip, and the CNN obsession with feeding hatred and anger against the President was absurd then. No other stories appeared to be being covered except in the crawls across the bottom of the screen. Is it possible that people aren’t sick of this? Even the most drooling, deranged Trump-hater? It isn’t just propaganda; it’s more like brainwashing, a constant drum-beat of “Trump bad! Hate Trump!,” usually devoid of anything approaching fair analysis.

3. Today’s baseball ethics note: Yankees relief ace Mariano Rivera, who was elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame this week, is  being praised to the skies in the sports media and elsewhere because the vote was unanimous for the first time in the Hall’s 80 year history. (A retired player needs 75% of the vote to be enshrined.) Nobody disputes that Rivera deserved to be admitted, and that his qualifications were beyond argument, but the fact that this time some idiots didn’t choose not to vote for him has nothing to do with the pitcher whatsoever. It certainly doesn’t mean that he’s somehow more deserving that the other slam-dunks (is that a mixed metaphor?) who didn’t get every vote they were due, like Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Willie Mays, Ted Williams and Hank Aaron.

If everyone before you has been treated unjustly, the fact that you weren’t mistreated isn’t something to be proud of. Continue reading

Addendum: The “Ableist” Accusation And The Insidious Spread Of Rationalization #64

I had not intended to post further on the Gal Gadot controversy, mentioned as item #5 in today’s Ethics Warm-Up, where she is being slammed as “ableist” for suggesting that Stephen Hawking might be relieved to shed the crippling limitations of his near lifetime battle with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. (Knowing Hawking’s famed sense of humor, I assume he appreciated the best gag ever executed on  “Friends,” when idiot Joey asked what Yankee first baseman Lou Gehrig died of. “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” he was told. “Wow,” said Joey. “What are the odds of that!“) However, I realized that the argument against Gadot was yet another example of the increasing popularity of one of the most destructive and insidious of the rationalizations on the list, #64, Yoo’s Rationalization or “It isn’t what it is”:

Named after John Yoo, the Bush Justice Department lawyer who wrote the infamous memo declaring waterboarding an “enhanced interrogation technique,” and not technically torture,  #64 is one of the most effective self-deceptions there is, a handy-dandy way to avoid logic, conscience, accountability and reality.

Examples of this are everywhere. Paul Krugman, the progressive economist and Times columnist, began a column like this:

“Remember all the news reports suggesting, without evidence, that the Clinton Foundation’s fund-raising created conflicts of interest?”

The Clinton Foundation’s fundraising created a conflict of interest, by definition. For a non-profit organization, with family connections to either a current Secretary of State or a Presidential candidate, to accept money from any country, company or individual who has or might have interests that the Secretary or potential President can advance is a conflict. It’s indisputable. No further ‘evidence” is needed.”

How does Krugman deal with this problem? Simple: he convinces himself that screaming conflicts aren’t what they are without “evidence,” by which he means “proof of a quid pro quo.” But a quid pro quo is bribery, not a conflict of interest. A conflict of interest might lead to bribery, but a conflict is created as soon as there is a tangible reason for an official’s loyalties to be divided.

Yoo’s Rationalization or “It isn’t what it is” turns up everywhere, and has since time began. A mother swears that her serial killer son “is a good boy,” so she doesn’t have to face that fact that he’s not. It is denial, it is lying, but it is lying to convince oneself, because the truth is unbearable, or inconvenient.  It is asserting that the obvious is the opposite of what it is, hoping that enough people will be deluded, confused or corrupted to follow a fraudulent argument while convincing yourself as well. The Rationalization includes euphemisms, lawyerisms, and the logic of the con artist. Illegal immigration is just immigration. Oral sex isn’t sex, and so it’s not adultery, either. I didn’t steal the money from the treasury! I was just borrowing it!

And waterboarding isn’t torture.

#64  also could be named after Orwell’s “1984,” and called “Big Brother’s Rationalization” in homage to “War is Peace,” etc. But John Yoo deserves it.

Rationalization #64 is also closely related to the Jumbo.

The Republican denial that torture was torture remains the worst example of “It isn’t what it is”, but the list is getting longer and becoming more of a burden to public discourse and problem-solving every day. In the case of advocates for the disabled, the rationalization actually holds that a physical handicap isn’t a disability at all, and one without certain abilities we would naturally regard as normal are just “differently abled.” No, that individual is disabled. The fact that Stephen Hawking, with an IQ estimated at 280, had a compensating superpower that allowed him to achieve amazing things does not make his disability imaginary. Maybe he would have liked to play softball. Maybe he would have liked to tap dance. Maybe he would have liked to hold his grandchildren. Denying his disability accomplishes nothing but distorting reality and making it less vivid and clear. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/13/18: Bad Quotes, Faithless Speakers

GOOD MORNING!

1 O.J. was guilty??? I’m shocked! I was going to run a quiz about whether Fox broadcasting the 12-year-old O.J. Simpson interview in which he “hypothesizes” about what really happened—when Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman ended up with the lives stabbed out of them and a trail of O.J.’s blood leading from the scene to his home—was unethical or just icky, as in “revolting taste.”

Never mind: I’m willing to say it was unethical. Fox was aiding and abetting a murderer’s efforts to cash in on his crimes. Yes, yes, I know: in the eyes of the law, Simpson is innocent. But Fox, and you, and I, and O.J.’s lawyers and certainly O.J. all know beyond a shadow of doubt that he did it, and Simpson deserves a full shunning from the culture in every respect.

Fox, many forget, produced this interview as part of the promotion for O.J.’s book, “If I Did It,” written by a ghostwriter after interviews with Simpson. Simpson got $600,000 in the deal, denying later that he had anything to do with the project, and saying, “Hey, they offered me $600,000 not to dispute that I [wrote] the book…Everybody thinks I’m a murderer anyway. They’re not going to change their mind just because of a book.”

The consensus is that the Simpson’s statements in the Fox interview amount to a confession to double murder. I saw the key portion in a promotion,, where O.J. says that he remembers being at Nicole’s home, grabbing a knife, then seeing lots of blood…but not remembering what happened in between. But Simpson is a liar and a sociopath, and because of double-jeopardy, he can say that he watched Nicole and Ron get attacked by an army of zombies he recruited and it wouldn’t make any difference.

The degree to which Fox debased itself by running this offal cannot be exaggerated, and anyone who watched it without being paid to do so is an accessory after the fact to the unjust enrichment of O.J. Simpson.

2. Bonus O.J, ugliness: Read this hateful, racist, biased and legally ignorant essay by Michael Herriot at “The Root.” Herriot is another of many contributors to CNN whose anti-white racism is palpable, but deemed acceptable mainstream punditry. How deep and widespread is this kind of blind, unreasoning hatred of white Americans in the black community? How can anyone read something like this and wonder where the upsurge in white nationalism comes from?

3. And speaking of CNN’s  race-baiters…Here is Van Jones on his newly minted CNN show, whining and grovelling to Oprah Winfrey:

“It meant so much to us, and, you know, I have to let you know how it is for us now. We had you. We had the Obamas in the White House. Even on a bad day, you had a north star. You had some hope. And then it was like the universe looked just said, psych! And threw us in the toilet and closed the lid and now we’re just stuck in this crazy situation, swirlingHelp us, though, help us though!…I go out there and I try to tell people, let’s not become what we are fighting. Let’s not be what we’re fighting. They tell me, shut up, Van, because we got bigots out here, we got Nazis out here, we’re getting bullied, we are tired of going high. We want to go low and kick them in the private parts!”

There is disturbing evidence that “the resistance” and the anti-Trump mob, including the news media, is heading into a new and even more deranged stage, which is scary, since the previous stage has been putting unprecented stress on the nation’s mental and political health. We saw this deterioration with Jill Abramson’s open admission that she keeps a totem of Barack Obama in her purse to stave off despair. We are seeing more and more alternate-reality rants, like this one by David Remnick in “The New Yorker.”

The rhetoric is getting more shrill and hyperbolic every day, even when the news is good. At least Paul Krugman is consistent: his rhetoric about Trump has been shrill and hyperbolic from the start. Here he is this morning:

“Now, it’s a commonplace, but also a euphemism, to say that Trump has authoritarian instincts. A more accurate statement would be that he expects the kind of treatment tin-pot dictators demand, free from any criticism inside or outside his government and greeted with constant hosannas of praise. And everyone who isn’t willing to play the full game, who has tried to play by something resembling normal democratic rules, seems to be fleeing the administration. Soon only the shameless sycophants will be left. This will not end well.”

Sigh. All of America’s strong Presidents have had autocratic instincts, with the arguable exception of George Washington. Jackson, Polk, Lincoln, Cleveland, Teddy, Wilson, FDR, Truman, Ike,  LBJ, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton. Obama did as well, though he wasn’t a strong President. It’s just that people like Krugman are so offended by Trump being President that when he behaves essentially like the rest, they think it’s sinister. The complaining about this President surrounding himself with yes-men is especially hypocritical, since there were few complaints from the same critics about President Obama’s dangerously deferential inner circle, bolstered by a worshipful rather than properly objective press.

Krugman’s title is “Springtime for Sycophants.” Trump is Hitler, get it? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/22/2018: The Returns Of A Terrible Idea, A Times Mania, And Lord Acton’s Observation

Morning!

1. Bad Ideas Never Die Dept. The Obama Administration  killed an unethical Bush Administration rule that permitted a wide variety of health care workers to refuse to administer treatments and procedures they found morally repugnant, what the Bush administration termed workers’ “right of conscience.” It was, and is, a terrible idea; The American Medical Association  explained why, in the context of opposing conscience outs for pharmacists, when it declared..

“RESOLVED, That our American Medical Association reaffirm our policies supporting responsibility to the patient as paramount in all situations and the principle of access to medical care for all people (Reaffirm HOD Policy)…

Now that bad idea and the same ethically warped principles are embodied in a new Trump administration policy that provides “religious freedom protections” for doctors, nurses and other health care workers who object to performing procedures like abortions and gender reassignment surgery. This is a sop to the Republican evangelical base. As I wrote here (actually partially quoting myself from an earlier article),

“Conscience clauses” came into being in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade opinion legalizing abortion. Obviously that right to privacy ruling put Catholic hospitals in a difficult position, so the U.S. Congress passed the Church amendment (named after Sen. Frank Church of Idaho) in 1973. This provision allowed individual health care providers and institutions such as hospitals to refuse to provide abortion and sterilization services, based on moral or religious convictions. Most states adopted their own “conscience clause” laws by 1978. Conscience clauses are a terrible idea that encourage arbitrary professional misconduct. It is an example of how morally-based action can lead to unethical conduct….People who voluntarily undertake the duties of a job should either be prepared to fulfill those duties, take the consequences of not doing so, or not take the job in the first place.That is the ethical duty that one accepts when one agrees to do a job. “

President Trump doesn’t do ethics, and not being a deep thinker,  inconsistencies of principle don’t resister on him. The reason for requiring health care workers to perform their jobs regardless of whether some portion of it clashes with their religious beliefs, moral conviction, political passions or gag reflex is the same whether a doctor objects to abortions, a baker doesn’t approve of gay marriage , a restaurant owner doesn’t want to serve blacks, Hispanics, or Republicans, or an NFL football player is offended by the National Anthem. Society doesn’t work any other way. The religious freedom dodge easily turns into a cover for bigotry, harassment and oppression.

Nothing in the Constitution says that citizens have the right to hurt people when they practice their religion, or defy our laws, or refuse to perform the duties of their professions or employment while still getting paid because they cite religious conscience.

2. I Told You Not To Look Under That Rock! Dept. For some reason, I broke my own rule and skimmed a Paul Krugman column. What was I thinking? What is so digsuting about Krugman is his intellectual dishonesty, as he writes down to his readers using rhetorical tricks, rationalizations and lazy arguments that are 90% political bias and 10% substance at best. Here was the sentence that exploded my head,  stopped me from reading, as Krugman twisted reality to hold Republicans responsible for the government shutdown that was 100% caused by Senate Democrats blocking the continuing resolution to keep the government open:

“Protecting the Dreamers is, by the way, enormously popular, even among Republicans, who oppose deporting them by a huge margin. So it’s not as if the G.O.P. would be giving up a lot.”

So, as long as a provision is popular with its base, a party isn’t “giving up a lot” by supporting it—regardless of whether it is responsible, fair, smart, principled, or in the best interest of the country. Got it, Paul. This is the lowest common denominator theory of democracy being peddled to New York Times reader by its Nobel Prize-winning columnist: legislation by poll. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/26/17: No, Everything Isn’t Horrible, But It’s Much Better If You Aren’t Ugly Or Paul Krugman…

Good Morning!

1 A strange disconnect. Does anyone else find it strange that Turner Movie Classics, which I would generally describe as a national cultural treasure, would choose Christmas Day of this year to highlight the career of director Alfred Hitchcock? As Hollywood and the movie industry are going to extreme lengths to purge themselves of the sexual predators in their midst, in some cases literally sending artistically outstanding works and careers into cultural purgatory, and with even calls for moderation and proportion (Matt Damon) or protestations of naive or denial-fueled ignorance (Meryl Streep) being sufficient to spark a professional crisis and widespread public criticism,  TCM, the modern day TV curator of Hollywood’s Golden Age, selected the most infamous sexual predator among all legendary American directors as its special Christmas treat.

Yeesh.

I don’t know what to make of this. Did the ethics alarms just go dead at TCM? Is this a case of “The King’s Pass,” as in, “Yes, male power figures in Hollywood engaging in sexual misconduct has been a terrible problem and it is important that this is finally being addressed, buuuut this is Alfred Hitchcock, after all. We have to over-look all of that because he’s a genius…”? The work of an artist should not be devalued because of his character or his unethical conduct, personal or professional, but at the same time, cheering the great sexual harassers of the past while trying to destroy tolerance of sexual harassment in the present seems like activities that should not be occurring simultaneously, since the two objectives undermine each other.

2. Is fake “doom and gloom” unethical?

The constant representation to the American people that the nation is in the midst of existential disaster when it obviously–well, if one isn’t completely addled by confirmation bias it should be obvious—is not can’t exactly be called “fake news,” but it is just as sinister in intent and just as dangerous in its potential results.

My errant focus was brought to this phenomenon in a film review, of all places. A.O. Scott, the New York Times reviewer who is incapable of not bringing his partisan and political biases into his reviews (thus making him a lousy reviewer, like the New Yorker’s late Pauline Kael) began his take on Matt Damon’s eco-fantasy “Downsizing” with this statement:

“A radically dystopian future seems like the best we deserve these days..”

Then I began looking for sentiments in pundit pieces and other commentary in the news media about how uniquely horrible it was to be an American in 2017. That assumption has tainted so much news reporting this year that it amounts to virtual brainwashing, and yet that characterization is false, in both comparative and absolute terms. Not only are many trends and developments uncontroversially positive, such as the long-delayed economic recovery, including booming business and consumer confidence, but in other areas as well. Yet The New York Times consistently publishes pieces like this one, by Paul Krugman on Christmas Day, titled, “America Is Not Yet Lost.” It is like a medical school case study on derangement, or a broadcast from the Bizarro Planet. We are told, directly or indirectly, that the reasons that the United States is in historically dire straits is because the Democrats lost the election, the headlong rush towards becoming just like the European socialist nanny states that they thought was finally assured has been stalled, and because, most of all, Donald Trump is President.

I can’t decide whether all these pundits really believe this, in which case they are mentally and emotionally unfit to do their jobs, or if this is a concerted, desperate effort to create panic and hysteria in defiance of reality, in order to justify undoing the election.  The characterization of the GOP tax bill was the most recent example of how the negativism makes legitimate analysis impossible. “This is wrong !” is always a perfectly responsible argument in a democratic society. “This is evil and will destroy us all!” is not. Continue reading

Paul Krugman, The Anti-Haidt

I don’t bother with New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman here, for the most part. He constantly discredits himself by intentionally misleading his gullible readers, hiding the ball, engaging in deceit as an advocacy tool, over-stating and hyping and generally bolstering his progressive opinions with a nauseating combination of intellectual dishonesty, hypocrisy and condescension. I have no patience with such columnists, or any publication that inflicts them on its readers.

A parallel in the sportswriting field is the much lionized Thomas Boswell, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist who writes for the Washington Post. Boswell has written several books, and is regarded by many as a deep thinker about baseball. (My wife and I once were friends with a couple that socialized with the Boswells, and invited us to join the four of them for an evening. I told them that I could not stomach being in the same room with the guy.)  Many years ago, Boswell was writing about the individual talents of the Boston Red Sox, a topic I know at least as much about as he does. In assessing then-Sox catcher Jason Varitek, Boswell noted that “Tek” led the league in passed balls, leaving the impression that this demonstrated a serious flaw in his catching abilities. But I knew, and more importantly Boswell knew, that the Red Sox  had a regular rotation starting pitcher, Tim Wakefield, who was a knuckleballer, and was the only starting pitcher in the league who threw that confounding pitch.  If a catcher regularly catches a knuckleball pitcher, he leads the league in passed balls, usually by a large margin. Always. It has nothing to do with how good a catcher he is, and Varitek was a very good catcher. Yet Boswell deliberately cited the statistic without explaining to his readers what it meant in Vartitek’s case. He did this because he was trying to argue that Boston had defensive problems. This is unethical advocacy, and unethical journalism.

After that, I only read Boswell’s columns to document his dishonesty. I was never disappointed. He’s a cheat, relying on the ignorance of his audience to deceive them.

Paul Krugman is like that. After I posted the quote from Jonathan Haidt’s speech in which the professor perfectly described the ideology-driven betrayal of the culture and our democracy by institutions of higher education, I recalled a recent Krugman piece in the Times that I had instantly dismissed as classic deceit. One passage was literally the anti-matter version of Haidt’s hard truth regarding the rot in our colleges, a deliberate lie that denied the existence of the problem in order to further Krugman’s perpetual attack on Republicans and conservatives.

Behold: Continue reading