My Unethical Inauguration Trivia Question

Washington Inaug

Today began with an unethical Presidential trivia question from a friend, who couldn’t even wait for me to get up, and left it with Grace. The question? “What was the warmest Presidential inauguration?” His answer: Gerald Ford, who was sworn in after President Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974, and it was 89 degrees. However, the question was misleading (and knowing this guy, deliberately so), especially since it was asked on Inauguration Day, which is what we generally mean when we we refer to a President’s inauguration. Vice-Presidents who take over the job don’t get “inaugurations,” although it is technically correct to call the beginning of anything an inauguration. Have you ever heard or read about Lyndon Johnson’s swearing in on Air Force One on November 22, 1963 as his “inauguration” after President Kennedy was assassinated? Neither have I. He was “sworn in.” A Presidential Inauguration with an upper case “I” always refers to Inauguration DAY, but as my wife pointed out, you can’t tell over the phone whether a word is capitalized.

Millard Fillmore was also sworn into office during a Washington, D.C. summer, on July 10, 1850, after President Taylor expired. I can’t find any reference to the temperature, but it often tops 90 in July here. If we are discussing Inaugurations with a big I, Ronald Reagan gets credit for the warmest modern ceremony at 55 degrees for his first term , and also the modern record for the coldest January D.C. day at 7 degrees when he took his second oath.

My guess this morning, without checking, was that the warmest Inauguration record belongs to George Washington. The first inauguration ceremony was held on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City on April 30, 1789. (It had been delayed from the original March date because such a throng was expected, and more time was needed to prepare.) Accounts say there was sunshine and a temperature of around 60 degrees for that event. (That’s another problem with my annoying friend’s “gotcha!” question: weather stats for the 19th and 18th century are often sketchy.) I think my guess is probably right, too. After George Washington, the inauguration date became March 4th where it stayed until 1937; it was changed to January 20th. If the day falls on a Sunday, the event is moved to the 21st.

Saturday Evening Ethics Post, 1/2/2021

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State of the Blog: Yesterday marked the 365 day low point in Ethics Alarms traffic after what was otherwise a lively year. Coincidentally, it also marked the all-time high point in Ethics Alarms followers, if you don’t count Twitter, which I do not.

I’ve got a lot of housekeeping to do on the blog, and I’m hoping the annual dead spot after New Years gives me time to do i. This includes fixing some broken links, continuing to fix typos both old and new (Pennagain and Other Bill provide a marvelous service by flagging them, and I am behind right now), taking down some pages and categories that are or will soon be out-dated in the wake of President Trump’s defeat, taking the time to see if I can master the WordPress “block” system which right now robs me of an extra 30 to 40 minutes every day, and finishing and posting several articles that have been hanging around my neck in various states of incompletion. There are a couple of rationalizations that need posting, too, and some Comments of the Day that fell through the cracks.

I always have hope that I will get up the Ethics Alarms Awards for the year, which I have failed to do now for several cycles. They are fun, but they take a lot of time, and the stats say few read them. I may try a less ambitious version

Facebook finally allows me to link to articles, though it won’t post the graphics like it will for other websites, but after two years of being blocked for violating Facebook community standards, I consider that progress.

To be honest, I’m tired, and right now I’m sick and tired. The core group of commenters here keeps me focused on the mission, and for that I am grateful beyond words.

1. I was going to devote a whole post in rant form to this, but I calmed down. In August of last year, The Robert H. Jackson Center hosted a discussion on comedian George Carlin’s “7 Dirty Words” and the 5-4 FCC v. Pacifica Foundation SCOTUS decision in 1978 upholding the broadcast restrictions on George Carlin’s “seven dirty words” routine as well as the words he discussed. Emmy-nominated producer Stephen J. Morrison, serving as moderator, was joined by comedian Lewis Black, Carlin’s daughter Kelly Carlin and Cornell Law professor Howard Leib. I stumbled upon a recording of the discussion on the Sirius-XM “Classic Comics” station, and my head exploded so many times that I had to clean up the car like John Travolta in “Pulp Fiction.”

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Bizarro World Ethics: A Vicious Young Jerk’s Unethical Act Is Celebrated And His Victim Vilified In A Cautionary Tale Of What Happens When Society Allows Its Values To Be Turned Inside Out. Part II: The Times And Its Readers

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In Part I, describing the horrific personal destruction of 18-year-old Mimi Groves (above)–the antiseptic term “unethical” does not adequately convey the pure viciousness and wrongfulness of the act—I attempted to clarify what the entire scenario represents, a near complete distortion of values and ethical norms with ominous implications. I mostly left out the enthusiastic participation of the New York Times in this destructive process, first, because it was not directly involved in Jimmy Galligan’s hateful and pernicious conduct, and second, because of space considerations. Thus we have Part II.

The Times signaled its sentiments and objectives in the headline of its feature, written by reporter Dan Levin: “A Racial Slur, a Viral Video, and a Reckoning.” “Reckoning” means, in this context, a settling of accounts, a judgment, or earned punishment. In the view of the Times writer and the editors who allowed it to be published, Mimi Groves was justly punished by her black classmate, who plotted–plotted is a fair description—to derail her education and future prospects, and did so. What was the conduct that earned the “reckoning”? Groves used a word, in a general context, that the social justice establishment has ruled, on its own authority, can never be uttered for any reason, or published in print—unless the individual responsible is black, in which case it may be rude or less than desirable, but otherwise it’s OK.

At the time the word “nigger” was used by Groves in a three second video on social media, and today, popular songs embraced by her age group and peer group used the same word repeatedly, and made millions of dollars as a result. At the time the word “nigger” was used by Groves in a three second video on social media, popular movies showed black characters calling other black characters that same word in jest, or affectionately, or for shock value.The actors playing those characters, notably Samuel L. Jackson, who has earned a bundle as the spokesperson for a major credit card,while using teh word “nigger” more times on screen that any actor in film history, have not faced any “reckoning.” The screenwriters who put those words in his mouth faced no “reckoning”; the directors who permitted the dialogue to be read and the studios that sent the wave of “niggers” into theaters and streaming services faced no “reckoning.”

Just this month, Netflix premiered an adaptation of August Wilson’s play “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” directed by acclaimed social justice warrior director George C. Wolfe, an African American. When a stream of “niggers” was unleashed about ten minutes into the fim, never to stop, I was genuinely confused. How could this be, when I have a file of professors and teachers who faced sanctions, protests, suspensions, and professional destruction, not by referring to any black individual as a nigger, but by using the word in the context of discussing legal, ethical and cultural implications of language.

Yes, I was confused, and I am a lawyer, a writer, an ethicist and a teacher with more than four times as much experience in life as Mimi Groves when, as a child, she mistakenly thought a casual use of the word in a social media message wouldn’t upset anyone, much less put a dedicated life assassin on her trail.The the New York Times holds that Mimi deserved her “reckoning,” and made sure that if anyone inclined to tar her as a racist unfit for human association on this woke culture we are breeding didn’t know that she had to be punished and why, a major feature in the nation’s most read, circulated and quoted newspaper would spread word of her disgrace. The paper’s verdict is clear: Jimmy Galligan struck a blow against “systemic societal racism.” He’s a hero, even though literally nothing he did was ethical, fair, or just:

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“Predator,” “White Christmas” And “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”: Among Other Benefits, Freedom Of Expression Is Just A Lot Easier Than Creating And Enforcing Taboos

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We were watching “Predator” over the weekend, and saw Arnold Schwarzenegger color his skin black—using mud—to escape the deadly alien’s heat-based vision. Now, why doesn’t this qualify as blackface, thus threatening Arnold with “cancellation” and the film, an action classic, with permanent shelving? Don’t tell me it’s because there is a good reason for Arnold, who is as white as you can get, darkening his skin. We have been told that intentions don’t matter when it comes to this crime against racial justice. Fred Astaire wearing dark make-up to honor his black tap teachers in “Top Hat” is per se racist. Wearing black make-up to portray a black historical character in a private Halloween party is racist. Lawrence Olivier wearing dark make-up to play Othello is racist. Robert Downey, Jr. wearing dark make-up to satirize actors who go to excess to get in character for their roles is racist. Where is the “Exception for someone trying to avoid being killed by a hunter from outer space” written down?

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Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/28/20: Happy Birthday, Woodrow Wilson!

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As 2020 staggers to a conclusion, Ethics Alarms wants to express its gratitude to the core of devoted Alarmist commentators who kept the dialogue going during what is always an annual cratering of blog traffic. I appreciate it. I also appreciated the many kind holiday wishes, in what has been a muted Christmas for the Marshalls for a number of reasons I won’t bore you with.

In case you were among the missing, I draw your attention to…

…among other hopefully edifying and entertaining posts.

1. After signalling otherwise or perhaps just trolling, President Trump signed the truly awful pandemic relief and omnibus spending bill, really sending the national debt into orbit. One theory is that doing so was necessary to avoid a Democratic sweep of the two Senate seats up for grabs in Georgia. I will file the event as one more car on the Wuhan Virus Ethics Train Wreck, and one that will do more damage in the long run than most of them.

2. In Nevada, Gabrielle Clark filed a federal lawsuit against her son’s charter school last week for refusing to let him opt out of a mandatory class that promotes anti-white racism. It claims that Democracy Prep at the Agassi Campus forced William Clark “to make professions about his racial, sexual, gender and religious identities in verbal class exercises and in graded, written homework assignments,” creating a hostile environment, and subjecting he son’s statements ” to the scrutiny, interrogation and derogatory labeling of students, teachers and school administrators,” who are “still are coercing him to accept and affirm politicized and discriminatory principles and statements that he cannot in conscience affirm.” The lawsuit includes nearly 150 pages of exhibits documenting the curriculum in the graduation requirement “Sociology of Change,” which promotes intersectionality and critical race theory, in breach of what was promised when the Clark’s first sent their son to the school.

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Ethics Quote Of The Week: Biden Deputy Chief Of Staff, Jen O’Malley Dillon

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“I’m not saying they’re not a bunch of fuckers. Mitch McConnell is terrible.”

—Jen O’Malley Dillon, incoming Deputy Chief of Staff for Joe Biden, explaining to Glamour Magazine that bi-partisan deals are still possible with Republicans.

She continued to say that her boss, “set out with this idea that unity was possible, that together we are stronger, that we, as a country, need healing, and our politics needs that too.”

Why wouldn’t we all believe he’s sincere, when he hires staff like her?

White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield tweeted a Jumbo of a defense of  Dillon:

“So [Dillon]would be the first to tell you her mom doesn’t approve of the spicy language but I would be the first to tell you that the point she was making in this conversation…is spot on: unity and healing are possible — and we can get things done.” 

Hilariously self-contradictory statement? What hilariously self-contradictory statement? Continue reading

First Snowfall Ethics Accumulation, 12/16/2020 [Corrected]

For the record, I believe that Dean Martin’s is the definitive version of this holiday favorite. It’s the perfect vehicle for his inimitable style, which always makes me smile. I miss Dean; indeed I miss all of the great singers whose Christmas offerings come up on the Sirius-XM “Christmas Traditions” channel, because they are all dead, every one of them. In one short trip, I heard Bing, Dean, Rosemary Clooney, Burl Ives, Nat King Cole, and Karen Carpenter. All gone. Christmas songs shouldn’t make you sad.

1. No, “doctor” doesn’t mean “teacher.” The disingenuous nonsense defenders of Jill Biden and anyone else who insists of being called “Dr.” because they have a doctorate is stunning, and the hypocrisy is hilarious. When the pompous one was a Trump White House aide, the biased media mocked him. Now that the insecure title-wielder is a Democrat, the rules are different. Got it.

One particularly off-base defender of the non-medical “Dr.” in the comments writes, “Doctor means teacher.” No, it obviously doesn’t, or all teachers would be called “doctor.” My best high school teacher, Miss Rounds, who taught Latin, actually had a PhD but never asked her students to call her “Dr.,” because, you see, that would be stupid. Funny: none of the lists of synonyms for “doctor” include “teacher,” and none of the lists of synonyms for “teacher” include “doctor.”

But mirable dictu! The embarrassingly Orwellian Miriam Webster Dictionary, as it showed in this episode, has as its #1 general definition of “doctor” is “a learned or authoritative teacher.” I thought it had changed the definition to cover for Jill, just as it had changed a definition to follow the Democratic narrative in October (and as Dictionary.com did this very month). But no, Commenter Phlinn found that Miriam Webster has its outlier definition at least since January, hence this correction.

Now, if only on-line dictionaries were trustworthy and didn’t pull their partisan games, I wouldn’t suspect them. But they do, I am, and I am not wrong to be.

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Afternoon Ethics Breather, 12/11/2020: Train Wreck Free Zone, Because I Need A Break

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1. Sorry, but there was and is no excuse.. The New Yorker reports that Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) is in serious cognitive decline:

[M]any others familiar with Feinstein’s situation describe her as seriously struggling, and say it has been evident for several years. Speaking on background, and with respect for her accomplished career, they say her short-term memory has grown so poor that she often forgets she has been briefed on a topic, accusing her staff of failing to do so just after they have. They describe Feinstein as forgetting what she has said and getting upset when she can’t keep up. One aide to another senator described what he called a “Kabuki” meeting in which Feinstein’s staff tried to steer her through a proposed piece of legislation that she protested was “just words” which “make no sense.” Feinstein’s staff has said that sometimes she seems herself, and other times unreachable. “The staff is in such a bad position,” a former Senate aide who still has business in Congress said. “They have to defend her and make her seem normal.”

Well gee, what a surprise. Ethics Alarms criticized the Senator for having the hubris and not showing proper responsible conduct in 2018, when she ran for re-election and another 6 year term at the age of 85. That was ridiculous, and it was foolish for her constituents to vote for her. Now they are stuck with a Senator who can’t do the job, and it is their fault, plus that of the Democratic Party and Feinstein herself. They all deserve what they get.

Particularly nauseating in the New Yorker story is this section:

“Some former Feinstein aides insist that rumors of her cognitive decline have been exaggerated, and that video clips taken out of context can make almost anyone look foolish. They also bridle at singling out her condition, because declining male senators, including Strom Thurmond, of South Carolina, and Robert Byrd, of West Virginia, were widely known by the end of their careers to be non-compos mentis. “For his last ten years, Strom Thurmond didn’t know if he was on foot or on horseback,” one former Senate aide told me.”

Is this the quality of thought on Capitol Hill? A single idiot making such an argument is too many: “Hey, don’t criticize us for having walking vegetables weilding the power of U.S. Senators:we should be able to do it becaise Republicans did it!”

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Now THIS Is “Orwellian”: Dictionary.Com Alters The Meaning Of “Court Packing” To Fit The Democratic Party Narrative.

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“Court packing” has meant the same thing since the term was devised to describe what President Roosevelt attempted in 1930, when he became frustrated with the conservative Supreme Court’s repeated ly finding his Depression programs unconstitutional. FDR decided to change the structure SCOTUS itself to allow him to create a liberal majority, expanding the number of justices so Roosevelt could appoint political allies. It was the expansion of the Court that was instantly dubbed “packing the court”; the expression had never been used before. “Packing the court” or “court packing” immediately sparked a negative backlash from the public and press: even Roosevelt’s supporters found the plan to be an ominous effort to change the rules when the existing system didn’t produce the results the President desired. FDR was forced to abandon his court-packing plan, and ever since, for 90 years, “court packing” has meant what FDR proposed…increasing the size of the Supreme Court to create an ideological majority suiting the President in power.

But when Democrats announced that their revenge for the President adding consrvatice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court would be to “pack the court,” they declared that “packing the court” was what the Republican had been doing by confirming Trump’s three nominees during his term, so their intention was fair and reasonable “tit for tat.” Coincidentally, Dictionary.com conveniently changed its definition of “court packing” to accommodate the Democratic Party’s rationalization sometime during November, sparking this Twitter thread:

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