Ethics Quiz Follow-Up (And An Ugly One): The Congressional Art Competition Winner’s Painting [UPDATED]


Well now we have a definitive answer to the Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz that asked whether  it was responsible, fair, and ethical for Congressman Lacy Clay (D-Mo) to have the painting above displayed in the U.S. Capitol, and we don’t even have to use the ethics decision-making process I included in the post. (I note ruefully that readers were challenged to use the method to reach a conclusion, and none did.)

We don’t have to use it, because we now know some things we didn’t know at first, or at least I didn’t. Based on news reports when I first posted, I assumed that the work by high school senior David Pulphus was chosen by a designated committee, and that Clay was bound by the terms of the contest to hang the winning painting in the Capitol. That would have made the treatment of the obviously inflammatory artwork, which depicts the false Black Lives Matter narrative that Mike Brown was gunned down in Ferguson by a racist cop without cause, an ethics conflict, pitting the First Amendment and the obligation to fulfill  a commitment against the inclusion of racially divisive art in the Capitol, which is irresponsible.  Now we know, however, that Clay himself helped choose the painting, and that he did so despite the fact that the painting directly violated the rules of the contest, and thus was ineligible:

“While it is not the intent to censor any artwork, we do wish to avoid artwork that is  potentially inappropriate for display in this highly travelled area leading to the Capitol.Artwork must adhere to the policy of the House Office Building Commission. In accordance with this policy, exhibits depicting subjects of contemporary political controversy or a sensationalistic or gruesome nature are not allowed. It is necessary that all artwork be reviewed by the panel chaired by the Architect of the Capitol and any portion not in consonance with the Commission’s policy will be omitted from the exhibit. If an entrant is unsure  about whether a piece of artwork is acceptable, he or she should contact the staff of his or her  Member of  Congress; the congressional staff can speak with personnel who can determine whether the artwork would be accepted.”

The painting is beyond question  “depicting subjects of contemporary political controversy or a sensationalist or gruesome nature.” In allowing the painting to be entered, participating in selecting it, seeing that it was chosen as the winner, and hanging such an inflammatory work in the Capitol, Rep. Clay was…

1. Intentionally sparking a racial controversy.

2. Deliberately bolstering a false narrative regarding the results at Ferguson.

3. Exploiting a child for his own political agenda.

4. Intentionally insulting police.

5. Undermining the contest itself.

There is no justification for doing any of this, unless he wants to be transparent about the fact that he isn’t fit to be in the House of representatives, and is a jerk besides.

Since the Ethics Quiz, matters have deteriorated considerably.

Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-Cal.) read about the painting after learning about the protests of police groups, correctly concluded that it had no place in the Capitol, and in an evening raid, removed it.  Hunter told Fox News that “the Congressional Black Caucus (of which Clay is a member) now stands for portraying cops as pigs in the US Capitol.”

This was a fair and accurate assessment, and mysteriously at odds with President Obama’s definitive conclusion that race-relations have improved under his wise stewardship.

Clay, who earned himself an Ethics Alarms “Incompetent Elected Official of the Month, “ but is so much more than that, responded by threatening to sue Hunter, which is ridiculous, and accused him of theft, which is even more ridiculous.  Hunter returned the painting.  Clay, lying through his teeth, said that the painting “perhaps” might violate the art contest’s rules—he knows damn well it does—but said that the issue was really not about a student art competition anymore. It’s about defending the Constitution.” He is not only a liar and a toxic, irresponsible, race-baiting  elected representative, but Constitutionally ignorant as well. There  is no right to have your painting hung in the Capitol, especially when it didn’t qualify to be entered in the contest that put it there.

Clay decided to spark further controversy and hung the painting again….and it vanished again, this time thanks to Colorado Congressman Doug Lamborn (guess which party and what color he is). Lamborn dropped off the painting at Clay’s office, where, according to reports, Clay threatened to duke it out with the Republican. Clay then hung the painting a third time, and it was removed a third time. California House member Dana Rohrabacher told the news media that if Clay keeps the putting up the thing, “We’re going to keep taking it down,”

Finally doing the impossible and setting the low point (so far) of this perfect example of why Barack Obama, as he will tell you so himself, takes pride in how he has been a racial healer, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus,  Cedric Richmond (D-La) told Politico, “We may just have to kick somebody’s ass and stop them.”

That’s right: the leader of the Congressional Black Caucus is willing to resort to violence to ensure that a painting that depicts a police officers as a pig and that should not have been selected for display under the rules of the Congressional Art Competition continues to hang in the Capitol, perhaps as a symbol of how much progress race relations have made under B…all right, I guess I’ve flogged that one enough.

A few more random notes:

  • The Congressional Black Caucus is a disgrace, an embarrassment to Congress, blacks, and Democrats. It would be nice to be able to say that Clay and Richmond are not typical of its unprofessional and unethical membership, but it would also be wrong.
  • Nancy Pelosi, who as Democratic leader in the House is supposed to keep her party from beclowning itself, has been AWOL in this matter.
  • The hateful fiction that Officer Darren Wilson (the pig in the painting) shot a harmless Mike Brown “like a dog” (hence the dog-head) is still part of Black Lives Matter propaganda, and has been proven false. It is now the equivalent of a Big Lie, used to inflame racial hate and anti-police attitudes. Let’s be clear: that is what Clay and the Congressional Black Caucus want to fight for.
  • I am waiting for the principled Democrat leader who will stand up to the CBC and tell them to be responsible. Is there such a leader? How about a Democratic commentator. The Daily Kos? The Nation? Eugene Robinson? Anyone?
  • How about an ordinary Democrat? Is there any integrity left in the party any more?  Any principles?
  • NPR, extolled by commenters here and elsewhere as a trustworthy news source that does not intentionally misrepresent the news, headlined its story on this fiasco, “Student Painting Depicting Cops As Animals Sparks Tensions On Capitol Hill.”   As animals! Now why would anyone get upset about a painting that portrays police officers as animals? Heck, “Zootopia” had police being portrayed as bunnies, water buffalo, leopards, pandas, all kinds of animals, and nobody objected! Boy, those police and those conservatives are being so silly!

This was intentional deceit by NPR, and one more example of the left-wing media blocking for its allies. The painting portarayed the central police figure in the painting as a pig. Since the late Sixties, “pig” has been used as a hostile epithet to demean police. NPR knows it, knows that the kind of animal used by the artist is material to understanding the story, and deliberately used a misleading headline.

UPDATE (1/14/17): The Architect of the Capitol finally figured out that the painting wasn’t compliant with the rules, and will be taking it down. If he had done his job in a timely fashion, we wouldn’t have had House members threatening to beat up each other.


Facts: Mediaite

111 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz Follow-Up (And An Ugly One): The Congressional Art Competition Winner’s Painting [UPDATED]

  1. If you want to be semantic about it, a pig is a young swine that is not yet sexually mature — usually under one year of age. Presumably, the term you are searching for is boar based on the picture. Sorry, but the 4-H girl in me cannot let your comment stand. I would never have approved a news headline that used the term pig incorrectly.

      • I’m not joking at all. You argued that the title was inaccurate and suggested a correction, which also is inaccurate. People may call police pigs, but the picture was of boars, not pigs. So, actually the report should have referenced “A painting of boars, which presumably was intended to be pigs given common derogatory (albeit incorrect) usage of the term.” That’s quite a mouthful, even by NPR standards. Further, do I really need to dig up the many posts you’ve written about The Mikado?

        • A boar is a male pig. A wild boar is a species of pig. Again, I cannot believe you are serious, and that anyone believes that the artist was not intending to portray police as pigs. It is profoundly depressing to me to see liberals embarrass themselves by doing such desperate, insultingly dishonest spinning. I know four police officers personally. Do you think any of them will not tell me that they believe that drawing was a slur?

          From the dictionary: BOAR: a tusked Eurasian wild pig from which domestic pigs are descended.

          • An adult male pig is a boar, domesticated or not. Look it up. Further, I grew up on a pig farm. I know approximately 100% more about pigs than you.

            • And a boar is also a pig. Look THAT up. Apparently I know more about language, common sense and epithets than you. See, when people are called specific animals to denigrate them, they don’t really care about speciel accuracy. Nor do those calling them names to debase them.

              Go ahead: tell me that the painting wasn’t intended to insult police officers. I want that in writing.

              • Again, I am arguing only about the title of the headline. And no, boars are NOT pigs, they are swine. A “pig” is a young female or male pig under a certain weight — the equivalent of a toddler in human terms. Your comment is akin to “all adult males are toddlers.” But I will agree that most people are ignorant as you on the topic — similar to the common practice of using the word cows instead of cattle. But that doesn’t mean that we should perpetuate ignorance. See, e.g., everything you’ve ever about The Mikado.

                • Arguing that accepted symbolism is zoologically inaccurate is just pedantry. Police aren’t pigs either. It’s an insult, and any “swine” will do. For the purposes of this episode, I know all that I need to know about pigs.

                  • But I never disagreed with you about symbolism Jack, I was arguing with you about the words. You are switching the topic. It is also well accepted that niggardly is a bad word, even though it is not. And yet, you try and educate the masses every time it comes up. I’m only doing the same.

                    • No. You were not. You were attempting to draw a false equivalency between your perception of an inaccurate headline by Jack and his accurate description of an inaccurate headline. It was so transparent that I initially thought it may be satire. No such luck.

                    • Philk57:

                      Someone else who can’t see beyond their own nose. The point of her post was about PIGS, it had NOTHING to do with the headline other than suggesting that the wording was wrong since a pig isn’t what was draw. Yeeesh.

                    • Yeesh back at you.Beth is an NPR fan and a good lawyer, and was zealously defending her favorite biased news source the best she could by the unlikely claim that they weren’t whitewashing the police denigration in the painting by pretending that making a cop a pig is no different than making him a Care Bear. It’s beyond desperate, but as with “Affluenza,” when your ciient is screamingly guilty you just have to swallow hard and use the best argument you’ve got.

                    • I always fail at comedy on this site, but I’ll admit that I later turned this into poking at Jack a little bit since he loves to be pedantic when it suits him.

                      For the record, I think that this painting has no place in a government building. So there, I disagree with Deery. We liberals don’t always stick together. If we did, we’d have a different President-Elect.

                      Also, I now will never be able to listen to The Mikado without thinking about pigs.

                    • Does anyone really believe that pointing out the material distinction between portraying a cop as an animal (as in “Zootopia”) and portraying a cop as a pig (as in the Yippie slogan, “Off the Pigs!) is pedantic?

                    • I am saying that if I were a news editor, I would have a hard time using the word “pig” or any other word incorrectly if it were brought to my attention. That is all.

                  • Jack,

                    “I know all that I need to know about pigs.”

                    Apparently not, since you can’t distinguish playful banter from actual contention. If you’ll notice, Spartan didn’t ONCE disagree with your take on the incident, she merely (correctly) pointed out that the terminology was wrong. She mentioned being a “4-h girl” right away and provided and interesting anecdote about a commonly misunderstood zoological classification. In other words, take a joke.

                    Her complaint was akin to people (like me) who feel compelled to point out incorrect uses of “your/you’re” or people who correct others for using the term “buffalo” to describe what are actually bison. Or, my favorite, women who dress up as a “sexy peacock” for Halloween, completely ignorant of the fact that a “peacock” is male by definition.

                    In other words, you’ve taken her post far too seriously.

                    • ““I know all that I need to know about pigs.”

                      Apparently not, since you can’t distinguish playful banter from actual contention.”
                      But, what does the distinction between playful banter and contention have to do with pigs, and knowledge thereof?

            • Speaking of semantics, if you grew up on a pig farm, I would hope you would know more than twice as much as jack (100% more) about pigs.

    • This comment reminded me of a preschool song where I learned 5 different words for “pig” in Spanish and now it’s stuck in my head. 😛

        • Been there, done that. Did NOT win, but we had good wholesome fun doing it.

          Thanks for bringing up the positive recollection, Spartan. I suspect our rural root are more alike than not.

          Have you ever graded chickens for market? Candled an egg? Raised show animals, then slaughtered them yourself to deliver to the buyer (and glad to get rid of the irritating prima donna buggers)? Hauled hay for fun (no money under obligation) AND profit (hired as temp help and paid by the bale)? 50 or 75 lb bales? Shredded pasture land for cattle, and walked the fence line repairing barbed wire?

          Hard work and a pain, or so I thought when I was a kid. But it was good for me, as I was motivated to become an engineer (of the sort that works in air conditioned buildings)

          • My sister handled the chickens, geese, and turkeys. I never cared for poultry.

            We mostly had hogs, but we also brought sheep and cattle to market each year. I still feel robbed that my dad never let me have goats — but our vegetable garden was a full acre. Goats and gardens do not mix.

            Hay season was the worst time of year. I never thought it was fun. Farming in general does build character though and I do possess a lot of practical skills. While it was a hard, thankless job, I am very grateful that I do know how to grow food and raise livestock.

              • My friends make the same joke, but there’s only room for 7 in my SUV, and I’ve got a husband, two kids, three cats, and a dog. Plus, I need to drive at least 12 hours through the zombie hordes to get to my brother. He has all the guns and he is the one who knows how to use them. Animal husbandry skills are worthless in the apocalypse without guns.

    • I suppose this is animal husbandry jargon retaining some aspects of archaic usage, but it has no bearing on general usage in modern English. The word “pig” has all but entirely displaced “swine” as the most common word for these kinds of animals. For the vast majority of English speakers, swine, sow, boar, and hog are all different words describing a kind of pig.

      In biology, the common term for any species in the genus Sus (which includes both the domesticated pig, Sus scrofa domestica, and the wild boar, Sus scrofa) is “pig,” and Sus is in the “pig family,” Suidae.

      On both these counts, therefore, it would have been correct to use “pigs” in the NPR headline. But as the story isn’t about animal husbandry or biology, general English usage controls.

  2. The hateful fiction that Officer Darren Wilson (the pig in the painting) shot a harmless Mike Brown “like a dog” (hence the dog-head) is still part of Black Lives Matter propaganda, and has been proven false. It is now the equivalent of a Big Lie, used to inflame racial hate and anti-police attitudes. Let’s be clear: that is what Clay and the Congressional Black Caucus want to fight for.

    ???? What? Is there some evidence of this ? Because I see none. Most notably, the wolf-headed guy is much more svelte than Mike Brown. And what about the horse-headed cop behind the boar guy?

    And I note that you think people boycotting a racist troll is akin to violating the 1st Amendment, and thus unethical, but a government official taking it upon himself to rip down an approved painting from a wall is perfectly fine. I’m sure they have channels and processes for that. The Congressman should probably use them.

    • Congress has absolute dominion over what is in the Capitol, and can include or exclude anything. It is perfectly fine, and if the painting was of a black man as a monkey, you wouldn’t stoop to the argument.

      • Congress has absolute dominion over what is in the Capitol, and can include or exclude anything. It is perfectly fine, and if the painting was of a black man as a monkey, you wouldn’t stoop to the argument.

        If “Congress” has absolute dominion, then what’s the problem? Except “Congress” seems to be clashing over what should be up on the wall. I am fairly certain there is a set procedure for removing artwork off the wall, and that this Congressman did not follow it. Thus, the conflict. He should probably try that avenue first before grandstanding stunts.

        • There was a prior rule about what could be put up ON the wall: eligible paintings, which this was not and is not. There is no protocol for remedying a breach like Clay’s because the reps are assumed not to be race-baiting assholes, like Clay.

          • I’m assuming there is a time limit for how long the painting will hang on the wall? If so, then just wait it out. The fact that it was there for quite a while without causing any stir whatsoever among the ranks points to it being more about grandstanding than any actual discomfort with the painting.

            Plus, for all the talk about liberals being “PC”, “triggered”, and censoring things they don’t like, it’s always interesting how quickly the conservatives are to do pretty much the exact same thing they accuse the other side of doing, while cheering it all the while with no apparent sense of self-awareness. Perhaps the Congressman should go to his safe space and ponder that for a while?

            • It’s not a PC issue. Painting cops as pigs, especially when cops are being ambushed and killed, isn’t politically incorrect, it’s irresponsible. I would never censor art for being politically controversial, and not hanging are in the Capitol isn’t censorship.

              As art, I think the painting is terrific.

              • Politically incorrect and irresponsible are not incompatible. It is quite possible to both.

                But cops have always been ambushed and killed, though as a dangerous occupation, it isn’t even in the top 20. So under your theory, there would never be a time for an artist to paint a police officer as a member of the porcine family. It would always be irresponsible. Isn’t that censorship, PC, or whatever you would like to call it?

                • I didn’t even say that it was wrong for this artist to do it! Art isn’t right or wrong, unless it is used to deceive.. Art is art. Yes, I would say it is always unethical and wrong for law makers to willfully hang a painting denigrating to law enforcement for public view at the Capitol.

    • I’m going to hold a contest to see which frantic spinner embarrasses themselves more on this post. The Congressman and the artist said the painting depicted the events of Ferguson, Mo. The House member is from St. Louis. In Ferguson, a police officer shot a black man.

      You’re right, no evidence at all.

      • I’m going to hold a contest to see which frantic spinner embarrasses themselves more on this post. The Congressman and the artist said the painting depicted the events of Ferguson, Mo. The House member is from St. Louis. In Ferguson, a police officer shot a black man.

        You’re right, no evidence at all.

        It seems, to me at least, to be depicting the aftermath of the shooting, rather than the shooting itself. The police officer is not in his car, the wolf guy seems to be in the act of throwing something, the mass of people protesting with signs in the background, all add up to the protests afterwards. I really don’t see any evidence at all that the wolf guy is supposed to be depicting Mike Brown.

          • Yes, “wow”. If the artist was attempting to depict the Mike Brown shooting itself, you should be thrilled. The painting shows the wolf guy being aggressive towards the cop, and omits the “hands up, don’t shoot”, motif entirely.

            • My take was that Mike Brown was the person “sacrificed” in the cross.

              My reason: there is a square on his head that hardens back to the graduation photo of him.

              I might be right; I might be wrong. But, if the crucified guy is Brown, that rules out a lot of other interpretations.


              • I thought Brown was the figure all the way in the back of the painting, who looks to have been graffitied onto a wall. Mostly because that figure actually resembles Brown.

              • They both could be Brown. But the incident that was Ferguson involved a black man being shot, the painting was about Ferguson, and only one black man is shown being shot. You guys sure are tying yourselves into pretzels trying to avoid obvious conclusions.

                • It’s just that the conclusion seems far from obvious. Is the wolf guy black? If so, are the boar cop and the horse cop also black? All the distinguishable figures, except for two in the back, are various shades of brown.

                  Also, no one is actually being shot. The boar cop has his gun drawn, as does the horse cop, but no one seems to be affected by any bullets.

                  It seemed equally obvious to me that this was about the aftermath of the Brown shooting, and all the unrest associated with that, not trying to depict the shooting itself. But I guess that is the nature of art, it is subjective.

                  • Upon examination, I agree that the crucified figure is Brown, because he’s wearing the mortarboard, as Brown was in the most circulated photo of him. I’d still say the dog-head black kid is also Brown, but portraying Brown as a martyr still upholds the false narrative. He was no martyr, and only the fake narrative makes him one.

                    • I think the martyred figure is “the educated black man”, being sacrificed. Brown never had abs like that, for sure. I still think Brown is the large figure all the way in the back, overlooking the scene with sad eyes. I think that is his hand on the scales of the martyred guy. That person actually looks like Brown, if nothing else.

            • It shows a smaller unarmed black man being killed by a larger cop. It does not show aggression at all, and one unarmed hand is up. It’s a dog, not a wolf…alluding to the repeated accusation that Brown was left in the street like a dog. But you don’t have to buy that…you do have to buy the obvious: a police officer is painted as a pig, shooting a black man, in a painting about Ferguson, where only one black man, Brown, was shot by Wilson, police officer. It’s shocking to me that you would even try to spin it. But Beth is neck and neck with you arguing that the intent wasn’t to insult police as “pigs.”

            • I don’t see how you reach THAT conclusion. I concede that Brown is the martyr figure, with is as much a lie as “hands up”, and indeed dependent on it. His abs are irrelevant–George Washington didn’t look like he does in the Romanesque statue showing him with his shirt off at the Smithsonian, but it’s still art. The pig-cop is firing, and the dog boy is still a Brown stand-in.

              • “I’m going to hold a contest to see which frantic spinner embarrasses themselves more on this post.”

                I should have specified. Of course, Deery is the only one who showed up, but (s)he’s still the winner.
                It was either that, or “right on cue”

              • I thought that the martyr figure represented “the sacrifice of the educated black man”, due to the recent rash of educated black man shootings.

    • It may be a minor issue but “Clay himself helped choose the painting, and that he did so despite the fact that the painting directly violated the rules of the contest, and thus was ineligible . . .” So, how does a painting determined “ineligible” become “approved?”

    • ” an approved painting from a wall”
      But, according to the rules, this could not be an “approved painting”.
      This painting obviously couldn’t be approved, and apparently wasn’t.

      • According to the rule book, all paintings had to be approved by going through the Congressman and/or a committee. There is nothing to indicate it did not go through this process.

        • No, the wording was that “if there was any question” about a particular subject. There was none. The Congressman knew that this was not a proper topic under the rules. The fact that his staff may have wrongly told the student to defy the rules doesn’t justify it.

          • From above:
            It is necessary that all artwork be reviewed by the panel chaired by the Architect of the Capitol and any portion not in consonance with the Commission’s policy will be omitted from the exhibit.

              • It passed the review by the panel, not just the Congressman. By your measure, it should have been omitted. According to other people, not so much. *shrugs*

                • What other people? Democrats and the CBC who believe that rules don’t apply to them? I really don’t care how they reach an indefensible position. If a rules violation is ignored, it is still a rules violation. (And I very much doubt the committee at the Capitol reviewed the painting at all. If it did, it breached its duty.)

  3. I’d have sympathy for Clay… if liberals had not been trying to wipe out free speech on various college campuses. Look at what happens when Ben Shapiro or Milo try to speak…

    Seems they are getting a taste of their own medicine. Fair’s fair, IMO.

  4. I don’t think politically controversial paintings have any place in government buildings, so I won’t defend this one. I’m simply arguing with you over word usage. You certainly get up in arms about vocabulary ignorance when it suits your purposes.

    • I still don’t know what you think you’re talking about. I care about sloppy language when it matters to the ethics analysis.. Your silly pig-calling is pure irrelevant pedantry. It makes no difference, as far as the slur is involved, whether the pig, or swine, is a boar, a sow, a wart-hog or some prehistoric pig ancestor. What matters is that its a vile slur against police officers, no matter what it’s form.

      • I agree that’s what matters — so why did you write paragraphs about the term “animals” in the NPR headline as if that is of any significance?

        Note — I examined the painting tonight for the first time. It’s not very good, but that’s beside the point. One of the police officers is not depicted as an animal, and he was making an arrest. I’m now curious as to what the artist was trying to convey in singling the one officer out as a human?

        • The popular theory is that anyone involved in an act of violence is depicted as an animal. Thus the guy throwing something is a wolf, the cops threatening with their guns drawn are a horse/boar. Thus the officer peacefully arresting someone, and the guy being peacefully arrested are humans.

            • To me, he is leaned back, and he has something in his right hand, concealed by his body, ready to throw it. Otherwise, he’s dancing, and that’s just bizarre.

              • Nah. After examination, it looks to me like the wolf or whatever is giving a “black power” salute. Not sure I get the imagery, but his hand is clearly closed and extended in what looks like the famous 1968 Olympics gesture.

                It also makes sense to me in the overall concept of the painting, which includes many such symbols (yin/yang, white dove, black crow, scales of justice, etc.)

                • The “black power” salute is given with right hand, and also the fist is higher in the air, so that probably isn’t it. Also, look at the wolf guys legs. He’s clearly in the middle of doing some sort of action.

            • I think the guy on the left protesting Mercedes-Benz is the real clue to the full meaning of this….

              Ok, sorry I can’t pretend, like the rest of y’all are doing. I think this “art” is pure crap.

              I get it that it’s sparking tons of debates about its meaning and legions of people have all their own opinions of what the symbols mean and the story this is supposed to be telling, but that’s the problem.

              Just like putting a sentence together, such as this one:

              “Hrehk rehvel vbdsk eslies wiesh”

              If you have no clue what any of those words mean, then you can argue all day about what my sentence means, and 10,000 people will never figure out what I said.

              Slop a canvas full of symbols with no apparent meaning and you get the exact same thing…just in paint.

              If the art doesn’t convey a readable message then it outright, just plain, on its face, SUCKS.

              It’s terrible art and it shouldn’t have won because it SUCKS.

              But before that, it shouldn’t have won, because the one clear notion we get about its “story” is that it is a politically divisive message, which breaks the rules of the competition.

              • The Mercedes symbol is the one redeeming feature. It brings the painting from “crap”, all the way up to “crap-tacular”.

              • The art, or the politics? I agree that the politics is semi-incoherent, though it is clearly anti-cop and pro-a fake narrative about Ferguson. But the kid has some artistic talent, and I wouldn’t immediately guess that the artist was a teen. I’ve seen worse hanging in galleries.

              • Art can be valued for its ability to spark political discussion, as this one has, but otherwise I agree with you.

                I have to go to NYC a few times a year for work and I frequently stay in a hotel that is just a block from MOMA. I love to go MOMA, because I just don’t get it — same holds true for the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. One day, you will read about my arrest in the papers because I always have to fight the impulse to run through the halls shouting, “The Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes!”

          • There is no horse-headed cop. Both policemen brandishing handguns on the left side of the painting are depicted with pig heads.

            The dog/wolf (whatever it is; the head is wolf-like, but the tail is short-haired) is holding the “STOP KILLI[NG]” sign in his right hand. His left arm is stretched out and up with a clenched fist – a solidarity salute rather than a throwing action, in my opinion.

        • Are you trying to sell that you’re being humorous, or seriously trying to correct what you interpret as Jack’s selective outrage over improper vocabulary usage? You should probably pick one.

          • 1. It’s always a woman’s right to change her mind. (kidding)
            2. I honestly intended it to be a joke but, in my defense, Jack practically baited me in his original comment about the NPR headline and he knows it. Given that he did that, I could not resist the opportunity to correct him, because “pig” is absolutely 100% inaccurate based on the picture.
            3. After studying the picture last night, I really don’t know what the artist intended. Why is there a wolf/dog creature? Doesn’t that confuse the common interpretation of the painting — i.e., all police are pigs? Wolves can be scary and dangerous and have frequently been hunted over the centuries — although now there is a lot of new education happening regarding their value to the ecosystem. So what’s going on in this picture?
            4. Jack can be pedantic when he wants to be. I bet I could get him to admit that if he were a drinking man.

            • 1: My wife would agree.
              2: I defer to your familiarity with the critters. I just know which ones are particularly tasty.
              3: I think it might be best to put ourselves into the head of a typical young kid that’s been fed a steady diet of the going anti-cop propaganda, sort of a Vulcan mind-meld into a less sophisticated mind. There’s probably a pretty simple explanation.
              4: Yup, shallow and pedantic, just like his meatloaf.

  5. Also, you can “ruefully” note that no one took you up on your challenge to analyze the issue according to the protocol you mentioned.

    I think that is a fine protocol, but was not well-suited to THIS issue. I would like to see what you had in mind as far as analysis goes. As I implied on that post, I was not sure how that method applied, what issue was to be decided, what possible alternatives would be, etc. I still don’t see how the protocol you proposed would be useful to anyone in this scenario, based on what we had. If we had more info, and had been placed in Lacy’s shoes, it might have been helpful, but that likely would have required looking at other entries in the contest.

    Basically, I think the challenge was either poorly conceived Or poorly defined. I honestly don’t know what an adequate and responsive comment to your challenge would look like.


      • Okay, then the exercise was poorly framed. The first two points were: clarify precisely what must be decided and determine possible alternatives (paraphrase, based on memory).

        Here is the problem: you don’t say who is deciding what. If it is to hang the painting or not, there are no alternatives. It could be what to hang (but we saw no other entrants); it could be where to hang it, but those options were not clear either. Clay could have posted it on his website and said, “this was a favorite of mine but was not the best fit for the parameters of the contest.”

        The exercise may not be moot, but, I heard the stories and agreed that this painting violated the rules and should not have been chosen. The exercise would be useful, even if we know the choice made was wrong. But, moot or not, we still don’t have enough information to do the analysis you suggest.


        • Here, what the hell…I’ll do it right here.

          What must be decided is, as the quiz implied, whether the painting should hang in the Capitol. It doesn’t matter who hangs it. We assume that the painting DID comply with the rules and was a valid entry.


          1. Determine precisely what must be decided: Should the winning painting hand despite its apparent insult to police and controversial political statement?
          2. Formulate and devise the full range of alternatives: 1) disappoint the deserving winner by not hanging the painting as he was promised by the contest. 2) Hang it along with the other winners. 3) Hand it, but with a disclaimer and an apology. 4) Hang it, but draped. 5) Don’t hand it, but find another way to reward the winner that satisfies him, such as hanging it in Clay’s office.
          3. Eliminate patently impractical, illegal and improper alternatives. 3 and 4 are cheats.
          4. Force yourself to develop at least three ethically justifiable options. It’s an ethics conflict. All the remaining options are ethical, and all are unethical.
          5. Examine each option to determine which ethical principles and values are involved. 1) Responsibility, respect, decorum. 2) Promise keeping, free expression, courage. 5.) Fairness, compassion, empathy, responsibility.


          1. If any of the options requires the sacrifice of any ethical principle, evaluate the facts and assumptions carefully: 1. requires breaking a commitment. 2) Requires harming third parties (the police) by prominently denigrating them. Also a likely responsibility breach, as it is likely to cause division and social discord. 5. Still a breach of a promise, requiring consent.
          2. Distinguish solid facts from beliefs, desires, theories, suppositions, unsupported conclusions, opinions, and rationalizations. Fact: the painting is insulting to police. Fact: it won the award, fair and square. Fact: The Capitol is a place of national honor, where a political statement will be deemed as being endorsed by high-ranking officials, even if it isn’t, and thus this involves “the appearance of impropriety.”
          3. Consider the credibility of sources, especially when they are self-interested, ideological or biased. N/A
          4. With regard to each alternative, carefully consider the benefits, burdens and risks to each stakeholder. 1) The contest is undermined; the student is disappointed and betrayed, and the Congressman’s word is compromised. 2) Police and others are angered and hurt; race tensions are aggravated; the contest harmed by being politicized. 5) A little bit of both.


          1. Make a judgment about what is not true and what consequences are most likely to occur.
          2. Evaluate the viable alternatives according to personal conscience. By my lights, 5 is a compromise option that does the least damage.
          3. Prioritize the values so that you can choose which values to advance and which to subordinate. #1 Responsibility to the institution #2 Honesty and integrity #3 Avoiding needless harm to third parties. #4.Free expression and artistic license.
          4. Determine who will be helped the most and harmed the least. The institution is harmed the least because the episode is relatively minor. The student benefits most.
          5. Consider the worst case scenario. Worst case scenario? What’s happened so far.
          6. Consider whether ethically questionable conduct can be avoided by changing goals or methods, or by getting consent: Consent: get the artist to agree to a different honor.

          7. Apply the three “ethics tests”

          * Are you treating others as you would want to be treated? Police: NO in #2 Artist: No in #1.

          * Would you be comfortable if your reasoning and decision were to be publicized? No, except for #5.

          * Would you be comfortable if your children were observing you? Sure. Because I’m going through the process.


          1. Develop a plan of how to implement the decision. Pick 5. Get consent. Hang the painting in Clay’s office.
          2. Maximize the benefits and minimize the costs and risks. That’s #5.

          ·Monitor and modify.

          1. Monitor the effects of decisions: If I picked #2, hand the painting, and it set off this mess, then you do something else, that works better: retreat to #5.
          2. Be prepared and willing to revise a plan, or take a different course of action. Right. Not what Clay did.
          3. Adjust to new information. THE PAINTING SHOULD HAVE BEEN DINGED. Oops! No hanging anywhere.

      • I didn’t get to the Ethics Analysis Protocol because I had too many questions, some of which were answered by the follow up articles and this post.

        Using your EAP, I would say that everyone, save the artist, is behaving irresponsibly and unethically, beginning with the Congressman from Missouri and the members of the Congressional Black Caucus. The Republican who took down the painting is not much better. He should have referred to the people responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the hallway.

        I would also declare this to be an Ethics Train Wreck.


  6. Believe it or not, I have one more comment to make about swine — or pigs if Jack prefers. You won’t find a tusk on a single domesticated pig because they are cut as soon as they begin to show. (I think little pot-bellied pigs are an exception — I don’t know much about them.) So the only time you are going to see tusks would be on wild “pigs.” Wild pigs, regardless of age or gender, are referred to as boars. Interestingly enough, the wolf is the primary predator of a wild boar. There may be more to the interpretation of this painting than we think — or perhaps the student knows even less about pigs than Jack.*

    *I really wish LOL were permitted on this blog.

  7. I’m astounded at the trivial hijacking of this post.
    Straight out of the Hillary playbook.
    Jack, you are much more patient than I am.
    No wonder Trump looks like a sane alternative to the progressive left.

    • Agreed, wg. Pedantry. AKA nitpicking. It’s become too prevalent in the comments here. All it’s intended to do is frustrate worthwhile conversation. Very annoying. I continue to be amazed Jack is so patient with it. Sparty says she was just joking. I’ll take her word for it. But I think her calling Jack out for being pedantic, when she was joking by being pedantic, seems a little strange, verging on rudeness, as pedantry always does.

  8. Jack I don’t know how you deal with all these fools, getting tied up in the exact wording and symbolism of this painting. All that matters from the standpoint of this article is that the painting was used to further a disruptive and destructive agenda. Don’t waste your energy justifying their inane points with your responses. We all know exactly what you are getting at. Art is used to confer the artist’s truth and Clay used his position to place that biased truth in a space it should never have been. My god these vindictive men perform such disruptive actions and ” smart” people argue over wording and symbolism. I weep for us.

    As always Jack keep up the good work, at least we know there is one sane man in America.

    • “Let’s ban the painting because of the symbolism it contains!” “Why do you keep analyzing the painting for its symbolism??!!!” Cognitive dissonance, unresolved.

      • hahah putting words in my mouth. I never said ban the painting. I only stated that the way the art is being used is the issue. Of course we can argue semantics forever and come to no resolution. However I believe you and I are better then that, we need to be

  9. Bring it on, Cedric. It’s been over a hundred years since one congressional type sent another to the First National BONK, but I can think of more than a few folks on the GOP side, which includes several recent war vets and probably a few ex-prosecutors who were cops first, who could give you a worse thumping than Charles Sumner got.

  10. 1. I have not, and will not defend the painting. Controversial subjects should not be the winners of these contests and, if they are, there is a better way to reward the winner than to hang his or her painting in government buildings. In fact, my sister won the same competition when she was in high school. I called her this morning because I didn’t remember the subject of the painting — she told me it was nesting morning doves. (She also said that the Congressman never sent her back her painting — crooked politicians!)
    2. I had a point with my drivel about pig/swine definitions here, and I thought it was pretty clear, but I was wrong. I often agree with Jack, but he frequently muddies up a rather clear ethics analysis by tacking on gratuitous comments about unrelated issues that require a few leaps of faith to accept his premise. Here, it was “biased NPR” because it used the word animal instead of pig. Well, it is pretty easy to poke holes in weak arguments and I did just that. Jack conceded that the important issue here was about symbolism and I agree — I think he and I have now spent more time considering the word choice of the headline then NPR, Fox, CNN, etc. ever did. Further, after traveling down this rabbit hole with him, I am now honestly wondering what the artist intended. But, at the end, I don’t care. These contests are meant to highlight young artists with their pictures of sweet birds or landscapes, and to give photo opportunities to politicians — not to increase political tensions.

    • Sparty: Here’s my concern with your use of pedantry here. Maybe it was done jokingly. I don’t know. It didn’t strike me as such but I could have been mistaken. But I did have a problem with your accusing Jack of being pedantic at times. I don’t think he’s pedantic.

      excessive concern with minor details and rules.
      “to object to this is not mere pedantry”

      Jack is never “excessively concerned with minor details or rules.” Maybe you mean faux “bombastic.” Jack can make sweeping statements at times, primarily to clear the decks so he can follow up with a detailed analysis. Some of these statements most often verge on satire and contain a goodly dose of humor and self-deprecation. (It’s a technique Rush Limbaugh uses that many people don’t “get.”)

      I do think deery, Charles and Chris consistently us an excessive concern with minor details to frustrate and obstruct exploration of topics they don’t want delved into. It sure looked as if you were doing the same thing here with your discourse on pigs and boars. But maybe you were just kidding. But way too many people are deploying that technique here and it’s become way too obvious. That hand has been overplayed. Which reminds me of a favorite developer saying: “Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.” (To which, if you were feeling obstructionist that day, you’d probably reply “THAT’S NOT TRUE!!! All livestock gets killed eventually! You’re WRONG!”)


      • To continue down the pedantic trail, not all livestock gets killed, but male livestock sure does have a higher chance of slaughter than female livestock!

        We can disagree about Jack. He is a friend and, in my opinion, he deserved a little ribbing after the bait directed toward me in his analysis.

        As for lumping me (or anyone) in with other readers, I think that’s dangerous. It is easy to ignore patterns of behavior when it is happening from people you agree with, but it is obviously harder to ignore when you don’t agree with them. I am not immune from this trap myself, but I do pride myself on never (or almost never) writing about it even if I am thinking it. Such observations are rarely helpful and are not necessarily accurate given the blinders that we all possess.

        I also found it interesting that while my observations here may have been annoying to most (funny to others), never once did I disagree with Jack’s primary point. And I thought I made that clear — but I constantly had to remind people, including Jack, of that. Criticism of an ancillary point does not mean I am criticizing the essential premise.

  11. I’m coming to think this painting shouldn’t have even been chosen on the merits–the overall message is too confusing, the actions of the characters portrayed even more so.

    And of course, since the rules said the painting should not be about a politically sensitive issue, it should not have been chosen on those grounds.

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