Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/27/2022: The “Let’s See How Many Non-Ukraine Ethics Stories I Can Find” Edition

That’s Ukrainian model Tetiana Gaidar above, nicely symbolizing what old guy Vladimir Putin didn’t get about launching an unethical war in 2022.

Because of social media, 24-7 cable news and the web, world public opinion can–can—quickly coalesce around basic ethical values and arrive at a crushing consensus. Putin is being personally cancelled, and if his nation’s people decide they don’t want to be cancelled too, he might be in bigger trouble that he could have imagined in his worst nightmares. Ethics Alarms already mentioned how Putin forgot the Alamo, always a bad thing to do. He apparently also had forgotten that one of the big cracks in the Iron Curtain was inflicted when Ronald Reagan termed the Soviet Union an “Evil Empire.”

Economist John Kenneth Galbraith, writing in the Sixties about what made huge corporations successful, argued that they created nation-like loyalties by behaving as good corporate citizens, and that there was a crucial benefit in this that went beyond mere profit. The best people, he claimed, would not work for companies perceived as unethical, so becoming an organization that the best and the brightest would be proud to be part of was a matter of long-term survival.

Galbraith, was we have seen, was overly optimistic, but his general point is still important, particularly at the extremes. Too late, Putin is trying to save his reputation by trying the absurd cognitive dissonance trick of associating the Ukraine government with Nazis. It’s not working, because it is so obviously a self-serving lie.

1. If only baseball writers read Ethics Alarms...(or knew what ethics was, for that matter). More than five years after Ethics Alarms explained why Red Sox icon David Ortiz created an unavoidable  slippery slope likely to carry Barry Bonds and the other steroid cheat superstars into baseball’s Hall of Fame, esteemed baseball writer Bob Nightengale figured it out, and just announced his brilliant analysis in USA Today. Ortiz was recently voted into the Hall, as EA noted here in the follow-up to the original article. [Much thanks to Jutgory for alerting me to Nightengale’s piece]

See? I’m smart! Not dumb everybody says… I’m smart and I want respect!

2. If the Republicans are going to publicly shun Liz Cheney for joining the political witch trials the Democrats are holding on the January 6 riots, they have no excuse not to take even more decisive action against the  GOP Congress members Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar, and AZ State Senator Wendy Rogers, for openly supporting Nick Fuentes, a Holocaust denier who has been correctly labeled a “white supremacist” by the Justice Department, and his organization, the America First Political Action Conference. Republican Gosar and Greene both attended the group’s conference this weekend, and both addressed the all-white throng, which engaged in such fun activities as applauding for Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, and chanting “Putin, Putin!”

This is signature significance; Greene and Gosar were obligated to object, and then to walk out. Greene, confronted by CBS, claimed that she didn’t support Fuentes but was simply at the white nationalist gathering to “talk to young people.” She claimed that she knew nothing about the political views of the group itself. She is an idiot, but she is not that big an idiot: she’s lying. On the National Review site, David Harsanyi makes the obvious point:

On social media, conservatives grouse that there’s a double standard. Democrats, they say, never condemn their extremists, they celebrate them. That’s a double standard worth living with. After all, any denunciation of Omar, Tlaib, or any other Squad member lacks credibility if House Republicans can’t publicly take the position that hanging out with (actual) white supremacists is deplorable.

3. The airbrushing history disease gets Fanny Brice. I see that a Broadway revival of the Jule Styne-Bob Merrill musical “Funny Girl,” which propelled Barbra Streisand to superstardom, will soon open. I also see that the original book (that’s the plot and dialogue) of the Tony-winning musical has been “revised” by Harvey Fierstein. Musicals, like plays, are literature; what they express about both the times they portray and the times in which they were written are vital records of American history and culture. Their original forms deserve as much respect as novels, poems or classic films. Theater, however, is  over-run with under-educated, over-woke knee-jerk political correctness addicts, so virtually every revival of a classic musical now is rewritten and cut to conform with progressive cant. It is the artistic equivalent of destroying a village in order to save it, and wildly wrong, unfair and disrespectful to both the creating artists who made the work, and future audiences who never will see the original, un-“improved” classic.

4. In one respect, Biden’s SCOTUS pick is not diverse enough. President Biden announced  the nomination of federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to replace Justice Breyer, who will retire at the end of the current Supreme Court term. It is impossible to challenge Jacskon’s credentials, and if the Republicans were smart, and they are not, they would give Jackson the kind of respectful hearing nominated Justices used to routinely receive before Democrats broke the system with their attack on Robert Bork. Then the Senate Republicans should unanimously confirm her, sending a clear message that this is how the process should be handled—without cynically recruited hit-witnesses to make unsubstantiated accusations against the nominee based on years-old alleged grievances.

How much more gratifying the nomination would be for Jackson if Biden had nominated her without Biden stating that his first priorities were her race and gender! Yet despite all the hype about diversity and the current fad of celebrating “firsts,” as if the most important thing in life is being a trivia question, Jackson in one key respect will be a typical SCOTUS.

Color and sex organs should not influence a judge’s thinking, but legal training and culture inevitably will. The Court right now is made up of eight Harvard Law or Yale Law grads; Amy Comey Bryant (Notra Dame Law School) is the one exception. Biden will be replacing one Harvard Law School-trained justice (Breyer) with another. Jackson is also a Harvard Law graduate and a former editor of the Harvard Law Review.

Same old, same old…

5. Not about the Ukraine invasion, exactly…Ann Althouse picked up on how various U.S. critics are insulting Putin by referring to his short stature. Mitt Romney, who is taller than average, said, “We’re seeing a small, feral-eyed man who was trying to shape the world in the image where, once again, Russia would be an empire, and that’s not going to happen.” Maureen Dowd, who is snarkier than average, wrote, “As for Putin’s Napoleonic megalomania, perhaps the Russia expert Nina Khrushcheva summed him up best in a Vanity Fair podcast: ‘He’s a small man of five-six saying he’s five-seven.'”

Putin’s height has absolutely nothing to do with an ethical evaluation of his leadership. Deriding his height is pure ad hominem, and unethical itself, like attacking Donald Trump’s hair and skin-shade, Rush Limbaugh’s weight, or Hillary Clinton’s legs. The tactic isn’t any more ethical because the target of it is objectively despicable.

Shortness insults are particularly stupid. Putin is the same height as Winston Churchill (who was also bald and fat), John Adams (ditto), and taller than James Madison, the primary author of our Constitution. The Napoleon reference is also outdated and ignorant: historians have determined that Napoleon was not, in fact, short for his time, and the myth that he was arose from a mis-translation of his nickname, “The Little Corporal,” to signify size, when “little” in French at the time also meant, “dear” or “beloved.”

Dowd, by the way, is no more than 5’6″ herself. That is another problem with insulting men by impugning their height: it is intrinsically sexist. If height matters in evaluating a leader, then women, as a group, are innately inferior.

Just as a point of reference: Kamala Harris is 5’3″, and would be no more competent is she were 6’3.”


17 thoughts on “Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/27/2022: The “Let’s See How Many Non-Ukraine Ethics Stories I Can Find” Edition

  1. 2. “ On social media, conservatives grouse that there’s a double standard. Democrats, they say, never condemn their extremists, they celebrate them. That’s a double standard worth living with. After all, any denunciation of Omar, Tlaib, or any other Squad member lacks credibility if House Republicans can’t publicly take the position that hanging out with (actual) white supremacists is deplorable.”

    White supremacy is bad. All forms of racial supremacy are bad. All forms of supremacy are bad.

    Republicans need to jump on the “all forms of supremacy are bad” principle, hard. Otherwise you will see white supremacy taking off again.

    No, you cannot have a double standard. If you have a double standard, you do not have a fair principle that addresses the problem equally across the entire spectrum of the problem. If you don’t have a fair principle, no one is going to listen to you. People do not agree to operate by unfair principles.

    Extremism is bad, in all its forms. Some extremists are not good while others are bad. If you tell some extremists they are good, then you are telling all the extremists extremism is good. That is simply the practical, real world fallout of promoting extremism.

    The republicans cannot stop the democrats from promoting some types of extremism, but they can strongly condemn all types of extremism themselves. The republicans have not strongly condemned all types of extremism. The republicans have fallen into the trap of debating the relative merits of different types of extremism, and now the consequences are showing their ugly faces.

    Double standards in principle lead to no standards in real life.

    Black lives are not more important than white lives. Trans lives are not more important than non-transgender lives. All lives are sacred. All lives matter. If the republicans don’t have the balls to say it, then the criteria for universal radicalization have been met. That is just how the cookie crumbles in the real world.

    If the republicans want to root out the white supremacy disease, they need to get out there and start espousing a real principle. They need to start actually caring and stop pretending to care. They need to start doing something about the problems of poor rural white people. Meth labs are not employment. Fentanyl habits are not life goals. If the democrats don’t care about poor white people, and the republicans don’t care about the problems of poor white people, but the white supremacists do care about the problems of poor white people, who gets the vote? The white supremacists!! Ding ding ding! Oh where, oh where could our white supremacy problem be coming from? Our political leaders, that is where the problem is coming from.

    • Well said, but I worry about using the term “extremism”. It’s meaning is too malleable, much like “hate.” And, like hate, the left will just redefine it to mean anything they don’t like. Pro life is extremist. Wanting fair and honest elections, extremism. Judging people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin is racist extremism.

      • I see your point, but are there any words that cannot be redefined? That is another thing republicans should be pushing back on hard. Words already have meanings, and no they cannot just be redefined to only support whatever arguments the left is making.

        • I think it needs to be descriptions. For example, I am against anyone who thinks a person or group is inferior to another person or group solely based on gender, skin color, etc (not a precise example, but just off the top of my head). Unfortunately I think just pushing back doesn’t seem to help; people have been trying for sometime, but how many groups are labeled “hate groups”, racist, or phobic by the left unfairly. In this emotionally driven soundbite twitter world, people don’t want long descriptions or precise definitions, they just want to call someone a racist or a hater. So I honestly don’t know the right answer.

  2. Seemingly odd for the demographic (justice Thomas notwithstanding), Jackson appears to not be protestant, much less evangelical, missing another diversity factor for the current court, & greatly at odds with the overall US population. How can diversity addicts be comfortable with that?

    • I find it interesting she’s married to a white mega-WASP, six generations of graduates from Harvard, physician. How does that fit into the diversity, equity and inclusion calculus?

      • I suspect it may involve the interaction of a torus, a rotating elliptical conic section, and an interdimintionial Mobius strip. Give me a minute…

  3. 5. Speaking of things Napoleonic, wouldn’t it be ironic if Ukraine turns out to be Putin’s retreat from Moscow, or even his Waterloo? Didn’t the Russians study the US invasions of Iraq? Didn’t they anticipate a need for air cover for their armored columns? Haven’t they noticed that not so newfangled thingy called “asymmetrical warfare”? Maybe they did study Iraq and expected the Ukrainians to run away like Sadam’s vaunted Republican Guards? Are tanks that great rolling down a road where they can be taken out by shoulder mounted weapons? This folly of a war may turn out to have been a really bad idea executed in a really bad way. Pretty mind-boggling. I always thought the first Iraq war brought on the end of the Soviet Union because all of the Soviets’ arms customers saw how the Soviet era stuff just didn’t measure up. Maybe the same old problem will be Putin’s undoing. Maybe he was trying to take over a foreign country on the cheap. Of course, it’s hard to tell what’s really going on, but maybe some of the military people in the commentariat can share their thoughts.

    • Russia does have air superiority. They don’t have air supremacy. Subtle difference. If what I heard early on is accurate – a lot of Russia’s preparatory fires and surgical missile strikes ended up not being very surgical at all (there were apparently quite a few misses). While doing significant damage to Ukraine’s air force, it wasn’t eliminated. While doing considerable damage to anti-air assets, they weren’t full degraded – quite a few survived. Thanks to the American intel community giving Ukraine a lot of information on what we knew that the Russians knew, they were able to move a lot of stuff at the last minute.

      I also think Russia was at least remotely aware that it was going to be more of a traditional war of exchanging here and maneuvering there and accept tactical risk in places such as exposure to Ukrainian air assets. I just think Russia way underestimated how much Ukraine was able to preserve.

  4. Well, this is why there was (or should have been) a big emphasis on man portable anti tank and anti air weapons. If you can get close enough, you can take out a tank with these weapons and, in the military calculus, one soldier for one tank is a pretty good exchange ratio.

    It demonstrates both the value of military training for soldiers to keep their nerve when under attack, but also reemphasizes how vulnerable tanks are when not accompanied by infantry.

    As well, urban fighting is brutal on armies. If it gets to serious city fighting, Putin may lose regardless of the outcome of the fighting. I imagine he can shrug off a certain level of losses, but casualties do matter even to dictators.

    When this war started, I was remembering Afghanistan. Their army was quickly and decisively beaten. We did not send troops in to fight the Soviets, but the CIA trained and armed their insurgents — and the Soviets did, in fact, withdraw in defeat after several years.

    • I’ve started thinking about Stalingrad, DG. Do you suppose Putin and his generals studied Stalingrad? Maybe it’s lost in translation. None other than good ol’ “We will bury you!” Nikita Khrushchev changed the name back to Volgograd way back in 1961. I did not know it happened that long ago. Vlad was just nine at the time.

      • Ditto, I had no idea it was that long ago, although they were on an anti-Stalin kick back around then as I recall. I actually found myself talking about Leningrad yesterday before I recognized my error. 🙂

        If they thought about it, they probably figured Stalingrad was something that happened only to fascists. Of course Berlin was another good example and that one happened to the Red Army. Hmmm, and Warsaw was strictly irregulars and civilians but they gave the Nazis fits while the Red Army watched the show.

        I also find myself wondering what kind of safeguards Russia has on its nuclear button. It is really hard to believe Putin is rattling that saber.

  5. who has been correctly labeled a “white supremacist” by the Justice Department, and his organization, the America First Political Action Conference

    Why do you believe this labeling to be correct?

    In an age where things like the OK symbol and the Betsy Ross flag and the Gadsden flag are called white nationalist symbols, a dose of healthy skepticism is necessary.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.