Category Archives: History

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/20/17: More Factchecker Spin, More Hillary (Unfortunately), And A Thank-You [UPDATED!]

Good Morning!

1 One comment thread over the last few days encompassed media fact-checkers and the consistent position here that they are intrinsically biased and untrustworthy. Law prof/blogger Jonathan Turley was so incensed (his term was “floored”) over one of the better factcheckers (Wapo’s Glenn Kessler) spinning for James Comey and against Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that he wrote a column for The Hill exposing it. (Hey! That’s MY job!) He writes on his blog about what prompted the column:

I have discussed previously how there has been a palpable bias in reporting on the Trump Administration. It is often that case that some journalists are not simply satisfied with disagreeing with the Administration. They sometimes take judgment calls or opinions and declare the Trump side to be simply factually incorrect. This relieves the need for readers to address the opposing view of controversies like the alleged misconduct of former FBI director James Comey. Those views are simply dismissed as untrue. This is a prime example.

The professor is right. It’s embarrassing. Read Turley’s whole piece, clearly prompted because Kessler refers to Turley’s repeated indictments of Comey (while saying that he does not believe Comey should actually be indicted). One respect in which the ever-polite and professorial Turley differs sharply from Ethics Alarms: he says that he has ” written for the Washington Post and [has] great respect for the publication. Indeed, I have objected to the attacks by President Donald Trump on the Post and the New York Times which remain two of our premiere journalistic organizations.”

Hmmm.

1) Turley obviously wants to keep writing for the Post, I guess, and 2) premiere members of a group that has become unprofessional and untrustworthy are still unprofessional and untrustworthy. Be that as it may, Turley concludes,

The Post concludes that the memos were, despite Comey’s denial, FBI material and that he violated FBI rules in removing and releasing such information. It also accepts that employees under Comey as director could well have been fired for such violations. It also agrees that the memos might have been either classified or privileged, even though there has been no final determination. Regardless, the Post awarded two Pinocchios for Sanders stating that Comey’s actions were “improper and likely could have been illegal.”

I have to give the Post two “Blue Fairies.” (I do not want to steal the Post’s Pinocchio signature motif so the Blue Fairy in the Disney story will do). After all, it was the Blue Fairy who said, “A lie keeps growing and growing until it’s as clear as the nose on your face.”

2. There are two items about Hillary Clinton in the Warm-Up today, because she is simultaneously a human ethics train wreck of a failed Presidential candidate, but also needs as little publicity for being so as possible. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/17/17: My Ethics Gig For The Boy Scouts, Dallas Heads Down The Slippery Slope (I Told You So!), More Sign Language Follies And Misbehaving Marshalls

GOOD Morning!

1 In an earlier Warm-Up, I criticized the needlessly distracting signers for the deaf who stood by gesticulating and mugging as various officials communicated safety measures for the public as hurricanes approached. Belatedly I ran across a YouTube entry from 2012, in which the poster happily commented that “Interpreter Lydia Callis steals the show during Hurricane Sandy press conference.” Interpreters are not there to “steal the show,” and the fact that so many of them think they should compete with the main speakers for audience attention proves my point.

They should stand off-camera, and in the venue, away from the podium.

Then there’s this guy:

From the Times:

As Hurricane Irma charged toward Florida, officials in a county on the state’s west coast held a news conference to inform residents of mandatory evacuation orders for those most at risk. “We just need you to be safe,” Robin DiSabatino of the Board of County Commissioners in Manatee County said at the Sept. 8 briefing. She urged those in low-lying areas and flood zones to seek higher ground and consider staying at shelters.

But for residents who were deaf or hard of hearing, the message was quite different: “Pizza,” the interpreter appeared to sign. Then, “Bear monster.”…

“It was atrocious,” said Howard A. Rosenblum, the chief executive of the National Association of the Deaf. Mr. Rosenblum, who is deaf, said through an interpreter in a phone interview that the association considered what happened a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. “We believe that Manatee County failed to provide information to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community to the same extent that it provided to all others,” he said….

The interpreter, identified by the county as Marshall Greene, could not be reached for comment.

Nicholas Azzara, a spokesman for the county, said in an email that Mr. Greene, who is a lifeguard for a county-run beach, has a brother who is deaf. Mr. Greene was asked to sign because there was little time to find an interpreter before the news conference.

It’s not unusual for family members of the deaf to have only a rudimentary understanding of American Sign Language, said Beth Barnes, a certified sign language interpreter who has several deaf family members, including her parents.

No, but it is unusual for a signer who agrees to translate crucial information for deaf viewers to not know what the hell he is doing. Greene defenders, quoted this morning on HLN, said that he was just trying to help out, and host Robin Meade, not having one of her smart days, muttered that the “poor guy” wasn’t doing a bad job “intentionally.”

Oh! That’s all right, then!

The ethical values being breached are trustworthiness, responsibility and competence. Greene is the passenger who volunteers to fly the airliner with a stricken crew and flies the plane into the ground nose first. Good intentions don’t matter. He volunteered for a job he was incapable of performing competently.

2. I don’t spend a lot of time saying I told you so, but it would be gratifying to receive some “I shouldn’t have doubted you” notes from all those readers who mocked me for suggesting last year that the slippery slope created and smoothed by the historical cultural airbrushing mobs on the Left would eventually lead to Founders like Washington, Jefferson and Madison.

Here is a Facebook post  from Dallas School District member Dustin Marshall, no relation to Marshall Greene (I will be applying to change my last name accordingly, probably to “Lee”…) Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/17/17: Boy Scouts, “Will and Grace,” An Actress Whines, Wedding Cakes, And (I’m Sorry!) More Hillary

Good Morning!

1 I’m giving an ethics talk to a Boy Scout troop this afternoon. Figuring out how to use example that are appropriate to ages 11-14 while avoiding hot-button issues like race, sexual orientation, police, guns and politics in general is a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. What pop culture reference points will work is also a conundrum. What movies are they likely to have seen? In the Sixties, I could have referred to Westerns, many of which routinely embodied ethics lessons. But they also often involved shooting people, and kids don’t see Westerns now. In the Eighties, I might have sent Boy Scouts to episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” which was virtually all about ethics. But Patrick Stewart is just an old guy doing commercials now, and there have been four TV incarnations of the franchise since Data packed it in, not counting the movies. Pixar movies are usually ethics-rich, but a lot of kids will bristle at being presumed to be cartoon fans. Superhero movies? The ones that raise ethics issues usually do so badly, or the issues are too complex—or too dark– for a Boy Scout Troop. Here we see the serious cultural problem of declining cultural literacy and deteriorating cross-generational communications as a result of the loss of common experience. and interests.

Well, it’s early. I’ll figure out something.

One approach I considered was to suggest they practice ethical analysis by reading the newspaper, picking out the ethics dilemmas and controversies that appear, thinking about them and arguing about them. Of course, that was foolish: they would probably ask, “What’s a newspaper?” However this morning’s Sunday Times is a perfect example. I could teach a four hour ethics seminar based on the stories in this edition alone. Look…

2. The baker who refused to sell a cake to a gay couple is back on the front page, thanks to the case winding its way to the Supreme Court. This time, the focus isn’t on Freedom of Religion (in this case, freedom to act like a jackass using your religion as an excuse), but Freedom of Speech. The government cannot compel speech, nor will the law compel specific performance of an artistic nature. The baker claims that his cakes are artistic creations, and he doesn’t have to make them for anyone or anything if he doesn’t want to.  The gay couple says that they weren’t asking for him to create an artwork, just to sell them a wedding cake. If the cake is a commodity, then the bake shop should be a public accommodation, and subject to applicable laws. Then the baker has to sell his cakes to anyone. If the cake is an “artistic creation” made specifically for the couple, then the law cannot force the baker to make it, or punish him if he refuses. Art is speech.

I hate these kinds of cases, and I’m sure the SCOTUS justices do too. A cake is sometimes just a cake, and sometimes a work of art. The confrontation should have been handled with ethics rather than law. The baker is a bigoted jerk, that’s all. I think he has a right not to make a cake for a gay couple, but exercising that right is cruel and insulting. Continue reading

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From The Ethics Alarms Harry Truman Files: Applause For “The Wrecking Crew”

 

One of my favorite Presidential quotes of all time is from Harry Truman. He said,

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

Nonetheless, people deserve credit when they do important things, and trying to encourage the culture to not only give credit but also to remember and honor those deserving it across generations is a frequent theme of this blog.  The Ethics Alarms Heroes Hall of Fame is one expression of this theme. This post is another.

I was reminded of The Wrecking Crew when Glen Campbell died, and recently, when I heard old Monkee Mickey Dolenz in a recent interview.  Cambell was the most famous alumni of the studio band, which had many members over the years. Dolenz was a member of the group that was its most famous beneficiary, although The Byrds were also famously represented by The Wrecking Crew in their first hit record, “Mr. Tambourine Man.”

It has always amazed me how little this loosely organized band of brilliant studio musicians is known outside of the music business and the rock and pop trivia nerds. The Wrecking Crew was significantly involved in much of the greatest pop music recorded from the late 1950s to the mid 1970’s. Their musical contributions are indistinguishable and inseparable from the those of the famous singers and groups they backed, and yet fame and credit, as well as sufficient honors, have been elusive.

If people have heard of them at all, the Wrecking Crew is known for “ghosting” the accompaniments for the Monkees’ first two albums. However, its studio band work was far more extensive than that. They were, for example, the creators of Phil Specter’s “Wall of Sound”: in the early years, they were sometimes credited on Specter discs as occasionally credited as “the Phil Spector Wall of Sound Orchestra.” They played under other names too, or no names at all. The nickname “The Wrecking Crew” became public when it was used by drummer and member drummer and member Hal Blaine in his 1990 memoir, “Hal Blaine and the Wrecking Crew”; they also sometimes called themselves “The Clique.”  Blaine, Campbell and keyboardist Leon Russell are the most famous members; some of the better known studio  musicians that formed the backbone of the Crew’s ranks were drummer Earl Palmer, saxophonist Steve Douglas, guitarist Tommy Tedesco,  and bassist Carol Kaye, as well as versatile Larry Knechtel, later a member of Bread.

I checked Wikipedia for a list of the hits The Wrecking Crew played on and made into the classics they are. Here were some of them. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/15/17: Lafayette, Harvard, Manning, And “Shut Up And Give Us The Score!” [Updated]

Good Morning!

1 Commenter Other Bill had to ruin my evening by posting this defense of Jamele Hill from a Sports Illustrated writer, which would be enough for me to cancel my subscription if I had one.

“I was going to give this a pass. Truly, I was. Jamele Hill, the gifted young woman who co-hosts ESPN’s The Six every night with my old Morrissey Boulevard running buddy Michael Smith, got on her electric Twitter machine and tweeted out her unremarkable—and damned near irrefutable—opinion that the current president of the United States is a racist and a white supremacist. This drew the usual screams from the political flying monkeys of the American Right. ESPN responded with a craven corporate response that I’ll get to in a minute, but let me just say right now that you will not believe that the response was written by anyone who ever came within a light-year of any newsgathering operation. OK, so I thought that was pretty much it. I agreed with everything Hill tweeted. I thought what she said should be obvious to everyone in America at this point. She delivered her opinion. There was the customary cyber-bullying pushback, and we all move on.”

This is a perfect example of why sports writers should be seen and not read or listened to on non-sports topics. Let’s see:

a) The fact that she is “gifted”—a matter of opinion: a smart ESPN broadcaster wouldn’t do something this stupid—is irrelevant to the controversy. So a bad sports journalist  would be less justified in attacking the President like this?

b) A journalist calling the President of the United States a racist is in fact quite remarkable, and if an ESPN employee had called Barack Obama equivalent things, he or she would have been fired so fast her hair would have combusted.

c) OK, asshole, give me your closing argument about how President Trump is irrefutably a white supremacist. You can’t use the fact that he believes in enforcing immigration laws, or the fact that white supremacists tend to support him, when his political opponents are addicted to saying and writing things like “the whole white race is a virus.” You can’t use the fact that he doesn’t believe that tearing down statues of Civil War heroes is smart or valid, because I agree with him, and I am not a white supremacist. The fact that he implicitly defended the right of white nationalists to exercise their First Amendment rights makes him a supporter of the Constitution, as his oath of office requires, and not a nascent totalitarian like the hate-speech banning politicians you probably support.

So what have you got? I’d say nothing. It’s “irrefutable” to you because your left-wing friends say it is….

d) …not that whether Hill was right or not is the least bit relevant to whether ESPN is sending the message that gratuitous public anti-Trump, race-baiting grandstanding from employees is acceptable, but anti-Democrat/Muslim/Trans statements are not. It is sending that message, and that’s a double standard and obvious bias.

e) ESPN’s response was craven all right, but for the opposite reason that this guy says.

f) The fact that mostly conservatives correctly condemn Hill and ESPN only proves that the Left has lost its ethics alarms and professional compass, or broken them while stomping and screaming during their post 2016 election tantrum. It’s not a partisan or political verdict, except that “the resistance” would defend the Zodiac killer if he attacked the President. That’s their flaw, not ours.

2. Today’s “I was going to post on it but the story is so stupid that I don’t want to give it the prominence” note is this one.  Continue reading

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Casting Ethics: A Black Joan Of Arc?

Sure, why not?

From Playbill:

Manhattan Theatre Club has announced a Broadway revival of “Saint Joan” by Nobel Prize and Oscar winner George Bernard Shaw with direction by Tony winner Daniel Sullivan. Heading the cast as the famous heroine will be Condola Rashad, fresh off her Tony-nominated performance in “A Doll’s House, Part 2.”

Superficially, at least, the casting of Rashad, an African American actress, as the famous “Maid of Orléans,” the French teenager who gained political and military power as a self-proclaimed messenger of God and who was burned at the stake, would seem like precisely the kind of stunt non-traditional casting that I have condemned by subjugating the intent and art of a playwright to affirmative action and virtue-signaling. However, this is not a legitimate objection to this casting choice, and in fact the upcoming Broadway production is as close to a perfect example of how creative casting can enliven a production and deepen its ability to make an audience think.

Joan of Arc, of course, was not black. Nor was she Swedish, though Ingrid Bergman played her memorably enough in the most famous Hollywood version of  Shaw’s play, She also didn’t speak English, and certainly not Shavian English. She spoke French. Ethnicity, race and color are not part of Shaw’s drama, however, nor are they relevant to what Joan of Arc did in life, and what she meant to her nation, its history and our shared Western culture.

How many public schools teach anything about Joan of Arc? How many U.S. students graduate completely ignorant of the historical Joan, not to mention Shaw’s version? Yet hers is one of the most remarkable stories in recorded history.

Joan of Arc was born around 1412, the daughter of a tenant farmer, Jacques d’Arc, from the village of Domrémy, in northeastern France. She was illiterate, as were most  of her class and gender, but also was indoctrinated into the teachings of the Catholic Church by her mother.  France was engaged in what we now call the Hundred Years’ War with England, and England had France by the throat.  A forced  treaty in 1420 disinherited  Charles, French crown prince, and England’s King Henry V—there’s a famous play about him, too– was made ruler of both England and France. Upon his father’s death, Henry VI succeeded him as king in 1422. At this point England occupied much of northern France, and many in Joan’s village, Domrémy, were forced to abandon their homes under threat of invasion.

Thirteen year-old  Joan began to hear voices in her head. Today we think the cause was tinnitus, but she was certain God was assigning her the mission of  saving France by defeating the English, and installing Charles as its the rightful king. Joan took a vow of chastity, as part of her bargain with God; this allowed her to reject a marriage her father arranged for her when she was 16.

Around this time, Joan traveled by herself to  Vaucouleurs, a nearby stronghold of those loyal to Charles. With her faith and her persuasive claim of being a holy messenger, she attracted a small band of followers who were convinced her sudden appearance was the the result of a popular prophecy coming true, and that she was destined to save France. Joan cut her hair short and dressed in men’s clothes to make an 11-day journey across enemy territory to Chinon, where the crown prince’s palace stood. She met with the young man, and convinced him that she was the Real McCoy (they didn’t use that phrase in France, of course)  by allegedly telling him things only God would know. She also  promised Charles that she would see him crowned king at Reims, the traditional site of French royal investiture, and asked him to give her an army to lead to Orléans, then under siege from the English.

Charles granted her request. Think about this for a bit. A strange teenage girl, dressed like a boy and claiming to hear voices, meets with the leader of a nation at war and convinces him to put her in charge of an army.

Amazing. Continue reading

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I’m Sorry To Have To Do Again This So Soon, But I Promised…Unethical Quote Of The Week: NYT Book Reviewer Jennifer Senior

I’m going to kill this fake history if it’s the last thing I do…

“But one thing we know for certain: History conspired against Clinton. No non-incumbent Democrat has succeeded a two-term Democratic president since 1836, and 2016 was a year when voters were pining for change.”

—-New York Times book reviewer Jennifer Senior, spinning for Hillary in her review of “What Happened”

I promised. I promised myself and Ethics Alarms readers that every time Presidential historian Doug Brnkley’s false election night statement that voters seldom elect the same party into the White house 12 years running is quoted as an explanation for Hillary Clinton’s loss, I would point out that this is a lie, and an especially awful one when issued on national TV by a supposedly-credible historian

Based on today’s New York Times review of Hillary Clinton’s excuse-and-blame fest in the wake of her defeat last November, I, and the truth, are making a little joint headway. Reviewer Jennifer Senior has refined Brinkley’s false history and now has a technically accurate but equally misleading version.

Yes, it is true: No non-incumbent Democrat has succeeded a two-term Democratic president since 1836. There is a threshold problem with even this reduction: why does the “rule” only apply to Democrats? Apparently Democrats can use the excuse that voters never vote in non-incumbents of the same party after 8 years, but Republicans can’t. Sorry, John McCain! Tough luck, Richard Nixon!

Democrats are so comfortable with the concept of double-standards when it benefits them. It’s scary.

The larger problem with this factoid is that it is deceitful. Using 1836 sounds impressive: Wow, this hasn’t happened for almost 200 years! No wonder Hillary lost! It’s not so impressive when one points out, as Senior doesn’t have the integrity to do, that there have been only three elections before 2016 when a non-incumbent Democrat had a chance to succeed a two-term Democratic President. Three. 3. III. I can flip heads with a coin three times in a row (or tails) any time I want to, in less than five minutes. The fact that in just three elections cheery-picked for certain similarities (though they were anything but similar) the same party lost proves, or even indicates, nothing. Suggesting it does is either ignorant or dishonest. (In Senior’s case, I vote dishonest, but I could be wrong.) Continue reading

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