Is This The Most Incompetent Statement From The President Yet? I’m Trying Hard to Think Of A Worse One…

Just a little too hard on the facepalm…

Today President Trump tweeted,

“Cases are going up in the U.S. because we are testing far more than any other country, and ever expanding. With smaller testing we would show fewer cases!”

Now, this could be a joke. It should be a joke, because the statement is per se idiotic. Cases are doing whatever they are doing regardless of whether they are identified or not. Not knowing about a case of a virus infection, or a thousand cases, because we aren’t testing enough to find them, doesn’t make the cases disappear. This is so obvious, and the opposite assertion so ridiculous, that one almost has to believe that Trump’s  tweet is a joke. After all, the logical extension of that tweet would be that the pandemic could be eliminated if we ceased testing. He can’t possibly think that.

Right? RIGHT?

RIGHT???

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Ethics Grab Bag: 6/18/20: Absolutism, DACA, Cancel Culture And Pancakes

1. Oh, I’m sure that will help a lot. Quaker announced yesterday that the Aunt Jemima brand would be rebranded and renamed “to make progress toward racial equality.” Yeah, I’m sure the pancake box design and hearing that demon name “Jemima” has retarded the progress of racial justice for decades.  I couldn’t care less what pancake mix is called and I doubt that anyone else does, but  if any portion of the market claims to find the logo offensive, that’s a good reason to ditch it, which I assume means that Uncle Ben’s Rice will be called “U.B.R.” soon. Nonetheless, Quaker’s move isn’t substantive. It’s virtue signaling, and at this point, more historical airbrushing. Getting rid of Aunt Jemima will cost Quaker millions of dollars, and probably raise the price of the product. It won’t affect racial equality one iota.

Meanwhile, cultural context and history is lost. The R. T. Davis Milling Company hired former slave Nancy Green as a spokesperson for the Aunt Jemima pancake mix in 1890, and she continued in that role  until her death in 1923. Green appeared as Jemima beside the “world’s largest flour barrel” while operating a pancake-cooking display at Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. After the Expo, Green was given a lifetime contract to  promote the pancake mix. Aunt Jemima was Nancy Green’s one link to immortality.

2. Today’s SCOTUS decision on DACA. Here’s how NPR put it: “A narrowly divided U.S. Supreme Court extended a life-support line to some 650,000 so-called DREAMers on Thursday, allowing them to remain safe from deportation for now, while the Trump administration jumps through the administrative hoops that the court said are required before ending the program.”

The President called this a political decision in his inimitable, meat-axe way:

This is an especially stupid tweet. Every time SCOTUS doesn’t back the administration isn’t a political decision, and lumping apples and kumquats together, which is what generalizing about decisions as diverse as the gay discrimination decision and this one is, just shows that the President doesn’t read the opinions he’s complaining about, and only cares about the results. (Of course, in this he is like most Americans, sad to say.)

After wading through as much of the assorted opinions in the case as I can stand (Great thanks, once again, to valkygrrl for sending me the link), I think that’s unfair.

Chief Justice Roberts, again the swing man, joined with the four liberal Justices and authored the majority opinion. This sentence says it all: “The dispute before the Court is not whether DHS may rescind DACA. All parties agree that it may. The dispute is instead primarily about the procedure the agency followed in doing so.” That means that the decision isn’t about substance or policy, but rather process. Process decisions are not, or shouldn’t be, political. This note also undermines the idea that the Justices were just acting in partisan lockstep:

ROBERTS, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, except as to Part IV. GINSBURG, BREYER, and KAGAN, JJ., joined that opinion in full, and SOTOMAYOR, J., joined as to all but Part IV. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed an opinion concurring in part, concurring in the judgment in part, and dissenting in part. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part anddissenting in part, in which ALITO and GORSUCH, JJ., joined. ALITO, J., and KAVANAUGH, J., filed opinions concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part.

If the President paid attention, he would see that a majority of the Court found that his actions regarding DACA were not motivated by “animus,” thus denying Big Lie #4.

I am unalterably opposed to DACA, for reasons stated frequently here. The short version: it is incompetent and irresponsible law-making to provide an incentive for people to break the law. DACA is fueled by emotion and sentimentality (“Think if the children!”) and is an incremental step toward open borders. However, other than some dicta among the concurrences and dissents, there is no reason to see the decision as either favoring or disfavoring the law. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Month: CNN’s Brian Stelter

“You understand that, like, some day you’re going to regret this, right? Some day you’re going to regret this, when your kids and your grandkids look back at this time, and you use slurs and smear us as fake news to hurt news outlets. I think in 10 or 20 years if we sit down and talk about this, you’ll recognize how damaging it was to use terms like fake news, to attack journalists who are trying to do their jobs.”

—-Brian Stelter, CNN’s alleged media expert, excoriating Trump campiagn legal advisor Jenna Ellis.  on his Sunday show “Reliable Sources.”

And with that, Stelter completed an unholy CNN trinity  with Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo who have had on-air emotional outbursts and tantrums because, to put it simply, none of them are very smart or professional. The antics of all three would embarrass any legitimate, trustworthy news organization, which CNN obviously is no longer, and the fact that it continues to employ Stelter, a virulent partisan who covers for CNN’s constant journalism sins, is a smoking gun, one of many. Continue reading

Mid-Friday Ethics, 6/12/2020: The Fame Edition

Good afternoon!

1. On Fame. One of my pet peeves is the pursuit of fame as a life objective. It is inherently unethical, because fame itself is unrelated to good or evil; it is a neutral value, and its pursuit is pure self-interest mixed with ignorance.

First, as too many celebrities to count have informed us, fame is at least as much of a burden as a boon, and second, there is no such thing as “immortality” through fame. As Shelley wrote,

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

 

The lyrics of the theme song from the movie and TV series “Fame” so annoyed me that I refused to view either:

Remember my name, fame
I’m gonna live forever
I’m gonna learn how to fly, high

I feel it comin’ together
People will see me and cry, fame
I’m gonna make it to heaven
Light up the sky like a flame, fame
I’m gonna live forever
Baby, remember my name!

Yeah, good luck with that life plan. Who remembers Irene Cara, the star of the film who sang the song? If you enter the field of performing, or any field, to become famous rather than to contribute something of value to society, you’re an asshole.

Chasing it is a fool’s pursuit, but sometimes fame finds you. I just read that former MLB baseball player Claudell Washington died. I remember him, but few do: he arrived heralded as a future superstar, but never reached that status. He is famous, however, because a foul ball he hit in a game of no importance is “immortalized” in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” a cult classic, as the ball Ferris (Matthew Broderick) catches in the stands while playing hookie.

It’s more immortality than most of us get. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Twitter

Twitter crossed the digital Rubicon this week, as we had to know it would sooner or later.  It added qualifying links to two of President Trump’s tweets  about mail-in ballots, in which he claimed they would cause the 2020 Presidential election to be “rigged.” The New York Times, typically, wrote that he “falsely” predicted that result, and there you have it: social media now is choosing to use its power to tell the public what opinions are “true.”…just like the New York Times and the rest of the mainstream media.

The links — which were in blue lettering at the bottom of the posts and punctuated by  exclamation marks — urged people to “get the facts” about voting by mail. Clicking on the links led to a CNN story that said Mr. Trump’s claims were unsubstantiated and to a list of bullet points that Twitter had compiled rebutting the “inaccuracies.”

Because CNN is where reasonable people go who want “the facts.”

Twitter, as a private rather than a government communications platform, can do this if it chooses, and the consequences to the company are likely to be far less serious than the consequences to public discourse. There is no way this kind of policing of speech, from the President or anyone else, can be done fairly, consistently and even-handedly. Already, Twitter has demonstrated hard ideological bias in its choices of which Twitter users to suspend or otherwise censor, and this escalation opens the door wide to more abuse. Will Twitter be similarly vigilant in calling out Democrats, activists, pundits and journalists on their excesses? You know they won’t; they couldn’t if they tried. Twitter’s wan excuse is that Trump’s tweets are special. I suspect the company is setting itself up for some serious federal regulation. Continue reading

Ethics Dispatches From The Sick Ward, 5/26/2020: Arg! Yechh!

Ugh.

I was supposed to be all better yesterday, and instead I took  a step back.

Sorry.

That photo above is from the last scene in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” after all of the comedians and Spencer Tracy have ended up in the hospital with horrible injuries following  their self-created disaster on an out-of-control fire truck ladder at the supposedly hilarious climax of the Sixties epic chase comedy. The film-makers were very creative in their uses of bandages, casts and traction, but even as a kid, I was struck by how it just isn’t possible to make injuries seem very funny.

1. Since everyone is watching as much TV now as I usually watch routinely, I’ll mention this: have you noticed that several commercials show parents playing pirates with their kids? Did you ever play pirates with your parents? Have you ever seen anyone play at being pirates?

The reason this is being forced on the culture as a thing is that political correctness has robbed kids of almost all fantasy outlets, so someone decided that pirates were safe and inoffensive–especially since Disney had to remove the rapey stuff from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” rides. (Pirates are actually murderous thieves, today as always; what a weird safe haven to choose!)

In “Parasite,” Oscar’s Best Picture last year, the little South Korean son of the wealthy family was obsessed with playing “Indians,” complete with feathered headdress and arrows. I wonder if this feature would have disqualified an American film for cultural insensitivity. American kids can’t be cowboys anymore, since they were genocidal; soldiers are taboo, as are cops and robbers; even space invaders are verboten, since they involve guns. As my friends and I discovered long ago, you can try to play superheroes but they don’t leave you much to work with. Sword and sorcery games, like acting out fairy tales, trip on too many anti-feminist stereotypes.

I wonder what the next generation will turn out to be like, absent any symbolic fantasy villains and conflict to instruct their play. Pirates are not the answer, and again, I doubt any kids are playing pirates like the imaginary families in Bounty commercials. The iconic pirate novel “Treasure Island,” once a standard assignment in grade school, has been purged from the canon—too male, or something.  (It’s still a terrific book.) The other classic with pirates is “Peter Pan,” and that one is in the process of being scrubbed and gender-twisted beyond recognition. There still are Johnny Depp’s weird pirate movies, I guess, though his drunken, bumbling pirate slob anti-hero seems unlikely to inspire normal kids into flights of fantasy.

Our culture just is not in competent hands, and what the end result will be, nobody knows.

2. I’m not sure if this is unethical, exactly, but something’s definitely wrong… Continue reading

Monday Morning Ethics Eye-Opener, 5/18/2020: Shopping Carts, Stupid Cabinet Member Tricks, And More [CORRECTED]

Ready?

Many readers have been sending in suggested post ideas, which is especially appreciated since the news media seems to have decided that only pandemic-related matters, Democratic Party-boosting  and Trump-bashing are worthy of prominent coverage. Let’s look at today’s Times front page—one, two—out of six stories, only one, at the bottom of the page, isn’t in one of these three categories.

I’ve also been receiving much appreciated help fixing typos. Thanks. Sometimes I find my own mistake, like noticing this morning that Glenn Logan’s excellent Comment of the Day from the weekend somehow got posted without a headline or a tag mentioning that it was the Comment of the Day.

1. Is State Secretary Mike Pompeo  really as irresponsible, reckless and arrogant as it appears?  The firing of Inspector General Steve Linick is causing “firestorm” #81,753 of the Trump administration because he was reportedly investigating the Secretary of State’ss alleged misuse of taxpayer-funded assets for personal rather than professional purposes. Last summer, members of Congress looked at a whistle-blower complaint accusing Pompeo of asking diplomatic security agents to run errands like picking up restaurant takeout meals and retrieving the family dog from a groomer. In October, a Democratic senator called for a special counsel to investigate his use of State Department aircraft and funds for frequent visits to Kansas, his home.

More than one Trump Cabinet official has had to leave because of this stuff. Anyone working for President Trump has to know that they are under special scrutiny because a whole political party and the news media is searching for any means possible to weaken Trump’s Presidency, throw monkey wrenches into its work, and further undermine public trust. What Pompeo is accused of is petty abuse of power and position, but it is still abuse, and also arrogant rich guy-entitled, “Mad Men” style  self-indulgence. Pompeo knows it’s wrong, and also knows he’s a target. If the allegations are true, it is really stupid for him to do this, and also stupid for the President not to have announced a no-tolerance policy about this kind of conduct months, heck, years, ago.

2. An ethics analysis I had never heard of before: “The Shopping Cart Theory.” [Pointer: valkygrrl] Continue reading

Friday PM Ethics Discoveries, 5/15/2020: A Coup Option On The Way Out, A Narrative Reappears, Trump Tweets, Reasonable Discrimination Opposed, And More

Well let’s check the ol’ ethics box and see what we have today!

1. That’s one coup option down the drain! Based on what reporters heard during the phoned-in oral arguments on Chiafalo v. Washington and State v. Baca, it appears that the Supreme Court is going to rule that states can require electors to vote for the candidates the state’s voters instructed them to vote for. If so, good. That will eliminate at least one of the unethical coup options that were attempted after Trump upset Clinton. You will recall that there was a mass effort to hijack the Electoral College using the rationalization that Alexander Hamilton would have approved.

Lawrence Lessig, the wacko Harvard law professor we have discussed here more than once, represented the electors who were blocked from voting against the electorate’s wishes. Maybe its just me, but if I’m going to be represented before the Supreme Court, I think I’d choose a lawyer who hadn’t announced that he was running for President  as a “referendum president” who would serve only as long as it took to pass some pet progressive legislation, and then would quit and let his VP take over. Lessig obviously does not take elections seriously; no wonder he thinks electors should be free to vote for Chucky Cheese.

2. “Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!”, Fake History Division.  Adam Liptak, long-time SCOTUS reporter for the Times, writes in his story about #1 above,

“A swing by just 10 electors would have been enough to change the outcomes in five of the previous 58 presidential elections, according to a Supreme Court brief. In the 2000 election, after an assist from the Supreme Court, George W. Bush beat Al Gore by just five electoral votes.”

See how Liptak pushes a progressive narrative in what is supposed to be a news story? There was no “assist”; we now know that Bush would have won Florida’s electoral votes with or without SCOTUS halting the recount. What the ruling in 2000 assisted was the nation having an orderly transfer of power within a reasonable time. Even though the “Bush and the Supreme Court stole the Presidency” lie has been thoroughly exposed as such, Democrats and the news media keeps injecting it into the public’s consciousness by constant repetition. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/18/2020: The “ARRGGH!” Edition

A weekend?

Frankly, at this point, I can’t tell the difference.

1. ARRGH! Trump Calls For An Insurrection! I must say, having a President who is 12 does create problems. The President’s juvenile “Liberate Michigan!” tweet naturally had the “resistance” in an uproar; the Washington Post even dug up a lawyer from the Obama administration who was willing to write an op-ed seriously arguing that he had advocated the overthrow of the government. Oh, great, I can’t wait for Adam Schiff to try to impeach him for a tweet that had the gravitas of graffiti.

If one concedes that the President should tweet at all—and since he refuses to use any filters whatsoever, I don’t concede that; I doubt that anyone who wants to maintain credibility and trust should tweet—then urging the states to start nudging the economy back into operation is a legitimate objective, and so is opposing outrageous meat-axe over-reach by governors. mayors and police that abuse civil rights—like banning the sale of seeds, or being alone in a car. However, as I am sick of saying, the President’s mode of communication does not include nuance, which makes tweets like yesterday’s irresponsible and incompetent

2. “ARRGH! I’ve been infected!”  When the going gets tough, the tough get scamming. In Arcata, California, a fake on-line ordering webpage named “Order Hero” copied web pages from local restaurants including phone numbers, addresses and actual menu items. Customers accessed the  website through Google, then provided credit card information to order food.  When the victims arrived at the restaurant to pick up their order, they learned no such on-line ordering services existed.
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Trump Tweets: The Movies

Stipulated: the ethics position here has been since long before the Trump years that Presidents should keep their opinions of persons, places, things and events having nothing to do with their duties or responsibilities to themselves.

Presidents are not kings, nor popes, nor universal authorities on everything. They have a role to fill, and they should fill it; it’s not like there should be plenty of time left over for weighing in on such matters as sports, popular culture, celebrities, and local controversies.

President Obama did far more of this than was responsible or good for the country, notably during race-related controversies. President Trump, obviously, has taken this misuse of his position into the stratosphere with his addiction to Twitter. His unrestrained tweets have done him at least as much harm as good; my own guess is that if he eschewed social media, his approval ratings would be 10% higher than they are.

It is also, I think, beyond argument that Trump’s use of Twitter guarantees that future Presidents will also use it to opine on matters that are none of their business. This is not a good thing.

The President’s latest self-made controversy, actually two controversies, came when he tweeted in part last week,

“How bad were the Academy Awards this year? Did you see? And the winner is: a movie from South Korea. What the hell was that all about? We’ve got enough problems with South Korea, with trade. On top of it, they give them the best movie of the year? Was it good? I don’t know? I’m looking for — where? — can we get ‘Gone with the Wind’ back please? ‘Sunset Boulevard.’ So many great movies. The winner is: from South Korea. I thought it was Best Foreign Film. Best Foreign Movie. No. Has this ever happened before? …”

And then he went off on Brad Pitt’s gratuitous crack about John Bolton. Continue reading