Independence Day Ethics Fireworks, July 4th, 2021: “The Stars And Stripes Forever,” And Other Matters [Corrected]

There are so many important and fascinating things associated with the Fourth of July, and “The Stars and Stripes Forever” is one of them. In his autobiography, “Marching Along,” Sousa wrote that he composed the march on Christmas Day, 1896, on board an ocean liner on his way home from a vacation with his wife. He had just learned of the death of David Blakely, the manager of the Sousa Band and was moved to create his most stirring march—which for Sousa is saying a lot— as a personal tribute. He composed the march in his head, not writing any notes down until he arrived in the U.S. The piece was first performed at Willow Grove Park, a Philadelphia suburb on May 14, 1897, and was an instant hit, as you would expect. An Act of Congress in 1987 made it official National March of the United States of America, so I assume that Gwen Berry hates it too, along with the Star Spangled Banner. (Gwen, arrogant and ignorant social justice warrior that she is, was recently exposed as racist and hypocrite with some old tweets that surfaced. Hilariously, she has defended herself by comparing her plight to that of Justice Kavanaugh, as if 1) she had ever defended Kavanaugh when he was being smeared, 2) there was any verifiable evidence against Kavanaugh as opposed to her smoking gun tweets, and 3) there is no distinction between a 35-year old rumor about a distinguished judge’s conduct as a child and published proof of an obnoxious athlete’s character as an adult. But I digress…)

In show biz, and particularly in the theater and the circus, Sousa’s masterpiece is sometimes called “the Disaster March,” because it was once common for theaters and circuses to have their bands or orchestras play it to alert the audience that there was a dangerous emergency, like a fire. (Yes, it is ethical to play “The Stars and Stripes Forever in a crowded theater). The idea was that the number was a code for staff that allowed them to organize the audience’s orderly exit without causing panic. The march was played, for example, during the Hartford circus fire of July 6, 1944.

One of the strangest and oddly fitting coincidences in U.S. history occurred on July 4th, 1826, when two of the primary architects of American independence, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, died within hours of each other.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone. Since the very first, the holiday has never been celebrated while under such cultural attack. Don’t let the propaganda of America’s haters diminish one of the most glorious and beneficent days in world history.

1. What do we make of this Gallup poll? In a generally confusing set of results, the one stand-out in the recent Gallup poll regarding public’s perceptions of the state of the pandemic was that 57% of Republicans think its over and only 4% of Democrats do. That’s a huge gap, showing an alarming disparity in world view, perception, attitudes and thought process. I tend to view part of the 4% as confirmation bias: conservatives are far more resentful of the State’s incursions on their personal liberties using the virus as a justification (or an excuse) than the totalitarianism-enabling Left. On the other hand, and there are many other hands here, being certain that the pandemic is over is dumb, since if we have learned on thing about the health care “experts,” they have been wrong as often as right. We have also learned that politics has driven the narrative about the virus as much as the facts have. I thought Democrats trusted science, and the GOP doesn’t. That would suggest that the latter would be more wary of the current green lights.

On yet another hand, Republicans tend to be far less risk averse than modern Democrats, adopting the traditional spirit of the nation that Democrats are in the process of rejecting. Gallup does not give the party- affiliation breakdown of the 40% of those polled who say that the nation will never return to normal. I know lots of Democrats who say now that they plan on wearing masks forever, and no Republican. On the OTHER hand, a non-Democrat could easily conclude that we will never return to pre-Wuhan normalcy because power-wielding Democrats will never allow it.

2. Turn your University of North Carolina diploma face to the wall! I’d love to hear an honest, factual, non-ideological defense of this: During a special meeting, the University of North Carolina’s board of trustees voted 9 to 4 in favor awarding the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the university’s Hussman School of Journalism, a tenured professorship, to the leader of The New York Times’ “1619 Project,” Nikole Hannah-Jones. Initially the university withdrew it’s tenure offer, replacing it with a five year contract to teach journalism. But the decision was attacked as racist, by Hannah- Jones as well as other usual suspects, and the school backed down. It has now made it clear that an admitted propagandist who has deliberately misrepresented facts to push a political position and repeatedly lied in the process is a worthy tenured professor in journalism. This should tell us all we need to know about what journalism students will learn at UNC, and the quality of journalist the school will be graduating.

Most headlines I read about this nauseating reversal (though giving her any teaching position was nauseating enough) stated that “conservatives” had objected to Hannah-Jones getting tenure. No, historians objected. Respectable journalists objected. Anyone with any integrity whatsoever objected. For its part, the Times described her as a “Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist,’ as if this political award for a falsified piece of anti-American propaganda automatically settles the question of her qualifications. “Today’s outcome and the actions of the past month are about more than just me,” the serial fraud said in a statement on thanking her supporters. “This fight is about ensuring the journalistic and academic freedom of Black writers, researchers, teachers and students.”

But journalists are not free to distort facts and history if they deserve to be trusted, and journalists, as professionals, must be trustworthy. Black writers, researchers and teachers are free to write whatever they choose, but colleges and universities are not obligated to allow them to spread lies, historical distortions and propaganda in the names of those institutions.

3. Because almost everybody is careless and stupid. Sayeth Admiral Josh Painter (Fred Thompson) in “The Hunt For The Red October,” “This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we’ll be lucky to live through it.” I keep teaching my legal ethics classes that if they are going to depend on electronic communications and data storage, they must, MUST, be constantly vigilant and update their security and systems regularly, meaning at least every month. If the don’t, they are asking to be hacked, and they will be responsible for the harm it causes to their clients and others.

I might as well be Rooster Cogburn warning the rat…

…because the lawyers pay no attention to me, most of them anyway. And thus it was that a hacker was able to infiltrate the 1,000-lawyer New York City’s Law Department using one worker’s email password. The agency’s database holds evidence of police misconduct, the identities of young children charged with serious crimes, plaintiffs’ medical records and personal data for thousands of city employees, among other secrets; the breach interrupted city lawyers, disrupted court proceedings and thrust some of the department’s legal affairs into disarray. Yet the hack would have probably been prevented if the Law Department hadn’t to implement a basic safeguard known as multifactor authentication more than two years after the city began requiring it.

This level of incompetence and technological negligence is not unusual for government agencies, corporations and law firms. It is frighteningly close to the norm.

4. [Retracted!] This was about a strange article in which the author expressed repeated dislike of the social media site and dating app Tinder, to the extent of making her aging father stop using it to find dates. Based on the writer’s other works, I assumed this was a political bias, but I can’t find any evidence of that, and Tinder doesn’t seem to have one either. So I’m ditching the item, with apologies to all, including Tinder, the writer, and readers.

Dina Gachman’s piece in the Times marriage section is here. (“Vows”).

Thanks to Joe Fowler for the correction.

19 thoughts on “Independence Day Ethics Fireworks, July 4th, 2021: “The Stars And Stripes Forever,” And Other Matters [Corrected]

    • Yeah, I can’t figure out where the writer was coming from in her Tinder bias, and jumped to a conclusion that was unwarranted. I’m scratching the entry. Thanks, Joe.

      • Tinder is a dating app, famous for it’s promised ease of sexual liasons. My guess is that the author objects to her father using the app due to the “Ick” factor. I can’t verify that though, since I refuse to pay for access to the NYT.

        • You are a wise man. I pay over 80 bucks a month to get the paper for Ethics Alarms, because finding articles on line is too difficult and I like to compare the versions (and read in teh bathroom, where the Time belongs, but the expense is wearing this.

  1. Today we celebrate the birthday of the United States, well, some of us do, anyway. Some say that today means nothing, because the actions of men more than two centuries ago do not match up with the opinions of people not even two years ago. Others say that today never meant a thing, because this nation is a bad nation that’s just happened to get it right once or twice. Thank God this generation is finally getting it right, and we’re finally moving past the past 245 years, they say. We can’t go back and change the results of the elections in 2016, 2000, and 1980, we can’t go back and convince Teddy Roosevelt not to run in 1912, we can’t go back and stop Congress from declaring war on Spain in 1898, we can’t go back and prevent the Civil War, and we can’t go back and convince the Founding Fathers to abolish slavery right out of the gate in 1787, they say. We can’t go back and make cooler heads prevail in 1775, or stop the arrival of slaves in 1619, or make Columbus turn back, they say. However, we the people of today can break with all of that, and move forward with a new nation, unfettered by that past. None of it means a thing. It’s tainted.

    I seem to remember a man born Saloth Sar, better known as Pol Pot, saying it was now Year Zero and everything before was nullified. You can look up what happened there. I also seem to remember a man born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, later called Lenin, saying everything that came before was tainted and needed to be erased. You can look up what happened there too. Before that a revolutionary parliament that included such luminaries as Maximilen Robespierre declared it to be Year One of a new age, with the months of the year renamed completely and weeks of seven days replaced by weeks of ten. You can also look up what happened there. I can tell you one thing these attempts to brutally reset entire societies have in common: they all failed, and they all failed in fairly short order, historically speaking, although not without huge amounts of destruction. They were all trying to leap forward into a dream that could never be with no real control of where or how they landed (I remember someone else who talked about a Great Leap Forward once too).

    They had all convinced themselves that the past held absolutely nothing worth keeping, and that what they were leaving behind were bad nations that offered nothing good, or at least minimal good. Admittedly, looking back on the history of royalist France where the king could credibly say he was the state, for good or for ill, or Czarist Russia, where the Czar held the title of “Autocrat of the Russias” and which had only done away with serfdom in 1861, or Cambodia, which had been an absolute monarchy before foolishly inviting the French in and becoming a colony, maybe the history did not look so great, and any change looked like change for the better, even if later it didn’t turn out to be so.

    If we look back on our 245 years of history, can we really say it was as bad as any of that? Can we even say it was one-quarter as bad? Can you really say with a straight face that the country that gave this world the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the airplane, the ironclad warship, the electric light, most major communications advances, jazz music and men on the moon, and that opened its doors to literally millions from around the world seeking a better life (12 million+ passing through Ellis Island alone), is as bad as or worse than those places? If you can say that, or give the common flip answer that it’s not as bad as those places, it’s worse, then you’re hopeless, and you don’t deserve to be here.

    Isaac Newton once said if he saw farther than most, it was because he stood on the shoulders of giants. So too do we, or do you dare compare yourself favorably against the Founding Fathers and everyone up to 2020? What utter hubris. Speaking loudly and confidently doesn’t make you right. It makes you obnoxious. Anger is not a substitute for wisdom, in fact it’s the antithesis of it. Threatening and bullying may make you think you got somewhere in the short term, but in the long term they rarely get you anywhere.

    Progress is a march. Sometimes it’s a quick march and sometimes its a slower march, but one foot always stays on the ground to keep you steady while the other moves you forward toward whatever the goal is. Progress can even mean a countermarch, if it moves you away from going in the wrong direction. Progress obviously isn’t keeping both feet planted on the ground, but it is definitely also not a broad jump with no direction, no goal, and no way of ensuring where you land, how hard you land, or what you might hit when you land.

    I for one am sticking with the measured march to progress that started with 56 men gathering in a hall in Philadelphia and daring to declare that day a new nation was born. It was not perfect, it’s still not perfect, it has stumbled along the way, and at times it has fallen short, but each step of that march moves it closer to the best it can be.

    Happy Independence Day, all.

  2. I would also make mention of President James Monroe, who died on America’s fifty-fifth birthday. Some of the last words John Adams were reported to have spoken on his final Independence Day were, “It is a great day. It is a good day.”

    Truer words were never spoken.

    Years ago, I wrote the following:

    “Adams, Jefferson, and Monroe. While it’s true that all three died on this day, we should celebrate their lives as foundational to all the good things this nation has become. They were not perfect men, nor do we necessarily agree with everything they wrote or said or did. But these men, and Monroe in particular, loved their country as much as the hundreds of thousands of men who have died on battlefields (both here and abroad) defending the freedoms these men brought to America.”

    Indeed, Happy Birthday, America!!

  3. For reflection:

    “In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”
    _G.K. Chesterton

  4. Regarding that Gallup poll, I think there is a difference between the pandemic itself being over, and the pandemic response being over. The poll does not specify which of the two things it is asking about, so the results are dependent on which of those two things people are actually considering when they give their answers.

    They pandemic itself is probably over, in my opinion. The country has reached herd immunity.

    They pandemic response, however, will never be over, in my opinion. The government and other entities who observed an increase in their power over people are never, ever, ever going to relinquish that power willingly.

    As for returning to normal, I doubt that will ever happen, either. Expectations for what “normal” means have shifted. Germaphobia has exploded and behavioral responses like mask wearing and obsessive hand washing/sanitizing have been normalized. Working from home has been normalized. Many parents have discovered what their children are ACTUALLY learning in school, and protesting the school board and home schooling have been normalized. Some of these changes are good, some are bad, and some are both.

    Do people even want things to go back to normal?

    Personally, I’ve become a big fan of working from home. I would be thrilled if I could continue to do that, forever. Before the pandemic, I never thought I would like working from home. I thought I would get bored, have less focus on work, get less work done, and my work quality would decrease. I discovered none of that was true. I actually get far more work done when no one can walk up and wave their hands in front of my face to interrupt me. (Yes, people actually did that. Constantly. Or tapped me on the shoulder. Or poked me. I DESPISE being poked.) I have much better focus and my work is of better quality when I don’t have to wear noise canceling headphones, usually blasting classical or contemporary classical music, to drown out office noise. I am willing to work longer hours when I don’t have to spend hours driving to and from work in rush hour traffic. I save money eating lunch at home and buying less gas. I can live wherever I want when I don’t have to worry about the commute to work. It’s great!!

    I think that the poll would have had to have had much more specific questions to get understandable data. “In your opinion, is the coronavirus pandemic over in the U.S., or not?” Questions like that are very open to interpretation.

    • While I agree with you, I think that there is even more to that answer. Many people I have spoken with (guess which side of the spectrum they fall on) have said that the Coronavirus pandemic will not end until not a single person gets infected by COVID-19 or one of its variants again. If that is your definition, well, I think you’ll find that it will never end. This will become another factor in our lives, something we always have to deal with, just like West Nile, or Lyme disease, or influenza, etc. I would say that by the definition that uses the death vs infection rates that my mom’s education as a nurse covered for invoking pandemics, we’ve not been in a pandemic state for a long time now. Unfortunately everyone has a different idea of how to tell if it is over.

  5. Re #2:
    I’m not sure if I can offer a “non-ideological defense” of the UNC Trustees’ reversal in the Hannah-Jones case. But I can say I’m one of the few people in the country who sees the decision as neither a triumph nor a capitulation. And I suppose that as one of the more liberal of your readers and as a veteran of three decades in tenure-track and tenured positions at colleges and universities, I might be the logical… erm… advocate?
    So… Unless things work fundamentally differently in North Carolina than in the state university systems with which I’m more familiar, there are some things the average person might not completely understand.
    First, members of the trustees/regents/council or whatever they’re called at an individual state university, are political appointees. Indeed, being a significant player in party politics has generally trumped having actual qualifications to benefit the university since the ‘80s or thereabouts. So it’s not as if political philosophy is absent from their decision-making. And it has been pretty well established that the initial refusal of tenure was influenced by pressure from (right-wing) politicians and donors. So the lefties and the BLM-ers weren’t alone in their temptations to indulge in a little ideological bias.
    Second, the trustees may be the de jure decision-makers, but in virtually all day-to-day matters, they are expected to simply rubber-stamp what university officials have decided, sometimes even after the fact. This pertains to everything from hires (I think I’d been cashing payroll checks before I was “officially” hired), to promotions, to retirements, to honorary degrees (you may remember the brouhaha when playwright Tony Kushner was initially denied an honorary degree by CUNY because someone didn’t like his position on Israel), to, yes, tenure decisions.
    Trustees, the good ones anyway, are valuable for business acumen, for their reputations, and for their ability to think more long-term. They’re at their best when they’re skeptical, but not when they’re micro-managing. Even if they have problems with a decision, it’s their function to support it unless it’s truly outrageous, and offering tenure to the new head of a program is pretty much standard procedure. Hannah-Jones was not asking for anything that virtually any newly hired person in a similar position wouldn’t expect as a matter of course. (It’s important that she was still offered the job; had they thought the appointment beyond the Pale, the trustees could have denied the appointment altogether.)
    It’s a legitimate argument that Hannah-Jones shouldn’t have been offered the job to begin with. But once that offer is made, the expectations and rules change. I’d argue that the trustees should be under roughly the same kind of ethical pressure as, say, a voter in the Electoral College: you’re technically allowed to do what you want, but… don’t.
    The flip side, of course, is that the presumption always rests with the status quo, so once the denial happened, overturning that negative decision was made more problematic since the burden of proof had shifted.
    Third, tenure is awarded to faculty, not to administrators. Granting tenure (again, unless there’s something well out of the ordinary here) obligates the university to retain Hannah-Jones on the faculty, but not in a leadership position. (I’m not certain about how this works with respect to an endowed chair, so don’t quote me.)
    Would I have voted for Hannah-Jones to get the job to begin with? Nope. Do I think the initial denial of tenure was racist? Nope. Do I think Hannah-Jones comported herself professionally throughout the process? Nope. But once she was offered the job, do I think the trustees should have denied the tenure application which would have been reasonably perceived by all and sundry as part of the compensation package from the beginning? Nope. Because, as in the cases of Presidents Trump and Biden, one or the other (or both) of whom virtually everyone disrespects, the job deserves respect even if the individual doesn’t.

  6. #3 – This is my line of work and a source of constant frustration. Good IT security costs money yet too many of n leadership don’t want to pay for it. I suspect somewhere there’s a poor soul in IT who has proposed it for the past 5 years only for it to be shot down as too costly and too disruptive for users. The sick joke is he/she is now having to clean up the mess because people can’t resist giving out their passwords to scammers.

  7. #1: For what it’s worth…. I just got back from a week at Boy Scout summer camp in north Georgia. The 2020 season was ultimately cancelled, so this was the first in the “time of the China virus”. Attendance was at/near capacity, with troops from as far away as Texas and south Florida, and included a significant number of girls for the first time. Our week was in the middle of the 2021 session, with no reports of problems or outbreaks from earlier ones.

    Almost no one wore a mask; there was no social distancing. There was no vaccine mandate, only a questionnaire about recent symptoms or exposure. Besides the girls, the only noticeable variance from previous years was a new crop of hand sanitizer stations (probably a good idea in any case), and a different method of handling lunch outdoors, that seemed to be geared towards dealing with a shortage of dining hall staff. Everyone packed into the building for breakfast and dinner.

    Obviously, the virus is still around; people can and do still die from it, just as they do from other diseases. Seemingly it can a!so be “over” for all practical purposes, if folks want to go ahead and live their lives.

  8. I know lots of Democrats who say now that they plan on wearing masks forever, and no Republican. On the OTHER hand, a non-Democrat could easily conclude that we will never return to pre-Wuhan normalcy because power-wielding Democrats will never allow it.

    The followingf is related.

    “So almost 70% of Democrats are wildly off on the fundamental question of how many cases of COVID lead to hospitalization; 1-5% is the correct answer; 28% of Democrats polled said 20-49%; 41% of Democrats think 50% or more cases of COVID lead to hospitalizations – a margin of error of 1,000%.

    “(Democrats) also have a greatly exaggerated view of the danger of COVID to and the mortality rate among children, all of which explains why today the states with the highest share of schools that are still closed are all blue states,” Maher continued. “So if the right-wing media bubble has to own things like climate change denial, shouldn’t liberal media have to answer for, ‘How did your audience wind up believing such bunch of crap about COVID?'”

  9. Visiting the Virginia Peninsula this holiday season-

    Spent the 4th of July in Colonial Williamsburg.

    On the steps of the courthouse at noon, the Declaration of Independence was boldly proclaimed to the gathered crowd eager to hear its contents.

    I was nervous they’d edit out the touchy phrasing of some of the grievances.

    They didn’t.


    At the end of the proclamation, with no prompting the crowd of modern tourists cheered. And following that the reader did lead the crowd in a “three cheers” for the United States.

    If you ever have the opportunity to be there on the 4th at noon.

    Go listen.

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