Ethical Quote Of The Month: Sgt. Shane Ortega

Trans Military Service Member

“You have to exercise patience with people, but people are not going to understand the subject overnight.”

—-Sgt. Shane Ortega, helicopter crew chief in the Army’s 25th Infantry Division, speaking to the Washington Post about his legal battle with the U.S. military, which continues to classify him as a woman despite his transition to a man.

The reason we say that “hard cases make bad law” is that the toughest cases fall between the cracks in rules and regulations, and they all have cracks. The law seeks consistent precedents, so anomalous fact patterns threaten the integrity and efficiency of otherwise effective laws and rules that work well in the vast majority of situations. Yet those hard cases usually indicate flaws in policies, rules and laws, and sometimes point to the need for change.

Often, an organization, especially a bureaucratic one like the military, will deal with such disruptive cases by simply looking past the actual facts, and treating them “by the book.” Ortega represents a particularly glaring instance of this phenomenon, which in his case not only harms his career, but also makes the military appear rigid to the point of absurdity.

Yet, as his Ethical Quote of the Month indicates, he understands. Change is painful, and it takes time. Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Gary Sinise

gary-sinise

“With all due respect, what the hell are you talking about?”

—Actor and Wounded Warrior ally Gary Senise, in an open letter responding to Howard Dean’s statement that the audience for “American Sniper” consisted of “angry people.”

Good question. What are the vicious and anti-military critics of Clint Eastwood’s box-office busting bio-pic about Navy Seal Chris Kyle talking about?

I saw the film yesterday. It’s not pro-war, pro-Iraq invasion, or political in any way. The various critics of the film out themselves as hateful and so biased against combat, the military and, I don’t know—life? Reality?—that they can’t even keep their minds open a crack for a thought-provoking piece of popular art. Dean had said, turning his review (I’ll bet anything that he hasn’t seen the film) into a gratuitous attack on tea party supporters:

“There’s a lot of anger in this country, and the people who go see this movie are people who are very angry. And this guy basically says ‘I’m going to fight on your side.’ … I bet you if you looked at a cross-section of the Tea Party and the people who go to see this movie, there’s a lot of intersection.”

In the same forum–his weekly HBO conservative-bashing fest–Bill Maher called Kyle a “psychopath patriot” (there is nothing whatsoever in the film that supports that diagnosis). Seth Rogen compared “American Sniper” to a Nazi propaganda film. Michael Moore used the film–which he couldn’t possibly have seen–to make the ridiculous observation that snipers were “cowards.” Kyle, the most effective sniper in U.S. military history, was wounded repeatedly and awarded two Silver Stars and five Bronze stars. For him to be smeared as a coward by the likes of Michael Moore is grotesque.

The film, among other things, shows just what kind of horror our service men and women endured in Iraq, how they suffered (and suffer still), what it did to them and their families, and accords them well-deserved compassion and respect. How sad, bitter and rotten inside someone must be to resent that. As I watched the film, it occurred to me that this was probably exactly what John Wayne wanted “The Green Berets” to be during Vietnam, but had neither the discipline to avoid agitprop and sentimentality, nor Clint’s directing skills to pull it off.

After expressing his disgust at Dean’s outburst in a tweet, the stage and screen star, whose foundation works to help and recognize the soldiers and veterans he calls our “defenders,” wrote,

To Howard Dean,

I saw American Sniper and would not consider myself to be an angry person. You certainly have a right to make stupid blanket statements, suggesting that all people who see this film are angry, but how is that helpful sir? Do you also suggest that everyone at Warner Brothers is angry because they released the film? That Clint Eastwood, Jason Hall, Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller and the rest of the cast and crew are angry because they made the film? Chris Kyle’s story deserved to be told. It tells a story of the stress that multiple deployments have on one military family, a family representative of thousands of military families. It helps to communicate the toll that the war on terror has taken on our defenders. Defenders and families who need our support. I will admit that perhaps somewhere among the masses of people who are going to see the film there may be a few that might have some anger or have been angry at some point in their lives, but, with all due respect, what the hell are you talking about?

My guess is that Dean is talking about his own estrangement from basic American values, its history, and its essential role in the world, including all the sacrifices, risks and difficult choices that role demands. He’s the angry one.

 

Incomprehensible Ethics Quote Of The Month: Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY)

Rangel

“I always try to find something good that comes out of conflicts like this, and perhaps people realize that this is not a Ferguson problem at all; it’s a problem around the country. And as long as people feel awkward and embarrassed in talking about the racism that exists, we can never, never, never attack it…The indifference of the patrol officer’s an indication that good people ought to say that you should be sorry when you take anybody’s life. It’s not just the question of what you thought of whether you were afraid…. his total indifference just polarized that community, and I only wish that — that they had not vented themselves in a violent way and taken advantage of people coming together, white and black, and saying that you should at least be able to say you made a hell of a big mistake at least.”

—–Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), wandering confused in the ethics wilderness while discussing the Ferguson mess on MSNBC.

I supposed we should expect Rep. Rangel to be completely muddled when it comes to ethics, given his own history. Still, seldom have I seen such a dog’s breakfast of responsible sentiments and ethics ignorance in the same set of comments:

  • Congratulations are due to Rangel for admitting that this Ethics Train Wreck unfairly settled in Ferguson, which is being made to suffer disproportionately for the conduct of many communities and elected officials across the country, as well as the political opportunism of civil rights activists.
  • However, public officials have an obligation to be clear. What “racism that exists,” exactly? Anywhere in the U.S.? Absolutely: let’s talk about it. In the shooting of Brown? No racism is in evidence at all: if that’s what Rangel is referring to, and many will assume its is, the statement is irresponsible. Was he talking about the grand jury decision, which was the context of the interview? Prove it, Charlie. Otherwise, stop planting distrust with a population that is paranoid already.
  • Michael Brown’s actions, from Wilson’s point of view, forced him into a situation that has resulted in his career being ruined and life being permanently marred….and Rangel thinks Wilson should apologize? This is completely backward. Wilson owes no apologies to Brown, and certainly none to Brown’s parents, who have been carrying on a vendetta against him, calling him a murderer while expressing no acknowledgment that the son they raised had any responsibility for the confrontation that took his life. If anyone owes anybody an apology, it the parents who owe Wilson. Rangel thinks Wilson should apologize for trying to do his job, for not letting Brown take his gun, for not letting him resist arrest, for not letting himself be attacked, and that is ridiculous.

Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Day: Ken, of Popehat

“Listen to me: a law school calculated to make students feel good about themselves is as ridiculous as a Marine boot camp designed to make enlistees feel good about themselves. Law students, God help us, will one day be lawyers. When they are, nobody will care about their self-esteem. The prosecutors seeking to jail their clients will not be seeking to foster a sense of community. The opposing civil lawyers seeking to bankrupt their clients will not be promoting a culture of dignity and respect. Most law practice is about conflict. It’s a bloody, ugly street fight. Self-esteem borne of law-should-be-harmony is useless to clients. The only self-esteem useful to clients is self-esteem earned by hard work, determination, command of the subject matter, and the willingness to stand up to adversity. People who object to law professors being wickedly Socratic, and classmates being cutthroat, are missing the point. If you’re put off by a Socratic professor, Mr. Fluffy Bunny, a run-of-the-mill judge is going to make you soil yourself. If nasty, backstabbing classmates upset you, the first time you get into a nasty letter-writing campaign with an opposing counsel you’re going to have a breakdown. Law school is not a fucking spa day. It’s training to stand between your client and whatever the world throws at him.”

—– Ken, the astute lawyer/sage/Don Rickles of the libertarian social commentary website Popehat, excoriating the University of St. Thomas Law School for, among other things, extolling the values of self-esteem, collaboration, harmony and community among their students.

What Ken is really talking about is zealous representation, that once universally accepted bedrock of the  lawyer’s duty that has gradually fallen into disfavor with many academics and lawyers. Continue reading