Trust me, guys, you really don’t want to vote for Greg Ball again…he’s embarrassing your district.
Every now and then, a public official says something so brain-meltingly ridiculous that I wish I had a traditional blog and could write, “What an idiot!” and leave it at that. This is one of those times.
Republican New York State Senator Greg Ball must represent the troglodyte section of New York—you know, that famous district heavily populated with prehistoric cave-dwellers who were discovered frozen in 1989, thawed out alive, and became politically active?—based on his unapologetic,nail-spitting, un-American tweet regarding the younger, surviving terrorist brother who engineered the Boston Marathon bombing:
What an idiot.
No, no, I can’t say that.
This is an unethical tweet. It’s an irresponsible tweet. Supporting torture “to save more lives” explicitly rejects the principles of the Declaration of Independence as well as the Constitutional requirements of Due Process and the Bill of Rights prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment and compelled testimony against self-interest. The “anything to save more lives” illogic, though recently adopted, to his shame and disgrace, by the presumably less idiotic President Obama in his quest for more gun regulations, is, of course, the open door to martial law and the permanent trade of liberty for security. I wrote about this at some length in the wake of the Abu Ghraib fiasco; reading “The Ethics of American Torture” again now, I would hold the same today, as would, I hope, most of you. (Don’t bother to read this, Senator Ball; it’s more than 140 characters, and you wouldn’t understand it anyway.) I wrote in part, Continue reading
Bear with me, now.
Fight for “Springtime for Hitler,” Joan!
Joan Rivers, who took the baton from Phyllis Diller after Diller had proven that women could be funny stand-up comics, and then proved in her own act that women could be funny, gross, and tasteless stand-up comics, is refusing to apologize for her 7, 678, 423rd tasteless joke, uttered on Monday’s episode of E!’s “Fashion Police” regarding the Julien Macdonald that dress model Heidi Klum wore at Elton John’s AIDS Foundation Academy Awards party:
“The last time a German looked this hot was when they were pushing Jews into the ovens,” is how Rivers described the German-born supermodel.
Sure enough, the joke, and Rivers, who is Jewish, are being condemned by Jewish groups and Holocaust survivors as being insensitive.The Anti-Defamation League’s director, Abraham H. Foxman, called the joke “vulgar and offensive to Jews and Holocaust survivors.” Rivers is standing her ground. The 70-something comic told The Hollywood Reporter, “My husband lost the majority of his family at Auschwitz, and I can assure you that I have always made it a point to remind people of the Holocaust through humor.”
In the wake of Seth MacFarlane’s various controversies at the Oscars (yes, I thought the John Wilkes Booth joke was funny, especially with the planned comeback, “Too soon?”) and the Onion getting too outrageous in its misconceived tweet using a 9-year-old girl as the prop for a joke about something else entirely, this is as good a time as ever to seek a consensus on where some ethical lines should be drawn regarding jokes and satire. Continue reading
Beyonce, moving her mouth convincingly for the President
At this point, I am resigned to being one of the last people on earth who still believes that when a live performance is advertised, we should get a live performance. Clearly nobody in the Obama Administration believes it, because for the second straight inauguration ceremony, a featured musical presentation introduced as a live performance was actually an elaborate fake. I was initially impressed that Beyoncé could sing The National Anthem so well live and in the open air—not quite Whitney, but still excellent. I’m not so impressed that she could do it in a studio, with sound balancing, multiple takes and editing. It does make a difference, you know.
I also assume I’m one of the last citizens who finds the beginning of new Presidential term being launched with a lie both symbolic and disappointing. Everybody does it, who is hurt, it’s trivial, things have changed…I know. Lots of rationalizations fit. I don’t care. Some things should be genuine and trustworthy, and the President’s inauguration is one of them.
Thus here again, slightly edited, is my protest against this deception in 2009, after the first time the American public was faked out. Looking back on what I wrote, and what the Obama Administration turned out to be, it really was symbolic after all. So it is this time around. It’s just not as much of a surprise.
“Why are there American citizens who stubbornly maintain that Neil Armstrong’s moon landing was faked? Why is cynicism becoming a crippling national malady? Look no further for the answer than the inaugural ceremonies of Barack Obama, where a U.S. Senator and a quartet of great musicians couldn’t bring themselves to avoid artifice and deception on the day America displays its democracy to the world. Continue reading
We really shouldn’t tolerate this kind of thing:
I know what people will say: it’s up to you to read the label carefully. And sure it is, but when I have 25 minutes to run to the local Harris Teeter and throw enough food into the cart to keep the family and the dog from starving over the coming four days, reading the fine print on intentionally misleading labels and doing quick mathematical calculations based on what I read really isn’t an option—-and obviously the food companies know it. Thus I just discovered that the tasty, vegetarian frozen burritos I bought on sale because they looked healthy as well as good had twice the calories that I thought they did. Continue reading
Led by Texans, the White House is being deluged with petitions from all around the nation asking that various states be allowed to secede from the U.S. because the prospect of another four years of President Obama is so heinous. My immediate reaction is that this proves that conservatives are lazier than progressives, whose solution to a similar disappointment with parties reversed in 2004 was to pack up and move to Canada, or at least to make noises about it. Conservatives apparently want to stay at home and leave the U.S.too. How convenient.
In 2004, when liberals and Democrats were acting like spoiled brats, I posted the following essay entitled “Escape to Canada and the Ethics of Democracy.” I think it is instructive to re-publish this post unedited to clarify what is wrong with the conservative tantrum of 2012. Oh, I could have changed “left” to “right,” Canada to Texas and Bush to Obama and Alec Baldwin to Ted Nugent, but it hardly seemed necessary, for my diagnosis and conclusions are exactly the same, just with a different group. It also seems prudent to leave the essay in its original form to remind smug liberals like Jon Stewart, now having a ball mocking Republicans, that Democrats disgraced themselves in a similar manner not that long ago. Being a hysteric, an alarmist, a bad citizen and a poor loser isn’t confined to members of one partisan group—it just seems that way at the moment. Now the conservatives are the silly people who are rejecting the principles of self-government that they were fervently lecturing us about, because, you see, those principles didn’t work out their way…this time.
Here is “Escape to Canada and the Ethics of Democracy,” from The Ethics Scoreboard on November 17, 2004: Continue reading
Is THIS the Administration’s secret weapon against terrorists?
The Washington Post launched a three-part series today about the U.S. drone strike program, in which terrorists abroad are targeted and assassinated from the sky. I’m not prepared to attempt an ethical analysis of this deadly tool against international terrorism, although I will acknowledge that my initial, gut level assessment is that the unique nature of terrorism requires adjustments in the ethics of national security and warfare, and drone killings seem to be a fair and reasonable adjustment.
Yet it is still killing. It is also controversial, with many human rights activists, international law specialists and ethicists vehemently condemning the tactic, especially when used against turn-coat Americans abroad without due process of law. Consequently, the Post’s revelation that the Administration’s “kill list” is called something else rings the ethics alarms.
“Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the “disposition matrix.” The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. U.S. officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the “disposition” of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.” Continue reading
Some Ethics-related conclusions on Wednesday’s second Presidential debate:
Were the candidates uncivil?
I didn’t think so. There were a lot of Twitter comments about Gov. Romney being disrespectful to the President. The deference due to the President of the United States isn’t an issue when debates hew to the formal, detached format of the past. In those debates, the tone of the exchanges are so muted that the two candidates could be in different time zones. Once a different tone is set, with either candidate directly challenging statements while the other candidate is speaking, that tradition has fled, as it did last night. The challenger to a sitting President can hardly be told that he needs to be deferential in a debate; that is the equivalent of asking him to fight with one hand tied behind his back. I thought that both candidates were within the bounds of civility under the circumstances. It was certainly not the civility that I complimented in the second debate—it was a heated, sometimes rancorous argument, but it was the argument of two passionate, forceful, serious public servants, and it served the public well. Neither candidate displayed the contemptuous, rude attitude that Joe Biden adopted in the Vice-Presidential debate. Biden crossed the civility line, but the President and his challenger did not.
Was the moderator biased? Continue reading
The Rich Central High principal suspected something was amiss with the girls’ basketball coach when the team members began to act strangely…
A provocative variation on the “naked teacher” scenario has surfaced in Chicago suburb Olympia Fields. Bryan Craig was a guidance counselor and girls’ basketball coach at Rich Central High School until his self-published book “It’s Her Fault” came to the attention of parents and school administrators. Then he was placed on administrative leave, and finally, fired. The book is for mature audiences only, and based on reports (I haven’t read it and have no intention of doing so) includes pick-up advice, analysis of female body types (including a discussion of the varying colors and temperature levels of the vaginas of various races, apparently the book’s highlight) and Craig’s insight into how women think, a perspective that appears to be muddled at best and sexist at worst. Here is a passage from the book (in an Amazon reader’s review—a favorable one, and from a teenage stripper):
“In some cases, strippers and dancers show the overall dominance a woman can have over a man. Not to say that stripping is what has to be done to truly establish dominance, but these women’s mind-set is in the right place in order to meet the true potential of the point of this book.” Continue reading
Pop Quiz: What does Neil Armstrong and this classic Western have in common?
[The death of mo0n-walking astronaut Neil Armstrong ate the age of 82 reminded me of a 2006 essay about Armstrong's famous quote that I wrote in 2006 on The Ethics Scoreboard. The AP just revisited the issue, and you can read the full text of my 2006 piece, The Ethics of Changing History: Of Crockett, the Titanic and "One Small Step" on the Scoreboard archive site. Here is the relevant portion of that article:] Continue reading
I admit that I am often ambushed by the hypocrisy of both political parties and their followers. The ability of both conservatives and progressives to completely reverse positions and advocate exactly what they had passionately opposed mere months, weeks, or even minutes before is breathtaking, and I never seem ready for it. For example, after the Democrats had tried to pin the shooting of Rep. Giffords on the harsh rhetoric of Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and others in the conservative camp, I really wasn’t ready for them to ratchet up the metaphorically violent metaphors themselves within a few weeks, but they did. Similarly, after conservatives had mocked and condemned the discouraged liberals who had fled the U.S. in dismay after George W. Bush was re-elected, I was unprepared for the unseemly applause emanating from the Right when Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin decided to become an ex-American to save mega-millions on his tax bill.
Lock-step ideology is damaging enough, but lock-step ideology without consistent values, principles and priorities is dangerous, and that, I fear, is what we have on both ends of the political spectrum in America today.
Stephen Decatur (1779-1820) was a genuine American hero, once featured in grade school history lessons but now, like so many others, the victim of cultural oblivion. One of the greatest naval commanders in U.S. history, Decatur had his meteoric career was cut short by a duel, and as his exploits on the waves have faded from memory, the one feature of his remarkable life that is best remembered is his legendary toast, made in April 1816, that became an iconic, if often misunderstood, expression of American patriotism:
“Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong.” Continue reading