The Facile Fad Rationalization “We Are Better Than This,” The Democratic Candidates, And The DHS Deportations

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I am trying to decide whether “We are better than this,” the suddenly resurgent short-cut around actual reason and analysis, deserves to be added to the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations List.  What do you think?

All of the other sixty have broad, everyday applications, while this one is usually restricted to matters of public policy, which is why I hesitate to include it. On the other hand, it is a particularly insidious rationalization, and cynical too. It attempts to win policy debates by implicitly accusing any opposition of being beneath the advocate on the moral and ethical scales, while never actually offering a reason why the advocate’s position is superior and wiser.

The statement is also especially objectionable when it issues from partisans who normally deny the fact of American exceptionalism. They can’t have it both ways: either the United States is unique in its values, aspirations and accomplishments, and thus is “too good” to engage in certain policies that others nations don’t shrink from at all, or it isn’t. Choose your construct, hypocrites! When the acolytes of Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky and other habitual villifiers of our history, motives and culture—such acolytes encompassing a large chuck of the progressive community—say “We are better than this,” they should be laughed at, in the face, hard. Better than the genocide-mongering, racist, sexist, greedy, exploitative, arrogant colonial power that has impoverished the world? HA! Cannibalism isn’t better than the country you think we are. According to you, we’re not better than anyone or any thing.

There are policies that there is every reason to say the United States is better than. Prime among them is engaging in torture, which not only violates international treaties that we led the way to establishing, but also because it violates our founding principles. There are, in short, tangible and substantive reasons why the United States is “better” than the nations who torture our soldiers, and they can be articulated without resorting to bumper stickers.

When “We are better than this” is followed by “because..’ and more substantive points, I have no objection to it, although “we should be better than this” is fairer. It can begin an analysis, but is not an analysis itself. However, when it is used as a substitute for analysis, it is pure rationalization.

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley started spouting versions of the Facile Fad Rationalization upon the release of  new report that the US Department of Homeland Security plans to raid and deport hundreds of families who illegally entered the U.S. through the southern border.  Note, please, that what is being proposed is called “enforcing the law.” Democrats and progressives have somehow managed to get away with arguing that while the United States “of course” should control its own borders, it is somehow inhuman, cruel and wrong to take action against foreign citizens who intentionally violate those laws that are intended to exact such control.

This is irresponsible, I dare say insane, but with the assistance of the news media and the collusion of business interests that love having fearful, low-wage workers they can exploit to keep costs down, the insanity is routinely extolled as compassion.  Adults who continued their illegal status in the U.S. long after discovering it and having ample opportunity to abide by the law (and leave) have been anointed with the lovely euphemism, “Dreamers.” (The definition of “Dreamers” is “illegal immigrants from childhood who have continued to defy the law, lie and pose as citizens due to a self-serving belief that they have a right to be here, when they don’t.”) Beautiful Dreamers! Continue reading

TSA’s Incompetence: Combining David Brooks’ Scandal-Free Fantasy With United’s Anti-Soda Can Policy For Muslem Passengers

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Now we have this:

Washington (CNN)Airport screeners failed to detect explosives and weapons in nearly every test that an undercover Homeland Security team conducted at dozens of airports, according to an internal investigation.

The Transportation Security Administration found that “red teams” with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General were able to get banned items through the screening process in 67 out of 70 tests — 95% — it conducted across the nation.

In other words, since those deadly Islamic terrorists can easily smuggle explosives and weapons on board United flights (or any others), it’s really silly to rob them of the pleasure of sipping a Diet Coke from a freshly opened can as they wait to send everyone to Allah.

In more words, all of the hundreds of thousands of hours, pointless inconvenience and hassle, emptying of pockets, taking off of shoes and belts, moving laptops in and out of bags, showing IDs and boarding passes, as well as the occasional intrusive and unpleasant feel-up pat-downs by strangers wearing rubber gloves that have been inflicted on air passengers (like me) have been stupid, useless, and as effective at keeping airplanes safe as being checked by a blind marmoset with a divining rod.

Of course, David Brooks wouldn’t call the TSA’s gross failure an example of inexcusable incompetence, lack of oversight and breach of trust a scandal either, because it doesn’t involve sex (well, at least in most of the patdowns)  or criminal acts, and is the responsibility of Barack Obama, whose administration is amazingly scandal-free, so this can’t be a scandal by definition.

I beg to differ. The stunning incompetence and lack of competent management, accountability (watch: nobody will be fired for this) or oversight exemplified by this latest fiasco is an ongoing scandal of the worst kind, one of many, or, if you prefer, just the single, devastating, huge, two-term scandal that is the Barack Obama presidency, the most arrogant and incompetent administration in U.S. history.

Comment of the Day: “Roshomon, Good Citizenship And Ethics: The Case Of The Concerned Stranger And The Indignant Father”

Poster - RashomonJeff Gates, the father, photographer and writer whose essay in the Washington Post prompted my post here and a lively discussion thereafter, has been kind enough to contribute additional thoughts and clarifications in response. This is one of the really good things about the internet, and his willingness to enhance the discussion with additional perspective reveals good things about Jeff as well. His original article is here.

At the outset, I want to clarify something about my post that I kept intending to do but obviously did not, at least not well. The fact that the man who was suspicious of his photo-session with his daughter said later that he worked for Homeland Security didn’t figure into my analysis at all, and still doesn’t. I am concerned with the original encounter, and the question of whether this was excessive Big Brotherism clouds the issue, which I see, and saw as this: we should applaud and encourage proactive fellow citizens who have the courage and the concern to step into developing situation that they believe might involve one individual harming another.  As the man needed no special authority to do that, I don’t care whether he was a federal agent or not; I thought it was pretty clear that this was not official action. Indeed, I think as official action, the man’s intervention was ham-handed and unprofessional.

Here is Jeff Gates’ Comment of the Day, on the post, “Roshomon, Good Citizenship And Ethics: The Case Of The Concerned Stranger And The Indignant Father.” Continue reading

Roshomon, Good Citizenship And Ethics: The Case Of The Concerned Stranger And The Indignant Father

“O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!”

—Robert Burns bystander-effectJeff Gates, a writer and adoptive father, contributed a thought-provoking column in the Washington Post’s Outlook section this weekend, describing what seemed to him to be a traumatic experience at Cape May. It begins…

“After my family arrives on the Cape May ferry for our annual vacation to the Jersey Shore, I take pictures of our two daughters on the ferry’s deck as we leave the harbor. I’ve been doing this since they were 3 and 4 years old. They are now 16 and 17. Each photo chronicles one year in the life of our family and our daughters’ growth into the beautiful young women they have become….On that first day of vacation, the sea was calm and the sky a brilliant blue. As I focused on the image in my camera’s viewfinder, the girls stood in their usual spot against the railing at the back of the boat. I was looking for just the right pose…Totally engaged with the scene in front of me, I jumped when a man came up beside me and said to my daughters: “I would be remiss if I didn’t ask if you were okay.”

He goes on:

“It took me a moment to figure out what he meant, but then it hit me: He thought I might be exploiting the girls, taking questionable photos for one of those “Exotic Beauties Want to Meet You!” Web sites or something just as unseemly. When I explained to my daughters what he was talking about, they were understandably confused. I told the man I was their father. He quickly apologized and turned away. But that perfect moment was ruined, and our annual photo shoot was over.”

Many of us might laugh off the experience as a funny anecdote, but not Gates, and not his daughters. He is Caucasian and they are both of Chinese heritage, having been adopted as infants in China by Gates and his wife. He obsessed about the incident for a while, and worked up sufficient indignation to track down the man and confront him, saying “Excuse me, sir, but you just embarrassed me in front of my children and strangers. And what you said was racist.” Continue reading

Wait…WHAT? Something Is Missing From This Ethics Story….

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From the Washington Post:

“Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson put the agency’s former inspector general on administrative leave late Thursday, the same day The Washington Post revealed a congressional investigation’s finding that the former watchdog had tailored reports to the liking of senior Obama administration officials. A Senate investigative report concluded that Charles K. Edwards, who served as acting inspector general at the agency from 2011 until this past December, had directed altering and delaying critical investigative reports and audits at the request of top political appointees in the department”

In that story, we learned that  Edwards, who served as acting DHS inspector general from 2011 through 2013, routinely socialized with department leaders and gave them inside information about the timing and findings of investigations.  The objective, which staff members said that Edwards was confident he had in the bag, was White House support for his position to be made permanent. A year-long bipartisan investigation also concluded that Edwards improperly consulted with top political advisers to then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and acquiesced to their suggestions about the wording and timing of his supposedly objective reports. Whistleblowers told the panel that Edwards ordered them to remove derogatory information about the Secret Service in the findings regarding the Service’s prostitution scandal, and also evidence implicating a White House staff member. Other whistleblowers alleged deletions and alterations in other reports by Edwards. Investigators told the Post they were able to confirm the improper deletions and delays in several reports, but did not reach a conclusion on the Secret Service-related allegations because the DHS, which is, as we all know, part of the most transparent administration ever. declined to provide Edwards’s e-mails about the Secret Service incident. Continue reading

Ayo Kimathi And The Freedom To Hate

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Ayo Kimathi, an African-American, is an acquisitions officer for Immigration and Customs Enforcement ( a section of the Department of Homeland Security), and has been, apparently without incident, since 2009.  He also operates and authors a web site, War on the Horizon, which predicts an “unavoidable, inevitable clash with the white race,” and explains how to prepare for it.

The latter fact is none of the government’s business, nor yours, nor mine, and certainly not that of Sarah Palin, who in her own inimitable style of making ignorance catchy and cute, exclaimed on her Facebook page, “His side ‘job’ running the ‘War On the Horizon’ website was reportedly approved by supervisors. Really, Fed? Really? Unflippingbelievable!”

No, it’s not. You can scour the government regulations and ethics requirements all you want—I have (Palin hasn’t.) There is nothing in them that prohibits a government employee in the Executive branch from espousing any political position he pleases, or that bans outside activities that do not interfere with the duties of the employee or constitute a conflict of interest. Nor should there be. As I read the rules, Kimathi had no obligation to ask permission to run his website, because his supervisor had no authority to stop him.

It is called freedom of speech, my friends.

Deal with it. Or rather, cherish it. Continue reading