The Khashoggi Murder: In A Realm Of Brutal Utilitarianism, How Is It A Special Case?

 Foreign affairs is always an ethics-gray zone, with complex “ends justify the means” trade-offs amid cultural clashes and uncomfortable alliances are unavoidable. President Trump has apparently decided that the nation’s alliance with Saudi Arabia is more important than taking a hard moral-ethical stand regarding what the CIA has determined was a premeditated murder committed by a member of the Saudi ruling family against a journalist. In foreign policy, such trade-offs are the norm rather than the exception, “Everybody does it” is the operative rationalization because, for centuries, every country does do it. It’s not ethical. It’s practical. The American news media is making this episode  special because a) it involves a journalist, so their interests are skewed and b) it is President Trump, and everything he does must be condemned to further the aims of the resistance.

Here was the Times this morning: Continue reading

Mid-Day Ethics Warm-Up, May 1, 2018: Generally Disgusted

Good day to all, I guess.

Me, I feel like quitting.

1.  Basic ethics blindness regarding the White House Correspondents Dinner. The ethically obtuse responses I am reading in columns and blogs regarding the self-defining journalism ethics event–you know, as in none—doesn’t bother me too much. I assume these people have the ethics of jackals. The similar responses I am reading here from intelligent readers who have been supposedly paying attention, however, discourage me greatly. Really: why bother writing a couple thousand words a day about ethics when  your readers react to a high profile, unequivocal act of disrespect and rudeness by resorting to “I don’t like the guy, so I’m glad,” “he started it!” and “they had it coming”?

Or, my personal favorite, “this one insult everyone is talking about isn’t one if you spin it hard enough, so the other 30 insults don’t matter”?

There is no ethical defense whatsoever for inviting individuals to a formal dinner and intentionally making them feel like they are being singled out for abuse. Ever. Period. No exceptions. This is so obvious and uncontroversial that it prompt debate in a civilized society.  That anyone is trying to defend the association, and its hired gun, Ms. Wolf, simply validates my two years-and-running correct prediction that electing Trump as President will turn this into a nation of assholes, though I was expecting those transformed to be primarily young, shallow and easily influenced. I did not expect so many professionals to re-enact the donkey-scene in “Pinocchio.”

And yes, as far as I’m concerned, Wolf, with the journalists’ consent, insulted the President of the United States and his daughter to their virtual faces. It is just moral luck that Trump did not attend, and there is no reason to believe that Wolf changed her act one iota because he wasn’t there. She was prepared to call the President of the United States a pussy, a monster and a Nazi to his face, with him a captive audience member. The ethics-free, rationalized justification I am reading on this blog is , “Yeah, well he made fun of a disabled man in 2016!”  Wow. I really am wasting my time, I guess. How else can I interpret that?

Off the blog, some other ethically dim justifications have surfaced, like today’s New York Times column absolving Wolf from all responsibility because she performed the same kind of anti-Trump material that she always did. Funny, nobody gave Don Imus, the briefly ascendant shock-jock, that easy out when he embarrassed President Bill Clinton by calling him a “weasel,” among his less offensive terms, when he entertained the same group. Hey, protested the I-Man, I call Clinton a lying weasel every day on my show, why would anyone expect me to do any differently at the dinner? Why? Because professional entertainers have calibrated the appropriate content of their performances to their audiences’ tastes and sensitivities forever, that is why, and professionals are expected to be professional, which includes responsible. Go ahead, look me in the eye and tell me that Wolf would have made equally denigrating jokes if Obama was the President. Jokes about his flirtation with being gay. Jokes about eating dog. Jokes about him being a weenie with Putin and the “red line.” Jokes about the most “transparent” administration ever. Jokes about Joe Biden feeling up women during photo ops. About the IRS. About “you can keep your plan.”  No, the association always assumes that its entertainers would keep their material appropriate to the venue and the event. The argument being used to excuse Wolf would be like excusing infamous “blue” material comics like Buddy Hackett, Redd Foxx and David Brenner if they made dick jokes on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” No, they toned down their material, out of respect for the audience. Respect. What a concept. And this was an audience of middle class Americans, not the President of the United States.

Of course, Wolf easily could have assumed that she was expected to be uncivil, cruel and offensive, since she knew that her hosts, like her and her fellow professional Trump-bashers, constituted the “resistance’s” Agents of Presidential Destruction. That doesn’t relieve her of ethical responsibilities, though. The association was irresponsible to hire someone with her proclivities, and she is accountable for her own disgusting, divisive conduct. Continue reading

“If That Was Transparency, Then I’m A Kumquat” And Other Reactions To Josh Earnest’s Multiple Unethical Christmas Quotes

This morning, Obama Administration paid liar Josh Earnest spoiled my Christmas mellow by telling CNN’s alleged news media ethics watchdog Brian Stelter that there’s really “no constituency in American politics for transparency in government beyond journalists,” as he deflected Stelter’s accounts of journalists complaining about administration foot-dragging on Freedom of Information Act requests. Then he really curdled the ethicist’s eggnog by saying,

“If this constituency of journalists are gonna be effective advocates for the issue that they care about, they need to remember that they have a responsibility not just to criticize those who are not living up to their expectations. Any activist will tell you that the way that you get people to support you and to support your cause is to give them credit when the credit is due, to applaud them when they do the thing that you want them to be doing.”

Finally, Earnest molded my mistletoe by claiming,  “President Obama has been the most transparent president in American history.”

Stelter, of course, being an incompetent, biased and unethical news media ethics watchdog, did not interjection with the mandatory, “WHAT??? You’ve got to be kidding! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA ACK! ACK! ARRRGH! and drop dead in shock.

That statement is fake news if anything is, rivaling the news media lie that that the Obama years were devoid of major scandals. Before we begin shooting fish in a barrel and deal with that brazen-beyond-belief spin, let’s pause to consider the other stunner in Earnest’s Christmas morning performance:

1. What does Earnest mean that journalists are the only constituency for transparency? Does the Obama administration, and by extension Democrats, really believe that the public doesn’t mind being lied to? If so, that explains a lot, including the nomination of Hillary Clinton.

2. Journalists are not supposed to advocates and activists at all. They are supposed to be devoted to communicating facts and the truth.

3. Is Earnest saying that when a President generally defies a pledge of ethical conduct, he should nonetheless be praised when he doesn’t defy that pledge, and that journalists should highlight the Administration’s rare examples of  transparency while ignoring the overwhelmingly more copious breaches? It sure sounded like it.

That brings us back to the mind-melting quote that this has been a transparent administration by any definition of the word other than “not transparent at all.”

This episode from 2011 nicely encapsulates the issue:

“President Obama was scheduled to receive an award from the organizers of the Freedom of Information Day Conference, to be presented at the White House by “five transparency advocates.” The White House postponed that meeting because of events in Libya and Japan, and it was rescheduled…That meeting did take place – behind closed doors. The press was not invited to the private transparency meeting, and no photos from or transcript of the meeting have been made available. The event was not listed on the president’s calendar…Nor is the award mentioned anywhere on the White House website, including on the page devoted to transparency and good government. Were it not for the testimony of the transparency advocates who met secretly with the president, there wouldn’t seem to be any evidence that the meeting actually took place.”

That’s right: Obama wasn’t transparent about a transparency meeting. That same day, Obama went on TV  and tried to explain why he hadn’t been transparent to the U.S. Congress about his military plans in Libya.  Shortly after that, news leaked that the Fed had secretly sent billions in loans to foreign banks during the financial crisis.

Ah, memories! On his second day on the job, January 21, 2009, that…President Obama famously pledged, in one of his first memos to federal agencies

“We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.”

He may be right about that last part, or maybe he discovered that it was naive and impractical dream. Under no circumstances, however, can it be said that Obama’s administration was transparent. An exhaustive list is impossibly, long, but here is an incomplete  sample just from the posts in Ethics Alarms: Continue reading

Ethical Quote Of The Week: President Obama, Threading The Needle In Hiroshima

Obama at hiroshima

“We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 Japanese men, women, and children, thousands of Koreans, a dozen Americans held prisoner.”

—-President Obama, speaking at the Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park in Japan, in a controversial visit to the site of the Unites States’ decisive use of the atom bomb to defeat Japan without an invasion in 1945.

Good job. Whoever drafted the speech—it may well have been Obama himself—perfectly threaded the needle, simultaneously making a compassionate diplomatic gesture and yet including an unmistakable reference to who was really at fault for the carnage. Those Korean casualties were captured and enslaved citizens of a sovereign nation, acquired as Imperial Japan swept over Asia like locusts. Those prisoners were prisoners of war, and horribly mistreated ones.

The passage of time made Obama’s subtlety more appropriate than President Harry Truman’s typically blunt response to an Aug. 9, 1945 telegram from  Samuel Cavert, the general secretary of the Federal Council of the Churches in Christ in America, saying he was “greatly disturbed” by Truman’s use of the bomb: Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Democratic U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (MD.)

Cardin

Last week, Senator Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, authored an op-ed announcing his opposition to the Iran Nuclear aggreement. In doing so, he placed himself in the line of fire of President Obama and his allies, including Minority Leader Harry Reid, who, in the words of one observer, were “breaking arms and legs” to ensure sufficient support to get the measure approved and veto proof. The President, disgracefully, had already compared principled opponents of the risky and irresponsible agreement—essentially the apotheosis of the President’s crippling phobia about projecting U.S. power abroad in the interests of peace when it might require threats backed by the willingness to carry them out. (We are seeing the devastating results of this leadership failure in Syria)—as the moral equivalent of terrorists. His allies in the news media had ignored all objectivity to marginalize Democratic opponants of the deal while tarring Republicans as warmongers, and effort that hit ethics rock bottom with the New York Times “Jew-Tracker” that implied that loyalty to a foreign government and faith, not consideration, analysis and principle, were behind opposition to the President’s scheme. Here is the Times graphic…

Jew-tracker-copyNice. Continue reading

Ethical Quote Of The Month: PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler

pbs-logo-in-black

“One would have to lean way over backwards to give her the benefit of the doubt that she was simply shedding light on the administration’s view of portions of Netanyahu’s arguments. But to personalize it by saying, “Take that, Bibi” is, in my book, inexcusable for an experienced journalist who is the co-anchor of a nightly news program watched by millions of people over the course of any week.”

—PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler, giving no quarter and making no rationalizations to slam PBS news host Gwen Ifill for her” “Take that, Bibi” taunt via Twitter.

Bravo.

Note that he also is saying that Ifill’s defense is a lie. As indeed it was. Later, as you can read, he makes it clear that he believes that Ifill is too experienced to make the mistake she claims she made. She made a different mistake: letting her bias rule her judgment and professionalism.

What do you know, a real, honest ombudsman who doesn’t view his job as spinning for his bosses!

I wonder why the New York Times can’t find one.

Unethical Tweet Of The Month: PBS’S Gwen Ifill

gwen ifill tweetThis was, of course, in reaction to yesterday’s developments that indicate sufficient Democratic support for President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal.

Ifill defends her tweet: of course she does. She has been a brazen cheerleader for the President since he was campaigning in 2008, and made it very clear that she sees nothing wrong with that, even when she was the moderator for the 2008 Vice-Presidential debate while her book about the inspiring achievement of Obama’s ascent to the Presidency—he hadn’t been elected yet, remember—was awaiting publication. PBS proved its bias (as if further proof were necessary) by shrugging off a blindingly clear conflict of interest and appearance of impropriety on her part then, and it will doubtlessly do so now. Ifill is defiantly pro-Obama. The tweet, however, is worse than that.

An American journalist taunting  the leader of an important American ally is unprofessional and, in this case especially despicable. Isreal’s legitimate concern about the Iran agreement is that under the best of circumstances, the scenario that the advocates for the deal admit, Iran will gain the resources to vastly enhance its support of terror in the Middle East, much of which will be focused on harming citizens of the nation that Iran has openly vowed to destroy. Take that, Bibi! Jews are going to die! Nyaa nyaa! Under the worst case scenario, the treaty makes it easier for Iran to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. How dare a nation’s leader express concern about his nation’s security and survival? Yeah, let’s make fun of him as the U.S. all but ensures a nuclear Iran 15 years from now.

Curt Schilling has been suspended by ESPN for making a legitimate historical observation that didn’t affect or relate to his job as a baseball analyst at all. Ifill’s tweet insults a world leader, displays gross partisanship, undermines PBS’s official pose as an objective news source and shows not merely terrible judgment, but the arrogance and shamelessness  that those who view themselves as immune from consequences eventually embrace.

Vox’s Hypocritical Attack On President McKinley

Mckinley ButtonNow we get to it: William McKinley doesn’t “deserve” to have a mountain named after him. That’s the hilarious argument of progressive-mouthpiece Vox, and it really is the height of hypocrisy, naked partyism, and a window into the corrupt and shameless mentality of the liberal pundit establishment.

President McKinley led the nation out of a terrible depression, and Vox explains that he deserves no credit for it at all because he was lucky. Well, in leadership and history, you get credit for luck,  because doing everything brilliantly and still seeing your army, organization or nation go down the tubes isn’t being a great leader no matter how you spin it. This, as I have written before, is the central, operating myth being drummed into Americans’ minds by President Obama’s minions and journalist-enablers: it isn’t what really happens that matters, it’s what the President wanted to happen. It’s not the bad consequences of policies that we should pay attention to, but the good intentions under which they were undertaken.

That is, in a word, batty. But that’s what the echo chamber wants us to believe. It has reached its apotheosis of absurdity with the proposed Iran deal, which is being defended on the grounds that it is aimed at preventing a nuclear armed Iran, even though that is a goal it can’t plausibly achieve. But it is intended to make the world less dangerous, and that’s what matters.

I have tried to assess how many past Presidents would respond to this theory with “What?,” how many with “You must be joking!” and how many with, “Oh, sure, it’s worth a shot.” In the latter category, so far, I have Carter, Pierce, because he’d be drunk, maybe Ford, because he might not understand the question, and perhaps Wilson—certainly after his stroke. Continue reading

The Washington Post—Finally—Admits The Truth About President Obama

fingers-pointing

I will reprint The Washington Post’s lead editorial here nearly in full. I will have comments after, though I will make this one now: every character trait and leadership deficit the Post points to  was evident to objective observers—like me—from the beginning of Obama’s administration. That one of the most consistent and prominent Democratic Party and liberal policy boosters in the national news media finally mounts the integrity, honesty and integrity to admit it now is not all that satisfying.

Here is, with a few omissions so you will link to the site and read the whole thing (it’s only fair), is the damning and undeniable editorial:

Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) decided he would vote against President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, he explained his reasoning in a 1,700-word essay. On balance, he concluded, “the very real risk that Iran will not moderate and will, instead, use the agreement to pursue its nefarious goals is too great.” We disagree with that conclusion, but not with serene confidence; we share the senator’s concern that Iran will use the lifting of sanctions to intensify its toxic behavior in the region. We understand and respect Mr. Schumer’s decision; also, it’s generally better to treat policy disagreements in good faith.

That has not been the spirit in which Mr. Obama and his team have met his Iran-deal critics. The president has countered them with certitude and ad hominem attacks, the combined import of which is that there are no alternatives to his policy, that support for the deal is an obvious call and that nearly anyone who suggests otherwise is motivated by politics or ideology. Mr. Obama’s rhetoric reached its low point when he observed that the deal’s opponents value war over diplomacy and that Iranian extremists were “making common cause with the Republican caucus.”

Continue reading

Ethics Hero: CBS’ Major Garrett

major_garrettDuring President Obama‘s Iran deal press conference,  CBS’ Major Garrett broke ranks with his softball lobbing colleagues  by asking, “Why you are content with all the fanfare around this deal to leave the conscience of this nation, the strength of this nation unaccounted for in relation to these four Americans?”

President Obama flared, reprimanding the reporter by snarling, “That’s nonsense, and you should know better.”

Garret was immediately criticized for being disrespectful. CNN’s Dana Bash criticized her colleague,  opining that “There’s a fine line between asking a tough question and maybe crossing that line a little bit and being disrespectful, and I think that happened here.” Bill Maher ran to fetch the typical weapon of last (first?) resort employed by Obama apologists since January, 2009: the race card. “Major Garrett is a huge asshole,” he tweeted.  “If U wanna “strike a nerve” with POTUS, why not just scream the N word? That should get his attention.” Garrett has been unapologetic.

No doubt: it was a hostile question. A decade or more ago, I might have thought it crossed a line. But the issue Garrett raised was an important and obvious one in the context of the President once again cockily taking a victory lap over a dubious achievement, and for this citizen, at least, it gave me hope that the mainstream media’s days of serving as a virtual Pravda to a leader’s every move might be slowly coming to an end. The media’s deference to this President has been disgraceful and has undermined our democracy, public discourse, trust in the press  and the right to know what our government is doing. CBS’s Steve Kroft actually admiited—proudly!—that his “60 Minutes” was a favored venue for Obama because he knew that he would be treated with kid gloves. Continue reading