Morning Ethics Wake-Up, 7/17/2018: Swans, Nazis Kids, Rand Paul, And More Freakouts [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

1. And today’s anti-Trump freakout topic is…The complete media/”resistance”/Democrat social media meltdown over whatever President Trump thought he was doing yesterday was typical of what we were talking about in the threads on Monday’s Warm-Up. It’s all so boring and predictable. It’s predictable that the President will say things he shouldn’t; it’s predictable that the people who have already made it clear that they hate is guts will erupt with over-the-top condemnation; it’s predictable that the social media echo chamber will adopt whatever unscrupulous Democratic Party talking point that is launched—yes, yes, Facebook Friend, yesterday proves that Putin “has something” on the President like Nancy Pelosi says. Did she call him “Bush” this time?—and that anyone who tries to point out that the reaction is wildly out of proportion to reality is a Trump-loving racist Nazi. I seriously don’t know how a responsible commentator who isn’t out of his mind is supposed to react. Ignore it, because some new hysteria will be right along, like Leo Slezak’s swan. (Don’t you know this story? It’s one of my favorites! Leo Slezak, a famous Austrian opera singer in the Thirties, was playing the role of Lohengrin in Wagner’s opera, which ends with the hero being carried off to Valhalla on the back of a giant swan. In one performance, the swan, pulled by stage hands on tracks, just swam right by him up stage, leaving the hero stranded. Slezak turned to another singer on stage and asked, loudly enough so the audience could hear him, “What time’s the next swan?” His son, Hollywood actor Walter Slezak, made the line the title of his autobiography.)

2. Obligatory freakout notes: a.  All that matters is what, if anything, comes of the summit. The President (obviously) has his own theories of negotiation. Sometimes they work. b. John Brennan’s statement that the Putin-Trump press conference was “treasonous” was two things: 1) the most ridiculous thing said yesterday by anybody, including the idiot who lives down the street here who said, reportedly, “Rpeterbokle?“, and 2) immediate confirmation of why the President said that he doesn’t trust American intelligence agencies any more than he trusts Putin. c. If anyone can point me to an unbiased authority who can explain how leaders holding joint press conferences help their nations by insulting each other, please do. d. John McCain should either show he can do his job, or he should resign and let someone able do it. Right now, apparently his only role is to snipe at the President. e. Gee, I wonder why President Trump doesn’t trust the FBI, after watching a smug FBI agent who texted about insurance policies against his Presidency and how “we” would “stop” him lecture Congress about his lack of bias? f. Nixon said much nicer things about China and Chou En Lai when Dick made his famous visit. FDR affectionately called mass murderer Stalin “Uncle Joe.” President Bush (absurdly) said that he had seen Putin’s soul, and pronounced it pure. JFK feted the Butcher of the Ukraine and Hungary, Nikita Khrushchev, during a visit to America without condemning him in a pres conference. President Obama whispered to Putin that, in essence, he was going to play tough but would be accommodating after the election. Conclusion: As usual, this President is subjected to a double standard, and it is wildly hypocritical. g. Yes, Trump’s comments were unpresidential and inappropriate. This, however, is no longer news.

3. Of all people!…Rand Paul, a reliable Trump critic (who was the closest one among the GOP debate participants to try to use a “Have you no decency?” line on him), was the voice of reason yesterday, perhaps because he is a professional iconoclast. He told a disappointed Wolf Blitzer, who was looking for some raw meat,

“I think people have gotten over top on this and lost the big picture. The big picture is that we should be engaged with Russia. We should have conversations with Russia. We have serious conflicts in various parts of the globe. It would be a mistake not to have open lines of communication with them. And I can tell you what I have told the Russians who were here in the United States when I conversed with them. Hacking into the election if they did it and all likelihood the evidence looks like they did, it has backfired because it’s made relations worse. And so, if they want to have better relations, there should be a great deal of incentive as time goes for them not to do it again because it’s made relations so much worse. And so, my hope is that we will push the issue and that over time those incentives will be apparent. Instead of making this about everything’s about Trump and accusing Trump of collusion with the Russians and all this craziness that’s not true, we should try to protect the integrity of our elections. Nobody is talking about protecting the integrity of the elections. How would you protect the integrity of the elections? Make sure they’re decentralized. Make sure there’s very good controls from the precinct on up. Make sure we’re not storing the data in a central area where there aren’t checks and balances at the local area. There are a lot of ways to make sure our election is not tampered with.Also, it’s important when you say the Russians meddled, they hacked into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail, and revealed some truths about her that weren’t very popular. I agree they did that. But the thing is is nobody’s alleging that votes were changed, that they got into our electoral system.”


Now watch Paul get attacked by another neighbor, who is probably a Facebook friend of mine.

4. A loving daughter’s cognitive dissonance problem.  I am fascinated by the plight of figures like Gudrun Burwitz, who died in May (though her death wasn’t announced here until last week.) She was Himmler’s daughter, loved her father, and was pushed by the cognitive dissonance scale and loyalty to spend her life defending Hitler’s architect of the Final Solution, and supporting the remnants of the Nazi cause. Was she tragic? Evil? Doomed from the start? Is having to choose between a father you loved and universal verdict that he was a monster an ethical conflict. or an easy call? She never wavered from her rationalizations of her father’s conduct, and suffered greatly for it. Is that admirable, or does it mean that she was a monster too?

Someone should write an opera about her. But no swans…


55 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Wake-Up, 7/17/2018: Swans, Nazis Kids, Rand Paul, And More Freakouts [UPDATED]

  1. 2c) I’m also curious about other instances in which bomb-throwing journalists asks Presidents standing right next to leaders of aggressive competitor nations, “How they plan on holding them accountable”. I can’t find other examples though I’m sure there are.

    The journalist wasn’t after an answer, the journalist knew full well such an inappropriately contexted question would put Trump in his typical word salad ramble.

    2f) Based on what I’ve seen on the internet and social media so far, the rebuttal is that all those other presidential situations were completely different. That this time, Trump ought to confront our enemies, by golly. Never mind the maneuvers in Easter Europe to bolster those nations as the new front line against Russia, never mind American soldiers killing Russian soldiers in Syria, never mind arming Ukrainians against Russian aggression on their soil, never mind… I mean none of that matters. All that matters is Trump’s blubbering trying to answer a completely inappropriate question.

  2. 4) I’v thought of her as well. My final analysis is that her unwavering support just falls on the other side of inappropriate…and only *just* on the other side. Because it is a Father/Daughter bond. But damn, you can still love Daddy and disapprove of what he did…I’m sure he was an affectionate father despite killing millions.

    Hitler’s sister managed to still love him while hating everything he did. I think she managed to balance the truth with affection for earlier days.

    • 4) But let’s also be clear about her: She didn’t just love her daddy, she bought the Nazi line, hook line and sinker, being a firm believer in its tenets for decades (and probably until her passing). Being a darling of the old nazi hold-outs and frequently attending their ‘reunions’.

  3. On point 2
    My immediate reaction to Trump’s comments yesterday in the joint presser was this is similar to his Charlottesville comment where he said there were good people on both sides. This is an attempt to difuse a contentious issue. I use it regularly when two hostile parties are at loggerheads. In fact, most management theories recommend validating each side’s ideas before rendering judgement. What is being demanded is that he must immediately choose sides and invalidate the other. As Bush 43 said “You are with us or against us” which was roundly criticized by those that challenged the WMD assertion made by our side based on our intelligence sources. Many of the same people that feel our intelligence agencies are beyond reproach carried signs saying Bush lied and people died.

    I too have great confidence in our intelligence agencies but they are not infallible. Furthermore, given the actions of Strzok, Page, and McCabe at the FBI along with Brennan and Clapper who put forth the narrative that Putin worked to get Trump elected with Trump’s possible participation it stands to reason that the target of their animus may not be fully supportive of their conclusions. Moreover, saying Putin made “powerful” denial is not saying he believes or accepts it. We do not know what transpired behind closed doors.

    What specifically did Trump’s critics expect him to say at the joint presser? Should he have looked at him and said “knock it off”, or stated emphatically that Putin is full of shit. The fact is Trump has implemented tougher sanctions than his predecessors.

    More often than not when you take a CEO from a private firm and put him on a world stage he or she will not give an polished focused group studied response to question that would lead him to bash publicly his adversary who is on the stage with him as would a politician who is trained to speak in equivocal terms.

  4. Related side note.
    If our investigative agencies were infallible we would not need courts of law.

    How many pundits always side with law enforcement when a black teen is shot. Who said ” If he had a son he would look like Trayvon”.

    Are lawyers who defend defendants guilty of not siding with the state?

    What ever happened to presumption of innocence. I know many embrace European culture but when did Continental law usurp English common law theory.?

  5. Can someone tell me the difference between what One Voice, funded by our State department, did in 2015 and what the Russians are accused of doing. I see little difference.

  6. As an aficianado of WWII, I have followed the life of Gudrun and the other children of Nazis, like Albert Speer Jr (who died last year) and Edda Goering (who loves her doting father immensely, but has distanced herself from his legacy) with some fascination. I highly recommend the documentary “What Our Fathers Did” that follows the aged sons of two prominent war criminals and their very different ways of handling (or not handling) the reality of their fathers’ crimes.

    I did feel sorry for Gudrun. She was a product of a fanatic and his fanatical beliefs. She was raised in that atmosphere by a beloved father. Himmler even took her on a visit to a concentration camp, something I can assure you Speer or Goering never did with their children. That’s where my sympathy ends, though. She bought into the Nazi line in its entirety, assisting war criminals into escaping and helping the defense of elderly war criminals on trial in more recent times, being treated like a Nazi Princess. She had 70 years to reassess her father’s actions and never did. I don’t blame people for being the children of infamous parents. I do blame them for not being willing to separate loving those parents with endorsing their terrible deeds.

    • Agreed. You don’t have the option of choosing your parents. You do have the option of thinking for yourself.

      As I recall, the daughter of another less than stellar human being and world leader — Stalin — eventually broke with him and with the Soviet Union.

      The interesting thing, in broad terms, is how many of the children raised in totalitarian regimes such as the Soviet Union or the Warsaw Pact countries came to reject the ideology they were taught from birth. I don’t know that we saw that so much with Nazi Germany, but it never had an extended period where it wasn’t at war with the rest of the world. I suspect that helped keep younglings on the party line for the duration.

      • It’s complicated. My grandmother was born in 1930. She was three years old when FDR took office and, for the next twelve years, until she turned 15, he was the President. He was the only one she knew. In the US, though, there was competition. Opposing opinions could be expressed freely. Newspapers reported the other side of the story.

        A 3-year old child in Germany when Hitler became Fuehrer would have been 15 when he died and the war ended. In a culture where there were no alternative opinions allowed, where the education, the films, the radio, the magazines and mandatory membership in the Hitler Youth reinforced the same doctrine, it is unsurprising that so many teenagers threw themselves under Russian tanks in 1945. Indoctrination of that type is difficult to overcome, especially when it happens so young. Some were able to come to terms with what had been done to them. Many weren’t.

  7. 2.b. (or not to be). Shouldn’t someone like Brennan stick a gun in his mouth if he thinks that foreign intelligence did, indeed, undermine American democracy under his watch at CIA? I first wondered this about Patrick Kennedy, the State Department administrator who allowed Hillary Clinton to run amok – has the concept of disgrace just disappeared?

  8. Why does anyone, eg Rand Paul bother to say : “But the (good) thing is is nobody’s alleging that votes were changed, that they got into our electoral system.”

    Of course we’ll never know to what extent the Russian meddling changed votes and ultimate results, but it is inconceivable that there were zero effects on votes.

    It is also seems clear given the sophistication of some of the meddling, that the effort must have involved substantial input from politically savvy Americans. Currently we can only speculate on who thoses operators were, and what they were trying to achieve. Hopefully in due course Robert Mueller’s report will provide some better illumination.

    • Pure convenient conspiracy theory speculation. Were votes changed by the factual revelations from the DNC hack? Sure. Mine was, in fact, but telling voters what they have a right to know isn’t harming the system. I’m grateful to whoever let me know that the democrats were cheating and trying to rig the election just like they rigged the nomination.

      There is no evidence of altering, as in hacking, cast votes, and thus such speculation is unsupportable. The looming issue with anyone who paid attention to the Pope’s endorsement of Trump or the pizza child sex ring is why we let morons vote at all.

    • $6,500,000,000 were spent on the 2016 campaign.

      $2,400,000,000 of that was spent specifically on the presidential campaigns.

      Russia spent something like a couple hundred thousand dollars…I think like $200,000 on social media ads…but we’ll be generous and say $400,000 since I don’t recall.

      Russian spending on our presidential campaign amounts to .016% of the total spent…1% OF 1%. Not all of which was intentionally designed to work in Trump’s favor.

      Russia did not affect the outcome of the Presidential election.

      American voters did.

    • “Sophistication?”

      Well, I know a thing or two about computers, and there is no way the GRU, in my opinion, would have to resort to a spearphishing attack to hack the DNC’s server. I imagine they could’ve compromised that thing nine ways to Sunday without resorting to something as traceable as that. I suspect it was a false-flag operation.

      I am, and continue to be very suspicious of our intelligence assessment that Russia was behind the DNC hacking. Many other computer experts with far more credibility than me are also. Russia is undoubtedly one of the most sophisticated cyber-warfare capable countries in the world – perhaps the very most capable. It will take a lot more than what I have seen for me to believe that they were behind such a pedestrian, low-brow hacking effort. It would seem to me to be beneath them, and a waste of time.

      Finally, I have no doubt that Russia tried to influence our election, and I’d accept the argument that it was in favor of Donald Trump. I think Russia saw Trump as someone they could work with, and Clinton as a purblind fool, which she is. But influencing other countries’ elections is nothing new for them, for us, or for practically anyone else. It’s for all intents and purposes part of diplomacy. Heck, we hacked Angela Merkel of Germany, and they are a freaking ally! Does anyone suppose we don’t routinely try to hack Russia? As if.

      • Glen. You forgot to mention that we are told to accept Crowdstrike’s analysis as to who violated the integrity of the DNC server. Perkins Coie advised the DNC to deny FBI forensic analysis which they did. The FBI has yet to have any access to DNC servers.

  9. 3. Paul is actually wrong here…Kind of. Maybe he’s wrong in the right way. Despite what the #resistance might think, no one is actually concerned that Russia hacked a polling machine, or changed a count. So all this talk about shoring up the security on the act of voting is…. Well, useless… It might be an attempt to get the support of people who care about voter fraud, but that’s an indirect target at best.

    To be clear: There are two legitimate paths one could be referring to when saying that Russia meddled in the election;

    1) The Almost-But-Not-Quite Legal Way: They bought political ads during a presidential election. Were they Americans, this would almost certainly be legal, but they weren’t, so it wasn’t. A couple of hundred grand spent on Facebook ads and a Twitter account that got maybe 100,000 followers. My take on this was that it was designed to be divisive, to sow chaos, to weaken America. I don’t think opposition intelligence has ever gotten a better deal.

    2) The Very Obviously Not Legal Way: They Hacked the DCCC and the DNC, and published the information they received. It looks like they also made attempts at the RNC, but those attempts failed, so maybe the DNC should fire their million dollar IT fraudster and hire the game guys the RNC uses. On a less tongue in cheek tone though, everyone should probably reinforce their IT, it’s one of the poorest understood facets of management, and a legitimate conversation piece.

  10. 4: Tragic. Projecting belief in her father must have been painful at times, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a monster. Maybe she could have taught a few people today to accept that even monsters could have a better side. Just because you admire a celebrity or politician in one area doesn’t mean they might not do or enable nasty things. That doesn’t negate the brilliant ones. That applies as much to Jefferson and FDR, as it does to Tricky Dick as Hilary.

    People need to step back and find the points that advocates on both sides will not admit if their toes were to a fire, and see if there is some validity. I have been surprised by both Trump and Hilary’s behaviors since their election. That does not reflect well on far too many. Not just a song.

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