The Unethical Ingredients Of The West Point High School Valedictorian Fiasco, Part I: A Perfect Storm

High school graduation

This ugly episode should not have become another racial controversy, and in a healthy culture it would not. But in 2021 it could not have been otherwise with these facts, and American have to decide if they want to live in a society where this happens, or whether they want something better.

The story is told well here, but the main facts are:

1. Ikeria Washington and Layla Temple were named 2021 valedictorian and salutatorian for West Point High School in Mississippi on Seniors Awards Night. Both are African-American.

2. The parents of two white students in the class, Emma Berry and Dominic Borgioli, objected. They had been carefully calculating their children’s grade point averages, and by their records, Emma and Dominic had earned the honors given to Ikeria and Layla.

3. By the school’s own handbook, they were right. Ikeria and Layla had been awarded the honors based on a calculation of quality point average or Q.P.A.,which calculates grades by giving extra weight to advanced placement and dual credit courses. Dominic and Emma were the top two finishers based on an unweighted grade point average, and according to the rules, it was that distinction, not the Q.P.A., which should have been used to decide the class’s valedictorian and salutatorian. A school counselor charged with ranking the class had made a mistake and used the wrong standard…or at least that’s the school’s story.

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Comment Of The Day: “Casting Ethics: ‘Anne Boleyn’ And Discriminatory Double Standards”

Oh, I just love this Comment of the Day by Curmie, who was AWOL from the ethics comment wars for far too long, and whose return recently has made my heart soar like a hawk. I love it for many reasons, including, of course, the fact that it is well written and enlightening, far more so than my post that prompted it, which focused narrowly on the double standard of applauding the having a performer of one race portray another, but only when it’s the “right” races involved.

As with my posts about ethics issues in another lifetime passion, baseball, I know that many readers nod off when the framework is theater. But the conceit of Ethics Alarms is that the ethics issues and process of analysis are often universal regardless of where the dilemmas and conflicts pop up. As it happens, baseball and theater happen to be two realms that I know a lot about.

But not as much as Curmie, at least as far as theater is concerned. I had hoped that he would weigh in on the casting of a black actress as Anne Boleyn, and he did.

Here is Curmie’s Comment of the Day on the post, Casting Ethics: “Anne Boleyn” And Discriminatory Double Standards.

***

Literally two minutes after reading this post, I saw that Katori Hall had been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play The Hot Wing King. I don’t know the play—its Off-Broadway run was cut short by COVID, and as far as I can tell it hasn’t been published.

I do, however, recognize her name as the playwright of The Mountaintop, in which the two characters are Martin Luther King, Jr. and an employee of the Memphis hotel in which he is spending what he doesn’t know is his last night on earth. (Spoiler alert: she’s really an angel preparing him for what is to come.) It is a good, borderline great, play: by turns moving, humorous, and incisive. But what comes immediately to mind is the production by a student group at Kent State University, in which a white actor was cast as King. The director, of course, claimed the casting decision wasn’t a gimmick. (Newsflash: it was a gimmick.)

The original idea was to alternate the role between a white and a black actor to be, in the director’s words, “a true exploration of King’s wish that we all be judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin.” The black actor had to drop out of the production, and the white one played the role throughout the run.

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In Borden v. US, Justices Gorsuch And Thomas Indicate They View The Law As Taking Precedence Over Ideology

Gorsuch-and-Thomas

Good. That’s two: maybe there are more.

So- called “three strikes” laws are a conservative invention to bind the hands of liberal judges inclined to give too-lenient sentences to repeat offenders because of superfluous factors like a tough childhood. As a result, liberal justices generally detest the device, arguing that it takes the judgment out of judging.

In Borden v. US, a case that asks if a conviction for a violent felony based on recklessness or negligence rather than malice should count as a “strike,” the three bedrock progressives on the U.S. Supreme Court, Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan, voted predictably, against the application of a “three strikes” law. If all six conservative justices showed similar fealty to their biases, the petitioner, Charles Borden, Jr., would face an enhanced sentence after pleading guilty to possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, because he had three previous convictions for “violent felonies” according to Tennessee. Confounding the Supreme Court politicizers who don’t believe judges are capable of being ethical—which requires putting aside personal biases and loyalties to do the right thing—Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch voted with the liberals. They did so because they were following the letter of the law, and that is the Supreme Court’s job.

In Borden, prosecutors argued for the mandatory 15-year sentence based on three earlier convictions that included on for “reckless assault.” Borden argued that such a conviction was not a “strike’ according to the wording of the law, and in law, words are supposed to matter. His claims were rejected in the lower courts, and Borden was sentenced as a “career-criminal.”

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Casting Ethics: “Anne Boleyn” And Discriminatory Double Standards

Ann Boleyn series

That’s Anne Boleyn on the photo above. No, really, it is. Well, okay, it’s really British actress Jodie Turner-Smith portraying King Henry the VIII’s doomed second wife, whom most people don’t realize was black. That is, of course, because she wasn’t black, just like Martin Luther King wasn’t Chinese and Genghis Kahn wasn’t a Hassidic Jew. However, a new TV mini-series, which premiered last week in Great Britain, cast Turner-Smith because no white actresses were available to play the role. No, that can’t be right. No white British actress were qualified to play an English historical figure? That can’t be true either. What’s going on here?

“It is the first time a Black actress has portrayed the Tudor queen onscreen,” the New York Times helpfully informs us. Really! The factoids we get from the Times! Why not, I wonder? Wait, wait, don’t tell me: has a man ever played Anne Boleyn in a serious historical drama? How about an octogenarian? An actress in a wheelchair? A dwarf? How about a moose? A block of cheese?

“We wanted to find someone who could really inhabit her but also be surprising to an audience,” Faye Ward, one of the show’s executive producers, said in an interview. Surprising, or confusing? Surprising is a piece of cake, as another doomed queen, but from France, would have said. Casting Woody Allen as Anne would be surprising. What’s the objective here?

The Times feature rapidly descends into a hybrid of Authentic Frontier Gibberish crossed with Wokish.

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Friday Ethics Dry-Off, 6/11/2021: Apple Pie, The Duke, “Lillibet,” The “Only If You’re The Right Kind Of Black Caucus” And Shut Up, Donald

It’s raining like crazy here, so…

1. And now for something completely stupid…Poe’s Law is getting a workout as The Great Stupid heads into its final stage, and I have to discipline myself not to write about too many episodes like this one, which once would have been regarded as parody because it would have been parody. Raj Patel, an apparent communist, explains in this unhinged piece by The Guardian about “food injustice,” that the apple pie is a symbol of American imperialism and white supremacy, like this…

Not that apples are particularly American….Apples traveled to the western hemisphere with Spanish colonists in the 1500s in what.. is now better understood as a vast and ongoing genocide of Indigenous people….

Not that the recipe for apple pie is uniquely American….By the time the English colonized the new world, apple trees had become markers of civilization, which is to say property….John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, took these markers of colonized property to the frontiers of US expansion where his trees stood as symbols that Indigenous communities had been extirpated.

Not that the gingham on which our apple pie rests is uniquely American….this war capitalism enslaved and committed acts of genocide against millions of Indigenous people in North America, and millions of Africans and their descendants through the transatlantic slave trade. In the process, cotton laid the basis of finance, police and government that made the United States.

Since this is quite a lot to acknowledge, it is easier to misremember. In the drama of nationalist culture, the bloody and international origins of the apple pie are subject to a collective amnesia.

This, though extreme, is the weaponization of the cognitive dissonance scale that has become a prime part of the strategy to unmake the United States, cancel its freedoms, and turn its values inside out. Consistent with Critical Race Theory, literally everything in our culture, including the best and most innocent of it, must be traced to something evil.

Even apple pie. Conservative websites are having fun mocking this article. They are foolish. Patel is deadly serious, and our children will be taught this perspective unless there is relentless resistance.

2. John Wayne died on this date in 1979. “The Duke” had the biggest impact on American culture and ethics of any performer; there really isn’t anyone close. And it was a positive impact; John Wayne (really Marion Morrison) the man is an interesting subject, but what mattered was his art. He dedicated his career to portraying the independent American male individualist with all his virtues and flaws, aided by some of the greatest film-makers in Hollywood history, notably John Ford and Howard Hawks. Even before Hollywood took its disastrous turn to the hard Left, Wayne suffered because of the enmity liberals and the academic elite held (and hold) toward the core American values that Wayne’s characters, often incompletely, tried to embody. Pauline Kael, much idolized as a film critic (I detested her), refused to do anything but ridicule Wayne’s performances out of pure political bias. For me, especially as I became more experienced as a stage director, Wayne’s acting impressed me more the more I watched him, and I have watched him more than I have watched anyone.

There has been an effort of late to “cancel” the Duke, but they’ll have more luck with apple pie. The John Wayne character remains strong, inspiring, and complex. Over 40 years after his death, Wayne’s movies are still featured on TV regularly; no actor made more great ones, and the good ones are still entertaining. My favorites? “Stagecoach” (of course), “Red River,” “Rio Bravo”, “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon,” “The Searchers,” “Hondo,” “True Grit”, “The Quiet Man,” and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence,” with Hawks’ “Hatari!” as a special guilty pleasure.

I miss him. America misses him.

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Ethics Villains: The Boston Globe Editorial Board

Globe Logo

The Boston Globe has just published an editorial splashed on its website in the flamboyant style its previous owner, the New York Times, reserved for “important” declarations and propaganda like the “1619 Project.” “The Case For Prosecuting Donald Trump” is the latest installment of the Globe’s ongoing attack on former President Trump, which, of course, began from the moment he was elected. This screed is the current chapter, the sixth, in a project called, clumsily enough, “Future-Proofing the Presidency.” It is, even for the bottom of the barrel level of partisan and biased journalism that is now routine, nauseating. Even the timing of it is unethical—partisan, cynical, and embarrassingly obvious. Donald Trump isn’t President, and the Globe’s claim of fictional urgency regarding an exited POTUS is unprecedented.

Is this worse than the Globe’s stunt in 2016, when it published a fake front page showing what a future Trump Presidency would yield? Oh, I don’t know. I do know that a newspaper that would publish that would be capable of issuing an editorial this bad…and so it has!

The past week has exposed the irresponsible policy calculations of the Biden administration, notably with inflation arising as anyone could have predicted it would with a government that tosses away trillions like money is confetti. The President’s corrupt son has again come under examination, reminding us how the news media, including the Globe, deliberately embargoed information regarding his slimy activities that legitimately raised questions about “The Big Guy.” The illegal immigrant rush to the border, a surge that Democrats and Joe Biden invited, is a disaster. Kamala Harris, assigned the job of managing it, was anointed as a President in Waiting, and has demonstrated (again) how frighteningly unqualified she ,

The party the Globe works for has revealed itself as harboring anti-Semites within its leadership. The previous Democratic President has begun attacking white America and evoking the racist views of his “spiritual advisor” Rev. Wright, though candidate Barack Obama condemned such divisive views in order to get elected in 2008. Yet another false narrative the news media used to undermine President Trump’s re-election prospects was exposed as a lie this week, and the Democratic Party’s plans to enact a radical agenda without anything resembling a popular mandate by eliminating the Senate filibuster have crashed. Another IRS scandal under a Democratic President is emerging—and with all of this happening, and more, the Boston Globe’s priority is examining the Presidency of Donald Trump?

The editorial is deliberate misdirection, and desperately so. Its translation, as a whole, comes to this: “Never mind what’s going on now: wasn’t that last President horrible? Don’t you think we should get him?”

I haven’t read the previous editorials in the series, but as a lawyer, the headline was clickbait. What is the case for prosecuting Trump? The Globe’s editorial board doesn’t make it; they don’t even make a good faith effort. Unbelievably, the Globe’s indictment consists of three “crimes”:

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I Can’t Let THIS Pass: CNN Reinstates Jeffrey Toobin

They really did. Am I surprised? I can’t say that I am exactly. Of course, any responsible organization would fire an employee who was publicly revealed (oops, almost said “exposed”) masturbating on camera during a Zoomed staff meeting. A real estate firm? Of course. A law firm? No question about it. A consulting firm? A university? Naturally. Not only was what Toobin did during a New Yorker meeting per se sexual harassment, it was signature significance for a sick puppy with the judgment of someone who likes to play “dodge ’em” on the freeway.

I was worried that in my various posts about Toobin’s Folly, I might have stated that CNN would never take Toobin back (they suspended him; the New Yorker canned him). I didn’t. I did write about Toobin’s future utility as a legal analyst, which is what Toobin purports to do, saying

Again, why would anyone care what an analyst thinks who has shown such head-explodingly bad judgment, disrespect for the workplace and colleagues, and juvenile instincts?

I also saw foreshadowing of today development in this post, in which I pronounced myself a moron for being resistant to the idea that progressives will excuse each other for just about anything, writing,

“I continue to be unable to grasp the complete attempted inside-out-ization of all American logic, principles and values by the people who currently control the White House, half of Congress, the schools, the universities, the news media, social media, Big Tech and entertainment.”

And sure enough, CNN brought back Toobin today. Wow. Asked by CNN’s Alisyn Camerota “what he was thinking,” Toobin replied that he “wasn’t thinking very well or very much,” and called his conduct “deeply moronic.” Yeah, that’s just what inquiring viewers want in their legal analysis: the opinions of someone who doesn’t think well or very much and is periodically moronic in the workplace by his own admission.

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Judging A Website By Its Commenters

Citizen Free Press

The comments on leftist websites—-yes, I include the Washington Post and the New York Times—often make me reconsider my criticism of Michael Savage’s best selling book title, “Liberalism is a Mental Disorder.” The comments on most conservative websites, however, make me want to have my human race credentials revoked.

Take the comments on Citizen Free Press…please. The surging conservative news aggregator has taken a lot of clicks from The Drudge Report since the latter went ostentatiously NeverTrump. It is occasionally a useful resource, but the more I use it, the more showers I have to take. For example…

Isimemen Etute, 18, of Virginia Beach, a Virginia Tech freshman football player (I assume he was also a student?) has been charged with second-degree murder for beating a man to death after discovering that the 40-year-old he met on Tinder as “Angie,” was a man, Jerry Smith, rather than a woman. They had apparently had some kind of sexual contact on their first meeting, but on the second a month later, the ruse was revealed. Etute told police he punched and stomped on Smith’s head and “heard gurgling” before leaving him to die.

Don’t ask me how one could have a sexual encounter with a man and believe he was a woman, but there are stranger versions of this plot.

But the comments on the story on the Citizens Free Press link are more than depressing; they are frightening. The people who wrote the vast majority of them would need a serious upgrade to reach “deplorables” status. Ready?

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Ethics Observations On A Forgotten Singing Sensation

Jill corey

For all my (self-) vaunted dedication to popular culture, I had no idea who Jill Corey, pictured above, was. When I glanced at the New York Times obituary feature about her last month, it didn’t ring enough of a bell for me to read it. But I left the section lying around for some reason, and finally read it last night. Her life is a story filled with ethics enlightenment about life, luck, and priorities.

On Nov. 9, 1953, when she was only 17, Norma Jean Speranza of Avonmore, Westmoreland County, a coal miner’s daughter just like Loretta Lynn, was featured in a Life Magazine cover story called “Small Town Girl Gets New Name And a New Career.” She became a true overnight sensation, recording hundreds of songs for Columbia Records, including “Love Me to Pieces,” “I Love My Baby,” “Let It Be Me” (which the Everly Brothers covered memorably) and “Sometimes I’m Happy,” the featured single on her career-defining album, “Sometimes I’m Happy, Sometimes I’m Blue.” Corey, it is fair to say, had one of those rare female voices that are instantly appealing, like Judy Garland and Karen Carpenter. Listen…

Those low notes!

Critics and audiences loved her. Silver Screen magazine said she had a “voice as lovely as a glass slipper, and a personality to match,” and that was typical. Corey was a regular on the television variety programs “Robert Q’s Matinee” (1950–1956) “The Dave Garroway Show” (1953–1954), the 1958–1959 version of the iconic “Your Hit Parade,” and on Johnny Carson’s CBS comedy-variety show before he took over “Tonight.” She also had her own syndicated radio and television shows. In 1958 she starred in a feature-length musical film, “Senior Prom” (co-produced by Moe Howard!)

So why doesn’t (almost) anyone remember her today?

In 1961, she married Don Hoak. He’s remembered now more than Corey is thanks to “City Slickers”: in a scene on a dude ranch, the one woman in the group complains to Billy Crystal and his two friends that she doesn’t understand men’s obsession with baseball. Who cares who played third base for the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates, she asks hypothetically, and the words are barely out of her mouth before the three guys blurt out, “Don Hoak!”

Corey stopped performing and recording to raise a family; she and Hoak had a daughter. He dropped dead of a heart attack in 1969 at the age of 41 while chasing a thief who had stolen his brother’s car. Unexpectedly, Jill Corey had to return to singing. But her moment had passed. She was no longer famous or in demand, and popular music, the culture and public tastes had moved at supersonic speed in the eight years between 1961 and 1969. Once seemingly everywhere in magazines, TV and the radio and seemingly headed to a long career, she was back to being an unknown. When she died in May at the age of 85, few noticed.

Observations:

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