Tag Archives: American exceptionalism

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Ken White of Popehat

“A few hysterically censorious kids screaming for a professor’s termination for crimethink do not threaten the foundations of free speech, but Yale lauding them does. Relatively few thugs disrupting a speech and even physically assaulting a professor don’t call into question the culture’s support for free speech, but Middlebury offering weak slaps on the wrist and shrugs for that violent behavior does. A violent mob in Berkeley does not undermine the legitimacy of free speech doctrine — a mob is a mob — but Berkeley’s timorousness or indifference in the face of violent censorship does. Students furious at a professor disagreeing with them don’t call into question the nation’s commitment to freedom, but state officials refusing to guarantee a professor’s safety do. In short: the regrettable behavior of officials who have failed to stand up to disruption of speech are the people most responsible for legitimizing further disruptions of speech, whoever commits them.”

——Lawyer/blogger/ free speech champion Ken White, writing about efforts on both the Left and the Right to interfere with or punish speech and opinions they don’t approve of.

Well and truly said, Ken.

Ken continues,

“But we can, and should, do better. Commitment to free speech as an American value — as an element of American exceptionalism — has always required tolerating evil and injustice and idiocy. We don’t refrain from disrupting speech because the speakers deserve it, or because we’ve been treated fairly by the speakers or their allies. We refrain from disruption — and ought to punish those who disrupt — because free speech is the necessary prerequisite of a society based on individual rights and freedoms. It’s the right that’s the gateway to all other rights. Shrugging and abandoning it as a value is an abandonment of our commitment to all rights.”

Why is this so hard to teach in colleges? Perhaps because the faculties and administrators prefer that their students never learn it.

13 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Professions, Rights, U.S. Society

France And Ireland Remind Us Of Two More Reasons To Be Proud And Grateful To Be An American…

News Item:

France sought to keep a computer hack of frontrunner Emmanuel Macron’s campaign emails from influencing the outcome of the presidential election, with the electoral commission warning on Saturday that it may be a criminal offence to republish the data. Macron’s team said a “massive” hack had dumped emails, documents and campaign financing information online just before campaigning ended on Friday and France entered a quiet period, effectively forbidding politicians from commenting on the leak.

Polls have been predicting that Macron, a former investment banker and economy minister, is on course for a comfortable win over far-right leader Marine Le Pen in Sunday’s election, with the last surveys showing his lead widening to around 62 percent to 38.

…The election commission, which supervises the electoral process, warned social and traditional media not to publish the hacked emails lest they influence the vote outcome…

“On the eve of the most important election for our institutions, the commission calls on everyone present on internet sites and social networks, primarily the media, but also all citizens, to show responsibility and not to pass on this content, so as not to distort the sincerity of the ballot,” the commission said in a statement on Saturday.

“The commission stresses that publication or republication of these data…could be a criminal offence,” it said.

That’s right: withholding information from the voters because they can’t be trusted to be fair and discerning about what is relevant to their vote and what isn’t is to preserve “the sincerity of the ballot.” This is how they reason in countries without guaranteed freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. Florian Philippot, deputy leader of Le Pen’s National Front party, tweeted “Will Macronleaks teach us something that investigative journalism has deliberately kept silent?” Good question. Continue reading

23 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Rights, U.S. Society

Ethical Quote Of The Day: Columnist Richard Cohen

Richard Cohen

“Trump could win. He could become president, commander in chief, ruler of the Justice Department and head of the IRS. In other words, the American people could elect someone who has not the slightest appreciation for the Constitution or American tradition. When Trump insisted that he could compel a military officer to obey an illegal order, I heard the echo of jackboots on cobblestone…. It does no good to argue that Trump is just doing a shtick, that he means little of what he says, that he is all swagger and bluff. Trouble is, his supporters do not see him that way. They take him at his word.

History nags. It admonishes. “American exceptionalism” is a phrase that refers to the past, not necessarily the future. Nothing is guaranteed. I’d like to think that Americans really are exceptional, that we have an exceptional faith in democracy and the rule of law. I now have some doubt. I always knew who Trump was. It’s the American people who have come as a surprise.”

—— Eccentric liberal  political columnist Richard Cohen in his essay, “Trump has taught me to fear my fellow Americans”

Richard Cohen is an odd duck in the world of liberal punditry. He is often emotional rather than rational; he wears his biases on his sleeve, and his ethical quirks are legion: for example, he is an infamous apologist for sexual harassment, and therefore Bill Clinton. He is not unperceptive, however, and I feel obligated to recognize him for one of the few times I have been in total agreement with his analysis.

I may have to start a new category called “Ethical Quotes About Donald Trump.” I promise if I ever encounter an ethical that is positive about The Donald’s divisive and dangerous candidacy, you’ll be among the first to learn about it. My assumption is that never the twain shall meet.

20 Comments

Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, U.S. Society

The Cost Of Rationalizations

Employee Theft

According to The Global Retail Theft Barometer released this month by Checkpoint Systems,  employees in the U.S. steal from their employers at significantly higher rates than workers in other countries. The direct cost to businesses, as you can see in the diagram above: a staggering 16.6 billion dollars.

Most of this is taken in incremental amounts, by people who would be shocked if you questioned their character. Why is this number is so high? As far as comparing to other countries are concerned, it’s the same factor that anti-gun zealots refuse to acknowledge, and that Bernie Sanders can’t seem to grasp. Our country is not like other countries; we guarantee our citizens more freedom, for one thing, and freedom unavoidably means more freedom to do bad things as well as good.  Our national character is not like other countries. Americans are not like other people.

Good. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Government & Politics, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society, Workplace

Ethics Dunces: The 21 Republicans Who Voted Against The Torture Ban

torture

As I explained long ago, torture is already a human rights abomination forbidden by U.S. principles, values, tradition and culture. That does not mean, and has never meant, that the nation’s official and sincere opposition to torture as an ethical absolute must not be subject to a genuine existential exception.  It does mean that an official policy that allows torture degrades the very reason for the nation’s existence.

This vital reason doesn’t even reach the fact that the United States has signed international treaties that state, unequivocally, that it deplores and rejects torture. That one is less complex; as I wrote about the Bush Administration’s doubletalk at the time…

Typically, the Administration is trying to finesse this uncomfortable fact by playing legalistic word games, requesting a “clarification” of what constitutes torture. This is intellectually dishonest, and blatantly so. The methods it wants to define as “something other than torture”…threatened drowning, cold room interrogations with subjects doused with water, beatings and other forms of assault and battery, obviously violate provisions of the Geneva Convention such as those requiring prisoners of war to be treated with “personal dignity” and “humanely,” and that they should not be subjected to “hardships and sufferings.” Meanwhile, torture is defined in Article 1 of the 1984 Convention as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession.” Simulated drowning, by this definition, is torture, and passing some official “clarification” that declares otherwise won’t change that. Depriving prisoners of sleep and making them stand wet in 50 degree temperatures aren’t going to suddenly become “humane” either, nor will such treatment suddenly cease to cause “hardship” and “suffering.”

The United States exists on the ideal that it, unique among nations past and present, asserts and acts upon its original dedication to the values of human life, liberty and pursuit of happiness above all else. The United States’ identity is that of the Good Citizen, the hero, the trustworthy one. Of course that’s a high aspiration; of course we will fall short of it sometimes, of course such an aspiration appears arrogant and superior to others, and so what? Continue reading

15 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Scoreboard classics, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, U.S. Society, War and the Military

Comment of the Day: “Memorial Day Values And Ethics”

arlington-cemetery-lgPatrice, the author of this two-part Comment of the Day, is a long-time and much cherished friend. She is a strong and thoughtful liberal, but her knees never jerk; she is a Catholic theologian, but honest and realistic about the problems in that Church and others. She’s smart, tough, learned and funny, and I am always honored to have her insight presented here.

Here is her Comment of the Day on the post, Memorial Day Values And Ethics*:
Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Government & Politics, U.S. Society, War and the Military

Memorial Day Values And Ethics

arlington-cemetery-address

Many events, stories and trends have collided in the run-up to Memorial Day 2015, which itself illuminates a common theme, and, perhaps, emerging wisdom.

In recent weeks we have seen:

1. The terrorist scourge of ISIS, as many predicted, continuing to expand its power and destructive mission while the U.S. resists actively engaging it.

2. Through the prism of the British elections, the realization that our traditional ally and the nation closest to the U.S. in values, culture and commitment to democratic ideals, has surrendered its role as a world power, with its armed forces soon to be at a diminished level last reached in the 18th Century.

3. The growing national distrust and rejection of local police forces.

4. A resurgence of the debate over the Iraq war, with its related issue of the Obama administration’s premature and disastrous withdrawal of troops from that theater,

5. Reports that the United States is no longer regarded abroad as reliable as an ally and

6. The first credible evidence of an ISIS-related attack in the U.S.

And it’s Memorial Day, which is set aside to honor the Americans who died in foreign wars, and who did so under the impression that they were protecting and strengthening our nation’s values and ideals. Obviously, a large segment of the population, and virtually an entire political party, no longer shares those ideals, nor do they honor the sacrifice this holiday was created to recognize and validate. Hence this, from the Democratic Party’s twitter feed…

The Democrats ‏@TheDemocrats May 23 Memorial Day Weekend SALE. Save 15% when you enter MEMORIALDAY15 at The Democrats ✔ @TheDemocrats Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone!

The Democrats ‏@TheDemocrats May 23
Memorial Day Weekend SALE. Save 15% when you enter MEMORIALDAY15 at The Democrats

@TheDemocrats
Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone!

What’s going on here?

The ethics issues are policing, values, responsibility, and, yes, American exceptionalism.

It has become a cliché to say that the U.S. can’t be the world’s policeman, and the Obama foreign policy is entirely based on that assertion….except that the assertion is now that we won’t be the world’s policeman, so we will make certain that we can’t. In that assertion by Obama, which I would term essentially un-American as well as unwise and unethical, is a rejection of the national ideals that formed the basis for the U.S.’s participation in World War II, the Marshall Plan, the Korean War, and the Cold War, among others. The problem with the assertion is that it ignores salient and irrefutable facts:

  • The world needs a policeman, and is a chaotic and dangerous place without it.
  • In the absence of a policeman, the brutal, Machiavellian, and genocidal and despotic run amuck.
  • The United Nations, created with the world’s consensus that a police force was necessary, is now structured to prevent it from filling that role.
  • Somebody needs to fill that role, and the role must be filled by a nation that is obligated by its values not to seek to abuse its power to impose its will on others for its own enrichment and benefit.
  • The United States, as the only nation formed with the mission of recognizing and upholding basic human rights, remains the only nation qualified to fill that role.

In short, it’s a lousy, dirty, thankless job, but someone has to do it, and there is nobody else that the world, or we, can or should trust to do it  Continue reading

69 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Character, Citizenship, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, Rights, U.S. Society, War and the Military