Category Archives: War and the Military

Comment Of The Day: “Open Forum,” Training Thread

Well, that was humbling. Given the opportunity with this week’s open forum experiment to fly solo, the Ethics Alarms commentariat exceeded all reasonable expectations, producing multiple excellent topic threads and over a hundred comments (and counting) by 22 participants. It also generated several Comment of the Day quality posts, and I may end up posting all of them.

First up is this one, by Michael R, prompted by Steve’s jump-ball:

Now, a few years after women have been allowed to join the infantry, and hundreds have tried, only 30 percent pass compared to over 90 percent of males, but there are still only 24 women total in the Marine Corps Infantry.

Is it ethical to continue such an expensive and inefficient program?

Here is Michael R’s Comment of the Day on the training thread on the post, Open Forum Ethics:

Education is expensive. Should we accept people to training when we know that 70% of them will not be able to complete the training? We could be training people with a much better chance for success instead. A better question would be why don’t we have better screening for the female applicants? That would reduce the number in training, but increase the percentage that succeed

Better examples are probably the FAA’s air traffic control program and the military’s pilot programs. The FAA is facing a shortage of air traffic controllers. The new FAA biographical pre-screening for air traffic controllers is geared to select a ‘diverse’ force. They give more points for being unemployed than graduating from an FAA certified controller training program or having aviation experience in the military. The test gives more points for failing science than being good at science. People who do well on the Air Traffic Skills Assessment Test have no preference over people who haven’t taken it. This results in most graduates of the CTI (FAA collegiate training initiative) programs don’t ‘pass’ the new biographical screening. People who have CTI degrees pass the air traffic control training at a high rate. Those who haven’t, don’t. So, each class of air traffic control trainees now graduates fewer students. This new program has resulted in FEWER air traffic controllers being produced and the CTI programs are drying up because being prepared and educated hurts your chances of being selected. Continue reading

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Filed under Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, U.S. Society, War and the Military

The “White Christmas” Ethics Guide (REVISED And UPDATED)

I’m looking at some holiday movies to add to the Ethics Alarms library of annotated classics—no, ethics and “A Christmas Story” are irrelevant, it being a child’s remembrance and hardly literal–but I might as well begin with  revising and revisiting the “White Christmas” guide, which first appeared in 2012. 

I still like the film—my wife hates it—being a fan of all four stars, especially Bing and Danny, as well as the director, Michael Curtiz.  I do like it a bit less each time I see it, mostly from an ethics perspective, and the successive revisions reflect that.

I still get misty when the old general, played by Dean Jagger, gets saluted by his reunited army unit, which has gathered at his struggling, snowless, Vermont inn on Christmas Eve to remind him that he is still remembered and loved. Nonetheless, “White Christmas” is by far the strangest of the Christmas movies, and also the most unethical. Though everything works out in the end, the characters in the sloppy plot spend the whole movie lying, extorting, betraying, manipulating and generally mistreating each other, always with no recriminations at all, and usually with no consequences either.

In his addendum last year to my original post, Michael West found the film foundering from the second the opening credits ended. He began with the script for the opening scenes—General Waverly* is played by Dean Jagger; Captain Bob Wallace is Bing Crosby, and Private Phil Davis is Danny Kaye:

Opening Scene in the Jeep as they hear the Entertainment show.

GEN CARLTON (To Adjutant): What’s this all about, Captain?

ADJUTANT: A little entertainment for the men, sir. Tonight’s Christmas Eve.

GEN CARLTON: These men are moving up tonight, General Waverly. They should be lined up for full inspection!

GEN WAVERLY (To Carlton): You’re absolutely right. (To Adjutant): There’s no Christmas in the Army, Captain.

ADJUTANT: Yes, sir.

GEN WAVERLY (To Carlton): There’s always a slip-up or two during a change in command. The men get a little loose. But I know I’m leaving them in good hands.

GEN CARLTON: (To Waverly): Thank you, General. (To Driver): Sergeant, take me to headquarters immediately! We’ll have those men turned out on the double!

The Sergeant looks at General Waverly.

GEN WAVERLY: Goodbye, Sergeant. Take the short cut.

SERGEANT: Yes, sir!

The jeep pulls off and makes a half circle. The Adjutant makes a gesture, as if to stop it. Waverly stops him. The Adjutant turns to him.

ADJUTANT: That’s not the way back to headquarters!

GEN WAVERLY: Joe, you know that, and I know that, but the new General doesn’t know it. Or he won’t for about an hour and a half.

ADJUTANT: That Sergeant’ll be a private tomorrow!

GEN WAVERLY: Yes… isn’t he lucky?

SCENE CHANGE TO ENTERTAINMENT SITE:

CAPTAIN BOB WALLACE and PRIVATE PHILIP DAVIS are doing a number on stage to entertain a mass of 200 or so soldiers. GENERAL AND ADJUTANT just starting to take seats, off to one side where they are not noticed by the performers. ABOUT 6 SOLDIERS seated in audience. They look off, see General, start to rise. The General notices them – motions for them to sit down again, indicating he doesn’t want attention called to himself. Captain Wallace sings “White Christmas”.

CPT WALLACE: Well that just about wraps it up, fellas. It’s certainly too bad General Waverly couldn’t be here for this little yuletide clambake ’cause we really had a slam bang finished cooked up for him. I guess by now you know the Old Man’s being replaced by a new Commanding General fresh out of the Pentagon…it’s not a very nice Christmas present for a division like us that’s moving up. The Old Man’s moving toward the rear. That’s a direction he’s never taken in his entire life. Well all I can say is we owe an awful lot to General Waverly and to the way…

GEN WAVERLY: ATTENTION!

Every man is at attention and every head has turned to where General Waverly has taken up a position near the front of the platform.

GEN WAVERLY: Captain Wallace, who’s responsible for holding a show in this advanced area?

CPT WALLACE: Well sir as a matter of fact it was…

PVT DAVIS: …me Sir! It was my idea sir. Uh, I mean when you gotta entertainer sir of the caliber of Captain Wallace, sir…I mean sir…it’s Christmas Eve, sir. And well, sir, I mean that if you were in New York, Sir, you’d have to pay six sixty or even eight eighty to hear a great singer like Captain Wallace, sir.

GEN WAVERLY: I’m well aware of Captain Wallace’s capabilities. Who are you?

PVT DAVIS: Er…Phillip Davis, sir. Private First Class, sir.

GEN WAVERLY: Well, at ease, Davis.

DAVIS: Yes, Sir!

WAVERLY: I said, At Ease!

DAVIS: Oh, uh, Yes, sir, thank you sir.

WAVERLY: This division is now under the command of General Harold G. Carlton, and I don’t want anyone to forget it — not that he’ll let you. He’s tough — just what this sloppy outfit needs. He’ll have you standing inspection night and day — you may even learn how to march. And if you don’t give him everything you got, I may come back and fight for the enemy. Merry Christmas!

ASSEMBLED MEN: Merry Christmas!

GEN WAVERLY: Well, I guess, all I can say is, how much I…what a fine outfit…How am I going… (to Wallace) don’t just stand there, how am I going to get off…?

CPT WALLACE: We happen to have a slam-bang finish…He turns to the musicians, gives the downbeat.

They play “THE OLD MAN,” which is sung by the entire outfit.

ARTY FALLS IN VICINITY…Soldiers crouch…then finish singing.

GENERAL AND ADJUTANT DEPART.

MORE ARTY FALLS, ON SITE…Men scatter. Captain Wallace and Private Davis try to get men to cover. Private Davis man handles the Captain to cover as a wall collapses where he had just been standing.

For starters, we see a mass of soldiers in an open air situation within effective range of enemy artillery fire. A single well-placed artillery round could eliminate approximately 200 soldiers — more than an entire World War 2 Infantry Company (whose authorized strength is about 190-195 men; but given this stage of the war and attrition, this could easily be 2-3 companies of EXPERIENCED soldiers). Someone in the chain of command KNOWS this to be true and authorized this gathering despite the obvious danger. We know for certain that the Adjutant knows what the gathering is, as he answers in line #2 precisely what is going on. But an Adjutant has no command authority, so someone else authorized the gathering. We have to assume General Waverly didn’t know until the Adjutant answered General Carlton’s inquiry based on General Waverly’s later questioning of Captain Wallace. We can’t ever be sure who actually made the decision to have the entertainment occur at that location since Private Wallace, breaking an incredible number of military bearing protocols, interrupts a Captain, to answer a General. This Private, Private Davis, accepts all responsibility for the decision to expose upwards of 2 companies-worth of men to devastating artillery fire.

This information leaves us with two options: Either it really was Private Davis’s idea to have the venue at that location, in which case, Private Davis’s commanding officer and the various commanding officers AND EVERYONE ELSE in their chain of command are colossally INEPT for agreeing to the idea. The second option is that Captain Wallace DID indeed make the decision to have the venue at that site, and now he’s standing there like a lump allowing a subordinate to cut him off mid-sentence, a military no-no, and then allowing the subordinate to take the heat of any potential censure that was forthcoming. Of course, since he’s a Private trying to cover for his boss, he’ll say anything, so I won’t even ding him for the horrible excuse that 200 men should be exposed to German artillery fire because CPT Wallace is a famous singer – we all know it’s worth dying to hear Bing sing…

But of course, even General Waverly doesn’t seem to mind that 200 of his soldiers are idling around with a population density rivaling that of Bombay, just one artillery strike away from having more in common with mist than with humanity. When HE discovered what was going on by the Adjutant’s answer in line #2, he should have immediately ordered the soldiers disperse and had about two dozen commissioned officers who had every ability to stop the farce standing in his headquarters receiving the most royal dressing down of their careers and maybe a few firings.

What possibly does General Waverly think outweighs the need to disperse a mass of soldiers within effective range of artillery? Why, a Christmas music concert of course! It is Christmas Eve, after all!  Now, the Army does a really good job bending over backwards for the morale, welfare, and recreation of soldiers, much more than was ever considered a military precedent. BUT, we learn from the dialogue, the entire division is on orders to “move up tonight.” This somewhat vague description could range anywhere from simply occupying a section of the line to relieve a unit coming back or it could mean they are initiating a major offensive operation. We learn, however, that this movement, whatever it is, is occurring in mere hours. Having experienced large movements of soldiers myself, I know that if a Division is stepping off in a few hours, the men down to the platoon level are ALREADY in their assembly areas doing final preparations. This is apparent to the new commander, General Carlton, who is astonished that the men aren’t doing their final checks of equipment and gear.

Which leads us to the next bit: General Waverly is none too concerned about the unjustifiable exposure he’s tolerating of his…well, now General Carlton’s men…as we know Waverly has just been replaced by General Carlton, who, trope-tastically, we learn is one of those wretched new leaders who is probably horribly incompetent. The movie lets us know early on that he’s a despicable piss-and-vinegar type when he is mad that the men are having Christmas entertainment. Never mind that we now know that Carlton is severely concerned about a huge mass of men within artillery range open and exposed as well as not anywhere near where they ought to be to initiate movement of the entire Division.

The movie also lets us know he’s a jerk because it pushes the whole “fresh out of ________” trope. The usual way this plays out is the “fresh out of West Point” or “fresh out of ROTC” smear applied to new Lieutenants who assume Platoon Leadership with little to no actual experience. Unfortunately, this doesn’t exactly play out on the General level. Yes, the General ranks expanded rapidly during World War II, but an individual didn’t become one by being a complete buffoon (and yes there are always exceptions — but General Carlton, who seems to have a sense of urgency that no one in Waverly’s sphere of influence seems to possess, does not seem to be the exception).

Never mind, we’ll go on with the traditional “smearing of the new guy who replaces the beloved experienced leader.” In the original script I copied and analyzed, the dialogue was OVERTLY insubordinate and actively undermining of the men’s confidence in their new commander. In the corrected dialogue, though cleaned up a lot, there are still hints of undermining the new guy’s authority before he even makes a decision as the commander. There’s General Waverly’s smart-ass “There’s no Christmas in the Army” jab as a response to Carlton’s concern about the location and timing of the entertainment event — which he says “knowingly” to the Adjutant, who, we must remind ourselves no longer works for the Waverly but for Carlton.

There is the extra-rotten move when Carlton, recognizing the imminent danger as well as the horrifying breach of schedule in implementing the plan of operations, indicates he plans to move to Headquarters immediately to begin rectifying the situation and is undermined either by the Sergeant driving Carlton or by General Waverly himself. The driver decides to undermine Carlton’s ability to fix the problem by taking an extra long route back to headquarters. Between a driver and a singing-private, this division is apparently full of the lowest-ranking guys thinking they know best when to leave a behind-the-schedule division exposed to enemy fire just so they can catch a few tunes from Bing. The only other possible explanation is that General Waverly, himself, with a nod-nod wink-wink, authorized the driver to follow the reckless plan to take an hour-and-a-half detour, which we assume will require another hour-and-a-half correction before Carlton can get to Headquarters. Just as with the Adjutant before, let’s again consider that this driver no longer works for Waverly, but for Carlton The Sergeant is being openly insubordinate.

Even if Waverly was not responsible for the three-hour diversion, he immediately became complicit when the Adjutant, in an apparent realization who his new boss is (Carlton), moved to correct the driver but was stopped  from doing so.by General Waverly

The last bit of insubordination and undermining  the chain of command comes from the subtle digs Captain Wallace makes during his speech. His “Fresh out of the Pentagon” disdain undermines faith that Carlton may be a good commander, followed by the snide “not a nice Christmas present” for the division is enough to get any soldier censured. Soldiers and peers WILL whisper about their leaders, but an open act of insubordination like that? Stamped out like a spark in a dry forest… I won’t even address the fact that it’s a COMMISSIONED OFFICER making the openly insubordinate comments and a CAPTAIN no less. He would be dismissed and transferred immediately.

But hey, I suppose Waverly recognized all their rotten conduct when he feebly tried to make things right by saying “hey guys, he’s a good commander, never mind all the stuff we said before and our attitudes we displayed before!” A few moments later, just to do Carlton some justice, the artillery shelling arrives.

Then the movie moves into its funny guilt extortion phase. Army private Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) rescues his smooth-singing captain, Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) from being crushed by a falling wall in a World War II bombing raid, and injures his arm in the process. (It’s not a plot feature, but the battlefield set for the entire opening sequence is itself unethically unprofessional by being chintzy even by musical standards: it looks like they are filming a skit for a Bob Hope Christmas Special.  I thought it was lousy when I saw it as a kid. Michael Curtiz deserved better; the man directed “Casablanca.” Show some respect.) Phil then uses Wallace’s debt of gratitude to coerce him into accepting the aspiring comic as a partner in Wallace’s already successful civilian act. This is obviously unfair and exploitative, but Bing accepts the ploy with good spirits, and the next we see  the new team of Wallace and Davis knocking ’em dead and rising in the ranks of stage stars.

The act looks terrible. Bing was never much of a dancer, a game hoofer at best, and you don’t feature the greatest voice in the history of American popular music by having him sing exclusively duets. Nevertheless, all we see of the team’s rise is both of them singing and corny dancing inferior to what Bing did with Bob Hope in the “Road” movies.

Never mind. They have a show on Broadway, and as a favor to a mutual army buddy, they agree to watch the boonies nightclub act of “The Haynes Sisters” (Rosemary Clooney as Betty, and Vera-Ellen, of wasp-waist fame, as kid sister Judy. Did you know that in the “Sisters” number, Clooney sang both parts? ). Bing is immediately smitten with older sister Rosemary, but there is a tiff over the fact that younger sister Judy fooled them into seeing their act: she, not her brother, had sent the letter asking for a “favor.”

This is the first revealed of many lies woven into the script. This one is a double beach of ethics: Judy uses her brother’s name and contacts without his permission or knowledge, and lures Wallace and Davis to the night club under false pretenses.

Bing dismisses Judy’s cheat by noting that everyone “has an angle” in show business, so he’s not angry. Rosemary is, though, and reprimands Bing for being cynical. That’s right: Vera/Judy uses their brother’s name to trick two Broadway stars into watching their little act, and Rosemary/ Betty is annoyed because Bing/Bob (Bing’s bandleader, look-alike, sound-alike brother was also named Bob) shrugs off the lie as show business as usual. True, Betty is technically correct to flag the Everybody Does It rationalization, but shouldn’t she be grateful that Bob isn’t reaming out the Haynes sisters and leaving the club in a huff? OK, nice and uncynical is better than nice and cynical, but Bob is still giving her and Judy a break. As the beneficiary on Judy’s angle, Betty is ethically estopped from complaining that Bing/Bob’s reaction was “I don’t expect any better.” I can, she can’t. He should expect better: accepting unethical conduct allows it to thrive.

As we soon find out, however, Betty often flies off the handle.

Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Race, Romance and Relationships, War and the Military, Workplace

Comment Of The Day on “Comment Of The Day: ‘Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/27/18: …And Slanted History’ [Item #5]”

This concise but useful comment of the day takes the baton from the previous one, which discussed the reasons for the increasing politicizing of American history, often with the objective of vilifying the American experience.

Here is JutGory‘s Comment of the Day on the post, Comment Of The Day: Morning Ethics Warm-Up. 11/27/18: … And Slanted History” [Item #5]

Tempted to write several times, but never felt I would have the time to do my thoughts (or the topic) justice. Not that I consider myself a good student of history, but even big idiots can usually crack the 90th percentile (and I am a bigger idiot than most).

Progressives are undoing a grand bargain. Grant won; Lee lost; Grant let the defeated army walk home; and Lee agreed the cause was lost. Both sides saved face; they agreed to bury the hatchet. The South had formal and substantive arguments that formed the basis for secession (or war). That issue was put to rest and both sides were able, through the wisdom of the generals on both sides, to put an end to the fight.

The hatchet has been dug up by the progressives. The honest differences cannot be entertained. There cannot be honor on both sides, which was the deal struck (even for the losing side). The implicit agreement to let the past be the past has been ripped open by those lacking the wisdom of the Founders, who kicked the can down the road, or Grant and Lee, who decided to stop kicking it. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Government & Politics, History, War and the Military

From The Ethics Alarms Moral Luck And Butterfly Effect Files: Geoffrey Tandy And The False But Fun Story Of How An Ignorant Typo Won World War II

Some pretty cryptogams…

Bear with me: This is a fascinating story, but not exactly the story I thought it was.

Yesterday my wife and I watched an episode of the Travel Channel’s Mysteries of the Museum, a historical oddities and trivia show that explores the stories behind museum exhibits around the world. Grace is a student of World War II history and is especially interested in the work at Bletchley Park, where the top secret work on breaking German codes went on, including the exploits of Alan Turing, the eccentric genius who broke the Enigma Code and managed to invent the computer in the process. The episode was advertised as the amazing and little-known tale of how a typographical error won World War II.

The story: Geoffrey Tandy was the British Museum’s “seaweed man,” and a certifiable eccentric. For one thing, he was a bigamist, heading two families that were not aware of each other.  Tandy was also pals with poet T.S. Elliot, and more fond of writing esoterica than scholarly papers. Some typist somewhere along the line in his personnel paper work had misconstrued Tandy’s area of expertise, which was cryptogams,  primitive seedless plants such as algae and lichens, as cryptograms, which are ciphers and codes. Thus papers circulated the wartime bureaucracy stating the marine biologist was really an ace code breaker. This got the puzzled algae specialist mistakenly assigned to Bletchley, where he was a fish out of water, or a lichen out of his element, or something. The real code-breakers quickly figured out that Tandy was useless, but since nobody was supposed to know what was going on in the old building, he was stuck. Tandy spent two years filing papers and making tea.

Then, just like Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, unforeseen events conspired to make his special abilities crucial. Several sodden notebooks holding vital clues, including Bigram Tables, to the mysteries of the German Enigma code were recovered from a sunken U-boat.  Unfortunately but understandably, they were soaked through with sea water, and apparently damaged beyond repairing. Tandy, however, knew an old cryptogam trick he had used to preserve tiny marine algae! Obtaining special absorbent papers from the museum, Tandy was able to carefully blot and dry the sodden pages, making them readable. As hoped, they yielded the crucial missing information Turing needed to break Enigma, acknowledged by all as a turning point in the war, as well as a Turing point. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, History, Journalism & Media, language, Social Media, War and the Military

Ethics Alarms Sheepishly Presents Rationalization #69: John Lyly’s Rationalization, Or “All’s Fair In Love And War”

Why sheepish? Well, for an authority on rationalizations, it’s pretty embarrassing to have one of the most famous and oldest rationalizations of them all not appear until the 91st entry on a list being compiled for ten years.

Most people would guess that the old saying comes from Shakespeare. Nope: household name John Lyly, a poet, included the idea in his novel “Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit,” published in 1579, about ten years before the Bard wrote his first play. The novel recounts the romantic adventures of a wealthy and attractive young man, and includes the quote “the rules of fair play do not apply in love and war.”

As often happens, I stumbled on this prominent hole in the list while on another mission. A reader had questioned my criticism of George Bailey and his mother in the Ethics Alarms guide to “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in which they plot to snatch the lovely Mary (Donna Reed) away from George’s obnoxious  (“Hee haw!!”) old childhood friend and wheeler-dealer, Sam Wainwright. The reader’s argument was that Mary and Sam had made no commitment, and that she was obviously looking for a better match, so she was fair game for George. This sent me back to the movie, which I watched again last night. The key scene is this one: George is talking to his mother party for younger brother Harry and his new bride… Continue reading

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Filed under Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, language, Literature, Popular Culture, Quotes, Romance and Relationships, War and the Military

Armistice Day Ethics Warm-Up, 11/11/18: Pettiness, Tit-For-Tat, And Fake All-Stars

Good Morning!

Why Nora Bayes? Let me tell you a story…

I learned about Nora Bayes (1880-1928) while mounting a production of a “lost” musical, George S. Kauffman’s Hollywood satire “Hollywood Pinafore,” which was essentially a parody of Gilbert & Sullivan’s classic, “H.M.S. Pinafore.” Nora was mentioned in a laugh line in the script, so the 1941 show assumed that the audience knew who she was. I had never heard of her, so I did some research. She was a fascinating character, and a huge vaudeville and Broadway singing and comedy star, household name huge. “Over There” was one of her biggest hits; another was “Shine on Harvest Moon,” which she wrote with her second husband (she ultimately had five), Jack Norwith. He also wrote “Take Me Out To The Ball Game,” another Bayes standard. According to one online biography, Bayes Bayes “provided some flamboyant, indeed extreme, examples of the broad social changes happening in the United States in the early twentieth century, namely the questioning of traditional roles for women as well as the challenges to male political and economic power that marked the women’s movement of the time.”

I almost wrote about her in April. As regular readers here know, I believe it is the our duty to honor the memories, accomplishments and cultural influence of past figures in American history, because the more we remember, the more we learn, and the wiser and more ethical we are. Somehow Nora Bayes, famous as she one was, had been in an unmarked grave for 90 years.  On April 21, a group of Nora Bayes enthusiasts placed a granite headstone over her plot. The New York Times told the strange tale here.

Now I think of Nora Bayes every time I hear “Over There,” “Shine on Harvest Moon,” and “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.” Maybe you will too.

1. Truth in labeling. Major League Baseball has sent a team to Japan to play a series of exhibition games against a Japanese All-Star team, reviving a long-time tradition that had been suspended for several years. As you may know, the U.S. was critical in introducing baseball to Japan, and sent several major stars there to help get the sport established. Playing in Japan is mostly a lark for the American players, but the games are taken very seriously by the Japanese. In the first two games, the MLB All-Stars have lost, greatly pleasing the locals.

I don’t begrudge the Japanese fans their David and Goliath fantasies, but calling the U.S. team “All-Stars” is misrepresentation. For example, one of the pitchers who got clobbered in the last game, a 9-6  contest that began with the Japanese team jumping out to a 9-0 lead, was a Red Sox pitcher named Brian Johnson. I like Johnson, a crafty swing-man who had some good moments last season, but he’s a lifetime 6-6 pitcher who was left off the Red Sox post-season roster, and will have to battle to stay in the majors next season. I know you can’t sell tickets if the U.S. team is called the “All the players we could talk into coming to Japan Team,” but that’s what it is.

2. Tit for Tat  may be funny, but it’s not ethical. Representative Dan Crenshaw, the veteran who was mocked last week on Saturday Night Live for his disfiguring war wound, appeared on the show last night to mock the appearance of his tormenter, Pete Davidson. Crenshaw was unusually poised for a pol on a comedy show, and the bit successfully got Davidson and SNL, which had been widely criticized for its nasty routine, off the hook. Clever. Successful. Funny. Still wrong, however. This represents an endorsement of Donald Trump ethics, as well as the endlessly repeated rationalization for the non-stop ad hominem attacks the President has inflicted on him daily by the news media and others. The President famously—infamously around here—has always said that if you attack him, he’ll attack you back harder. His haters argue, in turn, that their tactics are justified by his. This is how the culture got in the escalating spiral to Hell it is in. I don’t blame Crenshaw: if he hadn’t accepted the invitation to get funny revenge on Davidson, he would have looks like a petty jerk. Nonetheless, he has now officially become part of the problem, not just a victim of it.

3. Stop making me defend President Trump Dept.  You see, I am kicked around on Facebook for not just falling meekly into line and declaring that everything Donald Trump does is an outrage and proof that he should be impeached. I tell you, it’s tempting. The mass bullying campaign to herd everyone into the undemocratic effort to overthrow an elected President using relentless criticism and flagrant double standards has been effective in stifling others, and it also serves as a kind of mass cultural hypnosis. I don’t like defending Trump. He is doing serious damage to his office, as are his unhinged foes, who are apparently willing to destroy the nation, democracy, and the Constitution to “save” it from him. But I will not be intimidated out of pointing out the revolting pettiness, hypocrisy and unfairness of his critics. Two examples surfaced yesterday. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/7/18: Post Gently-Lapping Bluish Eddy Edition

Good morning!

Prelude: I guess I’m glad that I don’t have to face the dilemma I described in the previous post. Giving my Facebook friends the in-the-face-rubbing they so richly deserved—yes, it genuinely ticks me off to be accused of taking talking points from Sean Hannity when I point out really, really bad arguments by any objective standard—would have been wrong, but it would have felt so, so good. Actually, I could still justify some nyah-nyahing, because the “resistance” and the Democrats failed miserably last night, but they won’t admit it, and it’s hard to get those who have technically won to admit that, in fact, they lost.

But they did. Let me reiterate, in case there is any confusion, that nothing could make me vote for Donald Trump, now or ever. It is a national tragedy that someone with his temperament and ethical deficits is in the White House. He is an ethics corrupter, like Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barry Bonds, and many others, but the entire Democratic Party has become an ethics corrupter of far more consequence and danger to the country. There are too many factors to balance and weigh, but I think the reason there was no “blue wave” last night is that much of America understands the latter as well despite no illusions about President Trump.

All the Democrats had to do was to be fair, civil, and rational over the past few months, and their dreams might have come true. That they couldn’t do it suggests to me that they are incapable of being fair, civil, or rational, and who wants to trust such individuals with power? As I wrote in a comment this morning,

“All the hate, all the anger, all the boycotts and obscenity, all the fake news, all the legal harassment, all the Sally Yates/James Comey sabotage, all the judicial partisan blocking, all the one-way ridicule on the comedy shows and the bullying on social media, all the Republican retirements, all the NeverTrump tantrums from people like Flake, McCain, George Will and others, the late attacks and threats by right-wing wackos—all of that, and the Democrats picked up a lousy 35 seats or so, with a President who (probably) has an approval rating under water?”

and

“Mid-terms are always examples of regressions to the mean. Everyone once thought that the GOP would lose both Houses and the White House in the last election. Trump behaves like a baboon,and even while his policies are working, people like me are embarrassed to have an ass like this representing the country. The Left’s tactics didn’t work; they played into Trump’s hands.”

This can’t be spun, though the news media will try: In Obama’s first mid-term, the GOP picked up 63 seats. In Clinton’s first, the flips were 54.

1. Speaking of spin, which is the process of misleading the public about events for partisan purposes (it’s unethical) …it’s fun/depressing to consider some of the various headlines linked at RealClearPolitics:

  • “Split Decision: Divided Government Returns to D.C.”  Carl Cannon, RealClearPolitics

(The government was already divided. Trump’s not a Republican, and Republicans within his administration were and are working against him.

  • “For Democrats–and America–a Sigh of Relief” —Frank Bruni, New York Times

(What a great tell.  It’s adorable that to the Times and its resistance pundits, the only Americans they acknowledge are the ones that agrees with  The Times.)

  • “Democrats Won the House, But Trump Won the Election”— Ed Rogers, Washington Post

Bingo.

  • “Trump’s Political Strategy Is Failing” —Ezra Klein, Vox

Klein and Vox are hilarious. I wonder what color the sky is on their planet?

  • “Voters Want Balance, Not Resistance”— Josh Kraushaar, National Journal

I think that’s a fair analysis, but will it stop House Democrats from spending most of their time trying to “get” Trump? Of course not.

  • “Kavanaugh Fight Was the Turning Point for Republicans”— Byron York, DC Examiner

Not just Republicans, but fair and reasonable  Americans. But the ethics corrupting Democratic party has minimized the number of such Americans. Here is part of a letter in the New York Times magazine, extolling an article about the travails of a convicted felon trying to get a law license after serving time for a robbery at gunpoint he committed when he was 16:

“This article left me in tears both for Betts’s years long effort to become a lawyer despite his rehabilitation and for the continued battle to make life fair for brown-skinned people in America. I couldn’t help thinking that our government just voted to allow an alleged sexual predator, and clearly a very angry white man, to the Supreme Court for life….”

Hey, Amy Gittleman (that’s the letter-writer’s name), I’m accusing you of sexual assault. Now you are exactly as much an “alleged sexual predator” as Brett Kavanaugh. Are you angry about that? Of course Kavanaugh was angry: he was smeared in public by a 30-year-old discovered memory alleging his misconduct as a minor. But you think that a conviction of a felony while a black man was a minor shouldn’t be a bar to practicing law, while an unsupported accusation of unreported misconduct as a minor that surfaces with a political agenda should be a bar to joining the Supreme Court if the accused is a “white man.” Got it. You’re an idiot. Who or what made you this way?

  • “Democrats’ Health-Care Revenge”—Jeff Spross, The Week

Classic example of spin. Pick what you want the Democratic House gains to mean, and say that they mean that.

“Dems’ Victory in House Provides Crucial Protection for Mueller”—Elie Honig, CNN

Another tell. The mainstream news media narrative is that the Mueller investigation really, really, really is going to find impeachable acts by the President. It should be obvious that it’s not, and that if an Evil Traitorous Trump had any reason to fear Mueller, he would have fired him long ago. Mueller needs no protection, just a sympathetic and partisan ethics panel.

But this is CNN.

  • “Exit Polls: Majority Say Russia Probe ‘Politically Motivated'” —Philip Klein, DC Examiner

This is because the Russia probe was and is politically motivated. “You can fool some of the people…”

2. But enough about the elections…Let’s talk about our future military leaders and animal cruelty. At West Point, before the annual rivalry football game, two cadets kidnapped two Air Force Academy falcons, the football team’s mascots, threw sweaters over them and stuffed them into dog crates. Aurora, a two-decade old bird, bloodied her wings from thrashing inside the crate, and sustained life-threatening injuries. Army officials  apologized and promised a full investigation.

“We are taking this situation very seriously, and this occurrence does not reflect the Army or USMA core values of dignity and respect,” the academy said in a statement.

The two cadets have the judgement of an Adam Sandler character, and should be kicked out after a hearing. That’s all we need is military officers with that level of sensitivity and common sense.

3. “Walking Dead” ethics. I once regarded the AMC show as the best ethics drama on TV. Indeed, it still has flashes of that: one of the speeches a dead character gave to Rick Grimes in a fevered dream last episode was a wonderful description of ethics. (If only I could find the video clip…. ) But a few seasons ago (this is Season 9) the show started cheating, making the audience believe a favorite character had died horribly by deceptively framing the scene, having the executions of main character Rick Grimes and his son prevented at the last minute by a huge Bengal tiger that was somehow invisible until he pounced on the would-be murderer, and now, strike three, “Rick Grimes’ final episode.”

For weeks, we were told that main character Rick, played by Andrew Lincoln, would finally get chomped or otherwise killed, joining most of the other characters that started out with him in a desperate effort to survive a zombie apocalypse. We even saw him apparently blow himself up, char-broiling hundreds of zombies in the process in a final heroic act, since he was fatally wounded anyway having impaled a kidney on a steel construction rod, bleeding non-stop, and being on the verge of shock trauma.  And then–surprise! At the end of the episode, we see Rick miraculously alive, winging off to somewhere in a helicopter. You see, said the producer on the weekly post-episode show, “Talking Dead,” it was Rick’s final episode on THIS show, but the character survived to emote another day, in a movie, or a spin-off, or maybe even “Walking Dead” after its fans get over being lied to once again.

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