Category Archives: History

Ethic Quiz: Is Eva Kor An Ethics Hero, Or An Ethics Dunce?

Kissed by a murderous Nazi. Yum.

Kissed by a murderous Nazi. Yum.

81-year-old Holocaust survivor Eva Kor recounted her memories of being one of Dr. Josef Mengele’s human guinea pigs  in a letter to Oskar Groening, a former member of the SS at Auschwitz-Birkenau who is on trial in Germany for 300,000 counts of accessory to murder:

In May 1944, when we were taken to Auschwitz, my name was Eva Mozes. My family and I were part of the Hungarian transport. My family included my father Alexander Mozes, 44 years old; my mother Jaffa Mozes, 38 years old; my older sister Edit, 14 years old; my middle sister Aliz, 12 years old; and my twin sister, Miriam, 10 years old. Within thirty minutes after arriving on the selection platform, Miriam and I were ripped apart from our family forever. Only she and I survived, because we were used in experiments conducted by .

Within half an hour we became part of a group of twin girls aged two to sixteen: thirteen sets of little girls and one mother. We were taken to a processing center where they cut our hair short and took our clothes away. That evening they returned them with a red cross at the backs. Then they lined us up for tattooing. When my turn came, I decided to cause them as much trouble as a ten year-old could. Two Nazis and two women prisoners restrained me with all their force. They began by heating a needle. When the needle got hot, they dipped it into ink and burned into my left arm, dot by dot, the capital letter A-7063. Miriam became A-7064…

For the next two weeks I only have one clear memory: I was crawling on the floor because I could no longer walk. I was crawling to reach a faucet with water because they did not even give us water anymore.

In 1984, Kor founded CANDLES (Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors), in an effort to locate other surviving Mengele twins; and in 1995 she opened the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Terra Haute, Indiana. She calls herself a “forgiveness advocate,” teaching children:

1. Never give up on yourself or your dreams. I did not know how to survive Auschwitz, but I was determined to do it. Here I am 70 years later because I never gave up.

2. Treat people with respect and fairness to eliminate prejudice from your life.

3. Forgive your worst enemy and forgive anybody who [h]as ever hurt you. I forgave the Nazis and I forgave everybody who hurt me.

Kor is one of the Holocaust survivors testifying at Groening’s trial. On its first day, Groening told the court that  “it is beyond question that I am morally complicit. This moral guilt I acknowledge here, before the victims, with regret and humility.”  Kor told him, “I appreciate the fact that you are willing to come here and face us.” She offered the defendant her hand, and he took it, brought her into a near embrace, and kissed her on the cheek. 

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz as this week ends is…

Is Eva Kor an Ethics Hero, or an Ethics Dunce?

Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Hero, History, War and the Military

The Irony Of Wikileaks: Yes, It Is Despicable…But It’s Still Useful To Know That PBS, Ben Affleck And Prof. Henry Lewis Gates Are Despicable Too.

Batman is ashamed of you, Ben...

Batman is ashamed of you, Ben…

Once a secret is out, it isn’t a secret any more. Once privacy is shattered, it’s gone: that egg can’t be put back together again. I wish Sony’s e-mails hadn’t been hacked: everyone who isn’t operating under a policy that mandates that their communications must be archived and available for media and public examination, like, oh, say, Hillary Clinton, has a right to have private business and personal communication.

Julian Assange is a fick, and an uncommonly arrogant one. He encourages, aids and abets the theft of proprietary information in the interests of world anarchy, which is in the interests of nobody. So let’s see now…North Korea hacks Sony to chill our First Amendment rights, and Wikileaks helps magnify the damage by spreading private e-mails and documents far and wide.

Yechhh.

But it’s all out there now, and there is no virtue in averting our eyes and plugging our ears. There is a lot of unethical conduct exposed in those 30,000 documents and 170,000 emails hacked from Sony, and while the means by which it was exposed was illegal and wrong, we should still learn from what is now public information.

The fact that PBS and Harvard prof Henry Louis Gates Jr. can’t be trusted, for example, is good to know. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Jumbo, Race, Rights, The Internet

Maybe The Best Reason To Remember April 15…Number 42

jackie-robinson

A lot has happened on April 15.

Leonardo De Vinci was born…Abraham Lincoln died…Apollo 13 had the accident that almost destroyed it, but that triggered one of the great triumphs of the space program…Lee surrendered, ending the Civil WarThe Beatles disbanded…I didn’t get my taxes in on time….

I would argue however, and will, that as culturally important as any of these events was that sixty-eight years ago, in 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first black man to play major league baseball in the modern era. This represented a cultural change that allowed the United States to take a giant step forward toward healing the self-inflicted and almost fatal wound of slavery, and it took a man of surpassing courage and character to do it. (Two men, really: the other was Dodgers GM Branch Rickey.)

Today all MLB players will wear Robinson’s number 42 to honor him. If you haven’t seen the movie “42, or if your children haven’t seen it, this is a good day to get a sense of what Jackie went through as he broke the color line.  You can check out Robinson’s baseball stats here,  and learn about the civil rights work he did after his playing career, in the too-short life that was left to him here. He’s in the Ethics Alarms Heroes Hall of Honor, of course, and his entry there has more about his life as well as some good links.

The main thing is, remember him.

Many years ago, I had a conversation with a close friend—smart, accomplished, engaged, educated, about 26 years old at the time. She had no idea who Jackie Robinson was. Nobody, then, now or ever, should reach adulthood in the United States without knowing and understanding what Robinson did, and our nation’s debt to him. There is an ethical  duty to remember, and to respect.

Thank you, Mr. Robinson.

Thank you.

 

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Heroes, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Cartoonist Garry Trudeau

The exquisitely rendered artwork of Gary Trudeau, circa 1970.

The exquisitely rendered artwork of Gary Trudeau, circa 1970.

“At some point free expression absolutism becomes childish and unserious. It becomes its own kind of fanaticism.”

—-Doonesbury cartoonist and relentless critic of the Right, Garry Trudeau, in a speech delivered on April 10 at the Long Island University’s George Polk Awards ceremony, where he received the George Polk Career Award.

Trudeau is a Yale grad, so perhaps we should cut him some slack muddled thinking. (Kidding!) However, in making his weak case that legitimate and socially acceptable satire only consists of “punching up,” he appeared to be advocating government prohibition of certain kinds of speech, to be designated by Trudeau and his ideological allies, who, of course, know best.

In doing this, Trudeau came very close to aping the popular theme from activists on the Left, especially on campuses, that “hate speech isn’t protected by the First Amendment.” “Hate speech” is an invention of progressives, and is generally defined as political or social criticism of members in good standing of their club, or groups and individuals they sympathize with or approve of.  Saying that you hope Rush Limbaugh’s kidneys fail is funny and deserved;  saying Mike Brown engineered his own demise by attacking a cop is hate speech. It’s easy when you get the hang of it: just look at the world like Gary Trudeau.

Earlier in his speech, he talked about “red lines” in satire, and blurrily–that is, inarticulately enough that he has plausible deniability, called for restrictions on “hateful” cartoons like those that prompted Islamic assassinations in Paris: Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, History, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Professions, Religion and Philosophy, Rights

Proof Of Evolving Ethics Enlightenment: Bert The Cop Would Have Shot Walter Scott In The Back Too

For those who think that our ethical sensitivities don’t evolve for the better over time, I prescribe a careful viewing of that family classic, “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

At the film’s climax, George Bailey, the self-sacrificing hero who has been granted his inadvertent wish to see what the world would be like if he had never been born, finds the love of his life and (in the life he has given up for this dystopian hell) the mother of his children now unmarried, alone and working as a librarian despite the fact that she looks like Donna Reed. He embraces her, and since she’s never met him in this alternate reality, she screams, believing she is being sexually assaulted by a madman. Kind, jovial police officer Bert is summoned to quell the ruckus, and George, who is a bit upset, punches him in the face to avoid arrest, and runs away. Bert then takes out his pistol and fires it at George repeatedly.

He’s a lousy shot.

In 1946, when audiences first saw this film, nobody thought there was anything unusual about Bert’s professional conduct. Many, many films right through the 1960s show police officers, “good guys,” even ones not trapped in a strangely mean alternate reality like Ward Bond’s Bert, shooting at fleeing suspects or criminals. That was considered appropriate police procedure then, and the public, society and U.S. culture saw nothing amiss. You were expected, as a good citizen, to submit to a police officer’s lawful authority. If you resisted arrest and ran, then it was fair and reasonable for the officer to shoot you, ideally after a “Stop or I’ll shoot!” warning. Indeed, many people were shot, and killed, this way. If it was news, it wasn’t on the front page, and it wasn’t considered any kind of an outrage.

Now consider the public and media reaction to Michael T. Slager’s shooting of Walter Scott. We now know that Scott was resisting arrest: he had a bench warrant out on him for non-payment of over $18,000 in child support, and Slager was trying to bring him into custody. Instead of doing as the officer demanded, Scott resisted and ran. Burt would have shot at his back too; the difference is that Slager is a better shot, and George was faster. Slager, however, is completely reviled across the country; even his own lawyer found him so repugnant that he refused to represent him.

That represents a massive shift in cultural values in a little over half a century. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, U.S. Society

Ghost Of Ethics Dunce Past: “Hardball” Guest Kevin James

Chamberlain

[CORRECTION: Boy do I feel stupid. For some reason Slate ran a story about this ridiculous exchange on Hardball, and it confused me into thinking it was current, and related to the Iran deal. My mistake; thanks to Rick Jones for flagging it. Other than the time frame, everything I wrote about James (and Matthews, and MSNBC) stands, and James’ pundit malpractice deserves as much exposure as possible. I’ve made a few edits to eliminate the confusion, which was all mine. I must say, however, I question the need for dredging up past idiots on political talk shows when there is such an abundance of current ones]

I didn’t know who Kevin James was—all I could find were references to the comedian who starred in “King of Queens.”  Apparently this James is a former L.A. mayoral candidate, a lawyer, and radio talk show host. Because MSNBC likes playing the game of finding the most ridiculous, inarticulate, wild-eyed, nut-ball conservative it can to represent any position the network’s ideological clones oppose, Chris Matthews used this guy in 2008 to explain whyt Republicans  thought Obama was “an appeaser” like Neville Chamberlain.  James’ position was that Obama was following in the infamous footsteps of  Chamberlain, who appeased Hitler in Munich while trumpeting “Peace in our time.”

Incredibly, James had no idea what Chamberlain did, and maybe even who he was. Matthews humiliated him by exposing his guest’s jaw-dropping ignorance as James shouted, protested and broadcast to all that he was the epitome of a badly educated, unprepared ideologue, out of his depth, his league, and his mind: How could any sane individual go on TV to compare Obama to Neville Chamberlain without doing the minimal research necessary to justify the comparison?

This is incompetent and irresponsible punditry, advocacy malpractice, and rank stupidity. Of course, it is also unethical for Matthews and MSNBC to allow anyone so abysmally unqualified to be a guest, but fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly. Still, the majority of the blame has to fall on James.

This fool was a federal prosecutor?

I bet the other Kevin James would have done better.

But he might not have been funnier.

Watch, and wince:

____________________

Spark and Pointer: Slate

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Monetary Affirmative Action: “Women On 20s”

Patsy Mink, almost certainly one of the 100,000 most significant Americans in our history.

Patsy Mink, almost certainly one of the 100,000 most significant Americans in our history.

Barbara Ortiz Howard was interviewed on CBS this morning, talking about her effort to put a female face on our money. The thrust of her argument distills down into simple math: there are a lot of women, so the money should reflect that. We are now in the realm of affirmative action, and this was a sitting duck for the effort. There is no criteria for being on currency, just death. It’s an honor, of course, and as an honor, should be taken seriously, though its hard to argue that the current slate of faces reflects any objective evaluation. Salmon P. Chase? Kennedy’s undistinguished three years in office didn’t earn him his place on the 5o cent piece; getting shot did.

I can’t work up much indignation over the campaign being played out on Howard’s website, Women on 20’s. Like all efforts to impose quotas and encourage group identification, the effort is devisive, and the site’s candidates to replace Andrew Jackson could serve as a primer on how affirmative action can have the perverse effect of diminishing the credibility and integrity of an accomplishment. Whatever one thinks about Jackson, he had a tremendous impact on the nation and its political culture, was a transformative national leader, and a historical figure of great significance. Quick: name the major legislative accomplishments of Patsy Mink, Shirley Chisolm and Barbara Jordan for example. Jackson towers over them in importance to the nation’s growth and long-term success. That doesn’t mean he has to be on a bill, but nobody will be able to argue again that being so honored means anything more than that a powerful constituency caught an accommodating Democratic President when he needed to bump a poll number. Continue reading

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Filed under Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, History