The Ethics of Singing For Muammar…No, Wait, I Mean José

Mariah-CareyIt is seldom that an ethics controversy repeats itself so exactly that I am tempted to re-run a previous post word for word with just a couple of names changed, but the flack Mariah Carey is getting from human rights activists and others for accepting a million bucks to perform for Angola’s dictator is just such an instance.

I wrote about this situation in 2011, when Nelly Furtado (and Carey) were under fire for performing for the late Muamar Gaddafi, when he was dictating to Libya.  I officially incorporate said post into this one, in full.  Just read it here, with “Mariah” substituted wherever I wrote “Nelly,” “Carey” for “Furtado,” and the name of Angola’s president, José Eduardo dos Santos, wherever the dead Libyan leader’s name appears.It all still applies. To sum up for the large percentage of people who, surveys say, can’t be bothered to click on links, it’s completely bogus criticism. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: Herman Cain

Stick to pizza, Herman.

“Here’s what I would have – I would have done a better job of determining who the opposition is and I’m sure that our intelligence people have some of that information. Based upon who made up that opposition, OK, based upon who made up that opposition, might have caused me to make some different decisions about how we participated. Secondly, no, I did not agree with Qadhafi killing his citizens. Absolutely not. So something would have had to been – I would have supported many of the things they did in order to help stop that. It’s not a simple yes-no, because there are different pieces and I would have gone about assessing the situation differently, which might have caused us to end up in the same place. But where I think more could have been done was, what’s the nature of the opposition?”

—–Republican Presidential hopeful Herman Cain, responding to a reporter’s question asking for his opinion of President Obama’s handling of Libya. The comment followed an eleven second pause and one false start, as Cain appeared confused and unprepared for the question.

The ethical problem with Cain’s answer was not that he fumbled it, but that like his stated position on abortion, it is unethical and intellectually lazy. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week: Charles Krauthammer

Let's see...nope! Still too good for Gaddafi!

“Under the normal rule of law, truth is only a means for achieving justice, not an end in itself. The real end is determining guilt and assigning punishment. But in war and revolution one cannot have everything. Justice might threaten peace. Therefore peace trumps full justice. Gaddafi could have had such a peace-over-justice compromise. He chose instead to fight to the death. He got what he chose. That fateful decision to fight — and kill — is the prism through which to judge the cruel treatment Gaddafi received in his last hours. It is his refusal to forgo those final crimes, those final shellings of civilians, those final executions of prisoners that justifies his rotten death.”

—- Charles Krauthammer, revered conservative columnist and pundit, in his column rebutting the complaints of human rights activists regarding the rebel execution that took Moammar Gaddafi’s life.

Krauthammer is right, and he is wrong. He is right that no one should feel any pity for Gaddafi, a brutal and inhuman despot who had it entirely within his own power to both save his own life and refrain from killing even more of his countrymen than he had killed already. He is wrong that Gaddafi’s crimes and cruelty suspend civilization’s principles of justice and ethics. Continue reading

Richard Cohen, National Interests, and the Ethical Duties of the US to the World

There used to be no columnist who infuriated me more consistently than Richard Cohen. Those were the hazy, golden days before I discovered E.J. Dionne, Paul Krugman and Harold Mayerson, however, whose rigid ideology virtually precludes objective analysis. Cohen isn’t biased, he’s just wrong more often than not. But he is also capable of bursts of moral and ethical clarity. Today was an example, as he took on the isolationist voices on the left and the right that make up a large component, if not the majority, of our elected leadership today.

Cohen begins by recounting a section from  Erik Larson ‘s book,“In the Garden of the Beasts,” about how the American foreign policy establishment in the Thirties resisted efforts by William Dodd, then ambassador to Germany, to protest the Hitler government’s increasing persecution of Jews. Humanity, and the U.S., paid a steep price for its inward-turning perspective after World War I, as we abdicated our traditional role as defender of liberty, freedom, democracy and human rights on the world stage. Continue reading

Ethics Heroes: Newt Gingrich’s (Ex-) Campaign Staff

"So, Newt: you'd rather be tanned than be President? Fine. Bye!"

One can tell a great deal about leaders from the quality of those who choose to follow them, and one can tell a great deal about followers by whom they choose as their leader. When Rick Tyler, a longtime Newt Gingrich spokesman, Rob Johnson, Gingrich’s campaign manager, Dave Carney and Katon Dawson, senior strategists to the former House Speaker’s presidential campaign, media consultant Sam Dawson, Iowa strategist Craig Schoenfeld, South Carolina operative Walter Whetsell and adviser Scott Rials resigned en masse from the Gingrich campaign organization last week, we learned a lot. Continue reading

Exceptionalism and the United States of America’s Grand Ethical Dilemma

Today’s morning headlines were full of violence in Syria, Bahrain, Libya, and the threat of new conflict in Egypt, as popular uprisings against entrenched dictatorships continue to grow. As the U.S. tries to somehow avoid a lead role in the international intervention in Libya, the question looms regarding its responsibility to other nations whose people yearn to be free—or at least freer. As important as what America ultimately decides to do will be for the futures of these nations, the U.S. economy, and foreign relations, something far more important is at stake. These difficult choices once again challenge the United States to affirm or reject its ideals, the very essence of what has made America what it is.

We have come to these crossroads four times before. Continue reading

The Ethics of Singing For Muammar

Sing, Nelly---and charge him through the nose.

Singer Nelly Furtado has been attacked recently for accepting a million dollars in 2007 to entertain Muammar Gaddafi and his family. The idea seems to be that, as ringingly put by screenwriter Mark Tapper,

“It is quite simply willful blindness to claim that there is no moral dimension in the choice to perform privately for a monster like Gaddafi, and in being paid exorbitantly from funds no doubt stolen from his own people, or misappropriated from foreign aid or dirty deals.”

Furtado isn’t the only one who crooned for the Libyan dictator, apparently. Mariah Carey, Usher, Lionel Richie, Beyoncé and other performers also accepted big bucks to give Muammar and his family a good time.Furtado is donating her fee to charity in the wake of criticism like Tapper’s and Beyoncé has also donated the million that she received to charity, apologizing profusely. Mariah Carey is begging for forgiveness.

I’m glad that the stars are giving their money to worthy causes, and no doubt it is a good public relations move in a society where half-baked ethical notions become conventional wisdom before much thought has been applied to them. Nevertheless, Furtado and the rest did nothing wrong by entertaining Gaddafi. Continue reading

United Nations Ethics

 

After the U.N., Plan B

Ah, the United Nations—can’t live with it, can’t live without it!

 

But I think it may be time for the U.S., having tried to live with a corrupt, hypocritical, impotent monument to how disastrous a one-world government would be—while supplying the lion’s share of its funding— to try living without it.

The U.N. Human Rights Council has issued a 23-page report praising the Gaddafi regime’s human-rights record. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week: The Washington Post

“Mr. Obama has spoken only once in public about the Libyan crisis. He has yet to condemn Mr. Gaddafi by name. He has not called for an end to the regime. He has expressed concern about protecting U.S. citizens – most of whom were evacuated from Libya on Friday – but has showed no intention of protecting the Libyans whom Mr. Gaddafi is slaughtering. The White House appears content to allow France and other nations to take the lead. But the reality is that as long as the president of the United States remains passive, the help Libyans are begging for will not come.”

—-The Washington Post, in an Editorial entitled “A Passive President”

President Obama is unilaterally abdicating the United States’ critical and honorable role as the world’s advocate for freedom and human rights. As President Obama calculated the political angles, people are dying at the hands of a mad dictator. He has condemned the Governor of Wisconsin with more intensity than he has Libya’s butcher.

There are certain sacred duties of being President Of the United States, and this one doesn’t apparently sit well with Obama’s famous “reserve.” It is the duty to lead the World to oppose evil, and he is ducking it as people die.

Cheers to the Washington Post for noticing, caring, and speaking out.

UPDATE: 2/26/11 The same day the Post ran its editorial, the White House announced that the President told Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel that “when a leader’s only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now.” I suppose that covers “He has not called for an end to the regime” part of the Post’s indictment, though someone has to explain to me why Obama is condemning the Libyan dictator without mentioning his name ,and weirder still, only doing so by reporting what he has said to the German Chancellor.