The Last Of The Nazi War Criminals

Coincidentally, just as I am completing watching the Netflix documentary “The Devil Next Door,”  another former Nazi prison guard has begun trial on charges that he was an accessory to 5,230 murders at a German concentration camp in Poland during World War II.  “The Devil Next Door” engrossingly tells the strange story of a Ukrainian immigrant named John Demjanjuk who appeared to be a model U.S. citizen, respected neighbor and beloved husband and father in Cleveland before the U.S. decided he was really a former Nazi camp guard nicknamed “Ivan the Terrible” for his sadism and brutality at the Treblinka Nazi death camp in Poland. Demjanjuk was stripped of his U.S. citizenship and tried in Israel from 1986 to 1988 for crimes against humanity. A three judge panel convicted Demjanjuk and sentenced him to hang after a dramatic (and troubling) trial, but the former Ford auto-worker died while his  appeal was pending. Under the doctrine of abatement ab initio, he is still presumed innocent.

As I have written here before, I have many ethical problems with the concept of war crime trials, but “Ivan the Terrible” certainly tests them. Whether or not Demjanjuk  was Ivan, the Treblinka gas chamber operator was a monster even by SS standards, torturing the camp’s Jewish victims before their extermination. In the United States, I cannot imagine that that Demjanjuk would have been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt: the evidence was compromised, the eye-witnesses often contradicted themselves and appeared confused (“Some were liars, some were senile, and some were liars and senile” is how Demjanjuk’s Israeli lawyer puts it on camera). The most damaging testimony against Demjanjuk was his own, and in the U.S. he never would have been allowed to testify.

Was he “Ivan”? All one can say is “probably.” The case was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, not even close to it.

At the time, it was widely believed that Demjanjuk’s would be the last Nazi war crimes trial, but now  Bruno Dey, 93,  a prison guard  in the Stutthof camp near what’s now Gdansk, Poland, is being tried in Hamburg, Germany. Continue reading

The Child-Molesting Pitcher, Chapter 2

Last spring, I posted an ethics quiz about Luke Heimlich:

Luke Heimlich is a rising college baseball star pitcher at Oregon State,  and may well have a future in Major League Baseball. There is a problem though:  Heimlich, 22,  pleaded guilty to  sexually molesting his 6-year-old niece when he was 15 years old. The further complication: he denies that he committed the crime, which was not just one incident but a pattern over two years. He told The New York Times that he only pleaded guilty to ” for the sake of family relations.” “Nothing ever happened,” he told the paper. The girl’s mother, however, says there is no question that he was guilty.”

The question then was whether Heimlich should be allowed to play college baseball. I wrote,

” what does it say about this man’s character that he pleaded guilty to get a lenient deal, and now blandly says that he was lying? I’d view him as more trustworthy if he admitted the crime, was remorseful and repentant, and accepted responsibility. If he did molest the girl, and still denies it, one can hardly say that he has been rehabilitated…”

I’m not sure I was firing on all cylinders when I wrote that, though. He pleaded guilty because that was, by far, the least risky course: I might have advised him to whether he was guilty or not. If he wasn’t guilty, then he’s telling the truth now about “lying” to avoid a harsher sentence for a crime he didn’t commit.

Meanwhile, the reader poll results indicated a strong majority favoring letting the pitcher get on with his life, and his baseball career.

And now, the rest of the story… Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “A Particularly Sad Ethics Dunce: Senator John McCain”

I am bumping Steve-O-in-NJ’s reaction to the depressing drama of Senator John McCain spending his last days in anger and bitterness up in the queue of  pending Comments of the Day, which is long right now. The reason is that his analysis fits neatly into a post I was about to write, but will summarize here as a preface.

The impulse to defend McCain’s recent conduct, notably disinviting President Trump from his funeral in advance, is one more in a long line of signature significance moments, definitively identifying late stage sufferers of anti Trump hysteria. (Trump Derangement Syndrome just isn’t an accurate diagnosis, because it suggests equivalence with the more unhinged critics of Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama. There is no comparison. It is like comparing a bad cold to the bubonic plague.) The grotesque theater of a public figure choosing, rather than to end his life with grace, forgiveness and unifying good will, choosing to emulate the mad Ahab, screaming,

“To the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee!”

He has gone full-Ahab. You never go full Ahab. But because the equally mad haters of the elected President relish the thought of any insult, attack or indignity hurled Trump’s way, the can’t perceive the obvious. Defending McCain’s prospective snub is as clear a symptom of anti-Trump hysteria as a dog recoiling from water signals rabies.

My usual course is to make an ethics analysis and then check the opinions of analysts who I trust as generally fair and perceptive. Here was Ann Althouse’s take, in part:

It’s very strange — these statements coming from a dying man about what he wants at his funeral. I can’t remember ever hearing anyone talking about his own funeral with the assumption the President of the United States wants to attend and then taking a shot at the President saying don’t attend. I mean, how do you get to be the sort of person who, facing death, imagines everyone clamoring to attend your funeral and then telling some of them you don’t want them there? It’s similar to a Bridezilla, thinking everyone’s so interested in attending her wedding and then being dictatorial toward these people.

I don’t understand it…good Lord! What would possess you to think your funeral is going to be such a hot ticket people will be put out if they can’t attend and then letting it be known who you want on the outs?

I’d like to see more dignity and privacy around McCain as he plays his final scene. It’s his brain that is wrecking him. Shouldn’t his family enclose him and protect him?

Those who respect and care about McCain want him to stop. Those who hate Trump so much they are willing to see a war hero and former Presidential candidate embarrass himself to deliver one more divisive insult just regard him as a means to an end.Here is Steve-O-in-NJ’s Comment of the Day on the post, A Particularly Sad Ethics Dunce: Senator John McCain:

Continue reading

A Particularly Sad Ethics Dunce: Senator John McCain

As I already have noted here more than once, Senator John McCain’s ethical course was to resign from the Senate even before he got his brain cancer diagnosis, and definitely afterward.  He is a courageous and admirable man in many ways, but the one of the hardest duties in life is to give up power and influence, and say goodbye when the time comes. The senator is not alone in failing this ethics test, indeed he is in distinguished company: FDR, Babe Ruth, Frank Sinatra, Muhammad Ali, Lawrence Tribe,  Clarence Darrow, too many Supreme Court justices, including a couple current ones, and lots of U.S. Senators. Nonetheless, it is a failing, and in McCain’s case the failing has been compounded by his regrettable decision to use his status as a dying man to exploit the reluctance of critics to address the wrongdoing of the afflicted. He has decided top settle old scores in his final days. The conduct is petty and erodes his legacy, as well as the respect he had earned in his long career of national service. It is too bad.

Much of McCain’s self-indulgence is directed at President Trump, whom he is now insulting with mad abandon, banning him, for example, from the Senator’s funeral in advance. This is vengeance, nothing more ennobling, for Candidate Trump’s outrageous disrespect toward McCain and other prisoners of war when Trump said that he did not regard them as heroes. McCain revenge is thus a display of the kind of non-ethics Donald Trump believes in: tit-for tat, mob ethics, hit ’em back harder. The political theme since November 2016 is that the President’s enemies cannot resist lowering themselves to his level, or in some cases, below it. Strike-backs from beyond the grave are particularly unbecoming, but McCain is seething, and apparently can’t muster the other cheek, graciousness, or statesmanship. Too bad. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “I’m Curious: Do Women—Any Women, A Lot Of Women, Adult Women, Rational Women—Think This Times Column Makes Sense? (Because It Doesn’t)”

(This is sort of what Juliet has in mind, I think...)

Juliet Macur’s column in the New York Times calling for what was essentially Old Testament Biblical vengeance against one of the more recently accused sexual harassers disturbed me greatly, and the resulting Ethics Alarms post reflected my reaction.  Steve-O-in NJ picked up the baton, and the result was this, his Comment of the Day on the post, I’m Curious: Do Women—Any Women, A Lot Of Women, Adult Women, Rational Women—Think This Times Column Makes Sense? (Because It Doesn’t):

The principle that those who do wrong should not be allowed to profit from their wrongs is not without basis in either ethics or the law. It is that principle which gave rise to the “Son of Sam” laws that allow suits against convicted criminals by their victims or the victims’ families if they receive assets from the sale of their stories. It is also that principle that sometimes leads to “Son of Sam” clauses being worked into plea agreements, whereby any profits made from the sale of a pleading wise guy or terrorist’s story goes to the government. Much more than that, and you run into First Amendment problems. It’s also a given that courts can order restitution to victims as part of a sentence or as part of a plea deal.

However, as pointed out above, all of these legal principles involve, presumably, a wrongdoer who has either had his day in court or decided to forego his day in court in the hopes of better terms. Even in an employment or other civil setting, an accused wrongdoer is not without rights. A company who not only terminated an accused harasser but stripped him of his pension and whatever other assets came with the position, all without so much as an investigation, would almost unquestionably find itself on the wrong end of a lawsuit, and could conceivably lose, which is why a lot of those situations resolve with a more favorable deal. In this case, the accused is choosing to walk away before it even comes to that, and cash out.

Juliet Macur is looking for blood, or the equivalent. I know the feeling, we all know the feeling, and writers and sports entertainers the world over know how to exploit that feeling very well. That’s why thrillers almost always end with the initial wrongdoer dead and WWE kayfabe angles always end with the heel badly injured and humiliated. We all have that urge to jump to revenge, that snap reaction of “why that blankety-blank, I’ll teach him!” Continue reading

The Democrats Are Apparently Determined To Be The Asshole Party, And They Should Be Called On It

The questions by Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez  during Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein’s hearing today mark him as far worse than a mere Ethics Dunce. It even exceeds the outrageous disrespect of President Obama displayed by GOP Congressman Joe Wilson when he shouted out “You Lie!” during a State of the Union address. Guiterrez—who opposes the rule of law and advocates open borders, just to put his principles and priorities in context— has been emboldened by the divisive and destructive abuse of the President by Reps. John Lewis, Maxine Waters and Frederica Wilson, among others (including Hillary Clinton), and more recently by the irresponsible and dishonest demand by Senator Gillibrand that the President resign for unproven, non-criminal conduct that took place, if at all, long before he was elected President, and that voters ratified by virtue of electing him.

Mostly, however, Guiterrez was moved to disgrace his office and the House of Representatives because he is an asshole—there’s no other word for it—who knows that his party will not discipline him, as it should,  for this most disgusting display of unprofessional conduct and hate-mongering. Continue reading

Yes, Virginia, There Is A White Supremicist Teacher Principle

“Oops! Sorry.”

 

A commenter yesterday inquired about the Ethics Alarms position regarding efforts to punish participants at white nationalist rallies by publishing their photos on Facebook and other social media, presumably to help get them fired.

I’ll begin the analysis with the Naked Teacher Principle, explored in its many variations on Ethics Alarms, which states,

“A secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result.”

The same general reasoning would apply to a secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who placed videos or photos of himself or herself demonstrating in favor of racist causes, or giving the “Sieg Heil!” salute, on social media. Even a superb teacher, and one who never exhibited any racial bias at all, would be rendered untrustworthy by such photographs. A neo-Nazi has a right to his or her political views, but those views cannot interfere with the individual’s ability to do a job.

No, I wouldn’t trust a Klan member, a neo-Nazi or a white nationalist to teach my child.

The same would apply to social media posts, and the exact analogy are the college professors who have recently found themselves enmeshed in controversies by declaring on Twitter or Facebook that white people should be killed, that males are a social contagion, or similar bigoted sentiments. These teachers should be separated from their students, and many, though not all, have been. They are, however, publicizing themselves, as well as their bigoted views. Like the naked teachers who posed on-line, they are accountable for the images they project and publish, and how those images affect present and future employees.

However, this is different:

Thousands of strangers across the country had been working together to share photographs of the men bearing Tiki torches on the University of Virginia campus. They wanted to name and shame them to their employers, friends and neighbors. In a few cases, they succeeded.

The activity described is a direct effort to punish people for  their opinions expressed through legal means. It is in the same unethical category as sending private e-mails that reflect badly on former lovers through social media, or using a questionable tweet to destroy the life and career of the tweeter. This kind of  “amateur sleuthing”  as the Times whitewashes the practice, is vicious, destructive, reckless, unfair, and a Golden Rule breach.

I have already pointed out that I might be tempted  join a demonstration against the unethical airbrushing of history that taking down Robert E. Lee’s statue in his home state represents. If I were an idiot (but not a bigot), and didn’t recognize that the white nationalists were just exploiting the General’s memory for their own agenda, I might have been in that group of Tiki torch marchers. A photograph of me marching with a bunch of Klansman and neo-Nazis would hardly be good for my ethics business, though I would be completely innocent of racist views.

The “amateur sleuths” also are not always correct (being amateurs, after all) , as well as being self-righteous, vicious, and opponents of free speech. The Times describes that fate of a professor, Kyle Quinn, who runs a laboratory dedicated to wound-healing research, and who resembled another man caught in a photo marching with the racists. Quinn was attacked on Twitter and Instagram, and social media demanded that he be fired, accused him of racism, and posted his home address online.

Nice.

Be proud, you vicious social justice warriors! Continue reading

I Finally Saw “O.J.: Made In America,” And I Am Depressed

Inspired by the upcoming parole hearing, in which double knife-murderer O.J. Simpson is expected to be paroled (and should be), I decided to watch a much-praised documentary series that I had thus far avoided.

Ezra Edelman’s “O.J.: Made in America” (not to be confused with “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,”the dramatic TV mini-series starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. as the fallen football great, released the same year ) is a 2016 documentary produced for ESPN Films and their 30 for 30 series. I saw it a few days ago. I’m sorry I did.

Not that the film isn’t excellent, thorough, fair and though-provoking. It is. Nor was there too much in it that surprised me. Simpson defense attorney Carl Douglas gloating over how the defense team unethically and dishonestly altered Simpson’s home to deceive the jury made me want to punch him in his smug face, but I already knew about that outrageous tactic. Seeing Mark Furmin on the stand invoking the Fifth Amendment when he was asked whether he had ever planted evidence at a crime scene made me want to gag, but it made me want to gag when I saw it live. One more time, I was convinced that the prosecution had so botched the case that there was plenty of reasonable doubt for a jury to employ to acquit O.J., just as it was obvious from the trial that he was guilty as sin. All of this I expected.

I did not expect to be so emotionally troubled and ethically disoriented by the conclusion of the film, in which one African-American after another, most of them speaking in the present day, tells the camera with various levels of offensiveness that O.J.’s acquittal was a great moment for black America, a form of redemption, pay-back for centuries of abuse and decades of  discrimination by police and the justice system, proof that the system can work for African Americans and not merely against them, a well-earned poke in the eyes of white America, sweet vengeance and retribution, and a result to be honored and cherished as victory for blacks everywhere.

A prominent minister and civil rights leader actually compares Simpson’s acquittal to Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier. I wonder what Robinson would have thought about that comparison. Continue reading

The Twittercide Of David Leavitt

A fatal terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert? Funny!

Social media and multiple popular blogs and websites are flaming with hate directed at David Leavitt, a freelance writer who didn’t get his annual ethics alarms maintenance performed and is now paying the price. Perceiving himself as a mad wag,  Leavitt took to Twitter for some levity following the horrifying event described in this lead from the BBC:

“Twenty-two people, including an eight-year-old girl, have been killed and 59 were injured in a suicide bombing at Manchester Arena, at the end of a concert by US singer Ariana Grande.”

Let me rephrase what I wrote before: Leavitt’s ethics alarms were not merely badly serviced, they had fallen apart into rusty chunks. He also hadn’t been paying attention to the world around him: did he miss the fate of Justine Sacco, who tweeted a joke to her friends that the cyber-mob decided was racist (though it wasn’t) as she boarded a plane, and by the time she had landed found that she had lost her job and become a national pariah? Had he not noticed that the Aflac duck had a different quack in 2011 after comic Gilbert Gottfried tweeted a series of jokes about the tsunami that devastated Japan and was promptly fired from what Gottfried had called the greatest gig in the world?

Either he had been practicing his craft (“Freelance Writer. CBS, AXS, Yahoo!, Examiner, & etc. I review #Games #Tech #Fashion #Travel. Casual #MTG #Twitch streamer”) from a cave, or he is an idiot, but in either case, he decided to tweet this…

then this…

Somebody apparently grabbed Leavitt and shook him hard (but not hard enough) as his tweets went viral and he was on the way to becoming the latest Justine. A few hours later he tweeted “Too soon?” and this apology:

Too late. HisCBS PR disowned him;  AXS sent his contribution down the memory hole; so did Yahoo. Boston’s WBZ, which had employed Leavitt, issued a statement condemning his jokes and saying that he was not an employee. Publications like Mother Jones, the New York Daily News,  Heat Street and The Daily Mail had placed essays attacking him on their websites. The reaction by British websites and news organization was even more intense. David Leavitt can forget about vacationing in the United Kingdom. Ever.

Observations:

1.  Nobody deserves to have their life destroyed over two tweets. Let me quote at length what I wrote about the Justine Sacco’s cyber mob, because it applies with equal force to Leavitt: Continue reading

Unethical Website Of The Month: #GrabYour Wallet

trump-boycott

Boycotts are almost always unethical, but the vicious partisan tactic of boycotting businesses because they or their owners  support or contributed to the duly elected President of the United States make usual boycotts seem saintly in comparison. Spite, vengeance, an attack on political speech and individual autonomy, call it what you will, there is no other side to this tactic. It is wrong. It undermines democracy. It punishes speech. It is the heating oil seller who tells Trump voters to freeze, and the yarn shop owner who tells Democrats to feed their knitting elsewhere, but on a grand, self-righteous, societally destructive scale.

#GrabYourWallet is a website whose operators  aim to hurt, injure and punish not only business owners who dare to have a different political view than they, but also their businesses employees, families and customers. This is the invidious outfit that bullied Nordstrom into dropping Ivanka Trump’s fashion line, because we must punish a young woman for supporting her father, who half the country chose to be President. This in turn led Kelly Ann Conway, the President’s spokesperson who is as much in over her head as a he is, to fall into the trap of violating the law by using her position to promote a product, because she chose an inartful way of telling decent Americans to reject the boycott.

Let me be as clear as Ethics Alarms can be. Continue reading