Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/2020: Letting The Perfect Be The Enemy Of The Good, And Other Blunders

Why is today unlike any other day?

1. What’s wrong with this picture? This, courtesy of ABC News, was the scene on a New York City subway yesterday:

My question is this: how can everyone be cheering Governor Cuomo’s leadership during the pandemic crisis when this is still going on? I heard Cuomo say, in one of his briefings, “You can’t stop public transportation. You just can’t.” Yet if you are going to allow the above scene all day, every day in your state’s largest city, why bother with the rest of the measures? Just wall off the Big Apple and let everyone get sick.

2. And speaking of New York…and while we’re justly bashing China for all the lies and disinformation,  this blogger finds the charts , models and projections showing how the health care system will be overwhelmed by April 15 puzzling, and asks, Continue reading

Great. Now We’re Cancelling Bells…

BAD bell! BAD BELL. Nobody likes you, Bell. You’ve been bad!

Apparently Louisiana’s Tulane University believes in curses, or maybe it is the irredeemability of inanimate objects. What ever you want to call it, its theory is bats.

In a letter emailed to the Tulane community, President Mike Fitts and Board Chairman Doug Hertz said they were informed last week that the “Victory Bell” was originally used to direct the movements of enslaved people on a plantation. This means, apparently, that the bell itself is no longer fit to be seen or heard by decent people.

“It is terribly disheartening to learn that it is, in fact, a vestige of a horrific part of our nation’s past,” Fitts and Hertz wrote. “Now that we understand its history as an instrument of slavery, continuing to use this bell in a celebratory manner would run counter to our values.”

What values are those, exactly? No wonder substantial numbers among recent generations of Americans think that we are obligated to eradicate all images, symbols, memorials and references to the Confederacy, slavery, Jim Crow or other aspects of racial discrimination, if a piece of metal has to be banished because of what it was rung for over a 150 years ago.

The Victory Bell was cast in 1825 and donated  to the school by  a former Louisiana governor and Tulane law school graduate. Beginning in 1960, the bell stood in front of Fogelman Arena and was rung after Tulane basketball victories for decades. In 2011, the bell was refurbished and moved to the front of the university’s McAlister Auditorium, where, at least as far as anyone can tell, it has not been proselytizing students about the joys of slavery, ringing out “Dixie” all by itself, or attacking unwary students with its clapper. Nonetheless, I’m certain students would tell you that they won’t feel “safe” with a plantation bell around.

It’s a bell. Continue reading

Sunday Evening Ethics Cool-Down, 2/16/2020: Silent Sam, Creepy Michael, Sinking Joe

Chill.

1. The Silent Sam saga continues. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill  reached an agreement to give its toppled statue of an anonymous Confederate soldier (there’s a similar statue in down town Alexandria, Virginia, about a ten minutes drive from where I type this) to the North Carolina Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, along with a $2.5 million trust to display it somewhere other than on a  campus.

But professors, alumni and students accused the university’s board of governors of entering into a corrupt deal with a “white nationalist” group, so the  judge who originally approved the agreement voided it, finding that Sons of Confederate Veterans lacked the legal standing to enter into the pact.

For the record, I don’t understand what kind of “standing” any group needs to come to a contractual arrangement. I don’t understand why the school can’t give the thing to a museum  without having to pay 2.5 million bucks for the privilege. I don’t understand how the University allowed a bunch of vandals—the statue was illegally pushed over by student protesters who were never punished—to trigger this problem in the first place.

I don’t understand why a work of art showing a realistic representation of actual historical figures, for there really was a Confederacy, there really were soldiers who fought and died for it in the belief that it was a patriotic duty, and there really is a value to the culture, and especially education, in remembering controversial events and times, is viewed as so dangerous that it must be hidden from view.

James L. Leloudis, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is supposed to be explaining things to people like me when he said, “The people who erected the monuments went out of their way to make it clear that they honored the living as well as the dead, and most particularly, those ex-Confederates who returned from war and committed themselves to the long, bloody and ultimately successful effort to re-establish white supremacy.”  For example, when “Silent Sam” was  dedicated, a former Confederate soldier named Julian Carr delivered a speech praising the Confederate Army for saving “the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South” and recalled that he had “horsewhipped” a black woman “until her skirts hung in shreds” because she had publicly insulted a white woman.

Isn’t that fascinating! How times have changed! That certainly explains how Jim Crow took over, especially once President Woodrow Wilson encouraged the effort after his election in 1912. But now “Sam” looks at a very different South! You, see, students, the reason….Sam? Sam? Continue reading

Comment Of The Day #2 On “Evening Ethics Update, 11/7/2019: Dr. King Is Un-honored…” (Item #4)

Jutgory registered  the second Comment of the Day spawned by Kansas City returning one of its historic boulevards to its original name, less than a year after re-naming it for civil rights martyr, Martrin Luther King.  The first COTD on the topic is here.

Looking at the re-naming question from a totally different, and interesting angle, is JutGory’s Comment of The Day on #4, the Kansas City Street Name Battle, in the post, “Evening Ethics Update, 11/7/2019: Dr. King Is Un-honored, Virginian Republicans Are Non-Functional, Fox News Is Pro-Darkness, And Joy Behar Is Still An Idiot”…

I have thought quite a bit about the MLK issue and this post seems as good a reason as any to comment.

First off (a disclaimer): I am not a huge MLK fan. And, what I mean by that is that I find Malcolm X to be a much more compelling figure. It is not that one has to have a favorite civil rights leader. They can both be good, but MLK seems to be the civil rights leader that gained the White People Stamp of Approval. That’s really not MLK’s fault, but I prefer Malcolm X’s harsh realism to MLK’s lofty idealism.

Next, names are important. But re-naming something, as the case in KC, is often more important. My area is embroiled in such a naming controversy of late. For those not in the know, a lake in our area was recently re-named (sort of). The Lake had been named after the Secretary of War when local soldiers were surveying the area for settlement. The Secretary of War also served as a United States Senator, and rose to the level of Vice-President of the United States.

The problem is that he was an all around horrible individual, so horrible that even Andrew Jackson hated him. And, not only that, he both owned slaves and defended slavery. That, of course, was John Calhoun, the namesake for Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis.

Well, in the climate of “cancel culture,” that cannot stand. The City Council, in a virtue signaling “two-fer” and without much of any public input, decided to re-name the lake to “Bde Maka Ska” (your pronunciation may vary), its original name given to it by our Sioux Indian predecessors. Other parties quickly came in to assert their jurisdiction over the name of the lake. It was quickly changed back to Lake Calhoun. But, the chattering masses of the Facebook mob would have none of that; with the cat out of the bag, they are committed to Bde Maka Ska; Wikipedia also seems to have expurgated Lake Calhoun from its pages. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Evening Ethics Update, 11/7/2019: Dr. King Is Un-honored…” (Item #4)

When I read the headline about the reversal of the name-change for the old boulevard in Kansas City, I was secretly hoping it would be because of recent credible revelations that Reverend Martin Luther King had facilitated a rape, and worse. In May, King biographer David Garrow unearthed previously classified FBI documents showing that King was a bad guy in private by any measure, even using a Donald Trump or a Bill Clinton standard. I had written at the time,

“I want to see the ignorant, doctrinaire college students, progressive history censors and pandering politicians face this crisis and either live up to their alleged virtues and censorious standards, or admit that they were dead wrong, as I and many others have been saying all along….

As a civilization, we must recognize and honor the many, many men and women of all races and origins who have made humanity better by their public deeds, intellectual advancements and accomplishments in civic life, war and peace. Few of them, if any, did not have serious flaws or engage during their lives in conduct that today, or even in their own times, would be considered reprehensible. Using these acts, and solely these acts, to assess which historical figures are worthy of being remembered by future generations leads to a societal suicide, embracing a culture without heroes or aspirations.”

I was thus hoping that the statue toppling side of the political spectrum was being forced to sample some of its’ own  medicine, and that King had lost an honor using the same, misguided principle that had the Democrats removing the names of their party’s founders, Jefferson and Jackson, from their annual dinners. Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander, and perhaps when the gander realizes it’s bitter and stupid sauce, it will smarten up.

No such luck. It doesn’t seem as if King lost his street because he was a sexual predator, just because more Kansas City voters than not thought the old name shouldn’t have been changed in the first place

Steve-O-From NJ, however, does seem to be right about double standards where honors are concerned.

Here is his Comment of The Day on #4, the Kansas City Street Name Battle, in the post, “Evening Ethics Update, 11/7/2019: Dr. King Is Un-honored, Virginian Republicans Are Non-Functional, Fox News Is Pro-Darkness, And Joy Behar Is Still An Idiot”…

[Incidentally, has anyone read any hint of acknowledgment from the U.S. media, African-American groups or the NAACP that Garrow’s information raises a question about the propriety of honoring Dr. King? Neither have I….]

After two years of statue-toppling and other attempts to erase history, it should come as no surprise that eventually someone should suggest yanking something down dedicated to some darling of the left. The fact is that no city is REQUIRED to have a street named for King, nor is any citizen REQUIRED to honor him. In fact, as has been pointed out here, MLK was far from a saint in life, particularly with regard to his poor treatment of women. There is enough reason to criticize him to justify questioning why he should be honored at all, particularly in light of the current attacks on other (much more significant and influential) historical figures such as Columbus and Jefferson.

Of course the Left, and the black community in particular, doesn’t see it that way. If you’re lucky, they’ll just give you a non-answer, to the effect of the one is nothing like the other. If not, they’ll accuse you of being a racist, not because you said something affirmatively racist, but because you failed to give what they believe is proper deference to one of their icons. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: San Francisco School Board Member Alison M. Collins

“This is not history; it is a remnant from a bygone era.”

—–San Francisco School Board Member Alison M. Collins, expounding to the New York Times and expressing her displeasure with the school board’s vote to nullified an earlier vote to spend over $600,000 to paint over Depression-era school murals depicting slavery and the deaths of Native Americans.

I love this unethical quote; it might be my favorite of all the unethical quotes Ethics Alarms has ever featured. It tells us so much in so few words.

Ethics Alarms wrote about the school board’s earlier vote that this one, for now, at least, undid, last June, noting,

The San Francisco school board unanimously voted this week  to spend at least $600,000 of taxpayer money to eliminate the  “Life of Washington,” a 13-panel, 1,600-square-foot mural that has been on view in the  city’s George Washington High School since 1936. It was considered politically incorrect at the time, but in a way that explicated American history rather than whitewashing it.  Among the mural’s many scenes is one depicting slaves picking cotton at Mount Vernon and Virginia colonists walking past a dead Native American.  The Horror. Although these scenes are historically accurate as well as provocative, “The truth will make you free” has been substantially abandoned by the Left in the U.S. Taking their cues from the dead and rotten Soviet Union and “1984”,  the new slogan is George Orwell’s “Who controls the past controls the future.”

Ms. Collins’ classic quote perfectly expresses how her city, her party and her ideological clones reached the state of delusion and the worship of manipulated reality (remember, the Democratic Party’s leading contender for the White House “gaffed” by admitting last week that “we choose about truth, not facts”) that have so many of our political leaders flirting openly with totalitarianism.

The idea is to prevent young citizens (and older ones too) from acquiring the kind of messy information that requires critical thought to sort out, the information known as “history”and “life.”Without forceful filtering, people of sound and open minds are liable to reach conclusions that don’t advance those of the ascendant (they think) re-engineers of American values and culture. Those poisoned by the past and traditional American values  might be willing to treat  with fairness and respect, rather than contempt and abuse, those who hold non-conforming, non-woke positions and policies. They might tolerate the rebels and iconoclasts who refuse to follow in lock-step their betters of superior virtue and wisdom . Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 7/3/2019: Holiday Follies [UPDATED]

The end of Pickett’s Charge, July 3, 1863

Happy weird mid-week day before a holiday when almost nobody seems to be working…and remember Pickett’s Charge, July 3, 1863.

But ethics never takes a break…

1. Oops! Did we miss the real holiday? On this date in 1776, John Adams wrote to Abigail that the day before, July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress had voted to declare American independence from the British Empire. Adams predicted that July 2 would eventually be celebrated by every generation of Americans with parades, speeches, songs and fireworks, which Adams called  “illuminations.” Why did he turn out to be wrong? Oh, because history is messy, mistakes don’t get corrected, and tradition becomes more important than facts. (Once again, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” rule applies: “When legend becomes fact, print the legend!” )

What happened on July 4th? The unsigned but ratified Declaration was sent to the printer on that date, and the printer dutifully marked his prints with “July 4, 1776”. The delegates didn’t start signing the document until August 2, and all the signatures weren’t down on parchment until November. The dramatic depiction of the signing taking place on July 4 in the musical and movie  “1776” is fake history.  It’s not all Broadway’s and Hollywood’s fault: the iconic painting “Declaration of Independence,” by John Trumbull, a version of which hangs in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington and which the actors are staged to re-enact in “1776” is often captioned “July 4, 1776.”

Trumbull’s artwork actually shows the moment on June 28 when the Declaration drafting committee officially presented its work to  the chairman of Continental Congress. John Hancock, There never was a signing ceremony.

Nonetheless, July 4 has, for some reason, been an unusually felicitous and significant day in U.S. history. It would be difficult to pick another that carried so much history, even without being the chosen date to honor the nation’s founding. Three of the first five U.S. presidents died on July 4, with John Adams and Thomas Jefferson famously dying on that date within hours of each other in 1826, fifty years after….the Declaration was sent to the printer.

But July 4, 1803, was the day word arrived from Paris that the Louisiana Purchase was complete, having been signed by Napoleon.  Without it, the United States would have been a very different country, and a much weaker and poorer one.

July 4, 1863 also was the date Robert E. Lee acknowledged his defeat at Gettysburg after his desperate, risky, massed attack on the Union line across a fence-strewn field and up a grade into artillery fire failed. That defeat probably sealed the fate of the Confederacy, and meant that this unique nation would, despite a bloody close call,  have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. Continue reading