Monday Mid-Day Ethics: “It’s A Grand Old Flag!” Edition

And if the American flag triggers anyone…

Betsy Ross flag

…they can, as George Washington used to say, “bite me.”

It was George, according to legend, that asked Philidelphia seamstress Betsy Ross to make the first American Flag with stars on a blue field along with red and white stripes. Historians have been unable to conclusively prove or disprove this story, but if ever there was a case where “print the legend” was appropriate, this would be it. The design wasn’t George’s: the Continental Congress adopted a resolution during the Revolutionary War stating that “the flag of the United States be thirteen alternate stripes red and white” and that “the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” Each new state accepted into into the United States after independence got its own stripe and star, but it quickly became clear that this plane would end up with a flag having either very thin stripes or being longer than it was wide. In 1818, Congress enacted a law stipulating that the 13 original stripes be restored and that only stars be added to represent new states. (Good idea.) It was on June 14, 1877 when the first Flag Day observance was held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the Stars and Stripes. The flag was flown from all public buildings across the country. In 1949 Congress officially designated June 14 as Flag Day, a national day of observance.

1. “Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!” Are you sick of reading that? Not as sick as I am of having reason to write it, I bet. Researchers analyzed reporting from major TV networks and newspapers during the first 60 days of the five most recent Presidencies. They found that only 19% of Biden coverage was negative. When you consider almost all of the less than enthusiastic coverage had to come from Fox News, one has to conclude that ABC, NBC and CBS was nearly 100% positive. Meanwhile,, 62% of stories on former President Donald Trump were negative.

“Why have journalists stopped being adversarial to Biden?” the Washington Examiner asks without giggling (though a newspaper can’t literally giggle)….

“Biden is the least accessible president in a century, serving 64 days before holding a press conference. “Does that matter?” a USA Today headline shrugged. When Biden finally spoke, reporters didn’t inquire about the COVID-19 pandemic, instead asking “time-wasting questions,” noted journalism think tank Poynter.While Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki holds regular briefings, she rarely gets grilled. When Dr. Anthony Fauci’s trove of concerning emails was made public, no reporter asked about it. If interrogated, Psaki deflects and says she’ll “circle back.” Or she offers mind-numbing non-sequiturs, such as when the stock market faced a crisis due to the GameStop fiasco. “Well, I’m also happy to repeat that we have the first female treasury secretary,” Psaki smirked.”

My Facebook friends think Psaki is wonderful.

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Glenn Greenwald Is Now Apparently A Traitor Because He Calls Out Journalists And Democrats On Their Lies

Pulse massacre

Even before he quit The Intercept, the investigative news organization that he helped found, in protest of its refusal to report the Hunter Biden laptop story so it wouldn’t hurt Joe Biden’s prospects in the 2020 election, journalist Glenn Greenwald was calling out the mainstream media for flagrant dishonesty and partisan reporting during the Trump administration. Greenwald, who is a non-partisan critic and a libertarian muckraker, is now being accused of being a “traitor” by progressives because he’s doing what reporters used to regard as their duty. How dare a journalist deliberately undermine a false narrative being advanced by the news media for “the greater good”?

His recent exposé shows why Greenwald is an ethics hero as well as a possible savior of his profession, which looks like it is going down for the proverbial third time.

Since it is “Pride Month”—yes, we have a special month celebrating how people have sex and who they have sex with—politicians decided to use the approaching five year anniversary of the PULSE massacre in Orlando to grandstand about LGBTQ hate crimes, and, by extension, those evil conservatives who clearly hate gays and transsexuals. Omar Mateen shot and killed 49 people on July 22, 2016 at an Orlando gay nightclub, so the narrative has become that Mateen, was motivated by anti-LGBT hate. This is simply untrue; it isn’t even a matter of controversy. Mateen was an Islamic terrorist, and his motive was to punish innocent Americans for President Obama’s bombing campaigns in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. He made that undeniable in what he wrote and said. He probably didn’t even know PULSE had a gay clientele. All evidence shows that he chose PULSE at random.

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Andrew Sullivan Points Out The Obvious Inconvenient Facts Like They Are A Revelation, But Since He’s Not A Conservative, Maybe Progressives And The News Media Will Accept Reality

death after Floyd

Nah.

In his latest essay on substack, once-conservative-blogger-turned-progressive-shill (because he cared about gay marriage more than anything else)-turned-independent-gadfly Andrew Sullivan demonstrates in detail that what Ethics Alarms (and everyone else paying attention) knew would happen has, in fact, happened. If we ruin every police officer who shoots a black citizen in the line of duty, and allow Black Lives Matter to demonize such officers regardless of the circumstances, we get dangerously hesitant law enforcement, passive policing, more crimes by blacks and and police actively avoiding confrontations with black suspects.

Well, of course. This isn’t hard. But Andrew, a moderate at heart, is a kind-of progressive and always hated Donal Trump, so at least he won’t be accused of “mouthing Fox News talking points” when he states the obvious. Sullivan is also smart, a fine writer, and knows how to make a case, but during the Great Stupid in the course of the George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck, Facts Don’t Matter. But at least he tries. His case, however, is a bit like arguing that the night follows day.

His careful if annoying article deserves a full read, but here are some excerpts and some comments.

Let’s begin with data quoted by the Times,and in turn by Sullivan:

“Homicide rates in large cities were up more than 30 percent on average last year, and up another 24 percent for the beginning of this year, according to criminologists … Homicides in Portland, Ore., rose to 53 from 29, up more than 82 percent; in Minneapolis, they grew to 79 from 46, up almost 72 percent; and in Los Angeles the number increased to 351 from 258, a 36 percent climb … Homicides in Philadelphia are up almost 28 percent, with 170 through May 9, compared with 133 in the same period last year; in Tucson, Ariz., the number jumped to 30 from 17 through May 13, an increase of 76 percent.”

After considering and rejecting other explanations (In a typical Times bit of misdirection, a headline today reads “As Virus Recedes, Mayors Confront An Old Adversary: Rising Crime.” It’s the pandemic’s fault, and if it isn’t, this is nothing new!), Sullivan (correctly) fingers the George Floyd incident:

Before Floyd, no big increase in homicides, aggravated assaults, and shootings. After, a huge spike.Of course, that is not causation. But it’s one hell of a correlation — and no other event seems relevant. It’s as if the Floyd murder, and the subsequent urban chaos, sent a signal: the cops are on the defensive. Which means murderers can go on the offensive. And once lawlessness establishes itself, it tends to compound. A few gang murders can soon morph into tit-for-tat urban warfare.”

Gee, ya think?

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How Newt Gingrich Taught Me Why We Don’t Have An ACLU Any More

NewtGingrich

Many years ago, when I was just a little tiny ethicist and ran a research foundation for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, I was invited to a Chamber executive retreat. By far the most interesting feature was a working lunch with young Congressman Newt Gingrich as the speaker. This was long before most American knew about Newt, who was considered something of a wonk and proved it that afternoon.

Rep. Gingrich gave the clearest presentation of organizational structure and function I had ever heard or have read about since as part of his seminar on long-range planning. He handed out a chart showing a pyramid with “MISSION” at the point, “GOALS” beneath, “OBJECTIVES” beneath that, “STRATEGY” next going down, then “TACTICS,” and finally OPERATIONS as the long base. He went through many examples of failed and successful organizations, making many fascinating points, including (I still have my notes somewhere):

  • You can’t have a strong organization without a strong and clear mission.
  • An organization in which the goals start to become inconsistent with the mission will lose its integrity and direction.
  • If the organization’s strategies are polluted by parochial and personal goals of staff and leadership, the goals will become eccentric and scattershot, and mission will become meaningless.
  • Even the best mission cannot survive inadequate operations, which is why idealists and ideologues so often make poor leaders.
  • The best operations imaginable won’t save flawed mission (Newt’s example: Nazi Germany), and
  • “If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s easy to get there, but it won’t be worth the trip.”

I hadn’t thought about Newt’s private seminar for a long time, but it popped back into what passes for my head when I read this piece, “Once a Bastion of Free Speech, the A.C.L.U. Faces an Identity Crisis.”

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Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/13/2021: All Sorts of Stuff!

Junk

Today in ethics history, in 1971, the New York Times published stolen documents in order to try to turn public opinion against the Vietnam war and the administration of Richard Nixon. On June 30, On June 30, the Supreme Court ruled that the Times had the right to publish the material, a leap down a slippery slope that may have been (barely) justified with a responsible, trustworthy, objective and non-partisan news media, but has, as some predicted at the time, provided a motive for criminal activity, such as leaks by government lawyers for partisan goals, that has done incalculable harm to the nation.

The New York Times published portions of the 47-volume Pentagon analysis of how the U.S. commitment in Southeast Asia grew over a period of three decades, especially during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. It had been stolen by Daniel Ellsberg, a former Defense Department analyst turned antiwar activist who gave them to the Times. The Times was also an opponent of the war and especially of President Richard Nixon. Though the controversy was framed as a “the public has a right to know” issue, it was also a partisan and ideological strike by the Times. Now, of course, the paper does little else when political matters are involved.

1. Let’s start with some good ethics news. Uber driver Latonya Young picked up a passenger named Kevin Esch. They got to chatting, and Latonya, 43, disclosed that she had dropped out of school at age 16 when she gave birth to her now 26-year-old son. She wanted to re-enroll in classes at Georgia State University, but didn’t have the funds to pay the necessary $700. Without informing her, Esch paid the $700 for her, allowing Latonya to re-enroll, She finally graduated with a bachelor of science in criminal justice.

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Belated Observations On Mara Gay’s Racist Anti-America Rant

mara Gay

I apologize for taking almost a week to cover this. I admit to having massive cognitive dissonance involving MSNBC, which long ago jumped the Megalodon and can no longer pretend to be anything but a pure progressive propaganda organ without objectivity, decency, honesty or moderation. Or shame, of course. Still, sometimes you can’t look away, as with a particularly gory roadside accident. When New York Times editorial board member Mara Gay, an “important editor” by the Times’ own admission who covers local politics, says this on national television, as she did to “Morning Joe,” attention must be paid, (even if its five days late):

“You know, the reality is here that we have a large percentage of the American population — I don’t know how big it is, but we have tens of millions of Trump voters who continue to believe that their rights as citizens are under threat by simple virtue of having to share the democracy with others. I think as long as they see Americanness as the same as one with whiteness, this is going to continue. We have to figure out how to get every American a place at the table in this democracy, but how to separate Americanness, America, from whiteness. Until we can confront that and talk about that, this is really going to continue. I was on Long Island this weekend, visiting a really dear friend. And I was really disturbed. I saw, you know, dozens and dozens of pickup trucks with you know, expletives against Joe Biden on the back of them, Trump flags, and in some cases, just dozens of American flags, which you know is also just disturbing, because essentially the message was clear, this is my country. This is not your country. I own this. And so until we’re ready to have that conversation, this is going to continue…Because, you know, the Trump voters who are not going to get onboard with democracy, they’re a minority. You can marginalize them, long-term. But if we don’t take the threat seriously, then I think we’re all in really bad shape.

For some strange reason, many people took offense at this. Not anyone at MSNBC, where basic journalism—which is not acknowledged there—required at least a “Wait, what did you just say?”, as ABC’s Ted Koppel essentially said 50 years ago  to Los Angeles Dodgers executive Al Campanis, who had explained on the air that there were no black major League managers because blacks “lacked the necessities” for the job. But no. Mika, Joe and the gang just nodded, as if Gay had explained that the world spins.

Al Campanis was fired. In contrast, the New York Times defended Gay, as if her comments were defensible. Not only were her comments indefensible on their face, the New York Times continuing to employ such a racist and hyper-partisan propagandist is indefensible. The Times tweeted,

“New York Times editorial board member Mara Gay’s comments on MSNBC have been irresponsibly taken out of context. Her argument was that Trump and many of his supporters have politicized the American flag. The attacks on her today are ill-informed and grounded in bad-faith.”

Ann Althouse, whose blog I continue to look in on now and then despite her declaring that her readers opinions and ideas annoy her, reacted,

“So I’m going to say that tweet is ill-informed and grounded in bad-faith! What a ridiculous blanket statement with no regard for the individuals who listened to Gay and made our own interpretations and expressed our opinions. It’s so hypocritical to obsessively protect her while attacking all her critics with broad-brush insults!”

It’s not hypocritical, it is revealing. The Times has the same ideological goal as Gay: undermine American values and pave the way for the radical undoing of American democracy using race as a wedge and weapon. If this was not the case, an editor who condemned “whiteness” in public would be treated exactly as one who condemned “blackness”: she would be fired, disgraced, and shunned as the racist she is.

A few additional points:

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Saturday Night Ethics Fever, 6/12/21: Cruel World Edition [Corrected]

John-Travolta-Saturday-Night-Fever

1. Cruel reality. You know, I’m starting to feel less and less sorry for Merrick Garland. The man who should have been confirmed as a member of the Supreme Court has revealed himself as an ultra-political and partisan Attorney General. His latest is to darkly hint of scrutinizing “post-election audits to ensure they abide by federal statutory requirements to protect election records and avoid the intimidation of voters.” He wrote in part,

“As part of its mission to protect the right to vote, the Justice Department will, of course, do everything in its power to prevent election fraud and, if found, to vigorously prosecute it. But many of the justifications proffered in support of these post-election audits and restrictions on voting have relied on assertions of material vote fraud in the 2020 election that have been refuted by law enforcement and intelligence agencies of both this Administration and the previous one, as well as by every court — federal and state — that has considered them.”

That’s simply a lie. The claims have not been “refuted,” nor has the Federal government shown sufficient curiosity about “election fraud” to investige any of the many suspicious events related to mail-in ballots counted in Democratic strongholds in closely contested states.

Republicans take this as a veiled threat to interfere with the limited audits taking place in Arizona and Georgia. Arizona state Senator Wendy Rogers (R) minced no words in her response to the almost-SCOTUS justice, saying in part,

“You will not touch Arizona ballots or machines unless you want to spend time in an Arizona prison….The free state of Arizona will not tolerate this federal meddling. If Attorney General Merrick Garland thinks he has a right to our ballots and machines he should go to court. If he uses force when multiple courts have already authorized this audit he will be in violation of the law.”

Translation: “Bite me.”

I approve.

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The Unethical Ingredients Of The West Point High School Valedictorian Fiasco, Part II: What’s Going On Here? [Corrected]

Valedictorian

Who are the ethics villains, heroes, fools and otherwise in the West Point High School graduation honors debacle?

Observations:

Number One, and nothing else is even close: If society were capable of looking at human beings as human beings and not as members of teams, groups and tribes, this would have still been a mess, but a much less toxic one. There are groups, political parties, activists, irresponsible scholars and race-hucksters of all kinds who benefit and profit by dividing the United States along racial fault-lines, and they will do it for as long as they can, no matter what harm it does to the nation, families, individuals, institutions, values and the enjoyment of life. This is an example of what we have to dread in greater frequency and damage if we don’t find a way to stifle these villains, for that is what they are.

Related to this are accounts that the president of the local NAACP was elated. This isn’t a team sport: two young women were honored for their achievements, not their race. If it would be offensive for a local group to express pleasure that two white students received an honor, it is equally obnoxious and inappropriate for the NAACP to be making racial comments.

2 If the school counselor was really the culprit who used the wrong standard, he or she needs to go. Yes, the whole school is responsible, including the principal, but if ever a scapegoat was called for, however, this is it. Because of the predictable chain reaction, it was an inexcusable mistake. In Mississippi? In a predominantly black student body? The ethics alarms should have been ringing at ear-splitting volume before the grade calculations ever started. Quite simply, this was a mistake that must not be made.

3. Suspicions that race was a factor in using the wrong standard are inevitable at a time when so many standards are being attacked, eliminated or changed for not yielding the “right” results by the measure of “equity and diversity.” The fact that two black students were elevated above the white ones by the “mistaken” use of the wrong standard under the rules and tradition could have been a coincidence, but the white parents, and objective critics, have every reason to wonder, just as the black parents have every reason to suspect racial bias when the value of their children’s honor was cut in half to satisfy two white families.

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The Unethical Ingredients Of The West Point High School Valedictorian Fiasco, Part I: A Perfect Storm

High school graduation

This ugly episode should not have become another racial controversy, and in a healthy culture it would not. But in 2021 it could not have been otherwise with these facts, and American have to decide if they want to live in a society where this happens, or whether they want something better.

The story is told well here, but the main facts are:

1. Ikeria Washington and Layla Temple were named 2021 valedictorian and salutatorian for West Point High School in Mississippi on Seniors Awards Night. Both are African-American.

2. The parents of two white students in the class, Emma Berry and Dominic Borgioli, objected. They had been carefully calculating their children’s grade point averages, and by their records, Emma and Dominic had earned the honors given to Ikeria and Layla.

3. By the school’s own handbook, they were right. Ikeria and Layla had been awarded the honors based on a calculation of quality point average or Q.P.A.,which calculates grades by giving extra weight to advanced placement and dual credit courses. Dominic and Emma were the top two finishers based on an unweighted grade point average, and according to the rules, it was that distinction, not the Q.P.A., which should have been used to decide the class’s valedictorian and salutatorian. A school counselor charged with ranking the class had made a mistake and used the wrong standard…or at least that’s the school’s story.

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Comment Of The Day: “Casting Ethics: ‘Anne Boleyn’ And Discriminatory Double Standards”

Oh, I just love this Comment of the Day by Curmie, who was AWOL from the ethics comment wars for far too long, and whose return recently has made my heart soar like a hawk. I love it for many reasons, including, of course, the fact that it is well written and enlightening, far more so than my post that prompted it, which focused narrowly on the double standard of applauding the having a performer of one race portray another, but only when it’s the “right” races involved.

As with my posts about ethics issues in another lifetime passion, baseball, I know that many readers nod off when the framework is theater. But the conceit of Ethics Alarms is that the ethics issues and process of analysis are often universal regardless of where the dilemmas and conflicts pop up. As it happens, baseball and theater happen to be two realms that I know a lot about.

But not as much as Curmie, at least as far as theater is concerned. I had hoped that he would weigh in on the casting of a black actress as Anne Boleyn, and he did.

Here is Curmie’s Comment of the Day on the post, Casting Ethics: “Anne Boleyn” And Discriminatory Double Standards.

***

Literally two minutes after reading this post, I saw that Katori Hall had been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play The Hot Wing King. I don’t know the play—its Off-Broadway run was cut short by COVID, and as far as I can tell it hasn’t been published.

I do, however, recognize her name as the playwright of The Mountaintop, in which the two characters are Martin Luther King, Jr. and an employee of the Memphis hotel in which he is spending what he doesn’t know is his last night on earth. (Spoiler alert: she’s really an angel preparing him for what is to come.) It is a good, borderline great, play: by turns moving, humorous, and incisive. But what comes immediately to mind is the production by a student group at Kent State University, in which a white actor was cast as King. The director, of course, claimed the casting decision wasn’t a gimmick. (Newsflash: it was a gimmick.)

The original idea was to alternate the role between a white and a black actor to be, in the director’s words, “a true exploration of King’s wish that we all be judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin.” The black actor had to drop out of the production, and the white one played the role throughout the run.

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