Ethics Grab Bag: 6/18/20: Absolutism, DACA, Cancel Culture And Pancakes

1. Oh, I’m sure that will help a lot. Quaker announced yesterday that the Aunt Jemima brand would be rebranded and renamed “to make progress toward racial equality.” Yeah, I’m sure the pancake box design and hearing that demon name “Jemima” has retarded the progress of racial justice for decades.  I couldn’t care less what pancake mix is called and I doubt that anyone else does, but  if any portion of the market claims to find the logo offensive, that’s a good reason to ditch it, which I assume means that Uncle Ben’s Rice will be called “U.B.R.” soon. Nonetheless, Quaker’s move isn’t substantive. It’s virtue signaling, and at this point, more historical airbrushing. Getting rid of Aunt Jemima will cost Quaker millions of dollars, and probably raise the price of the product. It won’t affect racial equality one iota.

Meanwhile, cultural context and history is lost. The R. T. Davis Milling Company hired former slave Nancy Green as a spokesperson for the Aunt Jemima pancake mix in 1890, and she continued in that role  until her death in 1923. Green appeared as Jemima beside the “world’s largest flour barrel” while operating a pancake-cooking display at Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. After the Expo, Green was given a lifetime contract to  promote the pancake mix. Aunt Jemima was Nancy Green’s one link to immortality.

2. Today’s SCOTUS decision on DACA. Here’s how NPR put it: “A narrowly divided U.S. Supreme Court extended a life-support line to some 650,000 so-called DREAMers on Thursday, allowing them to remain safe from deportation for now, while the Trump administration jumps through the administrative hoops that the court said are required before ending the program.”

The President called this a political decision in his inimitable, meat-axe way:

This is an especially stupid tweet. Every time SCOTUS doesn’t back the administration isn’t a political decision, and lumping apples and kumquats together, which is what generalizing about decisions as diverse as the gay discrimination decision and this one is, just shows that the President doesn’t read the opinions he’s complaining about, and only cares about the results. (Of course, in this he is like most Americans, sad to say.)

After wading through as much of the assorted opinions in the case as I can stand (Great thanks, once again, to valkygrrl for sending me the link), I think that’s unfair.

Chief Justice Roberts, again the swing man, joined with the four liberal Justices and authored the majority opinion. This sentence says it all: “The dispute before the Court is not whether DHS may rescind DACA. All parties agree that it may. The dispute is instead primarily about the procedure the agency followed in doing so.” That means that the decision isn’t about substance or policy, but rather process. Process decisions are not, or shouldn’t be, political. This note also undermines the idea that the Justices were just acting in partisan lockstep:

ROBERTS, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, except as to Part IV. GINSBURG, BREYER, and KAGAN, JJ., joined that opinion in full, and SOTOMAYOR, J., joined as to all but Part IV. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed an opinion concurring in part, concurring in the judgment in part, and dissenting in part. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part anddissenting in part, in which ALITO and GORSUCH, JJ., joined. ALITO, J., and KAVANAUGH, J., filed opinions concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part.

If the President paid attention, he would see that a majority of the Court found that his actions regarding DACA were not motivated by “animus,” thus denying Big Lie #4.

I am unalterably opposed to DACA, for reasons stated frequently here. The short version: it is incompetent and irresponsible law-making to provide an incentive for people to break the law. DACA is fueled by emotion and sentimentality (“Think if the children!”) and is an incremental step toward open borders. However, other than some dicta among the concurrences and dissents, there is no reason to see the decision as either favoring or disfavoring the law.

3. Luckily, I guess, not many people read Ethics Alarms. Among the Legal Insurrection blog posts that has Professor William Jacobson fighting for his reputation and his career is one stating that Black Lives Matter misled its followers regarding the death of Michael Brown, pushing the false narrative that Michael Brown was shot with his hands raised up in surrender. Well, they did. I’ve written this here many times, most recently when Democratic Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg repeated the BLM lie. The Obama Justice Department as well as the grand jury found that Michael Brown’s hands were not raised, he did not say “don’t shoot,” and he was charging the police officer who killed him.

4. Wait: why was there a statue of this guy in the first place? This week, the City of Albuquerque  removed the statue of conquistador Juan de Oñate that stood in front of the city’s museum. This is the inevitable point where those of us who oppose statue-toppling have to decide if we are absolutist, or if there are special cases. Remember that I opposed the removal of the Joe Paterno statue at Penn State after he was revealed to have enabled the horrific child molesting of his assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. I’m awfully close to an absolutist.

Oñate, however is pretty hard to defend. He wasn’t an American, and his period as governor of the New Mexico territory in the 16th Century was brutal even by the standards of his time and nation, Spain. He killed 800 indigenous people in Acoma Pueblo and in another infamous episode, ordered his men to cut off the foot of at least 24 male captives. This was too much even for the Spanish, who convicted him on charges of excessive violence and cruelty and exiled him from New Mexico. Decades ago, a stealthy protester cut off the statue’s right foot. Good one!

I’m curious: How many absolutists are out there? Let’s poll it:

42 thoughts on “Ethics Grab Bag: 6/18/20: Absolutism, DACA, Cancel Culture And Pancakes

  1. How long ago does it have to be to go from a statue commerating a person and becomes a generic work of art…if we had more information about the Mona Lisa or the model for David, would they deserve canceling based on their actions?

  2. re: Oñate

    It is better to state principles and follow them. If one going to break a principle you were bound to follow, better to have a really good reason to do so. In this case, I don’t see what greater good is being served by the removal of this statue. Do people know who he is? Are the minority curious enough to investigate going to feel inspired by his atrocities?

    • What greater good is being served by the yanking down of any of these statues except to kiss the mob’s ass and validate the idea that violence and vandalism work?

    • Apparently the Native American community has been inflamed by the statue for a long time, hence the amputated foot episode.

      Frankly, I don’t think supporters of the conquistador have a leg to stand on…And with that, I officially open the floor to foot and leg jokes.

      • Maybe not this guy, who was a brute. Actually there are not many statues of the various conquistadores in the New World (although Lima does have one of Pizarro, who was arguably worse). I think they fell out of favor after the wars of independence in the beginning of the 19th century. However, I got a little annoyed when the mayor of Columbus said he was yanking the statue of the city namesake as part of “our ugly past.” The discovery of America is an ugly past?

          • Apparently, though, Columbus is now radioactive – I predict before the end of this year you won’t see any statues of him anywhere.

          • That was my thinking.

            Honestly, I dislike iconclasts. It suggests a kind of reverse idolatry, that graven images have more power than it’s reasonable to impute to them. If a statue offends someone so much they have to break the law, or force it to be hidden from sight, perhaps they should examine their beliefs more closely.

      • In general, I am not one calling for removing art from the public square. That smacks too much of Soviet Russia, Chairman Mao, and the Taliban. Perhaps a more complete history can be shown on the monument discussing the controversies.

        The Oñate statue is one of those monuments that maybe should not have been dedicated, even if he founded or claimed the region for the Spanish crown over 400 years ago. Apparently, the statue’s foot amputation was in response to Juan de Oñate’s brutal repression of the Acoma Puebla after the Acoma rebelled in October, 1598, because the Acoma refused to pay a food tax to the Spanish crown, which had been implemented by Oñate. Oñate had claimed the region for Spain in March 1598, and instituted a food tax, which hacked the Acoma off – why wouldn’t it? – so they rebelled. The Acoma killing 11 Spaniards/Mexicans, including Oñate’s nephew, In response, Oñate ordered the burning of the town and the slaughter of almost the entirety of the 2,000 Acoma, leaving some 200 alive, including children. Oñate had his troops amputate a foot of each of the surviving males of fighting age and sent the children to “missions” in Mexico. The revolt has been referred to as the Acoma Massacre. Not sure that is something Spain is proud of.

        I had thought the statue had been there for a long time. Nope. It was dedicated in 1991, and its installation was rife with controversy. It has been damaged at least twice, the first being the amputation of the foot (along with a note stating, “fair is fair”) in December 1997, just prior to 400th anniversary of Oñate’s arrival in the region in 1598; and a second time when someone painted the left foot red in 2017, with “Remember 1680” (year of the Pueblo revolt – something Oñate had nothing to do with because – well, he’d have been pretty old and/or a dead guy by then) painted on the monument’s base.

        According to many historians, Oñate was not a very nice fellow. He was recalled to Mexico in 1614 to stand trial for the Acoma Massacre and a host of other crimes against indigenous peoples. He was tried and convicted and had the misfortune of being exiled back to Spain where he lived out the remainder of his life eating tapas and developing a new form of music he called “flamenco.”*

        Where Hernan Cortez’s history is much more complex and complicated, Oñate’s history seems to be punctuated by failure, brutality, failure, brutality, and utter incompetence. Aside from establishing New Mexico, he was fairly useless as an explorer or conquistador. He was cruel and, basically a jerk. His track record in New Mexico was spotty at best, wreaking more havoc than he was worth. He had to have been pretty bad if the Mexicans kicked him and sent him back to Spain where he couldn’t get into too much more trouble.

        In New Mexico, it seems that his reputation/history is more about, “well, there was thing Oñate guy who claimed New Mexico for Spain in 1598, but . . . HEY! Check this out! Here is a really cool outcropping of rocks.” Perhaps a statue celebrating this guy was not really warranted anyway.

        jvb

        Ed. Note*: When is the commenter going to learn? Oñate DID NOT invent flamenco and by all accounts couldn’t play a guitar to save his life. But, no. This immature commenter can’t it through his thick head that he isn’t really as funny as he thinks he is. Sheesh!

  3. On point 1
    The appropriate image to replace Aunt Jemima is a school cafeteria worker who feeds the kids breakfast because mom spent all the money getting her nail art done.

    Sorry, my patience is running thin. Gotta gey back to shopping for a mini14.

    • Take a headspace gauge with you (or see if the store has one). Ruger Mini-14’s have been notorious for having bad headspace. The new ones are supposed to be much better, but it still isn’t a bad idea. The ones with bad headspace aren’t typically dangerous, but it makes them less accurate that you might want.

      • Also get one with a 580+ serial number. Ruger started making them with thicker and much better barrels after that. They will never be MOA unmodified, but your can get 2 or even less out of the new ones if you put an Accustrut or Mo-rod on them.

      • Also a lot cheaper to buy one. An M14 (civilian M1A) will run you over $1,500 new and it’s hard to find them for less than $1100 used. Mini-14’s can easily be had used for $650. They are kind of expensive new, especially when an AR pattern rifle can be had for as little as $500 brand new.

        • Love my M1A Scout Squad! I have some nice ARs (one of which was my patrol rife for more than a decade) but the M1A is my go-to rifle. The scout scope takes a load off of my 66-year-old eyes and makes consistent 4″ groups at 300 yards (the longest range I regularly have access to) fairly easy. Things shot with the M1A tend to stay shot! I also have a Garand chambered in 7.62 X 51 (also with a scout scope) and a scoped .308 tactical rifle for serious accuracy out to 500 yards when the wind isn’t wonky. Fedex just delivered another 500 rounds of match ammo on Friday. Back in the late 1970s I was issued a Mini-14, which was not a bad rifle but as you mentioned had accuracy problems. After about four years the agency transitioned to the AR-15. I had never heard of the headspace issue.

          • I haven’t heard of the headspace issue, either. I personally own a late-model Mini Thirty in 7.62X39 that I got for a very good price. It is a versatile firearm that shoots cheap ammo perfect for suburban self-defense, and I refuse to scope it — I can still shoot irons good enough for defense.

            Obviously, a battle rifle in a full-power cartridge would be the ideal weapon for someone well-schooled in their use in a more rural setting, and the open action of the M1A and Garand (as well as the Minis) is extremely reliable, easy to clean, and proven in battle. Plus, the ammo is available and relatively cheap, and although weight is a major concern for some, not so much for … experienced gentlemen of a certain age like us. 🙂 It’s not likely we’ll ever be traipsing about the forest on the front lines should the penny ever drop. That’s a young man’s game.

            I like the Scout squad best of all the M1A variants. You give up some range and accuracy, but it is lighter and more flexible, and 4 MOA groups is more than accurate enough for a defensive firearm at 300 yards (and probably 200 yards, too). I’d want at least 2-3 MOA inside that.

            Garand in .308? I think I may have heard of those, but I know the default caliber for that rifle is 30-06. I’m sure it’s a pussycat in 7.62X51. I’m still debating an M4 or A1 for … well, mainly to have before the Left tries to ban them. I don’t love the platform and I’d rather not own one, but the contrarian in me argues to the contrary. The A1 factor appeals to me more, both as a rifle and for its looks (none of the MLOK/Pic rails with gadgets hanging off. Ugh.

            I’m still looking for a good lever action in .357 at I price I’m willing to pay. Now there is a flexible, fast-handling firearm for close engagements against the highest-probability threats. But having a more powerful gun available is always a good idea.

  4. I’m all for taking down statues of thirst people we no longer feel should be publically honored. I just want it done right, by people petitioning the local authorities and requesting the art be removed or replaced. The half-baked idea that anyone who disapproves of a statue could therefore go ahead and vandalize it leaves all public art at the mercy of any cretin who finds it distasteful.

  5. “. . .which I assume means that Uncle Ben’s Rice will be called “U.B.R.” soon.

    David Chappelle is coming out for “B.A.N Rice” or “Uncle BAN’s.”

    That guy goes a bit too far sometimes so I don’t know . . .

  6. On the statue: I am actually ignorant of who this guy is and will remain deliberately so for the duration of this comment.

    If the issue is removing the statue, I’m aggin’it.

    An interesting trivia question is to name which state has flown the flag of 4 different countries over its capitol building.

    In this context, the answer should be obvious (but Texas is always a contender).

    New Mexico has flown the flags of Spain, Mexico, the Confederacy, and the United States over the Plaza (I think that is the name of the Capitol Building; been away from there for 27 years). I think it is also the oldest capitol in the country.

    This guy is likely someone integral to the formation of what we now know as New Mexico. And, he was almost certainly an obnoxious hard-ass. But, those times are foreign to our modern sensibilities. Washington did things with the army that also seem offensive today (vaguely remembering a story about some deserters that he had executed summarily).

    It would kind of be like Rome taking down a statue of Romulus because he engaged (allegedly) in fratricide.

    (And, for those who say, tear down the statue and there will still be history books (or some such snarky nonsense), I would know nothing about this guy were it not for this statue.)

    -Jut

  7. As for the rice and pancake people, leave the names the same and just replace them with white people.

    Who could object to that?

    -Jut

      • Great Idea. A white Uncle Ben and a white Aunt Jemima. Wait, aren’t commercials and ads supposed to allow people of color to see people like themselves in order to develop sufficient self-esteem? A white Uncle Ben? Isn’t that appropriation? A white Jemima? Isn’t that a black name that would be appropriated?

        • The only woman named Jemima that I have personally known is a white woman. Her friends cal her “Jemma.” In her family the name has been passed down for generations. I think it is considered a “black” name primarily through its association with the product.

  8. 2. I really dislike the decision. I think the technical term for what Roberts did would be a “chicken shit move.” Punt it back and make the DOJ or Homeland Security or whomever jump through some hoops. As somebody said in one of the dissents, DACA was illegal when it was created and remains so. What justification beyond that does the executive have to provide? “Go back and give us some better reasons so we don’t have to look like hard asses,” is not a particularly good look for the Supremes.

    • I also find Trump’s “I don’t think they like me,” absolutely hilarious. I think that’s a really good sense of humor at work. Plus, he’s right! The liberal block, led by RBG DESPISES the ground he walks on.

  9. I was thinking of Ray Bradbury’s The Smile just yesterday. The joy that is taken in destruction makes us all uglier. I think there is an alternative to pulling down statues. Is it placing them in a museum? If Auschwitz had simple been bulldozed how much historical memory would have been lost.

    • “It is vital that we keep these things and use them as symbols for our memory, The teaching of history should happen in museums, not public spaces, so that it’s understood that you’re looking at a historical relic as opposed to a symbol of current values.” ~Matthew Logan, executive director of the Montgomery (Maryland) County Historical Society

  10. What is your opinion of the Supreme Court denying cert to all the Second Amendment cases before it?

    Among the Legal Insurrection blog posts that has Professor William Jacobson fighting for his reputation and his career is one stating that Black Lives Matter misled its followers regarding the death of Michael Brown, pushing the false narrative that Michael Brown was shot with his hands raised up in surrender. Well, they did. I’ve written this here many times, most recently when Democratic Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg repeated the BLM lie. The Obama Justice Department as well as the grand jury found that Michael Brown’s hands were not raised, he did not say “don’t shoot,” and he was charging the police officer who killed him.

    It is important to understand how putting all their eggs in the Mike Brown basket set back the cause of police accountability and the campaign against systemic racism and police brutality back years.

    It was the shooting that was the front and center case for the #HandsUpDontShoot narrative. People understandably were not receptive to claims of systemic racism and lack of police accountability, and few of them voiced these kind of objections when gun control laws were being proposed.

    Indeed, when some lowlife gangbanger gunned down a bunch of kids in 2017, people were asking for gun control now, were saying that only law enforcement should have access to assault weapons and high capacity magazines, forgetting that many of them had said these law enforcement officers were racistically gunning down unarmed black men.

    Similarly, when some New York legislators proposed using a search of social media posts to vet applicants for gun licenses, ostensibly to search for evidence of gang membership as a basis for denying a permit, few asked how systemic racism would affect the enforcement of such laws.

    Perhaps it will be different this time- unless this campaign derails into vandalizing statues of abolitionists and removing the faces of black women from pancake products.

  11. If the correct thing in the DACA decision was leaving it stand on a point of law, why did the court in Civil Rights decision not do the same thing (i.e. interpret based on a point of law, excluding LBGT until such time as the correct procedures to update it were used)?

    In both cases the better action is, arguably, to let them stand as is, but if we’re a nation based on the rule of law, then both decisions were incorrect as I understand it.

    Help a brother out, learn me whether I’m right or wrong.

    • “point of law” is not the correct term. In the discrimination case, the Court ruled that existing law covered gays and transexuals, using an approach that is hardly revolutionary. looking beyond the context of a law to its sense and spirit, and they had the added advantage of being correct. In the DACA case, it was an entirely separate set of facts and issues. The connection: in both cases, the majority chose the course that would cause the least harm to the most people in the immediate short term. In the case of the discrimination case, the sooner the practice is outlawed, the fewer citizens will be harmed. In the DACA case, requiring all i’s to be dotted and t’s to be crossed at worst postpones a cataclysmic result for a huge number of people facing deportation.

      • If DACA was illegal at its inception, why does it matter (and the harm is “artificial” since there was never an existing right to begin with)?

        What in jurisprudence says says following i’s and t’s of something that has no standing to begin with requires adherence?

        It feels like saying a contact entered under duress is enforceable, when it’s plainly not.

        I dont think kicking out kids (adults now) of illegals is a great idea, but out runs along the lines of the stories on “the good illegal immigrant” – who’s fault is it, really?

        I understand the civil rights case a little better given what you say, but still think it’s for a legislature to address. Civil rights was to right a plainly institutionalized/codified wrong (slavery was a legal endeavor) , for a group who plainly had it worse than other ethic groups that immigrated and were despised and discriminated against like every new group that followed (said discrimination not codified).

        Now it feels like a license for advocacy groups to “push” (for lack of a better word) government to dictate every right and wrong, and I’m a little uncomfortable with that even though I agree with your assessment on the particular case.

        It just looks like its easy to game the system, when the elected bodies should be grilled for the fix.

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