“Privilege Bingo”

Teachers at Oakton High School in he Fairfax County school district, Virginia’s largest, had students participating in a political indoctrination exercise dubbed “Privilege Bingo.” The idea was to convince students of the innate unfairness of an American society which bestows unearned advantages on white, middle class males, among others. The students were told to self-identify their “privilege” as, school administrators huminahumina-ed when caught CRT-handed, “an opportunity to reflect on their own experiences while building their critical thinking skills.”

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It’s Only January 11, And Yet This Might Already Be The Ethics Story Of The Year: The Nazi-Loving Police Chief

This story made my head explode, and for once, it was worth it. I LOVE this story! It touches on so much…idiocy,incompetence, dead ethics alarms, unions, a soupçon of “The Producers,” incredible excuses and more—I don’t want to give away the one detail that made me laugh out loud yet. And perhaps best of all, it comes out of Washington state, one of the epicenters of The Great Stupid.

I am going to try to relate the tale without giggling, and then I’ll have some observations at the end. Alert: my telling may contain a bit of sarcasm here and there. I’m sorry. I can’t resist.

In Kent, Washington, a King County suburb of Seattle, Mayor Dana Ralph (D) apologized profusely to her city in a 30 minute video. Why? Well, she admitted that her administration badly mis-estimated what the public’s reaction would be to the town’s decision not to fire Assistant Chief Derek Kammerzell, and to instead suspend him for two weeks while allowing him to treat the time off as a vacation, meaning that he was paid. You can understand why the mayor and her staff would be blindsided by the outrage; after all, all Kammerzell did was show every sign of being a Nazi.

All right, that may be a little bit of an exaggeration, but not much. An investigation that began in September of 2020 after a complaint lodged by a member of the police force determined that Kammerzell, a 27-year Kent police veteran, Continue reading

‘Making An Example’ Ethics: The Condemnation Of Eddie Slovik

Eddie Slovik

Last year, when I noted this story in the December 23 warm-up, I was asked if there would be more on the topic. Here is more. It deserves it.

During World War II, U.S. Army Pvt. Eddie Slovik was tried for desertion. On this date in 1944 he was found guilty in his court martial and condemned to death by firing squad. It was the first such sentence against a U.S. Army soldier since the Civil War, and Slovik was the only soldier executed for desertion in World War II. In the intervening years between then and now, his death has become a point of ethical controversy, never resolved, and generally debated before the public from an emotional rather than an ethical, legal or even a military perspective.

I was first told the story of Eddie Slovik by my father, a decorated army veteran and officer during the war. A fervent admirer of General Eisenhower, he still disagreed with Ike’s much criticized decision to allow Slovik’s execution by firing squad to go forward. Dad was not supportive of the command principle of using a particularly blatant example of a crime to send a message to others considering similar conduct, and having had several Eddie Sloviks to contend with under his command, he did not like the resolution of the Slovik dilemma.

I argued the point with him many times over the years. “The question isn’t whether it was fair for Slovik to have been shot,” I told him. “It was. The question is whether many more deserters should have been shot as well.”

Private Eddie Slovik was a draftee, and not a good bet to be a good soldier. He had been classified 4-F because he had spend time in prison for a felony (grand theft auto), but was deemed draftable as the Allied war effort required quantity even more than quality as the conflict dragged on. He was trained to be a rifleman, though Slovik claimed that he hated guns.

In August of 1944, the Army shipped Slovik to France to fight with the 28th Infantry Division, which had suffered massive casualties. When he experienced being under heavy fire for the first time, Slovik concluded that he would not make it in combat. Though the current trend is to say that he and a friend “got lost,” it seems more likely that they were hiding before they turned themselves in to the Canadian military police. The Canadians returned the two to the Americans after about a month and a half.

Slovik asked the company commander if “getting lost” again would be considered desertion. Despite being warned that it would be, he went AWOL, then the next day turned himself in at a nearby field kitchen. He handed the cook this statement:

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/13/2021: Christmas Countdown Edition (Part I, The Past)

Burl Ives is one of those long dead artists of yore who would be nearly completely forgotten were it not for an annual revival every Christmas season. He had popular recordings of “Frosty…” and “Rudolph…,” and was featured in one of the Rankin-Bass animated Christmas shows as a singing snowman. The one Christmas song he made his own was “Have A Holly Jolly Christmas, and it’s a pretty annoying one at that. Ives was a fascinating character, a burly ex-NFL player who profitably turned to folksinging in the Thirties. He became famous doing that until he was the definitive Big Daddy on Broadway and on film in Tennessee Williams’s classic drama “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (Williams wrote the part with Ives in mind), leading to a long acting career.

He was blacklisted during the Red Scare, named names for HUAC and alienated the folksinging crowd. Ives had such a pure, light voice that he had great success with children’s songs (like “I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly”), yet on screen and stage he was usually a menacing presence. I always found the image of “Big Daddy” singing “Holly Jolly Christmas” bizarre.

December 13 is one of those banner days for ethics, good and bad. In 2000, Al Gore gave an admirable speech abandoning his efforts to flip the results of the too-close-to-call (literally) Presidential election, the ethics high water mark in his otherwise sketchy career. TIME disgraced itself on this date in 2019 by naming exploited teen mouthpiece for the climate change lobby Greta Thunberg as its “Person of the Year.

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Saturday Night Fevered Ethics, 12/4/2021: It Begins With A Hairless Cat…[Updated]

1. Where “Ick” and unethical become indistinguishable...Airlines have enough problems without having to deal with…this. A message was sent through the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) alerting a Delta crew in Atlanta that a passenger in seat 13A was “breastfeeding a cat and will not put cat back in its carrier when [flight attendant] requested.” And she was. Every time the passenger was asked to cease and desist, she attached the cat, which was of the hairless variety, not that it’s relevant, to her nipple again. A flight attendant on board during the incident, wrote on social media,

“This woman had one of those, like, hairless cats swaddled up in a blanket so it looked like a baby,” she said. “Her shirt was up and she was trying to get the cat to latch and she wouldn’t put the cat back in the carrier. And the cat was screaming for its life.”

2. A you have probably heard by now, CNN canned Chris Cuomo. This is a classic example of doing the right thing for the wrong reason: Cuomo should have been fired because he’s a terrible, unethical, none-too-bright journalist. The fact that he also mishandled a conflict of interest, abused his sources and used his position with CNN to assist his brother as The Luv Guv tried to avoid accountability for sexual misconduct all flowed from CC’s incompetence and ethical dunderheadedness. A serious scandal of some kind involving “Fredo” was inevitable.

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Friday Ethics Distractions, 10/22/21: Foot In Mouth Edition

foot in mouth Xray

Wow! People sure are saying some stupid things lately!

1. A David Manning Lie of the Month from Joe Biden! The David Manning Liar of the Month was a feature of the old Ethics Scoreboard honoring public figures or corporations that made obviously dishonest statements that they had to assume were harmless because nobody could possibly believe them. Thus Joe Biden really told reporters that he hasn’t gotten around to visiting the illegal immigrant mobs at the southern border because he’s just been too darn busy. All year. And, he added, it’s OK because Dr. Biden has been there. He also implied that he didn’t need to go to the border to see the utter mess his immigration policies have wrought because he’s seen the border

Let’s unpack this, shall we?

  • Joe has had time to go back to Delaware and Camp David, but not where there’s a border crisis of his making because he’s too busy. Does anyone believe that?
  • Let’s be fair: the President shouldn’t have to go to the border if he has competent subordinates to do it and accurately explain what’s going on. However, when President Bush chose not to personally visit the Katrina carnage, he was accused by Biden’s party and its news media of not caring, not doing his job, and, by Kanye West, of being a racist. What’s the standard? Bush felt that all he could do was get in the way. No, said Democrats, he had to go there, see what was happening with his own eyes. If that’s the standard, and I don’t think it needs to be, then why isn’t it also the standard for Biden and the border mess?
  • Talk about the cover-up being worse than the crime: Jen Psaki managed to top herself for mendacity and deflection when Fox’s Peter Doocy asked her why the President felt he had seen enough of the border. Why, she said, because he had been to the border in 2008! She really said that! “And nothing has changed since 2008?” Doocy reasonably asked. No! the President’s paid liar huffed. There’s been no immigration reform since then! And Biden knows President Trump has made everything worse by “separating children from parents” and building a “feckless wall” (whatever that means). So he doesn’t have to re-visit the border to know that, and again, he went there in 2008!

2. Shut up, or start a blog. The dim-bulb royals in exile decided that we need to hear their opinions on two issues. Prince Harry pronounced the First Amendment “bonkers”—yes, Harry, that attitude on the part of your relatives is why England doesn’t govern us any more—and his wife, Meghan Markle, received publicity for advocating paid leave for parents. Neither of these two people famous for being famous have done or said anything that should endow their opinions with any more persuasiveness or newsworthiness than the typical dogwalker’s. Harry was born well; Meghan married someone who was born well. It doesn’t matter what they think, or what they say. It’s not news. Continue reading

The Colin Powell Ethics Problem

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The ethics news today begins with the death of Colin Powell, who died this morning, according to his family. He deserves the accolades for his service and leadership skills, but in the Ethics Alarms annals, he ranks as an ethics disappointment.

As the obituaries will certainly mention, Powell, the U.S.’s first African American national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of state, would have also been its first black President if he had been willing to run. Shades of Eisenhower, he was courted as a Presidential candidate by both Republicans and Democrats before deciding in 1995 that the challenge would take him away from his family, and acceding to his wife’s objections and fears (she was reportedly afraid he would be assassinated). Thus instead of the bi-partisan, unifying figure of Colin Powell, we got Bush, and then the hollow, racially divisive Barack Obama. And here we are.

Yes, I lay much of what has happened to the nation in the 21st Century at Powell’s feet. The majority of our Presidents sacrificed greatly to seek and accept the office; I do not forgive Powell for passing the buck when he was in a unique position to unify the nation and particularly the races at a turning point in our history. He was called: it is as simple as that. As a good citizen and soldier, when you are called, you have an ethical obligation to answer. Powell did not meet that obligation. America is much the worse for it.

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Thank God It’s The Friday Ethics Warm-Up For The Weekend, 10/8/2021, Dedicated To Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow

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Mrs. O’Leary’s cow may be the most unethically maligned animal in U.S. history. On October 8, 1871, something caused flames to spark in the Chicago barn of Patrick and Catherine O’Leary. The resulting two-day conflagration killed 200-300 people, destroyed 17,450 buildings, left 100,000 homeless and caused about $4 billion of damage in today’s dollars. While the fire was still raging, The Chicago Evening Journal reported that it all started “on the corner of DeKoven and Twelfth Streets, at about 9 o’clock on Sunday evening, being caused by a cow kicking over a lamp in a stable in which a woman was milking.” Then a verse to a popular song was added; pretty soon it was the only verse anyone remembered:

Late one night, when we were all in bed,
Mrs. O’Leary lit a lantern in the shed.
Her cow kicked it over,
Then winked her eye and said,
‘There’ll be a hot time in the old town tonight!’

There was never any convincing evidence that a cow started the blaze. The O’Learys had five cows, and they didn’t have names. It’s not even a sure thing that the fire started in the barn, but Mrs. O’Leary was a Catholic woman and an Irish immigrant, and Chicagoans were eager to have a scapegoat, or rather scapecow. One prominent historian who has studied the inquest transcripts believes that the true culprit was an O’Leary neighbor named Daniel ‘Pegleg’ Sullivan, who hobbled into the O’Leary barn to smoke a pipe, which then fell into a pile of wood shavings and subsequently started the fire. Nonetheless, Catherine O’Leary was ostracized, and became a recluse. In 1997, the Chicago City Council officially exonerated Mrs. O’Leary and her cow, which did just about as much good for Mrs. O’Leary as for the cow.

1. A new book shows that I have not lived in vain! Yesterday, a line from a depressing movie called “Kodachrome” sent me into one of my funks. During one of the many arguments between a dying artist and his middle aged son who hates him, the father (Ed Harris) sneers that he may have been a neglectful father, but at least he would leave something of importance when he died, unlike his son, a failed rock band recruiter for a record label. By purest luck, today I received a complimentary copy of “Reginald Rose and the Journey of 12 Angry Men,” a fascinating and thoroughly researched account of how the TV screenplay and the film came to be the iconic works they are. Author Phil Rosenweig also tells the weird story of how Rose lost control of the stage version of his work, and how for years the only script one could legally perform was a hack adaptation of the movie by a writer who didn’t understand it. Well, I’m part of that weird story, as is my old theater company, “The American Century Theater,” which became the first professional theater in the U.S. to present the screenplay on stage. Many were involved in the success of that production, including my wife,Grace, who produced the script by meticulously typing the screenplay from a recording of the movie (this was before the internet), and NPR critic Bob Mondello, who traveled by bus, in the rain, to a converted school auditorium to see the production, which he gave a sensational and much circulated review. There were many twists and turns after that, but eventually Rose’s version of “12 Angry Men” became the play most theaters produce. He got the respect he deserved, the endurance of the play, which is a genuine classic (I directed it four times) is assured, and yes, I was part of the reason why. Rosenweig, who interviewed me, accurately relates my role in the off-stage drama. You can find the book on Amazon, and here.

Now I can die in peace.

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Week-Launching Ethics Warm-Up, 10/4/2021: A Happy Ending To A Pit Bull Saga, A Congressional Leader Makes My Head Explode, And More [Updated]

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Singer Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose on October 4, 1970. The anniversary prompts me to make an unkind observation that I was tempted to make after reading all of the tributes and expansive rhetoric praising “The Wire” actor Michael K. Williams after he died of an overdose of fentanyl and heroin on September 6. For at least a hundred years, anyone who takes heroin does so knowing that it is addictive and frequently fatal. My attitude toward Joplin, Williams, John Belushi, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Billy Holliday, and many other artists who have killed themselves this way involves more anger than sympathy. The world was robbed of their gifts because they were reckless. In the case of black artists, they endanger their admirers by creating a romantic aura for what is, in the final analysis, stupid and irresponsible conduct. How hard can it be not to start using an addictive substance that you know might kill you? The fact that the drug is illegal should be a big clue.

1. And speaking of the joys of recreational drugs...In a new study published in Psychological Medicine, researchers in the University of Birmingham’s Institute for Mental Health and the Institute of Applied Health Research found a strong link between “general practice recorded cannabis use” and mental ill health. Senior author Dr. Clara Humpston said: “Cannabis is often considered to be one of the ‘safer’ drugs and has also shown promise in medical therapies, leading to calls for it be legalized globally. Although we are unable to establish a direct causal relationship, our findings suggest we should continue to exercise caution since the notion of cannabis being a safe drug may well be mistaken.”

Continue to exercise caution? Who’s exercising caution? Popular culture and upper-middle class whites have been issuing pro-pot propaganda for half a century, while mocking government efforts to discourage widespread use and acceptance of another destructive recreational drug. Now nearly every state is on a path to legalize it, especially because they smell tax revenue.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/15/2021: “Having A Hard Time Keeping Up” Edition

Just a housekeeping note…I am struggling to find a way to keep Ethics Alarms reasonably current and informative at a time when the ethics issues are resembling an avalanche from my point of view. Avoiding the trap of letting political matters eat the blog is also a constant chore; it has been for many years, but the problem seems to be getting worse. The daily warm-up format was developed to help me cover more issues, but it has become an amazingly time-consuming project, usually taking me two hours on most days. That’s still less than it would take to cover each of the four or five items in full posts (tagging, proofreading and completing the links now takes longer than ever, thanks to WordPress “improvements). Of course, posting 8 or 9 posts a day instead of just three or four would help traffic, which depresses me, but unfortunately, I have other responsibilities. Then there are the long-delayed but promised Part Twos and Threes that are staring at me like unpaid debts, making me feel guilty. I can’t believe the Ethics Scoreboard would have an essay a week, and sometimes not even that. I’ll figure it out….

1. Well, this makes me feel a little better...it appears that the commentariat on both Ann Althouse’s blog and the home of Professor Turley’s usually excellent analysis have also become overwhelmingly conservative as the progressives have fled except for a few determined souls. Ann and the professor are both left-leaning, but their integrity has led them to be critical of the progressive hive as well as the news media that nourishes it. Being objective is now the mark of an evil conservative, apparently, or so their critics claim. That’s a horrifying cultural development, but at least the flight of the progressives on Ethics Alarms was not an isolated phenomenon.

2. More on “Peril”...

  • The story in Bob Woodward’s latest book about Gen. Milley’s breach of the chain of command because, apparently, he was biased by several Big Lies about his Commander in Chief only rated page 16 coverage in the New York Times, behind, for example, Squaw Valley changing its name because a lifetime petty criminal was accidentally killed by a Minnesota cop. Meanwhile, this is front page, multiple op-ed stuff over at the Washington Post. It the Post’s Bob Woodward’s claims are true, then it should be a front page story in both papers. If it isn’t, THAT’s a front page story. 
  • Of course, the story may be garbage, but the Post won’t consider that. Example: in a piece by Greg Sargent called “Awful new revelations about Trump and Jan. 6 show Mike Pence is no hero,” this excerpt from “Peril” is cited as factual enough to be called an “awful revelation.” Trump and Pence are supposedly arguing about whether Pence should block the certification of the election:
“If these people say you had the power, wouldn’t you want to?” Trump asked.
“I wouldn’t want any one person to have that authority,” Pence said.
“But wouldn’t it be almost cool to have that power?” Trump asked, according to Woodward and Costa.
“No,” Pence said. He went on, “I’ve done everything I could and then some to find a way around this. It’s simply not possible.”
 
How can these quotes be believed? It was a conversation between two people. Trump wasn’t Woodward’s source, and neither was Pence. Yet we are told that these are exact quotes. Unless Woodward was there, which he wasn’t, the account is hearsay at best, and maybe third- or fourth-hand hearsay. Greg Sargent, however, believes them, and a Post editor thinks that’s enough to justify representing a fabricated conversation as real.
 

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