Category Archives: War and the Military

FactChecker Ethics: I Know This Is A Bit Late, But If Glenn Kessler Is Going To Give Out “Pinocchios,” He Needs To Learn What a Lie Is

Time to revisit the classics, Glenn...

Time to revisit the classics, Glenn…

Newspaper “fact-checking” is a mostly unethical and misleading exercise in which media partisans use the format to call positions they differ with ideologically and politically “lies.”  PolitiFact is well established as the worst and most biased of these features; Annenberg’s Factcheck.org is easily the best (but still shows its leftward bias), and somewhere in between is Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s “Factchecker.” Today’s installment of his periodic column shows that after many years at his job, he still doesn’t know what a lie is. Amazing.

This is not, or should not be, necessarily for a factchecker, as long as he sticks to checking facts, and not characterizing why the facts don’t jibe with a particular public figure’s public statements. PolitiFact’s specialty is making questionable interpretations of statistics and events, declaring them the revealed truth, and attacking anyone,  usually a Republican, who has come to a different conclusion. To his credit, Kessler doesn’t do that very often. He is typically fair and objective in his research and presentation of facts. But the Post’s Factchecker uses the device of one to four little Pinocchio heads to indicate the seriousness of a factual misstatement, and as he should know, Pinocchio’s nose grew long when he lied. Even one Pinocchio indicates that Kessler believes he has proven that someone lied.

It seems a little late for Kessler to be mistaking opinions that he disagrees with, analyses of facts that reach different conclusions than he would, and obvious mistakes as lies. Kessler, who is should be in the business of checking facts but has chosen a gimmick that makes him conclude by accusing others of lying, is ethically obligated to know what a lie is: an intentional misstatement of fact that is designed and intended to deceive. He either doesn’t know that, which means he’s incompetent, or he does and misrepresents mistakes and opinions as lies, which means that he’s the liar. Whichever it is, this is ethically unacceptable for a “factchecker.” Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: Todd Smith

Be vigilant, Governor! Next, Obama will be coming after your precious bodily fluids...

Be vigilant, Governor! Next, Obama will be coming after your precious bodily fluids…

I was preparing to comment on Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s absurd, embarrassing and recklessly divisive action of calling on the State Guard to monitor a U.S. military training exercise in the state juuuuust in case that sneaky, fake American Commie dictator Barack Obama is getting ready to put the Lone Star State under bayonet and martial law, as some local wackadoodles are claiming from under their ten gallon tin-foil hats. I decided that it was too obviously stupid to criticize before I read the approving comments by unhinged Texans on the governor’s  Facebook post announcing the order.

It received more than 25,000 likes and thousands of comments. Among them (My reactions in bold):

  • “Thank you, Mr. Abbott, but I doubt they listen to you or anyone, Obama will soon demand Marshall law, We need to keep them totally out of Texas. The devil is breathing down our necks right now. Everyone better pray.”  Now Marshall law, I have no problem with…
  • “Here comes Martial law Folks… get ready! ALL Texans need to be armed. It’s our right! I pray our Military will do what’s right! Not want the Commander and chief ( and I use that term loosely) wants them to do! STAND UP AMERICA… IF we don’t GOD HELP US ALL! If you look at the map that was posted.. Texas is listed as a hostile state, along with other repub. states!” THEY’RE HERE! THEY’RE HERE!!!! Oh, wait, I was thinking of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”…
  • Thank you sir I have no trust in our current goverment. Your actions on a day to day basis are giving me hope for our state goverment. If that’s how you’re spelling “government,” I have no hope at all…
  • “Governor Abbott’s got a pair, and he will not let them mess with Texas!” Well, thank God for that! If he let’s his pair mess with Texas, it would be the worst sex crime in history. Also: Ewww.

Luckily, a Republican, a Texan, and former state House member did it for me. Here is Todd Smith’s letter to the Governor. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership, War and the Military

Today Is The 70th Anniversary Of VE Day

VE Day

I’m watching “The Longest Day.”

Thanks, guys.

Thanks, Dad.

 

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Filed under Character, Ethics Heroes, History, Leadership, War and the Military

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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The Protesters, The Veteran And The Flag—An Instant Ethics Train Wreck In Georgia

Mission accomplished... But what exactly was the mission?

Mission accomplished… But what exactly was the mission?

This the kind of story that makes Americans cynical. I’m more cynical from just reading it. Air Force veteran Michelle Manhart saw protesters  stomping on a flag in a demonstration at Valdosta State University in southern Georgia, and took action. She briefly snatched the flag away, but police officers intervened, arrested her, handcuffed Manhart, returned the flag to the protesters so they could continue abusing it, and escorted the comely counter-protester away. The protestors, all African-Americans, proceeded to say some silly and offensive things (Can we stipulate that “You killed off our people. You enslaved our people…You put us in this white supremacist place” is silly and offensive? I think that’s fair… and a lot fairer than accusing Manhart of “killing off” African-Americans.) Neither the demonstrators nor the police pressed charges against Manhart, but she did receive a campus trespass warning that bars her from campus activities. Let us pause for a brief ethics audit, shall we?

1. The flag desecrating protest, as the Supreme Court has clearly ruled, was legal and protected, except to the extent that it incites others to violence, like a burning cross. In some settings, it might be so judged. Not on a college campus, unless the college is West Point.

2. Legal or not, it’s a disrespectful and irresponsible protest, not to mention dumber than a Justin Bieber Fan Club.

3. I think many veterans would react as Manhart did. My father would have. I might have on his behalf. A lot of non-veterans would as well, and I salute them. Remember Rick Monday?

4. The police were correct to intervene and arrest Manhart.

5. The protesters were correct not to press charges.

6. The university correctly ordered her to stay away.

Unfortunately, the story began to rot soon after it was first reported. Continue reading

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Ethical Quote Of The Month: Sgt. Shane Ortega

Trans Military Service Member

“You have to exercise patience with people, but people are not going to understand the subject overnight.”

—-Sgt. Shane Ortega, helicopter crew chief in the Army’s 25th Infantry Division, speaking to the Washington Post about his legal battle with the U.S. military, which continues to classify him as a woman despite his transition to a man.

The reason we say that “hard cases make bad law” is that the toughest cases fall between the cracks in rules and regulations, and they all have cracks. The law seeks consistent precedents, so anomalous fact patterns threaten the integrity and efficiency of otherwise effective laws and rules that work well in the vast majority of situations. Yet those hard cases usually indicate flaws in policies, rules and laws, and sometimes point to the need for change.

Often, an organization, especially a bureaucratic one like the military, will deal with such disruptive cases by simply looking past the actual facts, and treating them “by the book.” Ortega represents a particularly glaring instance of this phenomenon, which in his case not only harms his career, but also makes the military appear rigid to the point of absurdity.

Yet, as his Ethical Quote of the Month indicates, he understands. Change is painful, and it takes time. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, Leadership, War and the Military, Workplace

Bergdahl Desertion Ethics

BoweSo Bowe Bergdahl is being tried as a deserter! Fancy that—and yet Susan Rice, the President’s National Security Advisor, told the nation, as the President was trying to pretend his decision to trade terrorists for the disturbed American POW wasn’t the cynical effort to overshadow the then raging VA scandal and to tamp down veteran groups’ rage that it was, that Bergdahl  “…served the United States with honor and distinction…”

Either Rice knew this wasn’t true—and if she were competent in her job, she would have to, wouldn’t she?—and was lying to the American public, or she didn’t know whether it was true or not, but asserted that it was true anyway, which is also lying to the American people. She is, as we already know, willing to do this—lie. And her punishment from the President, who promised transparency, for such a high profile and embarrassing lie? Nothing. What does this tell us? It tells us that Barack Obama doesn’t put a very high priority on being truthful with the public that elected him..

You know, I don’t object to making a prisoner trade to free an American soldier, even an awful one like Bergdahl, if that is the reason why it is done. I can accept it if our leaders level with the public, as in: “Sgt. Bergdahl is far from a model soldier, and may even be facing charges. But he is an American citizen, and we do not abandon our own. Even a flawed American soldier is more precious than five terrorists.” These leaders, however, don’t level, because they fear that if they did, the full disgrace of their incompetence would be known. Just as Obama doesn’t hold Rice accountable, the news media and the President’s party don’t hold him accountable for this putrid, contemptuous treatment of the American people, and Democrats allow incidents like this to rot their values from the inside out.

That’s the revolting culture that the charges against Bergdahl confirm, for those not completely rotted. Continue reading

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