Lunchtime Ethics Appetizers, 6/16/2020: ALS, Artistic Freedom And Arrogance [UPDATED]

Bon Appetite!

1. Today’s fake news note from the New York Times: “A Trump justice delivers an LGBT ruling that demoralizes the Right.” This completely fabricated observation, a variety of fake news I refer to as “psychic news,”purports to, first, characterize the “Right” as a monolithic, anti-LGBT mob, in the way the Left really is a monolithic, anti-Trump mob, and second, claim an extreme reaction to the decision that just doesn’t exist. The Times front page says the 6-3 decision was one “few expected.” That’s deceit: most analysts I read reached the same conclusion I did, which was that a 5-4 decision supporting the interpretation announced yesterday had at least a 50-50 chance of coming down. I did not expect the vote to be 6-3, but anyone familiar with how these things line up shouldn’t be shocked. Once he realized that the majority was going to hold that discrimination against gays and transgender individuals illegal, Justice Roberts may have joined the majority so that he could assign the opinion to Justice Gorsuch, for example.

President Trump has never indicated any animus towards gays or same sex marriage (Pence is another story); the presumption that the President’s supporters are horrified that discrimination against gays and transsexuals wasn’t upheld is just another version of the “deplorables” slur. Moreover, I believe the decision, and the fact that Justice Gorsuch joined with the Left wing of the court to cement it makes the President look good to all but reflex Trump-haters. His job is to appoint competent, open-minded justices, and he has. Gorsuch was never a conservative ideologue, though the Democrats who opposed him in the Senate falsely represented him as one. The decision also makes the Supreme Court look good by once again proving that it is not the lock-step partisan body Democrats claim, and that Chief Justice Roberts has correctly denied. It would be even better if the Court’s block of four liberals were as open-minded and non-partisan as Roberts, Gorsuch, and in other recent cases, Kavanaugh have shown themselves to be.

2. Need some inspiration? Here’s an inspiring story: Broadway soprano Rebecca Lukor, a  three-time Tony Award nominee, is in the grip of progressive ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, which is always fatal. Yet she is continuing to sing to sing as long as she’s physically able, including  a prerecorded Zoom benefit performance, “At Home With Rebecca Luker” this Wednesday evening. In an interview, she displays the courage and positive outlook that seems oddly characteristic of the victims of this horrible disease, saying at one point, “I want to tell everyone how lucky they are. I tell my friends that they can talk to me about their problems, but just to always be aware that if you can walk down the street and you’re healthy, you have everything. I’m never going to complain again.”

I’ve had two friends die of ALS in recent years. One was Pete Wales, my First Year criminal law professor who also joined the cast of many of my Gilbert and Sullivan productions. Pete was similarly courageous and philosophical as the disease slowly ravaged his body.  Such individuals put life, death, and human values in perspective for all of us, if we’re paying attention.

3. Any possible justification for caring about the Oscars has just been eliminated. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that, starting next year, films will be required to meet “representation and inclusion standards” to qualify for awards.

Imposing non-artistic mandates on films is an unequivocal rejection of artistic freedom, and a form of prior restraint. One can also assume that these amorphous “representation and inclusion standards” will only be applied to stories about white people. Would they have blocked, for example, “Parasite,” last years winner, from consideration, since everyone in the cast was Korean? Of course not. But “1917,” the film everyone expected to win, would have been dinged by these standards, as it shoed almost no black soldiers, though Great Britain had quite a few, depending on the branch and the locale. (As commenter Phillip Swayer points out, the American army also has black recruits.)

I assume the new rules will lead to some ridiculous examples of non-traditional casting, all in one direction, of course. The end result will be worse movies, and less profit. I can’t conceive of a better example of “Get woke, go broke.” [Pointer: Arthur In Maine]

4. The arrogance of the ignorant! Conservative pundit Mark Levin, an intelligent man in his lane, actually tweeted..

This kind of tunnel vision is reminiscent of the late, liberal New Yorker movie critic Pauline Kael saying that she didn’t know anyone who was going to vote for Nixon in 1972. Levin doesn’t care about or follow sports, so naturally nobody missed baseball, basketball and football. The culture and society misses it. Sports bring people together, unifying communities and giving them something to care about other than your nasty obsession, politics.

Here Mark, this is one of my favorite quotes from writer Roger Angell, whom you probably have never heard of, from his 1976 essay “Agincourt and After” included in his book, “Five Seasons”:

” It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitive as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (I know this look — I know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable. Almost. What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring — caring deeply and passionately, really caring — which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naivete — the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball — seems a small price to pay for such a gift.”

34 thoughts on “Lunchtime Ethics Appetizers, 6/16/2020: ALS, Artistic Freedom And Arrogance [UPDATED]

  1. 2. I too had a friend who died of ALS very bravely, an operatic mezzo-soprano who’d also endured financial devastation during the 2008 recession in Germany. A tremendous woman and a big time performer all over Europe, the U.S. and South America. Highly regarded for her Elektra. An absolute pro to the grisly end.

  2. 4. I have to say the TV sports lock down has made me re-think my watching TV sports. I think I can do with much less of it. I actually may not go back to watching golf. Which is very surprising. Baseball? Maybe, maybe not, or at least much, much less. Basketball, football and all things ESPN I’d already dropped in their entirety. The days are much, much longer. Are they more productive? Who knows.

    (Mrs. OB however is waiting on pins and needles for the return of the English Premier League and her current crush of the moment, Jurgen Klopp.)

    • Personally, MLB is dead to me. I’ve been a subscriber to their MLB.TV streaming service since the beginning, way back when it was a barely-functional shitshow, technologically speaking. They charged my credit card for this season at the beginning of Spring Training and have refused to issue any refunds, despite failing to provide a single minute of the product I’ve paid for.

      This is one of those cases where it’s not about the money, it’s the principle. If they want to abuse me as a customer this way, they can fuck off and try to find another customer. But I’m done. Enjoy the $129, assholes, it’s the last penny Major League Baseball will ever get from me. There are plenty of other sports out there I can choose to follow. Some of them, even, have champions that win without cheating…

  3. Actually, there were quite a few black soldiers and regiments who fought in WWI. (https://www.military.com/history/fighting-for-respect-african-american-soldiers-wwi.html)
    As well as thousands of Chinese (https://multimedia.scmp.com/ww1-china/) and some Vietnamese who were drafted by the French (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Vietnam_during_World_War_I)
    Otherwise, I totally agree that this sort of diversity requirement regarding movies will only further degrade the level of American filmmaking.

  4. 1. Fake news on Supreme Court ruling

    Whether or not the ruling does that, it is the kind of thing we sometimes see from the Supreme Court — what I consider to be extreme textualism.

    I don’t really have any problem with the outcome other than I think it is an expansion of what Congress intended, and to be fair, the ruling is logically consistent and defensible. As a practical matter, most large cities have already passed “fairness ordinances” that accomplish the gist of this ruling. There will be unintended consequences, as there always are, but that’s on Congress for being coy about it, not on the court for interpreting what they wrote.

    If conservatives are all that upset, they need to get over it. Eventually, this was going to happen, and I think it is just in the applications discussed in the ruling. How the governments will expand the court’s ruling (and they will) is not the Justice’s fault — it’s impossible to be narrow all the time.

    But to your point, well, it’s what I’d expect. Trump may not mind, but some “conservatives” certainly appear to. They are making noise. I get that this Times piece was directed at Trump by hoping to lay blame for it on him, but as you say, he has never shown any hostility to gays or same-sex marriage. The Times is determined to see Trump defeated, and it is (lamentable) par for the course that they’d try to drive a wedge between him and his supporters by blaming Gorsuch on him. It also shows how little they think of conservatives, imagining they will throw the baby out with the bath because something happened “conservatives” don’t like.

    3. Oscars

    It’s hard to make sense out of Hollywood anymore. Quality is apparently a secondary consideration, if it’s a consideration at all.

    4. Mark Levin

    I’m not sure what Levin tweeted, because it’s MIA in your post.

      • Well, he may speak for me, i.e. I won’t miss either of them. But if he’d said the same thing about college basketball, golf, or college football, I’d have had exactly the same reaction you did.

        Anyway, you’re right, the tweet is wrongheaded and stupid. Just because the NFL and, to a much lesser extent, MLB are making idiots of themselves genuflecting to BLM doesn’t mean they won’t be missed, or that they are culturally insignificant enough that nobody cares.

    • If conservatives are all that upset, they need to get over it. Eventually, this was going to happen, and I think it is just in the applications discussed in the ruling. How the governments will expand the court’s ruling (and they will) is not the Justice’s fault — it’s impossible to be narrow all the time.

      I’m certainly “over” thinking of conservatives or republicans as allies.

      Some adults want to have “sex” with cadavers. To discriminate against them on the basis of “sex” is now illegal.

      I suppose each new law written should contain its own glossary. I’ve seen industry OPs written that way. Good luck with all of that. It sounds tedious. A bit of advice, expect the definitions which exist in those definitions to be changed next. A nominalist underminer can always dig one notch deeper. I’m going to be spending my free time investigating off-the-grid lifestyle and looking at real-estate in no-property-tax states. If this was all a play to lose the vote and confidence of “social conservatives”, it was outlandishly successful, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. The mob will take you all. Something probably should have been done about that at least a decade ago. Too late now.

      Fidelity to the language is resistance to tyrants, some say. I think it’s even more basic than that, personally, but we should’ve started somewhere.

      • 1. “Some adults want to have “sex” with cadavers. To discriminate against them on the basis of “sex” is now illegal.”

        This is beneath you. Get a grip. Sex with cadavers is illegal, for may reasons. Workplaces discriminating against criminals is not an issue.

        2. Each new law DOES have a glossary.

        3. The conservatives who cannot accept the reasonable, necessary, and rational cultural shift away from the demonetization of gays had my limited sympathy for a while because the change came extraordinarily quickly. That sympathy is just about gone. Their stubbornness and adherence to demonstrably false myths and invalid arguments has weakened support for important conservative principles, and alienated a dangerously high proportion of the public.

        4. And it’s pure bigotry and ignorance at this point. Gay Americans are as productive, law abiding citizens as any others, and they have the same civil rights. This has been obvious for a long time, and rooting for more delays in enforcing these rights is not just unethical, it’s cruel.

        • Their stubbornness and adherence to demonstrably false myths and invalid arguments has weakened support for important conservative principles, and alienated a dangerously high proportion of the public.

          Not having a defining philosophy at all can hardly be regarded as a superior philosophical position. Regardless, the impasse is clear. “Social conservatives” have no place in the modern world. We’re “bigoted” after all. We’ve been thrown to the lions, why not under the bus?

          My support for all things republican is henceforth withdrawn. I, and many others, are without representation. We are left to choose between the party which rushes to persecute us and the one which whistles and strolls in that same direction. Place not your trust in princes!

          Each new law DOES have a glossary.

          In a discussion even involving necrophilia, this thought is the most revolting!

          • Benjamin said:

            Regardless, the impasse is clear. “Social conservatives” have no place in the modern world. We’re “bigoted” after all. We’ve been thrown to the lions, why not under the bus?

            I think this is hyperbole. Society is always in tension between the radical and traditional, both socially and otherwise. The fact that the left has claimed many things as bigotry that are not does not mean they are.

            The subject matter, workplace discrimination, is doubtless bigotry if applied to one group over another on the basis of any legal quality, absent a clear job requirement. If we are going to outlaw bigotry based on gender, what would be the justification for allowing it based on preference of gender for a partner? How is that even a concern for an employer?

            Will this ruling lead to an attempt to expand the law to apply to ever more ridiculous situations? Yes, it will, maybe even to your extreme example. Fortunately, congress can change this law at will to confine it to what they mean. So if we want to discriminate against illegal corpse abusers, that should be possible by a simple change in the wording of the law. This is not the Constitution or one of its amendments we are talking about.

            We are left to choose between the party which rushes to persecute us and the one which whistles and strolls in that same direction. Place not your trust in princes!

            False choices and hyperbole do not an argument make.

            • The subject matter, workplace discrimination, is doubtless bigotry if applied to one group over another on the basis of any legal quality, absent a clear job requirement. If we are going to outlaw bigotry based on gender, what would be the justification for allowing it based on preference of gender for a partner? How is that even a concern for an employer?

              We hold these truths to be self-evident.

        • Jack writes: 3. The conservatives who cannot accept the reasonable, necessary, and rational cultural shift away from the [demonization] of gays had my limited sympathy for a while because the change came extraordinarily quickly. That sympathy is just about gone. Their stubbornness and adherence to demonstrably false myths and invalid arguments has weakened support for important conservative principles, and alienated a dangerously high proportion of the public.

          To my way of seeing, this shows how progressive ideologies function. Please understand that though I do love to *fight* I try not to do so in personal terms. Or when it gets personal I lose interest in the fight. My object is just to understand how we couch and support the ideas we have. So . . .

          I am not at all convinced that it can merely be stated or asserted that a great deal going on today is “reasonable, necessary, and rational cultural shift(s)”. I can see how someone might think that though. I don’t think it can simply be asserted, as if one is expounding a Universal Principle.

          The same declaration about what is “reasonable, necessary, and rational” is made about everything going on in our present by even more virulent progressives. That is how they couch their arguments, insofar as they are arguments. But their not really arguments. They are claims.

          It is the nature of the beast to keep pushing forward, to keep assaulting barriers. It goes on and on and there seems to be no stopping-point.

          I also fully grasp that when the ‘limited sympathy’ wears out it turns into intolerance! That too is an interesting feature of our present and among the progressive radicals: they cannot stand that other ideas they see as ‘retrograde’ remain.

          Then, an attack is brought out against the ‘false myths’ and ‘invalid arguments’, which is to say against the structure of the moral philosophy of Christianity itself. And this too is a common feature in our present.

          I think it is interesting to see into the different positions and arguments. And offer this in that spirit.

          My struggle is to define what are the “important conservative principles” that must be conserved. There is the assertion that (some or many) Conservatives don’t actually do that. Although I am very clear that you Jack certainly have a conservative-oriented mind in so many areas.

          My personal solution is simply to believe that ‘homosexuality should not be encouraged’ and should be generally discouraged. It is a tolerant position actually.

          The trans and cross-dressing and *identification* stuff is outside of my understanding. I tend to see these excesses as Camille Paglia sees them: signs of decadence with all manner of different ramifications.

    • He’s got a point – that professional sports aren’t as important as we think. We’ve now made it for months without professional sports, without movies, without live theater, without zoos, without parades, without parties, without airshows, without hobby shows, without concerts, without fairs, festivals, or any other large gatherings. We probably will have to finish the year without those things, and the world didn’t come to an end. Unfortunately, Jack, I must take issue with sports being unifying. They stopped being unifying once Krappernick started his stupid grandstanding protest. Now no one dares tell the players to knock it off. However, I think a lot of the fans who got this far without those things might decide they don’t need to go back to watch that nonsense.

      It’s been tough the last ten weeks or so. I am desperately in need of a haircut, badly out of shape from not going to the gym, sick of cooking 3 meals a day every day, and just tired of seeing the inside of my house all the time. For the first time in 7 years a whole airshow season has been pretty much wiped out. I haven’t been to a concert yet this year, and I’m guessing there won’t be any. A lot of organizations are talking about Christmas shows, but I think that’s a pipe dream. Travel is pointless stateside and out internationally. I can’t meet a lady friend for dinner and the lady I have in mind is going crazy homeschooling 2 kids and unable to get her hair or nails done or socialize with other moms while the kids play together. I can’t do so much as invite my brother over for a meal, and his daughter, my now 13yo niece, is not happy that she can’t meet her friends. The stores ARE stocking paper products and hand sanitizer again, but so what?

      The only upside of this is we now know what life would be like under socialism.

      • No he doesn’t. He doesn’t follow sports or care about them so he doesn’t miss them. You think Rush Limbaugh would agree with that? He mentions sports all the time. Sure, when people are forced to do without something they enjoy, they’ll adapt. But saying they don’t miss it is ridiculous.

      • I am sorry to hear about your lady friend going bonkers with cabin fever. If she lives in New York City, though, she can rest assured that Di Blasio has her best interests at heart. I mean, that fellow had the gates to playgrounds welded shut to prevent children from running into clouds of COVID-19. I sure like that idea. Yes, I do.

        jvb

      • Steve,

        Were I to quibble with your points, I would say that professional sports ceased being a unifying force in the country at the time a bunch of track and field runners decided it was cool to raise their fists during the National Anthem in Mexico City back in 1968.

        jvb

  5. Well, just another reason not to listen to Levin, I reckon. Although I will say that the stuff you hear on MSNBC and CNN can make people like him look pretty reasonable and (almost) even handed.

  6. I don’t know about “very few” black soldiers in the British Army in WW1, I guess in the grand scheme of things there weren’t that many, about 15,500 black men formed the “British West India Regiment.” There were also a few from the UK proper, including Lt. Walter Tull. Asian troops, on the other hand, were there in HUGE numbers – 1 million men from the Army of India (Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Gurkhas). The French had the Tiralleurs Senegalais black troops plus about 170,000 Muslim troops (Arabs, Berbers, Moors, etc.) from North Africa, there might also have been a Vietnamese unit. Finally the Germans did make use of black Askari troops in the colonial phase of the war in Africa. African-American troops were certainly not the only men of color on the field.

  7. I think we should just re-characterize the kneeling situation. Kneeling is a sign of subservience, e.g., one knelt before the king. Consequently, kneeling before the flag is showing subservience to it, isn’t it?

    • The way the NFL and other professional sports should deal with the issue is to form a professional kneeling association whereby the athlete who kneels the longest for the most social issues wins. Otherwise, simply delete the National Anthem from the pre-game festivities. That is why we can’t have nice things.

      jvb

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