Category Archives: War and the Military

Independence Day Ethics Dunce: Sports Illustrated Illustrates How Too Many Americans Regard The Nation’s Veterans

McCain tweet

Sports Illustrated tweeted out the above image and message that linked to a story by “Extra Mustard.” That masterpiece noted that

Senator John McCain attended Tuesday night’s Dodgers–Diamondbacks game and had a chance to grab a souvenir in the seventh inning.Dodgers’ shortstop Jimmy Rollins fouled a ball over the backstop that went bouncing into the lap of the senior senator from Arizona, but McCain couldn’t get his hands on the ball. But McCain deserves a break from critics: As you can see the ball was approaching from a very awkward angle. Still, this photo from Dodgers photographer Jon SooHoo does not make the former presidential candidate look particularly athletic.

Apparently neither the reporter nor any of his/her/its editors were aware that McCain has extremely limited use of his arms as a result of being tortured as a North Vietnam prisoner of war. Both arms were broken by his captors and left untreated for so long that he was permanently handicapped, as anyone who watched even a little bit of his 2008 campaign for President could hardly fail to notice. McCain is also 78 years old, not that respect for seniors who have spent their lives in public service could be expected to be a factor in SI’s commentary.

Would any of the magazine’s staff attending a game dare to openly mock a disabled serviceman who didn’t catch a foul ball?  Probably not, since the likelihood of some fans of the National Pastime taking offense and throwing a beer in their smug, ignorant faces would be a real risk. Ah, but from the safety of an office  in New York City and hiding behind a pseudonym—of course, Extra Mustard might be the jerk’s real name, I suppose—it’s easy to insult an elderly U.S. Senator, military veteran and war hero for the consequences of the wounds he sustained in the service of his nation.

Eventually SI was tipped off to its error, and it quietly removed the last sentence. No apology, of course. Such is the historical, cultural, political and ethical ignorance of a substantial portion of our national media.

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Pointer: Newsbusters

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, U.S. Society, War and the Military

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

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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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, History, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, U.S. Society, War and the Military

Ethics Hero: Senator Rand Paul

Thanks, Snator, we needed that.

Thanks, Senator, we needed that.

Rand Paul has disqualified himself from being considered for the Presidency by rational voters in many ways. His suggestion to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that he would have waited for market forces to end Jim Crow, and voted against portions of the Civil Rights Act was enough all by itself. Paul’s embrace of isolationism—he often sounds like Michael Moore on foreign policy—is as fanciful as it is dangerous.  He has no executive experience, and based on some of his statements (and positions), I’m convinced he’s just not very smart.

Not only that, but he is the most arrogant candidate in a field that may contain Chris Christie, and that’s incredible.

Nonetheless, his filibuster-like Senate speech against National Security Agency counter-terrorism surveillance, forcing key portions of the Patriot Act to expire, was a brave, principled, and important act. In the end it was also a futile act, and the Senate quickly passed provisions that Paul opposed. The Daily Beast headlined the story, “It’s NSA 1, Rand Paul 0.”

It was still a public service. Yes, Paul alienated most of his party, and he took a huge risk: a single terrorist attack here will automatically turn him into a national pariah, and coming the same week that we discovered conclusively that the TSA is a joke, the chances of such an event occurring seem likelier than ever. (Saying, however, as Paul did, that “people here in town …secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me” was inexcusably  stupid. Really? People want to see American citizens die to make Rand Paul look bad, when he makes himself look bad on a regular basis?) The point Paul made, however, and it needs to be made again, and again, and again, is that there is no reason to trust the NSA, and no reason to trust the current federal government either. The fact that on security matters we have no real choice is frightening and disheartening, but nevertheless, no American should be comfortable with his or her private communications, activities and other personal matters being tracked by the NSA, which is incompetent (See: Snowden, Edward) and which lies, or the Obama Administration, which doesn’t care if the NSA lies, and has repeatedly shown that it has no qualms about violating the Constitution until a Court stops it. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Science & Technology, U.S. Society, War and the Military

Comment of the Day: “Memorial Day Values And Ethics”

arlington-cemetery-lgPatrice, the author of this two-part Comment of the Day, is a long-time and much cherished friend. She is a strong and thoughtful liberal, but her knees never jerk; she is a Catholic theologian, but honest and realistic about the problems in that Church and others. She’s smart, tough, learned and funny, and I am always honored to have her insight presented here.

Here is her Comment of the Day on the post, Memorial Day Values And Ethics*:
Continue reading

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Memorial Day Ethics Hero Emeritus: Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., 1887–1944

Teddy Jr

The latest inductee into the Ethics Alarms Heroes Hall of Honor has a familiar name that burdened him with exorbitant expectations his entire life. Yet against all odds, he managed to add to its prestige.

With some notable exceptions that you can probably name, being the son of a President of the United States has proven to be a burden and often a curse. Being the oldest son of our most flamboyant President was particularly hard on Teddy Roosevelt’s boy who shared his name, and through young adulthood, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.  experienced migraine headaches and other symptoms of anxiety and stress. The President was even cautioned by a family friend and physician that his constant badgering was ruining his son’s health.

Young Ted still followed his father’s path to fame by enrolling at Harvard, then became a partner in a Philadelphia investment banking firm. With the U.S. entry into the Great War, Roosevelt enlisted in the army, fought in Europe, rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, and was gassed and shot in the kneecap in 1918.  Roosevelt received the Distinguished Service Cross. He was renowned for his courage under fire as well as his unusual concern for the men under his command: at one point, he personally purchased new boots for his entire battalion. After the war, Roosevelt was instrumental in the founding the American Legion in 1919. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Heroes, Family, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, War and the Military