Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/19/2020: “Juneteenth” Edition

Good morning!

1. About “Juneteenth”: I confess: I had never heard of Juneteenth before this year, or at least never took note of it or what the day signifies. I am certain that I never heard the term while I was living in Massachusetts. It would have helped, in my case, if the unofficial holiday (except in Texas, where the event commemorated actually occurred, the freeing of the last slaves in America, and it is a state holiday) had a label that didn’t remind me of so many Madison Avenue gimmick labels and fad word mash-ups like “frenemy” or “momtrepreneur.” “Juneteenth” sounds to me like a summer music festival.

The end of slavery is certainly a legitimate subject for a new paid Federal holiday (as well as many others). Getting the holiday established as part of the George Floyd Freakout white guilting strategy cheapens it, I think, placing the holiday in the same pandering package with HBO Max pulling “Gone  With The Wind” or the University of Florida  banning the “Gator Bait” cheer. As with so much else going on, I am concerned that this will exacerbate rather than ameliorate racial tensions, with an official nation-wide “Juneteeth” having the effect of making July 4th a “white” holiday.

2. Deceitful withdrawal of the decade? Senator Amy Klobuchar, whose prospects for being named Joe Biden’s running mate vanished as soon as it was publicized that she was responsible for Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin not being prosecuted for earlier claims of police misconduct, grandly announced that she had called Biden and withdrawn her name from consideration, an amusing variation on “You can’t fire me, I quit!  “America must seize on the moment and I truly believe — as I actually told the VP last night when I called him — that I think this is a moment to put a woman of color on that ticket,” Klobuchar told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell last night. “And there are so many incredible, qualified women. But if you wanna heal this nation right now, my party yes, but our nation, this is a helluva way to do it.”

No, choosing a Vice-President purely on the basis of gender and color is not a “helluva way” to run a country, but that’s progressivism and the Democratic Party in 2020: group identity matters, actual skill and qualifications don’t. (And if there are so many “incredible, qualified women, why isn’t Biden considering any of them?) Ann Althouse writes, amusingly,

So what I hear in her effort at a high-minded statement is an undercutting of the other women who are in the running. First, Elizabeth Warren — who is not a woman of color except in her memory of younger days when family lore and a desire to identify were enough. Why step on her chances, Amy? Second, all the various black women who are in the running. Amy is ensuring that when one of them is picked, everyone will believe they were picked because of their race.

Because whoever it is will have been picked because of her race and gender! Klobuchar isn’t signaling anything that everyone paying attention hadn’t figured out months ago. As for Warren, I have never believed that the Democrats would be so foolish as to have two over-70 politicians on the ticket.

3. An ethics Western! I watched Sam Peckinpaugh’s “The Ballad of Cable Hogue” for the first time since it was released (in 1970) last night. It’s an ethics movie: a character study of a flawed but decent man (played marvelously by Jason Robards in one of his few starring roles in a good movie) who exhibits surprising courage, humility, compassion and kindness. Other characters in the film also impress us at key moments with their choices to be ethical. Peckinpaugh made the film right after the shockingly (for the time) violent Western “The Wild Bunch,” and critics and audiences weren’t ready for such a change in tone and style. “The Ballad of Cable Hogue” is the rarity, a sweet movie that isn’t sentimental; the director later said it was his favorite of all his films, and it’s mine as well.

The film also has one of my favorite opening sequences of any Western.

Today’s trivia note: Stella Stevens, who is also outstanding in her role as Hogue’s love interest, at one point in the movie sings a duet with Robards, and sounds terrific. There’s a reason: before breaking through as an actress, Stevens was a member of a successful  five-voice vocal ensemble called “The Skip-Jacks” who, among their notable performances of TV ad jingles and TV show themes in the late Fifties and early Sixties, are the voices you hear singing “The Flintstones” theme.

4. The public is not so stupid that it can’t see the hypocrisy here. This morning CNN and HLN were flogging the health threat posed by President Trump’s rally tomorrow and suggesting that Florida is paying the price for the state being substantially re-opened with a “record-setting” increase in Wuhan virus infections yesterday. Neither outlet mentioned the protest mobs last week, which were cheered on by the news media  (and even more absurdly, health professionals) as if  protesting “systemic racism” conveys a magic immunity to the pandemic. (In addition to this misleading reportage, neither CNN nor HLN mentioned that Florida’s “record” was almost certainly the result of increased testing, not more infections.)

17 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/19/2020: “Juneteenth” Edition

  1. I keep hearing that Juneteenth marked the end of slavery in the United States; it didn’t. That had to be done by amending the Constitution. The Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to the State of Maryland, for example, where there were slaves. It did not apply to slaves held in Northern states. Ironically, it specifically did not apply to, among others, Elizabeth City County, Virginia, which is now the City of Hampton, where Hampton University lauds the Emancipation Oak. So why should Juneteenth be the holiday. Better it should be the day that the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified. Doesn’t anybody read and understand history any more?

    • Cynical John asked,

      “Doesn’t anybody read and understand history any more?”

      Answer: Nope. Not went a good rant is even better than any history book. Remember what Bluto said, “What? Over? Did you say ‘over’? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!…”


    • I am from Cleveland, OH. I moved to Texas in 1986. I had never heard of “Juneteenth”. I wondered why they were celebrating June 10th on June 19th – perhaps it was some weird Texas thing that was beyond my comprehension. So, I asked an attorney I clerked for what it was. He told it was the time the Emancipation Proclamation was read in Texas. It is called “Juneteenth” because no one is actually sure what date it was when the Proclamation was actually read in Texas. My response was, “Oh. Got it. By the way, that Rule Against Perpetuities is mindnumblingly opaque.” His response: “There is one question on the Bar Exam about it. Answer ‘C’ and move on.”


    • I agree, if there’s to be a national holiday, it should be the date of ratification. Not just for historical accuracy, either. That would put the holiday in December, which would be preferable to keeping the body count low. Cities like Chicago can’t afford to have many more warm-weather holidays, which are traditionally celebrated with an increase in gang-related shootings.

    • CJ

      I raised this very issue in an earlier post. Biden is woefully silent on Delaware’s slave holdings.

      The Emancipation Proclamation was more of a military strategy in 1862 than it was social policy. Lincoln’s goal was to preserve the Union at any cost. The abolition of slavery was a tactic that gave the North a bit of a military edge as well as placating the abolitionists. But, he would have thrown the abolitionsts under the bus if it would make it easier to keep the Union intact.

      • I heard a CBS news broadcast on it this morning. I thought it was interesting that they chose to highlight the fact that Texas refused to honor the declaration freeing their slaves for 2 1/2 years. One does have to wonder what kind of background these reporters have, since the Emancipation Proclamation declared the slaves free only in those areas of the country where it could not be enforced.

        I also find it hard to believe that the slaves in Texas never heard of the Proclamation until June, 1865. My understanding is that the news of this spread like wildfire, even though the Confederates didn’t allow anything to change while they were still in charge.

        One of the reasons Lincoln issued the Proclamation was that he needed to reinvigorate the war effort. This would solidify the support of the abolitionists — and he knew that they would be the die hard, bitter enders that would be needed to see the war through no matter what.

        It also forever quashed any hope the Confederacy had of recognition by Great Britain (failing them taking Washington and capturing Lincoln). The United States then, thenceforward, and forever seized the moral high ground — it became politically impossible for Britain to intervene.

  2. Recent deaths in the news:

    Herbert Stempel, the fellow who famous lost to Charles Van Doren back in the 1950s and forever changed our view of game shows, died April 7. Is it a product of cultural ignorance or a fitting place for someone whose own ethics alarms didn’t ring that his death wasn’t reported as news for almost two months?

    Vera Lynn, the WWII songstress, died yesterday at 103. I’m surprised she’s getting the kudos she is considering her age and how long ago her best works were produced, but delighted that she is remembered.

    1. I actually read an article yesterday about how a bunch of Twitter folks think that Juneteenth should actually replace the fourth of July. It’s ridiculous, of course, and will only serve to divide us further.

  3. Sure there is hypocrisy, but there is an indoor/outdoor distinction between what Trump is doing and the protests. Why doesn’t the Trump campaign just hold outdoor rallies, which I think everyone would agree would be at least somewhat safer from the standpoint of Covid-19?

    • Dan, Everyone would have to be six feet apart, unless they had to be twelve feet apart, and wear masks, or not wear masks. Trump could hold a rally with each attendee in their own hyperbaric chamber and he’d still be murdering people. The left does not want him holding rallies and campaigning. If you’re over ninety and in a nursing home, don’t go to the rally.

  4. Re: No. 2; Indirectly on Point, or A Propos of Something.

    I am curious. I see Stacy Abrams just about everywhere. She tells us she is the best candidate. In fact, she said that exact thing to Anderson Cooper who was too dumb to ask her anything other than, “wow, really?” What does she bring to the table? It sure isn’t easing tensions between Black Lives Matter and Georgia law enforcement. If anything, she has made relations more fractious. Black votes? Why and why her? If Democrats think nominating her for VP is going to garner Blacks to vote for Biden, they are mistaken. Biden is going to have answer for his own problems with Blacks. The Clinton crime law reform directly punished Blacks more severely and Biden was one of its biggest proponents, not to mention that Corn Pop was a bad dude and little Black kids used to play with his blond leg hairs.

    But Abrams, she lost . . . I mean won . . . in her bid for Georgia Governor and Atlanta is on fire at the moment. (Psst: Atlanta Mayor? Perhaps you should not stoke thos fires in your city. It is going to end very badly.) She is not very inspiring and her comments are rote Democrat spin. Not much substance to me.

    Yet, is it me or is there a history or precedent for potential Vice President nominees to do such extensive pre-nominee interviewing for the gig? Asked differently, is it common for potential nominees to go on every show in the nation to tout their own resume? I don”t remember that happening in the past. I might be wrong but I don’t recall Dan Quayle telling CNN that he was the obvious choice for Bush the Elder’s Presidential bid. I don’t recall that oaf Al Gore doing it either. Or Biden before Obama picked him. Prior to McCain selecting Sarah Palin, I hadn’t heard much of anything about her and she came out of nowhere. I knew Cheney from his time in prior administrations, but I hadn’t seen him making a full-court press offering himself for the job. I saw that a potential VP candidate (whose name escapes me now) was making a lot of news but Black Lives Matter objected because she was a former police chief, so her bid fizzled, and BLM celebrated Stacy.

    Any help would be appreciated.


    • The sad truth is that in every other election, the VP didn’t matter, and despite the fact that Biden may have the IQ of an artichoke within six months of being elected, nobody votes for a president based on the VP, and won’t this time. At most a VP selection can bring in a state (LBJ getting Texas for Kennedy) and often that doesn’t even happen. All of FDR’s VPs were non-entities except Henry Wallace.Hamlin? Andrew Johnson? Arthur? Quayle? Bill Miller? Agnew? Tim Kaine? The list of VP candidates, winning and losing, is stunning for its mediocrity (or not even). Abrams is worse than most, but she’d still fit right in.

    • JVB

      FYI. Biden’s crime bill stripped prisoners in state prisons the ability to pursue college in their last 5 years of sentence by making them ineligible for Pell grants. It was argued that prisoners getting Pell grants denied “law abiding” citizens access. In 1995 Pell grants were like food stamps if you met the income guidelines you were eligible. I know this because I fought for these guys back then.

  5. I have lived in about 10 different states. I had never heard of Juneteenth until I moved to my current state. When I asked someone who was organizing the Juneteenth celebration in town what it was, they responded it was the day the freed slaves were promised 40 acres and a mule. So, the man-on-the-street understanding of the holiday is that.

    • Same here. Nothing about it in Colorado, nothing in AZ, but after moving alongside the Missouri river, suddenly saw that it was a staple for a mid-summer news report showing a couple clips of the parade that rolls through town. Didn’t even connect that it was a racial holiday until after the third year.

  6. CJ

    I raised this very issue in an earlier post. Biden is woefully silent on Delaware’s slave holdings.

    The Emancipation Proclamation was more of a military strategy in 1862 than it was social policy. Lincoln’s goal was to preserve the Union at any cost. The abolition of slavery was a tactic that gave the North a bit of a military edge as well as placating the abolitionists. But, he would have thrown the abolitionsts under the bus if it would make it easier to keep the Union intact.

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