Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/23/22: Those Were The Days…

On this date in 1775, Patrick Henry, during a speech before the second Virginia Convention, made what is perhaps the most definitive statement of ethical values in U.S. history: “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

Those were the days. How many Americans would stand with Henry today? A recent poll found that the number was less than 60%, and that, incredibly, a majority of those who identify with one of our national parties would not choose to fight for their rights.

Moving on…I had to ban another Ethics Alarms commenter yesterday. These episodes follow a pattern, with smugness yielding to snark, then insults to other commenters, and finally to attacks on my good faith and alleged fealty to “Fox News.” In this case I offered a week’s suspension, with the caveat that a violation would produce a permanent ban. The response was another insult. I am determined to so what I can to combat the perception of an “echo chamber” here, but if the only remedy is allowing obnoxious and non substantive trolling, “I say it’s spinach, and I say to hell with it!”

Little known fact: Patrick Henry said that, too.

1. Slightly related: for some reason, a comment thread raised the question of whether supporting any or all of Putin’s rationalizations for invading Ukraine was more evidence of Republican Party evil. I don’t comprehend why any conservatives or Republicans are bothering to make the argument that Ukraine is not as pure as the driven snow—in short, so what? International law applies; the Golden Rule applies. Ethics applies.

Ukraine took no adverse action against Russia to justify an attack. Russia is in the wrong and Ukraine is blameless, and it doesn’t matter if Ukraine is as corrupt as the Corleones, or as squeaky clean as Utopia. However, it is legitimate to make the point that the sanctification of Zelinski and his nation as a reaction to Putin and Russia is an exercise in whitewashing.

However, it appears that the latest GOP-smearing operation involves accusing the party of spreading Putin/Russia disinformation and propaganda. Enter the New York Times, which prodded Candace Evans, the black, female GOP gadfly, thusly:

Candace is not one to be trifled with: no weenie she. Her response:

Here is one of those Times pieces. It is especially delicious that it is a Editorial Board proclamation. I know it’s six years old, but there is no reason to believe that the nation has suddenly reformed. Excerpts:

  • “Corruption has been pervasive in Ukraine since independence, fed by close-knit ties between politicians and oligarchs and a weak justice system.”
  • “In a speech in Odessa last September, the United States ambassador, Geoffrey Pyatt, said corruption was as dangerous for Ukraine as was the Russian support for a military insurgency in eastern Ukraine”
  • “And on a visit last December, Vice President Joseph Biden Jr. said corruption was eating Ukraine ‘like a cancer.’”

None of this should affect the U.S.’s support for a nation being invaded by an international outlaw, nor do Ukraine’s flaws make it more acceptable for a foreign power to destroy its cities and kill its citizens. But keeping reality in perspective is always desirable and ethical.

2. I don’t know how a fair observer should react to this. Former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, now running to be the Republican Senate candidate in his state, has been rocked by a worn affidavit from Sheena Greitens, his ex-wife, claiming  physically abusive and demonstrated such “unstable and coercive behavior” that steps were taken to limit his access to firearms. This was her latest tactic in an ongoing child custody dispute after the professor at the University of Texas divorced  Greitens following the sex scandal that led to his resignation as governor in June 2018.   Greitens has quite a dossier on Ethics Alarms: you can catch up here.

Late hit attacks on anyone, including politicians, at vulnerable points in their careers as strategy to coerce them into legal agreements (or as pure revenge) are unethical and untrustworthy. Yet Greitens hardly seems like a trustworthy individual himself; who knows what he is capable of? Mere accusations shouldn’t be enough to derail a political campaign, and yet why would anyone be willing to gamble on Greitens at this point? And why would the Republican Party be willing to risk a Senate seat by letting him vie for it?

If he is public minded and honest, the former governor should withdraw from the race. regardless of how true or untrue his ex’s allegations are.

3. Here is how the New York Times slants the news while pretending to do otherwise.…last week, the Times published a useful and thorough analysis of Florida’s contentious House Bill 1557, which supporters call the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, but that opponents refer to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.  The crux of the proposed law is here:

Lines 97-101: Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.

The language is vague and subject to interpretation, and the preamble of the bill  prohibits not only “instruction” around gender identity and sexual orientation, but also “classroom discussion” of these topics. However, there can be no doubt that the objective of the law is to ensure that instruction, discussion and advocacy regarding gender identity and sexual orientation is being marked as inappropriate for certain age groups, as significant numbers of parents see those matters as best handled by parents and within families. There is nothing in that position that justifies the description “anti-gay” or “anti-LGBTQ.”

Now today, on the Times front page, the same bill is referred to as an “Anti-Gay Bill” and in the first paragraph as “anti-LGBTQ.” That is editorializing and false framing. The Times does this on myriad topics all the time, every day.

It is unethical journalism, and the Times’ editors allow it, deliberately and dishonestly.

4. And speaking of the “T” in “LGBTQ”…trans activists are behaving so unethically that I assume their conduct is creating an ethical conflict for the fair and sane members of their group. First we have the trans Fick, Lia Thomas, who is proudly destroying her own sport (swimming) for biological women; now we have the ugly spectacle of a gay author being punished for daring to defend a novelist who was accused of being transphobic.

Is it necessary for minority groups fighting for what they perceive as their rights to be so callously dismissive of the rights of others? No, it’s not necessary at all; just discouragingly common.

 
 
 

 

58 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/23/22: Those Were The Days…

  1. You’re entirely correct that nothing Ukraine has done justifies the Russian invasion.
    People can still be rightly concerned that support for Ukraine should be cautious and deliberate so as to avoid triggering or being sucked into WWIII in Europe.

    We should also remember that it was previously “necessary” for MSM to stress Ukraine officials’ corruption as part of the deflection from the suggestions that Joe’s withholding funds might be connected to Hunter’s inexplicable appointment to an oligarch-controlled Ukrainian energy company.

    • “We should also remember that it was previously “necessary” for MSM to stress Ukraine officials’ corruption as part of the deflection from the suggestions that Joe’s withholding funds might be connected to Hunter’s inexplicable appointment to an oligarch-controlled Ukrainian energy company.”

      Your theory makes a complete mess of the timeline. We know that “Joe’s withholding funds” could not have been connected to that, and actually was about fighting Ukrainian corruption, because Joe had no authority to make that call himself, and the actual decision was made by President Obama and supported by the IMF, other Western allies, and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. Were all of them just trying to cover up for Hunter Biden too?

      It was irresponsible and looked like a conflict of interest to make Joe the frontman on this action give his son’s business dealings, but there is no actual evidence of a hidden motive here, and lots of evidence against it.

      Whereas we know for a fact that Trump withholding funds from Ukraine in order to get them to announce an investigation into Joe Biden was entirely motivated by personal reasons.

      Also, Hunter’s appointment to that company wasn’t inexplicable; he had previously been appointed to the board of Amtrak by President George W. Bush, so he had experience with this kind of job. He didn’t seem very good at it, and almost certainly got both because of who his daddy is, but that kind of nepotism is sadly typical among the elites.

      • Perhaps you didn’t understand, but we may not be that far apart. I didn’t actually say that withholding funds was connected to Hunter being given a seat at Burisma. That was a story being bandied about in that period, and it was convenient then for the MSM to stress “Ukraine corruption”, suck some of the oxygen out of the news cycles, and divert attention away from the Bidens’ grift. Whoever authorized withholding funds, it was Joe, with his usual puffery, who pushed the story that he was the tough guy who forced the Ukrainian’s metaphorical hand.

        I guess we’re using different interpretations of “inexplicable” in this case. I was referring to Hunter having no actual qualifications to cause the Ukrainians, Russians, Chinese, etc. to seek a kicked-out-of-the-Navy crackhead as their preferred recipient of consultation contracts, gifts, cushy board positions, etc. DC “scratch my back” nepotism crosses party lines, and isn’t really a qualification. But you’re right, there was, indeed, a reason, and it’s pretty much res ipsa loquitur (to coin a phrase) that it was all related, as you say, to his daddy, who carried Cracky along on Air Force Two, and subsequently got his 10-20% “big guy” cut of the action.

        • Willem, you’re not making any sense. So you’re not saying the debunked allegations about Joe Biden withholding funds are true…you’re just saying the media had to deflect from these baseless allegations by…focusing on what the whole world agreed was actually happening? Huh?

          And I have no idea where you’re getting the claim that Biden got some kind of “cut” from Hunter’s work (or lack thereof) in Ukraine.

          Finally, I think you overestimate the quality and qualifications of the type of people who find themselves on the boards of large corporations. Failsons are not rare in the business.

          • I don’t know how I can make it more clear; you’re rapidly approaching sea lion territory.
            I’m saying that then (unlike now) the MSM were more than glad to run with stories concerning Ukrainian corruption since that aided debunking (rightly, it seems) the claim that Joe withheld funds to protect Hunter at Burisma. But this also gave them more topics to distract from the laptop story and/or taint it as disinformation. The laptop and other communications contain references to Joes involvement with Hunter’s (and Joe’s brother’s) deals, such as “10% for the big guy” (confirmed to be Joe, by another business partner) and “Don’t mention Joe being involved, it’s only when u are face to face, I know u know that but they are paranoid” (a text that included that same business partner, Tony Bobulinski, who confirmed its authenticity). Joe, unbelievably, denied ever discussing Hunter’s business dealings with him, even as he ferried him around the world. You should be aware of these things.

            Is it typical for foreign oligarch-run companies to put random failed Americans on their boards, or Chinese state-connected entities to give out multi-million “consulting” deals and $80,000 diamonds as gifts to same? Does anyone think they were doing anything but making investments in access and influence? You’re being obtuse in your denial.

  2. “ I don’t comprehend why any conservatives or Republicans are bothering to make the argument that Ukraine is not as pure as the driven snow—in short, so what? International law applies; the Golden Rule applies. Ethics applies.”

    I cannot definitively say that it is always wrong for one country to invade another, but the bar for justifying doing so is mighty high. Russia has, in my opinion, quite obviously not met that bar, and is absolutely in the wrong. The gross end of wrong. The people responsible are completely unethical, despicable, horrible, and most likely evil.

    That is easily agreed upon.

    Now that we agree on that, what should the US response be to this unethical invasion? That is where the propaganda becomes important. Should the US just YOLO into the fight against the evil Russian empire? Draw our swords and charge? I think not! We are not children, these are not schoolyard bullies, and real lives are at stake here, in more places than just the Ukraine and Russia.

    Calm, rational, thoughtful action needs to be taken, with consideration of the larger geopolitical landscape.

    The media is not presenting calm, rational, deliberative coverage of this situation. The media is presenting chicken-little, the sky is falling, somebody do something! style coverage of the situation. This was understandable in the first few days or weeks, but we are past that point. It’s time for grown up coverage of the news. It’s time to think about more than just who is the villain. We need to think about where we actually stand, what actions are ethical, reasonable and effective.

    If the Ukraine government is completely corrupt, then handing them billions of dollars might be a bad idea. Politicians embezzling money earmarked for crisis management is not exactly a new concept. Depositing money into the pockets of corrupt Ukrainian politicians doesn’t aid the Ukrainian people.

    If the Ukraine government has a history of taking money from US politicians and then giving those politicians kickbacks, that is also relevant. Depositing money into the pockets of corrupt US politicians doesn’t aid the Ukrainian people.

    If Russian oligarchs are all being sanctioned…except the ones who gave Hunter Biden lots of money, that seems important. How much of this war is being influenced by US government corruption?

    If Russia and China are planning to create a competitor currency and monetary system to the current global one, that seems important. Maybe cutting Russia off from the SWIFT banking system isn’t as smart of an idea as it seems. Destroying the American dollar might have some impact on American geopolitical influence, thereby impacting our capabilities to influence peace in the world.

    Offering NATO weapons to Ukraine might drag NATO countries into the war, thereby starting WW3. That seems like an undesirable outcome.

    There is more to the discussion than Ukraine good, Russia bad. There are ethical considerations that ought to be considered once you get past the Ukraine good, Russia bad decision. That is why Ukrainian corruption, Russian motivation, and geopolitical factors are relevant, and propaganda is insufficient. Good intentions do not always make things better. You cannot always make the bad things stop. The ends do not justify the means, and good intentions do not justify bad outcomes.

  3. 4. I think militant activists view everything as a zero-sum game. Gains are only made at the expense of their adversaries.

  4. About #1

    Jack wrote, “Ukraine took no adverse action against Russia to justify an attack.”

    A little clarification on the “Ukraine took no adverse action”; nothing that we know of.

    Jack wrote, “Russia is in the wrong and Ukraine is blameless…”

    That’s completely true if all the propaganda narratives we’re being spoon fed by the media are the whole truth but, knowing their history, I’m very skeptical about that.

    Jack wrote, “it doesn’t matter if Ukraine is as corrupt as the Corleones, or as squeaky clean as Utopia.”

    I completely agree.

    Jack wrote, “it is legitimate to make the point that the sanctification of Zelinski and his nation as a reaction to Putin and Russia is an exercise in whitewashing.”

    I completely agree.

    As for the media; the political left has shown its pattern of propaganda lies in their narratives so many times over the last 6+ years that it’s beyond me why anyone would blindly accept any narrative that the political left and their lapdog media actively push?

    The majority of the main stream media complex has become a Pravda like arm of the political left and they’re pattern over the last 6+ years have proven that they cannot be trusted. I don’t trust the Pravda like main stream media complex and I question all of the propaganda they actively push including their Russia/Ukraine narratives. They’ve earned every bit of my distrust.

  5. Jack wrote, “I had to ban another Ethics Alarms commenter yesterday. These episodes follow a pattern, with smugness yielding to snark, then insults to other commenters, and finally to attacks on my good faith and alleged fealty to “Fox News.” In this case I offered a week’s suspension, with the caveat that a violation would produce a permanent ban. The response was another insult. I am determined to so what I can to combat the perception of an “echo chamber” here, but if the only remedy is allowing obnoxious and non substantive trolling, “I say it’s spinach, and I say to hell with it!””

    That’s really a bummer. You have to wonder sometimes if the long term goal of these kind of commenters is to get banned so they can use that to smear the blog as an conservative echo chamber that bans opposing viewpoints. It’s really sad that they won’t participate in a more productive manner.

  6. Whoa, Jack, there are some major issues with your item #1. As a matter of fact, it’s not going too far to say that you fell for the same trick that Candace Owens (not Evans) played on the New York Times, in your own zeal to blast the Times.

    In approving of Owens’ citation of a past NYT editorial, you say: “I know it’s six years old, but there is no reason to believe that the nation has suddenly reformed.” But that’s exactly what Zelensky was elected on in 2019! Ukraine DID have significant corruption issues, as is not uncommon in newly democratized nations. Also, it’s extremely common for national elections everywhere to turn almost strictly on domestic issues, even when international focus on that country is on larger global matters. I’m always struck when traveling internationally that the front-page headlines in local newspapers, especially in national capitals, are very largely about domestic political “scandals” that are so intricate that an outsider can’t even understand them, even if you know the local language. This is true in country after country.

    Zelensky may be known now for working to save his country’s ass, but that has almost nothing to do with how he came to office as the anti-corruption candidate. As an extremely rough analogy, think of George W. Bush’s election in the halcyon days of 2000 (the Bush v. Gore controversy aside) and what he became known for compared to what he ran on – basically a woolly notion about “education” and the fact that he was faithful to his wife. In this case I’m not complimenting or criticizing Bush, I’m just noting the vast difference between the campaign and the actual time in office in terms of the issues at hand.

    As you say, all of this is immaterial to why Ukraine has to be saved now against an entirely unjustified Russian invasion that has turned, in its obvious operational failure, to the tactic of terrorism against the civilian population. As far as Candace Owens goes, and an analogous situation with Lara Logan, the once formidable war correspondent whose understandable zeal not to get caught up in the (yes) MSM’s overall liberal slant has turned into a bizarre very-far-right Putinesque pose, these seem to be cases of building one’s own echo chamber and even amplifying those echoes until you can’t hear anything else. I think there are lessons in that as well, hmmm?

    • The exchange was notable because of the guileless reporter being unaware of its own paper’s past discussions of Ukrainian corruption. How can I put this delicately: if you think systemic corruption in any nation, especially a country like Ukraine that was steeped in the Soviet kind, can be significantly ameliorated in 6 years (or 10, or 20), I have a bridge to sell you. It can’t be done, and especially by a political naif with no special power. I spoke about this problem at an AID conference in in Nigeria, and was imported to help draft new ethics rules for the legal system in Mongolia. Once corruption gets a grip, it is nearly impossible to fix. But since the Times et al is only currently interested in pretending Ukraine is Oz, we will have to wait for an honest, thorough examination of just how far it has come in a handful of years. My guess, based on other nations and ours? Not very far. Owens’ point is still valid, and it is the one you persistently refuse to see. The Times hides the ball, buries the lede, and throw up sand to suit its own purposes.

      • Jack, a mistake is a mistake, this is an ethics blog, why can’t you just admit it? The point – obviously – is that in this case it makes a decisive difference that the editorial was written in March of 2016, not March of 2022. The editorial even cites then-president Poroshenko as “himself a product of the old system” which Zelensky obviously is not. How is the New York Times “hiding the ball” and “burying the lede” in some present-tense sort of way when somebody comes along and cites something like this from the past? Do you think that conservative newspaper editorial boards had a different opinion of this matter in 2016?

        Or are you actually trying to give Candace Owens a pass on her views of the Russia-Ukraine war, and the smokescreen she obviously threw up here about it? I’d find that very hard to believe. You know how you get pissed off at the ultra-woke columnists of the New York Times and how they seem to get more and more radical with each new column? Something is clearly happening here in the other direction. I may not have ever agreed with all of Owens’ opinions, but I thought she was a valuable fresh face among what has always somewhat bothered me as the near-unanimous bloc of black female Democratic voters in the United States. Now she seems drunk on her own influence or opinions or air time or whatever, and she’s coming across as a far-right nut, and there is that element of it that seems to be siding with Putin and Russia in this horrible travesty. And I’ve seen one of Lara Logan’s recent interviews, and it’s truly one for the nuthouses – what the heck happened to her?

        Nobody is claiming any absolutes about corruption, and we all salute your work on it, but you’re going to have to explain this whole Ukraine-as-Oz straw man – are you seriously suggesting that the New York Times (or anyone) should take a different position in the current war? Come on.

        • I admit mistakes all the time. This was not a mistake. An outrageously corrupt country doesn’t become uncorrupted in a few years. Here’s another one of those questions you’ll refuse to answer: Find me an example of a nation that did.

          • I happen to know a little something about Ukraine. There have been recent books written about this having nothing to do with Putin’s invasion and obviously pre-dating it. I may or may not know someone who’s such an author. You relied on a generalization about countries and – admit it – you didn’t realize that Zelensky’s ascendance was exactly halfway through the intervening period in question and was based on the issue of corruption.

            Of course I am not remotely claiming that corruption is a black-and-white matter in any country over time, including our own with our two incredibly flawed political parties. But the time difference here is decisive, and meanwhile, we have to deal with another flaw in your commentary: the “guileless reporter” being responsible for the newspaper’s own editorials even today, much less six years ago.

            As you perfectly well know, the reporter is NOT responsible for what the editorial board IN PARTICULAR puts in its space. The actual editorials are a separate operation even from the reporting and editing hierarchy. And before you yell at me about either public perception or some Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, answer me this: would you say the same about the people at THE WALL STREET JOURNAL? Because the reporters and editors there have the same challenge but in almost exactly the opposite ideological direction, repeatedly asserting that the news, analysis and even commentary product have NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with the WSJ’s own editorials. I’m sure you know all this, so why don’t you take it into account?

            • I believe that any journalist or pundit at the Times or any other paper is responsible for knowing what his or her own paper has reported or said in commentary within a reasonable period, and six years reasonable. A decade would be a nice cut off point.

              Candidates for leadership in all corrupt nations run on an anti-corruption platform. 99% of the time, they just continue the corruption. Do you have any authority that corruption has abated in the Ukraine? I haven’t looked, but I would be shocked.

              • A Friend raises some good points, but let’s assume for the moment that the country is still just as corrupt as it was before Zelensky’s inauguration. That doesn’t justify Candace Owens’ extreme pro-Russia stance, and that’s what this reporter should have focused on. Here are just some of her recent comments:

                “I suggest every American who wants to know what’s *actually* going on in Russia and Ukraine, read this transcript of Putin’s address. As I’ve said for month— NATO (under direction from the United States) is violating previous agreements and expanding eastward. WE are at fault.”

                “Ukraine wasn’t a thing until 1989. Ukraine was created by the Russians…They speak Russian.”

                “Some of you CHOOSE to be obtuse. You refuse to pursue information outside of CNN. “Russia wants to recreate the Soviet Union and its just like, totally a coincidence that Joe Biden’s family has business interests in Ukraine” is peak foreign policy ignorance.
                Stop choosing stupid.”

                These statements go far further into actually parroting Russian propaganda than simply remarking on Ukrainian corruption. The NYT reporter left herself open to an easy attack by Candace–which is pretty embarrassing.

              • Enjoy the following article, which speaks to your question in an unusually timely way, and which of course does not at all say that the fight against corruption is totally “won” but is extremely meaningful:

                https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/12/17/ukraine-russia-corruption-putin-democracy-oligarchs/

                But more to the point for me is your first assertion that says a reporter has to be a scholar on everything his or her publication has said for the past six years. That’s preposterous, even apart from the wall of separation between the Editorial Board and the news staff. The New York Times has by far the richest daily news report in the country, more so even than the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, both of which I also subscribe to and read or at least check, in that order, after the Times. I must have misplaced by ideological confirmation bias somewhere, huh?

                This constant meta-narrative of yours about the NYT leads to this endless whining by your Steve Witherspoons and all that they can’t get or trust any information (which is especially interesting since Wikipedia would do the job on some of what we’re talking about) rather than just coming out and saying what they think about a confounded criminal war. Katie has now provided some of the punch line about what Candace Owens was really driving at, and it would be nice if some of the daily commenters would just state what THEY think of Putin and his actions – you know, ethics?!? It sure seems to be the issue of the times, pun fully intended if you want it to be. Have a nice day.

                • “and it would be nice if some of the daily commenters would just state what THEY think of Putin and his actions – you know, ethics?!?”

                  You know what else would be nice AF? If you would address all the unanswered questions in your queue before asking anymore. Wouldn’t that be, you know, ethical.
                  Have a nice day.

                  • The reference to “you know, ethics?” is to Putin’s ethics, not yours. Or, if you wish, Zelensky’s, if that’s your bent.

                    My view: Russia’s invasion ordered by Putin is, ethically, very, very, very bad. Your view? The popular copout here that there isn’t enough information available is just that, a copout, which is what a lot of the discussion above demonstrates. Again, your view? It’s the biggest story on Earth, let us know.

  7. “On this date in 1775, Patrick Henry, during a speech before the second Virginia Convention, made what is perhaps the most definitive statement of ethical values in U.S. history: “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

    Those were the days. How many Americans would stand with Henry today? A recent poll found that the number was less than 60%, and that, incredibly, a majority of those who identify with one of our national parties would not choose to fight for their rights.”

    Several years ago, I read a book (I wish I could remember the title–old age setting in, I guess) that very vividly described what the common soldier endured during the winter days of Valley Forge during the Revolution. The situation was really dire, and I’d like to think that I would have had the courage and stamina to endure it. But I am not so sure.
    But I look at the coming generations, and I see people, at least those in college, that, by and large, have never had to endure real hardships and who apparently think that it’s a real hardship when their feelings get hurt. I suspect if they had been around in the 1770’s, out national anthem would still be “God Save The Queen.” Less than 60% would fight for their rights? And neither would a majority of party members do so? I fear for our country. By being overly protected by our parents, and then doing the same for our children and grandchildren, we have never really known hardship, and we are reaping what we have sewn.

    • One of the scenarios that always leaves me awestruck dates from the Civil War. In the spring of 1864, Grant was getting ready to take command of the Army of the Potomac. The army’s core were the veterans who generally had enlisted in 1861 for a three year term. Their terms of service were coming to an end and, should they have decided to leave and go home, no power in the United States could have stopped them.

      Had they packed up and left, the United States would have lost the war. It was a simple as that — no draftee, poorly motivated (and dare I say poorly led?) army was going to beat the Army of Northern Virginia, similarly based on a large core of veterans.

      The Army basically had to go to those men and say, “Well, we’ve done our best over the past three years to kill the lot of you, but you are still here. Will you please sign up for another three years so we can finish the job of getting you killed?” Well, maybe not those exact words, but those men knew what they were signing up for — and they did! A higher percentage in the Western armies, but definitely enough of the Army of the Potomac to finish the war.

      And, by the way, a lot of those men who re-enlisted in the spring of 1864 did march south and did get shot and killed that spring and summer. But there were enough who stayed to make sure the war could be won.

      It it, I think, one of our prouder boasts that our Civil War (at least on the Union side) was one of very few total wars primarily fought by volunteer armies.

  8. Jack: “The language is vague and subject to interpretation, and the preamble of the bill prohibits not only “instruction” around gender identity and sexual orientation, but also “classroom discussion” of these topics. However, there can be no doubt that the objective of the law is to ensure that instruction, discussion and advocacy regarding gender identity and sexual orientation is being marked as inappropriate for certain age groups, as significant numbers of parents see those matters as best handled by parents and within families. There is nothing in that position that justifies the description “anti-gay” or “anti-LGBTQ.””

    I’m not sure why you are defining the former motivation as somehow entirely discrete from the latter.

    Yes, many supporters of the law believe that discussions of sexual orientation are inappropriate for the classroom, especially in lower grades. But they also would likely have no problem with kindergarteners reading a book where a prince married a princess at the end, while they likely would have a problem with kindergarteners reading an otherwise identical book where a prince marries a prince. Both of these types of books are equally about sexual orientation, but only one of them is going to be targeted under this law, and that’s the objective. The vagueness is a feature, not a bug.

    • Society has a vested interest in normalizing heterosexual relationships. They are the default and should be the default.

      That aside, though. Do you not see a difference between a book that features a prince and princess marrying and two princes marrying? Regardless of whether you think the objective of the writer of the latter is laudable. Is there no inherent difference in the objective or message of the books?

      • So your reason is just homophobia.

        There is no danger of heterosexual relationships *not* being normalized. Most people are straight. Society requires no special effort to normalize them.

        When it comes to the issue of whether sexual orientation can be discussed in a classroom, no, there is no difference between a book with two princes marrying and a book with a prince and a princess marrying. They are both equally about sexual orientation.

        There can be many possible objectives for writing a book about two princes marrying. Which one do you object to?

    • “But they also would likely have no problem with kindergarteners reading a book where a prince married a princess at the end, while they likely would have a problem with kindergarteners reading an otherwise identical book where a prince marries a prince.

      At what deviation from a norm does telling a story become pushing an agenda? Is it ethical to use such devices on those not yet mature or sophisticated enough to understand what’s being done?

      • Answer 1: immediately. Answer 2: no. The topic of sex generally has no business being handled by teachers and schools, especially because agendas cannot be screened out, and teachers can’t be trusted. This is life knowledge, and the realm of families and experience. Schools don’t have sufficient time to teach the tools of learning and thinking they are charged with as it is.

      • From whose norm? Same-sex couples are extremely normal in 2022. Students of any age group are already likely to have some in their family, or at least seen them on TV.

        “Not yet mature or sophisticated enough to understand what’s being done” is just a sinister implication. They can understand that a man can marry a woman, and they can understand that a man can marry a man. The people behind the Florida law don’t want them to understand the latter because that interferes with their attempts to teach children that this is abnormal and wrong. Tough: it’s reality, and the more Republicans try to shelter our kids from it, the worse our education will be.

            • It’s not a claim, it’s a fact. The norm is and has always been hetero couples. It’s not debatable. Same-sex households make up about 1% of all homes, according to data released as part of the Current Population Survey. Even if the number were 5X that high, it wouldn’t be the norm, e.g. “normal.”

              Please try to think before you write.

              • Jack, what possible call is there for you to castigate a commenter like this (except that you disagree with her)? Here, “norm” and “normal” have various interpretations. I know what both sides “mean” when they use these terms in these contexts. It’s not like in 2022 you don’t personally know married couples consisting of, for example, two men, which is all that I assume Katie meant here. (Yes, I’m an objective person, I also know the argument that government/society/whatever has a vested interest in specifically normalizing heterosexual unions, which gets at a different sense of the word we’re debating here.)

                BTW for the screamers at me here, I’m not sure it’s in this thread, but Katie has put forth the argument – she can tell me if I’m oversimplifying – that Putin’s invasion is Donald Trump’s fault. I admire Katie going to battle here, as I have, but on this matter I disagree. I have very, very mixed feelings about Donald Trump, but I simply don’t see it the way Katie does. He made a whole lot of strange comments about Vladimir Putin and Russia, but the fact is that a series of events in Europe in 2014 and 2015 under Obama and Biden led to crossed red lines and a refugee crisis out of Syria with impacts in Germany and elsewhere, and an unmistakably botched exit from Afghanistan under Biden specifically emboldened autocrats like Putin and Xi Jinping. Plus, Trump was (gulp) right about NATO members in Europe needing to step up on defense, as we’re now specifically seeing with Germany. Still, I salute Katie’s participation here. God knows I know what it’s like. Don’t sabotage it, Jack – it’s against your own interests to do so.

                • I appreciate your viewpoints, even if I don’t agree with all of them. It seemed to me that Katie was being somewhat disingenous and trying to push “normal” as meaning “something you’re aware of”, and then conflate that with “understanding”, which (on this subject) would be minimal, in any real sense, among young children.

                  • That’s not disingenuous, it’s just a different meaning of the word, one that was clear in this context. For example, my son was among 3-5% of babies born with a tongue-tie, but his doctor said this was “normal,” as in not extremely rare, nothing to worry about, and basically harmless.

                    As A Friend points out, most people are not gay, but most people in 2022 do know and love gay people. Gay people are a normal part of their lives, even if they themselves are not gay or immersed in gay culture. It’s no longer an “agenda” to portray gay people in this manner; it’s just a more accurate reflection of reality than pretending they don’t exist.

                • A Friend: “BTW for the screamers at me here, I’m not sure it’s in this thread, but Katie has put forth the argument – she can tell me if I’m oversimplifying – that Putin’s invasion is Donald Trump’s fault.”

                  Oof, I hope that’s not what my argument sounded like!

                  I was merely trying to refute the harebrained idea popular among right-wing media (and, completely coincidentally I am sure, this website) that Putin’s invasion wouldn’t have happened under Trump. Given Trump’s frequent praise of Putin, I find this highly unlikely. I do believe Trump left Russia in a stronger position, and that there have been bipartisan failures dating back to at least the Obama administration that have brought up to this point, but I do not think Putin’s invasion is Trump’s fault, nor do I think it’s Biden’s fault.

                  • First of all, nobody can say that anything would or would not have happened “if” Trump would have been in the White House. All we do know is that Putin invaded and seized soverign territory in the two Democratic administrations around Trump’s. That’s a fact. It raises what we call a “rebuttable Presumption” that Putin did not want to invade anywhere while Trump was in power…because he didn’t. The reverse argument, that Trump would not have neen abalse to stop Putin from invading is per se weaker by definition.

                    I like you but you hurt yourself by writing silly things like “Given Trump’s frequent praise of Putin, I find this highly unlikely.” That’s just naive. Biden said nasty things about Putin, and did nothing to stop him from going into the Ukraine. Nice words and mean words are equally cheap. And you have been shown that Trump did not leave Russia in a stronger position, and choose to ignore it, saying without backup or authority that Russia advanced under Trump. It sure didn’t invade anywhere!

                  • Okay yes, that’s what I meant, not that you thought it was Trump’s “fault,” but that you dispute that it wouldn’t have happened while Trump was president. I’m afraid the evidence shows that Biden being in office did likely or largely trigger it. Russia is in fact not in a strong position. They have a troubled military, a declining and aging population, and all the weaknesses of a totalitarian society. Putin struck now because he thought he could and didn’t want to wait further. Had it worked, Xi Jinping would be readying for an attack on Taiwan. I say this from neither a position of Trump worship nor Trump Derangement Syndrome. One thing I’m afraid I have to raise is Putin and Xi’s undoubted observation of Biden’s lack of mental acuity. I’m sorry, the man has early stage Alzheimer’s, or something akin to it – I’ve seen it, and he has it, including those sudden weird bursts of anger – and that in itself tempted Putin. It’s just the way it is.

  9. Concerning corruption in the Ukraine; A friend of mine (now deceased) retired after a career with U.S. Customs in Asia and subsequently worked with the governments of Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan to modernize their customs and border protection services as well as WMD detection. He, no stranger to working with corrupt foreign functionaries, was astounded by the extent to which smuggling, extortion, bribery and outright theft were tolerated and sometimes encouraged within all these governments; corrupt “deep states” if you will. Corruption was a way of life there. Because of his efforts to instill honesty and integrity in these agencies, he was repeatedly threatened in all these countries and eventually severely beaten by Georgian thugs in the employ of organized crime figures who profited from the existing corruption. After a months-long recovery in the U.S., he went back and continued his work until the end of his contract. When he returned to the U.S for good around 2005, he said, “I fear that any ripples we made in that pond will disappear within a year or two.”

  10. It’s weird to see a line from a 94-year-old New Yorker cartoon. (“I say it’s spinach, and I say to hell with it!”) But surprises like that make me happy.

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