No Ruth, Monica Is Still A Victim, Bill Is Still A Predator, And Why Do “Feminist” Pundits Still Make Excuses For The Clintons?

biil-and-monicaThe Washington Post’s brigade of shamelessly ideological or just plain incompetent columnists has been out in force of late, placing me in a dilemma: if I write full posts calling all of them on their deceitful and irresponsible essays, I make Ethics Alarms look like Newsbusters, and if I don’t, only the angry, equally ideological columnists on “conservative media sites” will, and what they say doesn’t matter, because they’re all mean, lying “wingnuts,” don’t you know. So I’m going to let it pass that Kathleen Parker wrote yet another of her wishy-washy, hand-wringing protests against the fact that ethical decision-making requires policy makers to make tough choices, her craven proclamation that while it is true that some criminals deserve to die, she isn’t willing to accept her part in society’s obligation to see that they get what they deserve. I will note that either she or the Post scrubbed the online version of a sentence in the print version that actually said that explicitly, but never mind. Parker is still clear in her high-minded cowardice.

And I will restrain myself from awarding the Baghdad Bob Award to Eugene Robinson, who increasingly makes me wonder how much of a role affirmative action played in his Pulitzer Prize. He submitted a certifiably batty column proclaiming that the Obama administration has been a wonder to behold, that the economy is “fixed”, that the latest jobs and economic numbers were glorious, that Obamacare is an unequivocal success, and that the Democrats should declare that all is well, because it is. Meanwhile, just about every fact-based story in his own, relentlessly liberal newspaper rebutted his words. Robinson’s an opinion columnist: a point of view is necessary. Misleading readers ( “Critics have stopped talking about a hypothetical “death spiral” in which the health insurance reforms collapse of their own weight, since it is now clear that nothing of the sort will happen,” he wrote. I was able to find several such predictions from credible analysts written within the last two weeks, and I didn’t spend much time looking. Here’s one of them…) and partisan cheerleading, however, is unethical and unprofessional. The Pulitzer just isn’t what it used to be, I guess. Sort of like the Nobel Peace Prize.

I am going to take on Dana Milbank’s description of the Benghazi scandal as a “nothingberger”Shouldn’t referring to a coordinated, news-media-assisted cover-up of  intentional public deception by a President in the midst of a Presidential campaign as “nothing” (never mind that the incident at the heart of the deception involved the deaths of four Americans, including an ambassador) disqualify a columnist from regular publication by a respectable news source?—-but not today.

No, today the winner is Ruth Marcus, a member of the Post’s editorial staff whose column this week spun the new Monica Lewinsky Vanity Fair piece as a boon to Hillary Clinton: Continue reading

Thank You: The Obamacare Defenders Give Us Rationalizations #36 and #37


With so many excuses, euphemisms, desperate justifications and outright denials flying around in print, online and over the airwaves in these fevered days of the Affordable Care Act debacle, it was inevitable that the Ethics Alarms rationalizations list would benefit. Sure enough, the Obama faithful and the Obamacare hopeful have alerted me to not one but two serviceable and popular rationalizations that I had missed.

Your refusal to be honest to the public and yourself is sad and wrong, guys, but at least you’re enriching the ethics resources on the blog.

The first of the new additions, #36, comes from a recent Obamacare column by Eugene Robinson. I was curious how Robinson, who would probably not abandon his support of the President if Mr. Obama was caught torturing kittens, would spin the current mess, and he didn’t disappoint. After somehow managing to describe relatively accurately what has transpired to date without either being critical of the President or explicitly exonerating him,  Robinson wrote:

“Transforming the health-care system was never going to be easy.”


“Nobody said this would be easy” can be an appropriate morale booster when a difficult challenge is proving more challenging than expected, and when unexpected obstacles cause new and daunting problems. Following the carnage of a totally botched task, however, where there is no new problem, just the realization that those tackling it are incompetent beyond belief, and have failed in minimally meeting their duties of diligence, care, and process for a mission that they and everyone else knew was risky and hard, “Nobody said this would be easy” is just a cynical deflection of responsibility and accountability, and a dishonest one.

The issue isn’t how difficult solving the health care problem is. The issue is how lousy the plan was that was sold as a solution to this difficult problem, how it was falsely represented, and how it has been ineptly, carelessly, and unforgivably managed. Robinson’s ploy is changing the subject at its most blatant. A surgeon who is supposed to cut out a cancerous tumor but who amputates the patient’s healthy leg instead dare not comfort the patient by saying, “Now, we both knew that battling this cancer wouldn’t be easy.” Yes, but the patient certainly was justified in assuming that the doctor wouldn’t make the battle harder by being a careless nincompoop. Thus the new entry…

36. The Maladroit’s Diversion, or “Nobody said it would be easy!”  Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Playing Follow The Leader

To follow or not to follow?

To follow or not to follow?

I live in the Washington, D.C. area, and at this moment even the beginning of the NFL season, usually the one thing everyone here (except me) usually cares about, is being over-shadowed by the drama of the looming Congressional vote on Syria. What was assumed—why, I cannot imagine–to be a likely rubber stamp with only an insufficient number of Republicans providing opposition because, as we all have been told repeatedly, they will oppose the President on anything, has materialized as strong bi-partisan opposition. The Washington Post estimated last night that the votes in the House are currently running 3-1 against the symbolic-and-deadly-but-promised-to-be-non-committal missile strikes on pre-announced targets. This is the most encouraging development in the government since President Obama was elected, I am tempted to say. It shows that this is not a nation of lemmings, and that the separation of powers has its virtues after all. Nonetheless, interesting ethical arguments are arising in favor of votes both no and yes.

The no arguments are varied, and reach the same conclusion from different positions, some more ethical than others. The pacifist Left and the isolationist Right, both irresponsible and dedicated to ideology over reality, are on the same path here, and would be on that same path even if the President’s argument for missile strikes was strong. Others, including me, but also those who supported more extensive military action in the Bush administration, fault the plan because of its dubious results, its contradictory logic, and the feckless and troubling way the President brought us to where we are.

I just heard an interview with a Republican House member who announced that he reversed his initial support for the missile strike after hearing Obama’s remarks in Sweden. After hearing Obama appear to deny that he drew the red line—a rhetorical point that was too cute by half and clumsily stated—this Congressman decided that he couldn’t believe anything Obama said or promised regarding Syria, including his assurances that nothing would lead to “boots on the ground.” (I would argue that his assurances that nothing would lead to boots on the ground is, if not dishonest, frighteningly irresponsible.)

The yes arguments are more perplexing. Naturally, there are those who, against all logic, simply adopt the contradictory and militarily nonsensical arguments John Kerry was asked to present to the Senate (apparently because President Obama knows that he appointed an inarticulate—but loyal!!!—dim-bulb, Chuck Hagel, as Secretary of Defense—but that is another, though related, issue). Liberal columnist Eugene Robinson,  who has won an Affirmative Action Pulitzer Prize and who has proven that he will cheer whatever his fellow-African American in the White House does, even if he makes a decree like the South American rebel-leader-turned-dictator in Woody Allen’s “Bananas”...

“From this day on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish…In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check. Furthermore, all children under 16 years old are now… 16 years old!”

made this “argument”…

“The issue can’t be who wins that country’s civil war. It has to be whether the regime of Bashar al-Assad should be punished for using chemical weapons — and, if the answer is yes, whether there is any effective means of punishment other than a U.S. military strike…Let me clarify: I believe that a U.S. strike of the kind being discussed, involving cruise missiles and perhaps other air-power assets, can make it more likely that Assad loses. But I also believe that — absent a major commitment of American forces, which is out of the question — we cannot determine who wins.”

Gee, thanks for clarifying, Eugene!

Other, more coherent voices argue for endorsing Obama’s plan do sent a few missiles—not any that might hit Assad or his weapons, mind you– because they argue, even if the plan is weak, misguided, dangerous or certifiably bats, the President and, by extension, the United States will be dangerously weakened if a call to arms is rejected. This is essentially the argument of rational conservative James Taranto. Here is former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, this morning:

“…During the Syrian crisis, the Obama administration has generally waged a war of words and then used those words casually and clumsily. President Obama declared that Assad “must go” when his departure seemed inevitable — without a strategy, or even the intention, to achieve this goal when it became difficult. He drew a chemical-weapons “red line” that became a well-trodden thoroughfare. The Obama administration revealed details of an imminent military operation, which was promptly repudiated by the parliament of our closest ally, then abruptly postponed. The administration seemed to indicate that United Nations support for a military strike was needed — before declaring it unnecessary. It seemed to indicate that a congressional endorsement was superfluous — just before staking everything on securing it. Obama is inviting members of Congress to share responsibility for a Syrian policy that has achieved little to justify their confidence. In fact, he has undermined political support for the legislative outcome he seeks. For more than five years, Obama has argued that America is overcommitted in the Middle East and should refocus on domestic priorities. Now he asks other politicians to incur risks by endorsing an approach he has clearly resisted at every stage…”

Wait…this is how Gerson argues that Congress should vote yes? Indeed it is…

“Legislators are not arguing between preferred policy options, as they would on issues such as health care or welfare. They are deciding if they will send the chief executive into the world with his hands tied behind his back. This would be more than the repudiation of the current president; it would be the dangerous weakening of the presidency….even if this military action were wrong or pointless, it would have to be sufficiently dangerous to justify the gelding of the executive branch on a global stage. A limited military strike may be symbolic. But for Congress to block that strike would be more than symbolic. It would undermine a tangible element of American influence: the perception that the commander in chief is fully in command.”

This is a good time to stop and offer today’s Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz, based on the reasoning of Gerson and others:

Are members of Congress ethically obligated, by loyalty and responsibility for the image and credibility of the U.S. abroad and to avoid weakening the institution of the presidency, to support the missile strikes on Syria, even if they and their constituents believe that to do so is wrong and misguided?

And here’s a poll:

Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week, Sequester Ethics Train Wreck Division: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Officials

“We have gone on record with a notification to Congress and whoever else that ‘APHIS would eliminate assistance to producers in 24 states in managing wildlife damage to the aquaculture industry, unless they provide funding to cover the costs.’ So it is our opinion that however you manage that reduction, you need to make sure you are not contradicting what we said the impact would be.”

—- U.S. Agriculture officials, responding to Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service official Charles Brown after he asked “if he could try to spread out the sequester cuts in his region to minimize the impact.” Brown quoted the response in an internal e-mail obtained by the Washington Times.

Why isn't the news media screaming?

Why isn’t the news media screaming?

Assuming that Brown’s account is accurate, the e-mail appears to show, in the interpretation most favorable to the Obama Administration, that at least one federal department believes that its job is to ensure that the across-the-board sequester cuts do as much tangible harm as possible, even where it is possible to mitigate that harm through effective management. The interpretation least favorable would conclude that President Obama has issued internal orders to the effect that any effort to lessen the cataclysmic results he and his Cabinet members predicted prior to the sequester deadline is forbidden, since it would undermine the political strategy of creating public anger against Republicans.

I don’t know where the truth lies. I can say that here in Washington, D.C., both Democrats and Republicans, without the benefit of the e-mail, seem to have adopted the worst case interpretation, which is shocking. Even more shocking is that the sick culture here is largely shrugging this off as “hardball politics” on behalf of the President and his Democratic allies. I cannot fathom this, just as I cannot fathom why all news media, left and right, are not screaming like the Donald Sutherland pod duplicate at the end of the remake of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” if they also believe this is true. Continue reading

Of Pastry Guns, Fear-Mongering, And Bad Policy

What made the Doughboy attack the school? No one knows. He had been fired, that was plain. But luckily, Josh was ready for him...

What made the Doughboy attack the school? No one knows. He had been fired, that was plain. But luckily, Josh was ready for him…

In a day that will live in infamy, I took to my keyboard one December morn in 2011 and wrote, “Can political correctness “no-tolerance” idiocy in the schools get any worse than punishing a child for the shape of his pizza slice?” The presumptive answer was “No!”, but as any observer of the national scene now knows, I was dead wrong. Now it appears that I was not only wrong about how deranged the phirearmophobics could become, I was even wrong about the limits to irrational terror caused by arguably gun-shaped foodstuffs wielded by children.

WBFF Fox in Baltimore reported that

“Children at Park Elementary School went home with a letter late today explaining there was a disruption in school. 7-year-old Josh Welch was sent home from school for accidentally sculpting his breakfast pastry into a gun. The school suspended Josh for two days because he “used food to make an inappropriate gesture.” Continue reading

Trayvon-Zimmerman: Stop This Ethics Train Wreck!


The Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman episode is escalating into a full-scale ethics train wreck at a frightening pace, pulling in participants and bystanders alike, and threatening to become a national catastrophe. Usually such things need to play out until all the carnage is exhausted, but this train wreck is different. Too many parties, including the media, are behaving irresponsibly, given the sensitivity of the issues at hand and the possible worse case scenarios. If the train can’t be stopped, it desperately needs to be slowed down.

At this point, however, I wonder if it can. The activists now driving the action obviously no longer care about little nuances like facts, fairness, and law. The participation of Ethics Train Wreck Engineer Extraordinaire Al Sharpton perfectly suits the situation. Whatever the witnesses say, whatever the facts may appear to be to rational and reasonable observers, too many people are invested in the presumption that a white racist shot an innocent black teen for “walking while black,” and nothing short of harsh punishment will avert claims of society-wide racism and the attendant anger, protests, and violence to come.

Disgracefully, more respectable media figures than Sharpton are also throwing kerosene on the fire.  Here, for example, is Pulitzer Prize winning Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson’s opening to today’s column: Continue reading

Climate Change Ethics: Prof. Muller’s Study and Media Incompetence

At  issue is not whether global warming is occurring, or even whether it is man-made. The issue is how incompetent, biased and astoundingly uncritical the media coverage of the issue has been and continues to be. Now major news publications and respected columnists are participating in yet another global warming ethics train wreck, which helps nobody and nothing.

Here’s is Prof. Richard Muller, a Berkeley physicist, toward the conclusion of his 2003 paper on global warming data:

“Let me be clear. My own reading of the literature and study of paleoclimate suggests strongly that carbon dioxide from burning of fossil fuels will prove to be the greatest pollutant of human history. It is likely to have severe and detrimental effects on global climate.”

Now here is the Washington Post’s Brad Plumer, on a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed by Muller announcing the results of his research:

“Back in 2010, Richard Muller, a Berkeley physicist and self-proclaimed climate skeptic, decided to launch the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project to review the temperature data that underpinned global-warming claims. …So what are the end results? …As the team’s two-page summary flatly concludes, “Global warming is real.” Continue reading

The Media Pundits’ Bigoted Preemptive Attack on Chris Christie

THIS seems to be a logical method for choosing a President.

Democrats and progressives are apparently terrified that a Republican will enter the presidential race who isn’t a religious zealot, a libertarian ideologue, a political tyro, a Mormon or a Texan, but a charismatic governor of a big northeastern state who is pragmatic, credible and successful. That would be Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey, who may be about to throw his hat in the ring. So the word has gone out to the media, or the media is just sufficient trained to protect Democratic presidents without further instruction, that it needs to define Christie before the American public has a chance to form its own opinion, and the definition it has arrived at is fat.

You know, fat. As in Rush Limbaugh fat, fat like the political cartoonist Herblock always drew lobbyists and “Big Business.” Diamond Jim Brady fat; fat like Sydney Greenstreet, the villain in all those Humphrey Bogart movies. Fat means bad; fat means lazy; fat means unhealthy, and ugly. Fat people consume more than their share, and are disproportionately responsible for global warming and soaring health care costs, don’t you know. They  have no self-control; they don’t have self-respect. We dread being stuck next to one of these porkers in an airplane. You can’t trust fat people. That’s really all you need to know about Chris Christie. This is America—we worship beautiful people. Fit people. Thin people….like, say, President Obama. Do we want to be led by someone who is fat? Of course not! Continue reading

Wolf’s Question and the Ethical Answer

"Upon reflection, perhaps failing to buy health insurance was a mistake..."

Wolf Blitzer’s question to Rep. Ron Paul at the CNN/Tea Party Express Republican debate in Tampa, Fla. has received most of its publicity because of the idiotic response it elicited from the audience, or some of it. That is good fodder for the Tea Party-slimers, but it was the query itself that raised the most interesting ethical issue.

What should happen, Wolf asked, when a healthy 30-year-old man who can afford insurance chooses not to buy it, and then goes into a coma and needs intensive care for six months? Ron Paul, true to his libertarian soul, muttered unhelpfully that we should all take responsibility for ourselves, which is true, but non-responsive. Blitzer followed up: “But, Congressman, are you saying the society should just let him die?” (This is where the barbarians at the gates added their bloodthirsty shouts of “Yeah!”)

Slate’s Jonah Goldberg has written about what he calls the three possible options available to American society to handle the comatose slacker: Continue reading

Death Photo Ethics

Even before Achilles dragged the corpse of Hector behind his chariot through the dust around the walled city of Troy, the tradition of demoralizing the enemy by degrading and displaying the bodies of its dead heroes was well-established. The United States was horrified when this was done to our fallen servicemen in Somalia, and it is one of the most barbaric and unnecessary practices of war.  While the Geneva Convention doesn’t mention the displaying of enemy corpses, a 2005 publication by the Red Cross called Customary International Humanitarian Law does. It was written to address issues that international treaties omitted, and its Rule 113 reads:

“Each party to the conflict must take all possible measures to prevent the dead from being despoiled. Mutilation of dead bodies is prohibited. Continue reading