Monthly Archives: February 2015

Remembering Another False “Memory”: The Rosenblats, Oprah, and the Holocaust Love Story

Herman and Roma

Herman and Roma

Somehow I missed this story, because if I had noticed it, I know I would have written about it. Maybe you missed it too.

Herman Rosenblat died on Feb. 5, and his death was noted in several publications, not for his life, which included surviving the Holocaust, but because of a charming story he told that turned out to false. He had written in a memoir about a mysterious young girl on the other side of the barbed wire fence who help kept him alive as a starving teenage inmate at Buchenwald. As recounted in another book:

“He saw her pull something from her pocket. An apple? She squinted, gauging the distance between them, swung her arm in a few practice throws, then hurled the apple with a force that surprised him. The fruit flew across most of the distance between them before it dropped to the ground, rolled under the fence and landed just inches beyond the wire on Herman’s side.”

Day after day, the same mysterious “angel,” as he thought of her, risked her life by throwing apples to him over the fence.

Twelve years after the war, he had a blind date in Coney Island. His date told him about her experiences in Europe during the war, and how she wondered what had become of a young boy she remembered throwing apples to in a German death camp.  Stunned, Herman said that he asked, “Did he wear rags on his feet instead of shoes?”  When she answered that he did, Herman exclaimed, ‘That boy was me!” They were married, and it was a loving union that lasted 56 years. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, History, Love, Romance and Relationships

The Tangled Ethics of the Down Syndrome Cheerleader

There’s a lot going on here, and I may lack the ethics dexterity, or perhaps the courage, to figure it out.

I learned about the story on CNN this morning, as the newscasters were getting misty-eyed and “Awwing” all over the place. With a lot of fairly disturbing ethics issues rotting on my plate, I was looking for something uplifting to write about. I’m not sure whether this is it or not.

Here is the most recent on-line story about Kory Mitchell, a sophomore on the varsity cheerleading squad for Manitou Springs (Colorado) High School, who was born with Down Syndrome:

DENVER, Colo. – A Colorado teen with Down syndrome has made her dream of competing in a cheerleading competition come true.

Colorado’s 3-A cheerleading champions hail from Manitou Springs. At the top of their pyramid is a teenager who has overcome serious challenges in her life. The countdown is on as thirteen girls get one last practice in at the Colorado School of Mines. In minutes, the Manitou Springs Mustangs huddle will compete against other top teams.

Cheerleaders take center stage showcasing their spirit and synchronicity. The Manitou Springs Mustangs huddle one last time. And for the first time, joining them in competition is 16-year-old Kory Mitchell.

“She is full of life and full of energy and always wants to be a part of everything,” says her mom, Bonnie King, as she watches with pride.

Her daughter has dreamt about being a cheerleader since elementary school. Her mom is emotional.

But learning these already complicated routines is harder for Kory. “It`s just a tough road when you have a differently-abled child. And to see them have a sense of belonging and acceptance is what she wants, of course, is just so beautiful to see it,” mom says.

Kory’s teammates see what’s under the surface. Things like courage, patience and unconditional acceptance.

“She`s pretty spunky. And she`s got some sass. She loves being out there. It`s nice to see her smile and part of the team,” says one of her teammates. Sometimes competitions aren’t about who wins, but a little hardware doesn’t hurt.

Kory accepted the trophy and a hand from her teammates.

“It`s my dream come true. I love my girls a lot. I`m a big fan of cheerleaders,” Kory said.And Kory’s teammates are big fans of her. This was Kory`s first competition, but she has cheered with the team since last year at football and basketball games.

Observations (some of them reluctant): Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, U.S. Society

Unspoken Ethical Quote Of The Month: Outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

Attn. General Holder Testifies At Senate Judiciary Hearing On Justice Dept Oversight

“No, I respect the motives and intentions of my critics. Those who have opposed me genuinely disagree with my philosophy and approach to the job, and I would never denigrate them by attributing their opposition to race, bias, or anything but the same passion and belief in their goals for the nation that I have in mine.”

What Attorney General Eric Holder could have and should have answered in his “exit interview” with Politico’s Mike Allen, in answer to the question, “Now, there clearly have been times …when you have felt disrespected on Capitol Hill. How much of that do you think relates to race?”

Holder didn’t answer this way, however.

Holder is black, and consistent with the message that has been trumpeted from the White House, Democrats, the Congressional Black Caucus, and Presidential advisor and Holder consort Al Sharpton for more than six years, any and all problems, criticism, misfortune or failure affecting African Americans can plausibly, reasonably, credibly, and advantageously be attributed to racial bias or outright racism.

Thus Holder’s actual answer to Allen was…

“Yeah, there have been times when I thought that’s at least a piece of it.”

Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race, U.S. Society

A New, Seductive And Sinister Way To Be Unethical: Shoplifter Extortion For Profit

CEC

If you are accused of shoplifting in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas, Houston, San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, and a growing number of other cities, you may face an unexpected choice. If the store you were shopping in participates in a program operated by  the Utah-based Corrective Education Company, you will be asked to choose between talking to the police, with the risk of being arrested, or leaving the store without facing law enforcement, after you sign an admission of guilt and agree to pay $320 to take an online anti-shop-lifting course.

What??

Slate informs us that about 20,000 people around the country have faced versions of this dilemma since CEC began operations, and chose option B—enriching CEC, and the stores as well. The interesting approach was started by two Harvard Business School graduates—that figures—and is sold as a win-win-win-win:

“It saves retailers time that they would have to spend dealing with the police; it frees up law enforcement resources that could be spent on higher priority cases; it reduces the likelihood that a shoplifter will come back to the store to steal again; and it gives second chances to offenders who would otherwise be saddled with a criminal record for life.”

Right.

It’s unethical you know. I wonder if the company knows? Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, The Internet

When Is It Ethical For Lawyers To Testify Against A Client? Here’s An Example…

Next time, stick to baseball hypotheticals, Darrell.

Next time, stick to baseball hypotheticals, Darrell.

From Panama City, Florida comes this rare legal ethics scenario. Darryl Mack, 22, accepted 20 years of prison in exchange for a no contest plea to a murder charge, after he learned that his original attorney in the case would be testifying for the prosecution. The revelation by an accused  criminal’s own lawyer of what most think are privileged statements would be devastating evidence, which is why lawyers are almost always prohibited by the ethics rules from doing this.  Mack had been trying to block the testimony on that basis. However, Circuit Court Judge James Fensom ruled those statements could be used against Mack at trial. Why? It is because of a useful and necessary exception to the ethics rules known as the crime-fraud exception.

If you are a “Breaking Bad” fan, this one of the reasons Saul is a crook, not a lawyer.

“The last thing a lawyer wants to do is testify against his client,” the prosecutor in the case explained. “But it is not reasonable to ask your lawyer to be your conspirator.” That means that a request for such advice is regarded by the profession as a request for assistance in breaking the law, and a lawyer cannot ethically give such advice. Such a request isn’t confidential, and isn’t privileged. A lawyer doesn’t have to reveal such information, but he also risks being charged as an accessory if the proposed crime is committed.

Timothy Hilley, Mack’s initial legal counsel, testified in a closed courtroom that Mack had posed a hypothetical to him at the end of a jailhouse interview, and Hilley viewed it as a veiled statement of  intent to commit murder. Mack allegedly asked his then defense counsel what would happen if a witness was unavailable for the trial, a question Hilley took to refer to a witness to the July shooting death of 24-year-old Tavish Greene, the victim in the murder Mack was charged with.

“Mack was on his way to leave, and he walked over to door and he said, ‘Could those statements be used if he was murdered,’” Hilley testified.
“I said, ‘No, it would be hearsay.’” Mack then asked, “How much time do I have?” Hilley said. “And I didn’t catch it at first, but then he asked again, ‘How long before trial?’ ” Mack left the room after Hilley told him the trial could begin as soon as June.  The lawyer reported the incident to the State Attorney’s Office, and withdrew as Mack’s attorney. Continue reading

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Filed under Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Update: Fox News’ Self-Destructive O’Reilly Denial

You can't yell you're way out of this one, Bill..no, wait. Maybe you can.

You can’t yell you’re way out of this one, Bill..no, wait. Maybe you can.

And here’s another one. Questions are being raised about reporter Bill O’Reilly’s accounts of being “bombarded” during the LA riots.

This process resembles sexual harassment. One way you can tell the falsely accused from the genuine miscreants  is that one accuser opens the floodgates when there is substance to the complaint. Very few sexual harassers aren’t serial by nature–think Bill Cosby. Heck, think Joe Biden.  The O’Reilly debacle is following the script of the Brian Williams drama almost exactly, except that NBC finally acted responsibly, though not until it had tried the old “let’s see if this will just blow over” ploy.

So how many reports of O’Reilly hyping facts and enhancing his bravery and boldness will have to surface before Fox News stops covering for him and acts like a legitimate news organization? ( For those who have forgotten, such a news organization values trust and integrity, rather than emulates President Obama’s insistence that the I.R.S was as clean as the driven snow. ( It was and is not, and the news media’s partisan decision to bury the scandal rather than investigate it will haunt it for a long, long time.)

The network seems intent on destroying any credibility there was to the claim that it was dedicated to truth rather than bias, and qualified to expose the distortions of the liberal-biased mainstream media. Forced to deal with a  parallel incident to NBC’s Williams crisis, Fox has chosen profit over professionalism (Bill’s ratings while playing victim have been boffo!) and is botching a brilliant opportunity to prove its critics wrong.

Instead, Fox is proving critics correct. Eventually, all but the shameless will begin to feel like they are getting the news from charlatans, and seek enlightenment elsewhere. NBC was late to choose integrity; Fox News may be too late.

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Extreme And Deluded Doesn’t Mean “Dangerous”…Or Is The Real Threat Something Else?

Texas-Police

The Republic of Texas, as an intriguing  YouTube documentary explains, is a small separatist group in the Lone Star State that maintains its own quixotic mini-government, including official currency, a president, a legislative body and even “courts.” Its senators and president gathered in the center of a Bryan, Texas, meeting hall, surrounded by curious or sympathetic onlookers, to debate issues of the national currency, develop international relations and celebrate the birthday of one of their oldest members. Suddenly one of the onlookers stood opened the hall door, letting in an armed force including the Bryan Police Department, the Brazos County Sheriff’s Office, the Kerr County Sheriff’s Office, Agents of the Texas District Attorney, the Texas Rangers and the FBI. It was a raid. The twenty  officers rounded up, searched and fingerprinted all 60 meeting attendees, and seized all cellphones and recording equipment.

What triggered such a frightening show of force? It was an elephant gun-flea response to the fact that the Republic of Texas had issued a “summons” to a Kerr County judge and another to a bank employee, ordering them to appear in the Republic’s court at the Veterans and Foreign Wars building in Bryan the day very the officers burst in on the group’s “congress.”

“You can’t just let people go around filing false documents to judges trying to make them appear in front of courts that aren’t even real courts,” Kerr County sheriff Rusty Hierholzer told the media. Ah. Some deluded club members engage in overreach while pretending that they have founded a new government rather than an eccentric social group–sending a bogus but sincere summons is a misdemeanor at worst—and this is seen as just cause for an armed raid? Hierholzer said he needed an army to serve a search warrant for suspicions of a misdemeanor, because there was a 1997 incident where 300 state troopers had an stand-off with well-fortified Republic of Texas leader with mayhem on his mind.

I have no sympathy with secessionists, militias, or other such groups. They are, however, engaged in the grand American tradition of opposing authority, complaining about the state of the nation, and gathering with others of a like mind to see if they can fix what’s wrong. The government putting a police-state scare into such groups, showing contempt for them and treating them like terrorist cells is un-American, in contrast. It’s harassment, and an attempt to discourage lawful dissent and to chill Constitutional rights. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, U.S. Society