Memorial Day Weekend Ethics Warm-Up, 5/26/19: The Fish, The Fist Bump, And Harriets’s Lament

Good Morning!

Here is another of my father’s favorite Sousa marches, “The Black Horse Troop.” I remember thinking about the march when I saw that the riderless horse in my father’s Arlington funeral procession was all black.

1. Let’s start with a fish story…

That’s Tom Volk holding  the nearly 17-pound walleye he caught along the Heart River in Mandan, North Dakota. Little did he know that what was briefly a happy experince for him would end up with him being attacked on social media and prosecuted by the state. A fish is considered hooked illegally—it’s actually a crime—if the hook was in the fish’s back rather than its mouth. As soon as Volk claimed the record, he was accused of cheating. The Game and Fish Department opened a criminal investigation. Volk had to hire  a lawyer, and the prosecution could have an impact on his career:  Volk serves as a city councilman in North Dakota and works in drug prevention for the state government.

Finally game wardens compiled an 11-page report on the fish after conducting witness interviews. The county prosecutor said  his office had reached “a consensus view” that the walleye had been improperly hooked. The chief game warden said he was convinced that the fish was “foul-hooked,” but also believed that Mr. Volk might not have known about the infraction until after he left the riverbank. His department issued a written warning, disqualifying the fish from record consideration, but no criminal citation.

The walleye could not be reached for comment.

Volk is selling his fishing boat and having the fish mounted.  Somehow, priorities seem to be seriously out of whack here. I’m no fisherman, indeed I find the sport cruel and repulsive, but what Volk was put through seems unfair and abusive. People care about what they choose to care about, but proportionality is an ethical value. From the Times:

Bickering over fishing records is not new. A world-record smallmouth bass caught in the 1950s was the subject of dueling affidavits about whether lead weights were added before it was placed on a scale. In 1984, a near world-record bass in Georgia could not be verified because the fisherman ate it. And in North Dakota, a walleye record that stood for 59 years carried a taint of controversy, with no photos to corroborate it. At least one person claimed that the fish had been found dead, not caught alive.

But new technology and online scrutiny have transformed the disputes. In 2009, a fisherman was required to take a polygraph exam to have his world-record claim certified. (He passed.) Just this month, South Dakota officials voided their record for a channel catfish, which had stood since 1949, after studying photos and determining that the record-holder was in fact a blue catfish.

I don’t know why anyone would claim a fishing record if this is what they have to put up with. There apparently is no Golden Rule in fishing.

2. Now let’s look at the kind of cruelty Obama’s “Dear Colleague” letter has wrought…Although the Obama Education Department’s policy of urging colleges and universities to employ a lesser standard for guilt in adjudicating sexual assault and sexual harassment allegations has been repudiated by Betsey De Vos’s DOE, the anti-male and pro-female accuser bias that was already deeply embedded in campus culture continues undiluted in many places.

Marcus Knight on the autism spectrum and a student at California’s Saddleback Community College. He also has  cerebral palsy , which requires him to have a shunt in his brain to relieve pressure. The school opened two Title IX investigations against him when one female student complained that he gave her an unconsented -to a fist bump—this is how he has managed to interact in a friendly fashion with students at his previous schools—and another complained that his request to join him in a selfie  was sexual harassment. Marcus’s hearings, his mother claims, did not include basic due process. He was suspended, and the Title IX violations remain on his record while he is  banned from school activities unless accompanied by his mother or a special-needs aide.

His mother has hired an attorney,  a California Title IX specialist ,  who is suing on the theory that Saddleback’s Title IX officer used evidence in the hearing that had been “never before provided” and denied Marcus  the accused’s right to question “the complainant or adverse witnesses” before neutral fact-finders in a “live evidentiary hearing.”

Marcus cannot get admitted to a four-year college  unless Saddleback rescinds its findings.

I don’t understand this story at all. In my sexual harassment courses, I often discuss “accidental harassers” who tend to be somewhere on the autistic spectrum. They still have to be dealt with in the workplace, but I would think, wouldn’t you, that a student dealing with both cerebral palsy and autism of some kind might be treated with some compassion when he crosses a school’s conduct guidelines? I haven’t found the school’s account of why it thinks Marcus deserved to be treated this way (or why two women would sic authorities on him if all he really did involved a selfie request and a fist-bump), but unless he had been The  Mad Cerebral Palsy Fist Bumping Harasser on campus, this sounds like anti-male viciousness and persecution.

3. See! They told you he was a racist! The latest outrage committed by the Trump Administration is dragging its collective feet and not completing the Obama Administration’s pandering to women and African-Americans—heck, maybe epilepsy sufferers too—by replacing President Andrew Jackson’s likeness with that of Harriet Tubman, the famed Underground Railroad conductor.  Jack Lew, Obama’s Secretary of the Treasury, announced the decision to put Tubman on the twenty in April 2016, too late to get the change done. For some reason, President Trump didn’t regard this deliberate swipe at the Seventh President, a transformative and important one whether you like it or not, and the equivalent of  progressive statue-toppling —I didn’t see the connection at the time, because the Great Airbrushing hadn’t started yet, but that’s exactly what it is—as one of his top priorities, or, frankly, a priority at all. This is an outrage, according to a Washington Post editorial, “Mnuchin’s excuse for delaying the Harriet Tubman $20 bill is insulting.” A representative excerpt:

“No one can blame [Lew] for a failure to imagine that any future administration would be so petty and narrow-minded as to go out of its way to thumb its nose at women, minorities and history.”

Of course, removing Jackson is as much nose-thumbing as delaying Tubman’s honor,  and Trump’s resistance to following the usual Democratic racial and gender spoils script is no more political than the Post making this another “Orange Man Bad” manufactured controversy.

I have no problem with getting a female, an African-American, or someone who isn’t a Founder or a President on our currency. I also have no problem with honoring Andrew Jackson, who did as much to define the office as anyone. I also have no problem with President Trump refusing to exert himself to complete a purely political pander to the  Democratic base by Obama, when Democrats have withheld from him the most basic courtesies and accommodations that any President should be able to expect from the opposing party.


36 thoughts on “Memorial Day Weekend Ethics Warm-Up, 5/26/19: The Fish, The Fist Bump, And Harriets’s Lament

  1. I am no big fan of lawsuits where I am not making the money, but Marcus Knight should sue under the ADA for disability discrimination. Put the school in a discrimination conundrum. They deserve it.

    • Great idea.

      So a fist bump and a request, a REQUEST, to be in a selfie, constitute a prima facie case of sexual harassment? Good to know. I guess “There’s no harm in asking” is no longer taught in Torts.

      • Well, things will either heat up as the ‘lesser’ minorities realize they are being denied their support from the party they believed in, or they all start to peel off when they realize the Democratic party and progressive can’t, and more importantly doesn’t want to put out for all the minorities they have absorbed. Feminists and African-Americans are the big cheeses for Democrats. The gender and sexuality groups are fissioning as favoritism for one group directly suppresses others.

        ADA and advocates will probably peel off sooner, as that group cuts through all other demographic groups, and everyone is one car accident away from membership. An autistic student who offends is just not as media friendly as the snowflakes. The individual right to get trained and make something of his life, just isn’t as valuable to society as easily offended victims of a selfie and a meaningless life in the shadows. This is getting back toward the dreadful third generation rule to hide them away to not offend normies. Even more than their bad strategy at a national level and obvious corruption/cooption/brainwashing of the media, the coalition cannot hold together without some core they do. not. have. for their beliefs and goals. There is at least a half-dozen core beliefs that conflict badly. ‘Your focus determines your reality,’ and they have no focus.

        • I forgot the ‘/sarcasm’ note in the comments about the student’s ability to try to make something of himself in the second para instead of a life on the dole. That is far better than someone using their SSI as an excuse to run around and wreck the car they really don’t have the judgment to drive.

  2. When he took the selfie, his hand/finger spasmed, and he hit the ‘burst’ button, and that’s what the girl claimed was harassment, that he took multiple ‘excessive’ photos of her.

    • For real? That’s so much stupider. So one photo is a friendly interaction with a classmate, but a half-dozen photos taken a fraction of a second apart somehow becomes sexual harassment? Good thing the poor bastard didn’t accidentally hit the “video” button, or he’d be a full-on rapist.

      • It is as if these people are stretching the definition of sexual harassment to the brink of incoherence.

        Have these people not heard of the trope then Let Me Be Evil?

        Or the phrase, “In for a penny, in for a pound”?

  3. #2. Way back when, even before Obama was a state senator, I made a grievous error in trying to settle a potential sexual harassment case. I was such an idiot.
    It was high school, not college. One of my students, a guy with a severe autistic disability, suddenly and unexpectedly lay down on his back just as another of my students, a girl wearing a skirt, walked by my classroom. She was distraught; he was grinning.
    Looking back, I can’t believe I was so stupid, but …
    What I did, I asked her to wait in the classroom while I took the guy into my office.
    I explained to him that what he did was wrong, and why it was wrong, and how it likely made the girl feel. When he seemed to understand, I asked him if he could apologize to the girl. He said he could, and I told him to wait in the hall.
    I then, so wrong I now know, went to the girl, explained the guy’s disability, told her he was willing to apologize, and explained she would be well within her rights to file a formal complaint against him, and, further, if she did, I would be a witness for her. She said she thought she could accept an apology.
    He apologized, she accepted, and, without prompting, they shook hands (physical contact! — I am so disgusted with myself). She went on her way, and he got a little further, ahem, guidance from me, and that was it.
    Well, that was it for them. My woke self may never be able to forgive my un-woke self for this horrible failure to exact a full measure of justice.

  4. 1–Whenever I see a beauty like that, ALL I can think about is a couple of magnificent boneless filets, drizzled with EVOO, sprinkled with freshly ground pepper-n-chopped basil, topped with thinly sliced lemons & sweet onions, wrapped in tin foil just ahead of a scheduled appointment with my grill.

    I was surprised this wan’t tagged with TroutZilla: Mark Clemshire And The One That Got Away, from (YOIKES!) ~ 5.5 years ago.

    Comments by some of the regulars AND wyogranny, whose discerning horse sense contributions I surely miss.

  5. I get email essays from The Imaginative Conservative and there is one today titled ‘Real Memorials: Patriotism Not Jingoism’. Its author favors patriotism over nationalistic sentiment (‘jingoism’) and quotes George Washington in support of a well-founded patriotism:

    In these honorable qualifications I behold the surest pledges that as on one side no local prejudices or attachments, no separate views nor party animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests, so, on another, that the foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens and command the respect of the world. I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my country can inspire, since there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained; and since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.

    a) That national policy must arise from ‘principles of private morality’.
    b) That this morality be exemplified by moral attributes which win people to them and earn the respect of the world.
    c) That happiness (and thus political and national success) depend on virtue.
    d) But that “the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained”.
    e) That this describes the ‘experiment’ that defines the establishment of America.

    Jack wrote: “The latest outrage committed by the Trump Administration is dragging its collective feet and not completing the Obama Administration’s pandering to women and African-Americans.”

    Oddly, looking up the word ‘pander’ which I have read but not quite understood, it comes from Pandare:

    Late Middle English (as a noun): from Pandare, the name of a character in Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde (see Pandarus). The verb (‘to pander’) dates from the early 17th century.

    Pandarus or Pandar is a Trojan aristocrat who appears in stories about the Trojan War. In Homer’s Iliad he is portrayed as an energetic and powerful warrior, but in medieval literature he becomes a witty and licentious figure who facilitates the affair between Troilus and Cressida.

    Therefore, a panderer is: a person who assists the immoral desires or evil designs of others.

    Now, I know that Jack used the word ‘pander’ in a much less strict sense.

    Jack wrote: “I have no problem with getting a female, an African-American, or someone who isn’t a Founder or a President on our currency.”

    My view is different, and so is my entire orientation apparently! Why, I ask myself, does every issue I confront become so intense and conflicted as I try to solve it? Why is everything so hard to decide? Why is it that almost nothing is easily solved and easily decided? Why does having to make a decision involve a radical opposition?

    If I pay attention to Washington I am admonished to pay attention to ‘morality’ and this I have no choice but to focus attention on national policy that is not moral. If I pay attention to Jack I must redefine ‘morality’ to be ‘ethics’, and ethics of our day means what people have decided is ethical, and these notions are forever in movement and by nature non-solid. I cannot (according to Jack’s definitions) refer to the ‘morality’ of Washington nor make any substantive reference to “the propitious smiles of Heaven” since, in modern ethics the reference to ‘Heaven’ can only be metaphor and is thus unreal, poetic. But if this is so it means, in fact, that I must view what Washington says as ‘poetic utterance’.

    In the ever-shifting ethics of a shifting and evolving nation, this later statement, in the course of a divisive civil war, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”, indicates the ‘ethical shift’ which is, in fact, new interpretation.

    The new definition goes like this:

    It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.

    They speak of Lincoln and his masterful rhetoric. But what is the substantial idea that this rhetoric serves? If I do not agree with the idea, I must take issue with the rhetoric, mustn’t I? In this sense Mr Lincoln takes possession of the dead and he speaks for them. This is rhetorically corrupt. He defines their death — the meaning of those dead — as serving the ‘great task’ which he is in process of defining. He is not defining the same nation though. He has established a new project which he links with the old project: what was brought forth 87 years before. He asserts that everything that they died for, the reason of their sacrifice, is now going to be the project that he is defining, and he now gives a new meaning, a renewed and revised meaning, to God. Not only are the dead brought into service of his new-defined project, but so is God: and that the war is a form of difficult birth for a nation that “shall have a new birth of freedom”.

    Good Lord! He has taken possession of my life and the meaning of my life and redefined it as serving his purposes! How else am I to take “it is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced”. Shall I say ‘No, Sir, I am not dedicated to the unfinished work of the noble dead’? These rhetorical terms trap me into specific meanings. I see this as highly manipulative. And if this is so, then I can propose with some sense that at this point the Nation got turned in a dubious direction.

    So, shall I be forever *stuck* in a combative resistance? It is tiresome and exhausting! Because if what I say is true — that this is manipulative rhetoric that is in itself ‘progressive’ in precisely the sense that most on this Blog object to — then I have no other possibility but to attempt to get at the core of what Lincoln really meant, to break it down as I have, and to resist it.

    Once again: all the elements that are coming to fruition in our present, are results or outcomes of previous causes. If we do not like what is happening in the present, and if we imagine it possible to change anything, we have to deal with causation, which means going back in time and noticing when things ‘deviated’. That is, if we do think that things have deviated.

  6. 3. Two alternatives to honor Harriet Tubman: a. Replace U.S. Grant on the $50 bill; he was a Republican and owned slaves as well. b. Establish a new $9,000,000,000 bill to honor Obama’s contribution to the national debt, and put Tubman’s picture on it.

    • Grant is honored not for his Presidency, which was less than a full success, but for winning the Civil War, for which he deserves a lot of credit. Dissing him is a little like dissing Churchill: without him, we may not be here. It’s also unfair to call him a slaveholder—he was, but in about as minor a way as possible:

      Did Ulysses S. Grant own slaves during the Civil War?

      No, but it will come as a surprise to many people, that Grant did in fact own a man named William Jones for about a year on the eve of the Civil War. In 1859, Grant either bought or was given the 35-year-old Jones, who was in Grant’s service until he freed him before the start of the War.

      While Grant’s views on slavery evolved over time, his relationship with slavery was complicated and demonstrates the pervasiveness of the institution in antebellum America. Grant’s father, Jesse, was an abolitionist who wrote for the Castigator, a newspaper in Ohio. However, his son’s attitudes toward slavery were more ambivalent, at least from what we can discern of his opinions before and during the Civil War. “I never was an abolitionist, Grant wrote to his friend and patron, Elihu Washburne, in 1863, “not even what could be called anti-slavery…”

      In 1848 Grant married into the slaveholding family of Julia Dent. Her father, Frederick Dent, owned 30 enslaved people and had “given” Julia four enslaved people when she was a child: Eliza, Dan, Julia, and John. There is no evidence he legally transferred ownership to Julia but from her writings it is clear she considered them hers.

      In 1854 Grant left the military and tried to make a go of it as a farmer on land adjacent to his father-in-law’s in St. Louis, Missouri. He worked alongside Frederick Dent’s enslaved laborers to build a house for his family that they dubbed “Hardscrabble.”

      Finding farming less lucrative than he’d hoped, Grant asked his father for a loan. Jesse Grant reportedly replied, “Ulysses, when you are ready to come North I will give you a start, but so long as you make your home among a tribe of slave-owners I will do nothing.”

      After the death of Julia’s mother, the Grant family left “Hardscrabble” and moved to her father’s farm, “White Haven,” which Grant managed from 1854-1859. Novelist Hamlin Garland, an early biographer who spoke with Grant’s Missouri neighbors, wrote,

      “The use of slaves on the farm…was a source of irritation and shame to Grant. Jefferson Sapington told me that he and Grant used to work in the fields with the blacks. He said with glee, ‘Grant was helpless when it came to making slaves work,’ and Mrs. Boggs corroborated this. ‘He was no hand to manage negroes,’she said. ‘He couldn’t force them to do anything. He wouldn’t whip them. He was too gentle and good tempered and besides he was not a slavery man.’”

      Whether or not Grant wasn’t a “slavery man” by inclination, we know he briefly owned William Jones. He does not mention Jones in his memoirs or other writings, so the exact nature of their relationship remains a mystery. We do know that in March 1859 Grant filed the following manumission document.

      “I Ulysses S Grant of the City and County of St. Louis in the State of Missouri, for diverse good and valuable considerations me hereunto moving, do hereby emancipate and set free from Slavery my negro man William, sometimes called William Jones(Jones)of Mullatto complexion, aged about thirty-five years, and about five feet seven inches in height and being the same slave purchased by me of Frederick Dent-And I do hereby manumit, emancipate & set free said William from slavery forever.”

      It is notable that Grant did not sell or work out a plan with Jones to purchase his freedom, but simply freed him.

      Right after the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter, Grant wrote to his father-in-law, “In all this I can see but the doom of slavery. The North do not want, nor will they want, to interfere with the institution. But they will refuse for all time to give it protection unless the South shall return soon to their allegiance.”

      To his father he wrote, “My inclination is to whip the rebellion into submission, preserving all Constitutional rights. If it cannot be whipped any other way than through a war against slavery, let it come to that legitimately. If it is necessary that slavery should fall that the Republic may continue its existence, let slavery go.”

      In these letters Grant expressed a similar opinion to the early stated war aims of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln wrote in 1862, “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy Slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.”

      By 1863 Grant’s and Lincoln’s opinions had evolved. The letter where Grant denied being “what could be called antislavery” continued, “I try to judge fairly and honestly, and it became patent in my mind early in the rebellion that the North and South could never live at peace with each other except as one nation, and that without slavery. As anxious as I am to see peace established, I would not therefore be willing to see any settlement until the question is forever settled.”

      When the Emancipation Proclamation allowed for the raising of black troops, Grant wrote President Lincoln, “by arming the negro we have added a powerful ally. They will make good soldiers and taking them from the enemy weaken him in the same proportion they strengthen us.”

      With that added strength and Grant in command of the Union Army the Civil War became a war of liberation for enslaved people. Julia Grant wrote that Eliza, Dan, Julia, and John were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, but Missouri being a border state, the proclamation did not technically apply to them. They would have received their official freedom along with Frederick Dent’s other enslaved people on Jan 11, 1865 when the Missouri state legislature abolished slavery in its borders. Even after the Emancipation Proclamation, Julia Grant was still accompanied by her maid Jules, though likely as a paid servant.

      Grant may have been initially ambivalent to the institution of slavery but his wartime experiences showed him that it was morally and practically indefensible and that African Americans would not only make strong allies in defeating the Confederates, but respected citizens in the reunited nation to follow. As the 18th President of the reunited nation, he was an advocate and defender of the freedmen’s newly acquired rights, earning the admiration of Frederick Douglas, who believed, “To Grant more than any other man the Negro owes his enfranchisement.”

      In his memoirs Grant wrote, “As time passes, people, even of the South, will begin to wonder how it was possible that their ancestors ever fought for or justified institutions which acknowledged the right of property in man.” Grant likely would be disappointed that there are still Americans who deny that slavery was the cause of the Civil War and point to his and his in-laws’ use of enslaved labor as evidence. The proponents of the myth that Ulysses S. Grant owned slaves during the War do so to obscure the historical record that the overwhelming reason given by southerners for seceding from the Union was to protect the institution of slavery, an institution that had expanded beyond southern borders. That the United States initial war aim was to preserve the Union and only later became a war of liberation for enslaved people does not contradict that fact.

      • My intention was not to “diss” U.S. Grant, who was indeed an effective general, but to point out an alternate target for ignorant progressive ire which checks two of their boxes, “Republican” and “slaveowner.” so that they don’t have to sacrifice Jackson, a Democrat. The nine billion dollar bill was an afterthought.

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