Ethics Quiz: The Crystal Flute

The strange episode has everything: history, a President, music, bad taste, fat-shaming, historical ignorance, and more.

Lizzo, the defiantly obese pop singer, rapper and all-around musical whiz who is also a classically trained flutist, was permitted to entertain her Washington, D.C. concert audience this week by playing a crystal flute that a French craftsman and clockmaker had made for President James Madison in 1813. She was handed the sparkling instrument from Carol Lynn Ward-Bamford, a curator at the Library of Congress, then, as described by the New York Times, “played a note, stuck out her tongue in amazement, and then played another note, trilling it as she twerked in front of thousands of cheering fans. She then carried the flute over her head, giving the crowd at Capital One Arena one last look, before handing it back to Ms. Ward-Bamford.”

“I just twerked and played James Madison’s crystal flute from the 1800s!” Lizzo told the crowd. “We just made history tonight.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is...

Was that an appropriate and ethical use of the historical artifact?

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Storm Ethics

I have to ask: is scientifically absurd climate change hype from the media now in Julie Principle territory, meaning that it is so predictable that it isn’t even worth noting of complaining about? CNN village idiot Don Lemon has been injecting climate change propaganda into his coverage at every opportunity, as have (going even lower down the intellectual scale) the Ladies of the View and others. When I read that Ian had been downgraded to a tropical storm, I wondered, “Hmmm…does that now mean this storm isn’t the result of climate change, since we’ve been told that we are facing more and more destructive hurricanes (which so far have not materialized as predicted, mirabile dictu)?” Then Ian was upgraded to a hurricane on the way to South Carolina—so Ian again owes his existence to climate change? Someone ask Don or Whoopie, quick. Continue reading

Ethics Villains: Documentary Maker Ken Burns And PBS

What, you well may ask, is a photograph of Dylann Roof doing in Ken Burns’ latest documentary, “The US and the Holocaust”? Good question.  The answer is, frankly, disgusting.

In the last of three parts in the film, shown tonight on PBS stations nationwide, the now familiar Burns historical story-telling is converted into a partisan, negative, political campaign ad, and not even a fair or respectable one compared to the ugliest attack ads you will see in the coming month. Apparently the tax-payer funded pubic broadcasting corporation decided that the perils facing of its patron Democratic Party in the upcoming election were dire enough to justify turning a legitimate and mostly admirable piece of documentary craft into supplementary material to Joe Biden’s indefensible attack on Republicans as fascists and “clear and present dangers” to democracy.

Burns, to his eternal shame—I will not watch any future Burns works—agreed to betray the trust of his viewers and the integrity of his art by using the last 10 minutes of “The US and the Holocaust” to draw an intellectually dishonest and virtually libelous analogy between the anti-Semites in Roosevelt’s State Department that blocked European Jews from escaping to the U.S. before Hitler sent them to the showers, the Nazis themselves, and those who oppose pro-illegal immigration policies in the U.S. today. Continue reading

“21” Ethics, September 2022: Betrayal In The Air…[Corrected]

This was the date, in 1780, that Benedict Arnold attempted an abortion on the fetal and vulnerable United States of America. He met with British Major John Andre to arrange handing over West Point to the British in return for money and the promise of a high position in the British army. The plot was foiled, narrowly, but Arnold successfully flipped sides and survived the war, moving to England, but never receiving his promised metaphorical pieces of silver.

Clearly, Arnold had not been sufficiently inspired by General Washington’s letter to him five years earlier, when he was George’s most trusted officer:

George Washington to Benedict Arnold
September 14, 1775.

Sir:

You are intrusted with a Command of the utmost Consequence sequence to the Interest and Liberties of America. Upon your Conduct and Courage and that of the Officers and Soldiers detached on this Expedition, not only the Success of the present Enterprize, and your own Honour, but the Safety and Welfare of the Whole Continent may depend.

I charge you, therefore, and the Officers and Soldiers, under your Command, as you value your own Safety and Honour and the Favour and Esteem of your Country, that you consider yourselves, as marching, not through an Enemy’s Country; but that of our Friends and Brethren, for such the Inhabitants of Canada, and the Indian Nations have approved themselves in this unhappy Contest between Great Britain and America.

That you check by every Motive of Duty and Fear of Punishment, every Attempt to plunder or insult any of the Inhabitants of Canada. Should any American Soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any Canadian or Indian, in his Person or Property, I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary Punishment as the Enormity of the Crime may require. Should it extend to Death itself it will not be disproportional to its Guilt at such a Time and in such a Cause.

But I hope and trust, that the brave Men who have voluntarily engaged in this Expedition, will be governed by far different Views. That Order, Discipline and Regularity of Behaviour will be as conspicuous, as their Courage and Valour. I also give it in Charge to you to avoid all Disrespect to or Contempt of the Religion of the Country and its Ceremonies. Prudence, Policy, and a true Christian Spirit, will lead us to look with Compassion upon their Errors without insulting them. While we are contending for our own Liberty, we should be very cautious of violating the Rights of Conscience in others, ever considering that God alone is the Judge of the Hearts of Men, and to him only in this Case, they are answerable.

Upon the whole, Sir, I beg you to inculcate upon the Officers and Soldiers, the Necessity of preserving the strictest Order during their March through Canada; to represent to them the Shame, Disgrace and Ruin to themselves and Country, if they should by their Conduct, turn the Hearts of our Brethren in Canada against us. And on the other Hand, the Honours and Rewards which await them, if by their Prudence and good Behaviour, they conciliate the Affections of the Canadians and Indians, to the great Interests of America, and convert those favorable Dispositions they have shewn into a lasting Union and Affection.

Thus wishing you and the Officers and Soldiers under your Command, all Honour, Safety and Success, I remain Sir, etc….

1. On the topic of letters and betrayals of trust, here’s one written by Sen. Josh Hawley in April  to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, demanding explanations for an academic study finding that Gmail’s spam filtering algorithm was significantly more likely to mark Republican fundraising emails as spam than Democrat fundraising emails. I saw it mentioned again yesterday, but couldn’t relocate the article when I searched on…hey, wait a minute…

Did you notice this in April? I didn’t. I guess the mainstream news media didn’t think it was newsworthy…

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“The US And The Holocaust”: Perfect Timing, But View With Care

Has an eagerly-anticipated prestige television project ever been so perfectly timed as  PBS’s Ken Burns documentary, “The US and the Holocaust,” which began last night with “The Golden Door” (Beginnings-1938)? I can’t think of any. Burns is either lucky, diabolical, or psychic. He is also, like all documentary makers, political, and so is his work. Burns still deserves praise for restraint: though “The US and the Holocaust” can be accused of subtly (and occasionally blatantly) advancing Democratic Party and progressive talking points, it also can be used to support opposing positions as well.

The legitimacy of either exercise is debatable, and will be a great debate topic. True, history repeats itself, but context and details matter. As I watched the first episode of Burns’ opus last night, I felt myself being drowned in striking analogies, many of them seductive and likely to be abused. There is so much summarized history and and so many factoids in just the first episode of this epic that it’s impossible to know when one is getting the truth, sort of the truth, part of the truth, intentionally-manipulated facts, cherry-picked data, ideologically motivated propaganda, or objective, fair analysis. Checking the series would take any individual at least as long as the years it took Burns and his team to make it. I got chills a few times thinking about how completely the typical PBS Democrat would swallow everything that was said last night whole, responding with a hearty, “Yum yum!Continue reading

More Casting Ethics: “Hyde Park On Hudson”

Casting Bill Murray as President Franklin D. Roosevelt makes casting Halle Bailey as “The Little Mermaid” look like casting Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane by comparison. I remember avoiding the pseudo-historical drama “Hyde Park On Hudson” when it was released in 2012 because the thought of Bill Murray as FDR offended me. Then I saw the film this week, and it really offended me.

The film is a wildly inaccurate account of the 1939 visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the late Queen’s mother) to Roosevelt’s country estate merged with the problems faced by the philandering Roosevelt when several of his women turn up in the same place at the same time. I would put the casting of Murray as Roosevelt in the “non-traditional casting” category,” but it really belongs in the greedy, insulting, stupid casting category.

There is no artistic or historical justification for having Murray play the iconic FDR. All I can hypothesize is that the producers knew that the movie would be a hard sell to anyone under the age of 80, so they decided, “Hey, Boomers love Bill Murray: they’ll pay to see him in anything!” The result is disrespectful to one of our most important leaders, ruinous to the movie (which has other problems), and the antithesis of artistic competence, integrity and responsibility. Continue reading

Broadway Ethics: Greed Meets Self-Indulgence

Guess what soon-to-open Broadway musical revival’s cast members are shown above. Come on—guess!

Why, it’s “1776” of course!

Yes, the 1969 Tony-winning musical is returning to Broadway in a new–ugh!—inclusive and diverse version with apparently no unequivocal men playing the unequivocal Founding Fathers who crafted the Declaration of Independence. The cast is entirely “a racially diverse cast of women, nonbinary and trans actors.”  This, one of the co-directors tells the Times, “wakes the language up.” Oh. More quotes from the director:

  • “I want the audience to hold that dual reality, of what the founders were, but also a company of actors in 2022, who never would have been allowed inside Independence Hall.”
  • When she first read the script, she says she was shocked by the scene where Thomas Jefferson is forced to strike out the condemnation of slavery in order to get the Declaration passed. “I was unaware of that crossing out. How could I not know? That began my journey into the show. I had to reckon with my own experience of American history.”

She means her own ignorance of American history and her biases based on that ignorance. Yes, a show about a complex seminal event in American history is being crafted by people don’t know much about history, as Sam Cooke used to say.

Great. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: On Queen Elizabeth’s Death (“Friday Open Forum)”

Steve-O-in NJ has some time on his hands, and he made Ethics Alarms the beneficiaries with this Comment of the Day, an excellent overview of the late Queen Elizabeth’s life, reign, and service to her nation.

I enthusiastically second virtually all of it, though I would have liked to see him mention Princess Anne in a positive light. She has been a tireless working royal for her entire adult life, and she has managed to avoid the scandals that tarnished the Royal Family at the hands of her siblings and aunt.

I also agree with Steve that the Queen earned a place in the The Ethics Alarms Heroes’ Hall Of Honor, which hasn’t had a new inductee in a while. I will add his essay to that page as soon as I can.

Here is Steve-O’s Comment of the Day on the life of Queen Elizabeth 1, in today’s Open Forum.

***

Elizabeth II wasn’t born to be queen. She was the elder daughter of Albert, the Duke of York, second son of the formidable (although no brain-trust) George V, who led the United Kingdom through the Great War and the beginning of the end of empire. His eldest son, known as “David” among his friends, but whose name has gone down in history rarely as Edward VIII, more often as the Duke of Windsor, almost always as the Edward of “Edward and Mrs. Simpson” and without exception as a failure (sometimes even as a potential traitor) lasted no more than a year before he let an unprincipled whore pull him down from his throne and into the shadow of disapproval. Hearing the announcement, the precocious princess, barely 10 years old, remarked to her younger sister Margaret that “Papa is to be king.” Supposedly Margaret said something to the effect of “then you’ll be queen? Poor you.” Continue reading

It’s Open Forum Friday!

As always, you get to decide what ethics matters to raise, analyze and discuss. I am hoping someone delves into the many ethics implications, abstract, direct and otherwise of the now-ended reign of Queen Elizabeth II, especially since I have less than my usual control over my schedule today, and am unlikely to be able to examine this myself.

It’s been a bit of a dead week here traffic-wise, as the week after Labor Day usually is, and yet we have seen some superb comments and debates on many topics.

Keep up the good work!

Of COURSE Trump Having All Those Documents At Mar-A-Largo Was Unethical…Is Anyone Seriously Confused About That?

Well, maybe Donald Trump. But definitely not Ethics Alarms.

At the Washington Examiner, editor and columnist Quin Hillyer writes that…

Former President Donald Trump’s defenders in the matter of the Mar-a-Lago documents controversy are defending the indefensible. Forget the legalities: For the sake of (spurious) argument, let’s stipulate that somehow Trump can concoct some looking-glass version of a legal argument that justifies his “authority” to do with the documents as he did. The point is that even if it was technically legal, it was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Heck, I’ll go farther than that; this is the proverbial low-hanging fruit. Donald Trump doesn’t know what ethics is: never has, never will. He decides what is “right” according to some secret personal algorithm that changes daily so it can’t be stolen, or something. His lifting government documents and storing them at his home without authorization after he had left office is as indefensible as any time an ex-employee takes property from the workplace home. Funny, I didn’t think that was even worth writing about; I do try to avoid the obvious here as often as possible.

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