Monday Ethics Warm-Up, 7/6/2020: Updates On Baseball, The Pandemic, The News Media, And The Little Girl Who Sang “Tomorrow” When We Needed To Hear It…Like Now

Chin up, everyone!

“Annie” opened in the gloom of the Carter Presidency and the Watergate hangover, and it’s hit ballad, “Tomorrow,” sung by a relentlessly optimistic orphan with her scruffy dog at her side, , became a sensation until everyone got sick of it.

Unlike so many child phenoms, there was a bright tomorrow for the original Annie, Andrea McArdle, the 12-year-old with the freakish belt.  She never made the leap to movies, but she has had a steller stage career that’s still going strong, aided by the fact that puberty was good to her, and her voice mellowed without losing its clarion strength. 

After “Annie,” McArdlehad starring roles on Broadway in  “Starlight Express,” “Les Miz,” “State Fair,” and as Belle in “Beauty and The Beast.” For the last 20 years she’s continuously starred in regional production and tours, national and international, of such shows as “Cabaret,””Gypsy” (as Mama Rose), “Mame” and “Hello Dolly,” and several times in “Annie,” though now, in middle age, she plays the little girl-hating comic villain, Miss Hannigan (third photo, first row).

But she can belt out “Tomorrow”…as should we all.

1. Wuhan Virus Ethics Train Wreck update:

  • Apparently the memo has gone out to the mainstream media that highlighting the George Floyd Freakout/Black Lives Matter mob’s anti-America rampage isn’t helping the cause of getting rid of President Trump. Thus it’s back to fear-mongering about the pandemic. Sunday’s Times was filled with giant, scary maps with big red blotches, and the headline was “Virus Inundates Texas, Fed by Abiding Mistrust of Government Orders.” The only non-editorial content in that headline is “Texas.” Further down on page one, another headline about a story that literally has nothing to do with the virus begins, “As Virus Rages…”

In contrast, there was no mention of how protesters danced on the American flag and chanted “America was never great!” during D.C.’s Fourth of July celebration, or how D.C.’s BLM flack mayor Muriel Bowser allowed the mob to block traffic returning to Virginia after the fireworks.

  • When I saw this story last night, I predicted that it would receive far more publicity than the death of a relatively little known 41-year-old Broadway actor normally would warrant. The reason is that  Nick Codero died from a series horrific complications after being infected–a series of strokes, heart failure, lung failure, the necessary amputation of his leg.

The severity of his reaction without having any underlying conditions is obviously an anomaly, but I see on my Facebook feed that friends are already hyping it to argue that America should remain in lockdown until everyone is living on the dole and wearing rags.

  • It’s not going to work now. People are right not to trust “government orders,” since the states and cities have abused their power with arbitrary restrictions and inconsistent enforcement, made fatal miscalculations (like Gov. Cuomo’s dumping of infected seniors in nursing homes), and the waffling CDC, including Dr. Fauci, has no credibility at all. (Rand Paul’s criticism of Fauci in the Senate hearing last week was  fair and appropriate.) Major League Baseball, having committed to the season starting this month, is noting infections among players, getting them quarantined,  and moving forward, in contrast to the NBA cancelling its season after a couple of infections in the Spring.

Good. Play Ball! Continue reading

The Court Ruling I’ve Been Waiting For Since 2011

In a June 30 decision, B.L v. Mahanoy Area School District, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals  ruled that a Pennsylvania  high school violated a cheerleader’s First Amendment rights when it kicked the young woman off the squad for a message she had posted on SnapChat. A distruct court judge had ruled last year for the ex-cheerleader, whose  post pictured the teen and her friend holding up their middle fingers accompanied by the eloquent sentiment , “fuck school fuck softball fuck cheer fuck everything.” She was  upset because she had only made the junior varsity cheerleading squad, rather than the varsity team.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania argued the case for the girl, so at least sometimes the organization  still puts its partisan politics aside to do its traditional job of looking out for the First Amendment. The group called the ruling a “landmark decision,” finally barring schools from policing students’ off-campus speech using the claim that it might disrupt school activities.

The Supreme Court decision on campus speech, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, did not apply to off-campus speech. Tinker held that student speech could be regulated by schools only if it would substantially disrupt school operations or interfere with the rights of others. That case involved a school disciplining students when they wore black armbands to class as a protest against the Vietnam War.

The 3rd Circuit majority ruled .“We hold today that Tinker does not apply to off-campus speech—that is, speech that is outside school-owned, -operated or -supervised channels and that is not reasonably interpreted as bearing the school’s imprimatur,”

Because the teen’s speech was outside the school context, Tinker did not apply. The cheerleader’s speech “lies beyond the school’s regulatory authority,” the court said.

The ACLU’s  press release stated that the decision was important “because it recognizes that students who are outside of school enjoy full free speech rights, not the diluted rights they have inside the schoolhouse.”

Bingo.

Finally. Continue reading

“How Sharper Than A Serpent’s Tooth It Is To Have A Thankless Child!”

 

What’s going on here? All of a sudden we are seeing children turn on their conservative public servant parents in public. (That’s Oedipus with the spear, incidentally.)

  • Kellyanne Conway’s 15-year-old daughter  Claudia has been posting videos on Tik Tok, berating her mother for working for  President Trump while attacking her boss. This  disrespect is an order of magnitude worse than what Conway tolerates from her despicable husband George. I can’t conceive of the path whereby any child would acquire the idea that it was ethical or anything worse that gross breach of the family bonds to publicly attack a parent or her employer.

[To the commenter who sent me this, thanks! I lost the original email...]

  • Meanwhile, Mary Trump, the President’s niece, is trying to get a tell-all book about her uncle published in time to slime him during the election, allegedly violating a non-disclosure agreement. Maybe it’s because I was raised by a Greek mother and grandmother, but I can not imagine attacking a family member like that, no matter what I thought of him. Unless an uncle was a secret serial killer or a spy, this is on the absolutism side of the ethics spectrum for me.

Continue reading

SCOTUS Approves State Tuition Aid For Students To Attend Religious Schools

People gather outside the Supreme Court building as the court hears oral arguments in the Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue case in Washington, U.S., January 22, 2020. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger.

This opinion just came down, and I haven’t had an opportunity to read it, and probably won’t until tomorrow.  In Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the justices held that the application of the Montana Constitution’s “no-aid” provision to a state program providing tuition assistance to parents who send their children to private schools discriminated against religious schools and the families whose children attend or hope to attend them, in violation of the free exercise clause.  This was a straight conservatives vs. liberals majority, and Chief Justice Roberts, much maligned of late, wrote the majority opinion. The Washington Post  reports,

Chief Justice John G. Roberts …said the Montana Supreme Court was wrong to strike down the program because of a provision in the state constitution that forbids public funds from going to religious institutions. The U.S. Constitution’s protection of religious freedom prevails, he said.

“A state need not subsidize private education,” Roberts wrote. “But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.

Again, I haven’t read the legal arguments, but the ethical justification for the opinion is clear. If public schools could be trusted not to indoctrinate students with political view and social positions that their parents might oppose, the urgency of the state providing affordable alternatives would be far less. However, alert and involved parents realize, or should, that by sending students to public schools, they are too often subjecting them to partisan and ideological brain-washing, and we are seeing the results in the streets as I write this. There need to be alternatives other than home-schooling. The ethics principles here are fairness, respect, and autonomy. Continue reading

Ethics Grab Bag: 6/18/20: Absolutism, DACA, Cancel Culture And Pancakes

1. Oh, I’m sure that will help a lot. Quaker announced yesterday that the Aunt Jemima brand would be rebranded and renamed “to make progress toward racial equality.” Yeah, I’m sure the pancake box design and hearing that demon name “Jemima” has retarded the progress of racial justice for decades.  I couldn’t care less what pancake mix is called and I doubt that anyone else does, but  if any portion of the market claims to find the logo offensive, that’s a good reason to ditch it, which I assume means that Uncle Ben’s Rice will be called “U.B.R.” soon. Nonetheless, Quaker’s move isn’t substantive. It’s virtue signaling, and at this point, more historical airbrushing. Getting rid of Aunt Jemima will cost Quaker millions of dollars, and probably raise the price of the product. It won’t affect racial equality one iota.

Meanwhile, cultural context and history is lost. The R. T. Davis Milling Company hired former slave Nancy Green as a spokesperson for the Aunt Jemima pancake mix in 1890, and she continued in that role  until her death in 1923. Green appeared as Jemima beside the “world’s largest flour barrel” while operating a pancake-cooking display at Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. After the Expo, Green was given a lifetime contract to  promote the pancake mix. Aunt Jemima was Nancy Green’s one link to immortality.

2. Today’s SCOTUS decision on DACA. Here’s how NPR put it: “A narrowly divided U.S. Supreme Court extended a life-support line to some 650,000 so-called DREAMers on Thursday, allowing them to remain safe from deportation for now, while the Trump administration jumps through the administrative hoops that the court said are required before ending the program.”

The President called this a political decision in his inimitable, meat-axe way:

This is an especially stupid tweet. Every time SCOTUS doesn’t back the administration isn’t a political decision, and lumping apples and kumquats together, which is what generalizing about decisions as diverse as the gay discrimination decision and this one is, just shows that the President doesn’t read the opinions he’s complaining about, and only cares about the results. (Of course, in this he is like most Americans, sad to say.)

After wading through as much of the assorted opinions in the case as I can stand (Great thanks, once again, to valkygrrl for sending me the link), I think that’s unfair.

Chief Justice Roberts, again the swing man, joined with the four liberal Justices and authored the majority opinion. This sentence says it all: “The dispute before the Court is not whether DHS may rescind DACA. All parties agree that it may. The dispute is instead primarily about the procedure the agency followed in doing so.” That means that the decision isn’t about substance or policy, but rather process. Process decisions are not, or shouldn’t be, political. This note also undermines the idea that the Justices were just acting in partisan lockstep:

ROBERTS, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, except as to Part IV. GINSBURG, BREYER, and KAGAN, JJ., joined that opinion in full, and SOTOMAYOR, J., joined as to all but Part IV. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed an opinion concurring in part, concurring in the judgment in part, and dissenting in part. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part anddissenting in part, in which ALITO and GORSUCH, JJ., joined. ALITO, J., and KAVANAUGH, J., filed opinions concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part.

If the President paid attention, he would see that a majority of the Court found that his actions regarding DACA were not motivated by “animus,” thus denying Big Lie #4.

I am unalterably opposed to DACA, for reasons stated frequently here. The short version: it is incompetent and irresponsible law-making to provide an incentive for people to break the law. DACA is fueled by emotion and sentimentality (“Think if the children!”) and is an incremental step toward open borders. However, other than some dicta among the concurrences and dissents, there is no reason to see the decision as either favoring or disfavoring the law. Continue reading

Mid-Friday Ethics, 6/12/2020: The Fame Edition

Good afternoon!

1. On Fame. One of my pet peeves is the pursuit of fame as a life objective. It is inherently unethical, because fame itself is unrelated to good or evil; it is a neutral value, and its pursuit is pure self-interest mixed with ignorance.

First, as too many celebrities to count have informed us, fame is at least as much of a burden as a boon, and second, there is no such thing as “immortality” through fame. As Shelley wrote,

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

 

The lyrics of the theme song from the movie and TV series “Fame” so annoyed me that I refused to view either:

Remember my name, fame
I’m gonna live forever
I’m gonna learn how to fly, high

I feel it comin’ together
People will see me and cry, fame
I’m gonna make it to heaven
Light up the sky like a flame, fame
I’m gonna live forever
Baby, remember my name!

Yeah, good luck with that life plan. Who remembers Irene Cara, the star of the film who sang the song? If you enter the field of performing, or any field, to become famous rather than to contribute something of value to society, you’re an asshole.

Chasing it is a fool’s pursuit, but sometimes fame finds you. I just read that former MLB baseball player Claudell Washington died. I remember him, but few do: he arrived heralded as a future superstar, but never reached that status. He is famous, however, because a foul ball he hit in a game of no importance is “immortalized” in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” a cult classic, as the ball Ferris (Matthew Broderick) catches in the stands while playing hookie.

It’s more immortality than most of us get. Continue reading

Naming Ethics: The Gaylord Affair

My short summary of this ethics controversy is: This mother is nuts.

A woman, 24, is due to have her first child in August, and, she says,  the first born son of everyone from her side of the family has been named Gaylord since the early 19th Century. She is determined to carry on the  tradition, though her husband is horrified, maintaining that to name any boy “Gaylord” is child abuse.

That’s probably overstating it, but just a bit. Gaylord is not a common name (it’s from the Old French gaillard meaning “joyful” or “high-spirited”), but Wikipedia lists 25 famous or accomplished Gaylords, only one of which I had ever heard of, the baseball player on the list (of course). That’s Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry, who won over 300 games during a 21 year career in which he was famous for throwing spitballs, an illegal pitch.  Perry is one of the three Gaylords on the list who is still alive, including a French long-distance runner named Gaylord Silly.

Now that’s child abuse..

But I digress. The mother says she offered her husband a compromise, agreeing that young Gaylord would go by “Gail” in school “so that he doesn’t have to deal with bullies.”

What? Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Back To The 13th Question: Answer It, Stop Grandstanding, Or Shut Up”

Frequent  commenter of distinction Ryan Harkins doesn’t exactly try to answer the”13th Question” ( “What is the “systemic reform regarding race in America” that the George Floyd protests purport to be seeking?”), but at least he advances the discussion by trying to define the problem, which is a whole lot more than anything we have heard from media pundits and elected officials over the last week, and they have fallen all over themselves trying be seen as allying with the right “side.”

This seems like a propitious place to raise this article from Foreign Affairs that readers Wesley49 has proposed for discussion. “I would love to hear the opinions and insights from this thread’s contributors in trying to answer your 13th Question,” he wrote. I have a lot of problems with the piece, which typifies, I think, the academic/scholarly equivocation around this issue, but I won’t pre-bias the discussion more than that.

Here is Ryan Harkins’ Comment of the Day —which has the added pleasure of some great quotes—on the post, “Back To The 13th Question: Answer It, Stop Grandstanding, Or Shut Up”:

The problem with trying to end racism is that it runs aground the basic human impulse to “other” people who are different. It has been a practice of mankind from the beginning, and even our very best of societies will constantly struggle with the temptation to “other” the people who at the very least aren’t playing along.

“Othering” is to make someone an outcast from the group, and to place blame on them for the groups problems. Theologians have referred to it as scapegoating. If someone looks different, dresses different, acts different, talks different, there will be the temptation to mock that person, ostracize that person, and perhaps even blame that person for everything that is going wrong. Then, if you can destroy that person, then magically all the problems will go away.

“You want to know what’s wrong with this nation? It’s those damned Republicans trying to horde all the wealth.” “You want to know what’s wrong with this nation? It’s those damned Democrats who are trying socialize everything.” “You want to know what’s wrong with this nation? It’s all those hateful religious folk.” “… It’s all those LGBT people destroying family values.” “…It’s all those white supremacists trying to suppress minorities.” “…It’s all those anti-vaxers…” “…It’s those climate change deniers…” “…It’s those power hungry people who treat science like a religion…” Continue reading

Comments Of The Day: Ethics Dispatches From The Sick Ward, 5/26/2020: Arg! Yechh! [#1]

It took a while, but my complaint about the advertising world’s bizarre decision to make pirates the sole politically correct genre for innocent childsplay finally generated the intriguing commentary I hoped it would.

Here are two Comments of the Day on the topic, breached in Item #1 of the post, Ethics Dispatches From The Sick Ward, 5/26/2020: Arg! Yechh!”

First up, Isaac:

Permit me a midnight rant about pirates.

Kids did not play pirates at any time before this Gen-Xer was born. Kids played sailors or soldiers, and the PIRATES WERE THE BAD GUYS. That is because pirates were (and are) indeed very bad guys.

Treasure Island is a realistic story about stuffy British Christian men (and a boy) defeating a gang of vile, godless pirates. Once the story gets going there are exactly zero female characters. I can see why the destroyers of culture who lord it over modern schools would find this “problematic.” But it just might be my all-time favorite book. Pirates are interesting, fascinating, and make for good stories. BUT THEY AREN’T SUPPOSED TO BE THE HEROES.

Even the least-murderous of real-life pirates still tricked innocent merchant vessels and robbed them by force. They still were known for spending their free time raping, drinking themselves to death, and spreading venereal disease. Within just the last few years, pirates off the coast of Somalia have been murdering entire ships’ crews, so it’s not as if there’s no modern frame of reference for understanding why they generally shouldn’t be cast as heroes, as you mentioned.

There was a funny but sad incident not too long ago told by a mom who had been to Disneyland. She took her son into a boutique in the park that styles up girls into princesses. They offered to do their equivalent service for the young man by making him into a pirate. The small child, who had more common sense and moral awareness than the entire Disney corporation, pointed out that pirates are bad guys, and insisted that he wanted to be a prince instead. There were no prince costumes.

There are now SEVERAL kids’ cartoons in which kids “play pirate,” mostly thanks to the Disney movie. One of them is “Jake and the Neverland pirates” which doesn’t even make any sense in the context of Peter Pan. A character on this show said to his tiny audience, at one point, and I quote, verbatim, “A good pirate never takes anyone else’s property.” And they were serious.

The elephant is there in the room from that very first film. Jack Sparrow proves himself to be “a good man” and the moral (such as it is) is that even a pirate can be good. And so, at the end of the film, “good man” Jack gets his ship and crew back and sails off into the sunset too…do what, exactly? Sail the world looking for beached whales to rescue? Hunt for lost treasure to return it to its rightful owner? The next several movies twist themselves into knots to avoid having to give the obvious answer to this question: the only way to be a pirate is to, you know, commit piracy. It’s right there in the name.

I wonder if 50 years or so would be sufficient time for Disney to train kids to “play terrorist.” Just make a wacky movie about an eccentric jihadist who turns out to have a heart of gold.

Now here’s Pirate Comment of the Day #2, from Jeff: Continue reading

Sympathy For The Stupid

I have a problem of long-standing: I just can’t muster a lot of empathy for people who hurt themselves doing incredibly stupid things. I just can’t. Stupidity causes so much death and destruction in the world, and the more competent among us spend so much precious time and treasure trying to mitigate the damage wreaked on society by idiots.

Even when the idiots involved are children, I have difficultly time feeling too sorry for their self-inflicted misfortunes if the cause was sufficiently dunder-headed…like in this case.

In Bolivia, three Marvel Comics-loving brothers, ages 12, 10 and 8, forced a black widow spider to bite them, theorizing that the bites would turn each of them into Spiderman. First of all, if you are going to try something like this, know your comics. Peter Parker wasn’t bitten by a Black Widow—where did they get that idea? —which has venom 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake’s bite. Black widows are one of the most feared spiders in the world, and the most venomous in North America. Now, Spiderman got his Spidey powers after being bitten by an ordinary spider that was radioactive. If the brothers were such fans of the Webslinger, they should have known that. If you aren’t sure what kind of spider confers super-powers, you don’t take a flyer on the deadliest spider around as your first candidate.

Yeah yeah yeah they are just kids. So were the idiots who jumped off of roofs using a blankets as capes when The Superman TV show was hot. I didn’t have any sympathy for them, either.

Finding the  brothers crying in pain, their mother rushed them to a nearby health center, which transferred them to a nearby hospital suffering from fevers, tremors and muscle pains. They were treated and discharged  almost a week after they were bitten. They were lucky. They may not be so lucky next time.