Tag Archives: Iraq

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/16/2017

 Isn’t it a lovely morning?

1. This isn’t the first post of the day: I woke up around 4 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep (“As My Guitar Gently Weeps” was playing over and over in my head, don’t ask me why, and images from the Red Sox 16 inning loss to the Yankees was giving me the night terrors), so I went to the office and wrote this post. Charlie Green, critic and friend, properly pointed out that my comment in passing that incorrectly alluded to rumors about Joseph P. Kennedy being a bootlegger was exactly what my  post was criticizing David Brooks for doing in his attack on the entire Trump family, going back generations, a truly ugly op-ed.

What I was sorely tempted to say was that I’m just an ethics blogger, trying to focus attention on ethics standards in a daily blog from which I receive no income and intangible professional benefits if any. I mange to get 2000-4000 words published every 24 hours, working in short bursts while I try to earn a living, run a business, do research and be as good a father and husband as I can be. I have no editors, no researchers (except generous volunteers) and my blog is not a “paper of record” for journalists, seen by millions and paid for by subscribers. Is it really fair to hold Ethics Alarms to the same standards as David Brooks and the New York Times?

Make no mistake: my own standards are that no typo, no misstated fact, no misleading argument, are acceptable on an ethics blog, or any blog, or anything published on the web. Charles was right: using an unproven accusation of long-standing (Until Charles flagged it, I thought the bootlegging charge was a matter of public record) undermines my case against Brooks. Nonetheless, Brooks has absolutely no excuse. This is all he does, he has all week to produce a column or two, and he has a staff.

I’ve also corrected my error within hours of making it. What are the chances that Brooks and the Times will ever admit that they intentionally impugned the character of Fred Trump using rumors and innuendo as part of their ongoing effort to demonize the President of the United States?

My guess: Zero.

2. The big story this morning appears to be O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing. Will he be paroled and released after serving just nine years of the three-decade sentence he received for his participation in a burglary? Assuming that it is true that O.J., now 70 and unlikely to stab any more ex-wives and innocent bystanders to death, has been a model prisoner, yes, that would be the ethical result. O.J. got away with a double murder—he will not be asked at the hearing, “Once you’re out, can we assume that you’ll renew your relentless hunt for the real killer?”—but he wasn’t put in prison for that crime. Officially, he’s innocent. His fellow burglars were all put on probation, while the judge threw the book at the former football star, presumably to exact a measure of societal revenge for Nicole and Ron. The sentence was unethical. I don’t feel sorry for O.J. at all; I’m glad he had to serve hard time, just as I would have been happy if he had been squashed by a meteor. Justice, however, demands that he go free.

The bastard. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Education, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture

Hillary Clinton: A Pre-Election Ethics Alarms Character and Trustworthiness Review: 2009-2016

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The first Ethics Alarms post about Hillary Clinton ironically enough, in 2009, awarded her an Ethics Hero. (She has two.) “I know, I know. Truth and the Clintons have never been friends,” it began. And, looking back, it was a pretty generous award: all she did was describe how an ethical decision is made, and claimed that was how she decided to accept Obama’s invitation to be Secretary of State.  It didn’t prove she actually made the decision the way she said she did, and now, with the benefit of seven years’ hindsight, I think it’s likely that she was lying about it, as usual. Still, it proves that Hillary may know how to act ethically. This distinguishes her from Donald Trump.

Before heading to the voting booth, I decided to review all of the Ethics Alarms posts about Clinton. It is, I think it’s fair to say, horrifying. You can find them all here. 

There are unethical quotes of the week and month, Ethics Dunce designations, Jumbos, where Clinton denied what was in clear view to all, and KABOOMS, where the sheer audacity of her dishonesty (or that of her corrupted allies and supporters) made my skull explode skyward. If you have a recalcitrant Hillary enabler and rationalizer in your life, you should dare him or her to read this mass indictment—not that it will change a mind already warped, of course, but because the means of denying and spinning what they read will be instructive, confirming the symptoms of incurable Clinton Corruption.In July of 2015, I responded to complaints—including one from an ethics professor— that I was not objective regarding Mrs. Clinton, that I was picking on her. The response was a manifesto, stating my standards and objectives: Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Jumbo, Kaboom!, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

Ethics Update : Donald, Hillary, Ted and Bernie

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It’s time once again to examine the latest ethics escapades of our four front-runners to be the next President of the United States:

Donald Trump

Well, what do you know? Despite turning the last Republican debate into a “Bush lied, people died” bloodbath of accusations right out of Move-On.org and asserting that his judgment is superior because he opposed the Iraq invasion “from the start,” Donald Trump in fact did support the war “from the start.” Newly re-discovered tapes from the Howard Stern show reveal the shock jock asking Trump, “Are you for invading Iraq?” and Trump replying, “Yeah, I guess so.” Asked at town hall forum by CNN moderator Anderson Cooper about the statement,  Trump responded: “I could have said that.”

Well, it’s on tape, Donald; you did say that.

Trump then insisted that his past support for the war did not matter because “by the time the war started I was against it.”

Oh, after the war started you were against it! 1) Prove it. 2) If someone makes public statements on all sides of controversies, does that allow them to pick whichever one turns out to be correct after the fact? Or does it just mean that the individual is an untrustworthy, dishonest, feckless hack?

It’s a rhetorical question.

Trump blew up the last debate and wounded his entire party based on a misrepresentation.

What utter scum this man is!

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Marketing and Advertising

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

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Leadership, War and the Military

A Lesson In Moral Luck And Consequentialism

car-key

If I accomplish nothing more through Ethics Alarms than to cure some intelligent readers of the seductive fallacy of consequentialism and the insideous influences of moral luck, then the long, aimless trail of squandered opportunities, under-achievement, diffuse focus, quixotic quests, Pyrrhic victories and lost causes I call my life will not have been entirely in vain.

Last week I was again in the throes of consequentialism hate. The Boston Red Sox, in the midst of a terrible start to their season, brought up minor league prospect Eduardo Rodriguez for a spot start. He was spectacular, allowing no runs and looking like the team ace Boston has been searching for all season. Immediately after the game, articles popped up in the baseball media excoriating the team for not bringing him up from the minor leagues long before. It was obvious back in Spring Training, said unnamed scouts, that he should be with the big club. It was negligence and stupidity, said other pundits, that it had taken this long to promote him. Strangely, there had been no published arguments to this effect before his impressive debut. And would any of these “I could have told you so” pieces have been written if Rodriguez had been bombed out of the game in the early innings, as literally any starting pitcher may be in a given game?

No. That’s the marvel of hindsight bias, the human tendency to presume that what could have been known should have been known after it is known.  Consequentialism is its more destructive cousin. These same analysts will conclude that the decision to bring up the pitcher was a brilliant one, if tardy, because he performed well. If he had done badly, the decision would have been, in all likelihood, decreed ” a mistake.” This was the fallacy that Jeb Bush was recently pilloried for not embracing regarding his brother’s decision to invade Iraq.

And moral luck? That’s the phenomenon that makes hypocrites and fools of us all, pointing us to the suffocating arms of Dame Consequentialism. If two decision-makers take exactly the same course in exactly equivalent circumstances, the one who is the beneficiary of good fortune—moral luck—will be hailed as a genius. The unlucky soul whose identical plans are derailed by unpredictable misfortune will be handed the mantle of an incompetent failure.

Situations where reasonable decisions and actions are declared “mistakes,” or, as is more germane here, “unethical” according to how uncontrollable events and contingencies occur subsequent to the conduct itself are legion. I am always looking for the counter example, where wrongful conduct has a good result, and is there for forgiven, ignored, or even praised. Well, I found one, and it just happened to me.

I had an important though brief client meeting scheduled this morning, and I had managed to forget the exact time. It was either at 10:45 or 11:00, and I had to be on time, because he was on a tight schedule. My wife was annoyed at me for my scheduling, since she had to use the car to get to a long scheduled appointment of her own at noon and my meeting was 30 minutes away. To make things worse, I couldn’t reach my meeting partner to determine the right time ( a postponement was impossible). To complete the fiasco, I misplaced the car keys, delaying my departure until after 10:30. I was informed, as I left the house with my newly discovered keys (never mind where they were; it is too embarrassing), that if I didn’t have the car back by 11:45, I was dead.

I assumed I would be dead. Continue reading

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Filed under Daily Life, Family

Note To The News Media: Stop Encouraging Consequentialism!

Marco Rubio gallantly stood up to Fox’s Chris Wallace as the news anchor repeatedly asked him whether “knowing what we know now,” it was a mistake to invade Iraq in 2001. The previous version of the question that inexplicably tripped up Jeb Bush was self-answering: knowing how badly it would work out, no sane leader would make that decision, but since nobody can see into the future, it is like asking if we should have recruited Superman to help out U.S. troops if, you know, he was real. Wallace’s question, if possible, is worse. It validates the ethics rotting principle of consequentialism, in which we judge an action by its unpredictable results.

An decision is only a mistake if it was badly reasoned based on the information the decision-maker had at the time the decision was made. It does not become a mistake based on subsequent, unknowable events. Similarly, an action doesn’t become ethical just because it worked out well, or unethical because it didn’t. This misconception is rampant among the public, and leads to bad policy, bad decision-making, bad leadership, bad lots of things. It is bad.

Hectored by Wallace, Sen. Rubio, who does understand that “mistake” doesn’t mean what Wallace was implying it does, kept saying, “No, it was not a mistake, because it was the right decision based on what we knew at the time.” Now, you can argue that the decision was the wrong one based on that information, but that’s not what Wallace was asking…and asking, and asking. He obviously thinks “mistake” is defined as a decision that doesn’t work out the way the decision-maker hoped. Wrong.

Chris Wallace was making his audience dumber and less ethically astute. We judge actions and decisions based on the quality of the choice when it is made, which includes a rational, well-reasoned analysis of its likely results. By Wallace’s logic, driving home from the Christmas party smashed is only a mistake if you crash, kill someone, or get arrested.  The sober party goer who gets killed by a drunk driver as he drives home, in Wallace’s reasoning, made a mistake going to the party at all. The lesson, apparently, is that its a mistake to go to parties.

This is how incompetent and arrogant journalists made us dumber, and our leaders so risk averse that they are incompetent.

By the way, on CNN this morning, the gang is making fun of Rubio, like he’s the idiot. Of course. After all, he’s a Republican.

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

With More Evidence Of Pre-Election Obama Administration Sleight-of-Hand, I Ask Again: How Do Democrats React To This?

Somebody?

Somebody?

The post is intended to follow-up on this one, asking supporters of the President who are unbiased, fair and honest, how they continue to trust this administration in light of the repeated pattern of hiding negative developments as long as possible, assisting the compliant news media in burying them, and intentionally delaying admissions, disclosures and bad news until after elections.

It is not a partisan question, but a legitimate ethics inquiry. As I explained in discussing the recent election eve Fast and Furious document dump, there is not any legitimate question about whether this is ethical conduct by the Obama Administration, or whether it is in any way consistent with the pledge of transparency made by Candidate Obama in 2008 and currently posted on the White House website. It isn’t, on both counts. There is no argument about that—I know that. What I don’t understand, and very much want to, is why anyone—Democrat, progressive, Federal worker, journalist, MSNBC hack, Markos Moulitsas, Harry Reid, anybody at all—would excuse or try to justify it sufficiently to say “Yes, I trust these people.” I asked, and nobody took up the challenge.

Is it because everyone actually realizes how inexcusable and sleazy this is, and nobody trusts the Administration any more? That can’t be it: otherwise, I wouldn’t be reading all these amazing blog posts about columns about how stupid the American voting public was to send an emphatic “We’re sick of the Democrats” message at all levels of government, across states of all political persuasions. Is it because all the Obama supporters are in the throes of  DODD (Desperate Obama Defense Derangement)? I suppose that’s possible. It is also possible that Obama defenders are gun-shy here, since their standard refrains of “Republicans are obstructing everything,” “it’s all Bush’s fault,” “everybody does it,” “it’s because he’s black,” and “nobody’s perfect” not only fail to persuade but attract well-deserved derision.

I don’t know the answer, but I want to understand, Trust is the basis of democracy, and trust must work both ways. The Obama Administration consistently shows that it does not trust the American public to approve of its policies and conduct if the public has timely information about what the facts are. Why do so many people trust a leader who doesn’t trust them, and has contempt for its trust?

It happened again, you see. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics