Ethics Warm-Up, 2/28/2019: No Birthday For Frederick Edition [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

Back last night from a whirlwind day of ethics in NYC, and leaving today on an auto safari to Washington County, Pennsylvania, where I will address bar members to kick off their annual meeting. See Facebook? THEY don’t think I should be muzzled! Meanwhile, I will be celebrating the non-birthday of the pirate apprentice hero of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance,” who was, you recall, indentured to a pirate band until his 2ist birthday, and since he was born on Leap Year, legally committed to a life of crime until he was 84 years old.

1. Nah, Democrats don’t automatically default to race-baiting… Well this was certainly ugly and embarrassing. During  House Oversight Committee hearing with Michael Cohen, the fallen Trump fixer accused the President of making racist comments about African Americans. Let me interject here that this was obvious pandering to Cohen’s new pals in “the resistance.” It would have no probative value as hearsay even if the speaker wasn’t testifying with his pants on fire. Thus there was no need for Rep. Mark Meadows to try to rebut Cohen by asking Housing and Urban Development staffer Lynne Patton, who is black, to silently stand before the committee to (somehow) disprove that Trump is racist. Meadows (R-N.C.) said that Patton had told him there was “no way that she would work for an individual who was racist.”

Then Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) characterized Meadow’s stunt as racist, saying, “Just because someone has a person of color, a black person working for them does not mean they aren’t racist,” Tlaib said. “And it is insensitive that some would even say — the fact that some would actually use a prop, a black woman in this chamber in this committee is alone racist in itself.”

“You’re one of my best friends,” Cummings said to Meadows. “And I can see and I feel your pain, and I don’t think Ms. Tlaib intended to cause you that, that kind of pain.”

Tlaib then apologized to Meadows, saying it wasn’t her intention to call him racist. She just said that what he did was racist.


2. Stop making me defend the Northam family! Gotcha! Just as Virginia Governor Northam was beginning to extract himself from the embarrassment of having to confess to being a Michael Jackson imitator via shoe polish, an enterprising black legislative page decided to nab her 15 minutes of fame by accusing Mrs. Northam of the dreaded “racial insensitivity.” It appears that Virginia’s First Lady, while narrating a tour of the Governor, triggered her my alluding to slavery.

“When in the cottage house you were speaking about cotton, and how the slaves had to pick it,” the teenaged page’s letter says. “There are only three Black pages in the page class of 2019. When you went to hand out the cotton you handed it straight to another African American page, then you proceeded to hand it to me, I did not take it. The other page took the cotton, but it made her very uncomfortable. I will give you the benefit of the doubt, because you gave it to some other pages. But you followed this up by asking: ‘Can you imagine being an enslaved person, and having to pick this all day?'”

“The comments and just the way you carried yourself during this time was beyond inappropriate, especially considering recent events with the Governor. From the time we walked into the mansion to the time in the cottage house, I did not receive a welcoming vibe.”

Ah. Now we see why Bernie Sanders was attacked by Democrats for saying that race shouldn’t matter. Mrs. Northam treated the black pages like she treated the rest, and that made this page feel unwelcome. And if Virginia’s First Lady had only given the cotton to the white pages? That would have been insensitive too, I’m sure.

To her credit, the Governor’s wife has not apologized. She responded that she has given “the same educational tour to Executive Mansion visitors over the last few months and used a variety of artifacts and agricultural crops.” Her intent is to illustrate “a painful period of Virginia history.” She said that she began last year to tell the “full story” of the governor’s mansion, including the Historic Kitchen. “I believe it does a disservice to Virginians to omit the stories of the enslaved people who lived and worked there — that’s why I have been engaged in an effort to thoughtfully and honestly share this important story since I arrived in Richmond. I regret that I have upset anyone,” she wrote, but she reiterated that she is  still committed to chronicling the history of the Historic Kitchen, and “will continue to engage historians and experts on the best way to do so in the future.”

Now, if she had given the tour made up as Janet Jackson, that would have been inappropriate.

3. My own private boycott: I will not buy products that continue the coarsening of our culture by employing juvenile references to gutter language to sell their wares. Now Mr. Clean joins the list, with the ad for “his” Clean Freak Mist. Today’s TV ad screamed out “Big freaking news!” As with’s evocation of “fucking” its ads, this is neither clever nor novel. Shrug it off if you like.

4. Negotiation competence. Watch how many in the news media mock the president for walking away from the North Korean negotiations, apparently because Kim demanded an end to sanctions BEFORE committing to ending the country’s nuclear program. I won’t concede that Trump is competent in many things (other than making his enemies expose themselves as petty and irrational), but his negotiation skill is undeniable. When I was being taught negotiation by Adrian Fisher, who negotiated  the SALT Treaty, he kept emphasizing 1) that if you go into a negotiation wanting a deal too much, you will get a bad one and 2) that you have to be willing to walk away, and the other side has to realize that you are willing. The failure to understand either of those principles is how Obama ended up with the Iran deal.

5. Here you have it: a New York Times article that illustrates how thoroughly group identification minority spoils have polluted the culture. It’s a review of the academy awards by the Times critics, who appear not to care one bit about what the Awards are supposed to be honoring. Some quotes:

MANOHLA DARGIS:  It was a pleasure and often moving to see all those women rise up to take their rightful place on that stage…there were all the female winners, including two for “Black Panther”: the costume designer Ruth E. Carter and the production designer Hannah Beachler. Both were hired by Ryan Coogler, the director of “Black Panther” and one of the heroes of last night. He doesn’t just hire women to work on his movies, he hires them to head departments (like cinematography, a male-dominated field), putting them in positions of power. His hiring practices represent the kind of real activism that few other moviemakers embrace, as the parade of men thanking their wives last night continues to affirm.

But did they deserve their awards? Once it is established that the Oscars are going to be judged based on their demographic mix rather than merit, what’s the point? Who in their right mind looks at competitive awards for artistic merit and thinks, “I hope the black wins!” or “I hope the woman wins!”

Bigots, that’s who.

A.O. SCOTT: Spike Lee won an Oscar. So did Regina King and Olivia Colman. Alfonso Cuarón won three. All of that sparked joy.

See, it sparked joy because they are all black. It doesn’t speak joy when whites win awards, apparently, or if it does, it must be racist somehow.

He continues (Full disclosure: To me, A.O. is the epitome of the critic who places being woke and pandering to progressives above professional integrity)..

“And in the year of “Black Panther” and “BlacKkKlansman” — and of “Sorry to Bother You,” “Blindspotting,” “Hale County This Morning, This Evening” and “Widows” — the best picture trophy went to a movie whose best friend is black, a movie that doesn’t see color, a movie about how all lives matter. “Green Book” believes itself to be a movie about racial progress, but its victory smacks of backlash.”

It only smacks of backlash if your position is that the Oscars are a political event rather than a non-partisan artistic one. People liked “Green Door.” It gave them hope while “the resistance,” the media and Hollywood are trying to exacerbate racial divisions. And succeeding.

33 thoughts on “Ethics Warm-Up, 2/28/2019: No Birthday For Frederick Edition [UPDATED]

  1. Olivia Colman black? Because her great-great-great-great grandmother was probably Indian? I don’t get that one, Jack. And Alfonso Cuaron, black? I think you may need to take a step back and edit your comment on that one.

  2. 2- “if she had given the tour made up as Janet Jackson, that would have been inappropriate.”

    *Cotton may be used in the manufacture of attire.
    *A personal collection of attire may be called a wardrobe.
    *Wardrobe’s have been known to be susceptible to…um…malfunction.

    If the next three degrees don’t get you to Kevin Bacon, God help you.

  3. You have a misplaced copy of “Ah. Now we see why Bernie Sanders was attacked by Democrats for saying that race shouldn’t matter” adrift in the middle of a sentence about Mark Meadows in Item 1…

  4. #4: The anti-Trump response to any of his dealings with North Korea is incredibly predictable:

    – If he communicates softly, he’s cozying up to another dictator just like his buddy Putin.

    – If he communicates boldly he’s recklessly shoving us to the brink of war.

    – If he arranges a summit he’s (again) pandering up to a dictator and giving North Korea “legitimacy” and is “desperate” for a deal

    – If he walks away from the summit he’s pouting, or reckless, or a failure.

    I’m not sure if this is historically accurate but I’ve read that, in the runup to the first Gulf war, when it became clear that Iraq might invade Kuwait, US diplomats projected calm but stern insistence that doing so would not be looked on favorably that in Western/European culture would be read as “Do NOT screw with us.” Culturally, though, the Iraqis expected something more like “Lay a single foot in Kuwait and we will destroy you and dance upon your graves!” if we were serious, and read our “calm but stern insistence” as ambivalence.

    I think Trump’s methods with Kim might be showing his ability to avoid that kind of mistake. He opened strong, showing he wasn’t willing to be deferential. Then he eased up to show friendship. He’s giving Kim something “free” that Kim craves- a sense of legitimacy. He’s projecting respect from a position of strength and threading the needle between “I think you are a joke” and “I am afraid of you.” Color me impressed.

    • I have not seen anyone suggest Trump is working to overcome Kim’s legitimate distrust of American foreign policy. Kim may be young but he saw what happened to Quaddafi after he negotiated away his nuclear capabilities by the most qualified female presidential hopeful ever to have graced our fair land. How many of us would trust American diplomats if we were trying to hold on to power. Just look at the level of trust in our own Congress between the parties.

    • He’s giving Kim something “free” that Kim craves- a sense of legitimacy.

      No. Right after quite properly appreciating cultural differences, you are falling at the very same fence. Many countries do not actually want to be in the wider world community; for them, offering that isn’t a reward to them, it’s a price they have to pay to get what only insiders can access. Yet many diplomats misunderstand this, and think the extras of that sort that they put in a package are sweeteners rather than, so to speak, sourers. For North Korea, this is even more so, what with their deep history as a shunning hermit kingdom and their recent history of Juche, an ideology and body of practice supporting that; even many of the more conservative South Koreans look on their own country’s engagement with the world as a price they have had to pay, and grudgingly admire North Korea for not paying it. Think of this like an extrovert trying to engage with an introvert, treating him as an extrovert would like to be treated and never realising the discomfort actually being inflicted.

      Kim does not want legitimacy at all, but he is probably willing to accept it as part of the price for stopping economic warfare.

        • At about the same time as the U.S.A. forced Japan to open up, it tried the same to Korea – only, Korea succeeded in driving that attempt off by force. To this day, that is commemorated by a Korean museum exhibit that features seized U.S. equipment, I think in the north, so we know they still think of that proudly (strangely, the incident is little known in the U.S.A. now). Anyway, that too shows opening up as a thing to be resisted.

          Another cultural surprise for us is that the Japanese mostly reacted favourably to the Kagoshima incident, in which the British sent a gunboat to avenge the murder of a tourist for disrespecting a samurai; the usual reaction was that the clan responsible were justly reaping the reward of their own lack of respect (no nonsense about disproportion or the innocent getting hit).

  5. 4. Maybe they can convince the President to give up the Sudetenland with the promise that there will be no more territorial demands? That’ll surely work…

  6. “…while narrating a tour of the Governor,”

    Either the word “mansion” is missing there, or the Northams are weirder than I thought…

  7. Curiosity…did she hand them an entire cotton boll or just the little puff of cotton from inside of it? I ask because the full boll, when the cotton is ready to be picked, is brown and the petals are hard and sharp. They will punch under fingernails and cuticles, poke holes in fingers and generally tear up your hands if you try to pick it manually. Which explains why it was so rough on slave-pickers.

  8. Just a minor correction…being born in a Leap Year would not have been a problem. He was born on Sadie Hawkins Day, an invention of Al Capp, February 29th, which only occurs in years divisible by 4, unless the year ends in zero.

    • That is not the rule for leap years. The real rule, since Gregorian calendar reform, is:-

      – A year with a number divisible by 4 is a leap year, unless

      – It is a year with a number divisible by 100, in which case it is not a leap year, unless

      – It is also a year with a number divisible by 400, in which case it is a leap year after all.

  9. Meanwhile, I will be celebrating the non-birthday of the pirate apprentice hero of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance,” who was, you recall, indentured to a pirate band until his 2ist birthday, and since he was born on Leap Year, legally committed to a life of crime until he was 84 years old.

    When was The Pirates of Penzance set, and just when would he have reached 84? By my reckoning, there’s a good chance he would have had to be 88 to get free, since he would probably have missed an additional birthday from a non-leap century year, e.g 1800 and 1900 (the only two such years that the English speaking world has had so far from this particular calendar reform).

  10. It was all far worse than anyone is willing to let on. She MADE the black kids dress in over-alls and MADE then remove their shoes before she handed them the cotton! Then, she got the white kids whips and had them snap them as the black kids were made to tap-dance!

    But then she and husband lovingly and heroically entered the room as Virginia Abolitionists, beat down the white kids with a stick, toppled a Monument to some Southern Hero they had cynically installed, and — reversing roles most sarcastically — put the black kids in whiteface as guards over the white kids in blackface who were then forced to eat watermelons and chicken while her wicked husband strummed on the banjo.

    It was sick!

    You are not getting the full story because of MSM censorship and this is wrong, just wrong!

    What’s happening in the culture people?!? What’s happening to our humanity?!?

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