A Jumbo For The United Nations!

“War? What war?”

The United Nations’ Department of Global Communications sent an email instructing its staff  not to the war currently raging in Ukraine as the result of Putin’s illegal and murderous armed invasion as either a war or an invasion.

Instead, they were told to use the descriptions “big misunderstanding” or “rod trip gone horribly wrong.” Okay, that’s not true. But the first part is.

Like Jimmy Durante in the Broadway musical “Jumbo,” whose answer to a sheriff confronting him trying to sneak out of a circus with biggest elephant in the world on the end of his rope with the question, “Where do you think you’re going with that elephant?” and replied, “Elephant? What elephant?,” the United Nations has scaled the heights of audacious dishonesty. Jimmy’s line, however, was a joke. The U.N.’s version is a self-indictment. Continue reading

Serious Question: What Kind Of Person Would Want Someone To Be U.S. President Who Would Consider Something Like This…

…never mind say it out loud?

During a speech to donors in New Orleans, Louisiana a few days ago, Donald Trump actually, really, honest-to-goodness said that maybe the U.S. could trick Moscow and Beijing into fighting each other by disguising its F-22 fighter jets with Chinese flags “and bomb the shit out” out of Russia! “And then we say, China did it, we didn’t do, China did it, and then they start fighting with each other and we sit back and watch.”

Oooh, good plan!

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Comment Of The Day: The Alamo, March 4, 1836

I hope a lot of you are enjoying Michael West‘s generous labor of love during the countdown to the Alamo’s fall. It is, as I’ve said here often, one of the most vivid and fascinating of all ethics chapters in U.S. history, and the fact that it is neglected in popular culture and public education to the degree it is disgraceful, like much of this nation’s negligent and cavalier attitude toward history.

I want to apologize to readers and especially Michael for a mistake I have made. One of my sources, echoing others, printed the Mexican dictator’s name as “Santa Ana,” with one “n.” Convinced that I had been perpetrating an error, i began lnocking off the second “n” in Michael’s posts and my own, though I always had assumed that “Anna” was correct.

Well, it was and is correct. His full name is Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón. Now I have to go back and correct the correction.

Here is Michael’s focus on Day 11 of the siege, March 4, 1836.


It was cold that evening that the Mexican Artillerymen of the 1st Brigade under command of General Gaona settled down into their camp somewhere south of modern day Yancey, Texas. They had been on a forced march since late January. The moon was full that evening, perfect for night operations – and despite the Texans being bottled up about 45 miles away, Native American raiders were still a possible threat. Reports had been received that straggling soldiers had been ambushed. Continue reading

Still More Ukraine Invasion Ethics Points…Now With “The Trump Connection”!

1. How many times do I have to say that Twitter makes you stupid? Here’s a U.S. Senator publicly calling for the assassination of a foreign leader:

It is fine to think this or even to say it in private, as long as you are not Donald Trump and you know whoever you talk to will immediately leak it to the media. However, Executive Order 11905signed on February 18, 1976, by President Gerald Ford, banned political assassination.This EO was reinforced by Jimmy Carter’s Executive Order 12036 in 1978. It is still the law in the United States. Graham is a lawyer, and he knows that as a lawyer, it is an ethics breach to cause a third party to do what the lawyer cannot do himself.

Moreover, if such an act were to take place, Graham’s tweet would be justification for Russia to suspect, or even conclude, that the U.S. government was responsible. A foreign power assassinating or even attempting to assassinate a nation’s leader is an act of war.

2. Where’s Bandy Lee when you need her? It is unethical for a psychiatrist to diagnose anyone with mental illness without examining the patient in person. This is why the American Psychiatric Association’s  Principles of Medical Ethics state that its members should not give a professional opinions about public figures whom they have not examined in person, and from whom they have not obtained consent to discuss their mental health in public statements. Never mind: Bandy Lee of Yale, a Professor of Psychiatry, made a brief career out of breaking the rule regarding President Trump, because hating Trump suspends all ethical obligations and values. MSNBC and CNN flocked to her; eventually, Yale fired her. Now, if it was unethical for a psychiatrist to be diagnosing a political figure as mentally ill from afar, and it is, what is it called when a non-psychiatrist goes on Fox News and claims to be convinces that something has snapped in Vladimir Putin’s head? That what Condoleeza Rice has done twice already. Her opinion on the topic of Putin’s sanity is no more authoritative than that of anyone else who hasn’t spoken to Putin face to face in years. Continue reading

The Snake Island Episode Is A Perfect Opportunity To Explain Moral Luck To Your Family And Friends

The legend was quick to take hold. The account was that as the Russian military pounded targets across Ukraine with bombs and missiles, a small team of Ukrainian border guards on rocky, desolate Zmiinyi Island, “Snake Island” to its friends, received a warning that the Alamo defenders would have recognized: Surrender or die. “I am a Russian warship,” the invaders said, according to a recording. “Lay down your arms and surrender to avoid bloodshed and unnecessary deaths. Otherwise, you will be bombed.”

Travis answered the equivalent message with a cannon shot. The defenders of Snake Island’s answer was more reminiscent of the famous reply of the 101st Airborne Division’s acting commander Anthony McAuliffe during the Battle of the Bulge. Defending Bastogne, McAuliffe gave a one-word reply to a German surrender ultimatum: “Nuts!” The Ukrainians’ version: “Russian warship, go fuck yourself.”

[Quick digression here: As I have mentioned before on EA, my WWII vet father, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and got a Silver Star for his efforts, insisted that nobody in the Infantry believed for a second that “Nuts” was the actual reply. He said the consensus of those who knew McAuliffe as well as the way soldiers talked in the field were certain that he had really answered exactly like the Ukrainians. Meanwhile, how absurd is it for today’s media to celebrate the courage and defiance of the Snake Island defenders’ response, yet feel compelled to censor it by printing “f—“? ]

Digression over. The story reported in the news media was that the Russians opened fire, killing all 13 border guards. They became instant martyrs and their fate became inspiration for the brave Ukrainian refusal to accept Russian domination. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky later announced the deaths and said that the island’s defenders will be bestowed with the title “Hero of Ukraine,” the highest honor the Ukrainian leader can award.

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Ethics Observations On The Death Of The Isis Leader

President Biden announced yesterday that the leader of ISIS, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, had died during an assault in Syria carried out by about two dozen American commandos. Later we learned that women and children were among at least 13 people killed during the raid in Atmeh, a town close to the border with Turkey in rebel-held Idlib Province. This morning, we learned that the trapped terrorist had blown himself up, and others, including women and children, with him.

Well, that’s what people like Hashimi al-Qurayshi are good at.

Ethics Observations:

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“Privilege Bingo”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eddie Slovik

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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