Category Archives: U.S. Society

Just A Reminder: I Warned About This From The Start, Almost Three Years Ago

Poor Cassandra. I know how she felt.

Poor Cassandra. I know how she felt.

The Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck, which encompasses the shooting of two police officers in New York City, is just the second section of the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck. The coordinated effort to represent the American justice system as hostile to blacks, and white society as determined to harm them, was launched in Florida in early 2012, nearly three years ago.  It might have failed then, as it deserved to since there was no genuine racial element in the actual Martin-Zimmerman episode, had not the President of the United States used his bully pulpit, credibility with black Americans and the power and influence of his office to declare the local incident as emblematic of societal hostility to African-Americans, and Obama personally. This, as I wrote earlier this week, lit the fuse that exploded into racial violence against police this past week.

I saw it then. I have seldom seen anything more clearly.  So I wrote:

What does {Obama] think he’s doing? Teens, children and adults are murdered every day, many of them right where Obama lives, in Washington, D.C. Aren’t all of the violent deaths “tragedies”? Why is this one, and only this one, worthy of specific presidential attention? Is it because black leaders called for the President to overstep his proper role? Who cares what activists call on the President to do—certainly he shouldn’t. Does this now justify their calls for retribution and violence, or validate high school students who are staging walk-outs to protest law enforcement officials investigating a case before they make any arrest? (Are high school students now empowered to dictate law enforcement policy? Suspend every single one of them.)

What earthly difference does it make what Trayvon looked like, who his death makes the President think about, or whether he looked like the son Obama never had? So what? What if he looked like my son? Not good enough? When a white, Hispanic or Asian kid in a hoodie is shot by some gun-wielding hysteric, can those parents also count on a statement of concern by Obama? What if they are just run down by a drunk driver, or killed by being left in an over-heated car? Not tragic enough? Doesn’t strike the same chord of of “seriousness”? Or will these tragic deaths not be viewed as sufficiently important to the President’s “base” in an election year? Do you think these questions are unfair? Who laid the groundwork for them?

Misusing his office and prestige in such matters simultaneously diminishes the presidency and warps its function. The position has always included the role of Mourner-in-Chief, at times of genuine national tragedies, such as the Twin Tower bombings, the Challenger disaster, and Pearl Harbor. Cheapening this solemn function by intervening in local crimes and contentious race-charged controversies accomplishes nothing positive: it is divisive, intrusive, and dangerous.

Got that? Dangerous. I chose that word deliberately. March 12, 2012.

Reading the comments again now is fascinating: readers conservative and liberal denounced my criticism as unfair, after the usual “Bush did it too” spin from the reflex Obama defenders.

Arthur in Maine wrote: Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race, U.S. Society

Remembering Christmas Music

nativity

It is slowly dawning on me that Christmas music, one of the annual joys of my childhood and perhaps yours, is in a perilous state, both culturally and aesthetically. The best of the songs musically are religious in nature, which means that schools won’t pass them along to their charges as happened routinely when I was a child, and even playing them on the radio is likely to be regarded as a religious statement. I just loved the music, as I think most kids would if they ever got the chance before they were brainwashed into believing the ancient songs were subversive.

A full court cultural press is underway to make those songs as rarely heard outside of church as hymns, and I don’t see the trend as reversible. One obvious bar to a comeback: current pop stars don’t have the pipes to sing most of them without causing a sound pollution emergency. Or, if one of the few singers who could actually hit the notes dared to cover a carol like “O Holy Night,” he or she would feel required to apply flourishes of the sort that make every rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at a major sports event an invitation to PTSD.

Even for the more secular Christmas repertoire, the clock is running out. The most listenable versions, and the definitive ones in most cases, are by performers of the past who are not just dead, but also long forgotten by the current culture. An hour of classic Christmas recordings on the radio is now a reminder of how old I am and close to joining great singers like Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Andy Williams, Nat King Cole, Jo Stafford, Burl Ives, Gene Autry, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Elvis—dead, dead, dead. I guess Brenda Lee is still alive, so “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” is a little less depressing, but it’s a minor classic at best. It’s gotten so bad that when I hear “The Little Drummer Boy,” I find myself wondering if the whole Harry Simeone Chorale is dead too—Harry died in 2005, and the recording is 56 years old, after all.

Meanwhile, our post-modern culture is sneering at the whole idea of Christmas songs, and Christmas itself. Most modern Christmas songs either are making fun of Christmas, about sex, or just lousy. The tradition is being undermined in more creative ways, too: this week I watched a 2012 straight-to-video movie called “12 Disasters of Christmas,” based on the loopy premise that “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was really a coded recipe for stopping the 2012 apocalypse predicted by the Mayan calendar. “The Mayans knew that the knowledge would have to be preserved for centuries, so they devised a song that would carry the secret and would be passed on and learned by children for generations,” explains the old codger who’s figured it all out. (But why would they choose such a monotonous and stupid song?) Come on, guess: How does the “Chosen One” stop the end of the world? [Answer below.]*

The movie is on to something, though. The Christmas songs that have the best chance of persevering though this age of  cynicism and cultural illiteracy may be those that either tell a story  or that have an interesting one related to their creation. The simple and beautiful tune of “Silent Night,” for example, as one of those films they used to show in school assemblies every year before some anti-religious hysteric sued, was composed for guitar in response to a Christmas Eve crisis for a small church in the Austrian alps in 1818: the church organ wasn’t working.  I have found that Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas”  affects me far more deeply since I learned that the Berlins’ infant son died on Christmas day, and that while his children celebrated Christmas as a cultural holiday, Berlin and his wife did not. They spent each Christmas after their son’s death in mourning. The song is a wistful remembrance of a happier time that the composer will never experience again.

Maybe another Christmas song will persevere if its origins are remembered; I was reminded of its history this week as a result of the thaw in U.S. relations with Cuba. Though my wife hates it, the song is one of my favorites, perhaps because it brings back warm memories: I watched the song’s first national broadcast with my sister and parents, and the Marshalls bought the recording the next day.

It was 1962. Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne were a husband and wife songwriting team of modest success. They were saddened by the lack of any spiritual content in popular Christmas songs then; imagine what they would think today.

Like all Americans, they were petrified during the thirteen days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the world stood on the brink of nuclear annihilation. As the crisis intensified, Regney found himself inspired to write down a simple poem with a Christmas theme. (Later, the couple would say that neither of them could ever sing the song through, because of the strong emotions it recalled.) When the nation could finally take a deep breath of relief as the threat ended,  Gloria devised a melody for her husband’s words, though he had always been the composer when he and wife wrote songs together.

The result of this unique variation on their collaboration was recorded before the end of 1962, but it wasn’t until the following year, when Bing Crosby sang the team’s creation live on ABC’s  “Hollywood Palace,”  that it became widely known. The song written during the Cuban Missile Crisis became a best-seller, Crosby’s last hit Christmas record, and also the last popular Christmas song to have a religious theme.

It was, and remains, a prayer for peace.

____________________________

* By finding and wearing FIVE GOLDEN RINGS, of course!

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, History, Popular Culture, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

After The Brooklyn Cop Murders, The Sound Of Spinning: WindyPundit Takes On My “Smear”

None for me, thanks.

None for me, thanks.

Mark Draughn, a.k.a Windypundit and the Ethics Alarms 2013 “Blogger of the Year,”  has swallowed the Kool-Aid, apparently, and decided to defend the race-baiters, from the tippety top of our government to the stygian depths of MSNBC, who have finally managed to get police killed in retaliation for the “racist murders” of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others. In his most recent post he challenged my analysis, and ended up making me feel pretty good about it. I love Mark’s blog and admire Mark’s mind, and if can’t do any better than this, I am obviously on firm ground.

I want you all to visit Windypundit, for Mark is terrific (usually), so I’m not going to go through the whole post, which you can read here. I will make a few salient observations though. Let’s play “Mark Says”:

Mark Says:

“I knew there would be people who would take Brinsley’s reputed motive and use it to smear protesters and activists who had spoken out against police abuse.”

1. Mark wrote this before my straw man post, and sure enough, he followed the script. It’s about “police abuse.” Right. Not race. Not the racism of whites, the hunting down of black men; not about how blacks can’t get justice even when they have been gunned down with their hands in the air. Indeed, it’s not “about” any of the irresponsible, exaggerated, inflammatory accusations that we have been hearing since Trayvon Martin was shot…and not by a cop, either.

2. “Reputed motive.” Mark thinks I am unfair to conclude that a killer who wrote online that he was going to kill some “pigs” in retaliation for police killing Mike Brown and Eric Garner killed the two police officers in retaliation for police killing Mike Brown and Eric Garner.  Got it.

3. I’m smearing protesters! These are, recall, protesters who, by their use of the “hands up, don’t shoot” theme, were smearing a specific police officer with the false claim that he was a racist and a murderer, though the evidence says otherwise, and smearing the integrity of the citizens on the grand jury who refused to indict him.  By extending this smear to police generally, they were also asserting that this—that is, the fictional racist murder of that “harmless, unarmed black teen” who had just tried to take the officer’s gun and was charging all 300 pounds of his body at Officer Wilson—was the potential orientation of all white police.  I was smearing them by pointing out that this was divisive, inflammatory, dishonest and irresponsible. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society

The Straw Man Cometh: Confronted With The Inevitable Results Of Their Race-Baiting, The “Hands-Up!” Crowd Claims It Was All A Misunderstanding

strawmanargument

Don’t let them get away with this.

The Straw Man logical fallacy occurs when a person ignores the actual issue being debated and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of the opposing position that is easier to rebut. For years, there has been an organized effort in the Obama Administration, the progressive movement, the civil rights movement and among black activists to represent American society as racist, along with the American law enforcement system and justice systems, and to maintain  the false narrative that racism was responsible for several high-profile deaths of black men, and that specific police officers, such as Darren Wilson, were guilty of racist executions and exonerated by a racist system.

The strategy has been richly fertilized by relentless accusations that white voters and the Republican party hold racial animus against Barack Obama because of his race. The deliberately divisive effort has resulted in a level of fear, anger and distrust of white Americans in the African American community not seen in over half a century, with white police officers serving as the immediate targets. Predictably, two New York City cops were assassinated by a deranged black man after posting social media messages referencing the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, and critics have correctly stated that the reckless race-baiters have “blood on their hands.” Sensing that a looming tipping point may be going against their divide and conquer agenda, they are ducking and weaving like Muhammad Ali in his prime. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society

Just In Time For Christmas, Here Are All The Bad Arguments And Rationalizations Against Tipping So You Can Feel Self-Righteous About Being A Scrooge

See? The rest of the world knows how to deal with you sexist, racist, aristocratic poverty perpetuating, self-esteem destroying bastards!

See? The rest of the world knows how to deal with you sexist, racist, aristocratic poverty perpetuating, self-esteem destroying bastards!

Vox has published an entertaining screed against tipping, massing all the contradictory, facile rationalizations and faulty arguments against demonstrating one’s gratitude when someone serves you well. This is Vox, remember—Ezra Klein’s uber-progressive website with an agenda. Think about what the alternative to tipping is, and where the critics of tipping are going with these claims. Hint 1: It has nothing to do with democracy or individualism. Hint 2: The piece argues that tipping is classist, racist, sexist, “lookist”…the works.

The full illogical, ethically confused character of this junk has to be read to be fully appreciated, but here is a quick overview:

1. Hoary old quotes. There are these, for example:

English author Lynne Truss on visiting New York: “In this great financial capital … tips are not niceties: give a ‘thank you’ that isn’t green and foldable and you are actively starving someone’s children.” No, Lynne, you’re being cheap, that’s all.

The Village Voice’s Foster Kamer: “It reinforces an economically and socially dangerous status quo, while buttressing a functional aristocracy.”   Ah. You see, if lower paid service professions are treated like robots and underpaid, they will rise up and overturn this monstrosity called capitalism.

 Michael Lewis: “I feel we are creeping slowly toward a kind of baksheesh economy in which everyone expects to be showered with coins simply for doing what they’ve already been paid to do.” Who is being “showered with coins?”

2. “Tipping lets employers off the hook.” Translation: It gets in the way of the progressive “living wage” campaign. Mandatory salary levels drive businesses out of business and reduce jobs. Want to see all restaurants go to the iPad, self-ordering, system running rampant at airport restaurants—and no, I don’t tip a runner who just carried my food to the table—by all means, force restaurants to pay “a living wage.”

3.  “Tipping is undemocratic.” This is the George Orwell, “Peace is War” argument. The government should stop me from giving my money to whoever I want in the name of democracy. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity, U.S. Society, Workplace

President Obama’s Unexpected Legacy: The Deadly Deterioration Of Racial Reconciliation And Trust

Murdered cops

I really hate thinking this, much less writing it.

At this moment, race relations in the United States are in a more precarious and dangerous state than at any time since the 1960s. The arrogance, incompetence, biases, and in some cases intentional political machinations of the nation’s first African American President and his party are substantially and perhaps primarily responsible for this tragedy. This is a catastrophe for the nation and its society, though one that the mainstream media will deny, obscure, or refuse to admit. It is still true.

As we begin December 21, 2014, two NYPD police officers named Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, one white and one Asian, are dead, having been assassinated by a deranged African American criminal who drove from Baltimore to New York in order to put “pigs in a blanket.” He announced his plan with message referencing the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, as well as “them” and “us”—“us” being black men, “them” being police officers.

You will hear and read Obama/Holder/Sharpton/ De Blasio defenders furiously denying the connection between these politicians’ repeated suggestions that white police officers were profiling black men and often killing them, and the racial hatred currently focused on police. They will say that the killer, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, was insane, and perhaps that he was more likely a lone wolf Islamic terrorist. The journalists  should be reminded that they were immune to such alternative theories when they blamed the Tucson attack that maimed Congresswoman Gaby Giffords on the rhetoric of Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin, even though the shooter in that case had no smoking hashtags that indicated any motivation other than insanity.

Ironically, their arguments apply fairly now, when they did not then. Re-read Paul Krugman’s infamous column from 2011, substituting the “climate of hate” he attributed to attacks on big government by conservatives (because, like the Michigan professor who authored this, Krugman doesn’t regard what he and other liberals express as hate, just well-earned contempt) with the real and deadly racial distrust and suspicion nurtured by the rhetoric of black leaders, progressive pundits, and others, suggesting that young, black men are being hunted down and killed for the crime of being black. Krugman won’t make that argument now, but if he had any integrity or objectivity, he would.

President Obama, elected on the promise that he would bring the races together, lit the long fuse for this unfolding disaster for our democracy in July of 2009, less than a year into his first term. A prominent African American professor, Henry Lewis Gates, Jr., acted like a jerk to a white Cambridge, Mass. police officer responding to a call, and was arrested for disturbing the peace. Obama, in the first of his many unethical pronouncements that interfered with local matters completely unrelated to his job, made public comments suggesting that Gates was treated unjustly because of his race. The facts indicated that Obama had impugned the character of not only a model police officer, but one recognized for extraordinary sensitivity in the area of black community relations. There was no public apology from Obama, however, and the fuse was lit. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race, U.S. Society

Ethics Observations On The Brooklyn Police Shootings

Hands up

Via Vox: Two Brooklyn police officers were shot and killed execution-style today by a lone shooter, an African American male named Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who had posted two messages on Instagram suggesting that he was putting “wings on pigs today” because “they take one of ours, we take two of them.”  The message was accompanied by hashtags referencing Eric Garner and Mike Brown. The shooter later killed himself, and had allegedly shot an ex-girlfriend as well.

Five Observations:

1. The dangerous escalation of rhetoric and the persistent  misrepresentation of facts by civil rights advocates, activists, journalists and pundits made this kind of episode nearly inevitable. You cannot flood the airwaves with constant references to “police shooting unarmed black men” as if there was an organized racist liquidation of blacks by police in the streets and not risk sparking violence from the hysterical, the deranged, the angry, the lawless and the desperate.

2. The irresponsible “hands up” protests did not cause these deaths, but they probably helped create the conditions that led to them. The shootings of the  two NYPD police don’t make the false “hands up” lie—which continues to assert that Michael Brown was executed when the evidence indicates he was not, and that there was racial bias involved, when there is no evidence of this at all—any more unethical, reckless or irresponsible than it already was. It was wrong from the beginning. It was wrong to assert these things before what happened in Ferguson had been investigated, and it was wrong to keep asserting them after it was clear that they were unsubstantiated or false. It is still wrong. It is still dangerous. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society