Category Archives: Around the World

An Open Letter To America Ferrera In Response To Her Open Letter To Donald Trump

America, America...

America, America…

Dear America (It’s really neat to be able to write a real letter to America on Independence weekend—thanks for that),

I can see why you called your open letter to Donald Trump “Thank You, Donald Trump!” The Donald did indeed do the supporters of illegal immigration a big favor by attaching his obnoxious face, words and character to the proposition that the United States has an obligation to control who comes into the country, like every other responsible nation. It is easy to pretend that any assertion by a big, loud-mouthed jerk is wrong, even when it is right, because most people can’t distinguish a message from its messenger. Similarly, a dishonest and dangerous message communicated by an attractive, Hispanic American celebrity and actress is typically accorded more legitimacy than it deserves, especially since the historical and political acumen of professional actors tends to be limited.

Well played. But that’s not the same as being right.

Your letter begins with a multi-layered lie. “You’ve said some pretty offensive things about Latino immigrants recently,” you say. In fact, Trump said nothing about immigrants. Did you read a transcript of his remarks, or just the portion clipped out of it by news organizations because this is Donald Trump, rich Republican buffoon, and fairness and ethical journalism don’t matter. My guess is that you didn’t read the transcript, which makes your open letter incompetent and irresponsible. Or, if you did, it is intentionally misleading, and an attempt to increase the ignorance of people who take policy screeds from actresses seriously. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society

Ethics Hero Emeritus: Sir Nicholas Winton (1909 – 2015)

winton and child

Another hero of the Holocaust has died. Nicholas Winton organized and substantially financed the last-minute escape of 669 Jewish children from Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II, but never sought the fame and public accolades that Oskar Schindler and Raoul Wallenberg received. He got the accolades anyway, especially in his native Great Britain and Czechoslovakia, once his heroics were publicized long after they occurred.

I had never heard of him or his exploits until the news reports of his death. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, History, War and the Military

Women And Education, Part One: The Professor Hunt Affair

This happens all the time to Tim Hunt, and he just hates it...

This happens all the time to Tim Hunt, and he just hates it…

I confess that I initially took little notice of the Tim Hunt episode because I thought it turned out right, and that few would disagree. I think the ethics issues are obvious and unambiguous. Apparently not, as some commentators argue that he was dismissed for “political correctness.”

 Prof. Hunt, who is 72, and this is a major factor in his downfall, is a renowned biochemist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2001 for his work on cell division.  He was also knighted in 2006. He was addressing an audience  at the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea this month, and for some reason was inspired to say this:

“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry.”

This was, as the professor would have known if he were n0t 72 and unaccustomed to the ways of social media, immediately tweeted around the world, making him the target of scientists, educators, students, feminists and almost everyone else but Rush Limbaugh. Horrified and still clueless, Hunt went on the radio to “clarify,”  saying that his remarks were “intended as a light-hearted, ironic comment.” This is known as the futile “It’s just a joke!” excuse here at Ethics Alarms, but knights don’t read Ethics Alarms. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Education, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex

Wait, Should I Change The Name Of “The Niggardly Principles” To “The Pachycephalosaurus Principles”?

Pachycephalosaurus

Are P.C. crazies attacking “Jurassic World” for using for the supposedly racist term “packies” in the film? Don’t these fools realize that their argument is even dumber than that of the illiterate clods who briefly got a D.C. government worker disciplined for using the word “niggardly” in a meeting?

Well, no, despite what you may have heard, nobody in the U.S. is that far gone. That hasn’t stopped conservative anti-P,C. warriors from falsely claiming otherwise, though.

“Packie” is a nickname used in the fictional dinosaur park for the Pachycephalosaurus, a dome-skulled creature that was also featured in “The Lost World,” the second “Jurassic Park” sequel. Exactly what else would you call them? Even by the standard of dinosaur names, this is a tough one, and a short, easily pronounceable monicker is both necessary and potentially life-saving. By the time someone has spit out, “Look out! There’s a charging Pachycephalosaurus coming right for you!,” you are mashed, believe me. What’s the alternative, “Phaloses”?  That has its own problems “Pachies” is the obvious and reasonable choice.

Yet because an escape of  these prehistoric things from their enclosures in the theme park causes  one character to shout, “The Packies are out of containment!,” Twitter users, commentators, political correctness fascists and insane people are seriously accusing the film of being “racist” in Great Britain, where “packie” is a racial slur for something or other: I really don’t care. It has nothing to do with the Pachycephalosaurus, dinosaurs, or “Jurassic World.”  Thus the Independent, echoing many Brits on social media, called the line “very racist.” That’s moronic, of course. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Race, Social Media, The Internet, Unethical Blog Post

Ethics Dunces: The 21 Republicans Who Voted Against The Torture Ban

torture

As I explained long ago, torture is already a human rights abomination forbidden by U.S. principles, values, tradition and culture. That does not mean, and has never meant, that the nation’s official and sincere opposition to torture as an ethical absolute must not be subject to a genuine existential exception.  It does mean that an official policy that allows torture degrades the very reason for the nation’s existence.

This vital reason doesn’t even reach the fact that the United States has signed international treaties that state, unequivocally, that it deplores and rejects torture. That one is less complex; as I wrote about the Bush Administration’s doubletalk at the time…

Typically, the Administration is trying to finesse this uncomfortable fact by playing legalistic word games, requesting a “clarification” of what constitutes torture. This is intellectually dishonest, and blatantly so. The methods it wants to define as “something other than torture”…threatened drowning, cold room interrogations with subjects doused with water, beatings and other forms of assault and battery, obviously violate provisions of the Geneva Convention such as those requiring prisoners of war to be treated with “personal dignity” and “humanely,” and that they should not be subjected to “hardships and sufferings.” Meanwhile, torture is defined in Article 1 of the 1984 Convention as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession.” Simulated drowning, by this definition, is torture, and passing some official “clarification” that declares otherwise won’t change that. Depriving prisoners of sleep and making them stand wet in 50 degree temperatures aren’t going to suddenly become “humane” either, nor will such treatment suddenly cease to cause “hardship” and “suffering.”

The United States exists on the ideal that it, unique among nations past and present, asserts and acts upon its original dedication to the values of human life, liberty and pursuit of happiness above all else. The United States’ identity is that of the Good Citizen, the hero, the trustworthy one. Of course that’s a high aspiration; of course we will fall short of it sometimes, of course such an aspiration appears arrogant and superior to others, and so what? Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Scoreboard classics, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, U.S. Society, War and the Military

“The Longest Day,” Darryl F. Zanuck, D-Day, And Us

title_longest_day_bluray

Today is June 6, the anniversary of the Allies’ invasion of Normandy, the audacious military strike that changed the course of history. I’ll be interested in seeing how it’s commemorated this year, 71 years later, especially by the news media. A lot of Americans under the age of 40 know almost nothing about it, or worse, the values it represents to the United States.

Fortunately, there is an easy and entertaining way to teach a young American about what happened on this day 71 years ago. That is to have him or her watch “The Longest Day,” producer Darryl F. Zanuck’s epic film based closely on historian (and sole credited screenwriter) Cornelius Ryan’s 1959 book. (You can get it at Amazon, here.)I usually find understanding military battles nearly impossible; written accounts completely confound me, and few movies about any battle make a serious effort to explain the tactics and strategy without reducing the facts to pablum. (I remember how much my father, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, detested the big budget movie of the same name, which he found outrageously sloppy, and which he summarized as “Henry Fonda won the war.”)

Not “The Longest Day,” however. Since seeing the movie with my father as a kid, I have learned a lot about what was left out, but the movie is remarkably clear and accurate about what happened and why without being either too detailed or too simplistic. It’s also just a great, inspiring movie.

That we have “The Longest Day” is entirely due to the courage of one of Hollywood’s most dynamic, flamboyant and successful studio moguls, Darryl F. Zanuck. The original producer of the adaptation of Ryan’s book (which is terrific ) gave up on the project when 20th Century Fox refused to allow him an adequate budget. Zanuck, who was still producing films but no longer ran the studio he had built,  bought the rights, and was determined to do the story, the event, and the men who fought the battle justice by mounting a production almost as ambitious as the invasion itself. Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce: Pope Francis

The Pope and "the Angel of Peace"...

The Pope and “the Angel of Peace”…

Sigh.

I apologize in advance to all the Catholics and others who will be offended by this post. I wish I didn’t have to write it. But I just read one too many “nyah, nyah, nyah conservatives and Republicans, you’re so big on waving God at us and now the Pope says you’re full of crap” Facebook posts from someone who would no more set foot in a church than Damien in “The Omen.”  The Pope is as fair game for criticism when he abuses his influence and power as Kylie Jenner, who was the subject of the previous post, and for similar reasons. To those who say that it is disrespectful for me to compare the Pope’s ethics to those of an ignorant 18-year-old minor celebrity drunk on her own fame, my answer is that the Pope needs to stop acting like one.

I’m going to try to avoid the mocking tone I used with Kylie, I really am.

With great power, the saying goes, comes great responsibility. What I see in this Pope is a very, very nice and well-meaning man who suddenly was given the power to have his every opinion on any subject immediately plastered all over newspapers across the world and recited by news readers as significant, and literally can’t stop himself. He told an Argentinian journalist last week that he just wants to be remembered as “good guy.”  Mission accomplished: I believe he is a good guy. He’s also an irresponsible guy, who knows or should know that his pronouncements will be exploited for political advantage by people and parties that could not care less about his Church, God and religion generally, but who will use his words  to persuade voters who feel the need to know no more about a subject that what the “Vicar of Christ” tells them.

It may be “good to be Pope,” to paraphrase Mel Brooks, and it’s also not “easy being Pope,” to paraphrase Kermit the Frog. I don’t care: he accepted the job, and with it the duty to do it responsibly. Being a responsible Pope means not shooting off your mouth about every topic that occurs to you. In that same interview, Pope Francis opined that humans care too much about pets. I get it: poverty is, by his own assessment, the single most important aspect of the Church’s mission, so it’s natural for the Pope to believe that the money spent on movies, cable TV, make-up, CDs, and Jack Russell terriers should all be given to the Clinton Foundation or his Church instead. That’s a facile opinion from someone who has a staff catering to his every whim, and who sits on billions in the Vatican Bank. Does the Pope understand loneliness? Does he have any compassion for those suffering from it? Does he understand the needs of my sister, divorced and with both children gone, and her desire to have some unconditional love in the house when she returns to an otherwise empty home,  love that  takes the form of a happy, loyal, Havanese? “Care for pets is like programmed love,” the Pope told the interviewer. “I can program the loving response of a dog or a cat, and I don’t need the experience of a human, reciprocal love.”

My response: “Shut up. You don’t know what you’re talking about, and millions of people will assume you got this point of view straight from God.” Continue reading

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