Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/7/2019: The Duke’s Revenge, Biden’s Integrity, The VA’s Incompetence, And A Teacher’s Cruelty [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

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.

45 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/7/2019: The Duke’s Revenge, Biden’s Integrity, The VA’s Incompetence, And A Teacher’s Cruelty [UPDATED]

  1. Wait; abortion is a RIGHT, like life, liberty, and the pursuit of sexual gratification (do I have that correct?)? I thought Roe V Wade made abortion legally permissible? It’s not in the constitution /Bill of Rights; how is it that it’s something that has to be provided free of charge, at the expense of people who object to it as nothing less than mass-murder?
    The day that that shit is paid for via government money in any significant way is the day I figure out how to quit paying taxes. I’ll bet I wont be the only one.

  2. Re: D-Day:

    FDR wanted George Marshall to head up the invasion so he could have his place in the sun. He told Eisenhower, “Ike, you and I know who was the Chief of Staff during the last years of the Civil War. But practically no one else knows, although names of the field generals – Grant, of course, and Lee, and Jackson, Sherman, Sheridan, and the others – every schoolboy knows them. I hate to think that fifty years from now practically nobody will know who George Marshall was.”

    How many people today know who George Marshall was? Despite not heading up the invasion, he was implementer of the Marshall Plan which may have saved much of Western Europe from Communism. Everyone should know his name.

    1. I have the right to free speech, does the government have an obligation to pay for my soapbox on the street corner or my handgun if I choose to exercise my 2nd Amendment rights? Besides, since the pro-abortion camp frames abortion as a women’s health issue, taxpayer-funded abortions come dangerously close to taxpayer-funded medical care. It’s not without precedent, but look what taxpayer-funded medical care has done for the veterans…
    3. Speaking of which, the Obama administration never cared about veterans. When it tried to prove it did, in the hopes of burying the last VA scandal, it traded five terrorists for a traitor.
    2. Media likes to be in the business of King-Making these days. Too white, too male, too civil (by comparison to the other candidates), too moderate (also by comparison), it’s been decided that Joe is standing in the way of some minority female’s time to shine.
    4. I read this article online. In this day and age, I can’t believe there are teachers that think an award for any student labeled, “Most Annoying” is appropriate. But, with attention given to slights against special needs kids constantly in the media, I am awestruck that no one thought giving a special needs child a “Most Annoying” award was a bad idea.

    • What I have always read was that the plan — after the invasion of Sicily was for Marshall to take command of the Normandy invasion and Eisenhower to replace him as chief of staff.

      FDR decided that he couldn’t do without Marshall in Washington, so he tapped Eisenhower for the Normandy invasion — and the rest, as they say, is history.

      And by the way, if memory serves, Halleck was the chief of staff for the last half of the Civil War — and he is mercifully (and justifiably) forgotten, except as part of the parade of bad generals Lincoln had to deal with before Grant.

      You do make me wonder, though, if Marshall would have been able to replicate Eisenhower’s career path in the 50s. For that matter, would Marshall have been able to manage all the prima donnas leading the Allied armies in France anywhere near as well as Eisenhower. I suffer from knowing how good a job Ike did and wondering if someone else could have done it…..

      • The other notably forgotten commander of the Army of the Potomac. Despite our notions, technically, Meade was never replaced by Grant. Meade still “commanded” the Army of the Potomac, while Grant (in command of the whole Union Army “merely” posted his Headquarters with Meade and promptly became very “hands on” as a leader.

  3. I only WISH it was Paul Anka’s only film appearance. It was an excellent cameo. Not so compelling: Girls Town (1959) which covered on Mystery Science 3000, and Look in Any Window (1961), in which he played a peeping tom. 3000 Miles to Graceland (2001). Captain Ron (1992). There were others.., But, of course, this has nothing to do with the substance of of your Alarm.

  4. Regarding an immediate slapdown during the awards ceremony, there’s a need to do some ethical balancing there. On the one hand, making an immediate scene supports your child and shames the teacher. On the other, making a scene runs the risk of buying your kid infinitely more teasing as “the kid with the psycho dad” than he’d have ever had from the original cheap shot. It’s not fair, but kids are cruel.

  5. 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

    How does this apply to the right to keep and bear arms?

    • It is the same way the government can pay for my next firearms purchase and the ammo I need for matches this summer.

  6. I was under the belief that the bill of rights was as document limiting government intrusion into our lives. How exactly does government support our rights? Which program helps me access my 2nd amendment rights. Which government created media platform allows me to fully and equally experience freedom of speech.

    If access to health care is a right then why am I paying insurance premiums that do not cover lasix or dental implants which are not deemed medically necessary. Abortions are elective procedures for the vast majority of women. If Roe was about privacy rights and a women has absolute control over her reproductive choices whereby government intrusion into those choices is considered patriarchal oppression then government has no business promoting access nor hindering it. And, as you stated Roe did not legalize abortion it merely stated that laws proscribing abortion were unconstitutional. If the court is unwilling to explicitly rule that women have the right to the procedure they are effectively saying government has no role in the matter. Even if they had there is no reason to fund such a controversial elective procedure.

    Using tax dollars to fund abortions is putting the government into a position of promoting one religion over another. That is why the Hyde amendment should remain in force.

    Women cannot demand government stay out of their uterus on one hand and then demand they pay to extract the unwanted fetus with the other.

    Conceptually, the Bill of Rights codified rights that could not be taken away from the person by government. Therefore, any subsidy to maintain those inalienable rights should come from the giver of those inalienable rights.

    • Final point

      If the Hyde amendment is repealed how long do you expect it will take for race baiters use the government funding to abort babies of color as evidence of white supremacy doctrine. African American babies are disproportionately aborted now. Don’t give them the petard to hoist you on.

    • All was screwed up once the government started providing entitlements. Equal Protection means that all citizens must have equal access to all government benefits, which must respect their rights. If the government pays for health care, it cannot withhold such payment for a form of health care that is a guaranteed right while supporting other forms of health care. Now, the Supreme Court allowed the Hyde Amendment in 1980, an opinion I disagreed with then, and now. https://www.oyez.org/cases/1979/79-1268

      • Jack
        The government does not pay for elective procedures. Equal access does not require funding otherwise that standard would mean everyone gets an equal share. Health care subsidies were legislated not on constititional grounds for equal access because Medicaid recipients do not have equal access. We as a society elected people that chose to create programs for the poor as it was in society’s best interest; like sanitation departments and public health officers. If society deems such programs to be too costly no longer needed or politically suicidal they will be legislsted out of existence and the Supreme Court cannot order Congress to appropriate funding for such programs. If the court had that power we would all be in trouble.

        • Jack I read the material on the link. I am willing to go along with funding “medically necessary” procedures but the idea that the majority are medically necessary is ludicrous. Until they use the same medical assumptions relating to standard coverage of health insurance in determining medically necessary versus elective is thr idea is unsupportable.

          Why is breast augmentation not medically necessary if it shown the mental health of the patient is at risk without it. Economic necessity does not rise to medically necessary.

          I believe most arguments on this subject occur because we conflate terms and conditions. Can I support Medicaid paying the costs of terminating a pregnancy because complications have arisen such that the mother’s life is in jeopardy. Yes.
          Conversely, I would fight a rule that says I must fund the choices of irresponsible people by helping them with a procedure I find abominable. In the case of rape or incest why must federal programs cover these costs. Just how many need to be funded and why not impose the costs on the perpetrator? Failing that why don’t local non-profit crisis centers fund the costs. How many would each have to do? One, two per year? Liberty means people are free to act in accordance with their desires and societal limits. Forcing people to pay so another has unfettered sexual liberty denies liberty to others.

            • I dont follow this reasoning. How is my point akin to FGM. If it is I will need to rethink my position.

              • My point agrees with your point: just because society has judged abortion to be legal does not mean they should be able to make me pay for them. It is as abhorrent as a society allowing FGM and then making it a ‘right’ that I pay for.

  7. If the “disciplinary action” for that teacher does not include immediate firing, it’s inadequate. Singling out a student for public ridicule like that is absolutely inexcusable, and any school administrator or school board member who tries to justify any punishment less than job loss also can’t be trusted to keep their job.

    • Yes, #5 was the one that made my head explode. The ‘disciplinary’ action shouldn’t include just the teacher. Who made or ordered the shiny star? Who read off the award along with the child’s name. Maybe the non-verbal child didn’t understand, but every other adult and child in the room understood the verbal abuse buffed up like a prize. This showed that the teachers and school APPROVED of mocking the disabled boy… and deceived him about it too.

      I would suppose the awards were read out by the principal or Superintendant. If they were smart, they would have rephrased it before they spoke to something like ‘suniest smile,’ and apologized for the engraving error to the entire audience. The kid would still have his joy, and maybe, just maybe, the private school could skip the PR and lawsuit disaster. NO anonymity now for the teacher, they mocked their disabled student on the child’s supposed big day. Making a scene, would have underlined to all the other adults and kids how much a turd that award was. The only reason not to was the boy did not understand. I hope they raise a stink and change schools at a minimum. Who should trust the judgment at the school? What other cruelties already happened without the non-verbal student telling?

      • It was unbelievably cruel. ‘He won’t understand anyway, and we’ll all have a laugh’….the poor Dad must have felt punched in the gut.

  8. 4. I was looking for more information and as luck would have it, I saw an update by NBC Chicago (that was a minute old when I saw it, less than 30 as I post this). The principal has been placed on admin leave pending an investigation and three teachers have been given a “preliminary determination notice of contract cancellation.” Not clear if an ethics alarm bell rang loudly for someone or if public reaction is prompting these actions, but apparently it is moving in the right direction. Having worked with special needs kids (at a higher grade level), I can’t imagine that this is anything less than a firing offense.

  9. What’s disturbing is that this “nonverbal” kid with autism may be more of a genius than anybody realizes:

    https://www.today.com/parents/boy-nonverbal-autism-sings-lil-nas-x-s-old-town-t155833

    https://psmag.com/magazine/jacob-barnett-30-under-30

    So just keep on running pregnancy tests for autism and aborting our best and brightest. But we can’t complain that “there don’t seem to be any more Einsteins around” or that “we don’t seem to have progressed scientifically much since splitting the atom.” Normalcy and social competence might get you a date to the prom, but they’re not going to crack quantum mysteries. Like a surprise twist from an S. Knight movie, you’re gonna need the weird “nonverbal” kid from special ed to move that goal post.

    • Explain how it makes sense or is consistent to declare that of all our rights, the people who disagree that the right to an abortion should exist can refuse to let their taxes support it. Why can’t those who object to “hate speech” demand that their tax dollars never be spent to support schools that teach contrarian courses regarding, say, reparations or racial spoils? Governments do background checks to allow some gun purchases be private citizens: do anti-2nd Amendment citizens have the right to demand that their taxes son’t support that activity?

          • …our taxes should pay for what our elected representatives choose to do, and what they decide the taxes should pay for. No exceptions.

            Jack, this is not snark, but a serious question as it strains my ethics in the same way having my taxes pay for abortions does. Please bear with me:

            Several countries either condone or outright allow female genital mutilation as a cultural practice. Many of those cultures bring this practice here when they immigrate. If this practice becomes protected by law (which could happen in our tribal disfunction) should my tax dollars be used to be sure that this procedure is not practiced in a back alley somewhere with a rusty knife? After all, “families will mutilate their girls anyway, and nothing will stop them… and it is allowed by law” in my scenario. “We should make sure this right is available to families everywhere.”

            You cannot discount the possibility in an age where genital mutilation surgery is already being praised as healthy for men who would like to compete as women… and supported by tax dollars in some places.

            There is ick factor, but also ethics when the person being mutilated is a child who is unwilling to have the surgery.

            Why is this different than abortions paid for my my mandated donations? If it becomes law (say, in Michigan) it would be no different than your statement above.

          • So if the Hyde Amendment is something our Elected Representatives choose to do, then that is how they decided taxes should pay for something.

            This is just an appeal to authority Jack and it’s shown an inconsistency in the argument.

            “hate speech” is a completely nebulous term. I’m not sure how it even reasonably makes a good analogy for the topic.

            Governments actually don’t do background checks for fire arms…governments make criminal databases available for private institutions to look up. Data that would already be available anyway. No tax dollars spent. And even if those tax dollars are spent on background checks, you are still about 2 abstractions away from Tax Dollars directly paying to have a baby killed, the direct analogy of which would be using tax dollars to directly purchase guns for private citizens elect to purchase one.

            • It’s an end around a SCOTUS decision, and hence unethical. Can the elected officials decide that citizens can individually veto a right because they don’t like it? I supposed, just like a man can make himself a slave. It’s still unethical. “Hate speech” is a good example because “immoral right” is about as amorphous. How about a Rand Paul Amendment that taxes should never pay for war or armed activities abroad? How would that be different?

              • And one more thing: it’s deceitful. The money is just switched around; the Hyde Amendment doesn’t change a thing, and it leads to fakes like the government giving money to Planned Parenthood, which moves money from their other budget items into the abortion line.

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