Category Archives: War and the Military

Happy Non-Birthday, Frederick! And Welcome Rationalization 25A, Frederick’s Compulsion or “It’s My Duty!” To the Ethics Alarms Rationalization List

As any Gilbert and Sullivan fan knows, February 29 is the troublesome birthday of Frederick, the dim and conflicted hero of “The Pirates of Penzance.” (He doesn’t get a birthday this year.)  Apprenticed to a pirate as a child by mistake (his nurse heard “pirate” rather than “pilot”),  the lad was bound to serve as a cutthroat until his 21st birthday, and thinking that the terms specified his obligation to reach until his 21st year, quits the pirate band that raised him and joins the police, who are  seeking to put his old comrades behind bars, or worse. But poor Frederick  learns that because he would only be free of his obligations until his 21st birthday, and since he was born–Oh, horror!—on Leap Year,  he is technically only five (“and a little bit over”), and won’t be 21 by the terms of his apprenticeship until he is 84 years old. His beloved, the equally dim Mabel, vows to wait for him. Meanwhile Frederick, declaring himself a “slave of duty,” joins the pirates again, as they prepare to murder Mabel’s father.

W.S. Gilbert, who wrote this famously nutty plot, was satirizing the substitution of duty (and legal contracts) for reason, morality, ethics, and sanity. The latest addition to the Rationalizations List,  Frederick’s Compulsion is a sub-rationalization of #25. The Coercion Myth: “I have no choice!” Frederick believes that the existence of a contract creates a duty that he must obey without question, regardless of the consequences. He would have made a fine Nazi soldier. He would have shined in the Nixon White House. Continue reading

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Ethics Hero Emeritus Desmond Doss, And “Hacksaw Ridge,”

desmond-doss

Desmond Doss, who died on March 23, 2006 at the age of 87,  was the very first hero to be enshrined in the Ethics Alarms Hall of Heroes. I wrote about him before there was an Ethics Alarms, shortly after he died.  I had never heard of Doss before, and I remember being angry that I had never heard of him. Everyone should know about him. There literally are no Americans who were any more heroic, and whose ethical conduct was any more astounding, than Desmond Doss.

If the values of this nation, and especially Hollywood, were healthy and correctly aligned, he would be a household name, and the film about his World War II heroism would have been made long ago. Finally “Hacksaw Ridge” was produced in 2016, and has been nominated for an Academy Award, although it will never win.

When I first read about Doss, I couldn’t get my mind around what he had done to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the only conscientious objector ever to achieve that honor during combat. During the battle of Okinawa, we were told that he survived heavy enemy fire as he struggled to carry seventy-five wounded soldiers to the sheer cliff at Hacksaw Ridge, personally picking up each one and lowering them over the edge the cliff 400 feet to safety.   How is that possible? Now that I’ve seen the film, it still seems impossible.

Desmond Doss proved that principled opposition to violence against his fellow human beings need  not be based on fear, self-interest or self-preservation. It is often impossible to tell whether those who oppose armed combat really object to the spilling of all human blood in battle, or only their own. With Desmond Doss, there was never any doubt. He didn’t like the term “conscientious objector,” preferring the term “conscientious cooperator.” He enlisted in the army following Pearl Harbor, believing that the war against the Axis had to be fought and wanted to be part of the war effort despite believing, as a devout a Seventh Day Adventist, that it was a sin to kill, with no exceptions. Thus he refused to carry a rifle (or shoot one, even in training) but yet insisted that he be involved in combat as a battlefield medic. He achieved conscientious objector status  but would hot accept a deferment. Assigned to the 307th Infantry Division as a company medic, Doss was hazed, abused and  ridiculed  for his dedication to non-violence, and as the Mel Gibson-directed film shows, many of his tormentors eventually owed their lives to his astonishing heroism. All of his compatriots were amazed by his evident fearlessness under fire and remarkable dedication to duty, never hesitating to go after a wounded soldier no matter what the personal risk. As a combat medic on Guam and at Leyte in the Philippines, Doss had already been awarded the Bronze Star  before the three-day battle at Hacksaw Ridge.

Many of the soldiers in Doss’s 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division were driven off the ridge by a furious Japanese counter-attack, and  wounded G.I.s were stranded atop it. Doss remained with the wounded, and, according to his Medal of Honor citation refused to seek cover, carrying them, one by one, to the edge of the ridge in the face of enemy fire, some of them from behind enemy lines. He lowered each man on a rope-supported litter he improvised on the spot, using double bowline knots he had learned as a youngster and tying the makeshift litter to a tree stump to serve as an anchor. Every wounded man was lowered to a safe spot 35 feet below the ridge top by the 145 pound medic. Finally, Doss came down the ridge himself, incredibly, unharmed. Continue reading

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From The “You Keep Using That Word…I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means” Files: A Cheap Shot From The Heroes

Many conservatives are cheering this open letter from 14 Medal of Honor recipients to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.):

Dear Sen. Richard Blumenthal,

You recently called upon your Senate colleagues to subject Judge Neil Gorsuch’s record to “extreme vetting,” questioning both his qualification and biography. The Senate certainly has the right and obligation to closely review any nominee for the United States Supreme Court. Conversely, it is our right as Americans and veterans to scrutinize your hypocrisy in doing so.

We are veterans of the Vietnam War. We fought alongside our brothers in arms, many of whom died or were gravely injured there. We saw the treatment meted out on us and our fellow military personnel upon our return, yet we never questioned our commitment to our nation’s freedom. But perhaps more relevant to this discussion is that we know you were not there with us.

The fact you repeatedly and consistently claimed to have served in Vietnam is a gross case of stolen valor in our opinion. You obtained at least five military deferments between 1965 and 1970, at least two of which were seemingly political favors to you so that you could avoid joining us in a war zone. Here are just a few examples where it appears that you have chosen to buttress your political resume by shamefully inflating your record of military service:

In 2003, you apparently stated, “When we returned [from Vietnam], we saw nothing like this [a public outpouring of support for deployed military personnel].”

In 2008, the New York Times reported you said, “We have learned something important since the days I served in Vietnam …”

At a Vietnam War memorial in 2008, it is reported you stated, “I served during the Vietnam era … I remember the taunts, the insults, sometimes even the physical abuse.”

We recognize that military service of any kind is valuable to the protection of our nation’s freedom. There is no shame in engaging in “Toys for Tots” campaigns, recycling efforts, or assisting in the improvement or construction of various facilities, which appears to be a fair description of the bulk of your duties during the Vietnam War.

What is offensive to those who fought in a most brutal conflict, some of us who were captured and tortured by our enemy, is any comparison of those most brutal experiences to the ones of people like you who never even sniffed the air in Vietnam.

The letter’s description of the Senator’s lies before being elected a U.S. Senator is accurate. The fact that he did not withdraw from consideration when those lies were exposed, that the Democratic Party allowed him to stand for election anyway, and worst of all, that Connecticut voters debased their state and the U.S. Senate by electing him demonstrated the creeping progressive ethics rot among liberals that has only worsened since.

However, Blumenthal was not engaging in hypocrisy by calling for extreme the judge’s vetting. It would have been hypocrisy if he proclaimed that no public official who has inflated his biography or faked credentials is worthy of public office. That’s not what he said, however. Indeed, if there is anyone qualified to testify to the importance of vetting the qualifications of apparently qualified nominees, it’s Sen. Blumenthal.

No, the letter is an ad hominem attack, and the ethics breach has been committed by its signatories. If they have an objection to his call for “extreme vetting, ” they should rebut it on the merits. Instead, they attacked the individual rather than his argument. That is the essence of ad hominem. Their attack was “to the man” rather than to his position.

The two terms for unethical conduct most often used inaccurately to sustain accusations are, ironically, hypocrisy and ad hominem attacks. You don’t often see both misused in the same matter, though.

______________________

Pointer: Washington Examiner

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“If That Was Transparency, Then I’m A Kumquat” And Other Reactions To Josh Earnest’s Multiple Unethical Christmas Quotes

This morning, Obama Administration paid liar Josh Earnest spoiled my Christmas mellow by telling CNN’s alleged news media ethics watchdog Brian Stelter that there’s really “no constituency in American politics for transparency in government beyond journalists,” as he deflected Stelter’s accounts of journalists complaining about administration foot-dragging on Freedom of Information Act requests. Then he really curdled the ethicist’s eggnog by saying,

“If this constituency of journalists are gonna be effective advocates for the issue that they care about, they need to remember that they have a responsibility not just to criticize those who are not living up to their expectations. Any activist will tell you that the way that you get people to support you and to support your cause is to give them credit when the credit is due, to applaud them when they do the thing that you want them to be doing.”

Finally, Earnest molded my mistletoe by claiming,  “President Obama has been the most transparent president in American history.”

Stelter, of course, being an incompetent, biased and unethical news media ethics watchdog, did not interjection with the mandatory, “WHAT??? You’ve got to be kidding! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA ACK! ACK! ARRRGH! and drop dead in shock.

That statement is fake news if anything is, rivaling the news media lie that that the Obama years were devoid of major scandals. Before we begin shooting fish in a barrel and deal with that brazen-beyond-belief spin, let’s pause to consider the other stunner in Earnest’s Christmas morning performance:

1. What does Earnest mean that journalists are the only constituency for transparency? Does the Obama administration, and by extension Democrats, really believe that the public doesn’t mind being lied to? If so, that explains a lot, including the nomination of Hillary Clinton.

2. Journalists are not supposed to advocates and activists at all. They are supposed to be devoted to communicating facts and the truth.

3. Is Earnest saying that when a President generally defies a pledge of ethical conduct, he should nonetheless be praised when he doesn’t defy that pledge, and that journalists should highlight the Administration’s rare examples of  transparency while ignoring the overwhelmingly more copious breaches? It sure sounded like it.

That brings us back to the mind-melting quote that this has been a transparent administration by any definition of the word other than “not transparent at all.”

This episode from 2011 nicely encapsulates the issue:

“President Obama was scheduled to receive an award from the organizers of the Freedom of Information Day Conference, to be presented at the White House by “five transparency advocates.” The White House postponed that meeting because of events in Libya and Japan, and it was rescheduled…That meeting did take place – behind closed doors. The press was not invited to the private transparency meeting, and no photos from or transcript of the meeting have been made available. The event was not listed on the president’s calendar…Nor is the award mentioned anywhere on the White House website, including on the page devoted to transparency and good government. Were it not for the testimony of the transparency advocates who met secretly with the president, there wouldn’t seem to be any evidence that the meeting actually took place.”

That’s right: Obama wasn’t transparent about a transparency meeting. That same day, Obama went on TV  and tried to explain why he hadn’t been transparent to the U.S. Congress about his military plans in Libya.  Shortly after that, news leaked that the Fed had secretly sent billions in loans to foreign banks during the financial crisis.

Ah, memories! On his second day on the job, January 21, 2009, that…President Obama famously pledged, in one of his first memos to federal agencies

“We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.”

He may be right about that last part, or maybe he discovered that it was naive and impractical dream. Under no circumstances, however, can it be said that Obama’s administration was transparent. An exhaustive list is impossibly, long, but here is an incomplete  sample just from the posts in Ethics Alarms: Continue reading

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Fake News Update: Fake History, Santa’s Number One Elf, And The Ornery Irishman

maine

Consider this three-headed post an exploration of just how tangled and gray the Fake New Ethics Train Wreck really is.

Let’s start with…

1. The Irishman.

Last week the obituary of Chris Connors was viral on social media. The first part of it read,

Irishman Dies from Stubbornness, Whiskey

Chris Connors died, at age 67, after trying to box his bikini-clad hospice nurse just moments earlier. Ladies man, game slayer, and outlaw Connors told his last inappropriate joke on Friday, December 9, 2016, that which cannot be printed here. Anyone else fighting ALS and stage 4 pancreatic cancer would have gone quietly into the night, but Connors was stark naked drinking Veuve in a house full of friends and family as Al Green played from the speakers. The way he died is just like he lived: he wrote his own rules, he fought authority and he paved his own way. And if you said he couldn’t do it, he would make sure he could…

I instantly liked Chris, as did millions of others. This was published on the obituary site, Legacy.com. People like me sent the obituary  around to friends, thought about it, and talked about it, because it made us feel good. Now there’s someone who did not go gentle into that good night!

Do I have any idea if this obituary is 100% accurate, or accurate at all? No. How often are obituaries fact-checked, if they aren’t written by a reporter? For normal people, like Chris Connors, almost never. Do you care? Do you care in this case? I don’t I am pretty sure that the obituary gives a fair sense of the kind of man Chris Connors was, even if it is hyperbolic, as I assume it was. Nevertheless, the obituary made me feel good, as it was supposed to. Christmas is starting to depress me as the years mount up: too many memories, too many lost loved ones, the sense of time passing too, quickly , of time running out. Chris’s story, which may have been only partially true, was a great, bracing, much-needed slap in the face. He had the right idea, or if he didn’t, whoever wrote his obituary did. Is there any harm anyone can attach to this inspiring farewell? If it was fake news by Facebook’s new standards, does it matter?

2. Santa’s Number One Elf

Continue reading

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“White Christmas” Ethics Addendum: Battlefield Incompetence, Insubordination And More In The Holiday Classic

 

A Special Guest Post by Texagg04

Ethics Alarms commenters who are honored with the annual “Commenter of the Year” title in the yearly Ethics Alarms awards have the option of joining the elite ranks of guest bloggers here. Texagg04 got the honor a couple years ago but never exercised his option. His recently posted, meticulously-researched and fascinating  multi-comment  addition to my 2012 post about the holiday film “White Christmas” seemed too extensive for a mere Comment of the Day, and I asked tex to edit it into a single post. He agreed, and what follows is the result. I recommend seeing the film (it’s on Netflix) either before of after reading his analysis. The 2015 update to the 2012 Ethics alarms “White Christmas” post is here.

—Jack

***

As the kids were watching “White Christmas” and I walked by, in passing, I noticed something amiss about the “military” feel of the opening scenes that seemed off ethically. So I copied and pasted the first website that claimed to be a script of White Christmas. I’m not sure what it was…if it was a working copy or a first draft, but it has significant differences from the actual filmed scenes. So, I’m forced to modify some of my assessment from the original three posts.

All the dialogue is transcribed *directly* from the listening to the movie, so I think I’m pretty close to word for word. The scene descriptions and action statements are modified versions of the script I got from the original website (which can be found here).

Before I go into commentary, I’ll insert the entire dialogue for perusal and familiarity. There are numbers to reference particular dialogue in my analysis at the end. Here are the opening scenes—General Waverly is played by Dean Jagger; Captain Bob Wallace is Bing Crosby, and Private Phil Davis is Danny Kaye:
Continue reading

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From The “When Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring” Files: Newt Gingrich’s December 7th Tweet

gingrich-tweet

Some random thoughts on an incredible display of terrible taste, as I wrestle to keep my cranium from blowing…

1. Why in the world would Newt do this? How could he, or anyone, not understand that this would be hurtful to many, and appreciated by none? Has he decided to compete with Donald Trump for most Reckless Twitter-User? Is he trying to make Trump look responsible by comparison? Why, Newt? Why?

2. Perhaps this is the beginning of regular laudatory tweets from Newt in appreciation of other geniuses that did Americans harm.

March 6: “Today we celebrate Santa Anna’s brilliantly executed surprise dawn raid on the Alamo, and his efficient slaughter of more than 200 Texans in 1836”

April 14: “A date for all Americans to commemorate John Wilkes Booth’s superb planning and marksmanship, confounding President Lincoln’s security to shoot him in the head with flair in 1865!”

August 8: “Let us not fail to admire surgical precision with which the dedicated follower of Charles Manson carried out their slaughter of five people in 1968”

September 11…well, you get the idea.

3. What’s truly nauseating is that poor, insecure Newt is so desperate for affirmation that he will use, of all things, the tragedy of the attack on Pearl Harbor to make himself appear, (he thinks), worldly, cerebral and analytical. All he really accomplished is to reaffirm what most cognizant Americans have known for decades…

4. …that Newt is about as big a jerk as this society has ever produced.

 

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