Another Vote For “The Washington Code Talkers”

The Washington Redskins ownership finally was forced to capitulate in the decades long- battle to force a beloved and fanatically supported NFL team to ditch the name that fans were beloving on the dubious theory, rejected by most native Americans and people capable of  critical thought, that despite all outside appearances having a team carrying a  Native American name dishonors Indians rather than keeps their story up front and vital in American consciousness and culture. Because the decision was a sudden biproduct of the George Floyd Freakout, the D.C. team wasn’t prepared for a change, and had no names in reserve. (It apparently had a shot at the name “Warriors,” which alliterates at least, but was late moving on the copyright and trademarks, so that name has, as they say, left the wigwam.

Meanwhile, gag names are flying around like arrows at the Little Big Horn, so ending the mockery is urgent. We are hearing calls for the Washington Weasels, the Washington Swamp-Dwellers, the Washington Investigators, the Washington Slime, The Washington Bootlickers…even the retro “Washington Murderous Savages.”  (I was an early advocate for “The Washington Concussions.”) However, one serious suggestion offered by the President of the Navajo Nation Jonathan Nez is brilliant: the Washington Code Talkers.

I second, with enthusiasm.

Few professional sports team have nicknames carrying any historical significance. Most are generic animals, birds, even reptiles. Some of the oldest names are meaningless, like “Red Sox.” Just a few refer to or referenced history: the now defunct Chicago Fire, the San Francisco 49’ers, the Philadelphia 76ers, and a few others. One great virtue of the Code Talkers, in addition to keeping the Native American connection to the D.C. team, is that it would compel the team’s fans to learn some history for a change. (I assume that the 2002 Nicholas Cage bomb, “Windtalkers,” did not have sufficient reach to educate most Americans.)

Who, or what,  were the Code Talkers? Continue reading

Ethics Hero Emeritus: Virginia Hall (1906-1982), “The Limping Lady”

World War II continues to be the richest source of forgotten or obscure ethics heroes, and no figure fits that description better than American super-spy Virginia Hall.

Only in the last few years, as newly intense focus has been placed on  women’s contributions to society and history, has Hall’s story come out of the shadows: three books about Hall have been published, and  two movies are awaiting release, one to be streamed on Netflix. In Hall’s case, her anonymity was substantially her own doing. She had no interest in fame or accolades, and decisively rejected them. Hill left no memoirs, granted no interviews, and spoke rarely about her exploits, even to her family.

She was born into a wealthy and privileged Baltimore clan that assumed its daughter would follow the well-trod path of a debutante and eventually the wife of an appropriate young man from her own class. But Virginia was different, “capricious and cantankerous” in her own words.  She liked guns and adventure. She once went to school wearing a bracelet made of live snakes, just to shake up her teachers and class mates.

Hall attended Radcliffe and Barnard, then went abroad to study in Paris. She wanted to be a diplomat or even an ambassador, but received no support from the State Department. There were only six women among the 1,500 U.S. diplomats at the time, so she settled for a clerical job at a U.S. consulate in Turkey. While hunting birds in her spare time, she accidentally shot herself in the foot, and gangrene set in. Her left leg was amputated below the knee. Hall named the wooden leg that became her constant companion thereafter “Cuthbert.”

In 1937, she again applied to the Department of State to enter the diplomatic corps , this time being turned down because of a rule against hiring people with disabilities as diplomats, an especially odd restriction for a nation led by a disabled President. She quit her job as a consular clerk two years later, and at 34, joined the war effort before America did, becoming an ambulance driver in France in 1940. When France was invaded by the German army, Hall fled to Great Britain.  By purest chance she came in contact with a representative of British intelligence. Hill offered her services to the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), which trained her in weapons, communications, security, and resistance activities.

So it was that an American woman with a wooden leg  became one of the first British spies sent into Nazi-occupied France in 1941, posing as a reporter for the New York Post.

Primarily working out of Lyon, Hall organized agent networks and recruited French men and women to run safe houses, all while evading the Gestapo, which called her “The Limping Lady.” She became a master of disguise, often changing her appearance several times in a day and managing to become invisible despite the impediment of “Cuthbert.” She even had her nice, straight, American teeth ground down so she could pass as an elderly peasant woman, which was a favorite false identity. Continue reading

Before The Rot Set In: Wendell Willkie And James Beggs [Corrected]

A quote in an obituary for long-time NASA chief James Beggs, who died this week at the age of 94, shocked me into realizing once again how alien basic ethics have become to our leaders in business, government, politics…hell, just about anywhere.  And once again, I’m wondering what good I’m doing, and why I bother.

Beggs had overseen more than 20 successful space shuttle launches, but he was on administrative leave due to an investigation of his conduct when the Challenger launched and exploded in 1986. As we have discussed on Ethics Alarms, a landmark example of failed ethics and decision-making caused the temporary leadership of NASA to ignore dire warnings from two engineers and send the shuttle and its precious human cargo up in dangerously cold weather.  Indeed Beggs called NASA  from his exile that fateful day to express his concern about icing. He resigned from NASA in 1986, about a month after the Challenger disaster.

Beggs was reluctant to criticize his former agency’s culpability in the accident, but he was adamant that “they shouldn’t have launched.”  “Whether I would have done anything different at the time, I’ve thought about that,” he said. “I think I would have, but that’s pure conjecture.”

Remarkable. How often does a critic of a past decision have the intrinsic fairness and integrity to say that? The Wuhan virus landscape has been polluted by extravagant and unjust second-guessing from the start, as everyone from politicians to pundits to plumbers are just certain that they would have known how to handle an unprecedented situation with significant unknown factors and substantial risk. They would have reached a different, quicker,better approach than the individual who actually had to make the call.

It’s a disgusting spectacle, and an unethical one. The “right” decision can always be made to seem obvious after the fact; critics cannot possibly know what their state of mind would have been at the actual time the decision had to be made by someone else. Beggs’ acknowledgement of that, in a situation where he could have credibly second-guessed his colleagues without equivocation, demonstrates the character of a decent and ethical professional determined to do and say the right thing even when opportunities are present for personal gain.

That story, in turn, reminded me of…Wendell Willkie. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/7/2020: Is It Just Me, Or Does Anyone Else Feel Like They Are In A “Twilight Zone” Episode?

A really boring one.

Zombies would be an improvement…

1. More on my mask photo ethics conflict...I wrote about this in a comment on the post last night about Rep. Lee, but I’m still obsessing about it because I still don’t know what the ethical course is. When I saw that photo of Rep. Lee wearing her mask with her nose exposed (this makes her a nose-breathing idiot rather than a mouth-breathing idiot; it was also upside down), I was going to post it with two other photos showing elected officials doing the same thing. At literally the last second, an ethics alarm sounded. The other two officials, a city mayor and a member of Congress known to be, shall we say, an unlikely “Jeopardy!” contestant, were both black. In the case of Lee, who is the chair of a task force on the national response to the epidemic,the validity of pointing out the visual evidence that she’s an epic boob (we knew that, but still) is unassailable, perhaps even by the race-baiting standards of the Congresswoman herself, who  repeatedly attributed any criticism of Barack Obama to racism.

Objectively, however, when accompanied by two other photos of African-American political figures making fools of themselves, would not the array appear to be a racist “dog whistle”? I don’t need to be tarred as a racist—I already have lost considerable income because I dare to oppose the anti-Trump mobs—and this would invite that result. Moreover, as I also commented last night, conservative sites were stinking with racist comments about the Lee photo. (“If you let blacks vote, you get blacks in power over you. This applies to every other non-American race and culture too,” wrote one commenter on Instapundit.) Thus the Second Niggardly Principle seemed to be triggered:

“When an individual or group can accomplish its legitimate objectives without engaging in speech or conduct that will offend individuals whose basis for the supposed offense is emotional, mistaken or ignorant, but is not malicious and is based on well-established impulses of human nature, it is unethical to intentionally engage in such speech or conduct.”

In the narrow context of my post, I’m confident that this is the right call. In a larger context, however, the Third Niggardly Principle seems to apply:

When, however, suppressing speech and conduct based on an individual’s or a group’s sincere claim that such speech or conduct is offensive, however understandable and reasonable this claim may be, creates or threatens to create a powerful precedent that will undermine freedom of speech, expression or political opinion elsewhere, calls to suppress the speech or conduct must be opposed and rejected.”

Indeed Ethics Alarms has made a recent Third Niggardly Principle stand, refusing to accept the widespread ban on any designation of the virus that references its origins and the Chinese government’s role in turning it into a pandemic. I have done this even though the Chinese connection has led some thugs to attack Asian-Americans. I believe the principle that facts and words must not be suppressed because some may misconstrue them or react irrationally is a crucial one, and a principle that the totalitarian Left is working hard to deconstruct.

So in light of all the factors, what was, or is, the ethical way to handle this conflict?

2. Speaking of polls, here’s where the last one sits. Polling is still open, and you can vote as many times as you want, for different candidates. The poll asks you to choose which Democratic Presidential candidates would endorse withholding online classes from all public school students because poor students didn’t have WiFi access:

3. And speaking of masks, here’s what NBC Washington tweeted along with a photo of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam demonstrating the right way to wear a mask: Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 3/23/2020: Examining The—OH NO! I TOUCHED MY FACE!!”!

This masterful epic by Comment of the Day auteur Steve-O-From-NJ needs no introduction, so I’m just going to say, here is Steve-O-From-NJ’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 3/23/2020: Examining The—OH NO! I TOUCHED MY FACE!!”

I just read this on Facebook. Frankly it made me angry, but not for the reasons you might think. I don’t believe for a minute a real doctor wrote this. I have a few comments of my own to add, and then I’ll have more to add at the end.

“CDC recommending hospital staff use bandanas when masks run out. Hospitals are asking the public to sew masks. Here is a physician responding:

“Please don’t tell me that in the richest country in the world in the 21st century, I’m supposed to work in a fictionalized Soviet-era disaster zone and fashion my own face mask out of cloth because other Americans hoard supplies for personal use and so-called leaders sit around in meetings hearing themselves talk. I ran to a bedside the other day to intubate a crashing, likely COVID, patient. Two respiratory therapists and two nurses were already at the bedside. That’s 5 N95s masks, 5 gowns, 5 face shields and 10 gloves for one patient at one time. I saw probably 15-20 patients that shift, if we are going to start rationing supplies, what percentage should I wear precautions for?”

Comment 1: Your job is to save and treat patients, using whatever means necessary. If supplies run out in the middle of something, then you make do until they can get you more. If the single-use nature of things is no longer tenable, then get those that can be used repeatedly until the supplies can be replenished. Oh, and cut the drama. The Soviet Union went out of existence 29 years ago, maybe even before you were born. You don’t know what went on there, except maybe by what you read.

“Make no mistake, the CDC is loosening these guidelines because our country is not prepared. Loosening guidelines increases healthcare workers’ risk but the decision is done to allow us to keep working, not to keep us safe. It is done for the public benefit – so I can continue to work no matter the personal cost to me or my family (and my healthcare family). Sending healthcare workers to the front line asking them to cover their face with a bandana is akin to sending a soldier to the front line in a t-shirt and flip flops.” Continue reading

A Lesson In Ultimate Utilitarianism: Israel’s Nazi Hit Man

Israeli special agent, Otto Skorzeny. No, I’m not kidding.

There are few better examples of how extreme versions of “the ends justifies the means” can be adopted as an ethical course than the strange, and oddly under-publicized, story of Otto Skorzeny.

Do you know the tale? I didn’t, until today. This is a good day to consider it, being the anniversary of the date Hitler’s minions invaded Czechoslovakia.

 Skorzeny was born in Vienna in June 1908. He joined Austria’s branch of the Nazi Party in 1931 when he was 23. He worshipped Hitler. When the Nazi army invaded Poland in 1939, Skorzeny left his construction firm and volunteered  for the  SS Panzer division that served as Hitler’s personal bodyguard force. He took part in battles in Russia and Poland, and was probably involved in exterminating Jews.

In 1944, Skorzeny handpicked 150 soldiers in a plan to foil the Allies after they landed in Normandy on D-Day. Dressing his men in captured U.S. uniforms, he procured captured American tanks for  to use in attacking and confusing Allied troops from behind their own lines. This mission more than anything else earned Skorzeny two years of interrogation, imprisonment and trial after the war ended. Somehow, despite being one of Hitler’s favorite SS officers, he still managed to be acquitted in his war crime trial in 1947. The Führer had even awarded Skorzeny the army’s most prestigious medal, the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, for leading the rescue operation that rescued Benito Mussolini from his captors.

After  Skorzeny’s acquittal, newspapers called him one of the most dangerous Nazi criminals still unpunished. Typically brazen, he capitalized on the notoriety by publishing his memoirs,  including the 1957 book “Skorzeny’s Special Missions: The Autobiography of Hitler’s Commando Ace.”

Skorzeny did not reveal in his books how he escaped from the American military authorities who held him for a year after his acquittal, perhaps saving him from more charges and another trial before the Nuremberg tribunals. The escape was rumored to have been assisted by the CIA’s predecessor agency, the OSS, which he assisted in some special operations after the war. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/10/2020: Freaking Out!

Good morning!

Oh! I nearly forgot!

ARGHH!

1. This day in war ethics: The Allies completed the fire-bombing of Tokyo in 1945. Over 100,000, mostly civilians, were killed. The attack is less well remembered than the two nuclear bombs and the firebombing of Dresden, Germany, but more people died on March 9 -10 in Tokyo than in any other single air attack of World War II.

2. Coronavirus freakouts.  Stipulated: the news media and desperate Democrats want the public to panic over the virus, and to blame the President, obviously.

  • Two media doctors, “Dr. Oz” and Drew Pinsky, have been performing a public service of sorts by trying to inject some perspective into the escalating hysteria, and by pointing their fingers at a primary suspect for it, the news media. Pinsky, in an interview with LA’s CBS afiifilate: “A bad flu season is 80,000 dead, we have about 18,000 dead from influenza this year and 100 from corona. Which should you be worried about, influenza or corona. 100 vs. 18,000, it’s not a trick question. Everything going on with everyone using Clorox wipes and get your flu shot, which should be the other message… that’s good. I have no problems with the behaviors. What I have a problem with is the panic and that businesses are getting destroyed and people’s lives are getting upended. Not by the virus, but by the panic.”

Dr. Oz (Real name: Mehmet Oz), who was routinely featured on network news during the Ebola scare, was attacked yesterday as a “quack” by the left-leaning Daily Beast, which has a stake in promoting the panic. In fact, Oz is something of a quack, but he’s a popular one, and using his influence to stop people from being crazy is an ethical use of it.

  • “You know…morons!”  A United Airlines flight from Eagle County, Colorado, to Newark International Airport had to be diverted to Denver over the weekend  after a group of passengers freaked out when another passenger started  coughing and sneezing. He was suffering from allergies.  In Denver, the three hysterical morons were taken off the plane, while the innocent passenger continued on the flight.

Continue reading

Women’s History Month Ethics: Should We Remember Hanna Reitsch?

If Women’s History Month is truly intended to honor remarkable women whose stories have been neglected over time, shouldn’t we spend a bit of it learning about Hanna Reitsch?

Born in 1912, she was intrepid, irrepressible, bold and brave, and few women—indeed, few men— of her generation could claim the kind of exploits she had completed by the time of her death in 1979. Yet I’ll wager you never heard of her.

There was one teeny little problem with Hanna, though. She was a Nazi.

Hanna Reitsch was the first female test pilot in world history. She left medical school  in Germany to take up flying full time, and quickly became superb glider pilot. The Germans built gliders because they  fit through a loophole in the Treaty of Versailles, which forbade the defeated nation from  building “war planes.” Reitsch also did stunt flying in movies. At the age of 21 she broke the world’s flying altitude record for women (9,184 feet). More records and firsts were to follow after she became a test pilot in 1935: the women’s gliding distance record, the first woman in the world to be promoted to flight captain,  the first woman to fly a helicopter, the  world distance record in a helicopter, the first pilot  to fly a helicopter inside an enclosed space, and the women’s world record in gliding for point-to-point flight, among others.

Reitsch was made an honorary flight captain by Adolf Hitler, and  in 1937 she became a test pilot for the Luftwaffe, as she completely embraced National Socialism.  She  flew  German troops along the Maginot Line  during the Germans’ 1940 invasion of France; later in the war, she earned  an Iron Cross, Second Class, for risking her life trying to cut British barrage-balloon cables. Among the warplanes she tested was the Messerschmitt 163, a rocket-powered interceptor that she flew at 500 mph. Hitler awarded her an Iron Cross, First Class, after she crashed while testing the ME 163 and managed to record everything that had happened before she passed out. Continue reading

Noonish Ethics Round-Up, 2/19/2020: That Other Day That Will Live In Infamy…

Hi!

1. On this day in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, empowering the Army to issue orders emptying parts of California, Oregon, Washington and Arizona of immigrants from Japan, who were precluded from U.S. citizenship by law, and nisei, their children, who were U.S. citizens by birth. After the order, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court including future liberal icon William O. Douglas, the Japanese-Americans  were first warehoused at “assembly centers,” which could be racetrack barns or on fairgrounds, then shipped to ten detendtion camps in Western states and Arkansas. Armed guards and barbed wire, plus morning roll call were part of the degrading and punitive experience.

It is fair to say this treatment was substantially rooted in racism, for there was no mass incarceration of U.S. residents with ties to Germany or Italy. Once the U.S. appeared to be on the way to victory along with its Allies in December 1944, the Executive Order was  rescinded. By then the Army was enlisting Japanese American soldiers to fight in Africa and Europe. President Harry Truman told the all Japanese-America 442nd Regimental Combat Team: “You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice—and you have won.”

California is now preparing to formally apologize to the families of those interned.State Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) introduced a resolution that will formally apologize for California’s “failure to support and defend the civil rights” of Japanese Americans during that period,” and it is expected to pass today.

It’s naked grandstanding and virtue signaling, of course. The federal government apologized for the unconstitutional imprisonment and granted financial redress to survivors with the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, and the Supreme Court overruled its decision  upholding internment in 2018. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: Plot E”

The quiz about the American military cemetery of shame in France provoked many varying opinions, none more eloquently expressed than this Comment of the Day by JutGory.

I only post quizzes when I am at least somewhat unsure of the ethics call. My position in the post was in response to the blogger’s argument in favor of giving the graves headstones, which I felt was unpersuasive. I’m not sure Jut has changed my mind, but his points are much, much better.

Here is JutGory’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Quiz: Plot E”: Continue reading