Tag Archives: diplomacy

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/24/2018: ‘Can’t We All Get Along? Nah…’ Edition

Good morning!

1. What? Negotiation competence? Boy, we haven’t seen THAT for a while. President Trump just pulled out of the scheduled summit with North Korea, a public lesson in Negotiation 101. If only Barack Obama had taken the Art of the Deal seminar before capitulating to Cuba and Iran. the letter the current elected President just sent to North Korea could not be more obvious in its devices, but I guarantee you that my negotiations professor at law school, Dean Adrian Fisher, one of the negotiators of the SALT treaty, would have approved. Here’s the letter, released this morning.

This is another ethics test, by the way. Take note of who criticizes the President for this, for they  will be revealing themselves as either reflex-Trrump haters or the kind of people used car dealers love to see walking in the door.

2. “A Nation of Assholes” update. It is now beyond dispute that the concept was right but that I badly misjudged the population that I thought would be primarily affected. My theory in the 2015 essay was that that having an ethics-challenged boor like Donald Trump as President would degrade the ethical standards of the public through the “rotting fish head” process: people follow the leader. Well, that has happened too, but the worst asshole transformation has beset progressives and “the resistance.,” as their behavior gets worse by the hour. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/5/2018: “Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” Edition

Good Morning!

(I’m happy to report that my Clarence Darrow ethics program for a lawyer group yesterday in Annapolis was received wonderfully, in no small part due to actor Paul Morella’s moving and powerful recreations of Darrow’s courtroom oratory. As is often the case, attendees said that they didn’t realize a legal ethics presentation could be so interesting. If fact, there is no excuse for any kind of ethics NOT being interesting…)

1. I call this “cultural defacing.” At 10:30 last night, I watched the end of “The Princess Bride,” and was thrilled to arrive just as the final showdown between Ingo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and Count Rugen (Christopher Guest). Here is the scene, a classic one, which begins with the Count apparently fatally wounding Inigo with a dagger:

Inigo Montoya: Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

[Inigo advances on Rugen, but stumbles into the table with sudden pain. Rugen attacks, but Inigo parries and rises to his feet again]

Inigo Montoya: Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

[Rugen attacks again, Inigo parries more fiercely, gaining strength]

Inigo Montoya: Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father! Prepare to die!

Count Rugen: Stop saying that!

[Rugen attacks, twice. Inigo avoids and wounds Rugen in both shoulders. Inigo attacks, bellowing:]

Inigo Montoya: HELLO! MY NAME IS INIGO MONTOYA! YOU KILLED MY FATHER! PREPARE TO DIE!

[Inigo corners Count Rugen, knocks his sword aside, and slashes his cheek, giving him a scar just like Inigo’s]

Inigo Montoya: Offer me money.

Count Rugen: Yes!

Inigo Montoya: Power, too, promise me that.

[He slashes his other cheek]

Count Rugen: All that I have and more. Please…

Inigo Montoya: Offer me anything I ask for.

Count Rugen: Anything you want…

[Rugen knocks Inigo’s sword aside and lunges. But Inigo traps his arm and aims his sword at Rugen’s stomach]

Inigo Montoya: I want my father back, you son of a bitch!

[He runs Count Rugen through and shoves him back against the table. Rugen falls to the floor, dead]

Except “you son of a bitch” was cut!

We settled this when the TV showing of “Gone With The Wind” let Clark Gable’s iconic exit line, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” remain uncensored, and later,when John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn uttered the words, “Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!” before charging Ned Pepper and his gang. It is unfair and disrespectful to wreck the best work of writers and actors for the few remaining people on earth who take to their fainting couches when rude language meets their ears. You don’t edit Rhett, or Rooster, or Inigo, or even John McLane when he says, “Yippee ki yay, mother fucker!” Show the movie, or don’t show the movie, but don’t ruin the movie for the most easily offended in the audience. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/27/18: Everything Is Spinning Out Of Control!!!

Good MORNING, everyone!!!

(And good morning, little Louie..)

1. The state of American journalism, CNN’s Headline News quadrant: A recent poll claims that 50% of Republicans regard the news media as “enemies of the people.” Just because it is actively manipulating the news to try to topple the President of the United States? How unreasonable! No, I am beginning to believe that the 21st Century U.S. news media is really the Enemy of the Cerebral Cortex. On HLN this morning, James Comey’s disastrous interview on Fox News yesterday (among about 400 other stories of more relevance to Americans) was deemed newsworthy, but not one but two royal family stories were: the wedding dress for the American woman whose name I can’t remember who is going to marry the British prince who doesn’t matter on a date I don’t give a damn about, and, again, what the new royal great-grandchild’s name will be. The breathless reporting on these two world-altering events took over 10 out of the 40 minutes the network devotes to news rather than pharmaceutical commercials, a full 25%.

But that’s not all. HLN newsbabe Robin Meade emulated “Best in Show’s” Fred Willard’s cruelly hilarious send-up of Joe Garagiola’s embarrassingly lunk-headed turns as a “color man” at the Westminster Dog Show by asking the dumbest question, I think, I have ever heard on the air. If you haven’t seen “Best in Show” a) What’s the matter with you? and b) here are typical questions asked by Willard during the fictional dog show’s broadcast as “Buck Laughlin,” an ex-pro athlete, to his British dog expert  (“Trevor Beckwith”) co-host and others:

“Now tell me, which one of these dogs would you want to have as your wide receiver on your football team?”

“Doctor, question that’s always bothered me and a lot of people: Mayflower, combined with Philadelphia – a no-brainer, right? Cause this is where the Mayflower landed. Not so. It turns out Columbus actually set foot somewhere down in the West Indies. Little known fact.”

“Now that looks like a fast dog. Is that faster than a greyhound? If you put them in a race, who would come in first? You know if you had a little jockey on them…”

Robin, however, against all odds, topped Buck, asking the British reporter, after learning that the new total would be named, “Louis,”

“Now in American, when we hear that name we immediately think, “Louie Louie, oh no, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, baby.” Is that the way it is in England too? “

Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/11/2018: Of Slave Cheerleading, Fake Degrees, And The Death of Pebbles

Good Morning!

(That’s the Kentucky All-State Choir serenading the hotel where they were staying last night, in observation of an annual tradition. I’m sure guests were kneeling everywhere in protest….)

1 Winter Olympics Ethics: You are all going to have to help me keep up with this, since I regard the whole enterprise as corrupt and cynical. How many of the competitors are doping? How many little girls are being molested by their coaches? How much gauging by local businesses is going on? Why are American citizens marching under flags of foreign nations? How many athletes are going to exploit the opportunity for political grandstanding? I’m dedicated to following cultural ethics, but as my terse and eloquent friend is prone to say in such situations, “There is some shit I won’t eat.”

So far, I note…

  • Vice President Mike Pence is getting roundly criticized for not being properly diplomatic regarding the North Koreans, refusing to shake hands with officials, and not standing when the unified Korean team entered the stadium during opening ceremonies. I would not criticized the Veep if he had behaved otherwise, but I won’t fault Pence for his choice, which I  assume were signed off on  by the President. Cognitive dissonance—my, this has been relevant lately!—applies. North Korea is a brutal regime that savages its people, spends money on weaponry while the public is malnourished, and has devoted a year threatening to nuke us.

They and their leader have earned contempt, not respect. The degree of criticism Pence is receiving from the news media shows how many journalists viscerally prefer North Korea to the Trump Presidency.

  • On that score, the gushing of NBC, ABC and CNN over the North Korean synchronized cheerleading squad is bizarre, dumb and tasteless. The 200+ team is propaganda for totalitarianism, and the less praise it receives from useful idiots, the better.  At one point, NBC tweeted “This is so satisfying” with a video of the beaming slave squad, then quickly deleted the tweet after a faint ethics alarm sounded.

This is one of those times we should be grateful for social media, as the Twitter assassins had their knives out, and appropriately so. My favorite of the many appropriate tweets collected here,

“Look happy or your little sister gets fed to a pack of dogs.”

  • And speaking of idiots, NBC Sports had to apologize after Asian correspondent Joshua Cooper Ramo told the Opening Ceremony TV audience  that “every Korean” respected Japan. This demonstrates astounding ignorance of culture and history, and stunning incompetence by NBC in preparing its broadcasters for covering an international event in South Korea.

2. Animal Ethics: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/11/2018: “Clean-Up On Ethics Aisle 10!” Edition

Good morning…

1 “And the survey says…! The results of the polls in yesterday’s 1/10 warm-up (so far) are..

  • Chris Christie is the leader in the “most hubris” poll, with 38.53% of the vote, but its pretty close. I’m pretty sure “All of them” would be leading if I had included it.

(I voted for Steve Bannon.)

  • 50% voted that journalist interviewers should be trained to recognize and flag invalid rationalizations.

A solid second was the choice, “They couldn’t do it objectively,” at 43%

  • By a 2-1 ratio over either of the other choices, over 50% believe that Plan E, the 25th Amendment removal plot, should be thoroughly discredited but the news media won’t let it go.

2. I also worry about Bobby DarinYesterday’s lament about declining cultural literacy and how movie artists that we should remember for our society’s enlightenment, perspective and inspiration are increasingly falling into a dark memory hole is relevant to a current development on Broadway: “The Bobby Darin Story” will kick off the new “Lyrics” season from January. 20 to 22, with rising star Jonathan Groff as Darin. Bobby Darin, one of my favorite performers and an unusually versatile and eclectic one, died before he was 40 and just barely hangs on in the culture now, thanks to his classic recording of “Mack the Knife.” (Also this month, the jukebox musical about Darin, “Dream Lover,” opened in Sydney.) Everything about Darin has been unlucky, his bad fortune culminating in the weird 2004 biopic that starred Kevin Spacey as Bobby. The movie was a bomb, and Spacey’s ugly fall guarantees that the film will be seen  by future generations about as often as Annette in”Muscle Beach Party.” As the Cary Grant post noted, sometimes all it takes is a vivid reference to rescue a lost life of note.

Darin’s own lost life is itself an ethics thought experiment. He knew at a young age that he was not going to live long, because he had an irreparably damaged heart. His response was to be furiously creative and to live life at a mad and reckless pace. The new show’s director says, “He lived a gritty, driven life. He hurt people along the way and people hurt him.” Continue reading

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Reluctant And Uncertain Ethics Observations On The U.S., Israel, And United Nations Squabble

International relations is an ethical morass, and the Israel/Palestinian mess is an ethical morass inside an ethical morass. In international relations, gaffes turn out to be masterstrokes, and vice-versa, and my usual rejection of consequentialism doesn’t always fit. It is politics on steroids, and a never ending Ethics Train Wreck. Thus I approach the topic of the events that roiled the U.N. right before Christmas with trepidation. There were obviously ethical principles in play here, but beyond that, my certainty recedes like my hairline in 1976.

The background: On December 18, UN ambassador Nikki Haley vetoed an Arab-proposed Security Council resolution that rebuked President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and start the process of moving the US embassy there. All other 14 Security Council members supported the anti-American resolution, including U.S. allies Great Britain, France, and Japan. Then the UN General Assembly went on to pass a non-binding resolution disapproving of the Trump administration’s decision. Several more U.S. allies failed to vote with the U.S., including Canada and Australia, which abstained.  Before the general assembly vote, Haley announced the US was “taking names” of those voting against the US. and afterward, the U.S. held a party where the only countries invited were Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, and Togo, all of which voted with the U.S.

Finally, Haley announced that the U.S. had negotiated quarter billion dollar cut to the UN’s annual budget, saying  “We will no longer let the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of or remain unchecked.”

1 Was it responsible for the U.S. to condemn the actions of the nations, including its allies, that voted for the resolution in the Security Council and the the General Assembly?

The U.S. should be strong rather than weak, and must stand up for core principles. It is beyond argument that much of the hostility to the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem was based on anti-Israel bigotry, which flourishes in many of the nations that voted against Israel and the U.s., notably France. The Obama policy was to generally allow the U.N. to direct the U.S., with Obama “leading from behind,” an oxymoron that was a euphemism for “not leading at all.” Many of the nations opposing the U.S. are Arab nations, Muslim nations, and nations who are worried about unrest in their large Muslim populations.

The assertion of a false moral equivalency between Israel and the Palestinians among a majority of the world (and a lot of Democrats) should not be enabled. The Palestinians still officially refuse to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. British UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, for example, said that “The status of Jerusalem should be determined through a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians} and that that Jerusalem must “ultimately be the shared capital” of Palestine and Israel. Yes, that will work well, with the Palestinians still refusing to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.

The status of Jerusalem, like the status of Palestine, is what is technically known as “all messed up.” In 1949, Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, proclaimed Jerusalem as Israel’s “eternal” and “sacred” capital, saying that only hostilities against Israel  had “compelled” its  leadership to establish the seat of Government in Tel Aviv.  “For the State of Israel, he said, “there has always been and always will be one capital only – Jerusalem the Eternal. In 1950 all branches of the Israeli government—legislative, judicial, and executive—were moved to Jerusalem, except that the Ministry of Defense, stayed in Tel Aviv. At the time of Ben Gurion’s proclamations Jerusalem was divided between Israel and Jordan and thus only West Jerusalem was proclaimed Israel’s capital. Then, in 1980, Israel passed the  Jerusalem Law, which declared Jerusalem the “complete and united” capital of Israel. In response, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 478 that same year, declaring  the law  “a violation of international law.”  “null and void” and that it “must be rescinded forthwith.” Member states were told to withdraw their diplomatic representation from Jerusalem, and 22 of the 24 countries that previously had their embassy there moved back to Tel Aviv.  In 1995, under President Clinton, the United States Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which required, subject to conditions, that its embassy be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Whether the U.S. tactics will work out well or not is a matter of conjecture, and impossible to know. Are they ethical? Sure they are, compared to the alternative.

2. Was Haley’s Trumpian, tit-for-tat, we take this personally and you’ll regret it rhetoric responsible and ethical? Continue reading

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Your Boss Asks If You Have Prayed About A Work-Related Matter…What Is The Ethical Response?

This question was asked of the New York Times’ “Workologist” (It’s stuff like this that keeps me subscribed despite the paper’s disgraceful partisan bias and unocnscionable manipulation of the news):

I recently had a manager ask me if I have “prayed about” a particular situation at the office… this statement crossed a personal line with me. I am very private about my religious life. Do you have any recommendations on how I could handle this?

The question immediately reminded me of “Breach,” the film about the capture of spy Robert Hannsen (Chris Cooper), who was always urging his clerk (actually the undercover FBO agent recruited to unmask him) to pray. The “Workologist” (Rob Walker) begins by pointing out the obvious: a boss can’t demand that you pray, or fire you for refusing to. Then he adds,

Your manager can’t discriminate against you on the basis of religion, but your company can’t discriminate against him, either — by, say, forbidding him to ever mention prayer. In general, companies are supposed to make an effort to accommodate the religious practices of employees, although this can be weighed against the potential burden on the employer…Faith-related workplace conflicts and litigation have become more common in recent years. So it might be better to think about this incident in the broader context of personal expression and identity…

your best move is to make your own boundaries clear — yet also try to avoid an outright conflict. The fact that you already consider him your “worst manager” might make that difficult. But simply declaring his question inappropriate or offensive won’t help.

Instead, try something like “Well, I’ve thought about it,” and either leave it there or, if that doesn’t seem to connect, add something like “But I’m not comfortable talking about what I do or don’t pray about.” This should be delivered in a friendly-to-neutral tone. You’re not making any judgments — and neither should he.

I find that approach cowardly and dishonest. Continue reading

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