Ann Althouse’s Son Gets 4 Out Of 5 Right, And 4 Out Of 5 Ain’t Bad

Athouse’s son, John Althouse Cohen, has his own eclectic blog, and I check in now and then. He’s intelligent, as I would expect, though his endorsement of the transparently pandering Pete Buttigieg was disappointing. Now and then his mother directs her huge readership over to him, which is what she did with a post called “Things I’m tired of hearing about the coronavirus.”

It seems unfair that John’s post has, as of now, zero comments, and Ann’s post consisting of nothing more than a link to that post has 118 comments as I write this. Why wouldn’t her readers give the author of the post their attention and support instead of his mother?

Be that as it may, John mentioned five things he was sick of hearing during the current pandemic, and four out of five reasons for his fatigue were valid. One is an attempt to excuse the inexcusable, using an intellectually dishonest argument.

Here are John’s four legitimate beefs: Continue reading

A Lesson In Ultimate Utilitarianism: Israel’s Nazi Hit Man

Israeli special agent, Otto Skorzeny. No, I’m not kidding.

There are few better examples of how extreme versions of “the ends justifies the means” can be adopted as an ethical course than the strange, and oddly under-publicized, story of Otto Skorzeny.

Do you know the tale? I didn’t, until today. This is a good day to consider it, being the anniversary of the date Hitler’s minions invaded Czechoslovakia.

 Skorzeny was born in Vienna in June 1908. He joined Austria’s branch of the Nazi Party in 1931 when he was 23. He worshipped Hitler. When the Nazi army invaded Poland in 1939, Skorzeny left his construction firm and volunteered  for the  SS Panzer division that served as Hitler’s personal bodyguard force. He took part in battles in Russia and Poland, and was probably involved in exterminating Jews.

In 1944, Skorzeny handpicked 150 soldiers in a plan to foil the Allies after they landed in Normandy on D-Day. Dressing his men in captured U.S. uniforms, he procured captured American tanks for  to use in attacking and confusing Allied troops from behind their own lines. This mission more than anything else earned Skorzeny two years of interrogation, imprisonment and trial after the war ended. Somehow, despite being one of Hitler’s favorite SS officers, he still managed to be acquitted in his war crime trial in 1947. The Führer had even awarded Skorzeny the army’s most prestigious medal, the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, for leading the rescue operation that rescued Benito Mussolini from his captors.

After  Skorzeny’s acquittal, newspapers called him one of the most dangerous Nazi criminals still unpunished. Typically brazen, he capitalized on the notoriety by publishing his memoirs,  including the 1957 book “Skorzeny’s Special Missions: The Autobiography of Hitler’s Commando Ace.”

Skorzeny did not reveal in his books how he escaped from the American military authorities who held him for a year after his acquittal, perhaps saving him from more charges and another trial before the Nuremberg tribunals. The escape was rumored to have been assisted by the CIA’s predecessor agency, the OSS, which he assisted in some special operations after the war. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/10/2020: Freaking Out!

Good morning!

Oh! I nearly forgot!

ARGHH!

1. This day in war ethics: The Allies completed the fire-bombing of Tokyo in 1945. Over 100,000, mostly civilians, were killed. The attack is less well remembered than the two nuclear bombs and the firebombing of Dresden, Germany, but more people died on March 9 -10 in Tokyo than in any other single air attack of World War II.

2. Coronavirus freakouts.  Stipulated: the news media and desperate Democrats want the public to panic over the virus, and to blame the President, obviously.

  • Two media doctors, “Dr. Oz” and Drew Pinsky, have been performing a public service of sorts by trying to inject some perspective into the escalating hysteria, and by pointing their fingers at a primary suspect for it, the news media. Pinsky, in an interview with LA’s CBS afiifilate: “A bad flu season is 80,000 dead, we have about 18,000 dead from influenza this year and 100 from corona. Which should you be worried about, influenza or corona. 100 vs. 18,000, it’s not a trick question. Everything going on with everyone using Clorox wipes and get your flu shot, which should be the other message… that’s good. I have no problems with the behaviors. What I have a problem with is the panic and that businesses are getting destroyed and people’s lives are getting upended. Not by the virus, but by the panic.”

Dr. Oz (Real name: Mehmet Oz), who was routinely featured on network news during the Ebola scare, was attacked yesterday as a “quack” by the left-leaning Daily Beast, which has a stake in promoting the panic. In fact, Oz is something of a quack, but he’s a popular one, and using his influence to stop people from being crazy is an ethical use of it.

  • “You know…morons!”  A United Airlines flight from Eagle County, Colorado, to Newark International Airport had to be diverted to Denver over the weekend  after a group of passengers freaked out when another passenger started  coughing and sneezing. He was suffering from allergies.  In Denver, the three hysterical morons were taken off the plane, while the innocent passenger continued on the flight.

Continue reading

Women’s History Month Ethics: Should We Remember Hanna Reitsch?

If Women’s History Month is truly intended to honor remarkable women whose stories have been neglected over time, shouldn’t we spend a bit of it learning about Hanna Reitsch?

Born in 1912, she was intrepid, irrepressible, bold and brave, and few women—indeed, few men— of her generation could claim the kind of exploits she had completed by the time of her death in 1979. Yet I’ll wager you never heard of her.

There was one teeny little problem with Hanna, though. She was a Nazi.

Hanna Reitsch was the first female test pilot in world history. She left medical school  in Germany to take up flying full time, and quickly became superb glider pilot. The Germans built gliders because they  fit through a loophole in the Treaty of Versailles, which forbade the defeated nation from  building “war planes.” Reitsch also did stunt flying in movies. At the age of 21 she broke the world’s flying altitude record for women (9,184 feet). More records and firsts were to follow after she became a test pilot in 1935: the women’s gliding distance record, the first woman in the world to be promoted to flight captain,  the first woman to fly a helicopter, the  world distance record in a helicopter, the first pilot  to fly a helicopter inside an enclosed space, and the women’s world record in gliding for point-to-point flight, among others.

Reitsch was made an honorary flight captain by Adolf Hitler, and  in 1937 she became a test pilot for the Luftwaffe, as she completely embraced National Socialism.  She  flew  German troops along the Maginot Line  during the Germans’ 1940 invasion of France; later in the war, she earned  an Iron Cross, Second Class, for risking her life trying to cut British barrage-balloon cables. Among the warplanes she tested was the Messerschmitt 163, a rocket-powered interceptor that she flew at 500 mph. Hitler awarded her an Iron Cross, First Class, after she crashed while testing the ME 163 and managed to record everything that had happened before she passed out. Continue reading

Noonish Ethics Round-Up, 2/19/2020: That Other Day That Will Live In Infamy…

Hi!

1. On this day in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, empowering the Army to issue orders emptying parts of California, Oregon, Washington and Arizona of immigrants from Japan, who were precluded from U.S. citizenship by law, and nisei, their children, who were U.S. citizens by birth. After the order, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court including future liberal icon William O. Douglas, the Japanese-Americans  were first warehoused at “assembly centers,” which could be racetrack barns or on fairgrounds, then shipped to ten detendtion camps in Western states and Arkansas. Armed guards and barbed wire, plus morning roll call were part of the degrading and punitive experience.

It is fair to say this treatment was substantially rooted in racism, for there was no mass incarceration of U.S. residents with ties to Germany or Italy. Once the U.S. appeared to be on the way to victory along with its Allies in December 1944, the Executive Order was  rescinded. By then the Army was enlisting Japanese American soldiers to fight in Africa and Europe. President Harry Truman told the all Japanese-America 442nd Regimental Combat Team: “You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice—and you have won.”

California is now preparing to formally apologize to the families of those interned.State Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) introduced a resolution that will formally apologize for California’s “failure to support and defend the civil rights” of Japanese Americans during that period,” and it is expected to pass today.

It’s naked grandstanding and virtue signaling, of course. The federal government apologized for the unconstitutional imprisonment and granted financial redress to survivors with the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, and the Supreme Court overruled its decision  upholding internment in 2018. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Plot E

The Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial is an American military cemetery in northern France consisting of four main burial plots, labeled A, B, C and D, containing the remains of 6,012 service personnel who died during World War II.

There is also a secret Plot E. It lies about a hundred yards away from the cemetery, and  contains the remains of 96 American soldiers who were executed by hanging or firing squad for serious crimes committed during or shortly after World War II. Collectively, they were responsible for the murders of 26 American soldiers and the murder or rapes of 71 British, French, German, Italian, Polish and Algerian civilians.

Plot E was established in 1949 to contain the remains of what the Graves Registration call “the dishonored dead.” It was deliberately hidden from view,  surrounded by hedges and located in a forest. Officially, Plot E does not exist. The plot  is not mentioned on the cemetery’s website or in any maps brochures.

The dead have small flat stone markers the size of index cards: no names, just sequential numbers engraved in black. Individual graves are supposed to be impossible to identify. It was not until 2009 that a Freedom of Information request obtained the full list of those buried in Plot E, and the names can now be found on-line, most notably on Wikipedia. One name of note is Louis Till (that’s his marker above) , the father of the 14 year old Chicago teen lynched for “looking at a white woman” while visiting Mississippi.

Darren Smith, Jonathan Turley’s weekend blogger on Res Ipsa Loquitur, argues regarding the strange and cruel burial ground:

[I]n addition to what is at least in my view a human right to a proper and named burial, a historical aspect is sacrificed in the anonymous enumeration of the dead whose history becomes lost to oblivion…[A]t what point does the punishment end? In the case of death of a convicted person is the sentencing extended to eternity through the erasure of the convicted from the human consciousness? Must they fall into oblivion? We would be rather callous to think that these men did not have children, parents, or siblings and were erasable…

[Former Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War Robert] McNamara lamented how [ General ] Curtis LeMay proposed that if their side lost the war, they would be tried as war criminals. “And we were”, according to McNamara “acting like war criminals” in area bombing Japanese cities. The justification to this is of course based on one’s perspective and certainly which side of the pond they were born upon. Yet there was a great amount of evil done at that time, but it was often the leaders and policy makers who justified such actions who are honored with their own large memorials. Yet these ninety-six Dishonored Dead are ordinary soldiers, [have] no right to be named, it seems. Or perhaps these Dishonored Dead present a topic of a perpetual embarrassment to the American Military or government, one that is best forgotten. It is a hard pill to swallow that among the millions who served honorably, there were at least a hundred who acted with evil intent and greatly unbecoming a professional soldier. Yet given the aging population of those serving, I very much doubt that any living military personnel of WWII today can truly argue they suffer any affront resultant from the naming of these men. Seventy years ago, yes–today I think time has healed that wound.

We would not pardon these men’s crimes by granting them a proper burial, with name and epitaph afforded all other soldiers. But they at least deserve to be known.

Do they?

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz is…

Is there a valid and persuasive ethical reason to provide marked graves and accessible burial sites for the executed residents of Plot E?

Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/15/20: Dresden, Bloomberg, Snopes, Climate Change, And “The Chalkening”

Good Morning…

1. Dresden bombing ethics. February 13-15, 1945 witnessed the Allied firebombing of Dresden, Germany, with the resulting deaths of between 22,000 and 135,000 civilians. depending on whose propaganda you choose to believe. Regardless of the number, the destruction of the German cultural center and questionable military target so late in the war—after its loss in the Battle of the Bulge, Germany’s defeat was just a matter of time—was instantly controversial, and is still intensely debated today.

The attack, which dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on the city, destroyed more than 1,600 acres. By all accounts, the human toll was horrific. Lothar Metzger, a survivor, wrote,

We saw terrible things: cremated adults shrunk to the size of small children, pieces of arms and legs, dead people, whole families burnt to death, burning people ran to and fro, burnt coaches filled with civilian refugees, dead rescuers and soldiers, many were calling and looking for their children and families, and fire everywhere, everywhere fire, and all the time the hot wind of the firestorm threw people back into the burning houses they were trying to escape from.

Was the firebombing of Dresden a war crime?  If the Allies had lost the war, it would have become a war crime. As we have discussed here before, the concept of war crimes is confounding and hypocritical at best. If the attacks were deemed essential to ending the war as soon as possible, then they were ethically defensible.

Much of the debate over the years has focused on whether the bombing was terrorism. Of course it was, as were the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and General Sherman’s March to the Sea. Terror is a legitimate weapon in warfare, when the objective is to destroy the enemy’s will to fight. Attacks on civilians for revenge and to inflict gratuitous death and pain for no legitimate strategic purpose are unethical . The distinction is usually in the eye of the beholder.

Wikipedia has an unusually thorough article on the Dresden attack, and I found this paper interesting as well. Continue reading