Great, John, now you’ve killed Rep. Lee’s brain. Oh, by the way: Shut up.
[ I am on my way back from Newport, preparing to drive for heaven knows how long back to Alexandria, VA, and typing in a small room with no desk, my roommie drying her hair and a Jack Russell that keeps jumping on the keyboard. I am necessarily saving expanded commentary about the ethics of the Unites States' abdication of its vital role in the world for a later date, hopefully tomorrow. Until then, I will just touch on one particularly offensive example of the dishonest and pusillanimous attitude of so many of our elected leaders, who essentially are trying to poison U.S. culture with one of the most unethical pathogens of all...pacifism.]
“I support strictly humanitarian efforts to prevent genocide in Iraq.”
—-Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), the House’s most reliably knee-jerk opponent of any use of U.S. military force, objecting to the President’s air strikes against ISIS
What a nonsensical, deceitful, irresponsible statement, and stupid as well. An elected official who would utter such intellectually and morally bankrupt gibberish in public has disqualified herself for responsible office, as it makes almost everything about her qualifications suspect—her intelligence, her honesty, her judgment, her education, her sanity. Continue reading
President Obama continued a pattern of declaring deceitful formal support of Israel while throwing coded support for Palestinians to the Democratic base, which is, disgracefully, largely siding with the anti-Israel forces in Europe. His reluctance to commit the moral weight of his office against the conduct of Hamas and behind Israel was embarrassingly clear when he said, “I also think it is important to remember that Hamas acts extraordinarily irresponsibly when it is deliberately siting rocket launchers in population centers, putting populations at risk because of that particular military strategy.” Intentionally placing its own citizens, including children, in harm’s way to maximize photo-ready casualties that can turn world opinion against Israel is not “irresponsible.” The President trying to play both ends against the middle in the Gaza crisis is irresponsible. Using Gazans as human shields when Hamas forces Israel to respond militarily to missiles and tunnels is indistinguishable from evil, and the President, were he responsible, would say so unequivocally. Instead, he resorts to weasel words, equivocations. Surely, this President extolled for his eloquence knows the meaning of the words he uses.
Then, this week, Obama gave us this:
“I have no sympathy for Hamas. I have great sympathy for ordinary people who are struggling within Gaza.”
Godwin’s Law be damned: a Nazi Germany analogy is instructive here. Continue reading
In an alternate universe, this missile strike prevented 9-11. It doesn’t matter.
Sky News host Paul Murray revealed a previously unreleased audio recording of Bill Clinton speaking to a group of Australian businessman in Melbourne (undoubtedly for an obscene fee, since the Clintons were poor as church mice back then, but I digress) on September 10, 2001. Clinton’s fascinating answer to an audience question about terrorism has raised a lot of eyebrows:
“Osama bin Laden — he’s a very smart guy, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about him, and I nearly got him once. I nearly got him. And I could have gotten, I could have killed him, but I would have to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and kill 300 innocent women and children. And then I would have been no better than him. And so I didn’t do it.”
Observations from an ethics perspective: Continue reading
Walsh (top); Paul (bottom)
“Whooo are you? Who, who, who, who?”
U.S. Senator John Walsh (D-Mt) has an obligation to resign.
He was never elected to office; Montana Governor Steve Bullock appointed him to fill the vacant seat of Max Baucus, who resigned to become U.S. ambassador to China. Though he was Montana’s Lieutenant Governor at the time, Walsh’s primary qualification for the job was his military record and honors, including a master’s degree at the U.S. War College. The New York Times revealed this week that Walsh’s 2007 thesis, titled “The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy,” was substantially plagiarized, copied from other sources without attribution. Now the War College is investigating to determine whether Walsh’s degree should be revoked.
If this happened to a partner at a law firm, he would be fired. If it happened to a professor at a respectable university, he would be terminated. When it has happened to high ranking corporate officers, they have usually been forced to resign. The importance of honesty and trustworthiness to the duties of a U.S. Senator are more important than either of these. Moreover, the fact that he could not complete an adequate 14 page thesis ( I am still reeling that the War College hands out masters degrees for such paltry work) without stealing the word of others does not inspire faith in his abilities as a lawmaker. Walsh has an obligation to resign.
Instead, he has been making lame excuses and rationalizations, and encouraging others to lie for him. He and his supporters are calling this “a mistake.” Using someone else’s work to make up 25% of your masters thesis and taking credit for it is not a “mistake.” It is proof of a deficit in character. Had his plagiarism been discovered when he submitted the paper, he would have been kicked out of the masters program, presumably. The military is especially strict regarding dishonesty and dishonorable conduct. Would he have been appointed if that had occurred? Presumably not. At least I hope not.
Flailing to find an escape, Walsh has played the veteran pity card, suggesting that the plagiarism may have been the result of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. It doesn’t matter why he plagiarized, though this seems like a particularly slimy excuse. He plagiarized. His current credentials, which were among the factors that got him nominated, were based on a lie. Continue reading
Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” riff on the Gaza conflict was praised to the skies by anti-Israel pundits, like MSNBC’s Cenk Uyger and the Daily Beast’s Dean Obeidallah as providing some kind of much needed moral clarity. In truth it was exactly the opposite, with the Obeidallah column unintentionally showing exactly what’s wrong with Jon Stewart.
Knowing that a disturbing number of Millennials (and an even more disturbing number of ignorant, impressionable older viewers who should know better) see the comedian as a truth-teller, Stewart makes no allowances in his comic routines for that fact. He intentionally encourages the idea that he is a legitimate pundit, then retreats to the convenient bunker of “Come on! I’m a comedian! Don’t take me so seriously!” when he is called out for lazy, misleading and biased—but funny! commentary. (Stewart criticizes Democrats with approximately the frequency of a lunar eclipse, which would be just fine for a comedian who didn’t pose as an objective critic of American politics.) Continue reading
“Children make us stupid” is but a corollary to the law often stated here, “Bias makes you stupid.” Our natural bias in favor of caring for, protecting and seeking happiness for children is genetically wired into our being. Thus, in action movie after action movie, when the villain puts a gun to a child’s head, the hero invariably drops his weapon, apparently giving the world over to dictatorship, pestilence or death to save one rosy-cheeked kid. (Well, except for Dirty Harry, who picks off the creep holding the gun to the kid’s head with one well-aimed shot.) The trade-off is really, really stupid, and not ethical either: sacrificing the welfare of the many for a single child is simply illogical and wrong. But to those sentimentalists who don’t strain themselves by thinking, and to cynical politicians who know better but also know that convincing morons is all it takes to win “a majority” ( “…if even one child’s life can be saved…“—President Obama, 2013 State of the Union Message), the human bias that gives irrational priority to children is pure gold.
Obama’s use of the false ethic was his call for gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, in which an anomalous attack on a grade school was used to make it seem like children were being hunted down like rabbits. We are currently watching another classic demonstration of the “children trump everything” fallacy, and it is both a logical and an ethical fallacy: the emotional and irresponsible rhetoric over the fate of the unaccompanied South American children being sent to the United States as a predictable response to Democratic promises of a better life, a college education, and eventual citizenship. The fact is that child illegal immigrants are just as illegal and just as undesirable as any other variety: they are just cuter, sadder, less culpable and easier to use to demonize principled opposition.
It is not surprising that the Palestinians, who pioneered using children as suicide bombers, figured out that sacrificing their own kids might be a dandy way to turn public opinion against Israel in its long, mad, apparently endless quest to eliminate the Jewish state. Continue reading
Villainous, singing version on the left; heroic, real life version on the right.
It is the American patriot John Dickinson’s curse that the very strength of character that caused him to stand out among the other Founders and that led them to respect him as much or more than any other also made him the black sheep in the inspiring tale of American independence. This led to relative obscurity. Although Dickinson is honored (along with his wife) by Dickinson College, Dickinson School of Law of the Pennsylvania State University, and University of Delaware’s Dickinson Complex, he is largely unknown to most Americans. He would be even less known, had Peter Stone not chosen to make him the villain of his 1969Tony-winning musical “1776,” where he was portrayed as a conservative loyalist who almost single-handedly foils the efforts of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin to declare independence from Great Britain. Whatever that choice’s dramatic virtues, it was unfair to Dickinson in every way.
Raised a Quaker, educated as a lawyer and a farmer by trade, Dickinson began public life in 1760 when he was elected to the Delaware legislature. During the next fifteen years he served both in that body and in the Pennsylvania legislature, a rare dual service made possible because he owned property in both colonies.
When the British Parliament instituted measures in the Colonies to raise revenue and provide for the quartering of British troops, Dickinson was one of the most eloquent and persuasive critics of the Crown, always with the intention of finding a satisfactory negotiated accord that did not involve the threat of armed rebellion. He urged Americans to rely primarily on economic pressure to oppose the hated Stamp Act, and he enlisted the influence of British merchants on the colonists’ behalf. His diplomatic orientation seemed like a prudent antidote to the firebrands calling for revolution in Boston, so the Pennsylvania legislature appointed him to represent that colony at the Stamp Act Congress of 1765. There he advocated the proposition that reconciliation was possible if the King and Parliament would only realize that colonial opposition was in the grand tradition English principles of political liberty. Dickinson set his reasoning to paper in his “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania,” a series of deft essays that brought Dickinson international fame as a man of reason and principle. Continue reading
“The pretend war of celebratory fireworks thus becomes part of a propaganda campaign that inures us—especially the children among us—to current and future wars half a world away.”
—Former teacher and current Howard Zinn disciple Bill Bigelow, in a jaw-dropping screed titled “Rethinking the Fourth of July”
Revolting and hateful right wing radio host Michale Savage authored an appropriately revolting and hateful book titled “Liberalism is a Mental Disorder.” That kind of marginalization of dissenting opinions apes the tactic of recent totalitarian regimes, which often subjected political enemies to forced hospitalization as “insane.” Extreme ideological zealotry that refuses to acknowledge either the good faith or the possible virtues of opposing views is anathema to a functioning democracy, and the fact that we have a toxic amount of such zealotry right now is one of the reason our government isn’t working very well. Nonetheless, when I read a statement like the quote above, I cannot help but ponder how any rational individual reaches the point where he would think such a sentiment was worth publicizing. I think it is a form of ideology-sparked derangement. That doesn’t mean that liberalism is a mental disorder. It may mean that intense indoctrination in leftist (or conservative) cant leads to progressive derangement.
How does someone come to see the colorful spectacle of fireworks as “pretend war”? The invention of fireworks predated the use of bombs as weapons. They are an art form, and nothing more nor less. All right, they are also fun. (Can’t have that.) Seeing celebratory firework displays as indoctrination requires a paranoid view of one’s country and the world. Continue reading
I wasn’t going to do this until I ran across a few lists of “Most Patriotic Films” that made me fear for the taste and the values of my fellow citizens. “Independence Day” ? “Armageddon”? “Rocky IV”? When did “patriotic” start meaning “crappy”? “Born on the Fourth of July”? If Oliver Stone is your idea of patriotic fare, you and I are going to have a problem.
Here is my very personal list of ten favorite films that bring a patriotic lump to my throat and a remind me of how lucky I am to be born and raised in the U.S.A. Don’t mind the order: it was hard enough narrowing the list down to ten.
The only one of the movies on my list that I saw on the others today. Like many of the films here, it makes me wistful for American boldness and confidence that seem to be in retreat today. When the Apollo re-emerges from radio silence, and Tom Hanks says, with perfect inflection, “Hello, Houston. This is Odyssey. It’s good to see you again,” I lose it, every time.
Yes, this is Capra-corn at its corniest, but from Harry Carey Sr.’s sage and heroic Vice -President, to the power of the people triumphing, to the press trying to expose corruption rather than abet it, this film reminds us of the best ideals of our government. When we get too cynical to enjoy Jefferson Smith’s struggle to make Washington work the way its supposed to, it will be time to pack it in.
Yes, it’s not just about Americans, but it is a great film about one of our country’s finest achievements, all true, and inspiring without a lot of flag waving and sentiment. Best war movie ever—and my Dad’s favorite. Continue reading
The scourge of political correctness causes many kinds of damage, but the most ominous is that it intentionally greases a steep slippery slope. The effort to constrain private and public expression according to an endlessly versatile definition of “offensiveness” is a desirable weapon for political activists, grievance bullies, censorious and debate-challenged advocates, weenies, and busybodies. Once one specious argument for strangling another small sliver of free speech succeeds, usually after capitulation in the face of relentless vilification and hounding aided and abetted by the press, this ugly and anti-American faction of the progressive movement just moves on to another target. The process will never end, although it will get more oppressive, restrictive and absurd. That is, it will never end until a backlash and an outbreak of rationality stops it in its tracks.
The Patent Office’s politically motivated (and doomed) attack on the Washington Redskins was an example of political correctness at its worst, and sure enough, here comes another deluded censor with a related and even sillier grievance. Simon Waxman wrote a jaw-dropping op-ed for the Washington Post arguing that the military’s use of Native American names and works on its helicopters and weaponry is a “slur.” Why, you ask? Because the white man cheated and defeated the Indians using superior fire power, that’s why. Yeah, sure, we pretend to honor their bravery now, but that’s just to salve our guilty consciences. He blathers…
The message carried by the word Apache emblazoned on one of history’s great fighting machines is that the Americans overcame an opponent so powerful and true that we are proud to adopt its name. They tested our mettle, and we proved stronger, so don’t mess with us. In whatever measure it is tribute to the dead, it is in greater measure a boost to our national sense of superiority. And this message of superiority is shared not just with U.S. citizens but with those of the 14 nations whose governments buy the Apache helicopters we sell. It is shared, too, with those who hear the whir of an Apache overhead or find its guns trained on them. Noam Chomsky has clarified the moral stakes in provocative, instructive terms: “We might react differently if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes ‘Jew’ and ‘Gypsy.’ ”