- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Green virtue

“When Al Gore was caught running up huge energy bills at home at the same time as lecturing on the need to save electricity, it turns out that he was only reverting to ‘green’ type. According to a study, when people feel they have been morally virtuous by saving the planet through their purchases of organic baby food, for example, it leads to the ‘licensing [of] selfish and morally questionable behaviour,’ otherwise known as ‘moral balancing’ or ‘compensatory ethics.’

“‘Do Green Products Make Us Better People’ is published in the latest edition of the journal Psychological Science. Its authors, Canadian psychologists Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong, argue that people who wear what they call the ‘halo of green consumerism’ are less likely to be kind to others, and more likely to cheat and steal. ‘Virtuous acts can license subsequent asocial and unethical behaviours,’ they write.

“The pair found that those in their study who bought green products appeared less willing to share with others a set amount of money than those who bought conventional products. When the green consumers were given the chance to boost their money by cheating on a computer game and then given the opportunity to lie about it — in other words, steal — they did, while the conventional consumers did not. Later, in an honour system in which participants were asked to take money from an envelope to pay themselves their spoils, the greens were six times more likely to steal than the conventionals.”

Kate Connolly, writing on “How going green may make you mean,” on March 15 at the Guardian

Who’s there?

“If you’re trying to figure out why J Street, the left-wing pro-Israel group, came into existence, just take a look at the schedule for this week’s AIPAC conference, at the Washington Convention Center. The list of speakers, apart from the usual suspects (Bibi, Hillary, and the like) includes analysts and advocates from such organizations as the American Enterprise Institute, the Hudson Institute, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, CAMERA, and so on — the full range of conservative-leaning think tanks. …

“I am not writing this in order to knock such speakers as Robert Kagan, Andrea Levin, Elliott Abrams, Dan Senor (who just wrote a great book about Israel) Bret Stephens, Bill Kristol, and Alan Dershowitz. I agree with much of what many of these people have to say about the Middle East. …

“But the dearth of speakers who approach the most contentious issues of the Middle East from a left-Zionist perspective is noticeable. Most American Jews voted for Obama; most American Jews are liberal; and most American Jews understand the difference between the legitimate security needs of the State of Israel and the theological, political and economic needs of the small minority of Israelis who have settled the West Bank. So would it hurt to bring in speakers from the Meretz Party, from the kibbutz movement, from the New Israel Fund, from the Reform Movement, so that the AIPAC attendees could hear for themselves the views of Zionists who disagree with the policies of Israel’s right-wing parties?”

Jeffrey Goldberg, writing on “The Problem With the AIPAC Conference,” on March 21 at his Atlantic magazine blog

All in stride

“The Tiger Woods & Co. Reconstruction Tour will officially commence at Augusta National Golf Club during Masters Tournament week. The star attraction will play at least two gigs April 8 and 9, with an option for two more rounds on the weekend. …

“The ESPN folks even called to ask me if Augusta was prepared to handle the media storm that’s coming. The answer is simple: Augusta is as prepared as it always is to be the center of attention during the Masters Tournament. We survived the Martha Burk insurgence of 2003. We can handle an extra golfer in 2010 — even if that golfer is the center of a worldwide fascination that is unrivaled in sports history. …

“All the bombast and innuendo of the tabloid press, however, isn’t going to breach the perimeter of Augusta National during Masters Week. … I’m sure the TMZ’s and E! News and paparazzi will be filling up what’s left of the $400 a night hotel and motel rooms even without credentials to the tournament. Without access, they’re certain to throw the usual barbs at the commercialization of [the neighboring] Washington Road that camouflages the golfing oasis that hides behind walls of bamboo and assorted greenery.”

Scott Michaux, writing on “Augusta ready for media circus,” on March 16 at the Augusta Chronicle

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