Category Archives: Around the World

Willful Amnesia And The Great Cat And Dog Massacre

Did you know that animal-loving British families killed an estimated 400,000 household pets—cats and dogs—in the first week after Great Britain declared war on Germany in September, 1939? Neither did I, and now a new book by Hilda Kean, “The Great Dog and Cat Massacre,” sets out to remind us of that ugly episode.

As the New York Times review of the book notes and Kean explains, the mass euthanasia was “publicly lamented at the time,” but has since been erased from memory.  But why has it been erased from memory, and how? This is a disturbing cultural phenomenon that Ethics Alarms has covered before, notably in the post about dance marathons in the U.S. during the Depression. One of the definitions of culture is what we choose to remember and what we choose to forget. Forgetting, however, while often psychically soothing and an easy way to avoid guilt and accountability, is a pre-unethical condition. That which has been forgotten can no longer teach us, and a society that collectively decides to pretend something cruel, horrible or traumatic didn’t happen risks allowing it to happen again.

This, of course, is one more reason why the recent progressive mania for historical airbrushing is dangerous, irresponsible and unethical. Keep that statue of “Joe Pa” on the Penn State campus. Leave  King Andy on the twenty dollar bill.  Don’t take down that bust of Bill Cosby in the TV Hall of Fame. All civilizations have fallen heroes, moments of panic, times when they forget their values and betray their aspirations. Of course it is painful and embarrassing to remember these things, but also essential if human ethics are going to progress instead of stagnating, or even going backwards. We associate the elimination of cultural memories with totalitarian regimes, and for good reason, for they are blatant and shameless about it.

No nation is immune from the process’s appeal, however. When I was going to grade school and studying the Presidents of the United States, Jackson and Woodrow Wilson were routinely hailed by (mostly Democratic) historians as among the greatest of the great. The first Jackson biography I read barely mentioned the Trail of Tears. I read four well-regarded biographies of Wilson that ignored his support for Jim Crow, and the degree to which he deliberated reversed advances in civil rights, being an unapologetic white supremacist. The influenza epidemic that killed millions was excised from my school’s history books. Thomas Jefferson’s concubine, Sally Hemmings? Who? Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Around the World, Education, History, Race

Ethics Dunce: President Trump

 

The White House announced this week that President Trump called Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan  to congratulate him on winning a sinister referendum that will lock-in his autocratic rule over the country and further erode Turkey’s democratic institutions, which are already on life-support, or maybe not even that. It is reported that 140,000 Turkish citizens have had their passports canceled. More than 100,000 people are at risk of imprisonment or worse  for being suspected of complicity in the recent the attempted coup: so far  71,000 of these have been detained, and 41,000 have been arrested.  Six thousand academics have lost their jobs, 4,000 judges and prosecutors, 24,000 policemen and security personnel, and 200 governors and their staff members. Seven thousand military personnel have been relieved of their posts. Fifteen universities, 1,000 schools, 28 TV channels, 66 newspapers, 19 magazines, 36 radio stations, 26 publishing houses and five news agencies have been shut down.

Erdogen has also imprisoned moderate Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas on the charge of inciting violence with his criticisms of the regime, and thousands of members of Demirtas’s political party, H.D.P., have been detained or arrested.

Our President’s irresponsible official response, if indeed he is aware of these developments  (it is all a mouse click or briefing paper away) was, in essence, “Hell of a job, Ergie!” Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Syrian Refugee Kassem Eid

If only more guests of the President Trump-Resistance enabling broadcast news media would expose the disgraceful journalistic bias like Kassem Eid, a victim of an earlier chemical weapons attack by Assad, now living in Germany.

Asked by CNN/s Brooke Baldwin about his reaction to the US missile response to Assad’s use of  Sarin against Syrian civilians., Kassem said he cried with joy.  “I thanked God…I was overwhelmed,” he said.

Then Baldwin noted, “At the same time, [President Trump] doesn’t want Syrians to come into this country with this refugee ban.”

(so please tell us why you hate him as much as we do, even though this interview is supposedly about yesterday’s news, the missile attack, and not the travel restrictions…)

To help feed the refugees expected anger and outrage, Baldwin then showed a clip of Hillary Clinton condemning the temporary travel ban,  in which she said,  “We cannot speak of protecting Syria’s babies, and in the next breath close America’s doors to them.”

“Quickly Kassem, how do you see that?” Baldwin fished…(and please, spare no emotion in showing your anger and outrage toward our racist, xenophobic and illegitimate President….)

Kassem responded…

“With all due respect, with all due respect,I didn’t see each and every person who was demonstrating after the travel ban… I didn’t see you three days ago when people were gassed to death…I didn’t see you in 2013 when 1,400 people were gassed to death. I didn’t see you raising your voice against President Obama’s inaction in Syria that left us refugees. If you really care about refugees, if you really care about helping us, please — help us stay here in our country. We don’t want to come to the United States. We want to stay in our country. We want to stay in our country. With all due respect, this is hypocrisy. If you really care, if you really care…help us stay in our country. We don’t want to become refugees. We want to stay in our country. Help us establish safe zones…Help us stay safe in our country. And if you’ll just give me a few seconds just to tell President Trump, once again. Please sir, what you did was amazing. What you did was a powerful message of hope for a lot of people inside and outside of Syria. Please don’t stop on this. Please. Help Syrians stay in their country! Please take out Assad’s air forces so they won’t be able to commit more atrocities using traditional weapons. 500,000 people were killed with traditional weapons — just so people can know what we’ve suffered in the past six years.”

Perfect.

Brooke looked like she had eaten a bug.

Good.

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: President Barack Obama

Yesterday’s U.S.  missile attack on Syria prompted by Assad’s use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians clarifies just how inept and feckless President Obama’s handling of foreign policy was.

In an article today in the reliably progressive and Democratic Party-boosting The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg writes,

“President Obama’s foreign policy doctrine, like many foreign policy doctrines, was contradictory at times, and it sometimes lacked coherence.”

1. At times?

2. Sometimes lacked coherence?

3. Notice the obligatory “like many foreign policy doctrines” to cushion the blow. Journalists are in permanent denial over just how epically awful the first black President’s administration was.

Goldberg eventually gets around to Obama’s “decision, in 2013, to go back on his promise to punish the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons on civilians. Early in the Syrian civil war, Obama publicly drew a red line concerning Assad’s behavior, but later decided to forgo military strikes, even after being presented with near-definitive proof that Assad had crossed the red line in grotesque fashion. “  This inadequate description intentionally leaves out the dispiriting details of that fiasco. Here is what Obama said in August of 2013 when the first “red line” appeared:

“We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people. We have been very clear to the Assad regime — but also to other players on the ground — that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus; that would change my equation….We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region that that’s a red line for us and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons.” 

Ethics Alarms:

Now, lawyers and grammarians may argue over what “a red line” means, what constitutes “use” and “a whole bunch,” and what the President considers “enormous consequences.” None of that matters. What matters is what the statement was understood to mean around the world, and it was widely understood to mean this: If chemical weapons are used against the Syrian people by Assad, the United States will act decisively. Last week, reliable evidence indicated that indeed chemical weapons had been used, and that the “red line” had been crossed.

Obama’s response? Double-talk, backtracking and word-parsing:

  • The President to reporters Friday with Jordan’s King Abdullah in the Oval Office:  “What we have right now is an intelligence assessment. And as I said, knowing that potentially chemical weapons have been used inside of Syria doesn’t tell us when they were used, how they were used. Obtaining confirmation and strong evidence, all of those things we have to make sure that we work on with the international community. And we ourselves are going to be putting a lot of resources into focusing on this. And I think that, in many ways, a line has been crossed when we see tens of thousands of innocent people being killed by a regime. But the use of chemical weapons and the dangers that poses to the international community, to neighbors of Syria, the potential for chemical weapons to get into the hands of terrorists — all of those things add increased urgency to what is already a significant security problem and humanitarian problem in the region. So we’re going to be working with countries like Jordan to try to obtain more direct evidence and confirmation of this potential use. In the meantime, I’ve been very clear publicly, but also privately, that for the Syrian government to utilize chemical weapons on its people crosses a line that will change my calculus and how the United States approaches these issues. So this is not an on or off switch.”
  • A White House official to reporters Thursday: “I think what the Assad regime needs to know is that we are watching this incredibly closely. Were he to undertake any additional use [of chemical weapons], he would be doing so under very careful monitoring from us and the international community. There should be no mistaking our determination not just to get to the bottom of these reports, but to send a message … that Bashar al-Assad and his regime will be held accountable for these types of actions. We’re going to be methodical, rigorous and relentless … so we can establish exactly what happened…all options are on the table in terms of our response…If we reach a definitive determination that the red line has been crossed … what we will be doing is consulting closely with out friends and allies … to determine what the best course of action is.”

So those “enormous consequences ” of the “red line” being crossed is that the United States will start consulting with friends and allies?

Well, yes, in a word. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, War and the Military

“Ghost In The Shell” And “Whitewashing”

Once again, a Hollywood film has political correctness furies attacking its casting. This time, it’s the sci-fi “Ghost in the Shell,” starring Scarlett Johansson.

The sad fact is, movie makers can’t win. If a black actor isn’t cast to play a white character in the source material, Hollywood is engaging in bias by eschewing “non-traditional casting,” which is necessary to remedy de facto segregation and prejudice in movies. If Charlton Heston is cast as a Mexican, as in “Touch of Evil,” it’s “whitewashing”—prejudicial and racist casting of whites to play non-whites. Of course, when Morgan Freeman, an African American, is cast to play a dark skinned Semitic character in “Ben Hur,” nobody calls that “blackwashing,” for there is no such thing as blackwashing. Casting Denzel Washington as a white character from “The Pelican Brief”: great! Who doesn’t like Denzel? Casting Denzel as the white hero of “The Magnificent Seven” in the remake, when the white hero was non-traditionally cast with the sort-of Eurasian Yul Brenner in the original, was also great, because—who doesn’t like Denzel?  Casting  Andy Garcia, a Cuban-American, as member of the Italian Corleone family in “Godfather III” was also fine and dandy, but not the casting of sort-of Eurasion Brenner as the King of Siam in “The King and I,” (even though he won the Tony and the Academy Award for an iconic performance)—, especially with all those great Thai musical comedy stars available. So that was–what, “sort-of-whitewashing”?

All right: how about a musical conceived with the novel conceit of having the Founding Fathers played by young black and Hispanic performers? Is that non-traditional casting? Minority-washing? Is it racist to stay with the original (brilliant) concept and tell white actors they can’t audition to be Hamilton, Jefferson, and Aaron Burr? Of course it’s not racist. After all, those actors are white. Screw ’em.

Are you seeing a theme here? Neither am I. What matters in casting a play, film or writing an adaptation is whether the final result works: How well do the actors play their roles? Is it entertaining? Does it make money?

Now the casting of  Johansson as an originally Japanese character in a Japanese manga comic and animated film is being attacked as racist. Whitewashing, you know. No, in fact the words applicable here are “adaptations,” “movies,” “cultural cross-pollination” and “commerce.”  In this case, not always, but in this case, the accusation of “whitewashing” is pure race-baiting.

More than forty years ago, the real life German prison camp escape engineered by captured WWII British fliers was made into the film “The Great Escape.” Brits were annoyed as production got underway, however, by the presence of heroic American prisoners in the cast, the characters played by U.S. stars James Garner and Steve McQueen. This was, British critics and veterans said, an outrage: Americans had nothing to do with the real escape. The answer by the producers contained three segments:

1. We own the film rights, and can do whatever we think will make the best movie.

2. The film is fictionalized, and makes no representations to the contrary.

3. Garner and McQueen will ensure that the film makes a profit in the U.S, plus they are both great and entertaining young stars.

Good justifications all. “The Great Escape,” as we now know,  is a classic, still honored the real event, and made lots of money. Somehow, British self-esteem recovered.

The Brits also didn’t complain when Japan’s great film auteur director, Akira Kurasawa, made an all-Japanese cast adaptation of “King Lear,” which is about a Celtic king. Wasn’t this–what, “yellow-washing”? Don’t be silly: all good stories can be told in myriad ways, in many cultural contexts. “Ghost in the Shell” is a science fiction fantasy. It is not about real people, and the characters were  Japanese because the author and intended audience were Japanese—you know, like the original “King Lear” was in Elizabethan English.

“Ghost in the Shell” director Rupert Sanders cast Johansson as the cyborg assassin named Motoko Kusanagi in the original and renamed the character “Mira Killian.” It is the “Who doesn’t like Denzel?” non-traditional casting principle, except the even more understandable “Who doesn’t like Scarlet, especially when she looks naked for much of the movie?” variation. The perambulations of critics trying to find something racist about the most obvious box office casting choice imaginable border on hilarious. At some point, actress Johansson decided it was more lucrative and fun being the next female action movie star than starring in solemn costume drama bombs like “The Girl With The Pearl Earring” and “The Other Boleyn Girl.” Since then, she has been rising as a bankable star in blockbusters like “The Avenger” films and “Lucy.” Quick: name another hot (I mean, of course, popular and bankable) female action star?

I’m waiting…

Writes Matt Golberg in a laugh riot called “Ghost in the Shell is Racist In Surprising Ways””  (another whitewashing screed, equally lame, is here): Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Literature, Popular Culture

The Equal Voices Apology To LGBT Individuals

Equal Voices is a movement of Australian Christians, focusing specifically on the relationship between Christians and  “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) realities and experience,” calling itself “a non-judgmental, non-denominational, ecumenical body…who seek to work for reconciliation and to equip LGBTIQ+ people and their friends and advocates to bring into being a truly inclusive and welcoming Australian church.”

This is the apology it has issued on its website and invited members to sign. It is a Level #1 apology*, but but more than that, a sensitive  and thoughtful starting point for reconsideration of the ethical issues involved. Here it is…

An apology to my LGBTIQ+ friends, and to all who have been adversely affected by the teachings and behaviour of Christians and their churches

Considering the ways in which you have been hurt by me, and by other Christians and churches, I ask for your forgiveness:

  1. For being too slow to acknowledge that we need to say sorry to you;
  2. For not speaking up against the damaging, isolating, and often violent mistreatment you have been subjected to;
  3. For speaking about you, without first listening to you;
  4. For not creating safe environments within our churches where people can speak openly and honestly about their struggles and understandings;
  5. For perpetuating stereotypes, and for not taking full account of your actual lived experiences;
  6. For talking to you or about you in such a way as to suggest that sexual and gender differences are not part of your true identity as humans made in the image of God;
  7. For perpetuating the mistaken belief that sexual orientation and gender identity should be treated, healed or changed;
  8. For rejecting and harming people with intersex variations because we fail to understand or accept your non-binary biological sex characteristics;
  9. For not acknowledging that Christians who are seeking to be faithful to their Lord and to the Scriptures are coming to different conclusions on matters of gender, sexual orientation, non-binary biological sex, and marriage.

I commit myself to:

1. Honour and support you in every way I can;

2. Be open to your correction and gentle guidance;

3. Act in love to hold others to account for words, behaviour or practices which hurt, harm or exclude;

4. Promote respectful, inclusive and informed discussion about issues of Biblical interpretation and application;

5. Work with you to bring about transformative change within our churches.

Well done.

* 1. An apology motivated by the realization that one’s past conduct was unjust, unfair, and wrong, constituting an unequivocal admission of wrongdoing as well as regret, remorse and contrition, as part of a sincere effort to make amends and seek forgiveness.

__________________________

Pointer: Fred

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Filed under Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Religion and Philosophy

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA)

Usually the “Incompetent Elected Official” category comes down to some variety of a conclusion that can be summed up by the sturdy phrase, “What an idiot.”  This one is worse than that.

Representative Devin Nunes is chairman of the House committee investigating Russian interference in the Presidential election. This involves intelligence, investigations and secrets that are necessarily a matter of discretion until a final report can be released. No investigation can proceed in a trustworthy manner if every new shred of information becomes public, or worse, is revealed to parties who have a stake in the investigation. This has been understood by members of Congress since, oh, the first Congressional inquiry. The Constitution’s framers assumed that Congress would conduct investigations, just as as the British House of Commons did. James Wilson of Pennsylvania, Convention delegate, a future Supreme Court Justice and the Declaration of Independence signer that “1776” unjustly smears as a weenie , wrote in 1774 that House of Commons members were considered

“grand inquisitors of the realm. The proudest ministers of the proudest monarchs have trembled at their censures; and have appeared at the bar of the house, to give an account of their conduct, and ask pardon for their faults.”

During the First Congress in 1790, Robert Morris, who was the superintendent of finances during the Continental Congress and a financier of the American Revolution, asked Congress to investigate his handling of the country’s finances to clear his name of claimed improprieties. If Nunes doesn’t know the history of the legislative function he is involved in, he should.

Nunes had received intelligence that related to the President’s disputed claim that “he” (meaning who and what, it is unclear) had been wiretapped (meaning surveiled, presumably) by  “Obama” (meaning someone who reports to Obama, I’m guessing), and chose to bypass his committee members, Democrats, protocol and common sense by relaying it directly to the White House. The new information,  Nunes said, showed that American intelligence agencies monitoring foreign officials may have “incidentally” picked up communications from Trump transition team members, and thus the President’s much maligned accusation was kind-of, sort-of, bolstered.

Predictably, the President followed this good news with a tweet. Ugh.

Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Incompetent Elected Officials