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

‘Tis The Morning Before Christmas Ethics Warm-Up, 12/24/18!

Merry Christmas!

1 Christmas gift ethics. What’s your opinion of a relative who says that the only thing she wants for Christmas is for family members to donate to her favorite leftist candidate for City Council? I don’t recall the Christmas tradition being “Make people do whatever you would do” Day, do you? Let’s have a Christmas Eve poll!

2. Change: I now believe “the wall” is necessary and the President’s resolve is ethical. My change of heart comes after watching all Democrats and many Republicans simultaneously say they want secure borders and then continue to encourage illegal immigration with their rhetoric and votes. The wall is necessary to send an unequivocal message, which has been Trump’s message since he announced his candidacy: “Come here legally, or don’t come. If you get here by breaking our laws, you are not welcome and will never be welcome, no matter what you do.”

Correctamundo!

Anti-Trump GOP Senator Bob Corker claims that the showdown over authorization of funding for the Wall is a “made-up fight, so the president can look like he’s fighting, but even if he wins, our borders are going to be insecure.” It’s not a “made-up” fight at all. Republicans have been afraid to upset Hispanic-Americans and Democrats want nice, reliable, left-voting poor folks to swell the voting rolls, so they have sent deliberately mixed messages, particularly regarding the “Dreamers.” If a wall did nothing other than stop “migrant caravans,” it would be worth it.

Trump also promised a wall. Breaking promises is not the same as a lie, unless the promise was a lie when it was made, but Trump, who we have been told lies incessantly, has also been far more determined to fulfill campaign promises than any President within memory. (Obama promised to address the national debt. He promised to have the most transparent administration in history. He promised  that lthe use of chemical weapons by Syria would be the “red line.” He promised to be President of all the people, not just Democratic base demographic groups. He promised that if you like your heath care plan…well, you know the rest.)

It is the Democratic position on the wall that is a sham, because the money involved is a relative pittance. They are grandstanding, and the President is not.

3.  Slot machine ethics. How did I miss this? Three Las Vegas visitors who hit multi-million dollar jackpots playing slot machines are fighting the casinos’ efforts to void the pay-offs on the grounds that the machines “malfunctioned.” The episodes all occurred earlier this year. Unless there is a prominent notice on or around the slots pointing out that there is a limit to the payoff in any single play and specifying what the limit is, I think the casinos are obligated to live with losing whatever one of their evil, manipulative, Skinnerian machines cough up.

This isn’t like a malfunctioning ATM machine. Players are led to believe that whatever comes out when they pull the lever or push the button is theirs. If casinos can say that their machines malfunctioned and they are not responsible for the result, then gamblers should have the same option: “I’m sorry, but my limit on gambling losses was just $500. I shouldn’t be responsible for the additional $10,000 I lost on blackjack, because I malfunctioned.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Wake-Up, 7/17/2018: Swans, Nazis Kids, Rand Paul, And More Freakouts [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

1. And today’s anti-Trump freakout topic is…The complete media/”resistance”/Democrat social media meltdown over whatever President Trump thought he was doing yesterday was typical of what we were talking about in the threads on Monday’s Warm-Up. It’s all so boring and predictable. It’s predictable that the President will say things he shouldn’t; it’s predictable that the people who have already made it clear that they hate is guts will erupt with over-the-top condemnation; it’s predictable that the social media echo chamber will adopt whatever unscrupulous Democratic Party talking point that is launched—yes, yes, Facebook Friend, yesterday proves that Putin “has something” on the President like Nancy Pelosi says. Did she call him “Bush” this time?—and that anyone who tries to point out that the reaction is wildly out of proportion to reality is a Trump-loving racist Nazi. I seriously don’t know how a responsible commentator who isn’t out of his mind is supposed to react. Ignore it, because some new hysteria will be right along, like Leo Slezak’s swan. (Don’t you know this story? It’s one of my favorites! Leo Slezak, a famous Austrian opera singer in the Thirties, was playing the role of Lohengrin in Wagner’s opera, which ends with the hero being carried off to Valhalla on the back of a giant swan. In one performance, the swan, pulled by stage hands on tracks, just swam right by him up stage, leaving the hero stranded. Slezak turned to another singer on stage and asked, loudly enough so the audience could hear him, “What time’s the next swan?” His son, Hollywood actor Walter Slezak, made the line the title of his autobiography.)

2. Obligatory freakout notes: a.  All that matters is what, if anything, comes of the summit. The President (obviously) has his own theories of negotiation. Sometimes they work. b. John Brennan’s statement that the Putin-Trump press conference was “treasonous” was two things: 1) the most ridiculous thing said yesterday by anybody, including the idiot who lives down the street here who said, reportedly, “Rpeterbokle?“, and 2) immediate confirmation of why the President said that he doesn’t trust American intelligence agencies any more than he trusts Putin. c. If anyone can point me to an unbiased authority who can explain how leaders holding joint press conferences help their nations by insulting each other, please do. d. John McCain should either show he can do his job, or he should resign and let someone able do it. Right now, apparently his only role is to snipe at the President. e. Gee, I wonder why President Trump doesn’t trust the FBI, after watching a smug FBI agent who texted about insurance policies against his Presidency and how “we” would “stop” him lecture Congress about his lack of bias? f. Nixon said much nicer things about China and Chou En Lai when Dick made his famous visit. FDR affectionately called mass murderer Stalin “Uncle Joe.” President Bush (absurdly) said that he had seen Putin’s soul, and pronounced it pure. JFK feted the Butcher of the Ukraine and Hungary, Nikita Khrushchev, during a visit to America without condemning him in a pres conference. President Obama whispered to Putin that, in essence, he was going to play tough but would be accommodating after the election. Conclusion: As usual, this President is subjected to a double standard, and it is wildly hypocritical. g. Yes, Trump’s comments were unpresidential and inappropriate. This, however, is no longer news.
Continue reading

Eleven Ethics Observations On The Fox GOP Presidential Debate In South Carolina

The moderators...

The moderators…

1. Last night’s Fox News debate was the most ethical,  and generally the best of them all so far, in either party.

2. Rand Paul’s boycott of the so-called “undercard” debate reveals his arrogant nature. Chris Christie was demoted for one round, didn’t complain, participated, did well, and came back to the main event. Rand thinks he’s more qualified to be President  than Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. Well, then, show us. Paul, in one complaint, proudly pointed to the fact that he’s the only GOP candidate who wants to legalize drugs and return the U.S. to isolationism as the world burns.  Yes, and this is why you’re not on the main stage, Senator. This is called “answering your own question.”

3. A group of Paul supporters started chanting his name at one point, causing Neil Cavuto to pause and look bemused. Oddly, Donald Trump did not command that their coats be confiscated.

4. Early on, both Bush and Marco Rubio pointed out—since the news media is still trying to soft-peddle it—that Hillary Clinton’s legal problems are serious, and that her lies about her e-mail and Benghazi should disqualify her for national leadership. Good. Continue reading

Marco Rubio’s Unethical Concept Of “Doing Your Job”

Senator Marco Rubio at work in the Senate this week.

Senator Marco Rubio at work in the Senate this week.

It would be nice if the most viable alternatives to Donald Trump didn’t go out of their way to show that they aren’t qualified to be President of the United States either.

Marco Rubio, who was already under well-earned fire for saying that he hated being a Senator and  not bothering to vote on Senate bills, a rather substantial part of the job he was elected to do, thought about it, shrugged, and then became the only Senator who couldn’t be bothered to cast a vote on massive $1.8 trillion spending and tax package engineered by new House Speaker Paul Ryan. There’s just no excuse for this, and Rand Paul was not being unreasonable to suggest that if all Rubio wanted to do was run for President–and many have commented that unlike Trump, Cruz, Bush and the rest, he isn’t even doing that very hard—he should resign and let someone else represent the people of Florida.

“It’s a trillion dollars in spending and I think earlier this week he talked about having some activity and then wasn’t here,” Sen. Paul told POLITICO. “So yeah I think it’s important to show up to your job. I think that really he ought to resign or quit accepting his pay if he’s not going to come to work.”

How can anyone argue with that?

For his part, Rubio offered a weak, weak, weak excuse for his no-show, saying, “In essence, not voting for it, is a vote against it.” No, not voting is also not voting against it. As Thomas More pointed out before he lost his head, the law’s assumption is that “silence gives consent.” If Rubio is correct, then a bill could be voted down by more Senators abstaining than voting for a measure. Is he correct? No.

But then he doesn’t show up to work that often, so it’s understandable that he’s confused.

Rubio’s conduct demonstrates arrogance, lack of diligence, integrity and trustworthiness, laziness, and it doesn’t encourage me about his judgment, either.

Somewhere, Donald Trump is smiling.

Observations On The CNN Republican Candidates Debate

Is it the debate, or the Burger king Commercial?

Is it the debate, or the Burger king Commercial?

1. Whoever decided that presidential candidates debates require  patriotic songs to start them off should be shunned and mocked. This simultaneously over-sanctifies the event and trivializes it. This is a serious enterprise, but not that far removed from a an interview on “Meet the Press,” and it’s also not a variety show.

2. With Wolf Blitzer’s competent, respectful, fair and benign debate moderation last night,  media and liberal pundit defenders of the disgraceful CNBC inquisition should admit they were defending the indefensible.

3. Ted Cruz had a terrible night, meaning his arrogance,  cynicism and dishonesty were exposed and nobody trapped him into it. His talking over the moderators after they repeatedly told him to pipe down was outrageous. His long, evasive non-answer to the question about why he refused to level the same criticism of Trump in public forums that he has made in private appearances was like a parody of a double-talking pol. Cruz’s plan, it’s obvious to see, is to avoid alienating Trump’s base so he can snap it up when The Donald finally starts imitating Michael Richards in his career-ending stand-up meltdown or does something similarly self-destructive. At this point, that plan appears irresponsible and cowardly. Cruz is the best qualified candidate to take Trump apart, because he has the rhetorical tools and requisite ruthlessness to do the job right. That means that he has an ethical obligation, not just as a Republican but also as a citizen, to remove this ugly blight from  the political scene before he does more damage. Yet he refuses to do it.

There has been a lot of talk about what disqualifies a candidate to be President. Cruz’s refusal to take on Trump when he knows how wrong and dangerous he is disqualifies him. Continue reading

Let Us All Bow In Gratitude To Colorado For Generously Sacrificing Its Children And The Safety And Welfare of Its Citizens To Prove What Responsible People Knew Already: Pot Should Stay Illegal

Hey, Que pasa! You idiot...

Hey, Que pasa! You idiot…

I’m probably going to stray a bit from strictly professional rhetoric here, but this really makes me angry.

According to a report released this month by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, there has been a 29% increase in marijuana-related emergency room visits and a 38 % increase in pot-related hospitalizations during retail marijuana’s first year in Colorado.

[ NOTE: This is a correction. The original version of the post gave the wrong impression that hospitalizations were up: this was not my intent. Thanks to Humble Talent for being persistent. Ethics Alarms apologizes for the error. We’ll try to do better.]

Now 11% of Colorado’s 12 to 17 year-olds use pot,  56% higher than the national average.There has also been a 40% increase in drug-related suspensions and expulsions in school, primarily from marijuana.

Mercy, what a surprise! Who could have predicted that? Well me, for one, as well as others neither dedicated to getting their periodic recreational buzz nor addled by moldy Sixties cant.

Of course making pot legal and widely available for adults would cause an epidemic of use by kids, who, the evidence increasingly shows, may suffer long term adverse effectsOf course it is causing accidents. Of course adding a third harmful legal drug to the devastating and deadly duo of alcohol and tobacco is going to make society dumber, less safe and less productive. Continue reading