Category Archives: Around the World

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Gary Sinise

gary-sinise

“With all due respect, what the hell are you talking about?”

—Actor and Wounded Warrior ally Gary Senise, in an open letter responding to Howard Dean’s statement that the audience for “American Sniper” consisted of “angry people.”

Good question. What are the vicious and anti-military critics of Clint Eastwood’s box-office busting bio-pic about Navy Seal Chris Kyle talking about?

I saw the film yesterday. It’s not pro-war, pro-Iraq invasion, or political in any way. The various critics of the film out themselves as hateful and so biased against combat, the military and, I don’t know—life? Reality?—that they can’t even keep their minds open a crack for a thought-provoking piece of popular art. Dean had said, turning his review (I’ll bet anything that he hasn’t seen the film) into a gratuitous attack on tea party supporters:

“There’s a lot of anger in this country, and the people who go see this movie are people who are very angry. And this guy basically says ‘I’m going to fight on your side.’ … I bet you if you looked at a cross-section of the Tea Party and the people who go to see this movie, there’s a lot of intersection.”

In the same forum–his weekly HBO conservative-bashing fest–Bill Maher called Kyle a “psychopath patriot” (there is nothing whatsoever in the film that supports that diagnosis). Seth Rogen compared “American Sniper” to a Nazi propaganda film. Michael Moore used the film–which he couldn’t possibly have seen–to make the ridiculous observation that snipers were “cowards.” Kyle, the most effective sniper in U.S. military history, was wounded repeatedly and awarded two Silver Stars and five Bronze stars. For him to be smeared as a coward by the likes of Michael Moore is grotesque.

The film, among other things, shows just what kind of horror our service men and women endured in Iraq, how they suffered (and suffer still), what it did to them and their families, and accords them well-deserved compassion and respect. How sad, bitter and rotten inside someone must be to resent that. As I watched the film, it occurred to me that this was probably exactly what John Wayne wanted “The Green Berets” to be during Vietnam, but had neither the discipline to avoid agitprop and sentimentality, nor Clint’s directing skills to pull it off.

After expressing his disgust at Dean’s outburst in a tweet, the stage and screen star, whose foundation works to help and recognize the soldiers and veterans he calls our “defenders,” wrote,

To Howard Dean,

I saw American Sniper and would not consider myself to be an angry person. You certainly have a right to make stupid blanket statements, suggesting that all people who see this film are angry, but how is that helpful sir? Do you also suggest that everyone at Warner Brothers is angry because they released the film? That Clint Eastwood, Jason Hall, Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller and the rest of the cast and crew are angry because they made the film? Chris Kyle’s story deserved to be told. It tells a story of the stress that multiple deployments have on one military family, a family representative of thousands of military families. It helps to communicate the toll that the war on terror has taken on our defenders. Defenders and families who need our support. I will admit that perhaps somewhere among the masses of people who are going to see the film there may be a few that might have some anger or have been angry at some point in their lives, but, with all due respect, what the hell are you talking about?

My guess is that Dean is talking about his own estrangement from basic American values, its history, and its essential role in the world, including all the sacrifices, risks and difficult choices that role demands. He’s the angry one.

 

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Professions, U.S. Society, War and the Military

Ethics Alarms Encore: “Aesop’s Unethical and Misleading Fable: The North Wind and the Sun”

north-wind-and-the-sun-story-oil-painting

[ I vowed that the next time I got a comment on this post, I would publish it again. It hails from four years ago, when  Ethics Alarms got a quarter of the traffic it gets now. I confess that I wrote it on a whim, having been talking with my wife about how Aesop’s Fables were joining Mother Goose stories,  Edward Lear limericks and American folks song in the Discarded Bin of our culture and then stumbling upon a fable I had either never read before or forgotten about.  To my surprise the post attracted intense criticism from fans of the story—I even had to ban a commenter who got hysterical about it—and the post joined a very eclectic group of early essays here that get considerable and consistent readership every week. Apparently there are a lot of Sun-worshipers out there. Anyway, since you probably missed it the first time, here it is.]

Today, by happenstance, I heard an Aesop’s Fable that I had never encountered before recited on the radio. Like all Aesop’s Fables, at least in its modern re-telling, this one had a moral attached , and is also a statement of ethical values. Unlike most of the fables, however, it doesn’t make its case. It is, in fact, an intellectually dishonest, indeed an unethical, fable.

It is called “The North Wind and the Sun,” and in most sources reads like this:

“The North Wind and the Sun disputed as to which was the most powerful, and agreed that he should be declared the victor who could first strip a wayfaring man of his clothes. The North Wind first tried his power and blew with all his might, but the keener his blasts, the closer the Traveler wrapped his cloak around him, until at last, resigning all hope of victory, the Wind called upon the Sun to see what he could do. The Sun suddenly shone out with all his warmth. The Traveler no sooner felt his genial rays than he took off one garment after another, and at last, fairly overcome with heat, undressed and bathed in a stream that lay in his path.”

The moral of the fable is variously stated as “Persuasion is better than Force” , or “Gentleness and kind persuasion win where force and bluster fail.”

The fable proves neither. In reality, it is a vivid example of dishonest argument, using euphemisms and false characterizations to “prove” a proposition that an advocate is biased toward from the outset. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Childhood and children, Education, Literature, Religion and Philosophy, War and the Military

Dark and Brooding Thoughts

Denis McDonoughFrom Politico:

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough suffered a slip of the tongue Sunday when he offered the first name of an American woman held hostage by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

In an interview with host George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” about the ongoing situation with a Japanese hostage held by ISIL, McDonough mentioned the woman’s first name, which is not public knowledge.

No, Politico, this is not a “slip of the tongue.” McDonough was appearing on a full slate of Sunday morning shows, and he had certain objectives and parameters which, as a professional and a high-ranking advisor to the President of the United States, he was bound and obligated to be competent to fulfill, or he should not have accepted the assignment. There weren’t that many of them. One was not to reveal the name of an ISIS hostage, and he couldn’t do that. He was not properly prepped, or trained, or focused on his assignment.

It’s not because “anyone can make a mistake.” Professionals do not make such mistakes, and if they do, they are in the wrong profession. This occurred, as so, so, SO many other fiascos have, because this entire Administration is led by, staffed by and advised by hyper-partisan incompetents who learn nothing, understand nothing, and place the interests of the United States at constant risk; because a culture of arrogant incompetence has been allowed to flourish under the abdication of journalists to call it to account; and because the potential critics whose allied philosophies would make them the most effective voices to call for accountability are too biased, cowardly, or lacking in integrity to do so.

You can’t trust our national leadership. If you do, you are a fool. This has nothing whatsoever to do about policies, parties, or loyalty.

As I ponder this, I am trying to understand the character of a man who could preside of over such a incompetently staffed and managed administration and still deliver the defiant, dishonest, destructive and divisive speech he gave to the Congress last week.

That may be a futile effort. But I doubt that I  can continue to muster respect for those who continue to offer excuses and rationalizations for this ongoing tragi-comedy of unapologetic ineptitude rather than to face reality and try to help the nation survive the next two years.

That’s what I’m thinking tonight.

I wish I weren’t.

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Professions

Ethics Hero Emeritus: Irena Sendler (1910-2008)

Sendler

I missed learning about the death of Irena Sendler (Irena Sendlerowa) in 2008, and this occurred because the mass news media barely took note of it. Lots of celebrities died that year whose passing prompted extended mourning in the press and examinations of their legacies: Paul Newman, Heath Ledger, Sir Edmund Hillary (a member of the Ethics Alarms Heroes Hall of Honor), Charlton Heston, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and many others. There was no room for a final appreciation of the life of Irena Sendler, apparently. Today, the website Bio.com doesn’t list her among the notable deaths of that year, though it finds room for Fifties stunt singer Yma Sumac—remember her? She had a four octave range! And Arthur Showcross: he murdered 11 women from 1988 to 1990 in upstate New York, earning the nickname “The Genessee River Killer.”

All Irena Sendler did was save 2500 children from the Treblinka death camp. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, History, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, War and the Military

The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2014 (Part 4 of 4)

mamoru-samuragochi2

Outrageous Hoax Of The Year

Mamoru Samuragochi, the composer sometimes known as “The Japanese Beethoven” because he composed critically acclaimed works despite being deaf, was exposed as double fraud: he didn’t compose the works that made him Japan’s most popular classical composer, and he isn’t even really deaf!  Samuragochi hired a musical ghostwriter named Takashi Niigaki to compose more than twenty compositions for Samuragochi since 1996.

Funniest Outrageous Hoax

Fake Panda

This.

Unethical Artist Of The Year

Performance artist Maximo Caminero, who  walked into the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, entered a special exhibit of sixteen ancient Chinese vases painted over in bright colors by celebrated Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, picked up one of them, and immediately after a security guard instructed him not to touch the exhibit, allowed the vase to fall from his hands, shattering into bits. Caminero admitted that smashing the pottery, which was valued at a million dollars,  was intentional, and was his protest against in support of local artists like himself whose work is not exhibited at the museum while the art of international artists like Weiwei is.

Unethical Veterinarian Of The Year

Fort Worth, Texas veterinarian Lou Tierce lost his license for five years as a result of, among other transgressions, his telling the owners of a Leonburger (it’s a very big dog) that their pet was terminally ill and had to be euthanized, then secretly keeping the dog alive in a small cage so he could use Sid’s blood for transfusions to Dr. Tierce’s other canine patients. Eventually an assistant at the clinic blew the whistle and alerted Sid’s owners, who rescued their dog and sicced the law on the worst veterinarian since Dean Jones menaced Beethoven.

Unethical Doctor Of The Year

Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s medical expert, endangered the public by defying a voluntary quarantine for possible Ebola exposure,  because she just couldn’t bear to be without her favorite soup.

Scam of the Year

Jonathan-Gruber-1

The Affordable Care Act.

 Unethical Federal Agency Of The Year

The Secret Service. Lots of competition in this category: the Veterans Administration, the I.R.S., the CDC, the Justice Department, NSA…but when you essentially have one job to do and do it badly, sloppily carelessly and dangerously, there’s really not much more to say Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race, Rights, Sports, The Internet, U.S. Society, Unethical Tweet, Unethical Websites

Comment of the Day: “Pop Quiz: The Bottom Of The Slippery Slope”

islamic-symbol

Going far afield from the post it followed, the Comment of the Day from taxaggo4 examines the tricky question of whether militant, radical or extremist Muslims can be fairly regarded as representative of the faith. Taking off from a comment by Penn (in the blocks), tex examines various ways of analyzing the problem, in a long and fascinating exposition. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post “Pop Quiz: The Bottom of the Slippery Slope.”

 

Fundamentalism v Militancy

“Which brings me an item I almost ran yesterday re the specious anti-free-speech posts some people were making and/or agreeing with. I thought Beth had pretty much covered the subject but … no. As (self-confessed) Christian writer and psychiatrist M. Scott Peck – Lt. Col. who served as the U.S. Army’s Assistant Chief Psychiatry and Neurology Consultant to the Surgeon General of the Army – explained, “(T)there are different stages of spiritual maturity. Fundamentalism – whether it be Muslim, Christian, Jewish or Hindu fundamentalism – is an immature stage of development.

‘Indeed, a Christian fundamentalist who kills others in the name of religion is much more similar to a Muslim – or Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist – fundamentalist who kills others in the name of his religion than to a Christian who peacefully fights for justice and truth, helps the poor, or serves to bring hope to the downtrodden.’

If we can’t agree to differentiating fundamentalists (extremists by definition) from (comparatively) rational folks, we will continue to have straw man arguments that lump every one together under a label that is useless for discussion.”

I’ve read some of Peck’s works. Pretty good. But I think he’s inaccurate on the characterization of “Fundamentalism”. He’s fallen for the same trap in mislabelling that the main stream media uses. Certainly spiritual immaturity involves a great deal of emotionalism, which typically manifests in anger, when a person’s beliefs are challenged. Anger, which can lead to violence, is best described as “Militancy”, not “Fundamentalism”.

If religion A says “at the bare bones you must believe”: Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Comment of the Day, Government & Politics, Religion and Philosophy

Pop Quiz: The Bottom Of The Slippery Slope

Merkel out

What’s missing from the photo above that ran in the ultra-orthodox Jewish newspaper HaMevaser, or The Announcer?

No, the answer isn’t “any Americans,” though that would be correct too.

Why, it’s all the women! German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Paris Mayor Ann Hidalgo and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini were all photoshopped out of the Israeli newspaper.

When you have to have to alter the facts to fit your ideology and world view, this is supposed to trigger an ethics alarm that alerts you to the unpleasant truth that the problem is with you and your biases, conclusions and beliefs, not the facts.

Making people disappear from photos is the most grotesque of such self-indicting strategies, but there are many less spectacular but equally unethical examples, and right at home, right now.  Can you name some?

I’ll get you started with my personal “favorite”:

Hands up

And to answer your question: I’ll stop harping on this one when I stop hearing Ferguson and Mike Brown routinely mentioned as examples of excessive police force and racism.

________________________

Spark and Pointer: Rick Jones

 

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Filed under Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Journalism & Media, Race, Religion and Philosophy