Post Trauma Ethics Stress, 4/27/22: “Gaslit,” SCOTUS, And School Bullying (By The School!)

I had two and a half hours of painful dental work (bill, with insurance, 2,300 bucks) this morning, followed by blood tests from my doctor in the afternoon. This followed the Red Sox losing a game in Toronto after a two-run homer by the Jays with two outs in the bottom of the 9th. The dental work was more fun. Then I learned that my drug prescription insurance had been cancelled thanks to an administrative screw-up on their end. Life is bleak.

1. Is it me? It’s possible that “Gaslit,” the Starz move purporting to be about Martha Mitchell, strike me as more ham-handed anti-Republican/conservative propaganda because there is so much of that now from all angles of the media that my eye is permanently jaundiced. It’s also possible that it’s one more smug “Remember, conservatives are evil and stupid!” entry employing the same broad, unfunny approach that characterized Alec “Oops!” Baldwin’s Trump imitation and “Don’t Look Up!” Whatever the Watergate crowd was, they weren’t stupid, but that’s the version of history we get in “Gaslit.” Julia Roberts is getting races for a completely lazy performance that doesn’t evoke Mitchell at all, ad isn’t amusing either. (She can do better.) Then there was the portrayal of John Mitchell by some obviously too-young actor who was so smothered in padding and double-chin latex that he looked like Jiminy Glick’s father. He still didn’t look like Mitchell, sound like him, move like him or evoke Nixon’s Attorney General and bag man in any way, but he was gross and repulsive, and that’s clearly what mattered to the director and producers. Similarly unrecognizable to anyone remotely familiar with the Watergate cast is the portrayal of John Dean, who would be a fascinating character in a drama. In this amateurish satire, he’s just another idiot, something Dean was definitely not. I guess its not as ridiculous as it seems that the actor playing G. Gordon Liddy is getting raves for playing him as certifiably insane; in fact, it’s predictable, since the cheering reviewers are of the same bias as the film-makers, but it’s a lousy impression. They couldn’t even get the mustache right! Making Liddy into a buffoon removes all menace from the character, and Liddy was genuinely scary, because he was not stupid. In fact, it is clear that there are quite a few G. Gordon Liddy types behind the scenes in the Biden Administration (as there were in the Trump White House), but never mind: only Republicans threaten democracy.

The fact is the Nixon and the gang almost got away with their attack on democracy; that they didn’t was just chance. It remains to be seen if Biden’s puppeteers will do better. To me, “Gaslit” seems like one more diversionary tactic from the Hollywood wing of the Democratic Party.

But it might just be a crummy movie.

2. Once again, the news media misinforms on a SCOTUS ruling. “Supreme Court Allows Elite High School’s New Admissions Rules,” the Times headline says. Well, that’s a deceitful headline. The school, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia (I know it well!) changed its admissions requirements in 2020 in the wake of protests after the death of George Floyd, because a life-tim petty hood dying accidentally under the knee of a bully cop obviously requires that an elite Virginia high school lower its standards. T.J., as the school is called, eliminated standardized tests, instead setting aside slots for the top 1.5 percent of students from each public middle school in the area, with about 100 openings for everyone else, including applicants from private schools and students who have been home-schooled. Admissions will also consider “experience factors,” such as whether students are poor or are learning English or are attending a middle school that was “historically underrepresented.”

The result of all this means that there is less room for Asian-American who would have otherwise been admitted on their merits. Their families sued: the percentage of Asian American students in the school dropped to 54% from 73%.

“Disparate impact,” anyone? Judge Claude M. Hilton of the Federal District Court in Alexandria ruled for the Asian Americans, saying that the changes were “racially motivated.” The discussion of the planned changes, he wrote, was “infected with talk of racial balancing from its inception.” He was overturned in a 2-1 ruling by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which stayed Judge Hilton’s decision while an appeal from the school board moved forward. That meant the new, anti-Asian-American students standards would remain for a second admissions cycle. SCOTUS was asked, on an emergency basis, to block the stay.

It chose not to, perhaps because two related cases are already before the Supreme Court, the challenges to admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina that also work against Asian-American students. But the decision doesn’t “allow” the TJ attempted end-around; it temporarily allows it while the challenge goes forward.

My guess is that the school loses. The school board’s brief argued that the percentage of Asian American students receiving offers of admission under the new program “substantially exceeded their share of the applicant pool,” and that “Asian Americans were the only racial group that was substantially overrepresented compared to its share of the applicant pool.”

“Overrepresented”? “Exceeded their share of the applicant pool”?

Sounds like racial quotas to me!

3. Bad school, weenie teacher, dangerous trend…a social studies teacher at San Francisco’s Creative Arts Charter School brought in cotton bolls, to her class as part of a lesson on the cotton gin and the impact it had on slavery and the Industrial Revolution. The idea was to allow her eighth-grade students to feel the sharp edges of the plants that pierced the skin of slaves picking cotton and pulling out the seeds. In response to complaints from parents, the school launched an investigation into the classroom exercise, and shortly thereafter the school r apologized in a letter to families for the “unacceptable, harmful” and “inappropriate” teaching that did not reflect the school’s “anti-racist, progressive-minded curriculum.”

The teacher was not allowed to teach for five weeks. When she returned, she issued a written apology to families, presumably as a condition of employment.


  • Schools like this one don’t want to teach students about slavery, they want anti-white propaganda. If teachers can’t teach the reality of slavery for fear that black students will be traumatized, what will they teach? Anti-American propaganda would be my guess. You?
  • I know it is expecting a lot for a humble teacher to fight this kind of mistreatment and have the courts deal with such ideological bullying and intimidation, but all Americans have an obligation to fight for justice and democracy when fate puts them in the cross hairs. The teacher should have refused to apologize. I can name several excellent lawyers who would have taken on her case pro bono.
  • This kind of thing must not be allowed to succeed.

22 thoughts on “Post Trauma Ethics Stress, 4/27/22: “Gaslit,” SCOTUS, And School Bullying (By The School!)

  1. Re 1: Reading conservative sites, Nixon is being rehabilitated. Yes, it’s probably a lousy movie, I haven’t seen it nor want to, but you are behind the latest GOP party line.
    Re 2: Concur
    Re 3: Concur.

    • How did I miss that? And why would the GOP want to rehabilitate Nixon? He was more liberal than Clinton, and worse, what he did to sabotage the Viet Nam peace talks were actual treason

      • I’d love to see links to the articles. Because if it is zoe’s usual tactic – it’s some out of the way, unread conservative site that she’s hoping to hastily generalize to all conservative analysts – or it’s some analysis that explains that not everything about Nixon’s administration was the pure evil we’ve been taught it was while the analysis doesn’t actually lionize Nixon.

  2. Commiserations on pain to both jaw and hip pocket nerve.
    Our universal health insurance doesn’t cover dental, so $500 a year in prophylactic treatment is usual at my age.

    • Here $500 is a drop in the bucket. 20 years ago my dentist said: “Basicly, you either can afford deluxe dental insurance of you have no teeth by 60.
      I appreciate the sympathy, zb. Thanks.

      • Despite the insistence from certain senators, Canadian healthcare is not actually universal or free, and dental care is a case of something that’s basically up to the individual. Most companies have dental plans (mine covers most things about 90%, 50% on things like orthodontics) and some people have private insurance. Not sure exactly what you had done, but I doubt it would have been materially cheaper here.

  3. 3. Humble teacher? According to teachers’ unions, teachers are the most indispensable, heroic, wonderful humans on the planet. Which, frankly, is a notion I’m in favor of. This humble teacher should be a Joan of Arc or Thomas of Becket. Teachers should be setting an example for the kids they teach. When I was a kid, teachers were gods and role models. They were nobles. Of course, I descend from a family of teachers and librarians. And, actually, a teacher’s union organizer.

    • I have to admit that I don’t understand the progressive outrage. She brought cotton to school so kids could feel that the bolls weren’t soft and the lives of slaves were more miserable than we thought by just one more metric? This seems like OK knowledge to have. It’s contextual. It’s values neutral. What’s the complaint? I’d love for someone to actually put into words what’s objectionable about this.

      • Isn’t it simply that the school isn’t really interested in having children learn about slavery, but only the political indoctrination regarding the “systemic racism” beginning with slavery? CRT isn’t history, after all.

        • Get with the program, boys. Black kids are supposed to be educated by enlightened schools to be victims first, last, and always. The black kids needed to be made fully aware of the fact they would be traumatized by having to touch cotton bolls. Doing so would magically make them travel back in time as if they had actually been slaves. This would traumatize them. They would suffer PTSD. The teacher would be exerting her privilege of the black kids and oppressing them. The white kids in the class would demean the black kids. This is known as the “Don’t say Cotton” rule.

          • That’s the thing though…. *I* didn’t know cotton bolls were sharp and pokey, I thought they were just like…. fluff. “Not only were the conditions they worked in miserable not only x, y, and z, but also the actual act of picking cotton is painful” seems like a progressive talking point. It is a victim narrative.

            I think Jack’s comment amounts to “They’ve spent enough time, in their estimation, proving that slavery was literally the worst thing ever, so they’ve moved on to current politics.” But then why do the 1619 project? The entire thing was an exercise in pushing “new” historical information in a context cobbled together to push a narrative about the constellation of issues around the origins of America in regard to slavery. If they’ve moved on, it was really recent and they haven’t all gotten the message yet.

  4. (1) When I was in college G. Gordon Liddy came to speak. He made more sense than all the other speakers I had heard at college combined. He didn’t seem overly intelligent, but he made more sense. His talk was about the fact that governments have necessary functions and need to do those first. Local governments need to provide fire, police, and water services. They also need to provide trash removal. Those are the first things they need to provide and the last things they need to stop providing. This was the exact opposite of what happens in our cities and the opposite attitude of our governments. That year, the mayor of East St. Louis, IL had been named ‘Mayor of the Year’ by the mayor’s association despite of (or maybe because) East St. Louis hadn’t had trash pickup for a year, but HAD kept the welfare checks flowing. G. Gordon Liddy may seem scary and evil, but he didn’t get us into the situation we are in now. The Good and Righteous people did.

    3. Teachers like that cannot be expected to stand up until lawyers and the courts are willing to protect them and they will not currently. The most that teacher can expect is that the court will rule their suspension unjustified and revoke the need for them to apologize. The school may be required to apologize for demonizing the teacher to the parents, but the school will be allowed to say that they were forced to apologize by the court. The teacher may be given a little financial compensation. What happens when that teacher goes back to school? I can guarantee that the documents have already been created and backdated that show a long line of discipline problems for that teacher. That teacher will be harassed by the administration and every other teacher in that school. They will also be harassed by the community and the students, encouraged by the administration and other teachers. Eventually, they will be dismissed for unrelated disciplinary matters with the full support of the teacher’s union. Until the lawyers are ready to step up and demand that such a teacher be awarded enough money that they can retire on the spot with the same (or better) standard of living, you can’t expect teachers to stand up to this. You can’t expect the students to stand up to mistreatment either when the courts rule that they child must go back to their abusers after ruling they were abused. I have never seen a case when a student was harassed or intimidated by teachers for conservative beliefs, being a Christian, etc where the judge awarded them tuition to the private school of their choice. I don’t think I have ever heard of a case where the lawyer even asked for that. The victims are always sent back to their abusers. Until that changes, you can’t really expect many people to stand up. If no one supports them and no one is even arguing for them to win, what are they standing for?

    • But isn’t there an excellent chance that all that is going to happen to this teacher anyway? If the teacher is going to lose either way, why not stand up to the bullies?

      Personally, I think it was quite a creative idea on a number of fronts — for one thing it demonstrates why the cotton gin was so important an invention to the United States.

      • I’ve had two experiences with cotton gins. I lived on Whitney Avenue in New Haven for a year or so and I’ve been to an honest to God cotton gin here in Arizona. Cotton seeds are large, about the size of an M&M, and they are integral to the cotton boll and virtually impossible to extricate from the boll by hand. Modern day gins are large machines, not the little wooden box Eli ginned up. The cotton is trucked in from the field and sucked up by large vacuum pipes and then pulled up over the teeth so the lint goes up with the air and the seeds fall down and are whisked away. In the fall, there are piles of cotton seed outside the gins that are easily forty or fifty feet high. From the Interstate, they look like snow-capped Himalayas. By the way, there are a few towns in Arizona (Eloy) that were set up to house black people brought from Mississippi in the early twentieth century to pick Arizona long staple cotton, Pima cotton. Picking has long since been mechanized. Still big business in Arizona. The lint is mostly shipped to Asia to be spun and milled. And Goodyear, Arizona was a corporate town set up by the tire people during WWI when they were afraid their supply of long staple cotton from Egypt (required for making tires) would be cut off so they bought up large tracts of Arizona land to grow cotton domestically.

  5. I haven’t written (or at least finished) a blog post in over five months, or given a Curmie Award in over six years. #3 might well change one or both of those statements. Punishing good teachers has become a blood sport, and it’s got to stop.

    • Ahhh…I actually thought about your reaction while I was posting this! Exactly: this is a GOOD teacher, and she’s being punished, subjugated and humiliated for doing her job well.

      Please alert me if and when you post your commentary.

  6. 1. “The fact is the Nixon and the gang almost got away with their attack on democracy; that they didn’t was just chance.”
    We’re just darned lucky that Forrest Gump noticed those strange lights at the Watergate and called police.
    3. Every year for the past fifteen years or so, I plant a row of cotton in my garden and give the mature plants to local teachers and homeschoolers for demonstration purposes. I have yet to hear from anyone who found the practice offensive. As a child, I actually picked cotton by hand in my dad’s and uncles’ cotton fields, before growing cotton on a small scale became completely unprofitable.

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