Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, July 10, 2021: Remembering The Unethical And Bizarre”Monkey Trial”

Scopes

Ooooh, it’s Clarence Darrow time again, and as I will show in another post shortly, this has serious, and underappreciated current day relevance.

For on this date in Dayton, Tennessee, the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial began in 1925, not only one of the most famous trials in U.S. history, but also one of the most misrepresented, misunderstood and, frankly, silly trials as well. John Thomas Scopes, a young high school science teacher, was accused of teaching evolution in violation of a new Tennessee state law which made it a misdemeanor punishable by fine to “teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.” Town officials persuaded Scopes to volunteer to get arrested for the offense, not so much to challenge the law but because alocal businessman figured out that it would put Dayton on the map. His plot succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. The American Civil Liberties Unio—-yes, they once cared about the First Amendment—announced it would defend Scopes, and hired an aging but famous Clarence Darrow to do the job, which included making sure his client was convicted, so they could appeal the verdict to the U.S. Supreme Court, where even a monkey judge would know that the Tennessee anti-evolution law was a blatant First Amendment violation.

William Jennings Bryan, the three-time Democratic presidential candidate who was seeking his fourth shot at the White House, volunteered to assist the prosecution in his guise as a fundamentalist Everyman. The Monkey Trial got underway with in-person coverage by renowned cynic H.L. Mencken and hoards of other reporters. Parts of the trial were broadcast nationally over the radio, an all-time first. Preachers set up revival tents along the city’s main street; venders sold Bibles, hot dogs and souvenirs like monkey dolls and fans to tourists. A carnival “exhibit” featuring two chimpanzees and a “missing link” opened in town: the alleged “Monkey Man” was 51-year-old Jo Viens, who was short, had a receding forehead, and whose jaw protruded like an ape. One of the chimpanzees wore a plaid suit, a brown fedora, and white spats, and periodically was allowed to run around on the courthouse lawn.

To recap, the “trial” was based on a contrived “crime” committed with the cooperation of authorities, and the defense was to make sure Scopes was convicted, not acquitted. But things got even more Bizarro World-like. At one point, Scopes told Darrow that a substitute teacher, not him, had actually taught the Darwin class, and Darrow told the teacher to shut the hell up about that rather crucial detail. When Judge John Raulston ruled that expert scientific testimony on evolution would be inadmissible, Darrow decided that his sole expert witness would be Bryan, one of the prosecutors. (No, this had never happened before and has never happened since.). Raulston ordered the trial moved to the courthouse lawn for this spectacle, fearing that the weight of the spectators and reporters inside would cause the courthouse floor to collapse.

Darrow treated Bryan as a hostile witness, though they knew each other, were both political progressives, and were both doing what they loved best, performing in front of a crowd. Popular legend holds that Darrow made a monkey out of Bryan, which was how the famous play (“Inherit the Wind”) based on the trial and its many TV and movie versions portrayed the showdown, but reading the transcript tells a different story. Bryan’s answers were cagey and clever, but he had a big problem: he knew his answers were being broadcast to potential voters who were not fundamentalists, yet he couldn’t afford to alienate the Bible-Beating jury. Darrow had no such dilemma: remember, he wanted to alienate the jury, and knew that if Bryan insisted that the Bible was literally true, “The Great Commoner” would end his political career (though it was almost certainly over anyway.) . Thus Bryan argued, for example, that God explained things in the Bible in ways that could be understood by the people of the time. For example, God obviously knew that the Earth moved around the sun, and not the other way around, but HE just said, in the Bible, that the sun “stopped,” so as not to confuse the faithful.

The weirdness got worse: in his closing speech, Darrow asked the jury to return a verdict of guilty in order that the case might be appealed. I’m pretty sure this is an abuse of process and wildly unethical: isn’t a request to be found guilty indistinguishable from a guilty plea? This tactic did have a mean consequence for poor Bryan: under Tennessee law, the admission of guilt meant Bryan couldn’t deliver the grand closing speech he had been preparing for weeks. It took eight minutes for the jury to return with a guilty verdict—why did Darrow feel he had to ask for a verdict that was pre-ordained, other than to deny Bryan his big finale?— and Raulston ordered Scopes to pay a fine of $100, the minimum the law allowed.

After all of this, the ACLU’s scheme still failed: the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the Scopes verdict, but on a procedural technicality, so the case never got to the U.S. Supreme Court at all. The constitutional issue was officially unresolved until SCOTUS overturned a similar Arkansas law.

Can you guess why this fiasco has special relevance in 2021?

Watch this space!

Dinnertime Ethics Appetizer, 8/7/19: Spinning, Tweeting and Joking…[CORRECTED]

…and whatever THIS is…

The jaw-dropping video above has nothing to do with ethics, but after stumbling across this weird and wonderful act late, late last night in a 1944 B-movie musical revue called “Broadway Rhythm,” I’ve decided that the Ross Sisters need to be rescued from obscurity. We will never see the likes of this again. You decide whether that’s a good thing or not….

1. It’s nice to see the Times confessing that it’s a partisan hack news source, don’t you  think? When I posted about the unethical Times headline yesterday (“ASSAILING HATE, BUT NOT GUNS”),  I had no idea that a controversy had already erupted over the previous and subsequently removed headline in an earlier edition (“TRUMP URGES UNITY VS. RACISM”), which was attacked as being not negative enough about the President, or that the Times had replaced it in response to an outcry from its main audience, Democrats and Trump-haters.

How can the Times or its defenders pretend to claim that the paper has any integrity at all after such a craven and obviously biased performance?

In a Bizarro World spin job, the Times editor actually described the fiasco this way: “People think we are an important and necessary institution and they hold us to a high standard.”

Oh.

A “high standard” by a news organization is embodied by switching from an objective statement of facts to a partisan and biased one, after anti-Trump readers object! Good is bad, right is wrong, objective reporting is a mistake, the New York Times is the epitome of American journalism.

Nah, there’s no mainstream news media bias!

2. It’s official: nobody knows what racism means any more. Comic Chris Rock concocted a gag meme for Instagram:

Get it? “Betty White” as in “Bet he white!” Ok, it may not be not Oscar Wilde, but it’s clever enough for Instagram. Yet Rock was attacked for being “racist,” not counting the critics who thought he was wishing for the beloved comic actress to be mowed down in a hail of bullets. (Social media is good for causing the idiots among us to self-identify.)

There is nothing racist about the meme. Nothing. NOTHING. Rock’s meme is not suggesting that one race is inferior to another. He is stating a fact—a couple, in fact. The vast, vast majority of mass shooters (and serial killers) are white males. Not all of them, but almost all, which is what make is a bet, and a wise one. The other fact is that when educated, informed people hear about such shootings as we had last week, they assume that either the shooter is a Muslim terrorist, or a crazy white dude.

“If a white person posted this about black people their career would be over but when it’s the other way around nobody gives two shits,” read one social media commenter. “You can’t fight racism with racism, you’re just contributing to the problem. Sad a 17-year-old kid has to say this.”

Yup, it’s sad our 17-year-olds lack the abilities of critical thought and analogy. Rock’s meme wasn’t trying to fight racism, and merely mentioning race doesn’t make observations racist. If a white person posted this about black people, it would be immediately recognized as nonsense. Nobody, even white racists, think that blacks are typical mass shooters.

I’m praying that Rock, who has thus far been adamant about refusing to buckle to political correctness and social media mobs, continues to have the integrity not to apologize.

PLEASE, Chris. You’re my only hope. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On This Kind Of Post-Election Hate, Those Who Write It, And Those Who Believe It [UPDATED]

thanksgiving-conflict

The piece in question is one published in The Daily Banter. The author is Justin Rosario, self-described as a “center-left Jewish-Puerto Rican atheist liberal.” His essay came out just before Thanksgiving, and he titled it, Yes, You Should Shame Your Trump Voting Relatives At Thanksgiving Dinner
(They’ve gone beyond politics and should be treated like the pariahs they are).

Here are the guts of it, when he explains exactly what your Trump-voting relatives “are”:

They’re the people in Germany who stood by and watched the Jews be herded into concentration camps and murdered. Except they’re worse because at least the Germans had never seen anything like the rise of Hitler before. They had no frame of reference to understand what was happening to their country. Your Donald voting relatives have heard and read about Nazis their entire lives. They know and they didn’t care.

Yes, they will have a million excuses for why they voted for someone they knew was a monster but they’re all bullshit. It wasn’t the economy. It wasn’t ISIS. It wasn’t unemployment. It wasn’t Hillary’s emails. It wasn’t Bill’s affairs. It wasn’t Washington corruption. Every single reason they give is a lie and they know it. They wanted one thing and one thing only: To take “their” country back from that fucking n*gger in the White House. That’s it. End of line. Full stop.

Your Donald voting relatives were so freaked out that a black man was president that once Donald told them it was not just permissible to be racist but necessary, they leapt at the chance to put Those People back in their place. And in doing so, they knowingly elected a man that will be all the things they were so afraid Obama was going to be: A tyrant. A dictator. A bully. An autocratic pig that will disregard the rule of law and treat America like his own personal playground. A brutal despot that will silence the media, arrest his political opponents and use the full power of the government to destroy his enemies.

Observations: Continue reading

HUD: Landlords Beware! Not Renting To Criminals Is Presumptively Racist

More Bizarro World reasoning from The Obama Administration...

More Bizarro World reasoning from the Obama Administration…

The disparate impact doctrine is unfair and illogical, as well as destructive. It has been used to invalidate exams for professional advancement that result in a racial imbalance in police force brass, for example, even when no actual discriminatory practices have been identified. It has been used to eliminate school discipline for classroom disruptions, because more black students than white students are being suspended, even though no bias has been shown in enforcement. Disparate impact has allowed incompetent teachers to keep teaching, and recently, its has become an rationale  for not imprisoning convicted felons, because the current prison population is disproportionately black.

The Obama administration, being addicted to a race-biased view of American society in which all, or almost all, problems within the black community are ascribed to forces outside that community’s control, now has decreed that landlords risk federal investigations if they reject rental applicants based on the applicant’s undisputed criminal record. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s newly-released guidelines state…

“The Fair Housing Act prohibits both intentional housing discrimination and housing practices that have an unjustified discriminatory effect because of race, national origin, or other protected characteristics. Because of widespread racial and ethnic disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system, criminal history-based restrictions on access to housing are likely disproportionately to burden African-Americans and Hispanics. While the Act does not prohibit housing providers from appropriately considering criminal history information when making housing decisions, arbitrary and overbroad criminal history-related bans are likely to lack a legally sufficient justification.”

Sinister as this is, I’m sure it is sincere. The Obama Administration, obviously programed by the man who bears its name, is consumed by a bias in favor of non-whites, based on the assumption that they are inevitably victimized in U.S. society. Disparate impact could be properly used as a clue to uncovering actual bias and discrimination, but the presumption that disparate impact must be based on bias is itself a bias, and leads to intrusive and unfair regulations and  Big Brother-style “Be Careful! We’re Watching!” warnings like this one. Continue reading

First Up On Anti-Trump Sunday: An Unethical Quote Of The Month

“No more politicians for President!”

— A Donald Trump supporter, on a conservative web site today.

Bizarro has an observation to make...

Bizarro has an observation to make...

I have been reading and periodically shooting down the comments of Trump supporters on a series of websites in my continuing and desperate quest to find a single, substantive, intelligent, informed argument for why anyone should support Donald Trump for President. I’m only looking for one. You would think there would be one. Yet so far, my research hasn’t yielded any more valid that the unethical quote above.Why is it unethical? It is unethical because it shows that the speaker is incompetent at citizenship, and has failed the basic responsibility of those who live and benefit from democracy: understand how the government works, and what leadership in a democracy requires.

No, “He can beat Hillary Clinton” does not make the grade.  First of all, he can’t, for the simple reason that if someone like me, who knows Hillary Clinton’s record and character well, rates ethics and character as prime qualifications for President, and who regards her as approaching Richard Nixon as the most dishonest and flawed individual ever to run for the office (but without his talent and skill), would still vote for her to avoid the disaster of Donald Trump, he can’t beat Hillary. Second of all, it is a Rationalization #22,  “It’s not the worst thing” excuse, and that’s all it is. It is, to evoke “Jurassic World,” like releasing the T-Rex because you want to stop the Indominus. (Actually it is Trump who is the Indominus, the unnatural monster.) Continue reading

The Peculiar Delusion of Dan Pfeiffer, a.k.a. “The White House”

Captain Smith, of the "Titanic." Of course, there's no proof that he did anything wrong.

Captain Smith, of the “Titanic.” Of course, there’s no proof that he did anything wrong.

What does it tell us about the White House (and its primary occupant) that its “insider” and designated spokesperson, Senior Advisor Dan Pfeiffer, could utter a statement like this, in public, no less? On Fox News Sunday, one of four Sunday Morning Talk shows he appeared on yesterday to deliver the current White House position on multiple scandals, referring to Sarah Hall Ingram, who led the agency’s tax-exempt division when it targeted conservative groups and has been promoted to chief of the health care reform office, Pfeiffer said,

“No one has suggested that she did anything wrong yet. Before everyone in this town convicts this person in the court of public opinion with no evidence, let’s actually get the facts and make decisions after that. There’s nothing that suggests she did anything wrong.”

Such manifest nonsense would be depressing coming from a recent college grad, and grounds for demotion from a corporate manager or CEO, but it is nothing short of frightening coming from the heart of a nation’s leadership.

Continue reading

Criminal Defense Ethics: The Aneurysm-Inducing Argument

Darrow would understand.

Apoplectic stand-up comic Louis Black has a classic routine in which he describes how a snippet of a conversation he over-heard at an IHOP nearly killed him. The statement, “If it hadn’t been for that horse, I never would have spent that year in college,” made no sense to him at all and kept going around and around in his brain, threatening to cause a fatal aneurysm.

I know exactly how he feels.

A week ago, I read a news account of the election fraud trial of one Julius Henson, a former campaign consultant to ex-Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich. This was the second trial arising out Ehrlich’s dirty and unsuccessful campaign in 2010 to win re-election over Democrat Martin O’Malley. In the first one, Ehrlich’s campaign manager, Peter Schurick, was convicted of election fraud for approving an election day robocall that went out to African-Americans in Maryland who were registered Democrats, suggesting that they “relax” and stay home, because O’Malley had already won. In the article, it said that Henson’s attorney had offered the defense that the call, which was created by Henson with his wife’s voice on the recording, was not designed to suppress the black vote for O’Malley. It was, argued Edward Smith, intended to prompt them to go to the polls and vote for Erhlich through the use of “reverse psychology.”

WHAT??? Continue reading

Explain to Me Why We Tolerate Illegal Immigration, Again?

Yes, I'm in a rotten mood today! Wanna make something out of it??

My cranky Saturday continues with an issue that I increasingly find bewildering: the tolerance, denial, and enabling by so many Americans of illegal immigration, although its unethical character cannot be denied or argued away. I know why Democrats support it—pure electoral cynicism—and I know why the business community encourages it—greed. What I don’t comprehend is why anyone else with a modicum of logic, fairness, and common sense isn’t confronting both of these self-serving institutions and demanding real enforcement of anti-illegal immigration measures. Instead, we get outrageous legislation like the Maryland Dream Act, which institutionalizes incentives for aliens to defy our laws. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Daily Kos Blogger “bal”

Did Past Paul Ryan make Future Paul Ryan a hypocrite, or vice-versa? Is that even possible?

I sometimes comfort myself with the fantasy that the extreme left websites like The Daily Kos are written and read solely by 15-year-olds. While this adds to my anxieties about the public schools’ incompetence at teaching basic skills like logic, analysis and argument, it soothes my fears that our nation’s policies and political discourse are being dangerously warped by millions of addled adults whose passion is untempered by even a modicum of fairness and common sense. In this spirit, I am hoping that bal is a teenager, which would explain, though not justify, his absurd post on Kos. I fear he is not.

He writes, “I guess it’s only when social programs help other people that they’re bad, because I haven’t seen Paul Ryan acknowledging how Social Security benefits helped him and his family in trying times. Continue reading