Regarding The Emotional And Ignorant Demands For “Justice” After The Breonna Taylor Grand Jury Decision

I had a lot of standard Ethics Alarms movie clips to choose from for this post. Half of them apply, but the one above is the most apt. Indicting the officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor would have nothing to do with “justice,” and yet that is what we are hearing in what Joe Biden called, fatuously,  “the profound grief & anger today’s decision generated.” There’s nothing profound about allowing primitive instincts and waw emotion govern  one’s words, thoughts and actions.

Let’s look at this phenomenon, if we can stand it. The Boston Globe ran a per se idiotic op-ed  by Jeneé Osterheldt  titled, “Breonna Taylor and America’s wanton disregard for Black lives.”

I’m sure other similar screeds can be or will be found in papers like the New York Times and the Washington Post, but the Globe’s primal scream cretinism will do:

The country made a commodity of Breonna Taylor. It’s always exploited Black lives.A $12 million settlement with her family in a wrongful death lawsuitwas cheaper for Louisville than it would be to charge and indict any cop for killing the 26-year-old. Buying, selling, using, and abusing Black bodies is America’s oldest business….we never should have thought the American government could provide justice to Taylor’s family. Kentucky’s attorney general may be Black, but he is complicit in a system designed to use brutalization and incarceration to enforce law and order. They will tellprotesters to be peaceful and call their killers patriots and just. This is our American life and Taylor’s American death.

This is completely illiterate and ignorant, factually, legally and ethically, and it is irresponsible for a newspaper to employ a columnist who can’t reason more clearly and express herself more responsibly than that. She confounds concepts and mistakes substance. The officers who shot and killed Breonna Tayloor committed no crime. They would have committed no crime if their gunshots protecting themselves from the victim’s boyfriend, who was not unreasonably shooting at what appeared to be  armed home invaders (the officers were not in uniform), had killed a white woman, or a child, or Ruth  Bader Ginsburg. There was no crime under the law, and it’s not even a very complicated law.  Why are people who don’t comprehend such concepts as “intent,” “crime” and “murder” writing and ranting about “justice” in public forums? Why is anybody giving them access to those forums, where they can make the public less informed, more incensed and less rational? Continue reading

A Really Late Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/15/2020, In Which I Have A Revealing Exchange With A Woke Sports Journalist

How the day got hopelessly loused up:

  • At 8:30 am, I took my car to the dealer for a 5000 mile servicing. I had asked if I could get a loaner, and was told I could. But I’d have my car back in an hour, I was told, so I passed.
  • Then I found all the doors at the place locked until 9 am. I decided to walk several blocks to get a fast breakfast, but Popeye’s doesn’t have breakfast, and MacDonald’s doesn’t allow you to use the tables. This was a huge McDonald’s: 20 people could eat there and not be closer than ten feet. But Virginia, in the throes of Blue Madness, is catering to hysterics. I ate my sausage biscuit and hash browns and drank my coffee sitting on a curb, like a vagrant.
  • When I returned, I could get into the showroom to sit, but my glasses kept fogging up with the %$#@%!! mask, so I kept going in and out.  My car wasn’t ready at 9:30. It wasn’t ready at 10, or 10:30. They had me, as Beldar Conehead memorably said, “by the base of my snarglies.”
  • I also couldn’t complain, because they had assigned the servicing to my son, who works there.
  • I got home at 11:46 am, the morning effectively shot to hell.

1. The fascinating memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower will be dedicated this week:

Ike was one of my father’s heroes, and the first President I can remember. On a popular Boston kids’ show called “The Big Brother Show,” the host, Bob Emory, would call upon us to get a glass of milk and toast a photo of President Eisenhower as “Hail to the Chief” played. Because, you know, you were supposed to respect the Office of the President.  The New York Times couldn’t even write about a memorial to a Fifties era POTUS without making veiled insults to President Trump:

He was a leader who sought to work across lines toward a common purpose, driven by duty and pragmatism rather than ideology and divisiveness. He steered his Republican Party away from isolationism toward a bipartisan internationalism that prevailed until recent years. He sent troops into the South not to crack down on demonstrations for racial justice but to enforce the desegregation of schools. He ended the Korean War and balanced the budget, presiding over nearly eight years of peace and prosperity. And he pushed through an infrastructure bill that built the interstate highway system.

He also presided over a remarkably homogeneous society, was opposed by a Democratic Party with many selfless statesmen that was barely distinguishable from the GOP (Ike could have been the nominee of either party), and he still was covered by a news media that mostly held to traditional journalism standards.

Ike would have been called a racist and a fascist in 2020. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Reflections, 9/13/2020: “Hold On To Your Butts!”

1. Our aspiring leaders:

  • A 31-year-old female deputy and 24-year-old male deputy were shot while sitting in their patrol car at a Metro rail station in Compton, California. Protesters gathered outside the emergency room at the hospital where they were treated. The sheriff’s department found it necessary to tweet:  “To the protesters blocking the entrance & exit of the HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM yelling “We hope they die” referring to 2 LA Sheriff’s ambushed today in #Compton: DO NOT BLOCK EMERGENCY ENTRIES & EXITS TO THE HOSPITAL,. People’s lives are at stake when ambulances can’t get through.” President Trump tweeted in response to the shooting:

Incredible: flat learning curve. After all the uproar about calling people “animals.” And if the shooters are minorities…The only one who can lose this election for President Trump is President Trump.

  • The Times of Israel reports, based on a recording of a virtual fundraiser, that Joe Biden said that the recent development of Arab states normalizing relations with Israel was “something positive” President Trump is doing “accidentally.”

Stay classy, Joe. To be fair, that has been the narrative of the Democratic Party/”resistance”/news media alliance for four years: if something goes wrong, it is the President’s fault; if something goes right, it’s either wrong anyway because Trump is responsible, or it’s just luck or an accident.

2. And now, from the world of sports! Continue reading

Stop Making Me Defend Joe Biden! The Plagiarism Charge…

One of these things is not like the others…

I would say Joe Biden will never live down his 1987 disgrace, when he withdrew from the Democratic Party’s presidential race after it was revealed that he plagiarized a speech—indeed, a life account—from UK Labor Party Leader Neil Kinnock. I would say that, except there is so much Biden should never be able to live down that doesn’t matter now that he is running against Donald Trump, not the least of which is that he is placing the nation and the integrity of the Presidency at risk by continuing his candidacy despite evidence of serious cognitive decline that he must be aware of.

During the  2016 campaign, I frequently mentioned my  “Lawn Chair Test,” which is whether I would vote for a lawn chair rather than a particular candidate. Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton all flunked the Lawn Chair Test, and apparently the Trump Deranged are taking it literally, as it appears that in November they will be voting for the nearest thing to an actual lawn chair that has ever been on a Presidential ballot.

Nonetheless, the alleged plagiarism claims that have been trumpeted by some conservative news sources regarding Biden’s nomination acceptance speech are as unfair as they are silly.

Biden wrapped his  speech in rousing fashion—well, it would have been rousing  if Joe showed any energy at all—by saying: “For love is more powerful than hate. Hope is more powerful than fear. Light is more powerful than dark.”

The Canadians “pounced,”  claiming that Joe’s words were unethically similar to those from a speech byJack Layton, the leader of Canada’s left-wing New Democratic Party,  in an  open farewell letter to his fellow citizens prior to his death in 2011. Layton wrote, “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair.”

“A number of Canadians are struck by the similar parting words of Biden’s speech to the final words of Jack Layton’s farewell letter before his death,” CBC’s Washington correspondent Alexander Panetta tweeted.

Layton’s message, meanwhile, had itself employed somewhat similar language to that once used by former Canadian Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier,  who had said in 1916, “Let me tell you that for the solution of these problems you have a safe guide, an unfailing light if you remember that faith is better than doubt and love is better than hate.”

Knowing that Republicans and others would be searching for “gotcha!” examples of plagiarism by Biden given the Kinnock scandal, his campaign invested in a $4,200 anti-plagiarism software program last year. It didn’t pick up on the similarities between Layton’s language and Biden’s (assuming he was the author of his speech, which he almost certainly was not), because there was no plagiarism. First, it was a single sentence, and hardly a remarkable one in either instance. I’d be shocked if similar sentences haven’t turned up in many political speeches throughout history. Second, they just aren’t that much alike, though Layton’s was better. Anger isn’t the same as hate. “Light is more powerful than dark,” isn’t the equivalent of “Optimism is better than despair.” Sure, the construction is the same, but that is a standard rhetorical device: three parallel statements,  linked by cadence.

Oratory is a genre, and, like music, it is customary and traditional to borrow and alter phrases and sequences from the works of others, which in most cases weren’t completely original themselves. If Joe hadn’t already had a well-earned reputation as a plagiarist—as a law school student in 1965, Biden failed a class for citing published works without attribution—no one would have criticized him for this trivial sort-of match. The fact is that Joe Biden isn’t that bright and isn’t that articulate. He’s  been a plodding, over-achiever his whole life. He needs to borrow from those more clever and gifted than he, and most speakers consider that kind of borrowing a compliment.

Here’s how it works: certain apt and memorable lines evolve and get perfected through the ages, until finally someone nails it. Then that one is theirs, and nobody can imitate it again without everyone noticing. A prime example is President John F. Kennedy’s famous line, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” There are many recorded—and probably unrecorded— speeches that contain similar sentiments. Ted Sorensen, who wrote the speech with Kennedy, nailed it, perhaps aided by Jack, who had a headmaster who was fond of quoting an old Harvard dean who told graduating classes, “As has often been said, the youth who loves his Alma Mater will always ask, not “What can she do for me?” but “What can I do for her?”

Were Kennedy and his speechwriter plagiarizing? No.

Then there is Winston Churchill, who in 1940 famously told Parliament:

“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills…We shall never surrender, and even if,which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of itwere subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

In a similarly desperate situation  during the German offensive in the spring of 1918, French premier Georges Clemenceau rallied his people by saying,

“I shall fight before Paris, I shall fight behind Paris. The Germans may
take Paris but that will not stop me from carrying on the war. We shall
fight on the Loire, we shall fight on the Garonne, we shall fight even
in the Pyrenees. And should we be driven off the Pyrenees, we shall
continue the war from the sea. But as for asking for peace, never!”

Plagiarism? It’s a lot closer to plagiarism than Joe’s speech, but so what? Churchill wasn’t speaking for a grade, or for publication. Political oratory has a purpose, and accomplishing that purpose is paramount. He may have been inspired by Clemenceau, but Clemenceau might have taken his inspiration from Caesar, or Homer…it doesn’t matter. What mattered was inspiring a nation, not achieving 100% originality.

As for Joe’s little speech, it wasn’t within furlongs of Kennedy’s or Churchill’s, but accusing him of plagiarism this time is petty and unfair.

“The Great Stupid” Chronicles: Dumb Tweet, Unintelligent “Intelligencer”

Richard Spoor, he tells us, is a public interest lawyer with a special interest in land reform, mines and communities and compensation for occupational diseases, and a “militant non-racialist,” whatever that means. His tweet is addled in so many ways:

  • The fate of these two lawyers turned terrorists is no more “sad” than any story of previously law-abiding citizens whose ethics alarms stop working as they knowingly break the law.
  • The fact that they are “young” makes it no more sad than if they were older, like 50. They’re not kids: both are over 30. They cannot claim immaturity or lack of experience. My son nearly ruined his life with a terrible, spur of the moment decision that could have killed him and others, but he was a teenaged male. He was also lucky.  Truly young people like he was wreck their lives with bad decisions every day. That’s sad. Adults doing it is something else.
  • Participating in a riot and throwing a Molotov cocktail is not the act of an “idealistic” person by definition. Breaking the law, engaging in violence, and trying to destroy property for no good reason does not embody “ideals.” They embody the opposite of ideals. If the two lawyers  were really idealistic, this wouldn’t have happened.
  • They didn’t “get wrapped up” in BLM’s racist movement, they joined it. It isn’t something that just happened to them.
  • “Moment of madness” is another version of Rationalization #19, The Perfection Diversion, or “Nobody’s Perfect!” and “Everybody makes mistakes!” People don’t suddenly throw Molotov cocktails and go “Ooopsie! What was I thinking?” That’s not “a mistake,” it is the culmination of many intentional acts leading up to a serious crime.

Continue reading

Ethics Batting Practice, 7/21/ 2020: Baseball Zoom Hangover Edition.

Isn’t that only TWO feet??

Last night’s Smithsonian Associates presentation on baseball and American culture went well, I guess. Presenting on Zoom is like acting in a closet: no connection to the audience, no way to gauge what is working and what isn’t, or whether the invisible viewers are engaged. It did give me  a chance, during the section on baseball cheating, to read one of my favorite passages from Philip Roth’s baseball allegory/satire,”The Great American Novel.” Roth’s narrator, mad sportswriter Word Smith, tells the sad tale of the legendary “Spit” Baal, a master of the spitball, the mucous-ball and other trick pitches aided by surreptitiously applied substances. After such adulterations of the ball were banned in 1920, Baal found his career in tatters, since he could no longer use his signature pitch. (In the real world, the National league and American league allowed acknowledged spitball specialists to continue to throw the pitch legally under a grandfather clause, but Roth’s fantasy  is about a third major league, wiped from history and record books in the Fifties following the discovery that it had been infiltrated by Communists.) One day, again seeing his dry pitches clobbered and realizing that he could no longer get batters out legally, “Spit” has a psychotic break on the mound that ends his career in spectacular if unsanitary fashion:

And so before twenty thousand shocked customers  including innocent children — and his own wide-eyed teammates, the once great pitcher, who was  washed up anyway, did the unthinkable, the unpardonable, the inexpiable. He dropped the flannel  trousers of his uniform to his knees, and proceeded  to urinate on the ball, turning it slowly in his hands  so as to dampen the entire surface. Then he hitched  his trousers back up, and in the way of pitchers,  pawed at the ground around the mound with his  spikes, churning up then smoothing down the dirt  where he had inadvertently dribbled upon it. To the  batter, as frozen in his position as anyone in that  ball park, he called, “Here comes the pissball, shithead — get ready!”

For years afterward they talked about the route that ball took before it passed over the plate. Not  only did it make the hairpin turns and somersaults  expected of a Baal spitter, but legend has it that it  shifted gears four times, halving, then doubling its  velocity each fifteen feet it traveled. And in the end,  the catcher, in his squat, did not even have to move  his glove from where it too was frozen as a target .Gagging, he caught the ball with a squish, right in  the center of the strike zone…

1. So this graph would seem to indicate that the news media is scare mongering, right? Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 7/19/2020: And The Hits Just Keep On Coming!

1. Final plug, as the bat above (and in my hands) reminds me: If you are set up with Zoom (it’s free, you know), you still have time to register for the Smithsonian Associates program  tomorrow evening (at 6:45 pm, EST) wherein I hold forth on how baseball has influenced American culture, values and history. Yes, it’s $35 bucks, but it goes to a good cause, and may help the Institute hire more competent employees who don’t peddle junk like the chart on “whiteness.” You’ll be able to ask questions, and I’m storing these experiences for the Ethics Alarms Zoom experience to come. Read all about it here…

2. If a left-wing dim bulb like Jonathan Chait can figure this out, surely more are to follow. He writes in New York Magazine…you know, where Andrew Sullivan was regarded as too conservative?

The ideology of the racism-training industry …collapses all identity into racial categories. “It is crucial for white people to acknowledge and recognize our collective racial experience,” writes [ Robin DiAngelo, of temporary White Fragility” fame,] whose teachings often encourage the formation of racial affinity groups. The program does not allow any end point for the process of racial consciousness. Racism is not a problem white people need to overcome in order to see people who look different as fully human — it is totalizing and inescapable. Of course, DiAngelo’s whites-only groups are not dreamed up in the same spirit as David Duke’s. The problem is that, at some point, the extremes begin to functionally resemble each other despite their mutual antipathy…. In some cases its ideas literally replicate anti-Black racism.”

Ya think??? Continue reading

In Defense Of The Terrorist: Clarence Darrow Eulogy For John Brown

In the ongoing debate here regarding what constitutes a great American—sparked by reader valkygrrl’s guest post on the topic as well as the President’s recent remarks at Mount Rushmore, the question of whether abolitionist John Brown belongs has been the most contentious. I don’t believe that one can ethically assign a murderer and law-breaker (and unraveling fanatic) like Brown to the “great American” category,  but a figure unquestionably smarter than I whom I believe unquestionably was  one of the greatest Americans did, and his argument deserves attention and thought. That figure is Clarence Darrow.

Brown was much admired by Darrow’s iconoclast father, Amirus Darrow, and his mother was an anti-slavery activist, turning the Darrow home into a stop on the Underground Railroad.  Born in 1857, Darrow was too young to remember the pre-Civil War period, and Brown was hanged in 1859. Nonetheless, the admiration for Brown was passed on from father to son, and there are moments in Darrow’s career where his actions seemed consistent with Brown’s philosophy of the ends justifying the means when the stakes were important enough, notably the conduct that almost got him disbarred and imprisoned for jury tampering. (Darrow was guilty, but was acquitted because he had a great defense attorney—Clarence Darrow.)

John Brown was a hero of Darrow’s , who didn’t have many: the abolitionist, Voltaire, and his friend and mentor John Peter Altgeld were about it, as far as I can tell. Periodically, on the anniversary of Brown’s birthday (May 8), Darrow would give a speech eulogizing Brown to a progressive group. Its final sentence is the most quoted:

The radical of today is the conservative of tomorrow, and other martyrs take up the work through other nights, and the dumb and stupid world plants its weary feet upon the slippery sand, soaked by their blood, and the world moves on.

Incredibly, Darrow’s John Brown Eulogy is impossible to find on the web now; I have no idea why. (Enter that sentence in Google, and what pops up is…me!) Thus I am  reproducing Darrow’s speech here, for two purposes: first, to let you consider Clarence Darrow ‘s argument for why we should honor John Brown, and second, to have an online home for it.

It is not the whole speech, but my own shortened and edited version. I am still hunting for the whole document in a form I can post (I have it in several books), and when I find it, I’ll substitute the complete version for this: Continue reading

Common Sense Doesn’t Matter Either: The “Woke” Acting Profession Is Betraying Audiences And Dooming Itself (Part 2: Give My Demands To Broadway…)

Upon careful consideration, I think this clip is the fairest representation of what black theater activists on Broadway are advocating:

In Part I of this series, we discussed the dead-end strategy recently pursued by the performing woke of imposing one-way limitations on which actors could portray what roles. Across the full range of group grievance activism, everyone is rushing to try to exploit and capitalize upon the George Floyd Freakout, perhaps recognizing that the present state of self-flagellation and submissiveness by white decision-makers, governments, businesses and other institutions won’t last forever. In their haste, many groups—in this I would include the “resistance,” Democrats and the news media among others—are metaphorically cutting their own throats. This is especially true of the theater community.

A coalition of theater artists called “We See You, White American Theater” has posted online a 29-page set of demands that if adopted, the New York Times opines, “would amount to a sweeping restructuring of the theater ecosystem in America.”

Wrong, Bias Breath! If adopted, the demands would kill commercial live theater, and it is more than half dead already, though most theater community members are in denial.

The list reminded me of the bad old days of the 1960s, when student anarchists, protesting the war in Vietnam, would take over university buildings and then, thinking that they had the upper hand, would submit a list of demands including the Moon and the kitchen sink, many of which had nothing to do with the war at all.  This list of demands makes those look reasonable, one reason being that simply reading the 29 pages of arrogant woke-speak is a task few will have the patience to undertake.

I’ll just focus on some highlights. (By the way, you need to know that BIPOC means “Black, Indigenous and People of Color”):

  • “We demand the naming and acknowledgement of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian tribal land and its Native peoples who have lived, currently live, and will live on the land where any theatre activity happens.”

I hate to keep having to break it to these naifs, but theater is just not that important to most people, particularly those in power. “We have to rename Indianapolis to have theater here? OK—we won’t have any theater then! Problem solved!”

This one is worth repeating in full: Continue reading

And Today’s “Madness! Madness!” Item Of The Day: “The Unintentional Racism Found In Traffic Signals”

I didn’t make that title up. “The Unintentional Racism Found in Chex Mix,” I made up. Not  the other one.

You can read the article here.

The writer, David Kaufman, says in the article that he is black, so I’ll take his word for it. I’m not going to fisk or rebut the piece, any more than you would take the time fir rebut my Chex Mix conspiracy theory, if I really wrote it down. Both articles inhabit the special category  of “res ipsa loquitur” reserved for things that, without further analysis or explication, prove that their creator is mentally ill, or, in the alternative, trying, for whatever reason, to make people believe waht isn’t so, or, possibly engaging in satire. When you  read the article, the latter possibility is quicklyerases, and so is the second. The author is serious. He is deranged.

Here’s one section, just to illustrate:

“And there you have it: The government-approved origins of the “little White men” telling us to cross the street at corners across New York….I am now convinced that technology and necessity, rather than some anti-Black conspiracy, propelled the shift from verbal crosswalk cues to a lunar-white Walking Person. But my heart still sinks at the specter of teaching my sons to ask a White man for permission to do — well, anything. Because so much of the world already insists that we do.”

Continue reading