From The Ethics Alarms Archives: “Integrity Surrender For The U.S. Marines”

Frequent commenter Steve (not to be confused with Steve-O-in-NJ or Steve Withspoon, also veteran combatants here) asked my opinion about an article titled “Marines’ Obsession with Pull-Ups May Be Hurting the Corps, Study Finds.”

To begin with, it’s a  misleading headline. The real subject of the piece, in Military.com, is the alleged hostility being fostered toward female recruits because of their disparate and less demanding physical requirements, including pull-ups. I was sure that I had written about the Marine pull-up controversy before, and sure enough I had, in 2013, (My, how time flies.) Re-reading it now, I felt that the Ethics Alarms post was relevant background to evaluating the article, which includes this…

The idea that female Marines can do fewer pull-ups than their male counterparts and get an equal score “did not sit well” with men, researchers wrote. “Are [women] required to meet equal physical standards? No, it doesn’t take a scientist to study that,” one gunnery sergeant said. “They need to do this many pull-ups, and I need to do this many. Is that equal? No. Four and four is equal. 20 and 20 is equal. That’s equal. So either we’re equal, or we’re not.”

Somehow, the author spins the findings into a rationalization for allowing the unequal standards to continue, writing at the beginning of the article,

Marines are putting an “extreme emphasis” on the number of pull-ups leathernecks can do, a recently published internal study found. And that, some fear, could result in other important qualities that are vital to the Corps’ mission being overlooked. Participants in a study on Marine Corps culture were often focused on pull-ups as a best measure of a person’s value and worth, researchers found. Marines’ ability to lift their own body weight on a pull-up bar was “routinely what Marines referenced when discussing physical standards, a Marine’s value, and physical readiness,” the report’s authors wrote.

I hadn’t checked the name of the author until after I read the article and was struck by how the title and first paragraphs attempted to ignore the ethics issue involved. Guess the writer’s gender. Yup, you’re right.

Here was my article in 2013, (and I wouldn’t change a word); I’ll have some final comments at the end: Continue reading

Comments Of The Day: “Open Forum, Or ‘I Guess I Picked The Wrong Time To Start Driving All Over Virginia!’” (“Profession Of Journalism” Thread)

Today we have a rare tag team Comment of the Day: JutGory raised the provocative ethics issue of what constitutes a profession and whether journalism qualifies, and Rich in Ct, who has been on fire of late, responded with a sharp analysis.

This was all especially propitious, since the I had a dispute with my legal ethics teaching partner during our (very well-received) “Crossfire”-style seminars last week on just this question. He maintains that it is a a myth to pretend that a profession like the the law is called such for any reason other than the fact lawyers engage in it for compensation. Well, he’s wrong. Professions are not merely occupations, but pursuits one undertakes for the good of society. That is why the hallmark of professionals is that they are trusted and trustworthy, and why their compensation is of secondary priority. The desire for profit undermines professionalism by creating conflicts of interest.

My answer to the question posed by JutGory is that journalism must be a profession, because the public must be able to trust journalists for journalism to benefit society. However presents day journalists are driven by motivations far removed from the public good: their personal political agendas, the pursuit of fame and power, and the love of money. It can be a professiona, and should be a profession, but as currently practiced, it isn’t a profession.

Here are JutGory’s and Rich in Ct.’s  Comments of the Day on the “profession of journalism” thread in the post, “Open Forum, Or ‘I Guess I Picked The Wrong Time To Start Driving All Over Virginia!’”

First, here’s JutGory…

Can journalism be a profession?

My profession, law, has a set of ethical rules. It is a club, and it is self-regulating. Is it self-regulating? Yeah. My state gets about 1000 complaints per year, and about 10 percent each year get disciplined. Every year, you get a handful of disbarments. Not overbearing but I know a lawyer who got a 60-day suspension for a “non-legal” infraction and basically threw in the towel. I can empathize. It is like being accused of a crime; it can be hard to deal with. And, you are held to standards.

The press? You can’t be de-pressed? Dis-presses? Unimpressed?

In a free society, with a free press, can you have a profession where there is no way to regulate its participants.

A shorter way to ask the question: can the press be a true profession if Dan Rather can’t be barred from the profession?

Similar question for teaching. The wrinkle with teaching: can a profession governed by labor unions really enforce ethical standards and discipline?

Rich in Ct’s response… Continue reading

Animal Treatment Ethics, Stowaway Raccoon Division: Should A Lawyer Face Professional Sanctions For This?

Controversial Cruelty to Animals Day at Ethics Alarms continues (I don’t plan these things) with this legal ethics story out of Florida. The video above is at the center of it.

Florida disciplinary authorities have opened an investigation into the professional fitness of a lawyer who forced a stowaway  racoon off of his boat a long way from shore,  and thought it was all amusing enough to post a video of the incident on Facebook. The bar’s assumption is that the animal drowned.  The lawyer is now subject to prosecution for a violation of Florida’s wildlife laws.

In Florida, as in every other U.S. jurisdiction, one of the kinds of unethical conduct that can result in bar discipline is committing “a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects,”  as stated by  Rule 8.4 (b) of the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct . Should the nautical lawyer’s conduct  qualify?

You may recall a far more egregious case of animal cruelty by a lawyer discussed here, where I questioned if a psychopath lawyer’s fatal attack on his girlfriend’s dog Snoopy really tells us anything about his trustworthiness as a lawyer. I wrote then,

Emotionally, I have no problem with seeing an animal abuser kicked out of my profession, but I don’t understand what values are being applied. Is it the commission of a crime? Most lawyer crimes don’t result in disbarment, if they don’t involve lying, cheating or stealing. …There is no basis on which to conclude that [Snoppy’s killer]  isn’t competent, zealous and trustworthy—just keep him away from pets.

Now, you may well ask, “Isn’t this at least “moral turpitude?” That’s the character flaw that will keep applicants for bar membership from getting a license due to character deficiency. There are two points related to that. First, moral turpitude might keep you out of the law at the outset, but it is not one of the official no-nos that will get you kicked out of it one you are a practicing lawyer.  The legal  definition of moral turpitude is an act or behavior that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community. Brutalizing an animal would certainly qualify. The ABA, however, greatly narrowed the definition as it was applicable to legal discipline:

The 1983 Model Code (periodically amended by the ABA House of Delegates over the last 32 years) rejected the prohibition against “illegal conduct involving moral turpitude.” The ABA’s reason, which it included in a Comment to its Rule 8.4, was quite simple: “Moral turpitude,” the ABA advised, is a “concept can be construed to include offenses concerning some matters of personal morality, such as adultery and comparable offenses, that have no specific connection to fitness for the practice of law. Although a lawyer is personally answerable to the entire criminal law, a lawyer should be professionally answerable only for offenses that indicate lack of those characteristics relevant to law practice.” The American Law Institute’s Restatement of the Law Governing Lawyers § 5 (Third) (ALI 2000), agreed. It also concluded that “moral turpitude” is vague and may lead to discriminatory or otherwise inappropriate applications.”

This looks like an Ick Factor case to me. The abuse of poor Snoopy is so viscerally repulsive that the bar and the courts can’t keep their ethical priorities in order. It is also, as particularly ugly discipline cases often are, a matter of public relations and self-preservation for the legal profession. The bar association knows that not banning a lawyer like Pastor—one hopes there aren’t many–signals to the public that the bar welcomes brilliant advocates who may be monsters in their spare time. That is a dark and dangerous road the profession would rather avoid.

The lawyer in the Florida video also has some defenses the poodle-stomper did not.  Raccoons are wild animals, and cute as the are, they also bite. I wouldn’t want to be trapped on a boat in middle of the ocean with one, though I wouldn’t throw the critter overboard either, unless it was me or him. (My father had a home movie of me jumping out of a canoe and swimming to a lake’s shore when I saw a large spider in the vessel. Of course, I was only 15. All right, I was 26….) The raccoon may have also been a better swimmer than everyone assumes: unlike in the case of poor Snoopy, the lawyer wasn’t trying to kill the animal, just get it off the boat.

I do not, however, second the opinion of Law professor Dane Ciolino, writing on his Louisiana Legal Ethics blog, who says in discussing the case, “A Maryland lawyer was suspended for microwaving a cat. But a racoon? I think not.”

Wait—is the professor really saying that microwaving a live raccoon would not justify bar sanctions, but a cooking a cat does? That’s animal bigotry, but it is consistent with what I detected in the Snoopy case. If that lawyer had stomped to death a raccoon that wandered into the apartment, I doubt that he would have been disciplined.

Yet animal cruelty is animal cruelty. If gratuitously killing a dog or a cat shows that a lawyer is unfit to practice, so does unnecessarily killing a raccoon.


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Ethics Observations On The CNN/Acosta/Press Pass Ruling

From the Washington Post this morning:

Judge Timothy J. Kelly granted CNN’s motion for a temporary restraining order that will prevent the administration from keeping Acosta off White House grounds. The White House revoked the reporter’s press pass last week after a heated exchange between him and President Trump and a brief altercation with a press aide at a news conference. Acosta, CNN’s chief White House correspondent, is the first reporter with a so-called hard pass to be banned. CNN sued President Trump and other White House officials on Tuesday over the revocation. Kelly’s ruling was the first legal skirmish in that lawsuit. It has the immediate effect of sending Acosta back to the White House, pending further arguments and a possible trial. The litigation is in its early stages, and a trial could be months in the future.

Observations:

  • The ruling is a surprise. For me, it calls to mind once again my favorite Clarence Darrow quote, that “In order for there to be enough liberty, it is necessary that there be too much.” Apparently the judge, as courts have in other First Amendment cases, decided to leave a wide margin of safety around a constitutional right rather than interpret it narrowly, even reasonably narrowly.

I understand and sympathize with that instinct, and perhaps it is the right one.

  • Judge Kelly’s opinion  insisted that there be some basic procedural protections, requiring the White House to state clearly the grounds for revoking the clearance.  The Court did not find an express  violation of the First Amendment and Acosta might still be barred from the White House following appropriate due process.  Kelly said his ruling was “limited” and  temporary until a more detailed explanation and sufficient notice by the White House was established. (Not surprisingly, the White House viewed a tweet as notice enough.)
  • So a vague, traditional but unstated standard of not acting like an entitled jackass during a press conference and debating the President rather than asking questions while refusing to yield the floor is not, absent written standards and procedures, enough to get an unprofessional jerk like Jim Acosta banned. Got it.  It would be nice if previously acknowledged standards of basic respect for the office and the relative roles of the professionals involved were enough to avoid this kind of controversy, but apparently not.

Reflect on this episode the next time CNN or a pundit fusses about President Trump “defying established norms.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/2/18: Those Tricky Things Called “Standards” [Updated]

Goooood MORNING, Cape Cod!

(I miss you, but I miss your clams more.)

1. It is amazing the amount of publicity the Manafort trial is getting. I actually heard a Fox News correspondent argue that Manafort’s indictment proves that the Mueller investigation isn’t a “witch hunt.” I see my anti-Trump Facebook friends making the same claim. Bias makes you stupid. No aspect of the charges against Manafort relate to “Russian collusion,” and if the news media were not determined to convince the public that proof of impeachable offenses were just over the horizon and that Mueller was getting closer, closer, CLOSER, this would be a minor news event, if a news event at all. In fact, the Manafort trial is evidence that the Mueller investigation, whether the special prosecutor intends it to be or not, is functioning like a witch hunt. Any associate of the President past, present or future is on notice that he or she is a potential target, involving potential expense, embarrassment, and smears by the media. The political objective of the investigation is to make governing impossible, by causing widespread fear of guilt by association among those who might assist the President.

Virtually any past President you name had shady friends and associates who would be at risk from a Mueller-style “see-what-dirt-we-can-dig-up” operation. The GOP planted the seeds for this tactic with Whitewater. Republicans have no standing to complain, but Trump does.

2. THIS must be impeachable, somehow. CNN headline: “Donald Trump has no earthly clue about how real people buy groceries.”

The crux of the complaint is that the President used buying groceries as an example of basic requirements of life that involve the uses of IDs, as part of a riff on the need for voter identification laws. The “he doesn’t buy his own groceries!” accusation was last used against George H.W. Bush, when he expressed “what will they think of next?” amazement at computer checkout devices. “[The President] has no earthly clue what the average person, living paycheck to paycheck, making ends meet, is dealing with day to day. Going to the grocery store is not about presenting identification, but it can be about figuring out how you’re going to pay for groceries,” bleats Jen Psaki, Obama’s former communications director, so we know she’s unbiased.

Virtually NONE of our national elected officials have bought their own groceries in years, and probably decades. The significance of this is so infinitesimal that it would escape detection by the naked eye. I hate buying groceries. I admire and envy anyone who has progressed to the stage in life where they can have some compensated minion do the job for them. Meanwhile, this is one of—what, a million? Is that too many, or two few?—examples of habitual Trump critics pouncing on one of his–what, a trillion?—careless verbal gaffes and trying to make them seem more damning than they are. Trump could have, quite accurately, cited many other normal transactions less crucial to the nation than the integrity of the ballot box that require IDs, like renting a car, checking into a hotel, getting auto registration renewed, or buying a bottle of scotch. He chose, for reasons buried somewhere in his unique mind—buying groceries, which as a mistake. I don’t care. I question the priorities and intelligence of anyone who does care.

Especially someone who tries to lie to her readers with this whopper: “In 2008, when then-candidate Barack Obama was running against Sen. John McCain, a clear turning point for the campaign came when McCain could not remember how many houses he owned. ” Sure Jen. That was the turning point! I remember it well: I said to my wife, “Oh NO! This is like Gerald Ford saying that Poland wasn’t behind the Iron Curtain! McCain is doomed! Doomed, I tell you!” And when Hillary couldn’t shake her email scandal, I remember thinking, “You know, this is just like McCain not remembering how many houses he owned!”

And the fact that the economy crashed right after McCain’s gaffe was just frosting on the cake.

3. This is defend Sonny Gray Day. In addition to being ambushed by an attempted Hader Gotcha and stinking up Yankee Stadium with a terrible performance against the Baltimore Orioles, now a minor league team, Gray is being criticized in New York because he smiled as a he walked off the mound while boos, jeers and catcalls reigned down on his head by the typically classy Yankee fans.

What was he supposed to do? Weep? Rend his garments? Booing an athlete who has done nothing to indicate that he wasn’t trying, but who merely failed, is asshole behavior. Gray’s smile meant, “Boy, these fans are ridiculous. Well, what can you do? This is New York.” Indeed. The smile was about the only thing Sonny did right yesterday. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, “Happy Birthday George Washington!” Edition

Good Morning!

1 The Indispensable Man...This is George Washington’s birthday, and every American alive and dead owes him an unmatched debt of gratitude. A useful assessment of why this is true can be found here.

Not only was Washington indispensable as the military leader who won the Revolution, he was also, it seems likely, the only human being who could have navigated the impossibly difficult job of being the first President of a new nation attempting an unprecedented experiment in democracy. The precedents he set by his remarkable judgment, presence, wisdom, character and restraint continue to be a force today. Washington was also perhaps the most ethical man who has ever been President. The principles that guided him from his youth and that resulted in his being the only man trusted by the brilliant but often ruthless Founders who chose him to lead their new country can be reviewed here, but two of them tell us what we need to know about Washington’s ideals…the first,

Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.

…and the last,

 Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.

Revoltingly, the average American is largely ignorant regarding the great man whose face adorns the one dollar bill. For example,  a recent YouGov survey asked respondents who was the best President in U.S. history. 16% of Americans selected Ronald Reagan, and 16% selected Barack Obama. Abraham Lincoln took third place with 15%. Washington finished fourth,but only 10% of those surveyed named him as the best President,  14 percent of Republicans, and only six percent of Democrats. I assume that Reagan, and I hope even Obama, would find these results ridiculous. They tell us that citizens can not distinguish politics from virtue. They tell us that the schools teach neither history nor critical thought effectively. They tell us that Democrats regard the fact that Washington was a slaveholder more notable than the fact that he made the United States possible. They tell us that the nation is losing a connection to its origins, heroes and values. It tells us that most of the public is ignorant of things that competent citizens must know.

It tells me that when an advocate cites a poll that says, “Americans want this,” the proper response is “Why should anyone trust their judgment? They think Regan and Obama were better Presidents than George Washington.”

2. Children’s Crusade update: Both CNN and HLN are flogging the high school student protests virtually to the exclusion of any thing else. The total commitment to aggressive and emotional advocacy on the part of the mainstream news media was disgraceful after the Sandy Hook school shooting, but this is worse; just when I think our journalism has hit the bottom, it finds a way to go lower.

This morning on HLN, I was greeted by an extremely articulate Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School survivor who said,  confidently and radiating certitude, “These episodes are completely preventable.” Putting such nonsense on the air, even when spoken by an attractive, sympathetic, youthful idealist who perhaps cannot be blamed for not knowing what the hell she’s talking about,is irresponsible and incompetent. It is no different from saying “The Holocaust never happened,” Barack Obama was born in Kenya” or “The world is ruled by the Illuminati.” “These episodes are completely preventable” is, from the mouth of anyone qualified to be on television talking about gun policy, a lie, and from someone like this young woman, as naive as professing a belief in Santa Claus. Such statements should not be presented in a news forum as a substantive or serious position. A news organization has an ethical obligation either to correct the misinformation, or not to broadcast it without context, like “Here is the kind of arguments these child activists are making, making serious and coherent debate impossible.”

When the crawl across the bottom of my screen added another argument from one of the activist students—has there ever been a time when the policy analysis of people lacking high school diplomas has ever been given so much media attention and credibility?—that read, “Student protester: “People are buying guns who don’t need them,” I switched to the Cartoon Network

Right, kid, let’s pass laws that prohibit citizens from buying what the government decides they don’t need.

Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Trevor Noah’s Critics”

Bravo: a  deft,  quirky and thought-provoking comment about “how difficult writing and reading is and how easy misunderstandings are born”—and my own careless—or not!—phrasing was the writing at issue.

Here is Zanshin’s Comment of the Day on the post, Trevor Noah’s Critics:

Jack,

In the sentence,

version 1. We should respect consistent standards and integrity instead of hypocrisy, not treat them like they are qualifications for sainthood.

I guess you meant expect instead of respect.

version 2: We should expect consistent standards and integrity instead of hypocrisy, not treat them like they are qualifications for sainthood.

And even then, I, with English as a second language, would read ‘ should expect’ firstly as “To consider likely or certain” but given the current climate that is not a given anymore. Therefore, to emphasize the (intended?) meaning of ‘expect’ as “To consider obligatory; require” the following sentence would have been clearer to me,

version 3:We should demand consistent standards and integrity instead of hypocrisy, not treat them like they are qualifications for sainthood.

Flash of insight: By pondering your sentence and rewriting it I realized that your sentence is fine but that I bracketed the sentence in a wrong way; which is made possible given the complexity of two polarities involved in this sentence:

a. consistent standards and integrity versus hypocrisy
b. [treat them with] respect versus treat them like they are qualifications for sainthood

Lets name the different parts of the sentence,

A: [should respect
B: consistent standards and integrity
C: hypocrisy
D: treat them like they are qualifications for sainthood

The bracketing I now think you meant is: { A { B_C } } versus { D }

The bracketing I understood first was: { A { B } versus { C } } versus { D }

But in bracketing the sentence in my way, ‘respect’ felt awkward once reading part D. That’s when I backtracked to A and thought-up ‘expect’. while thinking, “Just another typo by Jack and/or wrongly suggested/inserted word by the word processor.” Continue reading

Franken’s Accuser Presents: A Perfect Rationalization #42, The Hillary Inoculation, or “If he/she doesn’t care, why should anyone else?”

I haven’t seen such a perfect example of Rationalization #43 since Bill Clinton was caught with his pants down, a blue dress within range and a good cigar.

In case you haven’t perused the Ethics Alarms Rationalization List lately, and if so, shame on you, Al Franken’s accuser’s interview today on “Good Morning America” (if you don’t watch “Good Morning America,” good for you) laid the foundation for a virtual #43 orgy.

This rationalization description one is fun to read now, written as it was long before Hillary’s two candidacies for President, and the current Washington, D.C. leg of the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck.

42. The Hillary Inoculation, or “If he/she doesn’t care, why should anyone else?”

This is a complex, hybrid rationalization that draws upon the warped and corrupting logic of “Everybody does it,” the Biblical rationalizations, Comparative Virtue (“there are worse things!”) and a few others to reach an absurd argument that nevertheless sometimes carries the day.

One example that will live in infamy, and the inspiration for #42’s title, was Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky scandal, which exposed him beyond all doubt as a liar, a power abuser, a hypocrite and, incidentally, an adulterer, not that anyone was surprised at that. His wife, First Lady Hillary Clinton, prominently defended her husband, somehow keeping her feminist creds at the same time, a neat trick. She knew which side of the bread her butter was on, as the saying goes: her loyalty was going to pay off more than righteous indignation. Thus she obfuscated, spun and lied for Bill, and gave his defenders this jaw-dropping argument, which they used liberally:

“If Hillary is willing to forgive him, why shouldn’t we?”

Let us count the ways. Why?

1. Because her relationship to him is as a wife to a husband, and ours is as citizens to a national leader. The standards are different, the stakes are different, and the consequences of the betrayal of trust are different.

2. Because the seriousness of an ethical or legal violation is not defined by who chooses to tolerate or forgive it.

3. Because her decision to ignore, forgive or tolerate may be the product of bias, self-interest, or other non-ethical considerations that make the decision unreliable, untrustworthy, and a poor template for the response of others, as well as societal standards.

4. Because she may be wrong, mistaken, or a fool.

5. Because we each are responsible for making our own ethical judgments, and to delegate those judgments to a third party, especially to a third party who is not objective or likely to be affected by conflicts of interest, makes neither logical nor ethical sense.

[Hmmmm. Caught two typos there, and also needed to make an edit. I guess I haven’t read the list lately. Shame on me.] Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “The West Point Communist, How Cultures Rot, And The Whistleblower’s Letter…”

I was hoping one of the Ethics Alarms military vets would on the issues raised by the recent West Point scandal, and frequent commenter Steve, among others obliged.

Here is Steve’s Comment of the Day on the post, The West Point Communist, How Cultures Rot, And The Whistleblower’s Letter…

These issues are the result of the PC culture that civilian leadership has foisted on all things military. Results are demanded, not those of honor and integrity but of achievement of feminist and progressive goals.

I am retiring from the Marine Corps, things have changed and in terms of accomplishing the mission only a few changes have been good. The core of our military is the infantry, the best of the best of our officers strove to become infantry officers, the most demanding and dynamic job a young officer can have. To be successful you have to be in the top 10 percent of physical performance, be mature, have heart and character. The service academies strove to develop those types of leaders, the type that could be successful infantry officers. With that as the bar, our academies, all of them, have provided the nation with some of the best leaders has given the nation a steel core that helps strengthen the whole country and provides us with resolve and honor that has helped to drive the nation during times of strife.

Civilian control of our military is essential but is also the cause of the rot. Many of the issues such as DADT and the official acceptance of gays in the service doesn’t matter much, the fight and dissent on this issue was due to concerns of political correctness and social engineering effecting the performance of the military, creating a distraction from, in terms of gays in the military it has never hurt us and we have all know some, as a leader I don’t give a shit who you sleep with so long as conformity and uniformity is achieved where it matters most, that the chemistry of the unit is stable. That is that issue in a nut shell.

Now the issue that is very much hurting our academies and the military is the unattainable push for equality, again the core of our military is the infantry, the pinnacle of being a good soldier is to be an infantryman, it is where the bar is set the highest, success requires achieving and maintaining peak mental and physical condition. The infantry is the essence of the military and women can only be artificially successful as an infantryman.

Over the last couple of decades the push has been focused of the individual achievement of women, for achievements sake, not as a multiplier of available manpower or enhancement of performance but to be able to lay claim to being just as effective soldiers as men, it is a desire to be able to make a claim, not to realize it. Standards remain different, there is an acceptance that requirements must be flexible to the individual so as not to become the focus of ire from civilian leadership. It all flows from the top, civilian authorities select generals not solely based on merit or performance but more and more on politics, those who are willing to tow the political correctness line are promoted, those who focus on effectiveness and strive to be apolitical are shown the door or are passed over. Continue reading

The West Point Communist, How Cultures Rot, And The Whistleblower’s Letter…

West Point graduate and infantry officer Spenser Rapone recently caused a sensation through his advocacy and support of communism, while being an “official socialist organizer” of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). Rapone recently posted a photo of himself as part of a declaration of support for professional football player Colin Kaepernick, including the phrase “Communism will win” with the tag “Veterans for Kaepernick.”  Rapone later posted a second photo of himself in uniform with a Che Guevara T-shirt underneath his jacket.That led to scrutiny of the hundreds of pro-Communist tweets by the former cadet, including one  calling Defense Secretary James Mattis “evil” and “vile” and another saying he will “happily dance” on the grave of Sen. John McCain.

This was not extensively covered by the mainstream media—After all, what’s the matter with Communists, as long as they don’t help Donald Trump?—though some attention was paid when Senator Rubio demanded that the Army remove Rapone. The Army said last week is it investigating and that the posts “in no way reflect the values of the U.S. Military Academy or the U.S. Army.”

I sure hope not!

Now the military community and others are asking how this is possible, and how West Point could produce a  graduate like Rapone.  In response to the episode, retired LTC Robert M. Heffington has written an open letter about what he sees as the deterioration of the culture at the storied military academy. Heffington was an assistant professor at West Point for several years, until this past August.

Note, please…

I. This is how one blows a whistle.

II.  Heffington describes how cultures rot: inattention,  poor leadership, refusal to apply standards, corruption from political agendas, silence from within.

III. Desperate and politically driven efforts to achieve diversity at the expense of integrity and quality are a major factor.

IV. West Point is a part of the higher education community. It would be surprising if it were immune from the same deterioration that the rest of America’s colleges and universities are suffering from. Thus this passage…

“…an entire semester of military history was recently deleted from the curriculum (at West Point!). In all courses, the bar has been lowered to the point where it is irrelevant. If a cadet fails a course, the instructor is blamed, so instructors are incentivized to pass everyone. Additionally, instead of responding to cadet failure with an insistence that cadets rise to the challenge and meet the standard, the bar for passing the course itself is simply lowered. This pattern is widespread and pervades every academic department.”

V. Before I read the letter, I guessed that it would have a passage like this one, and sure enough:

“The plebe American History course has been revamped to focus completely on race and on the narrative that America is founded solely on a history of racial oppression. Cadets derisively call it the “I Hate America Course.” Simultaneously, the plebe International History course now focuses on gender to the exclusion of many other important themes.”

VI. Repairing a broken culture is a long and difficult process. It involves…

Exposure

Acknowledgement

Intervention

Investigation

Transparency

Resolve

Punishment

Dedication to standards and values

Measurable goals

New leadership

Oversight

Refusal to compromise

Routine Assessment of progress

 Robert M. Heffington is an Ethics Hero. Here is his remarkable and remarkably disturbing letter: Continue reading