Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/15/2018: Remember The Titanic And The Bay Of Pigs Edition.

Good Morning.

This, the annual March-April Ethics Alarms traffic dip, is when writing the blog becomes a job, not a joy. I really have to learn to stop caring about click, follower and share stats. It’s pure ego—well, that and the fact that my wife keeps telling me that I should be spending the time on billable matters, or getting books out to publishers.

1. Ethics Observations on the Syria bombing:

  • I teach in my seminars that often decisions made early in ethical dilemmas cause future ethical decisions to become impossible, because only less-unethical ones remain. U.S. and international   policies regarding Syria  are as good an example of this phenomenon as there is. The United Nations, if it wasn’t worthless, would  have intervened to stop the humanitarian catastrophe early in the Syrian civil war. This isn’t hindsight: plenty of experts were saying so at the time. When it became clear, years ago, that this was a bloodbath tidal wave that was destabilizing the whole region (as well as killing untold numbers of civilians and children), U.S. led pressure should have been brought to bear on Assad. Now there are literally no good choices, nor ethical ones.

The United Nations is worthless, as well as toothless, gutless and principle free. If there was any justification for such an organization, it should be to prevent carnage like we have seen in Syria.

  • The U.S., British and French response to Assad’s use of banned chemical weapons was unavoidable, especially after President Obama had been thoroughly embarrassed and discredited by ignoring his own “red line” statement, and after President Trump had made his own veiled threats that amounted to “red line” pledges of his own.

Democrats were going to mock Trump if he did not have a military response to the latest chemical weapons war crime, and they are now criticizing Trump for following through. In doing so, they only make their own fecklessness, hypocrisy and expediency more obvious, if that were possible.

  • Was Assad emboldened by the President’s comments about how he was preparing to pull the military out of Syria? Who knows? Announcing troop movements in a combat zone before they occur is irresponsible and incompetent.

Obama did it repeatedly. Criticism of Trump’s equivalent conduct is valid.

  • Trolling the news media, the President used the phrase “Mission Accomplished!” after the attacks. Good. There is nothing wrong with the phrase, and the mission was accomplished. The mockery of President Bush for a banner he did not have anything to do with was a dastardly media hit job. Ann Althouse’s theory:

Trump is completely aware of how Bush was punched around for using that phrase in a celebration of a specific mission that in fact was accomplished, and he would like the naysayers to come after him the way they came after Bush, and when they do, he’ll show us all how to handle that kind of anti-military negativity.

  • Conservatives are angry about the bombing, even the ones who mocked Obama for being a weenie when Assad called his “red line” bluff. Alex Jones was actually weeping about the raid on his show . These people really are old-style Fortress America isolationists, and want the United States to abandon its traditional mission of being the world’s champion of the abused and helpless while modelling the ideals of democracy.

The non-interventionists are wrong. The ethical optics of the United States and Great Britain and France punishing a brutal dictator who flouts international law are perfect.

  • From the other side of the aisle, some Democrats are whining about the attack being unconstitutional, so some unscrupulous left-biased journalists are spreading the word. Now, the War Powers Act may be unconstitutional, but as long as it’s in force—and Democrats share responsibility for its continued existence—this is just more double-standard hypocrisy aimed at President Trump. The War Powers Act allows the President to take some military actions based on exigencies, as long as they do not extend into a protracted engagement.

This is why “Mission Accomplished” is an especially appropriate message. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/27/18: Redux And Déjà Vu!

Good Morning.

1 Yes, “enemy of the people” is accurate. I searched all over cable and network news this morning to find an outlet that wasn’t dominated by the breaking news that a President-to-be had an adulterous affair with a porn star 12 years ago. I couldn’t find one. The media-wide effort to undermine an elected President and his respect in the nation and the world at a time of great challenges and peril on all fronts is irresponsible, destructive, and demonstrates the collapse of journalism as a bulwark of American democracy.

Journalists don’t have to behave like this: they have chosen to, because they discern that a critical mass of citizens–bad ones–would rather see the President of the United States humiliated and weakened nationally and internationally based on his past than to permit him the same crucial advantage  that every other President since George Washington has been conceded and used. That is the inherent dignity and honor of the office itself. As I wrote here before, almost every President could have been embarrassed in this way, and some far more.  In the past, the public wouldn’t have tolerated it. A full year of “the resistance” and non-stop media attacks made this President uniquely vulnerable to ad hominem attacks, and the only protection left intact between sensational smears and responsible journalism were ethical standards, which is to say, with today’s journalism, nothing at all.

This is no less than a ruthless, ratings- and bias-driven attack on American institutions, and every future President, and the nation, and our democracy, and the world itself, will suffer for it. Ironically, Trump may suffer from it least of all, since no one who supported his candidacy cared about traditional standards regarding who was fit to inherit the legacy of Washington, Lincoln and the rest. Still, this concerted effort to reduce his tenure to endless character assassination does undermine him, and us.

I don’t know what the President meant when he dubbed the news media the “enemy of the people;” he does not use words with anything approaching precision or consistency. I do know what I mean by the phrase, however: an institution that exists to strengthen American democracy has been deliberately engaging in conduct designed to weaken it. That is the conduct of enemies of the people, and that is what the mainstream news media has become.

2. The next Black Lives Matter bandwagon. The news media was also playing tabloid in the Stephon Clark shooting controversy this morning, showing the dead man’s grandmother weeping, asking why he had to die, and asking why the officers couldn’t have shot him “in the arm.” We won’t see a resolution of this case for a long time, but that hasn’t stopped the NAACP, Al Sharpton, Clark’s family and the large number of police-haters on the left from concluding, before any investigation, that he was “murdered.” The family has also hired the same lawyer, Ben Crump, who represented the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, neither of whom were murdered, and both of whom are still referred to a murder victims on the Black Lives Matter website.

Déjà vu.

In Sacramento, California, on March 18, two officers responded to a radio call regarding a man who was breaking car windows.  The uniformed officers were checking the area on foot when a Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department helicopter pointed them in the direction of a possible suspect, Clark.

He was seen running through a back yard, jumping over a fence, then looking into a car parked in the driveway of what was later revealed to be his grandmother’s house. The officers approached Clark, guns drawn, and ordered him to show them his hands,  a standard command.  Instead Clark ran, with the officers in pursuit. They ordered  Clark to stop, but he ran around the corner of the house and out of the officers’ view. Again the officers followed, then ducked back behind the house, shouting “Show me your hands! Gun!”, then “Show me your hands!” followed immediately by “Gun, gun, gun!” Both officers opened fire, emptying their guns, killing Clark.

Clark had no gun, just a cell phone. The video is inconclusive. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2018 President’s Day Edition:

Good Morning, George, Tom, Teddy, Abe!

I’m in a bad mood. Maybe it will pass.

1 No Presidents Day post this year.  I usually do a special Presidents Day post. I never thought I would ever feel this way, but I’m thoroughly sick of writing about the Presidents after the last year. I blame “the resistance” for this along with the news media, both of whom have created a related but separate ethics issue by relentlessly attacking, disrespecting, mocking and undermining President Trump. [Of course, for those who are interested, this epic post, from 2015, was about four years’ worth of Presidents Day material, and this one, also from that year, is my personal favorite of all the entries here about my favorite 45 Americans. Does President Trump have a Julia Sand out there somewhere? We can only hope…]

Yesterday Ann Althouse, strafing the news media’s obsession with the ridiculous publicity-mad porn star whom Trump either did or did not have an affair with and to whom his to slimy lawyer Michael Cohen paid hush money, was attacked on her own blog by commenters who accused her of  defending the indefensible—you know, the President of the United States, who was never allowed a single second when the entire country unified behind the winner of a hard-fought election, and as one wished him good fortune and success. Not a second.

Ann usually doesn’t get involved in her blog’s comment threads., but she responded this time:

You Trump haters made it so boring to hate Trump. I don’t even like Trump, but you people annoy me.

Above all, I believe Trump won the election, and he deserves support as he attempts to carry out the responsibilities America entrusted to him. We need to help him, not try to screw him up at every turn. I think it’s outrageous what has been done to him, and I regard it as an attack on democracy.

I have always found that once the President is elected, we should accept the result and support him when we can and look to the next election if we can’t. I think the “resistance” is a rejection of democracy…

That is about as perfect an expression of my feelings as anyone could compose, including me. It has been this blog’s position from November 9, 2017 on, and I have never wavered from it. I knew this was basically Althouse’s stance as well, since so many of her posts reflect it, but it is gratifying to have another serious blogger I respect express it so clearly. Continue reading

Reluctant And Uncertain Ethics Observations On The U.S., Israel, And United Nations Squabble

International relations is an ethical morass, and the Israel/Palestinian mess is an ethical morass inside an ethical morass. In international relations, gaffes turn out to be masterstrokes, and vice-versa, and my usual rejection of consequentialism doesn’t always fit. It is politics on steroids, and a never ending Ethics Train Wreck. Thus I approach the topic of the events that roiled the U.N. right before Christmas with trepidation. There were obviously ethical principles in play here, but beyond that, my certainty recedes like my hairline in 1976.

The background: On December 18, UN ambassador Nikki Haley vetoed an Arab-proposed Security Council resolution that rebuked President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and start the process of moving the US embassy there. All other 14 Security Council members supported the anti-American resolution, including U.S. allies Great Britain, France, and Japan. Then the UN General Assembly went on to pass a non-binding resolution disapproving of the Trump administration’s decision. Several more U.S. allies failed to vote with the U.S., including Canada and Australia, which abstained.  Before the general assembly vote, Haley announced the US was “taking names” of those voting against the US. and afterward, the U.S. held a party where the only countries invited were Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, and Togo, all of which voted with the U.S.

Finally, Haley announced that the U.S. had negotiated quarter billion dollar cut to the UN’s annual budget, saying  “We will no longer let the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of or remain unchecked.”

1 Was it responsible for the U.S. to condemn the actions of the nations, including its allies, that voted for the resolution in the Security Council and the the General Assembly?

The U.S. should be strong rather than weak, and must stand up for core principles. It is beyond argument that much of the hostility to the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem was based on anti-Israel bigotry, which flourishes in many of the nations that voted against Israel and the U.s., notably France. The Obama policy was to generally allow the U.N. to direct the U.S., with Obama “leading from behind,” an oxymoron that was a euphemism for “not leading at all.” Many of the nations opposing the U.S. are Arab nations, Muslim nations, and nations who are worried about unrest in their large Muslim populations.

The assertion of a false moral equivalency between Israel and the Palestinians among a majority of the world (and a lot of Democrats) should not be enabled. The Palestinians still officially refuse to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. British UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, for example, said that “The status of Jerusalem should be determined through a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians} and that that Jerusalem must “ultimately be the shared capital” of Palestine and Israel. Yes, that will work well, with the Palestinians still refusing to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.

The status of Jerusalem, like the status of Palestine, is what is technically known as “all messed up.” In 1949, Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, proclaimed Jerusalem as Israel’s “eternal” and “sacred” capital, saying that only hostilities against Israel  had “compelled” its  leadership to establish the seat of Government in Tel Aviv.  “For the State of Israel, he said, “there has always been and always will be one capital only – Jerusalem the Eternal. In 1950 all branches of the Israeli government—legislative, judicial, and executive—were moved to Jerusalem, except that the Ministry of Defense, stayed in Tel Aviv. At the time of Ben Gurion’s proclamations Jerusalem was divided between Israel and Jordan and thus only West Jerusalem was proclaimed Israel’s capital. Then, in 1980, Israel passed the  Jerusalem Law, which declared Jerusalem the “complete and united” capital of Israel. In response, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 478 that same year, declaring  the law  “a violation of international law.”  “null and void” and that it “must be rescinded forthwith.” Member states were told to withdraw their diplomatic representation from Jerusalem, and 22 of the 24 countries that previously had their embassy there moved back to Tel Aviv.  In 1995, under President Clinton, the United States Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which required, subject to conditions, that its embassy be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Whether the U.S. tactics will work out well or not is a matter of conjecture, and impossible to know. Are they ethical? Sure they are, compared to the alternative.

2. Was Haley’s Trumpian, tit-for-tat, we take this personally and you’ll regret it rhetoric responsible and ethical? Continue reading

Rejecting Mandates By Nations And Organizations That Share Neither Our Interests Nor Our Values

The U.N.’s New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which imposed guidelines for the acceptance of migrants and refugees on member nations, was (naturally) endorsed by the Obama Administration, which embraced wholeheartedly the concept of expanding world government in many areas, even those where international mandates would have  profound domestic consequences.

The Trump administration has withdrawn from the accord, saying that it was not compatible with U.S. principles, interests and priorities.

Good.

The U.S. Mission announced that the Declaration “contains numerous provisions that are inconsistent with U.S. immigration and refugee policies.” Added  U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley:

“Our decisions on immigration policies must always be made by Americans and Americans alone. We will decide how best to control our borders and who will be allowed to enter the country.”

Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Month: President Donald J. Trump

“In America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to watch. This week gives our country a special reason to take pride in that example. We are celebrating the 230th anniversary of our beloved Constitution — the oldest constitution still in use in the world today.

This timeless document has been the foundation of peace, prosperity, and freedom for the Americans and for countless millions around the globe whose own countries have found inspiration in its respect for human nature, human dignity, and the rule of law.”

—-President Trump, in his address to the United Nations, today.

Below is the whole speech.

Let’s guess how the pundits will attack it, as you know they will.  Personally, I think it is exactly what the United Nations, and the world, needs to hear from the U.S., especially this part:

“The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented. From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure. Those who preach the tenets of these discredited ideologies only contribute to the continued suffering of the people who live under these cruel systems.”

But my favorite line, which only the President could have inserted, was this:

“Major portions of the world are in conflict and some, in fact, are going to hell.”

The President owes me a keyboard for that one.

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/7/17

1. I am afraid that today’s posts may be heavily tilted to the ongoing mainstream media implosion, depending on what other issues surface and what the Ethics Alarms ethics scouts sleuth out. Afraid, because I know that many readers here, like the news media itself (not surprisingly, but tellingly, the legacy news media isn’t reporting this story, but it is being thoroughly reported in the “new”–as in online–news media) want to pretend that it isn’t a story at all. The repeated deflection—they are deflecting, whether the mainstream media defenders can admit it to themselves or not, because the news media is destroying itself with unrestrained anti-Trump bias, and its defenders like anti-Trump bias, as they are suffering from it themselves—is “Isn’t an untrustworthy President worse than an untrustworthy news media?” The answer is absolutely not. A President’s job isn’t to be trustworthy, though being trustworthy is crucial to doing the job and maintaining the vitality of his Office. A President’s job is lead the government and use his power to keep the nation safe, free and prosperous while upholding the Constitution. A trustworthy President is more likely to accomplish those goals, and I insist that a trustworthy (that is, ethical) individual should always be preferred over an untrustworthy one who claims to have more popular policies in mind. Nevertheless, untrustworthy Presidents can have successful administrations, and have before in our history. Moreover, a President who is untrustworthy can be replaced in four years.

We don’t elect journalists. What is happening to our pampered, privileged, arrogant  journalistic establishment cannot be remedied at the ballot box, and indeed impedes effective elections. A news media that increasingly sees its function as manipulating public opinion to serve its own ideological and partisan ends threatens democracy itself. That makes the rogue news media of today a far greater threat than one incompetent President, and the more urgent ethics concern.

How will this professional ethics abdication be addressed and repaired? It must be, and the starting point has to be the journalism field’s  own recognition that there is a crisis.

2. There was a flicker of hope on the self-recognition front yesterday, when former CNN chairman and CEO Walter Isaacson, being interviewed on Bloomberg’s “What’d You Miss, lamented the current state of the media, saying that news coverage and bias was the at least partially at fault for the “enormous political divide” in the U.S.  Now leading the Aspen Institute’s education and policy studies, Isaacson said that the polarization and partisan hostility “have been exacerbated by all forms of media. People are getting more and more partisan.” He also pointedly refused to accept the standard “It’s all Fox News’ fault” rationalization, saying, “I put everybody [in the media] in the category, including all of us, that we can step back from knee-jerk partisan elections…that would be good.”

Isaacson’s statements are too mild and meek, and not exactly a ringing rebuke, but it’s a step in the right direction. I’ll take what I can get. Continue reading