Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/13/21: Snap Out Of It!

Commenters are being far too pessimistic here of late, and so are the rational people I know. Complaining is fine; so is worrying. But action is mandatory. Defeatism, despair, submission—these are not only self-destructive, but un-American. The nation got in its current mess (as it has gotten into others) by inattention and complacency; it is time, once again, to consider first principles, and act. As is usually the case, the bad guys are not nearly as bright as they think they are, as well as being cocky, careless, and corrupt. The public is naive, ignorant, driven by emotion and reckless, but it has come through for the nation throughout our history, and can, and will, again. There were a lot of positive developments in the past five days. Getting the word out is difficult, because our journalists are journalists no longer but tools of aspiring censors and dictators, but there are ways. The United States has always been lucky, sometimes amazingly so, and often when the odds against it have been daunting.

Don’t bet against it.

Meanwhile, make sure we get rid of the marked deck, the crooked dealers and the loaded dice.

1. This day in 1945: U.S. terrorism. On February 13, 1945, the Allies firebombed the German city of Dresden, killing roughly 25,000 people and destroying one of the cultural gems of Europe despite its having no military or strategic value at all. Germany were certain to surrender, it was only a matter of time. Yet more than 3,400 tons of explosives were dropped on the city by 800 American and British aircraft, with the resulting firestorm setting the city on fire for days, creating a horrific landscape of charred corpses, many of them children. Many believe that Dresden was bombed in retaliation for Hitler’s bombing of Coventry, the lovely British city that also had little military value. It doesn’t matter: the unquestionable truth is that Dresden’s destruction was pure terrorism, an act of pure cruelty designed to destroy German morale and create widespread fear. Although the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima is usually the focus on anti-war critics and those who accuse the U.S. of war crimes, the alternative to that bombing was and still is widely believed to have been an Allied invasion of Japan that would have involved huge military losses.There was no justification for the Dresden bombing. It was, as an infamous Civil War battle was once described, “Not war, but murder.”

2. “First they came for Hercules, and I said nothing…” Kevin Sorbo, the actor who played Hercules in the TV series “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” for many years, announced yesterday that Facebook had deleted his account along with its half-million followers. He says he has received no explanation from Facebook (just as Ethics Alarms has never received an explanation from Facebook for blocking links to my blog for two years just as it was beginning to see significant growth in traffic and followers). Sorbo, you will be surprised to learn I’m sure, is an outspoken conservative and Christian.

If I posted this on Facebook—I don’t bother any more—I know the response: the rationalizers would condescendingly explain that Facebook, as a private company, has the right to block anyone they choose from using its platform. Yes, asshole, I know that. I also know, and unless you are a complete idiot as well as a fan of progressive domination, that because social media has become a primary means of communication and political advocacy in this country, censoring one side of any issue is an attack on both democracy and freedom of speech, and thus unethical and dangerous. I don’t care if it’s legal (and if you and people like you hadn’t voted for the censors, it might not have been for much longer). It’s unethical. You can’t process that because you believe that the ends justify the means.

3. Despicable and totalitarian screed of the week: Washington Post hack Dana Milbank. The headline says it all: “If Republican senators acquit Trump, they will own the violence that follows” needless to say, Milbank isn’t a lawyer, and apparently hasn’t even watched many TV lawyer shows. An argument like that would mean an instant mistrial in any court in the nation. If is an inflammatory, irresponsible, idiotic argument that appeals to bigger idiots. It represents an endorsement of the unconstitutional concept of pre-crime. the fact that the Washington Post employs a writer capable of making such an argument without “hiding his head under a bag,” as Justice Scalia liked to say tells you all you need to know about how untrustworthy the Post has become, and why it is now the tool of those who oppose individual liberty.

If there is violence, it will be because Milbank and journalists like him have enabled the foes of democracy. Donald Trump will have nothing to do with it.

4. Relating to the previous EA post...Professor Turley argues here that the Democrats were “tanking” the impeachment trial—losing intentionally. If someone can explain why the usually astute professor thinks “tanking” in politics makes sense (in professional sports it can result in better draft picks), please do. he makes a strong case that the case for impeachment is incredibly weak (“In the last impeachment, I criticized the House leadership for impeaching Trump on the thinnest record in the shortest time in history. It then outdid itself by impeaching him a second time with no record and no hearing.”)but fails to explain how the Democrats can possibly benefit from fiasco. He concludes,

That is why, with the start of the trial, there is growing suspicion of a tanked trial. The House will present a case long on emotions and short on evidence. Trump will then be acquitted and Democrats will look to picking up new talent in the 2022 draft.”

Huh? Turley is often described as a “progressive” professor by the conservative news media when he criticizes Democrats. I’d call him a fair and objective professor who is capable of rising above his own preferences and bias. This is one of the few pieces by Turley that suggests a Democrat Party bias. He’s desperately trying to rationalize utter incompetence and stupidity fueled by irrational hate. “They just can’t be this stupid,” he’s arguing. “They must be losing on purpose.”

With due respect for Professor Turley, that’s almost as ridiculous as Rep. Greene’s “The wildfires were caused by Jewish lasers from outer space” conspiracy theory. Occam’s Razor applies. The Democrats are running an incompetent impeachment because they are incompetent.

12 thoughts on “Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/13/21: Snap Out Of It!

  1. 4. Now the Dems are going to bring in witnesses. Of what, I do not know. And Chuck Schumer is evidently dusting off the 14th Amendment, which I had to look up.

  2. 76 years ago, the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force struck the German city of Dresden in a series of raids that ultimately involved just shy of 1,300 Flying Fortress and Lancaster bombers and almost 800 P-51 Mustang fighters. The Germans could muster only 28 fighters to oppose them. The city was burned to ashes and probably 25,000 Germans perished. This should have come as no surprise to the Germans, as Berlin was under constant siege from the air and Hamburg and Braunschweig had already been targeted for incendiary raids and mostly destroyed. This was nothing new.

    Nazi Germany was not in a good place. France, Poland, and Czechoslovakia had all been liberated and Fascist Italy was defeated. The Luftwaffe’s last major air offensive had destroyed some Allied planes, but cost the Germans twice as many of their own. The Americans could make up the losses with no trouble. The Germans could not even make good on part of theirs. The ill-advised gamble that had resulted in the famous “Bulge” in the Ardennes had been defeated and netted them nothing. Nonetheless, the Allies had yet to enter Germany proper, and the question of just how tough of a fight that would be was still very much an open one. Japan, of course, was still very much an unresolved issue, and, as far as anyone knew, might have to actually be invaded…a year down the road, for which they’d need every soldier, sailor, airman and marine the Allies could muster.

    It was critical that Germany be defeated as quickly as possible, while, hopefully, minimizing losses to the Allies. Like it or not, the way to defeat the enemy in any war is to kill him, break his stuff, and destroy his will to keep going. The Hamburg raids and others had jolted the German will, but not broken it. Dresden contained 110 factories and was a major railway and communications hub. It was also defended, and stood right in the way of the Red Army, soon to invade from the east. Any way you slice it, it was a legitimate target.

    I might add that by this time, the Allies knew full well what the Nazis had done in their short reign of power and terror, and most of the British airmen flying remembered what the Germans had done to London, Coventry, etc. This is before we even talk about all the pilots from the occupied nations, who’d fled and were still carrying on the fight (flying American or British planes with their home countries’ markings), who’d seen their homes and cities destroyed and friends and family fall into the Nazis’ hands. Some wanted to save what they still could. Some wanted justifiable revenge. Almost all of them knew they were facing one of the four most evil regimes ever to blight this world (only the murderous, inhumane Japanese Empire, the democidal Chinese state, and the homicidal, lying Soviet empire can challenge that reign). They flew off knowing full well what they were doing, and I don’t think any lost a wink’s sleep over it.

    Some, usually devotees of Noam Chomsky or some other revisionist, want to call it a war crime. It would be very easy to scoff and say “Ha! War crime? Ever been in a war?” However, we have to do better than scoffing. The fact of the matter is that the German nation, while it probably didn’t set out to become an empire of institutionalized racism and the genocide and violent destruction of all but those the powers that be approved, let itself be led there. Three generations before Germany had stood astride the world, having beaten Austria soundly, destroyed the Danes on the battlefield, and dethroned France as the premier military power in the world (a similar attempt to dethrone Britain as the world’s great naval power failed in WWI).

    A generation before this it all came crashing down. Where had it all gone so wrong? If you asked them, I doubt they would say that they shouldn’t have interfered in an otherwise regional conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, or bet against the British coming to the Belgians’ aid, or let their general staff delude themselves into believing they could fight a war on two different fronts and win, or pointed to the example of the American Revolution, where an empire whose power was greater than ANYONE else’s found out the hard way that its power was not greater than EVERYONE else’s, or that after Verdun their officer corps was no longer up to the task due to the huge losses. They would have said that they were doing fine for most of the war, and they only lost because the Jews and the socialists stabbed them in the back, sowed the seeds for mutiny in the High Seas Fleet, fomented labor unrest that stopped them from moving their eastern armies west quick enough after the collapse of Russia, and led to general civil unrest that made continuing the war impossible. They also wouldn’t say that the worldwide depression made for terrible conditions a decade later, instead they would blame the Weimar Republic for not being able to handle the problem.

    No one, and least of all a proud, successful, imperial people, wants to admit they went wrong themselves. They will look for excuses, find someone to blame, whatever it takes to absolve themselves. The Nazis played on this, and the Germans followed, just like children following a pied piper, hoping for a return to those successful days. However, in doing so, they covered their eyes to the crimes taking place around them, and so became their enablers. This was no war crime, but the punishment for a decade and more of piled up crimes.

    • To paraphrase something Jack has posted before: War is unethical, but once war happens, the only ethical course is to end it as fast as possible. I fully concur. We did it once, but we don’t anymore.

      I think WWII was the peak of crush the enemy in all of their forms type of warfare. It is what Japan did in China, the Nazi battle on Britain, convoy raiding, the later strategic bombing of Germany, the firebombing of Tokyo, and capping it with the two nuclear bombs. We can look at the outcome of the axis belligerents today: both Germany and Japan are no threat to any other democracy.

      Since then we have practiced limited warfare. Korea was in the middle ground. Vietnam was fully into the camp of limited warfare. There was no attempt to win or quit; we spent years and lost 50K US soldiers along with killing an unknown number of Vietnamese. In the end we quit. The US “lost” for the 50 years it took Vietnam to realize communism wasn’t working out so great.

      I will bring up what is the ultimate example is Israel vs. Lebanon and Palestine. It is a 75 year old conflict, with little end in sight. Until the 1970s Israel was limited in power, but since then they have been holding back from what they are capable of doing. What they’ve gotten for it is endless war. In the long run it means far more misery and death for the Lebanese and Palestinians. 25 years ago severe group punishment after every attack would have put it to an end and today there would be peace.

    • Dresden had over 100 military factories – including a poison gas manufacturing complex.

      These were only moderately damaged. The main effect on production was by the destruction of workers’ homes.

      Dresden was *the* main rail communications line to the Eastern Front, through the only city left undamaged. It was also a major North South hub.

      Damage to the marshalling yards was again moderate, though much of the rolling stock left to Germany was destroyed. Communications were mostly disrupted by rubble on the roads and approaches.

      ” Colonel Harold E. Cook, a US POW held in the Friedrichstadt marshaling yard the night before the attacks, later said that “I saw with my own eyes that Dresden was an armed camp: thousands of German troops, tanks and artillery and miles of freight cars loaded with supplies supporting and transporting German logistics towards the east to meet the Russians”.”
      Miller, Donald L. (2006b). Masters of the Air – America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany. Simon and Schuster.

      Many pinpoint targets around the city, the factories in the suburbs, the autobahn bridge etc were untouched. Had strategic bombing been sufficiently accurate to hit them, they would have been far more effective targets.

      It wasn’t. It could, with luck, erase city centres and cause chaos in the hinterland outside. 50% of bombs dropped fell within 5 miles of the aim point.

      • That goes double for the RAF, who concentrated on nighttime area bombing, which was not supposed to be anything other than indiscriminate. It would be Vietnam (i.e. the taking down the bridge at Thanh Hoa known as the Dragon’s Jaw) before there was anything like the “smart bombs” we have now that can lake out a bridge or a single building and minimize the collateral damage. I’m sorry, but in war casualties are a fact of life, and so is collateral damage. If you arrange things so that a munitions factory is next to a hospital or a barracks next to an orphanage, don’t complain when the logical happens. That reminds me of the gear-up to the Iraq war, when useful idiot pacifists traveled to Iraq to act as “human shields” but fled when Saddam tried to deploy them at actual military sites, not hospitals, et al. Helen Caldicott actually asked John Paul II to travel to Iraq and act as the ultimate human shield. Idiots all.

  3. As an attempt at trying to change things:

    You know, this September will mark 20 years since the most devastating attack on this nation since Pearl Harbor and the worst this century. For a time, this nation was united as it hadn’t been since World War II, rebuilding on the wreckage of the Twin Towers and the ashes of 343 murdered firemen who raced toward, not away from, the disaster everyone else was sensibly fleeing from. Twenty years later, this country is more divided than it was since the Civil War, and a lot of the folks here would just as soon give up on it or discard it as a failure.

    Smack me for saying this, but that’s frankly a damn poor way to honor the memory of those men, and many more who gave their lives so the rest of us could live safe and free. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, the lessons of history seem to have a limited half-life, maybe just about 20 years if we’re lucky, before they get forgotten, or unlearned, or declared irrelevant. On that day this nation was reminded that divisions need to stop at the water’s edge, and some things are too important to let politics get in the way.

    That almost sounds quaint today, when it seems like everyone is something else first, and American second, sometimes a very distant second. On that day this nation was reminded that, imperfect or not, it’s still worth fighting for. That almost sounds naive today, when its trendy to judge this nation only by the times it’s fallen short of what it stands for, and discount all the times it’s lived up to it. On that day this nation was reminded that, whatever changes might have come, we hadn’t run out of history yet. That smacks of a joke now, when the latest thing is to wipe history out of sight and pretend it’s nothing good.

    It’s been a while since I preached the Gospel of 9/11, but I think it’s time that book be reopened and read out again. To that end I’m going to begin a weekly series I’ll entitle “Fire Up Our Patriotism,” in which I’ll retell some of the stories of the men and companies that day, and hopefully, remind those within the reach of my (virtual) pen what that day and this nation are really all about. Hint: it isn’t about gripes from those who were not wronged against those who didn’t wrong them.

    Squad 18, based in Greenwich Village on West 10th Street, were certainly no strangers to fighting dangerous disasters, nor to those disasters turning deadly. In 1966 then Engine 18 was the hardest hit company at the deadly 23rd Street fire, losing five of the twelve total men the department lost. They soldiered on, through the decades, through the creation of this new animal called a squad company, essentially a rescue company with a pump, the ones to cut through iron doors to save those trapped before the air ran out, the ones to plunge into the Hudson or the East River, whatever the weather, to rescue passengers on a sinking ferry, often the ones to step in to get their brethren out of the tough spots the job meant they had to go into.

    Being in lower Manhattan, they were among the first companies who responded that day. Ironically, they got as far as the floor that bore their same number in the north tower, before it became obvious they could do little and the building was coming down. A few got out, but Lt. William E. McGinn and Firefighters Eric T. Allen, Andrew A. Fredericks, David Halderman, Jr., Timothy S. Haskell, Manuel Mojica, and Lawrence J. Virgilio were not among them.

    An Italian physical therapist and fitness guru, a Hispanic son of a police officer and Marine Corps veteran, an Irish lieutenant who’d been there 8 years before at the first WTC bombing, four more who don’t sound terribly ethnic, but each with a unique story, one an old-timer who taught other firemen, the son of a WW2 vet, an aspiring author, a still-youthful firemen who was off-duty but came in to help. None of them died white, black, or any color other than blue, none of them asked whether the people whose aid they rushed to were anything other than fellow Americans in need of help, and none of them said any life mattered any more than another. Why then should we claim that identity, ask that question, or make that judgment? Something to think about.

  4. re: 2 –

    I’ll keep coming back to this again and again, but I have a very hard time with the conflicting logic of “government forum” and “private company” when it applies to social media.

    There are people who are prohibited from engaging public officials where they create public discussions because a private company decided who should have a voice or not. Is it ethical to create a public discussion, as a gov’t official, knowing that the private company you’ve selected for this task will run interference for you and have significant impact to the direction of discourse?

    …and that’s all okay? So long as the person is removed by the platform rather than be blocked by an individual politician?

    The whole thing bothers me.

  5. #4 Perhaps Turley is correct. Perhaps the House managers’ attempt is to put on a show that is believable for the masses but which is guaranteed to fail because they know the long run costs of success in the impeachment trial are too high. But, they still need to be able to say the fought as hard as they could so they can get re-elected. I suspect that their base doesn’t care enough about consistent rationality to care if the prosecutions arguments and positions are unsound and evidence is fabricated.

  6. Any update on The pandemic Creates a Classic and Difficult Ethics Conflict?

    If I posted this on Facebook—I don’t bother any more—I know the response: the rationalizers would condescendingly explain that Facebook, as a private company, has the right to block anyone they choose from using its platform. Yes, asshole, I know that.

    The First Amendment is not coterminous with freedom of speech.

    If there is violence, it will be because Milbank and journalists like him have enabled the foes of democracy. Donald Trump will have nothing to do with it.

    Milbank claims that this emboldens violence frfom Trump supporters.

    Of course, we know the violence was enabled by those who excused it.

    America lacks leadership and above all it lacks moral leadership. The storming of the Capitol brought this home in the moral surrender of the GOP and the moral vacuity of its condemners in the Democrat Party, the mainstream media and civil society. A mob, encouraged by the President of the United States, breached the Senate in an attempt to obstruct the confirmation of an election. This un-American carnage called for clear, thunderous declamation, yet while the words that came brought volume there was a weightlessness to them because of who they came from.

    They rebuked ‘an unspeakable assault on our nation’ who, asked whether mobs had the right to tear down Christopher Columbus statues, had shrugged: ‘People will do what they do’. They denounced ‘that Trump mob that attacked the citadel of our democracy’ who, mere months ago, had demanded ‘show me where it says protesters are supposed to be polite and peaceful’. They deplored a ‘domestic terrorist attack’ on Capitol Hill who, last summer, had proclaimed ‘there needs to be unrest in the streets’. The point is not that one articulation of violence excuses another, nor even that moral parity exists between them, but that the legitimacy of violence has become a debate within mainstream US politics.

  7. The only possibility I can think of that would make Turley’s “tanking” theory make sense is that cooler heads are prevailing among Democrats, and they have realized that a successful impeachment would set a very disruptive precedent, all but certain to be used against Democrats in the near future. I suspect, regardless of whether it’s a conviction or acquittal, we’ve already crossed a line where virtually all future presidents who are facing a House of Representatives controlled by the opposing party will end up being impeached for any pretext that can be ginned up. The children who run the country absolutely for sure will engage in tit-for-tat impeachments for the foreseeable future. They are, I’m certain, incapable of being responsible and mature enough to do otherwise.

    However, there are virtually no cool heads left in the party, so the incompetence explanation is far more likely to be the truth.

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