Susan Rice Again, Part 1

Of the many important ethics developments waiting for me to get out of bed and for my brain to start functioning, I think this one is the most important right now. I’m going to have to finish it in installments, since I can only last about 30 minutes before having to rest. I apologize for the inconvenience.

What you see above is the finally completely-declassified Jan. 20, 2017 memo  Susan Rice sent to herself via email documenting a January 5 Oval Office meeting with then-President Obama and others.  January 20 was the official end date of the Obama administration, because President Trump was sworn into office that day.

[What a coincidence!]

The memo was declassified by Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell and transmitted to the Justice Department. Republican Senator Ron Johnson’s office, representing Wisconsin, released the memo to the news media.

Observations:

1. It was ridiculously difficult to find a complete copy of the entire memo. Almost ever source wanting describe it, when I prefer to read such things, because I don’t trust journalists or pundits, and neither should anyone.

2. Let’s refamiliarize ourselves with Susan Rice. Rice was Obama’s National Security Advisor when she wrote the email, but previously she had been named the Ethics Alarms Liar of the Year for 2014, and that wasn’t even her worst year for lying. In 2014 she earned the title for going on ABC to tell America that Bowe Bergdahl “…served the United States with honor and distinction…” Bergdalh, you may recall,  was in fact a deserter, who left his troops in Afghanistan and walked into a Taliban camp. He was eventually obtained in trade for five terrorists, all ready to kill again, in what the Obama administration regarded as a good deal.

Since Obama never had any scandals and the non-Obama-worshiping media was questioning the logic behind this, Rice was dispatched as Obama’s favorite spin-merchant to quiet the controversy her usual way, by lying, and not very convincingly either. Remember, she had already disgraced herself on September 16, 2012, when she was U.N. Ambassador and Obama sent her to all the talk shows to lie about Benghazi, since the truth was problematic and it was an election year. Rice kept repeating the script that the attack on the compound was spontaneous, was not a terrorist action, and was caused by an anti-Muslim YouTube video.

Her ABC statement about Bergdahl was too self-evidently ridiculous for even the mainstream media to swallow, so Rice was later dispatched to CNN to “walk back” her ridiculous comment, which I reacted to at the time by being glad my army veteran father hadn’t lived to hear it, since it might have killed him. On CNN she “explained” to Jim Acosta,

“…what I was referring to was the fact that this was a young man who volunteered to serve his country in uniform at a time of war. That, in and of itself, is a very honorable thing.”

This only could have meant,  1) “I think you, as a member of the boot-licking pro-Obama media, will accept this, because you pretty much accept anything if it protects The Great One,” or, 2) “We think the American public has the IQ of wood chips, and will think this makes sense,” or 3) “I, Susan Rice, have the IQ of wood chips, and really believe what I just said. Doesn’t it make you sleep soundly at night knowing that someone like me is the National Security Advisor.”

Don’t rule out #3, but #1 didn’t quite work, even with a partisan hack like Acosta, who couldn’t resist asking, “Honor and distinction?”But he allowed Rice to change the subject, and she pivoted to talking about the presumption of innocence.

I wrote at the time what a competent journalist not willing to enable such deception should have responded:

“What? Wait a minute, Ambassador Rice, you didn’t say Bergdahl was honorable. You said he served with honor and distinction. Enlisting is honorable and admirable to be sure, but service is what an enlistee does after volunteering for service. Are you saying that the act of enlisting makes a soldier’s service honorable whatever he does on the field of battle? So the soldier who went rogue and shot several of his comrades would still be, by your definition, honorable? Do you really believe that we should honor any soldier, even a deserter? A traitor? Is there anything in your definition of honorable that a soldier could do after volunteering for service that forfeits that honor?

“You also said that Bergdahl “served with distinction. “How is that covered by the mere fact of his enlisting? Do you mean “distinction” literally, as in, “not every soldier walks away from his post and gets himself captured by the Taliban”? For I agree—that’s certainly distinctive—thank God—but how is it honorable?“

Rice, I am quite certain, would have embarrassed herself with whatever huminahumina babble that direct question would have provoked, because she just isn’t that bright, which raises the questions of what Obama had her in important positions, and why she was his designated liar. Even Hillary was a better liar.

That interview got worse, believe it or not. For mere seconds after flagrantly spinning her false characterization of Bergdahl as a soldier who served “with honor and distinction,” she said,

“I’m upfront with the American people and I always do my best on behalf of my country and I do my best to tell the facts as I know them.”

That’s Susan Rice!

More to come.

 

From The Ethics Alarms Archives: “Integrity Surrender For The U.S. Marines”

Frequent commenter Steve (not to be confused with Steve-O-in-NJ or Steve Withspoon, also veteran combatants here) asked my opinion about an article titled “Marines’ Obsession with Pull-Ups May Be Hurting the Corps, Study Finds.”

To begin with, it’s a  misleading headline. The real subject of the piece, in Military.com, is the alleged hostility being fostered toward female recruits because of their disparate and less demanding physical requirements, including pull-ups. I was sure that I had written about the Marine pull-up controversy before, and sure enough I had, in 2013, (My, how time flies.) Re-reading it now, I felt that the Ethics Alarms post was relevant background to evaluating the article, which includes this…

The idea that female Marines can do fewer pull-ups than their male counterparts and get an equal score “did not sit well” with men, researchers wrote. “Are [women] required to meet equal physical standards? No, it doesn’t take a scientist to study that,” one gunnery sergeant said. “They need to do this many pull-ups, and I need to do this many. Is that equal? No. Four and four is equal. 20 and 20 is equal. That’s equal. So either we’re equal, or we’re not.”

Somehow, the author spins the findings into a rationalization for allowing the unequal standards to continue, writing at the beginning of the article,

Marines are putting an “extreme emphasis” on the number of pull-ups leathernecks can do, a recently published internal study found. And that, some fear, could result in other important qualities that are vital to the Corps’ mission being overlooked. Participants in a study on Marine Corps culture were often focused on pull-ups as a best measure of a person’s value and worth, researchers found. Marines’ ability to lift their own body weight on a pull-up bar was “routinely what Marines referenced when discussing physical standards, a Marine’s value, and physical readiness,” the report’s authors wrote.

I hadn’t checked the name of the author until after I read the article and was struck by how the title and first paragraphs attempted to ignore the ethics issue involved. Guess the writer’s gender. Yup, you’re right.

Here was my article in 2013, (and I wouldn’t change a word); I’ll have some final comments at the end: Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms Archives: Two Ethics Takes On Columbus Day

In 2011, I wrote an Ethics Alarm post extolling Christopher Columbus, and urging readers to celebrate this day named in his honor. Two years later, I wrote a post arguing that the holiday was a mistake. Which is how I really feel? Which is correct? I have no idea. I just read both, and found each persuasive. You know the famous observation in thethe essay “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds”? Today I like that line. Sometimes I don’t.

I certainly don’t like the current movement to cancel Columbus Day, and Columbus, out of the culture and historical record because he was not appropriately sensitive to indigenous people by 21st Century standards. That is no better than tearing down statues of Robert E. Lee, airbrushing history to avoid the inherent conflicts and dilemmas that make it invaluable to us going forward into the unknown…like Columbus did.

Here are the two posts. You decide. Meanwhile, I’m thrilled I could find the great Stan Freberg’s version of Columbus’s quest (above). More of my sensibilities about life, humor and history were effected by Freberg’s satire than I like to admit…

I. Celebrate Columbus Day, Honor Columbus

Continue reading

#41 Funeral Ethics Quiz: Honoring Our Presidents

This is a National Day of Mourning, and since President Trump ordered it, reporters, pundits and Democrats are bitching about it. It also helps that the dead President in question is a Republican. Had a National Day of Mourning been designated to bury recently-canonized Trump-hater John McCain, I doubt any complianing would have been put in print. Or (still kicking) Jimmy Carter, on my ranking list an equally inept President as Bush #1.

Over at the National Review, Charles Cooke questions whether we “over-honor” our Presidents, writing in part,

“Irrespective of whether he was a great man or a poor one, George H. W. Bush was a public employee. He was not a king. He was not a pope. He did not found or save or design the republic. To shut down our civil society for a day in order to mark his peaceful passing is to invert the appropriate relationship between the citizen and the state, and to take yet another step toward the fetishization of an executive branch whose role is supposed to be more bureaucratic than spiritual, but that has come of late to resemble Caesar more than to resemble Coolidge.”

Well, that’s your quiz: is he right? Or is the National Day of Mourning just a waste of money and over-kill, if you’ll excuse the term?

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day, dedicated to George  Herbert Walker Bush,  is…

Do we over-honor our Presidents?

Continue reading

Where Have You Gone, Ernest Hemingway? Of Baseball, Tanking, Winning, Trying, And Life…

This essay is only incidentally about baseball, but like so many things that sieve through my brain, it was sparked by a conversation about baseball. On the satellite radio MLB channel, one of the interchangeable hosts—I really have trouble telling them apart: some are ex-general managers who nobody will hire, some are ex-players, and a few are sportswriters, but they all seem to say the same things, though one says them with a bilateral lisp—was interviewing a New York sportswriter. That alone would normally prompt me to switch to the Beatles Channel (or the weather), but as I reached for the dial I caught one of the writer’s comments. He was talking about the fact that the New York Yankees’ opponent at the time, the Tampa Bay Rays, were almost a .500 team, and were competing despite a tiny payroll, unlike many other teams this year, which have adopted the controversial strategy of fielding cheap and crummy teams (called “tanking’) in the hopes of getting high draft choices as a reward for  miserable won-lost records.

“I guess you have to admire the Rays,” he said, “though in this day and age, it makes no sense to try to be a .500 team.”

What a nauseating, unethical position, and how characteristic of the downward trend in American values and spirituality!  It makes no sense to try be a .500 team? This sentiment warps so much in American life today. It translates into the envy, resentment and anger that typical, normal, healthy Americans lug around on their souls all day because they aren’t rich like the people they see on TV, or the neighbor down the street who had wealthy parents and left him a bundle.

It makes sense for the Rays to try to be a .500 team because it means the team is doing the best it can, despite limitations beyond its control, to give its fans something to cheer and care about. It makes sense to try to be a .500 team for the same reason it makes sense to aspire to be the kind of steady, honest, hard-working middle class American who raises happy and well-adjusted children in a stable home but will never win any major awards or be the subject of features in their local newspapers. It makes sense to try to be a .500 team for the same reason it is right to work hard and well no matter what your salary, or whether you are being paid at all.

Ambition is a great motivator, as long as one understands that achieving one’s goals is often as dependent on chance and chaos as it is on industry and talent, and if you prepare yourself to be bitter about that, bitter is how you are likely to wind up.

I learned to love baseball passionately following a .500 baseball team–indeed a sub-.500 baseball team— that seemed like it would never be anything but. This was in an era where the New York Yankees literally won the pennant every year, with a rare exception now and then. The system was rigged to favor them, and had been for decades. The Boston Red Sox began every season knowing that getting to the World Series was a pipe dream, and their fans knew it too. Nevertheless, they tried. As an almost good team, they had a chance to win every game—not a great chance, when they were playing the Yankees, but a chance. Often the Sox made a good fight of it while going down: our hopes were raised, and there was that wonderful-horrible moment that is the beating heart of baseball where anything can happen from a miracle to a tragedy as the ball is hurtling toward the plate and fate’s resolution. Life is like that, and the sooner you realize and accept it, the better off you are.

The best hitters make outs 60% of the time, and the best teams still lose at least 35% of their games. The typical players and teams do worse than that, just like the typical American, indeed human being, loses a lot more often than he or she wins. The important thing, the thing that undergirds ethics, and integrity, and responsibility, and honor, is that you do the best you can, and pick yourself up when you fail, and try again. It’s not a bromide. It’s the only way to live without going crazy, becoming a serial killer, or surrendering to despair. Continue reading

Baseball Brawl Ethics [UPDATED]

I noted in the Morning Warm-Up that last night’s Red Sox-Yankee rumble put me in a good mood. I should elaborate: it’s not because I like seeing a New York Yankee player get a fat lip, although I do. It is because such episodes are usually rife with ethics good and bad, and this one was no exception. Here it is again…

It began with an earlier play. Yankee rookie DH Tyler Austin employed an illegal slide when he was forced at second base. A few years ago, the Dodgers’ Chase Utley broke a shortstop’s leg while sliding into him hard to break up a double play. The ugly injury was on national TV, because it was in the play-offs, and Major League Baseball enacted a major rule change.

From the beginning of professional baseball, runners had been allowed to plow into infielders trying to make the pivot at second base and complete a double play like linebackers blitzing a quarterback. The resulting collisions often wrecked knees, ankles and careers, and a ridiculous tradition developed. Umpires allowed infielders to come off the bag before they actually received the ball for the force-out, as long as they were close to the base. The out was called anyway: it was known as the “neighborhood play,” because the infielder’s foot was in the neighborhood of second. After Utley’s slide, baseball made the attempt to interfere with the double play by slamming into the fielder illegal, with the consequence being that the double play was called complete whether the relay throw to first was completed or not.

Ethically, I applauded the rule change. For one thing, the take-out slide was already illegal: runners aren’t allowed to interfere with fielders according to the original rules, but take-out slides were tolerated, indeed encouraged anyway. As often happens when rules are ignored, integrity suffered, resulting in that absurd “neighborhood” convention. The so-called baseball purists complained, and still are complaining, but trading illegal-but-allowed hard slides that required calling imaginary outs and needlessly injured players for some gratuitous violence in a non-violent sport was always an unwise exchange.

So now a baserunner bearing down on second base when a double-play may be in progress has to slide  at the base, not at the fielder. But last night, Austin had his leg high as he slid, and spiked second baseman Brock Holt, Holt, who never threw to first, had words with the Yankee, and both dugouts emptied, though no punches were thrown. It was an illegal slide, no question about it, but because Holt wasn’t interfered with, the umpires did nothing. No penalty out was called. Austin wasn’t thrown out of the game.

This is when the ancient baseball code kicked in. A Yankee had tried to hurt a Red Sox player with an illegal slide, and had gotten away scot-free. If the Sox did nothing to retaliate, they would be showing weakness. I have literally  seen this plot a thousand times. I said to my wife, watching the game with me, “The Red Sox are going to throw at Austin, and there will be a fight.”

Sure enough, Sox reliever Joe Kelly, who throws pitches between 96 and 100 mph, threw a fastball into Austin’s back  later in the game. Austin charged the mound, as you can see, and all heck broke loose.

Ethics notes: Continue reading

I Forgot George Washington’s Birthday! In Penance…

portrait_of_george_washington

If there is any American whose birthday none of us should fail to note and celebrate, it is George Washington. In my case, he is in good company, since I have had difficulty my whole life remembering birthdays of close family members and friends, with the exception of my son’s, once the Boston Red Sox finally won their first World Series in 86 years on the same date, and my own, which I have been trying to forget ever since finding my dad dead in his chair on that date eight years ago. Nonetheless, my failure to salute the first and indispensable President is especially disgraceful for an ethics blog, and I apologize both to George and to all of you.

Time flies: I hadn’t issued a post specifically devoted to George’s remarkable character since 2011. (Something has gone seriously wrong when one has 287 posts on Donald Trump and only six about Washington.) In penance, allow me to atone with my favorite entry’s on the list of ethical habits some historians believe made him the remarkably trustworthy and ethical man he was, ultimately leading his fellow Founders to choose him, and not one the many  more brilliant, learned and accomplished among them, to take on the crucial challenge of creating the American Presidency.

Directed to do so by his father, young Washington had copied out by hand and committed to memory a list called “110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation”  It was  based on a document  composed by French Jesuits in 1595; neither the author nor the English translator and adapter are known today. The elder Washington was following the teachings of Aristotle, who held that principles and values began as being externally imposed by authority (morals) and eventually became internalized as character.

The theory certainly worked with George Washington. Those ethics alarms installed by his father stayed in working order throughout his life. It was said that Washington was known to quote the rules when appropriate, and never forgot them. They did not teach him to be a gifted leader, but they helped to make him a trustworthy one.

The list has been available at a link here (under Rule Book, to your left), almost from the beginning of Ethics Alarms. Would that readers would access it more often. Here are my 20 favorite highlights from the list that helped make George George, and also helped George make America America: Continue reading