Ethics Quote Of The Week, And A Few Related Diversions

My son is named after this President, incidentally.

The quote itself is by Ron Chernow, the historian who authored the recent well-reviewed biography of out 18th President, “Grant,”  “Hamilton,” the biography that inspired, we are told, the mega-hit musical. and “Washington” (won’t somebody send a copy to the fools at Christ Church?) was given to an interviewer as his description of another book, the Philip Roth’s historical novel  “The Plot Against America”:

[A] democracy can be corrupted, not by big, blaring events, but by a slow, insidious, almost imperceptible process, like carbon monoxide seeping in under the door.

Some random thoughts on this statement, which I believe is exactly right, and a lot more interesting than the more frequently used analogy about boiling a frog slowly:

  • Grant, as Chernow’s book (among others of recent vintage) documents, was present at one of those points when democracy seemed to be in the process of being poisoned, and acted forcefully.

By 1868, when Grant was elected to succeed Andrew Johnson, who had done everything he could to allow the South to resist extending civil rights to the newly freed slaves, the KKK had evolved into a powerful terrorist organization that referred to itself as  “The Invisible Empire of the South.” Under the  Klan’s first  “Grand Wizard,” the brilliant former Confederate cavalry general  Nathan Bedford Forrest, whites from all classes of Southern society joined the Klan’s ranks. They attacked and punished newly freed blacks for crimes like  behaving in an “impudent manner” toward whites, brutalized the teachers of  schools for black children, and burned schoolhouses. It also terrorized and often murdered Republican party leaders those who voted for Reconstruction policies.  In Kansas over 2,000 murders were committed as the 1868 election approached; in Louisiana, a thousand blacks were killed in the same period.

Grant entered office knowing that the Civil War victory could come apart. He made some bad appointments–Grant was naive about politics and trusted too easily—but his choice as Attorney General, Amos T. Akerman, was masterful. With Grant’s support, and the with the help of the newly created Justice Department under Grant, he vigorously worked to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave the vote to black men in every state, and the First Reconstruction Act of 1867, which placed tough restrictions on the South and closely regulated the formation of their new state governments. Between 1870 and 1871, the Republican Congress passed and Grant signed into law the Enforcement Acts, which made it a crime to interfere with registration, voting, officeholding, or jury service by blacks. Congress also passed the Ku Klux Klan Act, which allowed the government to act against terrorist organizations.

  • When I was growing up and becoming interested in the Presidents, a life-long passion that led me to both law and ethics, Grant was routinely listed as one of the worst in the line. All one heard from historians was about the financial scandals that rocked his administration. Grant’s great success in subduing the Klan was literally never mentioned. The main Presidential historian then was Arthur Schlesinger Jr., a member of Jack Kennedy’s inner circle. His job as he saw it was to minimize the contributions of any Republican President, like Teddy Roosevelt (“near great” in his rankings), Eisenhower (“below average”) and Grant (“failure’). Meanwhile, Woodrow Wilson, who dragged the U.S, into the first World War, botched the Versailles Treaty and who actively revived the Klan, being a stone-cold racist, was “great.” Naturally, I believed all of his distortions, which were largely those of the historians at the time, then, as now, often partisans and propagandists. It took me a while to realize that this had been my first encounter with the Left attempting to alter present perception by controlling the past.

That is one of the major sources of Chernow’s carbon monoxide today, except that the disinformation now emanates from the schools, colleges, and the news media.

  • Halloween is another tiny example of how liberty is being leached out of American society. Coismoploitan scolded parents that they shouldn’t let their daughters dress as Moana from the Disney movie because it was “cultural appropriation”:

“You can (and should) strive to be better than you were 10, 20, or 30 years ago. If you missed the mark when you were younger, maybe think about using this Halloween as an opportunity to teach your kids about the importance of cultural sensitivity. If your child’s dream costume feels questionable, don’t just throw up your hands and hand over your credit card. You’re the parent here, and the onus of what your child wears falls on you. If your kid wears a racist costume … you’re kind of wearing it too.”

In Walpole, Mass., an elementary school  canceled its annual Halloween parade this year out of concern that it was not “inclusive” enough, and replaced it with a  “spirit day” during which the children will be allowed to wear orange and black, and you know how much fun THAT can be. Ohio State University students were given  a flow-chart designed to help students determine whether their Halloween costume is racist.”

Here it is, and it is not a joke:

Note that any political costume is considered inappropriate unless it ridicules Donald Trump.

Iconoclastic feminist blogger Amy Alkon announced that her costume will consist of her wearing this name tag:

Well played.

Too bad nobody remembers who Cleaver was.

  • Earlier I wrote about the ‘scandal” involving Yuli Gurriel, a Cuban baseball player with the Houston Astros, making a slant-eyed gesture to a team mate after he hit a home run off of the Dodgers half-Japanese starting pitcher, Yu Darvish, owner of one of my favorite baseball names ever. Gurriel wasn’t aware that he was on camera and immediately apologized, but he was punished by Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred with a five game suspension beginning next season that will cost him six figures in income. So cowed are commentators and the sports media by the political correctness mania on social media and beyond that not one pundit has dared to suggest that this punishment is outrageously excessive.

Well, I’ll bite. First of all, it is unethical to treat what was intended as a private communication as if it was intended to be broadcast to the world, Yes, I know a court would find that there is no “expectation of privacy” when one is in a dugout of a nationally televised World Series game, but that’s the law, not reality. Since the camera is on these players all the time, they forget that they are on camera. We are hurtling toward a society where people’s reputation are going to be destroyed forever when Alexa picks them up telling a sexist joke.

Second, the gesture isn’t racist. It makes fun of how someone looks, which is uncivil and rude. It is no different ethically from mocking Rush Limbaugh’s weight, Hillary’s piano legs, or Donald Trump’s hair and tan. The gesture doesn’t state that Gurriel thinks Japanese pitchers are inferior; in fact, he played in Japan, and has been open about the fact that he had trouble hitting them.  The freak-out over any mention of racial features is part of the culture’s elevating racial offense above all else, and it allows bullying, intimidation, and the chilling of free expression.

  • Here’s a thought experiment: this is Don Mossi, a great relief pitcher who was renowned for being one of the strangest/scariest looking players of all time:

If Gurriel had hit his home run off of Mossi and after celebrating in the dugout, had pulled his ears forward while he could be seen by lip-readers mouthing the Spanish word for “elephant ears,” should he have been suspended and forced to lose all that money? No? Why not? The gesture would be no less cruel and insulting than the eye gesture. Mossi couldn’t help how he looked. It’s more cruel, in my estimation. Darvish is a good looking guy; all the gesture Yuli made meant was “he looks Asian.”

Explain to me in substantive and ethical terms why one mockery of physical features is worse than the other, and why either would justify such extreme punishment.


34 thoughts on “Ethics Quote Of The Week, And A Few Related Diversions

  1. The Moana thing is a good example of a social justice concept being applied far too broadly.

    If a white person decides to go as “generic Polynesian princess,” I think I’d consider that cultural appropriation, and inappropriate. But Moana is a specific fictional character. Millions of little girls, of all ethnicities, identify with her. This is a good thing. To say that little girls should not dress up as their favorite fictional character if that character happens to be of a different race is appalling, and makes a mockery of social justice.

    • I agree with everything you said except for the first sentence of your second paragraph. I don’t think it’s right to automatically disqualify someone from dressing up as someone from another culture. If they do their research and commit to a fleshed-out and entertaining role instead of one that relies on cheap stereotypes, I don’t see why anyone should have a problem with it. Most people don’t take dressing up for Halloween that seriously, but in my opinion the ones who do should be able to dress as anything they put in the effort to pull off.

      I am curious as to what you would think of a black person dressing as a German barmaid, or an Asian person putting on a kilt. That’s got to be at least as much “cultural appropriation” as a Polynesia princess costume, right?

      • “Most people don’t take dressing up for Halloween that seriously, but in my opinion the ones who do should be able to dress as anything they put in the effort to pull off.”

        Most people haven’t taken SJWism to it’s humorless and inhumane stifling of light-heartedness to its finality.

        • Thank goodness for that. To clarify, when I referred to people taking dressing up for Halloween seriously, I meant people who put lots of effort into their costumes and/or their portrayal of whatever they’re supposed to be, not people who are actively looking to be offended by costumes.

    • “If a white person decides to go as “generic Polynesian princess,” I think I’d consider that cultural appropriation, and inappropriate.”

      This is silly.

      I would think if someone dressed as “generic *other culture anything*” is NEUTRAL. It’s how that someone *behaves* while dressed that determines if they are unethical or not.

      Cultural appropriation, is a crap term devoid of meaning, because no SJW ever seems to give a satisfactory definition. No, if someone dresses as something unique to a culture, then behaves decently, NO WRONG IS DONE. If someone dresses as something unique to a culture, then proceeds to act out every denigrating stereotype of that culture, then *that* is the wrong being done. (And even then, there may be amusing exception if we can all quit being so serious about ourselves)

    • Chris wrote:

      “If a white person decides to go as “generic Polynesian princess,” I think I’d consider that cultural appropriation, and inappropriate.”

      Why is cultural appropriation only attributable to white people? Aren’t other races and ethnicities subject to the same rules? What if Samuel L. Jackson dressed up as Pepe Le Pew? Would that be ok? I mean, Pepe is just as French as Moana is Polynesian, no? How about George Takei dressing up as a Spanish matador? Would that be ok? After all, George is Asian and not, well, Spanish. How about Meryl Streep dressing up as Eva Peron? Appropriation? Probably not because Meryl is an actress so she’s special and the rules don’t apply to her. Don’t give me that trope that actors and actresses are exempt from the rules because they play such-and-such on television.

      What are white people supposed to do? Other cultures are out for costumery. Can they dress up as animals? Cheetas? Probably not because that would be species appropriation, right? How about as fruits and vegetables? Would that be nutritional appropriation?

      This is a really disturbing trend in our society, which politicizes and sterilizes everything. It seems we need a costume and custom police force to approve everything we do. Perhaps a Costume Ministry headed by a bi-partisan group to ensure proper cultural observances that don’t offend the sensitivities of other cultures, ethnicities, societies, or foodstuffs.


      • Good work, John. As always. I like the Costume Ministry. Although I think would be better labeled “The Ministry of Costumery.” More syllables and words. Adds gravitas.

      • ? What if Samuel L. Jackson dressed up as Pepe Le Pew? Would that be ok?

        Of course. I already said that I do not believe it is cultural appropriation to dress as specific characters from another culture.

        How about George Takei dressing up as a Spanish matador?

        Possibly. That is not a specific character, but more of an ethnic stereotype. Of course, the Spanish face no real discrimination in this country, so this doesn’t make me viscerally uncomfortable in the same way that dressing as a stereotype of a culture that mostly includes POC would. But it may still be wrong. I’ll have to think about this one more.

        How about Meryl Streep dressing up as Eva Peron? Appropriation?Probably not because Meryl is an actress so she’s special and the rules don’t apply to her.

        No, I’d say probably not because Eva Peron is a specific person and not a cultural stereotype.

        Don’t give me that trope that actors and actresses are exempt from the rules because they play such-and-such on television.

        Of course I wouldn’t. Julianna Hough went as Crazy Eyes from Orange is the New Black a few years ago. Which would have been fine…if she hadn’t done it in blackface. The backlash was brutal, but mostly fair—most adults know blackface is wrong.

        Sadly, an actress from Riverdale was just accused of blackface for dressing as a pitch-black demon, which was absurd—there was no way a rational person could have interpreted that costume as representing a black person. The actress apologized, but she shouldn’t have. I never said that everyone is able to make distinctions, like I am. But there are distinctions.

        What are white people supposed to do? Other cultures are out for costumery. Can they dress up as animals?

        • Forgot to put that last section in italics and respond to it. I hope the difference between animals and people requires no further elaboration on my part.

        • It is much worse than this. Take a step back and look at how this is being articulated. Cosmopolitan wrote an article in it that includes the following statement “White girls have plenty of princesses to choose from — there’s Belle, Ariel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty … you get the idea.” OK, let’s put this in perspective. The attitudes we used to be told were racist are the ONLY nonracist ones now. Compare!
          1940: “No daughter of mine is leaving the house dressed as a dark skinned princess!” – racist
          2018 “No daughter of mine is leaving the house dressed as a dark skinned princess!” – progressive and racially sensitive
          1970: “White people should stick to their own.” – so racist it probably only was uttered by KKK members in overly dramatic TV shows.
          2017: “White people should stick to their own.” Advice given by progressive news organizations and schools.

          When did all our ‘progressive’ organizations join the KKK?

          This all seems similar to my college days when the ‘progressive’ student groups were trying to boycott South Africa over Apartheid. At the same time, they were demanding that all students have their race printed on their student ID. The student groups demanded that they would determine who got to be a coveted minority because they didn’t want the wrong people to “have the rights and privileges of minorities”. I thought they were misguided and morons. Now, I think they meant every bit of it.

    • Huh. I mean, it does seem kind of disrespectful to call football players prisoners, or possibly mental patients, if he meant to say “asylum”, which is from the version of the phrase I’ve heard. But what exactly was the context of the quote? They very conspicuously don’t refer to it at all. Either they expect me to know it already, or they don’t think it should matter to me, and neither of those is very professional. They could at least toss in a line describing what the quote was said in response to, or the topic of the conversation.

  2. “Does it humanize inhumane people? Yes? Then it’s racist.”

    Shucks. There goes my Sweeney Todd costume. It’s obviously racist, along with the rest of the revenge characters, plus all the black-and-white morality characters, plus all the characters who were raised to hate a rival culture, and basically any nuanced and interesting evil villain ever. In other words, dressing as Emperor Palpatine is okay, but not Darth Vader. …Who was voiced by a black man, now that I think about it. Does that mean people dressing up as Vader are doing blackvoice? Darn it, that’s going to be a thing now, isn’t it?

    Ignoring the stupid implication that all inhumane people are racist, it’s never bad to humanize people or characters, no matter how evil they are. Being inhumane doesn’t mean people don’t have feelings! I’m starting to question the upbringing of the person who made this poorly-designed and profanity-using flowchart. For a minute there I actually thought the chart was also from Cosmopolitan.

    Also… do I really want to know why milk is listed with blackface and swastikas in the “supplies required for a racist costume” category?

  3. Make fun of Don Mossi all you want but man those guys in the ‘fifties and ‘sixties sure knew how to wear a baseball uniform, sanitary hose and all. What a great look.

  4. I’m angry with myself, My intent from the start was to make a larger point, and I got so caught up in Halloween nonsense and Don Mossi that I forgot to write it down. What I meant to write was this:
    The election of Donald Trump was one of those big, blaring events that while disruptive and significant, really is unlikely to change the nation very much over the long term. The small, incremental insults, dings and insideous examples of contempt for the Constitution that led voters to finally say “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to stand it any more!” were and are far more important, and I have come to believe that the public stating its objections by rejecting Hillary Clinton and all her candidacy symbolized was vital to stemming that carbon monoxide leak, even though the candidate elected was personally repugnant.

    The metaphorical leak included the rejection of US sovereignty in the progressive approval of illegal immigration; the contempt for process as shown by the passage of the Affordable Care Act with tricks and maneuvers; the anti-white, anti-male rhetoric from Democrats, the embrace of anti-wealth and anti-success and anti-merit Occupy ideology by Obama and Democrats like Elizabeth Warren; the pro-Black Lives Matter stance of the DNC, the “men are presumed rapists” policies of the Obama Education Department, the disgraceful use of race-baiting and gender-baiting to intimidate critics; the extreme racial, gender and ethnic spoils system being established by Democrats as “social justice,” the slow and steady retreat from personal liberty, personal responsibility and individualism, the utter lawlessness and arrogance of the Clintons and their grubby venality, the vilification of police, the Obama administration’s willingness to erode national self-determination for world government; the pandering to Russia, Iran and Islam, the assault on freedom of speech and expression, the Second Amendment and Due Process; and, for me, the dangerous alliance between the news media and a single party, allowing the government to avoid accountability while deceiving and misleading voters.

    That the nation recognized the carbon monoxcide for what it was give me far more hope than the fact that their expression of concern elected a wildly unqualified man concerns me.

    And, of course, the frantic, undemocratic, hypocritical and and irresponsible conduct of “the resistance’ since the election shows how much metaphorical carbon monoxide we have already absorbed.

    That’s what I was supposed to write,

        • Great comment, Jack. Of course all the things you enumerate will simply be categorized as “White supremacist” and “racist.” Which is a very pernicious tactic the left is using. It’s like the Communists brilliantly but incredibly cynically labeling anything they didn’t agree with as “counter revolutionary.” As if that’s a winning counter argument. I encountered a similar instance the other day when I sent an article about uncontrolled immigration in Europe to a friend in Austria, asking her what she thought of the writer’s concerns. She dismissed the article with “that’s just conservative smoke and shade.” Okay. So if an outlook is conservative it’s invalid? Got it.

          Today, anything that’s not progressive, lefty, Democratic theology is a dog whistle to racists and white supremacists. It’s really annoying.

          • No different than my sister-in-law, who won’t read anything not lefty because “I know I won’t agree with it and I won’t waste my time.”

    • “I have come to believe that the public stating its objections by rejecting Hillary Clinton and all her candidacy symbolized was vital to stemming that carbon monoxide leak, even though the candidate elected was personally repugnant.”

      I think one of the keys to restoring civic normalcy is for people to the left of center to figure out how they got bound (and remain so) to Hillary Clinton, and to act upon that. She’s not a phenomenon, she was anywhere from 25 to 40 years in the making. There are a lot of people saying that they want her to leave – well, I had people on Facebook not much more than a year ago praising Bernie, but with the little aside that they would return to Hillary when it counted. It’s harder than it seems – actually confronting how she ended up the head of the party will force the removal of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of operatives in government, the party, the intelligentsia, and among donors. The conventional wisdom is that she and they are done, but America has now walked for a year in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and she’s still the face of the party and denying attention to others. One more year, and she’s the presumptive candidate.

      • I agree, LS. The Clintons and all the Clintonistas aren’t going anywhere. She’s taking all the air out of the room. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer aren’t exiting the stage either. The Dem party symbol will be a cane rather than a donkey.

          • I think a lot of liberals spend a lot more time thinking about Hillary than they would like to admit, and a lot spend a whole lot more thinking crazy thoughts about Trump than is healthy.

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