Saturday Ethics Pick-Me–Up, 6/15/2019: The “Oh, Fine, It’s Afternoon Already And I’m Barely Awake” Edition

Bvuh.

Travel hangover today: I’ll do the best I can…

1. Thank you, loyal commenters, for a yeoman job in yesterday’s Open Forum.

2. Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck update. Now the historical airbrushers (all from Progressiveland, just in case you couldn’t guess) are going after Civil War recreations and commemorative events. The head of the Lake County Forest Preserve in Illinois declared that there would be no more annual Civil War Days event after next  month’s edition, if he gets his way. He doesn’t think Confederate flags should ever be displayed, even in battle recreations. Besides, he wants the event to be retooled so that instead of commemorating the single most important period and struggle in U.S. history, it advances an understanding of climate change.

(Who are these people? How did they get this way? What do we do about them so the cultural damage they inflict is contained?)

The home-grown historical censor also said,

“This has nothing we want, nor should celebrate, nor re-enact. When southern states are being made to tear down every statute representing this racist, murdering chapter of our history, I can’t believe here in Lake County our own forest preserve is preserving and celebrating it every year, and with our tax dollars.”

This deliberately brain-dead approach to U.S. history is working (aided greatly by the atrocious neglect of American history in our schools), and by working I mean promoting ignorance so citizens can be more easily misled. The Wall Street Journal reported that visits to Civil War national battlefields are falling off. Over 10 million Americans visited  Gettysburg, Antietam, Shiloh, Chickamauga/Chattanooga, and Vicksburg  in 1970. They only had 3.1 million visitors last year.

That’s about as many tourists as visited the “Cheers” bar in Boston.

3. Oberlin race-baiting update: in case you missed it, the jury in the Gibson’s Bakery case  hit the college with the maximum punitive damages, capped by law at 22 million dollars.  Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Memorial Day Weekend Ethics Warm-Up, 5/25/2019: Julian, Conan, Naomi, and Ousamequin”

The Myles Standish Monument

Regular readers  know that there are many superb comments here that I don’t re-publish as Comments of the Day.  One category of comment that is often neglected is the jeremiad, and dire predictions of the dystopian, Orwellian future that the current all-out assault on American values, traditions and institutions will eventually produce. 

I don’t like fearmongering as a tactic; if I ever did, the disgusting resort to it by Democrats as a way to sabotage President Trump would have been sufficient to reverse my approval forever. Nor am I a pessimist regarding this remarkable nation and the strength of its unique culture and the citizens who maintain it. 

That does not mean, however, that I think we should ignore the dangers to democracy that are now building in intensity. In this Memorial Day themed Comment of the Day, Steve-O-in NJ raises legitimate concerns. Remember that MSNBC host Chris Hayes once said that he was uncomfortable calling fallen soldiers heroes.

This is the predominant ethos of today’s American Left, an anti-patriotic, anti-exceptionalism, anti-American, anti-nationalist mindset that really has absorbed John Lennon’s infantile vision of utopia—no borders, no nations, nothing to live or die for—as a driving philosophy.

Here is Steve-O’s Comment of the Day on the post,Memorial Day Weekend Ethics Warm-Up,5/25/2019: Julian, Conan, Naomi, and Ousamequin:

This holiday itself might come under attack.

The origins of Memorial Day aren’t as clear as you might think. The idea of decorating the graves of the fallen with flowers dates back to before the founding of this country, but here it was largely confined to families or, occasionally communities until the time of the Civil War. In 1861 Southern women organized to clean up and decorate the graves of the South’s fallen in Warrenton, VA and Savannah, GA, which leads to the concept that the holiday has Confederate roots. On May 1, 1865, the freedmen of Charleston, SC, led a parade of 10,000 to honor 257 Union soldiers who they had rescued from a mass grave and reburied. The earliest record of Decoration Day in the North was in 1868, proclaimed by General John Logan, Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (Union veterans’ organization). Only in 1967 does Federal statute make it the holiday we know today.

The holiday is not a Confederate invention, nor was that first observance, in Charleston, even about the dead of the South.

Continue reading

Memorial Day Weekend Ethics Warm-Up, 5/25/2019: Julian, Conan, Naomi, and Ousamequin

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

It’s going to be a Sousa weekend here. The piece above is one I bet you haven’t heard before. President Chester A. Arthur ordered Sousa to compose a replacement for  1812’s   “Hail to the Chief,” which had announced Presidents since John Quincy Adams, although it went in and out of fashion. (President Polk, it is said, always had “Hail to the Chief” played because he was so physically unimpressive that nobody noticed when he entered a room without the fanfare!) After Arthur left office, Presidents returned to to”Hail to Chief,” and Eisenhower made it the official tune of the office in 1954.

1. A First Amendment stretch. Julian Assange has been indicted. Good. He conspired with a weak-minded and troubled soldier to prompt him, now her, to steal U.S. secrets so he could publish them and promote his anarchist website, Wikileaks. The act almost certainly got U.S. agents killed and did other irreparable harm. Assange isn’t a journalist, and publishing stolen classified information isn’t journalism. Naturally journalists are lining up to defend Assange, especially the New York Times, which was the beneficiary of the Pentagon Papers ruling. They see a conviction of Assange the way abortion zealots see bans on late-term abortions: a camel’s nose in the tent, the slippery slope.

The use of journalistic publications as illegal document laundering devices has always been the least compelling aspect of First Amendment protection of freedom of the Press. I have never believed that it was a wise and fair protection, and if Assange’s just desserts weaken the right of newspapers to publish troop movements,  private citizens’ tax returns, and grand jury proceedings, good.

2. Did Conan O’Brien steal a writer’s jokes? You decide! Here is a joke Robert Kaseberg wrote on Twitter on June 9, 2015: Continue reading

And Another One BitesThe Dust: Bowling Green State’s Unethical Slap At Lillian Gish [UPDATED]

The problem with so many of the statue-toppling/ renaming debacles at U.S. universities isn’t just that they are  transparent grandstanding, virtue-signalling and pandering to power-seeking black activists. The more disturbing problem is the intellectual vacuousness and lack of critical thought that school administrators display in the process of their grovels. The recent action of Bowling Green State University in Ohio is a particularly noxious example.

[Correction notice: the post originally had the university in Virginia, perhaps because I was once pulled over for reckless driving in Bowling Green, Virginia. Anyway, that was wrong. My apologies.]

Lillian Gish ( 1893-1993) had an epic  film career spanning 75 years, from 1912, in silent films,  to 1987. She was frequently  called the “First Lady of American Cinema,” and film historians credit her with introducing basic movie performing techniques to her craft. The PBS series, American Masters devoted an episode to Gish’s life and achievements; Turner Classics Movies observes,

Having pioneered screen acting from vaudeville entertainment into a form of artistic expression, actress Lillian Gish forged a new creative path at a time when more serious thespians regarded motion pictures as a rather base form of employment. Gish brought to her roles a sense of craft substantially different from that practiced by her theatrical colleagues. In time, her sensitive performances elevated not only her stature as an actress, but also the reputation of movies themselves. 

She had 120 film and TV credits before she was done, including “Night of the Hunter,” an enduring classic. In short, she was important. She enhanced the culture and her industry, and she earned her honors. She should be remembered.

Bowling Green State University has honored  Lillian Gish (and her less-celebrated acting sister Dorothy) for more than 40 years. But members of the college’s Black Student Union objected the theater’s name, on the grounds that in 1915, when she was 22 years old, she was one of the stars in D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” a seminal work in the U.S. film canon by one of its most talented and influential directors. The film, despite its artistic merits and importance to the development of the movies, is widely regarded as racist in content and purpose, celebrating as it does the rise of the Klu Klux Klan. The film is also blamed in part for the rise of Jim Crow in the South, also aided by President Woodrow Wilson’s open promotion of the movie as well as Griffith’s political views.

None of which has anything to do with Lillian Gish. Actors don’t write scripts or control a movie’s message, nor are they responsible for how audiences perceive a film beyond their own performances. D.W. Griffith was not only the early 20th Century’s equivalent of a Stanley Kubrick or Steven Spielberg, he was young Lillian’s patron and metor. She had literally no choice other than to accept his decision to cast her in his Reconstruction opus; to rebuff him would have risked ending her career. Nor was there any way, in 1915, for Gish to know what the impact of “Birth of a Nation” might be, or to know, while she was being filmed, what the director would do with the footage.

Gish was not responsible for the movie, and holding that she was is as ignorant and indefensible as it is unfair. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Pete Buttigieg

The competition for the worst Democratic Presidential nominee hopeful just got a bit more interesting when one of the media darlings among the 24 (24!) hopefuls made an Ethics Dunce of himself (in an interview with Hugh Hewitt) in a manner that is disqualifying for the Presidency by Ethics Alarms standards. Here’s the relevant section:

HH: … A very blunt question, because you talk about going to every Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Indiana when you were running statewide. Should Jefferson-Jackson dinners be renamed everywhere because both were holders of slaves?

Buttigieg: Yeah, we’re doing that in Indiana. I think it’s the right thing to do. You know, over time, you develop and evolve on the things you choose to honor. And I think we know enough, especially Jackson, you know, you just look at what basically amounts to genocide that happened here. Jefferson’s more problematic. You know, there’s a lot to, of course, admire in his thinking and his philosophy. Then again, as you plunge into his writings, especially the notes on the state of Virginia, you know that he knew that slavery was wrong…. And yet, he did it. Now we’re all morally conflicted human beings. And it’s not like we’re blotting him out of the history books, or deleting him from being the Found[ing] Fathers. But you know, naming something after somebody confers a certain amount of honor. And at a time, I mean, the real reason I think there’s a lot of pressure on this is the relationship between the past and the present, that we’re finding in a million different ways that racism isn’t some curiosity out of the past that we’re embarrassed about but moved on from. It’s alive, it’s well, it’s hurting people. And it’s one of the main reasons to be in politics today is to try to change or reverse the harms that went along with that. Then, we’d better look for ways to live out and honor that principle, even in a symbolic thing.

Even before this fatuous statement, my Presidential history, common sense and current day political analysis led me to conclude that the South Bend mayor has no chance of being nominated, and if by some miracle of convention deadlock deal he was, no chance of being elected. He is 1) gay, 2) white, 3) male, 4) way too young, and 5) too much immersed  the Democratic Socialist camp. I don’t have to get to some of his other problems, like the fact that he is infuriatingly smug. However, the statement to Hewitt would disqualify him for me even if I were a Democrat, and should make all thinking and ethical Democrats—you know, the ones that aren’t nascent totalitarians, look elsewhere, though good luck with that. Continue reading

Observations On The Bizarre Slavery Photo Lawsuit Against Harvard

It would be nice if this grandstanding lawsuit engineered by professional race-baiting lawyer Benjamin Crump was summarily thrown out of court as the junk it is, but unfortunately, too many judges, when woke sentiment beckons, bend over backwards so far that they can lick their heels.

Here is the gist of it:

Tamara Lanier filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts claiming that she is a direct descendant of Renty and Delia, two slaves who were the subjects of a harsh photo session as part of an anthropological inquiry into the differences between blacks and whites. The images of the father and daughter were commissioned by renowned  Harvard professor Louis Agassiz 170 years ago,  and are now stored in  the ancient Peabody  museum on the Harvard campus. (Full disclosure: I love the place, and spent many afternoons as a kid wandering through the exhibits.)  The lawsuit claims the images are the “spoils of theft,” because as slaves Renty and Delia were unable to give consent to being photographed., and that Harvard is illegally profiting from the images by using them for “advertising and commercial purposes.” By keeping the photos, the lawsuit claims, Harvard has perpetuated the hallmarks of slavery that prevented African-Americans from holding, conveying or inheriting personal property.

Observations:

  • I’m sure—aren’t you?— that Mrs. Laneir came up with this wild Hail Mary lawsuit all by herself. Her lawyer, as I already note, is Benjamin Crump, a legal racial shake-down artist who excels at creating public pressure that forces defendants to pay copious settlement money to his clients who often don’t deserve it. He represented the family of Trayvon Martin, and in so doing poisoned the public narrative so thoroughly that the actual facts of Martin’s death are permanently distorted in the nation’s collective memory. he represented the parents of Michael Brown, ensuring them a big pay-off because their angelic son charged a police officers and got himself shot. Ben Crump helped promote “Hands up! Don’t shoot!,” the lie that is still poisoning race-relations to this day. He’s a mission lawyer, someone who uses the law to pursue an agenda: he is to race relations what Gloria Allred is to feminism. He profits by stirring up discord, whether there’s really an injustice or not.

That doesn’t mean that some of his crusades won’t have merit. I only means that there is just cause for suspicion if he is involved.

  • “It is unprecedented in terms of legal theory and reclaiming property that was wrongfully taken,” Crump says. I guess that’s one way of putting it. It’s unprecedented because no previous lawyer had the gall to try such a stunt, but with Democrats and progressives beating the hollow reparations drum again, he cleverly chose a good time to take a flyer. “I keep thinking, tongue in cheek a little bit, this has been 169 years a slave, and Harvard still won’t free Papa Renty,” said  Crump. Good one, Ben! Except that Renty is long dead, and a photograph isn’t a human being…

Yet give him some credit:  Crump is explaining why this isn’t a technically frivolous law suit. If a litigant and the litigant’s lawyer are arguing for a new legal principle, knowing that under existing law the claim is dead, then the action isn’t frivolous. Horrible and dangerous Crump’s lawsuit is; frivolous it isn’t.

  • Harvard and other universities set themselves up for this by caving to historical airbrushing demands by the students they have helped indoctrinate, such as when Georgetown University established a policy giving an edge  n admissions to descendants of slaves who were sold to fund the school. I would say they have this coming and let them sleep on the bed of nails their laziness and cowardice has made, but therein lies a real danger. Harvard, which of late has been devising and defending one bad progressive idea after another (like discriminating against Asian Americans as Harvard’s own way of helping African Americans get admitted to the college), might just decide to be woke rather than responsible, and let Mrs. Lanier take the photos, thus setting a precedent with endless potential to cause havoc.

I wouldn’t bet against it.

  • Lanier’s (that is, Crump’s) lawsuit is an extension of the Mao/Soviet Union -style historical airbrushing and re-writing tool of social change that  21st Century progressives have adopted as they march inexorably toward beneficent totalitarianism. If we don’t like the laws our ancestors put in place, let’s just declare that  they weren’t laws at all. If applying legal principles that have been in place and effective for hundreds of years doesn’t assist the social change we desire, than suspend those principles. Make the law a subject to “the ends justifies the means” whenever it’s convenient.

I’m sorry to be blunt, but if you don’t comprehend the existential danger inherent in this approach, you’re an idiot.

  • Legal problems? What legal problems? Well, let’s see: 1) Renty’s lack of consent to the photos is irrelevant, because under the laws of the time, he had no right to consent. That may be unfair, and wrong, and cruel, and horrifying, but the way society works is that laws, even bad ones, are valid until they are repealed and replaced. Without that certainty, no law can function, and the rule of law becomes impossible. 2) The theory that Harvard is profiting from slavery because of the value of its photograph of a slave would mean that the owners would be profiting from war crimes because of the value of a photograph like this…

(And no, I don’t think those half-dead Andersonville prisoners were capable of giving meaningful and valid consent to be photographed either.) The lawsuit is designed to open the door to censorship of history and historical records that “offend” anybody. 3) The distant relatives of the subject of a photograph are the real owners of the photograph, not the photographer, and not the individual who commissioned the photograph, even if the original subject  gave legally valid consent to be photographed or received compensation for such a photograph if a court at any time in the future deems that such consent was invalid under current law, or the compensation is similarly deemed inadequate.

Brilliant.

4) If this theory prevails, then wouldn’t Ken Burns, and PBS, and everyone who profited from showing Burns’ “The Civil War” be required to pay damages for “profiting” from the use of slave photos similarly taken without consent? Would that segment of the documentary, which is crucial to Burn;s narrative, have to be excised?

  • Then there’s this little problem: it is virtually impossible to determine with any certainty that “Renty” really is Tamara’s Lanier’s ancestor.

Yet Harvard may capitulate anyway—to signal its virtue, to be able to publicly condemn slavery, to be “woke, ” and mostly to avoid pickets in Harvard Yard. Ben Crump is no fool…a race-hustler, sure, but he’s no fool.

Ethics Dunce And Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month (Yes, Even More Than Virginia’s Gov. Northam!): Dearborn, Michigan Mayor Jack O’Reilly

Henry Ford was an important industrialist, innovator and inventor, and a towering figure in automotive history. Nobody, however, mistook him for nice guy. In addition to many ruthless tendencies, Ford was well documented anti-Semite, even by the ugly standards of his time, when that particular form of bigotry was generally considered reasonable. However, when the city-funded Dearborn Historian included a article documenting Henry Ford’s anti-Semitism, the city’s mayor, Jack O’Reilly, killed the issue, ordering the museum that produces the magazine not to mail it out.

Dearborn is where Ford was born, where his estate is, and where he built his flagship motorcar factory. For some reason that apparently means to O’Reilly that the folks who live there should know less about their town’s most famous and accomplished resident that everyone else. Ford’s hatred of Jews is, after all, hardly news: he was open about it when he was alive; there are books about it; and his family has been trying to live down the shame of that part of his legacy for decades.

Oh, never mind all that: the false lesson being pushed on our society in recent years is that inconvenient history disappears if you erase the record of it. This is the message of all the screeching and crunching metal sounds from The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck, and all the other attempts to airbrush the bad stuff from industrial, local, national and personal histories. O’Reilly is a true believer that Henry Ford’s not-exactly-good name will be cleansed by making sure as few citizens as possible know what a creep he was when he wasn’t revolutionizing American industry and changing lives of Americans for the better. He is, in other words, a censorious fool. Continue reading