Category Archives: History

Hiroshima Ethics And The Washington Post’s Misleading “Five Myths” Feature

Atom bomb cloud

The Washington Post’s Sunday “Five Myths About…” feature is a weekly irritation, as it begins with a misleading definition, and proceeds to a series of dubious and sometimes dishonest conclusions. In spirit it is like the fact-checking columns,  (though, ironically, the Post’s less than most) in that it claims to “disprove” opinions. This week’s installment, however, was too much.

Gregg Herken was this week’s guest bloviator, and the Post gave the emeritus professor of U.S. diplomatic history at the University of California a chance to plug his books on the atomic bomb, so I don’t blame him for taking it. I do blame him for allowing the column’s format and the editors to turn what could have been informative and edifying into lazy scholarship, sophistry, and nit-picking. Now I don’t want to read his books.

His entry was called “Five myths about the atomic bomb.” As is typically the case, no myths were debunked. Myths, in the parlance the Post is evoking, are a “traditional stories of ostensibly historical events that serve to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon.” They are, by definition, false. Herken, however, neither identifies nor disproves any true myths. What he does is offer contrary opinions to those of others that are as provable as true as the opinions he claims to be debunking, which is to say, not provable at all. That means that the headline/title states an unprovable assertion as fact: “These statements are untrue.” Herken cannot ethically say that, but he does anyway.

Bad historian. Bad.

Herken starts off well:

“On Aug. 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Another bomb fell Aug. 9 on Nagasaki. Decades later, controversy and misinformation still surround the decision to use nuclear weapons during World War II. The 70th anniversary of the event presents an opportunity to set the record straight on five widely held myths about the bomb.”

His first myth is that “The (Hiroshima) bomb ended the war.” Continue reading

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Jury Nullification Ethics: Denver’s District Attorney Tries To Make It Illegal To Teach Jurors About The Power Of Juries

ZengerIs it just me, or does it seem to everyone as if  a lot of public officials have been trying to shrink the First Amendment lately?

Jury nullification is the doctrine, rich in jurisprudential and American history, that declares that juries have the power and the right to reject what they believe are either unjust criminal laws or unjust prosecutions, and acquit defendants who may have been proven guilty on the evidence, essentially nullifying the law by refusing to enforce it . They definitely have that power: once a citizen is declared not guilty, that citizen cannot be tried again. The dilemma is that neither judges nor lawyers are permitted to let juries know about nullification, since nullification defies the law. A defense lawyer mentioning it in a closing argument risks a mistrial, and bar sanctions. In most jurisdictions, judges instruct jurors that it is their duty to apply the law as it is written whether they agree with the law or not. In only a few states are jurors expressly permitted to judge both the facts and the law of the case. In 2012, New Hampshire passed a unique law explicitly allowing defense attorneys to inform juries about jury nullification.

In Denver this week, Mark Iannicelli, 56, set up a small booth with a sign that said “Juror Info” in front of the city’s courthouse. The Denver District Attorney’s Office has charged him with eight counts of jury tampering, because Iannicelli used that booth to hand out flyers about jurors’ rights to practice jury nullification to jury pool members. Yes, he has been charged with tampering with juries that aren’t even juries yet. Continue reading

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Down That Slippery Slope They Told Me Didn’t Exist: Connecticut Democrats Drop Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson From The Name Of Their Annual Dinner

Jefferson Jackson Dinner

In the recent post, Stop Your Cultural Bulldozing, America: Disney World Taking Down Bill Cosby’s Bust Is Like Removing The Jefferson Memorial, I described the danger of removing well-earned cultural honors and memorials for individuals who later are found to have engaged in less than admirable conduct by current standards. I wrote in part…

“Sure, it’s uncomfortable having a bust of an unapologetic sexual predator in a Disney World attraction, and it might prompt some uncomfortable question from the kiddies. Well, good. It’s never too soon to learn that human beings are flawed, complex creatures, and that even the most brilliant and talented have dark sides, do terrible things,  and can be cruel, selfish, dishonest and even criminal. We honor Thomas Jefferson for his crucial role in giving this nation life, and defining its mission and values for the ages. We’re not honoring his hypocrisy, his cowardice, his own rapes,  or his slaveholding….

“First they came for Cosby, and we did not speak out…”

There is no stop to this slippery slope, and the political correctness mob will never stop.”

Some people I respect a great deal really went after me for that pronouncement, particularly on Facebook. “Hyperbole!” “Scaremongering!” “Just because a theme park doesn’t want to sport the bust of a rapist and stunning hypocrite in a TV Hall Of Fame doesn’t mean that there is any danger of politically correct zealots toppling the statue of Tom from his memorial!” “There is no such slippery slope,” I was scolded.

News Item: Continue reading

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Now THAT’S An Incompetent Intern!

Trump tweet

Donald Trump’s Twitter account accidentally tweeted out the image of The Donald’s face superimposed over an American flag with soldiers visible marching  under it.

Nazi soldiers.

A blow-up of the soldiers in the tweet revealed that they are wearing SS uniforms.

Perfect. Perfect. What possibly could be tastier chum for Trump-hating pundits and journalists?  Trump’s campaign blamed a careless intern, and that sounds plausible. But what a careless intern! And what an advertisement for Trump’s self-proclaimed management skills.!

Well, good. It is unethical for  public figures to authorize communications to be sent out under their name when they never even sign of on them–deceptive, lazy, irresponsible. It is even worse when the agent placed in charge of such unvetted communications is a low paid, or unpaid, inexperienced intern.

I love it when this happens. I would love it even if it happened to someone I respect, unlike Donald Trump. Maybe if this kind of tweeting disaster happens to a few more public figures, they will stop lying to gullible people who eagerly follow tweets based on the lie that they come from The Donald, or Barack, or Jeb, when in fact they come from Melvin Spoccolodo, age 23.

Nazis!

There is cosmic justice after all!

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Ethics Observations On The Iran Deal And Its Media Coverage

treaty1. Throughout the negotiations for the apparently now completed Iran nuclear deal, all I could think about is how it would have made my old negotiation professor, the late Adrian Fisher  (who negotiated the SALT treaty) throw up. He taught his negotiation class at Georgetown Law Center, where he was the Dean, that no advantageous negotiation can occur unless your side is willing to walk away from the table. It has been clear from the beginning that the Obama Administration was desperate for this deal for political purposes, not national security, which the treaty does not assist in any way.

Dean Fisher—and his frequent guests, like Averill Harriman— taught his class that deadlines were essential in the negotiation process, both as a tool to force the other side to make tough decisions, and as a demonstration of resolve.  In this negotiation, the U.S. repeatedly allowed “deadlines” to pass, with no consequences. That tells the Iranians all they need to know about the U.S.’s likely response when they violate the terms of the agreement, as they are certain to do, at least as long as this weak, feckless, posturing and irresolute President is in office.

Of course, to be fair, the Iranians had plenty of evidence on that score already, as did we all.  “Red line,” you know.

2. The administration admits that it does not trust Iran. GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, who opposes the treaty, stated that Iran has never kept any international agreement or promise,, and thus cannot be trusted to keep this one. Nobody is seriously disputing that. Under such conditions, the whole concept of the deal is irresponsible. Who signs a treaty that it seriously doubts the other side will obey? Graham called this is the equivalent of making a deal with “religious Nazis.” The comparison is apt, except that the Obama arrangement with Iran is in some ways even more reckless than the one Neville Chamberlain made with Hitler. At least Chamberlain believed—stupidly, naively—that Hitler wanted peace. The Iran deal is what the Munich treaty would have been if Chamberlain was pretty sure Germany would invade Czechoslovakia and Poland anyway.

Chamberlain’s “peace in our time” was a pathetic hope. Obama’s is more like a lie. Continue reading

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The OPM Hack And Accountability: The Sign On The President’s Desk Apparently Now Reads, “The Buck Stops Where I Want It To Stop”

Harry-Truman-The-Buck-Stops-Here

At a government legal ethics seminar a week ago, one of my attendees told me of the nightmare he and his family were going through because all of his personal data, including confidential information from his FBI background check,and his fingerprints, were now available to those hostile to the US, and potentially hostile to him. He was furious. He trusted his government, and it proved incompetent…as usual, under this President

The data stolen from the Office of Personnel Management affected 22 million Americans directly, and indirectly many more, through their now imperiled families. It took an almost unimaginable amount of pure gall, as well as a complicity and incompetent news media, for President Obama and his supporters to be  claiming status a transformational leader because of a Supreme Court decision that was inevitable and that he had no hand in at all, while two more federal agencies  run by his appointees—Homeland Security is supposed to prevent such attacks— had failed the American people in epic fashion. Continue reading

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Stop Your Cultural Bulldozing, America: Disney World Taking Down Bill Cosby’s Bust Is Like Removing The Jefferson Memorial

airbrushingNews Item, from the Orlando Sentinel:

Bill Cosby’s statue is being removed from Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park, a Walt Disney World spokeswoman said Tuesday evening. The statue was to come down Tuesday night after the park closed. Disney did not have further comment. The bronze bust’s removal comes after court documents unsealed Monday revealed that Cosby testified in 2005 he had obtained Quaaludes with the intent of giving them to women with whom he wanted to have sex. The Associated Press had gone to court to get the documents released. Dozens of women have come forward in the past year saying Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted them as far back as 40 years ago.

That’s funny; last I heard Bill Cosby was still recognized as a major trailblazer in stand-up, TV comedy, and television integration (remember “I Spy”?), an important positive cultural force for race relations and black community self esteem, and a spectacularly talented comedian with a unique voice and presence. None of that has changed. Those were the achievements that prompted Cosby’s bust’s inclusion in Disney’s Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame Plaza, along with celebrities such as Lucille Ball and Oprah Winfrey who, like the Cos,  have been inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. O.J. Simpson is still honored in the College Football Hall of Fame, because he was one of the greatest college stars ever. His post-career hobby as a murderer, like Bill’s extra-curricular activities as a serial rapist, have nothing to do with the honor, just as Cosby earned and still deserves, his honor for what he achieved on stage and screen.

Sure, it’s uncomfortable having a bust of an unapologetic sexual predator in a Disney World attraction, and it might prompt some uncomfortable question from the kiddies. Well, good. It’s never too soon to learn that human beings are flawed, complex creatures, and that even the most brilliant and talented have dark sides, do terrible things,  and can be cruel, selfish, dishonest and even criminal. We honor Thomas Jefferson for his crucial role in giving this nation life, and defining its mission and values for the ages. We’re not honoring his hypocrisy, his cowardice, his own rapes,  or his slaveholding. Disney World, of all places, should understand this, since its progenitor was both a genius and a man who left a lot of circumstantial evidence in his legacy that he was anti-Semitic.

“First they came for Cosby, and we did not speak out…” Continue reading

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