Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/10/2021: Happy Birthday, Jimmy! [UPDATED!]

Jimmy Durante was born on this day in 1893 (“The Snozzola” died 87 years later, in 1980. He’s a semi-regular around here, because it’s Jimmy’s famous line from “Jumbo” (1935) (“Elephant? What elephant?”) that describes the Ethics Alarms offense of resolutely refusing to admit an ethic breach that cannot be denied.

My father was a lifetime admirer of Jimmy, and eventually I joined him: we had all of his albums, and as a stage director I often played his renditions of a ballad (like “I’ll Be Seeing You”) for singers to demonstrate the importance of phrasing and expression, both of which Durante excelled at despite having a distinctive but hardly euphonious voice. He also impressed me with his professionalism. When my father was handling marketing for a Boston banking association, he helped arrange for his organization to be one of the sponsors of Jimmy’s show, which came to the Prudential Center in Boston. The Snozz was over 70 then, but he always seemed ageless, and his energy in person was even more impressive than it was on TV (in fact, Durante had learned to tone down his enthusiasm on the small screen, because it became exhausting to watch). He made his entrance in the stage show rushing on from the wings while singing and flinging his fedora to the back of the stage, where it landed neatly on the head of his band’s bald drummer. My father managed to get our family backstage (though Jimmy was not available because he had a charity appearance right after the show) and I talked to the drummer. I asked him how often Jimmy landed the hat on his head. He replied, “He’s never missed.” He went on to say that his boss rehearsed that bit for hours every week and before every show. It was a split second grace note, but Jimmy insisted on doing it perfectly.

Durante had a stroke after a show when he was almost 80, and never fully recovered. My father, who was uncomfortable expressing emotion face to face but wrote beautiful and touching letters (I hated getting them because they always made me cry; still do), wrote Jimmy, who was then bedridden, a letter thanking him his long entertainment career and explained what his work had meant to Dad. Jimmy’s wife Margie wrote back to say she had read the letter to Jimmy, and he had mouthed the words “Thank you.”

1. Politicizing everything. UCLA’s star gymnast Nia Dennis is getting accolades for turning her floor routine into an ” exuberant and powerful celebration” of black culture. Says Slate, “This routine has everything. Dennis pays tribute to Colin Kaepernick (she kneels!), Tommie Smith and John Carlos (she raises a fist!), and Kamala Harris (like a soror, she strolls and she steps!).” That’s funny: the only way I would recognize a reference to Harris would be if Nia cackled and blathered nonsense. The routine is more dance than gymnastics, but it’s a diabolical gimmick (don’t blame Nia: she has a woke choreographer, Bjoya Das). Any judge that doesn’t give the routine the highest marks knows he or she will be cancelled as a virulent racist.

2. Then there’s the Jeep ad…I’m not going to bother with surveying the ethically dubious Super Bowl ads this year, since they all are unethical for supporting the NFL’s ongoing negligent homicide, but I can’t let Bruce Springsteen’s obnoxious Jeep ad pass. Here it is:

[Whoa! That video was pulled from YouTube shortly after I posted it! I also can’t find a link that has it.]

“To The ReUnited States Of America.” Right. Springsteen is hardly an honest advocate for “the middle,” as a vocal Democrat and anti-Trump shill. The country is supposedly “re-united” because a Democrat is President. The entire theme of the ad is a cynical exercise in Rationalization #64, “It isn’t what it is.” Donald Trump was “divisive” because Democrats decided to paint him as such. Enforcing immigration laws shouldn’t be divisive. Withdrawing from an unapproved treaty with no actual impact shouldn’t be divisive. Calling the biased news media what it is shouldn’t be divisive. Now, calling half the country racists , Nazis and morons IS divisive, and the party that just won control of Congress and the White House has been doing that for four years. Surveys show that that half of the country is more angry, alienated and distrustful than ever, and for some very good reasons, like the current unconstitutional impeachment trial. Got it, Bruce: when Republicans win a national election it’s divisive,and when Democrats win one, it’s unifying.

Update: Apparently Jeep has received so many complaints about Bruce that they decided it was a major gaffe. How can this happen? It happens when the entire company and its ad agency is so overloaded with Democrats and progressives that they can’t see what’s right in front of them.

3. Unifying! The Dallas Mavericks will not play the National Anthem prior to home games this season, presumably because it has become an opportunity for indignant and ill-informed black millionaires to insult their nation and a large number of the team’s fans. Based on most of the comments on team owner Mark Cuban’s decision, the average fan doesn’t understand the motive for his move and is blaming him for being “anti-American.” Sample: “Wow! Another self aggrandizing Yellow belly squalor crawling pink panty wearing lollipop licking pony tail wearing hop scotching left wing loser. Period!”

Morons. If you don’t want every game to start with a Black Lives Matter commercial and an insult to veterans, patriots, Francis Scott Key and the Founders, there are two choices: tell the players to do their political grandstanding on their own time, or stop providing an opportunity for them to express their political views. Obviously the first is the right choice, but the craven sports leagues don’t have the guts for that. Cuban’s choice is reasonable.

4. Tales of the Niggardly Principle.

  • In Coon Rapids, Minnesota, a survey is asking residents if they would support changing the city’s name. In the 1800s, Coon Rapids was known as a place where land owners would hunt raccoons, hence the name. But people have gotten dumber since then, or divisive activists (Don’t buy Jeeps!) want to show they can bend communities to their paranoia by claiming offense at something that isn’t offensive. This is getting easier by the minute, since the editor of New York Times has decreed “We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent.” I had a friend whose last name was Coon;  I guess he’ll just have to change his name or be thrown in the gulag. [Pointer: JutGory]
  • In the New York Times “Spelling Bee” puzzle, in which you have to find words by linking the letters, there was this entry:


Ann Althouse reports that “chink” was not permitted. (In an earlier puzzle, “coon” was declared a non-word.) Racist, you know. Except that the main definition of “chink” has nothing to do with race. She also noted that even though the puzzle in the Times banned “chink,” the paper used the word with its proper meaning nine times in 2020.

  • Althouse, meanwhile, was under fire by some of her commenters for refusing to use the word “nigger” when talking about the word “nigger.” Her defense: “I think once you’ve been informed that something makes some other people feel bad, you need a good reason to keep doing it.”

Lame, Ann. Here’s a good reason: I refuse to allow other people to control my ability to express thoughts and ideas based on their announced “feelings.” Someone’s feelings that a sound wounds them is their problem, not mine. When they use their (often contrived and insincere) “bad feelings” to presume to control me, that is my problem, and my response is to resist their efforts.

34 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/10/2021: Happy Birthday, Jimmy! [UPDATED!]

  1. I used to have on of these >>
    The Maine Coon is a large domesticated cat breed. It has a distinctive physical appearance and valuable hunting skills. It is one of the oldest natural breeds in North America, specifically native to the US state of Maine, where it is the official state cat

  2. 2. Is President Biden the head of the Democratic Party? Is it not the responsibility of the head to send the memo down to everyone else what the message is and to follow it?

    Actions speak louder than words. Until Biden (or whoever is feeding him his lines) gets his act together and demands that his party practices what he’s preaching, lofty words about unity mean nothing. Unless, of course, the definition of unity has changed.

    I should go check Mirriam-Webster.

    • They are practicing what he is preaching, though. He declared war on “white supremacy”? What the hell does that mean? Does it mean that if Trump is a white supremacist and you voted for Trump you are a white supremacist, too? If you are a white supremacist, your government has just declared war on you, and one of those morons advocated drone striking your brain out of existence.


    • Addendum: if you can find it, the recording “At the Club Durante” is wonderful. It’s clibs from Jimmy’s radio and TV shows with spontaneous numbers featuring Jimmy with guests like Eddie Cantor, Helen Traubel, Eleanor Barrymore, Bing Crosby and his old partners Eddie Jackson and Lou Clayton.

      Those were the days…

  3. Re: Bruce Stringsteen and his Beloved Jeep.

    The cool thing about that ad is that it takes place in the middle of the US. That church, located in Lebanon, Kansas, which voted overwhelming in favor of Trump. Ironic, ¿no?


    • The other cool thing is that Jeep is an Italian company now, after Fiat bought Chrysler group, which included Jeep. Well, I guess Dutch, now that Fiat did a merger with Peugeot and moved headquarters to Amsterdam.

  4. Maybe if you’re an awkward eight year old and some other kid calls you a dork or spas for not making the team you can be excused for having your feeling hurt. Adults are supposed to be less susceptible to intentional or inadvertent use of trigger words. To cling to being wounded by other’s use of such words and entitled to righteous outrage is a sign of being a habitual jerk. Imagine if MLK allowed himself to be such in the face of countless slurs and also “implicit racism”.

  5. RE” #2 – as a former ad copywriter, I do an annual review of Superbowl spots – every single one that’s a national buy. I do tend to pull my punches a little because some of my readership (and clientele) is progressive. Here’s my take on the Jeep spot:

    JEEP – A two-minute opus featuring Bruce Springsteen, who has never licensed his music for advertisements, let alone appeared in one. The spot is somber and introspective. Springsteen’s voice is heard only in narration, and his face appears only a few times in what’s otherwise a montage of a darkly-lit winter Midwest atmospherics, with the occasional old Jeep showing up here and there. It’s an appeal for a return to national unity, and that’s an honorable plea for any company spending roughly $20 million without pushing a product. We suspect this spot will prove to be among the game’s most buzzworthy and well-liked, but considering the recent behavior of the leadership of the major political parties, we also suspect the message will be lost upon those who most need to hear it. Then there’s the street level. We don’t question Springsteen’s sincerity, but given his open and longstanding support of Democratic Party polices and candidates, having him deliver this message could be read as a bit heavy-handed. Consider: if Trump had prevailed in November, would Jeep have hired Ted Nugent instead? The spot does deliver a great message, and we hope it sticks; we just think it would’ve been stronger if it featured someone largely viewed as apolitical (think Tom Hanks or James Earl Jones) or, even better, someone who’s a conservative icon (think Clint Eastwood). For those reasons, it’s not quite a Best in Show – even though it otherwise would be, because it’s beautiful.

      • Jeep evidently pulled the ad because Mr. Born in the U.S.A. acquired a DUI this past November. Good research by the team that put that ad together. But maybe any publicity is good publicity. I also noticed the Brucester is depicted driving a twenty or thirty year old Jeep. What’s up with that? Isn’t FIAT trying to sell NEW vehicles?

      • I can tell you the rank and file Jeep workers didn’t like it. Of course, executive and union leadership is part of the ruling class elite. The rank and file have no say and aren’t consulted. Remember when Biden screamed at the UAW workers at the Michigan plant for 30 minutes telling them to get with the program and do what they are told? That was supposed to be a campaign event. The workers were outraged at such abusive treatment. The next day, the union for the plant gave their glowing endorsement for Biden. This ad is sort of like that. The executives don’t understand the workers and don’t understand the hardcore Jeep owners. The workers have no voice in union leadership because the elections are rigged. The elections are rigged because of the money the Democratic Party gets from the unions.

        It is sad when you have to tell the Jeep executives “It’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t understand.” Remember, Jeep isn’t really part of Chrysler. It is a completely independent unit that could be sold off to anyone in a day’s notice. They have their own building, their own plants. They are not an integrated unit in the larger corporation, much like Ferrari was. That is what makes this ad so outrageous. Fiat-Chrysler-Peugeot may have not understood that this was a bad idea, but Jeep should have.

  6. #2 – Did you notice that the Jeep ad apparently ceded Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to Canada? Doncha worry now, we’ll be takin’ good care ‘o dem Yoopers, eh? Dey like da beer better here, anyhoo.

  7. “I refuse to allow other people to control my ability to express thoughts and ideas based on their announced “feelings.””
    So, there is a bit of a catch here. If, for example, you were to employ under the second pillar of character, ‘Respect’, mindful of civility and courtesy, you might modify your language so as not to offend. That requires some knowledge of your audience and some understanding of the impact words can have. It also requires the balance of clarity of expressing an idea versus offending. Is it not possible to use a euphemism and be perfectly clear as to meaning while being less offensive? I think it is. So, Ann is not guilty of being lame. She is guilty of showing respect. I’m thinking here of my own young Black grandkids who have suffered more than enough racism without hearing, unnecessarily, words that trigger strong emotions. I don’t think the feelings of others even need to be announced; a bit of perceptiveness on the part of the speaker would suffice.
    There are times when precise language is required for clarity, and there are times when respect has the upper hand. That is not others controlling you, it is self-control.

    • Separate issues entirely. As a civil individual, I know that civility (Ann says that civility is bullshit, you know) is basic respect for all individuals and society displayed by expressing oneself clearly, interestingly, and well without needlessly causing offense. That’s entirely different from some declaring that communication that is clear, interesting and effectrive must be modified because of arbitrary offense, or hypersensitivity. The burden lies on those who want to constrict communication, and “feelings” don’t meet that burden absent a lot more.

      • Addendum: if Ann is going to write about a word, she owes it to her readers to use the word she’s writing about, and anyone whose “feelings” are bothered by that needs to find another dimension to live in.

    • “If, for example, you were to employ under the second pillar of character, ‘Respect’, mindful of civility and courtesy, you might modify your language so as not to offend.”

      And Jack already always does this. He has never, in the many many MANY times he has written on this blog or its predecessor, used offensive language (by which I mean racist, sexist, and the like) directed at any commenter.

      Or to be even plainer still, he’s written the word “nigger” plenty of times in serious discussions of racial issues, but never EVER called anyone a “nigger” at any time.

      I believe that he has earned the presumption that he never will, either.

      I respect that about him more than I can adequately express.


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