Category Archives: History

The Destructive, Useful, Unethical Presumption of Bigotry, Part 2: The Oscar “Snub”

selma-4

For the second time in nearly two decades, and for the first time since 1998, the Oscars will be awarded to only white acting nominees. This, then, if you listen to the caterwauling race-baiters, is because Hollywood is racist. The Academy’s voters just hid it well since 1998, that’s all. Does that make any sense to you?

There are few more infuriating and transparently illogical examples of an unfair slapping down of the race card than looking for bigotry in the notoriously arbitrary, bias-soaked, essentially meaningless choices for “best” in the various Academy Award movie-making categories. Yet the race card sharks were up to the task.  Naturally, the authority on the subject was Al Sharpton, he whose own performance quality on his MSNBC TV show is so amateurish that it would be shut out in any community theater awards.

“In the time of Staten Island and Ferguson, to have one of the most shutout Oscar nights in recent memory is something that is incongruous,” Sharpton told The Daily News. Wait, what??? Incongruous is the assertion that the nominations for film-making excellence should be influenced in any way by how many blacks are killed resisting arrest. Anyone who finds that to be a logical argument for why more black actors should have been nominated for Oscars is useless to any rational discussion of the issue. I want a show of hands. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History, Popular Culture, Professions, Race

Ethics Hero Emeritus: Irena Sendler (1910-2008)

Sendler

I missed learning about the death of Irena Sendler (Irena Sendlerowa) in 2008, and this occurred because the mass news media barely took note of it. Lots of celebrities died that year whose passing prompted extended mourning in the press and examinations of their legacies: Paul Newman, Heath Ledger, Sir Edmund Hillary (a member of the Ethics Alarms Heroes Hall of Honor), Charlton Heston, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and many others. There was no room for a final appreciation of the life of Irena Sendler, apparently. Today, the website Bio.com doesn’t list her among the notable deaths of that year, though it finds room for Fifties stunt singer Yma Sumac—remember her? She had a four octave range! And Arthur Showcross: he murdered 11 women from 1988 to 1990 in upstate New York, earning the nickname “The Genessee River Killer.”

All Irena Sendler did was save 2500 children from the Treblinka death camp. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, History, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, War and the Military

Comment of the Day: “Of The Good Muslim, Paris, ‘1984’, And The Compulsion To Deny The Truth”

Mulsim women

Left-of-center Ethics Alarms follower deery gets a lot of heat on Ethics Alarms, but he has a much-valued knack for spawning edifying exchanges. In this reply to one of his comments arguing that Christianity and Islam near equivilency in their more extreme positions, Ulrike delivers the Comment of the Day, in the battle following the post, “Of The Good Muslim, Paris, ‘1984’, And The Compulsion To Deny The Truth.”

Here it is:

I’d like to make the claim that 1300 years ago, in almost any society women were the losers but now the distinction can be seen by anyone who has eyes. Christians moved on from those times and their nations became successful world powers. On the other hand, oil seems to be the main driving force behind anything in the Arab League.

And yes, in the beginning Islam had a positive influence on the scientific community in so far as it united the Arabic world which up to that date was splintered into tribes. Arabic became the lingua franca and facilitated the trade of knowledge and commodities. The Arabs become the driving force in translating ancient Greek literature – I could go on and on, the list is long, but I’m too lazy. So while we still lived like Neanderthals, the Arabic world had flourishing cities that were the trade centers of the Orient.

Now here’s the rub: The decline of science and the renunciation of modernity can also be attributed to Islam. How can that be, when I just stated that it was a major factor in the rise of science. Well, not Islam as a religion facilitated this rise but its role in uniting the arabic world economically and territorially. But when the Muslim faith came to be the established force behind everything and anything its disciples started to consolidate the belief that science was equal to renouncing Allah.

If you set yourself the task to name any invention in medicine, chemistry, physics or engineering from the last two hundered years that originated in the Arabic world – you have your answer which faith benefited progress more. Christian society developed towards modernity and Muslim society turned away from it… Continue reading

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Gender and Sex, History, Religion and Philosophy

Five Ethics Observations On The US’s Paris March Snub

world-leaders-paris-march

In case you didn’t catch it, more than 40 world leaders joined the start of a Paris march for unity against terrorism and for freedom of speech, linking arms in a demonstration of solidarity. Even Netanyahu and Abbas were there! The Paris march may have included more than 1.6 million marchers before it was done, reportedly the largest demonstration ever. More than three million have now marched across France in response to the deaths of 17 resulting from extremist attacks in Paris last week, beginning with the executions of the staff of the satirical newspaper, “Charlie Hebdo.”

You would expect, and I am sure that the world expected, that the United States of America, reputedly the leader of the free world and the nation that most symbolizes the human right of free speech, would have participated in the event with enthusiasm, conviction, and prominence. But no. President Barack Obama did not come to Paris to join with his fellow world leaders. He did not send Vice President Biden either. Though Attorney General Holder was in Paris, he was not directed to attend the march, and did not.  The United States was only represented by its ambassador, who is not a world leader, and whose job it is to attend routine functions large and small.

Initially the criticism of the obviously intentional snub was muted, with the toadying mainstream news media, as has been its standard operating procedure since 2008, acting and speaking as if there was nothing amiss. Fox News, also as usual, was the exception, but since that network is isolated and pigeon-holed as a reflexive Obama critic “no matter what he does,” this was initially ignored as more right-wing carping. Then, to his great credit, CNN’s Jake Tapper took to Twitter to say  that he was “a little disappointed personally” at the lack of a strong U.S. presence, and in a later statement, escalating to saying that he “was ashamed.” He then wrote in an opinion piece…

“I find it hard to believe that collectively President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Attorney General Eric Holder — who was actually in France that day for a conference on counterterrorism — just had no time in their schedules on Sunday. Holder had time to do the Sunday shows via satellite but not to show the world that he stood with the people of France?

There was higher-level Obama administration representation on this season’s episodes of “The Good Wife” on CBS.”

Good for Jake Tapper, one of the few relatively objective broadcast journalists who is worthy of public attention and trust. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Leadership

Black James Bond Ethics

Fleming's Bond (l) and Bond-in-Waiting Idris Elba

Fleming’s Bond (l) and Bond-in-Waiting Idris Elba

There’s really no denying it: some conservatives have persistent hang-ups about race, and it undermines their more rational, perceptive views on other matters. A relatively trivial but revealing example occurred in the aftermath of the Sony computer hack by North Korea (or Hacker X). One of the revelations was that Sony, which owns the James Bond franchise, was seriously considering re-booting the character, currently played by the estimable, but aging, Daniel Craig, with a black  British actor (be sure to mock anyone who calls him an “African-American), Idris Elba.

If you are unfamiliar with Elba, you should watch the British series “Luther” on Netflix. He’s terrific: athletic, sexy, charismatic and passionate, not to mention his  aura of cold-bloodedness and danger—in short, perfect for James Bond. But Rush Limbaugh, apparently seeking to retroactively validate the title of Al Franken’s book, “Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot,” decided to use the threat of non-traditional casting to make liberal heads explode, his mission in life:

“That’s NOT who James Bond is, and I know it’s racist to probably even point this out: We had 50 years of white Bonds because Bond is white. Bond was never black. Ian Fleming never created a black Brit to play James Bond. The character was always white. He was always Scottish.”

It is hard to pack so much idiocy into five sentences, but Rush is up to the task. James Bond is a British secret agent: race doesn’t factor into the stories at all. We’ve had 50 years of white Bonds because that’s the conventional way of portraying the character, that’s all. Rush’s argument here is just “Everybody does it.” So what? James Bond movies are entertainment, and if an entertaining James Bond film can be made with Elba as Bond, and there is no reason in the world why not, then James Bond can be black. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Gender and Sex, History, Race

Comment of the Day: Prosecutor Ethics, “What The Hell Were You Thinking?” Dept: Dog-Whistling “Dixie” To The Jury

Dixie

I will introduce this fascinating Comment of the Day by one of the blog’s masters of the long form comment, Chris Marschner,  by saying that I think it is only tangentially related to the post, though he would disagree. Chris is writing about the history of “Dixie” and why it should not be associated with racism. Whether I agree with that analysis or not, the fact is that the public does overwhelmingly associate the song with a longing for the simplicities of the Old South, when the darkies were singing in the cotton fields and those Northern folks weren’t sticking in their noses where they don’t belong. This is the basis of an Idaho court’s decision to overturn the conviction of a black defendant after the prosecutor gratuitously and needlessly quoted the lyrics of the song in her closing argument.  That decision was correct, because the issue is whether the comment could reasonably have been an appeal, or seemed like an appeal, or have had the effect of an appeal, to racial bias. I don’t think that conclusion is arguable.

Here is Chris’s Comment of the Day on the post, Prosecutor Ethics, “What The Hell Were You Thinking?” Dept: Dog-Whistling “Dixie” To The Jury:

The prosecutor failed her client – the people- not because she used the words of an 19th century song but because she failed to come to understand that history and culture of the US has been so bastardized that even an appellate court has no understanding and context of the origins of the song and the history and culture of the south. And, because of its misunderstanding believes the lyrics to be racially prejudicial.

“Maybe Erica is so young, color blind and historically ignorant that she had no idea that “Dixie” has been played at Klan rallies and used as the campaign theme for states rights, segregationist, white supremacy candidates since the Civil War. Maybe she didn’t recognize the cotton reference as racial.”

This song was written by a northerner named Daniel Decatur Emmett and performed in New York in an 1859 minstrel show by Emmitt in blackface. The reference to cotton is geographic in nature because cotton represented the primary agricultural commodity and wealth creator of the southern states – nothing more unless one is predisposed to finding anything related to the antebellum south as racist

Many songs have been coopted by various groups but to suggest that lyrics of Dixie are inherently racial because they are used by White supremacists is faulty logic. If a white supremacist adopted the image of Leonardo D’Vinci’s David or Venus d’ Milo or other classical work of art on their flag that would not mean that any such depiction suggests racial superiority. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Comment of the Day, History, Popular Culture

Prosecutor Ethics, “What The Hell Were You Thinking?” Dept: Dog-Whistling “Dixie” To The Jury

"Wait...WHAT did you just say??"

“Wait…WHAT did you just say??”

Canyon County Deputy Prosecutor Erica Kallin wanted to make the point that the defense attorney for the African American defendant, James D. Kirk, was trying to lead the jury to ignore the evidence that pointed to his guilt in his trial for lewd conduct with a 17-year-old girl and sexual battery of a 13-year-old girl—making them, in effect,”look away” from the truth. How could she make that argument in a vivid way? Clarence Darrow used to use poems in his famous closing arguments; was there a memorable poem that used the phrase, “look away”?

“Eureka!” Erica thought. She found it! So she said to jury deliberating on the case:

“‘Oh I wish I was in the land of cotton. Good times not forgotten. Look away. Look away. Look away,’ And isn’t that really what you’ve kind of been asked to do? Look away from the two eyewitnesses. Look away from the two victims. Look away from the nurse and her medical opinion. Look away. Look away.”

The jury convicted Kirk, on both counts; the evidence against him was indeed strong. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society