Comment Of The Day: “From The Law Vs. Ethics Files: This Controversy Has Everything—Fine Art, Nazis, Lawsuits, Sheep…”

hitler-art

Genie Baskir, who has commented on Ethics Alarms since 2011 and averages about two entries a year, makes her latest comment count: it’s an unusually tough and moving Comment of the Day, on the post, From The Law Vs. Ethics Files: This Controversy Has Everything—Fine Art, Nazis, Lawsuits, Sheep…:

Everything was stolen from Leone and her own children and grandchildren. The painting represents the hole in her life and that of her descendants whether obvious or not. The University of Oklahoma’s insistence on keeping the spoils of Holocaust looting represents the continued suffering of every victim of massacre and mass murder since WWII. Overcoming this trauma does not absolve offspring collaborators of their offenses and, let me make this clear, the University of Oklahoma is an offspring collaborator. It knows that Leone Meyer was in the subordinate position in this negotiation and now it wants to continue it descendant collaboration in mass murder and looting because it thinks it can just like the first Nazis held their collective victims’ feet to the fire 80 years ago.

The majority of Holocaust survivors are dead now but their children know and remember the hole in their collective lives as they are collateral victims themselves. We know and remember. Leone Meyer knows and remembers.

My own mother died not ever knowing what happened to her parents and brother. Both of my parents were sole survivors of large extended families. Imagine having no grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins or any close blood relations. Imagine being a child processing that everyone of immediate consequence has been murdered. I claim no uniqueness. Massacres and the resulting survivors are still a common occurrence. What’s missing is the empathy and compassion of those who have not that knowledge.

When my mother, aged 15, returned to her home after walking across Poland in late 1944 the next door neighbor, stunned that she survived, reported that the home had been looted by all of the neighbors. He then returned to her a doll and her movie star picture albums. The neighbor then told her to get out of town or she would be murdered by her other neighbors who were complicit in the disappearance of the Jewish families.

The back of the returned movie star pictures had my mother’s mother’s handwriting on them. This handwriting is the only extant evidence that Augusta Pecenik Fischer ever lived at all. Lucky for me that no one is fighting me for these artifacts.

If possession is 9/10ths of the law and the painting is still in France then let France continue to atone for its own collaboration in mass murder. Who will enforce the Oklahoma District Judge’s Order anyway? Who does he or she think they are? After everything that has happened to us, we are afraid of a contempt order from a Judge with no enforcement ability anyway? This Judge is another offspring collaborator if he or she thinks those of us with knowledge care about the ruling.

The burden is on those of us with the knowledge of such tragedy and trauma to try and relieve the suffering of those who are continuing victims. The Judaicide of the 20th century is unique only in that its surviving victims had the strength and wherewithal to demand wholeness in the aftermath. No one was ever made whole but the ability to continue the struggle was rejuvenating as was the ability to start again with new families and offspring and new wealth.

Anyone who knew my mother in the United States without knowing what happened to her would never have guessed what was taken from her when she was just a little girl. Her suffering was never an exterior mien burdening all who met her. She channeled her efforts at wholeness into amassing her own impressive wealth and living well as her revenge. Leone Meyer is struggling for wholeness as represented by this great work of art and she is already the winner.

Offspring collaborators like the University of Oklahoma are empty vessels of opportunity mixed with ignorance and hatred for their moral obligations. We must pray for them to realize the errors of their ways.

From The Law Vs. Ethics Files: This Controversy Has Everything—Fine Art, Nazis, Lawsuits, Sheep…

stolen painting

The painting above is “La Bergère,” or “Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep,” by Camille Pissarro, a renowned French Impressionist. The 1886 painting, like so many other priceless works of art, was stolen by the Nazis in 1941, when they looted the French bank where the Jewish family who owned, the Meyers, it had placed the painting for safe-keeping. Dr. Léone Meyer, whose mother, grandmother, uncle and brother died in Auschwitz, searched for her family heirloom ever since the end of World War II. Finally, in 2012, she traced the painting to the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma.

In 2016, she negotiated a compromise to trade the painting back and forth between the university and a French museum, but the controversy was re-opened when Dr. Meyer decided that she wants the painting permanently dispalyed in France. Now the courts are involved, on two continents. A judicial tribunal in Paris is deciding whether to block the work from being shipped out of France, and ordered Dr. Meyer and the university to meet with mediators. A federal judge in Oklahoma, meanwhile, has threatened to hold Dr. Meyer in contempt if she continued to pursue litigation in France. A trial is scheduled for January 19 in Paris to hear Dr. Meyer’s arguments for keeping the work there, and a second hearing is set for March on whether to prohibit the painting’s trip back to where the the wind comes sweeping down the plain.

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Comment Of The Day: A Missive From The Trump Deranged

“[Y]ou are evil, like, you know, from the Bible.”

——Jeffrey Field, the self-banned Ethics Alarms commenter who posted here under the handle “Fatty Moon,” in a hate bomb dropped in my in-box tonight for no apparent reason.

Here’s the whole message:

“I got someone who should be executed for treason. Trump leads the list. How about a few more? [This was followed by a link to some wacko pronouncing Ted Cruz’s symbolic protest over the shady 2020 election a threat to democracy; I didn’t watch more than a few seconds.] As I just posted on FB, I loathe you for what you said about Bradley Manning. Treason? You got it. It’s called Trump. Not only is he treasonous, but he’s also fucking stupid…Enjoy your new laptop while millions don’t know where their next meal is coming from.    And, always, remember this. I thought you were intelligent. And you are. I thought you witty. And you are. What I didn’t know all those months, is that you are evil, like, you know, from the Bible.”

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Remembering, Again, The 1914 Christmas Truce

Truce

I’ve posted on this a couple of times, and as it is one of the more unusual ethics events in history to occur on Christmas, here it is again. Of course, as an America, I am joyful about another, more consequential military event that happened on Christmas. Washington crossed the Delaware river on this date. His resulting victory over the Hessians at Trenton was, in the end, less than consequential militarily, but it was important nonetheless . It bolstered the rebelling colonies’ morale, at a point where there were serious doubts that the nascent democracy had any chance to prevail.

One of the weirdest events in world history took place on Christmas 1914, at the very beginning of the five year, pointless and stunningly destructive carnage of The Great War, what President Woodrow Wilson, right as usual, called “The War to End All Wars.”

World War I, as it was later called after the world war it caused succeeded it,  led to the deaths of more than 25 million people, and if anything was accomplished by them, I have yet to read about it.

The much sentimentalized event was a spontaneous Christmas truce, as soldiers on opposing sides on the Western Front, defying orders from superiors, pretended the war didn’t exist and left their trenches, put their weapons and animus aside, sang carols,  shared food, buried their dead, and perhaps, depending on which source you choose to believe, even played soccer against each other.

The brass on both sides—this was a British and German phenomenon only—took steps to ensure that  this would never happen again, and it never did.

It all began on Christmas Eve, when at 8:30 p.m. an officer of the Royal Irish Rifles reported to headquarters that “The Germans have illuminated their trenches, are singing songs and wishing us a Happy Xmas. Compliments are being exchanged but am nevertheless taking all military precautions.” The two sides progressed to serenading each other with Christmas carols, with the German combatants crooning  “Silent Night,” and the British adversaries responding with “The First Noel.“ The war diary of the Scots Guards reported that a private  “met a German Patrol and was given a glass of whisky and some cigars, and a message was sent back saying that if we didn’t fire at them, they would not fire at us.”

The same deal was struck spontaneously at other locales across the battlefield. Another British soldier reported that as Christmas Eve wound down into Christmas morning,  “all down our line of trenches there came to our ears a greeting unique in war: ‘English soldier, English soldier, a merry Christmas, a merry Christmas!’” He wrote in a letter home that he heard,

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/23/2020: Remembering Private Slovik

149326-The-Day-Before-Christmas-Eve

1. President Trump says will veto the so-called “stimulus bill.” He should. A nice, articulate Presidential veto statement about what’s wrong with a pork-loaded goody bag that will increase the National Debt even deeper into the red zone would be nice, but he hasn’t come up with more than a couple a nice, articulate statements in four years, so I rate the likelihood as slim.

But there is no downside at all of a Trump veto, even if Mitch McConnell gets the Senate to over-ride it. As Ethics Alarms commenter Humble Talent pointed out two days ago, the thing is a monstrosity and wildly irresponsible, never mind that virtually none of the elected representatives who voted for it knew what they were voting for.

Meanwhile, let’s give an Ethics Hero call-out to Rand Paul, who anyone could have predicted would have a head explosion over this bill, and he did not disappoint. Senator Paul excoriated his fellow Republican senators who voted for the multitrillion-dollar relief package and omnibus spending bills, saying that they abandoned their “soul” and their “fiscal integrity” for political expediency. Paul called the bill an example of the fantasy that “government can spend whatever it wants without the need to tax.” How can anyone seriously dispute his logic when he said,

“If free money was the answer … if money really did grow on trees, why not give more free money? Why not give it out all the time? Why stop at $600 a person? Why not $1,000? Why not $2,000? Maybe these new Free-Money Republicans should join the Everybody-Gets-A-Guaranteed-Income Caucus? Why not $20,000 a year for everybody, why not $30,000? If we can print out money with impunity, why not do it?”

In addition to Paul, only Republicans Rick Scott (FL), Marsha Blackburn (TN), Mike Lee (UT), Ron Johnson (WI) and Ted Cruz (TX) had the courage and integrity to vote “NO.”

Yahoo News, incidentally, really and truly has a story up titled, “Did Congress get it right with the new coronavirus stimulus?” It really does. Note that it doesn’t begin to cover all the junk that’s stuffed in the bill, because the reporter obviously hasn’t read the whole bill either.

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The “White Christmas” Ethics Guide 2020

2020 Introduction

I have some very dear friends who are still angry with me for writing this admittedly harsh analysis of their favorite Christmas movie. Maybe that’s why I didn’t post it last Christmas season; I don’t know. It really is an ethics mess, however, and as I’ve stated elsewhere this week on Ethics Alarms, if you are going to make an ethics movie, someone involved ought to have functioning ethics alarms. The heartwarming ending—I still get misty when the old general played by Dean Jagger, gets saluted and serenaded by his reunited army unit—doesn’t make up for all the gratuitous lying and betraying going on in the rest of the film.

I have never mentioned this here before, but the movie was the result of an ethical act by one of the most unlikely people imaginable, Danny Kaye. If you search for Danny here, you will find that I have more connections to him than to any other entertainer, primarily through my co-writing and direction of an original musical about him, written by his long-time publicist and my friend. I credited Kaye with my interest in performing, musicals, and comedy, but my research into the real man was disheartening: in stark contrast to his persona and his public image, Danny was a miserable, paranoid, selfish, mean and insecure sociopath when he wasn’t playing “Danny Kaye,” which could be on stage or off it. “White Christmas” had been conceived as a re-make of “Holiday Inn” with the same cast, Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Fred couldn’t do the project, so his part was re-written for Donald O’Connor, who became ill so close shooting that there was no time to retool the script and have the film ready for its target holiday release. In desperation, the producers asked Kaye if he would play Bing’s side-kick even though it meant 1) playing a support, which he had never done in a movie since becoming a star 2) playing a role that couldn’t highlight his special talents 3) subordinate himself to Bing Crosby, who was indeed the bigger star and box office draw, and most daring of all, expose his own limitations by doing dance numbers created for Donald O’Connor. Kaye was not a trained dancer, just a gifted mimic and athlete who could do almost anything well. Danny (actually Sylvia, his wife, agent and and career Svengali) had his price for the rescue: he demanded $200,000 and 10% of the gross.

Everyone around Danny Kaye was shocked that he agreed to all of this. Not only did he agree, he also amazed everyone by not playing the under-appreciated star on set, by doing O’Connor’s choreography as well as he did, and by knowing how not to steal focus from the star, something he infamously refused to do when he was in “Lady in the Dark” with Gertrude Lawrence. The movie was the top grossing film of 1954, and the most successful movie musical up to that time.

Danny’s good deed was punished, because today it is by far the most seen of his films, and is likely to be the source of his public image as time goes on. Yet it is not his best movie, or a fair representation of what made him a unique and popular supporter. Like Darren McGavin, a fine and versatile dramatic actor cursed to be remembered only as the father in “A Christmas Story,” Danny’s slice of immortality also minimizes his legacy and talent. Watch “The Court Jester.” With your kids or grandchildren.

1. The First Scene

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Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/13/20: Sick Dog Edition

SICK, PLAYFUL  OR SCARED CAVALIER DOG COVERED WITH A WARM  TASSEL BLANKET

This is likely to be short, because the Marshall household is distracted. Over the last 48 hours, some mysterious malady has attacked our sweet dog, and we are deciding whether to avail ourselves of one of the few 24-hour vet emergency services or wait until tomorrow. Thanks to the $$$#@!%! pandemic, anything is going to require hours of waiting, and this is a very bad day for that, as it is a work day here at ProEthics. Starting Friday night, Spuds started acting distracted and hyper, wanting to go out, not wanting to come back into the house, making weird yips and staring outside like the devil was lurking. He suddenly started lying down in strange places, and stopped seeking out his usual resting spots (laps, bed and sofas). At the same time, his pink skin where the fur is sparse looked pinker, his face started showing blotches, and little bumps showed up today on his head. Nose: cold; appetite: fine. He’s not listless: the opposite, in fact. But he’s clearly not happy.

Glad to see he’s adopted the Marshall canine tradition of only having medical emergencies on weekends, though….

1. Ethics Quote from African-American sportswriter Jason Whitlock in a recent column about racism, critical race theory and excuses:

We all love excuses — white, black, brown, yellow, whatever. People who love us, respect us, want the best for us, take the excuses away. The Liberal Construction Company does not love, respect or want the best for black people. That’s why liberals promote excuses for any black failure and disavow any excuse for white failure. If you can control a group’s expectations, you can control their level of success. A generation of black people have had their expectations diminished by Critical Race Theory. It’s a mental slavery, a Jim Crow for the mind.  

I’m not in denial of the existence of racism. I just reject using it as an excuse, and I refuse to fall for the clever marketing of racism’s primary proponents.

2. Andrew McCarthy, the former federal prosecutor turned legal analyst and pundit, shows again why he’s one of Ethics Alarm’s most trusted authorities with his article, “Supreme Court right to refuse to block Biden election — rejects absurd legal theory.” Of course, this is likely to be cited as one more reason for conservatives to abandon Fox News, which has been declared a traitor to the cause because of its admittedly strange coverage on election night.

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Ethics Observations On The VA’s Racial Discrimination Policy In Vaccine Priorities

vaccine

This isn’t a “comspiracy theory.” This real.

From “Stars and Stripes”:

Black, Hispanic and Native American veterans will be given priority for receiving coronavirus vaccines once they become available, according to a document published Tuesday by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Race and ethnicity, as well as veterans’ ages and existing health conditions, will be taken into consideration by the VA when determining who should be vaccinated first. According to VA data, Black, Hispanic and Native American veterans are disproportionately affected by the virus, reflecting trends across the broader population.

Ethics Observations:

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Comment Of The Day: “The Hanging Of Henry Wirz”…And Thoughts On Who Is Worthy Of A Memorial

wirz2

Michael West’s latest Comment of the Day was a provocative note relating to the recent post marking the execution of Capt. Henry Wirz, the Confederate commander of the infamous Andersonville prison camp and the defendant in the first American war crimes trial. Apart from the information, his comment also prompted some research and thought on my part. There are ethical conundrums afoot.

I’ll be back to discuss them after Michael West’s Comment of the Day on the post, “The Hanging of Henry Wirz”:

And there’s a monument in memory of Henry Wirz smack dab in the middle of the “main” intersection of Andersonville. The town, which literally had NO connection to Wirz outside of circumstance…has a monument to the man. At least when Southerners were given the option to erect monuments and name installations, they generally associated places with Southerners who had geographic connections with the locale.

Like Fort Bennin: with a military career earning no more than a “yeah, he was there” mention, Fort Benning is named after a man who happened to be born near there. But Henry Wirz gets a monument in the town associated with his notoriety. Perhaps it would be fair to let his monument be the last torn down by the history-eaters, if only to remember that lethal scapegoating is wrong, however temporarily useful.

I’m back with more on this topic:

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The Hanging Of Henry Wirz

Andersonville photos

On this date in 1865, Henry Wirz, the Confederate commandant of the infamous Andersonville prisoner of war camp in Georgia, was hanged after the war crimes trial that became the precedent for the Nuremberg trials after World War II.

I know the story of Captain Wirz and the circumstances of his trial well, having directed Saul Levitt’s great ethics play “The Andersonville Trial” twice. Not that Levitt’s play was an accurate portrayal of the trial—for one thing, Wirz’s dramatic stage testimony defending himself never happened. However, Levitt brilliantly brought to the fore the deep hypocrisy of Wirz’s scapegoating after the Union victory. Not only were the atrocities at Andersonville no worse than those at some Northern prison camps, Lincoln and Grant deliberately provoked the crisis in managing such camps by the South when they made the tactical decision not to engage in prisoner exchanges.

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