A Cultural Literacy Test

I hope to be writing a bit more about the ethical importance of cultural literacy and life competence, which includes cultural literacy.

Here’s a self-test, a hard one. There are 25 photos below of famous, once famous and important figures from many fields, from many periods. See how many you can correctly identify. They each are worth points from 1-10, based on difficulty. At the end, I’ll ask how you did.

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

11.

12.

13.

14.

15.

16.

17.

18.

19.

20.

21.

22.

23.

24.

25.

 

The answers… Continue reading

Oh, I Can’t Let THIS Pass! Unethical Quote Of The Week: White House Correspondents’ Association President Olivier Knox

“February 2017 is when the President called us the enemy of the people. A few days later my son asked me, ‘Is Donald Trump going to put you in prison?’”

Olivier Knox at last week’s White House Correspondents Dinner.

At the same dinner, “entertainment” Ron Chernow—will he trade in his historian gig for stand-up? I can see it now—Laugh with the Hysterical Hystorian!—said in one of his funnier lines,

“H.L. Mencken once warned of a political system that would ‘keep the populace alarmed by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.’ We simply cannot allow the press to become an imaginary hobgoblin exploited for political gain.”

Great irony, Ron! The press has just completed nearly three years of trying to frighten the public by claiming that the President stole the election and is a Russian agent, but it’s the President who is alarming the public with “an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.'” HAHAHAHAHAHA! Good one!

Well, as someone who has written some comedy routines, I agree that it’s important to know your audience. In this case, that means knowing your audience is smug, arrogant, lacks self-awareness, and afflicted with permanent delusions of virtue.

But back to Knox. The device he stooped to use is known (here)as the Amy Carter Maneuver, when an adult places words in his child’s mouth for dramatic effect. Surely you recall Jimmy Carter’s infamous gaffe in his debate with Ronald Regan, when he said,  “I had a discussion with my daughter, Amy, the other day, before I came here, to ask her what the most important issue was. She said she thought nuclear weaponry — and the control of nuclear arms.”  Amy was 13, and most viewers found the device nauseating. Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Points, 4/30/2019: New Developments In Old Stories

Pardon if I sound distracted—I’m still giggling about Kate Smith.

1. Kate, Robert E. Lee and the King of Pop. It’s ironic that this comes up as I am debating on Facebook with rabid Robert E. Lee statue-topplers, because this episode perfectly illustrates why they are wrong, and not just wrong, but stupidly and obnoxiously wrong. No historical figure is honored for everything in his or her life. They are honored for their importance, influence, good deeds, finest moments and best traits. The growing totalitarian mob on the Left wants to erase the memory of anyone who failed to meet their current standards of virtue decades or even centuries before those standards existed, when many of the standards  are unreasonable even now.

Great achievers are, with the tiniest sliver of exceptions, flawed, strange, obsessed and abnormal people, and those who would hold them to impossible levels of perfection guarantee a hollow culture, a sanitized and boring history, and a shallow society.

Thus I found myself surprising myself by sympathizing with the decision of an elementary school in Hollywood to keep Michael Jackson’s name on its auditorium, despite the growing likelihood that he was a child molester, as the Los Angeles Times reported. The majority of parents and staff of Gardner Street Elementary School, which Jackson briefly attended, voted to keep his name above the auditorium. Ick, but maybe that was the right decision. Jackson was a great and influential performer, and that’s what he’s honored for. Continue reading

The Kate Smith Ban, Chapter II: Oops! Kate Was Actually An Important Voice AGAINST Racial Prejudice! Now Can We Put Her Statue Back Up And Listen To Her Recordings Again?

Oh, how I love this development!

As Ethics Alarms discussed last week, The New York Yankees banned singer Kate Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America” at their games after some individuals claimed she was a racist because of the lyrics of two songs she recorded in the 30s. This was a stupid complaint, and the Yankees were cowardly to react to it as they did, but you know, the Yankees. (I kid: my Boston Red Sox were even more craven for  removing the name of their most essential owner, Tom Yawkee, from the street bordering Fenway Park as a virtue-signaling  surrender to Boston progressives.)

The NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers had  more reason to be loyal to Smith’s memory than the Yankees, for the singer was the team’s good luck charm, singing “God Bless America” at crucial Stanley Cup home games in the early 1970s. Not only did  the Flyers ban Kate’s rendition of the Irving Berlin patriotic anthem, it covered Smith’s statue in front of the team’s arena with a tarp, then took it down completely.

Nice. I wonder why they didn’t renounce their Stanley Cup victories, since now they are tainted.

Now it appears that Kate was falsely smeared, misrepresented, misunderstood and mistreated.  Continue reading

Quick Ethics Takes Because I Don’t Have Time For Longer Ones Right Now: More Facebook Wars, Buttigieg Gets #MeTooed, And An Ethics Mess…

—Pete Buttigieg has been accused of sexual assault. Of course he has. No white male will be allowed to threaten the presumed right of a woman—some female Democrat to try to accomplish what Hillary could not. When did I first point this out? It was a long time ago. #MeToo is now a political weapon that has less to do with exposing sexual assault and harassment than it does with giving women and progressives a way to destroy anyone they need to.

—More on the Facebook wars….This morning I wrote about my infuriating back and forth with Facebook SJWs who claimed that the President calling Robert E. Lee a “great general” was a white supremacy dog whistle. Others have joined in, citing the fact that 31 states have statutes honoring  Lee as “proof” that the only purpose of the honors were to “intimidate blacks.” “Why not just the Confederate states?” they asked. Why? Because Lee isn’t just important because he was a Confederate general, that’s why. He was an important figure in American history, ethics, education, and military innovation.

Until Lee was targeted by the Left, he was nearly universally regarded as a complex, perhaps tragic, major American force and role model for since 1865.  I’m not a Lee fan, but he deserves to be honored if for no other reason than because he personally vetoed the plan to take the war into the hills, and use guerilla tactics to make  defeating the Confederacy too long a process for the North to sustain. His noble acceptance of full responsibility for the defeat of Pickett’s Charge, exonerating his men (“It was all my fault!”) is a military and American leadership cornerstone, emulated by General Eisenhower in his note, never used, accepting full responsibility for the Allies defeat at D-Day.

—-But here, as they say, is the beauty part. At the same time, elsewhere on Facebook, I was chastising a friend who said that he couldn’t support Biden until he publicly apologized to Anita Hill. Of course, nobody should apologize to Hill, who engineered a despicable  ambush designed to run the career and reputation of her long-time patron, Clarence Thomas, because he dared to be a conservative jurist. To make my friend’s statement even more ridiculous, while there was never any confirmation of Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment, Biden has been blithely going through life, harassing one woman after another, but meaning well. But I digress. Continue reading

More Ethics Notes On The New York Times Anti-Semitic Cartoon

  • The main lesson of this episode (which was discussed here in the fourth item) is that the New York Times culture is so ideologically and politically biased and one-sided that even an obvious breach of taste, decency and ethics like this cartoon can slip by the deadened ethics alarms.

The American Jewish Committee said in response to The Times’s editors’ note after pulling the drawing,. “What does this say about your processes or your decision makers? How are you fixing it?”

The Times can’t fix it.

  • One Times columnist, the politically schizophrenic Bret Stephens, wrote that “in another age, might have been published in the pages of Der Stürmer,” the infamous anti-Semitic tabloid published during Germany’s Nazi regime. “The problem with the cartoon isn’t that its publication was a willful act of anti-Semitism. It wasn’t.” Stephens continued.

“The problem is that its publication was an astonishing act of ignorance of anti-Semitism …. at a publication that is otherwise hyper-alert to nearly every conceivable expression of prejudice, from mansplaining to racial microaggressions to transphobia.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/29/2019: The White House Correspondents Dinner, Robert E. Lee, And The Boy Scouts

Good Morning!

1. “You’re a coward for not letting me abuse you…” Politico has a useful review of how the White House Correspondents Dinner got to where it was last night…a largely and appropriately irrelevant event brought low by its organizers hubris, conflicts of interest and arrogance. Blaming President Trump for the dinner’s fall, as Politico, Brian Stelter and others have had the gall to do, is ludicrous. Nobody with a shred of common sense would subject themselves to the kind of mean-spirited and personal attack Trump was guaranteed to receive from whichever leftist comic character assassin the WHCD hired to eviscerate the President and his family. Indeed, the President had an obligation to protect his office from having its occupant denigrated in public.

Here is an example of the kind of respect and witty repartee the President, his staff and family could have expected from the night’s entertainment—this is Sandra Bee last night, in her alternative to the dinner, presented on TBS…

“There are so many things you could say about the president: that he’s vicious, vindictive, stupid, unattractive, unloved, and will die alone, but what can we say that Melania hasn’t already said?” cracked Bee. “So tonight, I really want to focus on what a fucking coward he is. Imagine being the most powerful man in the world and you can’t listen to a comedian razz you for five minutes? Barack Obama did it, George W. Bush did it…”

I have to stop here. Bee is lying: neither Obama nor Bush were ever insulted personally in the manner that Michelle Wolf attacked Trump’s staff last year, and would have surely attacked him. When Stephen Colbert was deemed by objective observers to have breached the alleged spirit of the dinner–professional good will and respect—with his partisan attack on George W. Bush in 2006, his much criticized routine was nowhere near what President Trump would have faced. Obama–that’s hilarious. Obama was surrounded by sycophants and worshipers at the dinner; no joke at his expense in eight years was anything worse than gentle needling. More Bee… Continue reading

Regarding Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s “Fun Run”: You Cannot Trust People Who Do Things Like This

I want to begin by saying that I search, every day, for misbehaving and unethical conservatives and Republicans to try to balance the flood of outrageous conduct and rhetoric by “the resistance” and Democrats lately. This is how I end up writing about the comments by the Governor of Kentucky relating to an event I never heard about.  I also try to find any source other than Fox News when the story involves a Democrat or progressive, except that so often such stories go unreported in the mainstream news media. When I get the inevitable complaint that I am picking on AOC for this story because of my right-wing bias, I will ask for the name of any Republican House member who has done something like this. Count on it.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez held a 5k in Queens yesterday that she billed as “a Family Fun Run supporting U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal on the Saturday following Earth Day.”

That was sort-of true, but not true enough. In fact, the proceeds of the run went directly into Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign account. The Fun Run raised money for her. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Greek Easter Ethics Warm-Up: Authority, Causation, Credibility And Dead Ethics Alarms” [#4]

Long-time commenter E2 scores her first Comment of the Day with some perspective on why Western civilization, and the United States particularly, owes Israel a permanent debt.

I have no problem with critics having honest, reasonable differences with Israel’s policies and the U.S.’s support of them, as long as such critics have a sufficient knowledge of the history of the Jewish people, their existential plight in the Thirties through World War II, the initial contrived ignorance of the U.S. government and President Roosevelt of that plight, and how the State of Israel came into existence. (Two new biographies of playwright and screenwriter Ben Hecht, who played a large but largely forgotten role in that remarkable event, were just published this month. There is a reason one of the ships that brought Jewish ex-patriots to Israel was named, “The Ben Hecht.”)

As E2 points out, the public ignorance of all of this is staggering, and it fertilizes the dirt from which anti-Semitism grows, of late, in abundance. One of the many jaw-dropping statements of stupidity or dishonesty—it’s often so hard to tell which with him— that Joe Biden uttered after his announcement of his candidacy was that America needed to return to being loyal to its allies. Biden was the #2 official in an administration that displayed the most outright hostility to Israel of any since the nation’s founding, our ally that most needs our support and that common decency demands should always be able to count on it.

Here is E2’s Comment of the Day on the item #4 in the post, “Greek Easter Ethics Warm-Up: Authority, Causation, Credibility And Dead Ethics Alarms.”

Does no one know any history at all? That, for example, the English Jews funded the Crusades, and when the King of England couldn’t pay back his debt, he simply exiled all Jews from the country to Europe? Hence, an early forced diaspora of Jews.

Do others really believe that anti-Semitism was grown by Hitler and ended in the Holocaust? Do so many not  know that FDR’s anti-Semitic State Department refused political asylum for desperate Jews from Hitler’s Germany…or the story of the ship “St. Louis” – full of fleeing Jews, that went from port to port in the US and were never allowed entry? Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Harvard’s Diversity Speaker

As the keynote speaker at its annual diversity conference, Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts & Sciences selected Tim Wise, an “anti-racism writer, educator and activist.” Here is a Facebook post by Wise from 2015.

This is America…people basing their beliefs on the fable of Noah and Ark, or their interpretation of Sodom and Gomorrah…rather than science or logic…If you are basing your morality on a fairy tale written thousands of years ago, you deserve to be locked up…detained for your utter inability to deal with reality…NO, we are not obligated to indulge your irrationality in the name of your religious freedom…but we will provide you a very comfortable room, against which walls you may hurl yourself hourly if your choose. Knock yourself out….seriously, knock yourself out, completely, for weeks at a time…I’m sorta kidding but not by much…I don’t believe lunatics like this should be locked up, but I do think they have to be politically destroyed, utterly rendered helpless to the cause of pluralism and democracy …the world is not theirs. They have no right to impose their bullshit on others. They can either change, or shut the hell up, or practice their special brand of crazy in their homes…or go away. Their choice. And this argument applies to any fundamentalist religionist of any faith who thinks they have a right to impose their beliefs on a secular, pluralistic society. Go away.

There is no evidence that Wise has moderated these views at all. He didn’t issue a direct attack on Christians at Harvard; he did say  that President Donald Trump is and “always was” racist, and that his election shows that “this country is more sexist and more racist than I realized” (because there was no reason not to want Hillary Clinton as President other than racism and sexism, I guess). He argued that academic institutions like Harvard should embrace the struggle for social justice and solidarity “not just at the level of rhetoric but policy.” This means,  Wise said, “Schools must make mission statements up to date,” and tell potential applicants that “if you’re not down with this mission, then you don’t actually fit in with us as an institution.”

You know: diversity! Continue reading