Last night we managed to watch both “The Longest Day” and “Saving Private Ryan,” which especially amused me as I recalled the places my father shouted at the screen. Especially after “The Longest Day,” the complete absence of any sense of what the D-Day invasion was about or why we were fighting at all is particularly irritating, but then that’s Spielberg all over.
I also recalled the story about John Wayne’s participation in “The Longest Day.” (The Duke is really good in it, though if there is a star of “The Longest Day”, it is Robert Mitchum as Brigadier General Norman Cota, Assistant Commander, 29th Infantry Division, the man who was also a primary hero of D-Day itself. )
You who else is surprisingly good? Paul Anka, in his small role. He was only in the movie because he wrote the title song, but the singer shows a genuine talent for projecting his character on screen.
[Correction note: I originally wrote, “As far as I can determine, it was Anka’s only film appearance.” Wrong, Ethics Breath! Reader VinnyMick points out that Anka has several other, less successful, screen appearances. I regret the error.]
This was a passionate, emotion-and-patriotism- driven project by Darryl F. Zanuck, and he was betting everything on its success: the studio, his personal finances, his love life (Zanuck’s girlfriend at the time had the only female role in the movie), everything. The producer realized that he had to have Wayne in the film for credibility, as the Duke had been the Hollywood face of the American fighting man in World War II. Wayne knew it too, but was angry with Zanuck, who had mocked Wayne’s equivalent project of the heart, “The Alamo.”
He refused to do the film for scale (then $25,000) like the many other Hollywood stars in the film, and insisted on receiving $250,000 as an expensive crow-eating exercise for Zanuck. (That was what Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Rod Steiger, Red Buttons, Richard Burton, Peter Lawford, Eddie Albert, Jeffrey Hunter, Robert Wagner and Robert Ryan received combined. ) Even though the producer had Charlton Heston lined up to play Wayne’s role if no deal could be struck, he agreed to the punitive fee, as well as giving Wayne special billing in the credits, an out-of-alphabetical order “and John Wayne” at the end.
Yes, that was revenge…but Zanuck didn’t have to agree to it. The lesson is worth remembering: don’t spite anyone gratuitously, or make an enemy casually. You never know when you might need them.
1. Biden flip-flops, but at least he flipped in an ethical direction. Joe Biden is not modelling a lot of integrity as he desperately tries to appease the radical Left in his party so they might hold their noses and vote for an old, sexual harassing white guy to run against President Trump. His latest reversal was to repudiate the Hyde Amendment, which he had once supported and indeed voted for in the Senate. That’s the law that forbids any taxpayer funds from being spent to fund abortions.
The Hyde Amendment never made any sense. If abortion is a right, and it has been one for decades, then government support for access to that right ought to be no less a requirement than with any other right. The Hyde amendment stands for the proposition that if enough Americans don’t agree with government policy, they should be able to withhold financial support of it. That, of course, wouldn’t work as a universal principle, so the Hyde Amendment is an ethical and legal anomaly. I doubt Joe’s flip-flop is one of principle rather than expediency, but it’s still the right position to have.
2. Nevertheless, Joe’s not going to make it. The New York Times—it wants someone else to get the nomination, so it is reporting negative things about Biden that it might bury with another candidate—revealed once again that Biden repeatedly lied about participating in 1960s civil rights marches, despite being warned by aides not to do it. Such straight-out falsehoods are debilitating for a candidate who will be claiming to be the champion to elevate the Presidency beyond the incessant petty lies of Donald Trump; this was one reason Hillary Clinton was unable to exploit candidate Trump’s mendacity. She’s a habitual liar too.
So is Joe. It happens when you will say anything to get elected.
3. One of those Obama Administration scandals that never happened was just revealed…the Department of Veterans Affairs’ inspector general reported this week that the Veterans Administration owes at least $189 million to 53,000 disabled veterans who overpaid on their home loans.
Veterans taking out mortgages pay a funding fee to the lender that typically costs several thousand dollars, but by law the fee is waived for veterans who receive disability compensation. My dad took advantage of this benefit. From 2012 through 2017, however, more than half of the veterans entitled to have the fee waived paid the fee and never received reimbursement from the government. The Veterans Benefits Administration agreed to identify the exempt veterans who paid the fees and issue refunds, which since 2014 the agency has known that it owed to tens of thousands of veterans.
“OIG finds it troubling that senior VBA management was aware that thousands of veterans were potentially owed more than $150 million yet did not take adequate actions to ensure refunds were issued,” the report says.
Why yes, I believe I find that troubling as well. Amusingly, the Washington Post readership, in their comments, almost unanimously blames the Trump Administration for the delay, though I count three years–yes, 1,2,3!— under President Obama that the veterans were deliberately stiffed.
The constant corruption and mismanagement in the VA transcends parties and Presidents. There is an entrenched culture of neglect and incompetence, and if Congress wasn’t devoting so much energy to harassing President Trump, this would be a worthy problem to investigate and address.
4. When ethics alarms don’t ring. How can this happen? Rick Castejon, the father of a non-verbal autistic fifth-grader at Bailly Preparatory Academy in Gary, Indiana, was sitting through a class awards ceremony and the announcement that their son was receiving the “Bailly Preparatory Academy 2018-2019 Most Annoying Male Award.” It was the only negative award handed out. “When they called him up he was just excited to get a gold star because it was shiny,” Castejon said.
This makes me want to cry.
The father said he didn’t want to cause a scene, so he quietly left left the award on the table. As he was leaving, the son’s teacher caught up to him and said his son forgot his award.
Yeah, yeah, the 11-year-old’s mother went to the school the next day and complained, and the school eventually issued a statement apologizing and stating that the teacher responsible for “the award” is facing disciplinary action. It’s not enough. It’s not nearly enough.
What I’m wondering is whether, if I were the father, I would have had the presence of mind to stand up at the awards and condemn the teacher and the school for their incompetence and cruelty, delivering a “Harper Valley PTA”-style speech nobody there would ever forget. I hope I would. Sometimes I’ve been able to react quickly to an instance of outrageously unethical conduct when it happened in front of me, and sometimes I haven’t. But there is no question in my mind that an immediate and passionate slapdown was justified and called for.