Category Archives: Around the World

Memorial Day Values And Ethics

arlington-cemetery-address

Many events, stories and trends have collided in the run-up to Memorial Day 2015, which itself illuminates a common theme, and, perhaps, emerging wisdom.

In recent weeks we have seen:

1. The terrorist scourge of ISIS, as many predicted, continuing to expand its power and destructive mission while the U.S. resists actively engaging it.

2. Through the prism of the British elections, the realization that our traditional ally and the nation closest to the U.S. in values, culture and commitment to democratic ideals, has surrendered its role as a world power, with its armed forces soon to be at a diminished level last reached in the 18th Century.

3. The growing national distrust and rejection of local police forces.

4. A resurgence of the debate over the Iraq war, with its related issue of the Obama administration’s premature and disastrous withdrawal of troops from that theater,

5. Reports that the United States is no longer regarded abroad as reliable as an ally and

6. The first credible evidence of an ISIS-related attack in the U.S.

And it’s Memorial Day, which is set aside to honor the Americans who died in foreign wars, and who did so under the impression that they were protecting and strengthening our nation’s values and ideals. Obviously, a large segment of the population, and virtually an entire political party, no longer shares those ideals, nor do they honor the sacrifice this holiday was created to recognize and validate. Hence this, from the Democratic Party’s twitter feed…

The Democrats ‏@TheDemocrats May 23 Memorial Day Weekend SALE. Save 15% when you enter MEMORIALDAY15 at The Democrats ✔ @TheDemocrats Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone!

The Democrats ‏@TheDemocrats May 23
Memorial Day Weekend SALE. Save 15% when you enter MEMORIALDAY15 at The Democrats

@TheDemocrats
Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone!

What’s going on here?

The ethics issues are policing, values, responsibility, and, yes, American exceptionalism.

It has become a cliché to say that the U.S. can’t be the world’s policeman, and the Obama foreign policy is entirely based on that assertion….except that the assertion is now that we won’t be the world’s policeman, so we will make certain that we can’t. In that assertion by Obama, which I would term essentially un-American as well as unwise and unethical, is a rejection of the national ideals that formed the basis for the U.S.’s participation in World War II, the Marshall Plan, the Korean War, and the Cold War, among others. The problem with the assertion is that it ignores salient and irrefutable facts:

  • The world needs a policeman, and is a chaotic and dangerous place without it.
  • In the absence of a policeman, the brutal, Machiavellian, and genocidal and despotic run amuck.
  • The United Nations, created with the world’s consensus that a police force was necessary, is now structured to prevent it from filling that role.
  • Somebody needs to fill that role, and the role must be filled by a nation that is obligated by its values not to seek to abuse its power to impose its will on others for its own enrichment and benefit.
  • The United States, as the only nation formed with the mission of recognizing and upholding basic human rights, remains the only nation qualified to fill that role.

In short, it’s a lousy, dirty, thankless job, but someone has to do it, and there is nobody else that the world, or we, can or should trust to do it  Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Citizenship, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, Rights, U.S. Society, War and the Military

See How They Spin: Justifying Hillary Clinton Fans’ Ignorance

Anything to avoid admitting the truth...

Anything to avoid admitting the truth…

Apparently Mark Halperin still has a job with Bloomberg after his atrocious interview with Ted Cruz, since he is back in the news. He held a discussion with some Iowa voters who think Hillary Clinton is just wonderful—you know, morons—and when he asked them to name her accomplishments in the one job she has held requiring leadership and management, Secretary of State, they couldn’t come up with anything. None of them. This has caused comment among pundits and consternation among Democrats.

Well, what did Halperin expect them to say? Clinton was a disaster as Secretary of State, as evidenced by the fact that President Obama’s foreign police has reaped the wild wind. Hillary’s tenure left the U.S. with ISIS, a failed state in Libya, chaos in Iraq,  a more nuclear Iran, Hamas attacks on Israel, a North Korean government that felt it could threaten a U.S. corporation with impunity, Russian incursions into the Ukraine, continuing violence in Syria, and, of course, a Mexico that encourages its citizens to have contempt for the laws of the United States. Meanwhile, she used her office to attract foreign and domestic interests to give large amounts of cash to her foundation, while paying her family large amounts of money through speaking fees that look suspiciously like access fees. Of course, it’s doubtful that these classic low information voters knew anything about her failures and misdeeds, either. The incident was nothing more nor less than supplementary proof that Hillary Clinton’s supporters have turned their brains and/or consciences off, and want her to be President in the absence of evidence or in defiance of it, not because of any rational analysis.

Nonetheless, the Hail Hillary team in the news media rushed to explain what needed no explanation, using a lot of rationalization and spin. In the Washington Post, Hunter Schwartz does himself proud with his skill in rationalizing and changing the subject:

“[N]ot being able to name specific things politicians have done isn’t that unusual for the average voters.  Quick, name something that John Kerry has done as Secretary of State. Right. Think Iowa Republicans could do much better naming significant things Jeb Bush did as governor or Marco Rubio has done in the Senate? So, yes, while the stumped Democrats’ response might be short-term vindication for Republicans, it not necessarily that damaging for Clinton.”

Ugh. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Citizenship, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, U.S. Society

The Jeb Bush “Gotcha!”: Unfair Question, Dumb Answers

Enough about Iraq, Jeb: When did you stop beating your wife?

Enough about Iraq, Jeb: When did you stop beating your wife?

In the vast history of unfair questions, even including such immortals as “When did you stop beating your wife?,”none is more unanswerable in a substantive way than the question Jeb Bush was asked on Fox News—yes, that’s the same Fox News that supposedly lobs softballs for any Republican. The question: “Knowing what we know now” would he have authorized the Iraq war?

What possible use is that question, other than as an exercise in complete hindsight bias? If the answer is no, it appears to validate the dishonest criticism of the war decades ago, by those who attributed new knowledge about the infamous WMD’s to the original decision, which wasn’t about weapons of mass destruction in the first place. If it is yes, it is evidence of insanity.

Now we know that the invasion would be botched, the U.N. would cravenly and irresponsibly withhold support for enforcing its own resolutions, that our hillbilly soldiers would torture Iraqi prisoners and take photos of it, that the new Iraqi government would be incompetent and corrupt, that the news media would assist Democrats in re-writing the history of the decision, and most of all, that even after the situation in Iraq had finally been stabilized, an incompetent President would prematurely pull out our troops, causing the government to implode and ISIS to thrive.

George W. Bush had even said when he was President that if he had known that no WMD’s were there, he would not have invaded Iraq. That was also a dumb answer at the time, and I believe a dishonest one. But today, W. would give the same answer, and knowing what we know now, it would be both correct and honest. That’s if he were silly enough not to say, as his younger brother was too dim to say, this:

“I’m not answering that. It’s pointless. Would Lee have ordered Pickett’s Charge, knowing how it would turn out? Would I have left the dock as captain of the Titanic, knowing that it would hit an iceberg? Would I have approved the Space Shuttle program, knowing that two shuttles would meet with disaster? “Would you still go to see ‘Our American Cousin,’ Mrs Lincoln?” A decision can only be judged based on what the known situation is at the time. It cannot be fairly judged based on the results of the decision, immediately or years later. That’s consequentialism; it’s a logical fallacy.

and

“Nor can I answer the question of what I would have decided in my brother’s place, because I do know how things worked out, and he, of course, could not know. So asking that question is unfair to me, and answering it would be unfair to him. “

But Jeb was too dim to say that. So first he answered… Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Leadership

Atrocious People, Part III: The “Fuck Her Right in Her Pussy” Saga

He started it.

He started it.

How did I miss this offensive, disgusting story presaging the end of civilization? I mean, I’m rather glad I did, and am now sorry to have to confront ugly reality (Gee, thanks, Mediaite!) But it has been a phenomenon for nearly a year, and one reason it escaped my notice is the news media’s infantile and cowardly refusal to publish key information directly when they think it might offend someone, or sometimes when they fear Islamic maniacs might kill them for it.

Journalists do realize that their job is to inform, not talk in code, right? This story was commonly refereed to as FHRIHP. Catchy. Also completely useless, unless you already knew what the letters stood for.

But I digress.

Or perhaps I’m stalling.

About a year ago, some boor trying to create a meme and sell crude t-shirts created fake video featuring a crazy old guy in a hood grabbing a female TV reporter’s microphone in a live shoot and yelling, “Fuck her right in her pussy!” This “hilarious” prank went viral even after it was revealed as a hoax. But because there are a lot of males whose mental and emotional age is about 12 and whose manners would be inappropriate in a barn, the practice of bystanders “videobombing” live broadcasts by screaming “FHRIHP!” started becoming a professional hazard for on-the-scene reporters, causing re-takes, expense, and embarrassment. This has been going on all this time.

Let me pause to say that screaming “FHRIHP!” isn’t humor. It isn’t witty, it isn’t clever, it isn’t even original. It’s vulgar, gratuitous disrespect and misogyny. Waving at the camera and mouthing “Hi Mom!” is stupid; this isn’t even that. It’s anti-social behavior. It’s life pollution. It makes mooning out the windows of cars look sophisticated. It makes pooping out the windows of cars look sophisticated. Do I make myself clear? Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Rights, U.S. Society

The Garland, Texas Shooting, Free Speech and Ethics

Geller: Like it or not, the First Amendment was designed for her and people like her: infuriating people.

Geller: Like it or not, the First Amendment was designed for her and people like her: infuriating people.

Last Sunday, two men opened fire outside uber-Islam-hater Pamela Geller’s “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” in Garland, Texas. Both gunmen were killed by police, a security guard was wounded. Since cartoons of the Prophet have sparked killings around the globe, this was a risk, if not an inevitability, of holding such an event. That was undoubtedly one of the reasons for it, in fact: to show defiance of those that would cow us into self-censorship.

Since the episode, commentators and pundits have engaged in various levels of  confused ethical thought regarding the competition and the shooting, much of the confusion due to cognitive dissonance regarding Geller, who is beyond question an anti-Muslim bigot. So horrible is it to their delicate liberal sensibilities to have the principle of freedom of speech represented by Geller that rather than accept it, many would prefer to jettison freedom of speech itself. In this they seem to have forgotten that the reason for free speech is precisely to protect the most infuriating, inflammatory, controversial speakers, whether they be hateful fanatics like Geller, or Martin Luther King.

It really is remarkable that the First Amendment has survived so long, since those who discuss it in public the most frequently are journalists and politicians, neither of whom are consistently able to interpret it accurately.

Ethically, this isn’t hard, or shouldn’t be. In fact, not a single new issue is raised by the Texas shooting that was not thoroughly covered here five years ago:

1. No group, no matter how offended or righteous and no matter what its holy book says, is ethically entitled to threaten violence against those who say, or draw, things that they find offensive, including the offense of blasphemy.

2. Encouraging such groups to do this by self-censoring is cowardly and a threat to free speech. Thus South Park and Comedy Central breached their duties to the nation, the culture and free speech by censoring a satirical animated series after receiving radical Islamic threats. As I wrote here: Continue reading

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Another TV Doctor, Another Breach: Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s Heroic And Self-serving Ethics Blindness

Are TV doctors entertainers, journalists or doctors? In a way the question doesn’t matter: if they are doctors, then they are obligated to follow medical ethics and the standards of their profession at all times, no matter what else they may be taking compensation for. This is why “Dr. Oz” is ducking the issue when he tries to avoid accountability for pushing quack remedies on his TV show (if it ducks like a quack…) by arguing that he isn’t practicing medicine, but engaging in entertainment. He’s still a doctor, every second of his life, once he takes that oath.

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta has largely steered clear of ethical issues in his tenure as the network’s medical expert. Not entirely, however; for example, in 2009, he was prominently mentioned as a possible Surgeon General, and was in discussions with the White House while continuing his reporting on the air, raising real and potential conflict of interest concerns. The most recent controversy is more serious. Continue reading

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Swastika Ethics: 8 Observations On The George Washington University “Hate Crime”

swastika

I was recently reminded about the origins of the Nazi swastika, ironically enough, during the Cincinnati funeral service of my dear friend, Georgetown classmate,  lawyer and patriot Mitchell Dale, who died last summer. Looking down during a prayer, I was startled to see the Hindu version of the symbol in a mosaic imbedded in the church floor.

Oddly, the pastor and mourners weren’t arrested.

Yet last month, an unnamed Jewish student placed a small, bronze, Indian swastika on the bulletin board of his Jewish fraternity, Zeta Beta Tau, in the university’s International House. The building had recently been the target of an unidentified vandal who drew three swastikas on the walls. After posting the swastika, the student stayed close to the bulletin board, intending to discuss it and the previous vandalism with observers. He briefly stepped away, unfortunately for him, and during that period a member of the student’s fraternity saw the swastika and called GWU’s campus police. They  filed a report and took the swastika as evidence. When the student found out the police had been called, he immediately came forward to authorities and said that he had posted the  image to spark a conversation about the ancient symbol, cultural appropriation, messages, perception…as in what used to be called “education.” He said he did not intend to offend anyone, noting in doing so that this was an Indian swastika, not a Nazi one. He had just returned from studying religion in India, and said he became fascinated by the idea that a symbol that was not one of hate could become so defined by hate.

GWU suspended the student and evicted him from university housing pending the outcome of five disciplinary charges. The university also kicked him off campus, and referred the incident to the District of Columbia police for investigation as a potential “hate crime.” He could face expulsion.

Ethics observations:

1. FIRE, Freedom for Individual Rights in Education, is on the case. Thank you, FIRE. FIRE Program Officer and attorney Ari Cohn wrote,

“GWU may not ignore thousands of years of history and effectively forbid all uses of the swastika because it was used by Nazi Germany. It’s ironic that the charges against the student illustrate the very point he was trying to make in the first place—that context is important and there’s much to be learned about the history of the swastika.”

2. Now the Hindu American Foundation is protesting as well. This is the wonderful aspect of diversity, and a warning to institutions and diversity hounds that diversity must cut in all directions, or is a sham. It is discriminatory for a university to demonize and censor an aspect of a world religion’s symbology and culture. Do you think the administrators at GW sufficiently understood this, or just didn’t care, going with what they perceived as the most powerful interest group?

3. The George Washington fiasco comes in the wake of other  colleges  responding to anti-Semitic swastika vandalism, but that shouldn’t have mattered. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society