Category Archives: War and the Military

Ethics Observations On The GOP New Hampshire Debate

Rubio meltdown

Two ethics controversies occurred before the ABC debate (transcript here) even began.

  • DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz really is a shameless and audacious hack. Does anyone seriously defend her? After being justly criticized in the news media for unabashedly hiding the Democratic candidates debates, staging them on weekends and against football games to smooth the road for Hillary, she actually had the epic gall to accuse the GOP of doing the same thing in a tweet yesterday, which read:

“Hmmm, wondering why @GOP trying to hide their #GOPdebate on the Saturday of #SuperBowl weekend no less?!”

Is she that lacking in self-awareness? Was she mocking herself? Is she an idiot? After she was blasted left and right for the tweet, she either revealed her real objective or concocted a face-saving retort:

“.@TheDemocrats debates set viewer records. Both parties’ broadcast network debates on wknds. Replies to SuperBowl #GOPdebate make my point,”

Whether this was her original intent of a U-Turn, it was also her trademark, a ridiculously transparent lie. “TheDemocrats debates set viewer records” is deceit: all the debates by both parties have exceeded previous viewer levels, but the Republican debates have significantly out-drawn the Democrats. There is no doubt that the Democrats would have drawn more had they avoided weekends like Republicans did, and that the fact that they did not was entirely intentional.

Why do Democrats tolerate a sleaze like Wasserman Schultz? It is natural to judge a party by its leadership, and she is neither bright, nor honest, nor effective,  nor appealing.

The other issue was the unfairness of leaving Carly Fiorina out of the debate. I don’t pretend to understand the formula used to demote the candidates, but since all of the other potential debaters–Gilmore, Graham, Huckabee, Santorum, Paul—had dropped out, either Fiorina should have been given a chance to debate herself for two hours, which would have been fun, or be in the main debate. Her New Hampshire poll numbers are equivalent to several who debated last night.

Debate observations: Continue reading

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Comment of the Day: “Observations On Obama’s Executive Orders On Guns And The Golden Dancer Presidency”

Are smart guns...smart?

Are smart guns…smart?

 J. E. Houghton illuminates one of President Obama’s wish list items for gun safety—fascinating. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Observations On Obama’s Executive Orders On Guns And The Golden Dancer Presidency” :

I would like to offer an observation concerning one of President Obama’s executive order policies: To direct federal agencies to promote “smart gun” technology through the procurement power of the Federal government. The President compares guns to smart phones and asks why we can’t use the same modern technology to limit access and use of guns like we do with smart phones. (Vice President Biden’s post-Sandy Hook commission came up with a similar recommendation.)

This may sound like a good idea to some, mostly people who have no knowledge of guns and do not depend on guns for their own personal safety, national defense or homeland security.

Continue reading

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The Seventh Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Best of Ethics 2015, Part I

Sweet Briar montage

Welcome to the Seventh Annual Ethics Alarms Awards, our blog’s retrospective of the best and worst in ethics over the past year, 2015.

It was a rotten year in ethics again, it’s fair to say, and Ethics Alarms, which by its nature and mission must concentrate on episodes that have lessons to convey and cautionary tales to consider probably made it seem even more rotten that it was. Even with that admission, I didn’t come close to covering the field. My scouts, who I will honor anon, sent me many more wonderfully disturbing news stories than I could post on, and there were many more beyond them. I did not write about the drug company CEO, for example, who suddenly raised the price of an anti-AIDS drug to obscene levels, in part, it seems, to keep an investment fraud scheme afloat. (He’ll get his prize anyway.)

What was really best about 2o15 on Ethics Alarms was the commentary. I always envisioned the site as a cyber-symposium where interested, articulate and analytical readers could discuss current events and issues in an ethics context. Every year since the blog was launched has brought us closer to that goal. Commenters come and go, unfortunately (I take it personally when they go, which is silly), but the quality of commentary continues to be outstanding. It is also gratifying to check posts from 2010 and see such stalwarts who check in still, like Tim Levier, Neil Dorr, Julian Hung, Michael R, and King Kool.  There are a few blogs that have as consistently substantive, passionate and informative commenters as Ethics Alarms, but not many. Very frequently the comments materially enhance and expand on the original post. That was my hope and objective. Thank you.

The Best of Ethics 2015 is going to be a bit more self-congratulatory this year, beginning with the very first category. Among other virtues, this approach has the advantage of closing the gap in volume between the Best and the Worst, which last year was depressing. I’m also going to post the awards in more installments, to help me get them out faster. With that said….

Here are the 2015 Ethics Alarms Awards

For the Best in Ethics:

Most Encouraging Sign That Enough People Pay Attention For Ethics Alarms To Occasionally Have Some Impact…

The Sweet Briar College Rescue. In March, I read the shocking story of how Sweet Briar College, a remarkable and storied all-women’s college in Virginia, had been closed by a craven and duplicitous board that never informed alums or students that such action was imminent. I responded with a tough post titled “The Sweet Briar Betrayal,” and some passionate alumnae determined to fight for the school’s survival used it to inform others about the issues involved and to build support. Through the ensuing months before the school’s ultimate reversal of the closing and the triumph of its supporters, I was honored to exchange many e-mails with Sweet Briar grads, and gratified by their insistence that Ethics Alarms played a significant role in turning the tide. You can follow the saga in my posts, here.

Ethics Heroes Of The Year

Dog Train

Eugene and Corky Bostick, Dog Train Proprietors. OK, maybe this is just my favorite Ethics Hero story of the year, about two retired seniors who decided to adopt old  dogs abandoned on their property to die, and came up with the wacky idea of giving them regular rides on a ‘dog train” of their own design.

Ethical Mayor Of The Year

Thomas F. Williams. When the Ferguson-driven attacks on police as racist killers was at its peak (though it’s not far from that peak now) the mayor of Norwood, Ohio, Thomas F. Williams, did exactly the opposite of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in response to activist attacks on the integrity of his police department. He released a letter supporting his police department without qualification. At the time, I criticized him for his simultaneously attacking activists as “race-baiters.” In the perspective of the year past, I hereby withdraw that criticism.

Most Ethical Celebrity

Actor Tom Selleck. In a terrible year for this category, Selleck wins for bravely pushing his TV show “Blue Bloods” into politically incorrect territory, examining issues like racial profiling and police shootings with surprising even-handedness. The show also has maintained its openly Catholic, pro-religion perspective. Yes, this is a redundant award, as “Blue Bloods” is also a winner, but the alternative in this horrific year when an unethical celebrity is threatening to be a major party’s nominee for the presidency is not to give the award at all.

Most Ethical Talk Show Host

Stephen Colbert, who, while maintaining most of his progressive bias from his previous Comedy Central show as the successor to David Letterman, set a high standard of fairness and civility, notably when he admonished his knee-jerk liberal audience for booing  Senator Ted Cruz

Sportsman of the Year

CC Sabathia

New York Yankee pitcher C.C. Sabathia, who courageously checked himself into rehab for alcohol abuse just as baseball’s play-offs were beginning, saying in part,

“Being an adult means being accountable. Being a baseball player means that others look up to you. I want my kids — and others who may have become fans of mine over the years — to know that I am not too big of a man to ask for help. I want to hold my head up high, have a full heart and be the type of person again that I can be proud of. And that’s exactly what I am going to do.”

Runner-up: MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who dismissed the ethically-addled arguments of Pete Rose fans to reject his appeal to be have his lifetime ban for gambling lifted.  For those who wonder why football never seems to figure in this category: You’ve got to be kidding.

Ethics Movie of the Year

SpotlightTIFF2015

“Spotlight”

Runner-up: “Concussion”

Most Ethical Corporation

Tesla Motors, the anti-GM, which recalled all of its models with a particular seatbelt because one belt had failed and they couldn’t determine why. Continue reading

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Just One Simple Question, Really: How Many Dishonest, Deluded, Shameless or Incompetent State Department Employees Had To Pass On This To Allow It To be Published?

Syrian War

A just-issued report on State Department’s 2015 accomplishments, written by spokesman George Orw…I mean, John Kirby, includes a section headlined with this:

“Bringing Peace, Security to Syria”

It really does. No, really.

It also includes a section titled, “Iran Peaceful Nuclear Program Ensured,” which is untrue and ridiculous ( nothing of the sort is “ensured”), but to be fair, the State Department apparently believes this. Even John Kerry can’t believe that the State Department has brought peace and security to Syria.

Could he?????

______________________

Pointer: Politico

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“The Affair” Smears An American War Hero

The General and friend.

                             The General and friend.

“The Affair,” Showtime’s much lauded soap opera, wrapped up its season yesterday, without me. There are some things I won’t forgive, and sliming the legacy and reputation of long dead individuals of character and accomplishment is one of them.”The Affair” was guilty of that the previous week. It is dead to me.

The background: General Omar Bradley is increasingly accorded credit for planning D-Day, and thus is owed a large share of the world’s gratitude for winning World War II. He was not flamboyant like Patton or MacArthur, and had no political aspirations, so despite his remarkable life in service of the United States, Omar Bradley is an undeservedly obscure historical figure. He is, also, beyond any controversy, an American hero.

He also was an especially ethical one, as indicated by three of his better known quotes:

“It is time that we steered by the stars, not by the lights of each passing ship.”

“We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. The world has achieved brilliance without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.”

“Dependability, integrity, the characteristic of never knowingly doing anything wrong, that you would never cheat anyone, that you would give everybody a fair deal. Character is a sort of an all-inclusive thing. If a man has character, everyone has confidence in him. Soldiers must have confidence in their leader.”

Why the writers of “The Affair” decided smear Bradley, I cannot fathom. Nonetheless, any viewers of the show that watched the penultimate episode and who didn’t know who Bradley was, and many who did, left it with the belief that Bradley, a who by all accounts was faithfully and lovingly married to the his first wife throughout the war and until her death, had an affair with actress Marlene Dietrich, who traveled with the U.S. Army for nearly two years at the end of the war. “The Affair’s” self-obsessed and perpetually horny protagonist, a successful novelist, told his therapist—and boy, does he need one–that his new book would be a historical novel about Omar Bradley. Then he said that he was tempted to skip the affair with Marlene Dietrich, but then that was the most interesting thing about Bradley to him. Continue reading

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Unethical Meme Of The Week: Democratic Underground

Meme

I know I could batter internet memes all day, but this one, by the Democratic Underground, particularly annoys me, as has the “chicken hawk” canard that knee-jerk anti-war activists have been wielding for decades.

To begin with, it’s an ad hominem argument, and thus unethical on its face. The question is whether a military option is the best and most responsible solution to an international problem, not who is asserting that it is. It is also an incompetent argument, as in stupid. There  is nothing about typical military experience that conveys expertise in foreign affairs or international politics. Military service, as in training, marching, being deployed and shooting a gun, and military action, as a strategic tool of diplomacy and international politics, are two different things. Lincoln was a superb Commander in Chief, but he didn’t gain that ability from his brief combat experience fighting Black Hawk Indians.

In fact, what is  the statement above supposed to imply? No Commander in Chief has had to risk personal combat if he chose war. Because there has been no draft since the the Nineties, the only way a political leader would ever have military experience would be if he chose a military career, which would mean that the meme suggests that a military career is a prerequisite for national leadership. But Democrats don’t believe that; nobody believes that. In fact, Democrats are wary and suspicious of the military, which they believe, with some justification,  is biased toward military involvement. They don’t even especially respect military service: look at how James Webb was treated in his brief presidential run. Continue reading

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On The Matter Of Fake Buglers: Beyoncé Revisited

I don’t know how I missed the fact that the armed services increasingly use fake buglers at military funerals, but I just learned about it the hard way.

Our neighbor, a navy veteran who died unexpectedly leaving his wife and small daughter, received a military burial in Quantico, Virginia. The uniformed bugler raised his instrument to his lips (out of my sight, but I saw him with his bugle on the way to the site), and the mournful sound of TAPS began, only to end abruptly halfway through the melody. There was an awful, awkward silence as the mourners wondered what happened and if the tune would be completed, and then the sailor put away his bugle into a case, and walked over to fold the flag on the coffin.

Because of budget cuts (which, of course, could have been applied elsewhere, for this is a choice) and a shortage of buglers, most military funerals employ non-musicians who hold a fake bugle with a chip and a speaker installed to give the illusion that TAPS is being performed.

In other words, it is a subterfuge and a lie.

I discussed what was wrong with such fake live performances in 2009, and again in 2013, when I beat this topic to death, even going on Bill O’Reilly’s show to talk about Beyoncé lip-synching at the Inauguration as the newscasters lied about it being a live performance. The key quote from both posts is this..,

“The performance was part of the swearing-in ceremony of President Barack Obama, and that meant that it could not, should not, must not be phony, faked, or a lie.”

Whether you think that similar fakery is more or less excusable when the nation says good-bye and thanks to a deceased veteran is a matter of priorities. Both are unethical, both represent creeping corruption and a betrayal of values. This was a Navy service; here’s the relevant provision of the Navy Ethics Compass: Continue reading

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