Category Archives: History

Nipplegate Ethics: No, We Don’t Owe Janet Jackson Any Apology At All

nipplegate

A wonderful, if infuriating, example of race- and gender-baiting was delivered earlier this year by pop culture pundit Emmanuel Hapsis, and a more ridiculous analysis you will seldom see. I missed it, but the post was no more valid then than it is now.

Returning, for some reason, to the infamous episode during the 2004’s Super Bowl halftime show, when Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake conspired to turn the supposedly family-friendly Super Bowl into a strip tease, Hapsis’s piece is called “Nipplegate Revisited: Why America Owes Janet Jackson a Huge Apology.” During a choreographed duet with Jackson  and while singing “Better have you naked by the end of this song,” (talk about rape culture!) Timberlake ripped a pre-rigged portion of Jackson’s bustier to reveal her naked breast. Jackson was severely criticized, as she should have been: after all, it was her breast, and she obviously agreed to allow it to make a surprise appearance, however brief.

Never mind. Hapsis sees the episode as exemplifying America’s “patriarchy,” “racism” and “sexism,” because obviously no white singers flashing ten-year-olds in TV land would be criticized, and no male singer who decided to let Mr. Wiggly make a guest appearance would be similarly pilloried. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, History, Journalism & Media, Jumbo, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, Race

Health And Survival Rationing Ethics

cointoss

Beginning in 2012, Dr. Lee Daugherty Biddison, a critical care physician at Johns Hopkins and some colleagues have held public forums around Maryland to solicit the public’s opinions about how life-saving medical assistance should be distributed when there are too many desperately ill patients and not enough resources. The exercise was part of the preparation  for Biddenson’s participation in preparing official recommendations for state agencies that  might end up  as national guidelines regarding when doctors should remove one patient from a ventilator to save another who might have a better chance of surviving, or whether the young should have priority over the old.

Ethically, this is pure ends justifying the means stuff. The Golden Rule is useless—How would you like to be treated? I’d want to be left on the ventilator, of course!–and Kantian ethics break down, since Immanuel forbade using human life to achieve even the best objectives…like saving a human life. Such trade-offs of life for life (or lives) is the realm of utilitarianism, and an especially brutal variety….so brutal that I doubt that it is ethics at all.

When Dr. Biddenson justifies his public forums by saying that he wants to include current societal values in his life-for-a-life calculations, she is really seeking current biases, because that’s all they are. On the Titanic, it was women and children first, not because it made societal sense to allow some of the most productive and vibrant minds alive to drown simply because they had a Y chromosome, but because that’s just the way it was. Old women and sick children got on lifeboats;  young men, like emerging mystery writer Jacque Futrelle (and brilliant young artist Leonardo DiCaprio), went down with the ship. That’s not utilitarianism. That’s sentimentalism.

The New York Times article mostly demonstrates that human beings are incapable of making ethical guidelines, because Kant was right: when you start trading one life for another, it’s inherently unethical, even if you have no choice but to do it. Does it make societal sense to take away Stephen Hawking’s ventilator to help a drug-addicted, habitual criminal survive? Well, should violating drug laws sentence a kid to death? TILT! There are no ethical answers, just biased decisions. Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, History, Professions, Rights, U.S. Society

Ethics Heroes: The Nixon Foundation And The Richard Nixon Presidential Library

Pop Quiz: Who is missing from this picture from the dedication of the Nixon Library in 1990, and why?

Pop Quiz: Who is missing from this picture from the dedication of the Nixon Library in 1990, and why?

I can’t stand the Kennedy Library in Boston, with all its triumphal, sentimental hagiography of both Jack and Bobby. A presidential library will naturally try to put the best spin on the accomplishments, failures, and character deficits of its subject, but it has an obligation to history too. I once was determined to visit all of the libraries, but after the first few I decided that these structures were more like the pyramids than fair and enlightening representations of the men they honored.

The worst in this respect, as you might guess, was the infamous Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California, which opened 26 years ago.The Watergate exhibit, approved by Nixon himself, painted Nixon as an innocent and heroic victim brought down by the media  and his sinister foes. This was certainly Nixon’s view, but it has no relationship to reality. So convinced was Congress that the Richard Nixon Presidential Library would display the same lack of ethics as its namesake that it passed a law in 1974 requiring his presidential records to be stored with the National Archives and out of the library’s control, where they might be altered or “lost.”

Nixon’s library entered the official presidential library system under the auspices of the National Archives in 2007, and to finally make it more than the presidential library equivalent of  Fantasyland, the Nixon Foundation ordered the old Watergate exhibit to be overhauled. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, History, Leadership

Now THIS Was Zealous Representation! The Incredible, Unethical, Zealous, Crooked And Courageous Bill Fallon

Fallon

I’m giving an ethics seminar for a group of government lawyers this morning. I think I’ll tell them about Bill Fallon.

Bill Fallon (1886-1927) was a very successful New York criminal defense attorney, and a contemporary of Clarence Darrow. He was called “The Great Mouthpiece,” because he represented some of New York’s leading pimps, narcotics dealers, embezzlers, swindlers and gamblers.  One famous client was Arnold Roth, who was the architect of the 1919 Black Sox scandal, bribing eight Chicago White Sox stars to throw the World Series. Another was Nicky Arnstein, the gambler husband of Fanny Brice. That was Omar Shariff playing Nicky in “Funny Girl.”

Fallon often bribed his juries, and got away with it: the one time he was caught and indicted, a jury found him non guilty. He probably bribed that jury, too. Clarence Darrow was proud of the fact that he represented over a hundred men and women facing the death penalty and none were ever executed. Fallon could top that: he represented over 120 homicide defendants, all of them guilty as hell, and not one was convicted.

Dashiell Hammett referred to Fallon in his novel, “Red Harvest,”, when he wrote,

He’s the guy that the joke was wrote about: ‘Is he a criminal lawyer?’ “Yes, very.'”

Continue reading

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Observations On The Gadsden Flag Controversy

Gadsden Flag

On the Volokh Conspiracy, now featured on the Washington Post website, Prof. Volokh applies his First Amendment expertise to a recent EEOC decision which ruled that a complaint from an African-American that a fellow worker who repeatedly wore a cap with the famous “Don’t Tread On Me” insignia from the Gadsden flag may have created a hostile work environment at the federal agency both worked for. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission called for further investigation, including an interview of the cap-owner’s intention in wearing the symbol, concluding,

“In light of the ambiguity in the current meaning of this symbol, we find that Complainant’s claim must be investigated to determine the specific context in which C1 displayed the symbol in the workplace. In so finding, we are not prejudging the merits of Complainant’s complaint. Instead, we are precluding a procedural dismissal that would deprive us of evidence that would illuminate the meaning conveyed by C1’s display of the symbol.”

Observations:

1. Now this is the slippery slope. Because murderous racist Dylan Roof posed with the Confederate flag, a tipping point was reached that resulted in the symbol and the flag being effectively and in some respects officially banned. The EEOC had already ruled the wearing a Confederate flag T-shirt constituted racial harassment,. Now the banning of historically significant symbols is threatening to spread to a flag that had no relationship to race whatsoever, in large part because of who has chosen to display it.

2. There is a whole website devoted to the Gadsden flag, from which we learn that…

  • It first appeared in October of 1775, as the British were occupying Boston and the desperate Continental Army was dug in in nearby Cambridge, lacking sufficient arms and ammunition.  In October, a merchant ship returning to Philadelphia from a voyage to England brought private letters to the Second Continental Congress informing it that  England was sending two cargo ships to America loaded with arms and gunpowder for the British troops.
  • Congress decided Washington’s troops’ plight required that those ships and their cargo be captured. It authorized the creation of a Continental Navy, then only four vessels, to take the ships. Congress also authorized the mustering of five companies of Marines. Some of the Marines enlisting that month in Philadelphia carried drums painted yellow, emblazoned with a  rattlesnake with thirteen rattles, coiled and ready to strike, accompanied by the motto “Don’t Tread on Me.”
  • That same December, a citizen calling himself  “An American Guesser,” anonymously wrote to the Pennsylvania Journal, saying in part:

“I observed on one of the drums belonging to the marines now raising, there was painted a Rattle-Snake, with this modest motto under it, ‘Don’t tread on me.’ As I know it is the custom to have some device on the arms of every country, I supposed this may have been intended for the arms of America…the Rattle-Snake is found in no other quarter of the world besides America….She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage. … she never wounds ’till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her..

I confess I was wholly at a loss what to make of the rattles, ’till I went back and counted them and found them just thirteen, exactly the number of the Colonies united in America; and I recollected too that this was the only part of the Snake which increased in numbers. …Tis curious and amazing to observe how distinct and independent of each other the rattles of this animal are, and yet how firmly they are united together, so as never to be separated but by breaking them to pieces. One of those rattles singly, is incapable of producing sound, but the ringing of thirteen together, is sufficient to alarm the boldest man living.”

It is generally agreed that the writer was really Benjamin Franklin. Ben had a hand in the design of the flag, since the first use of a rattlesnake to represent the colonies was his own “Join or die” cartoon,

800px-Benjamin_Franklin_-_Join_or_Die

…published years earlier. Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Rights, This Will Help Elect Donald Trump, U.S. Society, Workplace

Ten Ethics Observations On The Democratic National Convention

Khan DEM

1. The unrestrained cheer-leading from the news media in contrast to its week-long sneer at the Republican is so shamelessly biased that American journalism risks crippling its ability to use its giant megaphone to sabotage Trump. They might at least pretend to be fair and objective. I get it: I find it horrifying that Trump is running too. The immediate and unrestrained effort to go stop him, however, is so openly unprofessional, and shows how far the news media’s ethics have deteriorated just since 2008.

2. We could see and hear, during the course of the convention, how Donald Trump’s boorishness and propensity for ad hominem attacks and personal insults have degraded both parties and political discourse generally. And to think, in 1988, Ann Richards was criticized for her George H.W. Bush attacks at the Democratic Convention, and her famous jibe that Bush was born with a “silver foot in his mouth.” The Democrats could have taken the high road, and would have benefited, as well as done the culture a favor. Nah.

3. The most unethical aspect of the convention was the party’s tacit embrace of Black Lives Matters, while the BLM protesters outside were directing white journalists  to “stand in the back” while covering its protests, around the country police officers were facing increasing abuse, and in Baltimore, Marilyn Mosby was graphically illustrating BLM’s attack on the rule of law.

Democrats deserve to pay a high price for this, and I am confident that they will.

4. I owe Senator Eugene McCarthy an apology. I was among the many young  supporters of the rebellious anti-war Democrat who felt betrayed when McCarthy refused to address his beaten troops at the 1968 Convention. He stayed in his Chicago hotel room, angry and resentful of how the party had steam-rolled him and his movement. I thought it was cowardly and selfish. Now, after thinking ill of Clean Gene  all these years, I realize he might have been right after all. Being gracious isn’t ethical when you are required to become a symbolic pawn  to the same dark, unethical forces that you have been telling your throngs to resist and battle despite long odds. If you pull a Cruz instead of a Sanders, you look like you are trying to torpedo your own party. Better, perhaps, to do what Gene did. His integrity told him that the best response was to neither to capitulate, nor be petulant, but just to retreat to fight another day.

I’m not sure he was right, but  I’m no longer sure he was wrong.

I’m sorry, Senator. Continue reading

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Is It Fair To Question The Democratic Party’s Values When It Has No American Flags Visible During Its National Convention?

Yes.

Of course yes.

One of these things, is not like the others...

One of these things, is not like the others…

Opening night of the Democratic National Convention—that gathering of the historic institution created by Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson to facilitate democracy by fulfilling the idealistic vision of the Founders, who bravely led the original colonies, represented by thirteen red and white stripes, to rise up against a hereditary monarchy and through courage, sacrifice and enterprise create the most successful and humanist nation ever seen on earth…you know, that Democratic National Convention?—showed no American flags on the stage, no red, white and blue symbolism, and an apparently flagless crowd.

Was the American flag actually banned from the convention? That can’t be…but it certainly looked like it.  The absence of any flags can’t be an accident, or unintentional.

What’s going on here?

Nothing good.

Nothing healthy.

In the eight years since Barack Obama was nominated…by the way, here is the scene of his second nomination, just four years ago…

Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

…the Democratic Party has morphed into an organization that is increasingly dependent on the pleasure and approval of anti-American groups. The supporters of illegal immigration, some of whom advocate returning the Southwest to Mexico; angry black liberation movement activists, who regard the United States as a racist nation and culture; radical internationalists, who believe the United States should not only behave like “other first world nations,” but allow itself to be governed by them; progressives whose view of the United States, nourished by indoctrination in the public schools and colleges dominated by far left faculties, is relentlessly negative; growing numbers of socialists, anti-capitalists, anti-law enforcement activists and fans of soft totalitarianism—-these are increasingly the voting blocs that the professional politicians who  run the Democratic Party feel they must pander to and satisfy. Continue reading

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