Ethics Footnotes, 5/11/21: Misremember The Alamo, and Other Alarming Things That Could Never Happen Here


1. The glorious defeat of the Alamo by that champion of diversity, General Santa Anna! The San Antonio Express-News reports that a local activist and university professor, Mario Salas, who has taught African American studies and somehow ended up on the city’s historical commission (though he is not a historian), is claiming that Santa Anna’s army in 1836, the one that slaughtered the defenders of the Alamo, had an all black regiment that has been erased from history. The theory seems to be that if the Mexican dictator had an all-black regiment, he’s not the villain in the Alamo story, he’s the tragic hero: a woke dictator who opposed slavery and fought against the white supremacist Alamo defenders. Like most of the historical revisionism designed to smear American history and its heroes, this requires ignoring a lot of facts.

The Texas Revolution was part of a much wider war that engulfed Mexico at the same time, not a rebellion based on slavery and race. From much of northern Mexico and including Texas as well as states as far from Texas as Yucatan, the war’s primary issue was Santa Anna’s betrayal of the federalists and his abrogation of the 1824 Mexican constitution when he sought absolute dictatorial power. He abolished state legislatures and redrew state boundaries into military districts. His favored treatment of those who opposed him was to execute whole regions. Keeping slavery in Texas was indeed a bone of contention among the mostly Southerners who settled the region, but non-slave states in Mexico were rebelling as well.

Santa Anna would have been a villain if all his soldiers were black.

2. Oh! The defendant deserved to be attacked by the judge! Chief Magistrate Cary Hays III of Crawford County, Georgia “physically assaulted an inmate while the inmate was handcuffed, shackled at the feet, and accompanied by a law enforcement officer,” according to an ethics complaint. This is officially an allegation, but there is a video, and there were plenty of witnesses.

On December 2020, the inmate began cursing at Judge Hays and continued to do so as he was led out of the conference room where his bond hearing took place. Judge Hays “verbally engaged the inmate,” who cursed at Hays again. Hays followed the inmate into the hallway, grabbed him and pushed him into and up against a wall. The inmate did not physically threaten Judge Hays, attempt to escape or flee from custody.

Judge Hays’ defense? He says he didn’t hurt the guy, and if the video had sound and included what the inmate called him, his actions would be considered justified.

No, Your Honor, they wouldn’t.

3. This is interesting...This website purports to show the relative party affiliations of various occupations. None of them come as great surprises: 90% of those in the fossil fuel industry are Republicans; 60% of the military vote red; business leadership is just barely more Republican than Democrat (55%-45%); the law is 73% Democrats; teaching about 80%; performing arts just under 90% Democrat (as my Facebook page would illustrate); academia 90%; editors 92%.

According to the site, the publishing industry is 100% Democrat.

4. “Boy, they’re strict! Three University of Massachusetts Amherst female freshmen were suspended for not wearing face masks while outside and off-campus. They were penalized with loss of their academic credits for the semester, as well as $16,000 in tuition each. Someone sent administrators a photo of the girls posing maskless. Yes, we are creating young communists all over America.

I can defend the school’s right to enact a protocol requiring students to wear masks at all times, based on protecting the student body. It’s idiotic; it’s hysterical; it’s unnecessary and its an abuse of power, but the school has the power to do it, and I doubt the students have any recourse.

5. But this was going really too far...A New York State Supreme Court judge reversed Syracuse University’s suspension of the Alpha Chi Rho fraternity because a guest yelled a racial slur after being at the fraternity house, and after he had left the campus. The Syracuse University Appeals Board reversed the decision to suspend the fraternity, but that ruling was invalidated by E. Dolan Evanovich, SU’s senior vice president of “enrollment and the student experience.”

New York Supreme Court Judge Scott DelConte said in his opinion that Alpha Chi Rho “did nothing wrong.”One person yelled a racial slur, that person was not a member of the fraternity who was a guest of a member at the fraternity on the day he made the racial slur and the remark occurred off-campus. It took a judge to point out that suspending the fraternity under these facts is insane. That is guilt by association that even Joe McCarthy would have thought was extreme.

6. And speaking of totalitarian methods on campus, in this fascinating essay FIRE recounts the persecution by Central Michigan University of a tenured professor for reading the word “nigger” on class while quoting a Supreme Court opinion. The essay also has a useful compendium of related cases.

25 thoughts on “Ethics Footnotes, 5/11/21: Misremember The Alamo, and Other Alarming Things That Could Never Happen Here

  1. A school has the right to enact a protocol requiring students to wear masks at all times…
    You can defend that? I understand the restriction on school property but then off-campus? What about the bedroom? In a restaurant?

      • If the school has strict rules about require masks while on campus, and masks work to stop the spread of the virus, what difference does it make if they wear masks off-campus or not? As long as they’re wearing the masks while on campus, then even if they get infected off-campus, the masks will prevent them spreading it, right?

        In any case, I suspect the girls have a decent legal case here, as numerous photos and video exist of UMass-Amherst’s hockey team and hundreds of other students celebrating without masks after winning the NCAA championship last month. If none of those students were punished, then they can make a case that they’re being singled out and treated unfairly, can they not?

        • As long as they’re wearing the masks while on campus, then even if they get infected off-campus, the masks will prevent them spreading it, right?

          No. Nobody has ever maintained that masks are 100% effective in preventing the spread of the virus. It’s better than nothing, that’s all. Maybe not even that.

          • Obviously the school thinks masks are quite effective, though. Effective enough to warrant such draconian punishment for a first offense, which, as far as they know, was a single moment of masklessness to take a photo.

          • “It’s better than nothing, that’s all. Maybe not even that.”

            No, it’s worse than nothing. It is perpetuating a lie. (And a politically-motivated, government-sponsored lie, at that.)

          • Well, the CDC is now admitting that the chance of catching COVID outside without a mask is essentially 0. The 10% figure they used was from a study that included a mixture of indoor and outdoor exposure.

            So, if I make you stick your head in a bucket of tapioca pudding every morning because I claim it will reduce the chance of catching COVID, is that acceptable? If you are going to take away people’s rights ‘for their own good’, you should at the very least have some convincing data that it is beneficial if not absolutely necessary.

      • If only they were refusing to wear masks off-campus as a form of protest against UMass’ totalitarian overreach, then it would be protected political speech, right? But, probably too late to make that claim.

      • MLB players get paid millions, sometimes hundreds of millions, of dollars to obey the rules. College students don’t. I don’t find this argument even the slightest bit compelling.

        • What does compensation have to do with it? They are organizations, with supervised participants, whose conduct affects the viability of the whole. That’s the parallel, and it’s 100% valid. Players who get infected off the field jeopardize the team. Students who get infected off campus jeopardize the school, students and faculty. Both the school and the team have a right to insist on reasonable conditions as a predicate of participating.

          I agree that the sanctions on the students were wildly excessive. But the protocols can be justified.

          • Totalitarianism is always justified by arguments of “its for the greater good”. It is a facile argument. Anything can be justified as being for the greater good with the right arguments.

            Compensation is a critical distinction in this case. Paying someone to do something is much different than enacting totalitarian rules that order someone to do something, or else be penalized a massive amount of time and money. If I pay someone to stand out on a street corner wearing a chicken costume and twirling a sign like a doofus, that is much different than ordering everyone on a college campus to dress up like a chicken and stand on a street corner twirling signs like doofuses. The difference is the payment.

            If Universities declare that chicken costumes lower the risk of spreading covid so everyone must wear one 24/7 in order to attend college, that would be considered absurd. Why is declaring that everyone must wear a device that obstructs breathing, causes dizziness, headache, heart palpitations and tooth decay any less absurd? A mask is better than nothing? By how much? Is that “better than nothing” amount actually worth being light headed, with an aching head, fluttery heart, and rotting teeth? It is absurd.

            How many of those students are vaccinated? How many have already had covid? This mask wearing obligation doesn’t seem to take that into consideration. That is absurd as well.

            There is no ethical obligation to engage in absurd behaviors at the behest of totalitarians. I don’t agree that there is any ethical obligation to turn oneself over to some notion of the collective good. There is an ethical obligation not to go around knowingly and deliberately infecting people, but there is no ethical or moral obligation to acquiesce to vague and unscientific ideas l like “it’s better than nothing.” How MUCH better than nothing? Enough to make hypoxia a valid alternative? If you cannot answer that, then your argument is not valid. It’s just an opinion. Paying someone to do what you want is very different from imposing your will on the masses by fiat.

            • As I said, the punishment was unreasonable. But in the case of the players or the students, all parties have contractual obligations. The students knew the rules, and the players know the protocols. And if they don’t like them, they can go elsewhere. In both cases, the requirement isn’t “absurd.” An outbreak can shut down the baseball season, or live classes. Taking reasonable measures to limit risk is not a chicken suit.

  2. Apparently Mario Salas is fine with the slaughter that happened at the Alamo where some of the men who fought against Santa Anna were Tejanos and none of them were spared except one who left the Alamo earlier to carry a message to Sam Houston. In addition Tejanos (Texans of Hispanic heritage) fought with San Houston at the Battle of San Jacinto.

  3. The entire state of Massachusetts can bite me. The university’s actions cannot be defended on any logical, ethical, or medical principles, and someone needs to hold the state to account.

    ACLU? Bueller? Bueller?

    If the state’s actions can be upheld legally, and a government agency can be allowed to dictate the minutia of private behavior off premises at the risk of tens of thousands of dollars in penalties, then then the whole concept of civil rights is a farce.

  4. 3. Verdant Labs appears to have done a yeoman’s job in analyzing the data from the FEC, some 20 million records. Just to download the data, on my laptop with a high speed internet connection, would take an estimated 1-2 hours. Then, they would have had to go through those records to sort and total them by occupation and political party. They do acknowledge that the data does not take into account that adherents to one party may donate more than those of another party.
    To be a bit more specific, it was not publishers, but book publishers, that showed up as 100% Democrat, along with research psychologists, art conservators, costume designers, choreographers, cinematographers, and playwrights, and maybe some others I did not see. Despite what some might think, union organizers were only 99% Democrat.
    They also used the data to show party affiliation tendency by name:
    It is a bit interesting to look at the names at the top and the bottom of the list (those most closely associated with one party or the other, though we certainly should avoid the tendency to stereotype people by their given name.

  5. 4. “They were penalized with loss of their academic credits for the semester, as well as $16,000 in tuition each.”
    First, anyone who would send their child to any of these overpriced socialist academies ought to have their head checked.
    Second, no, the three students weren’t penalized $16,000 each, their PARENTS were penalized $16,000 each. If some school bureaucrat did this to me (and my daughter) over some jerk reporting these girls for such a trivial thing, and there was no recourse on appeal, I would send my daughter to another school and spend an additional $16K to discover who the reporting person was, and figure out a legal way to exact $32K worth of retribution. Actions have consequences.

    • IDK about you, but my undergraduate student loans were in my name, and I am that paid them off, not my parents. If UConn kicked me out for disobeying a rule I didn’t think was constitutional, it would be me stuck with a extra semester of student loans to pay off.

      • Just reacting from my own autobiography, I guess. I paid for my daughter’s college and she was able to start her nursing career debt free. Your mileage may vary.

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