Ethics Quote Of The Day (And For All Time): Abraham Lincoln [Missing Post Section Recovered!]

On this date in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln added a vital coda to the United States mission statement articulated in the Declaration of Independence nearly a hundred years earlier. Gary Wills, among other historians and commentators, has argued that with this single speech Lincoln reframed the purpose of the American experiment as well as clarifying its core values. Those values, it is fair to say, are today under the greatest threat since the Civil War today. Lincoln’s address lasted just two or three minutes (it was not even announced beforehand as a speech, but rather “remarks”), but also reframed the purpose of the war itself, as not only to preserve the union, but a struggle for freedom and equality for all.

There has been so much written about the Gettysburg Address that it would be irresponsible for me to attempt to analyze it here. It probably isn’t necessary to analyze the speech. Few statements speak more clearly for themselves: if ever a speech embodied the principle of res ipsa loquitur, this is it:

Continue reading

On “The Iceman Cometh”

It was this day, October 9, in 1946 that the greatest play of the greatest American playwright premiered. The playwright was Eugene O’Neill, and the drama was “The Iceman Cometh.” (Of course, that’s just my assessment, though I am not alone. I rate it the greatest non-Shakespeare play in the English language.) Like almost all O’Neill works it is an exploration of ethics. A traveling salesman, a professional liar, returns to a dive where he is worshiped by its drunken denizens to change their lives by forcing each of them to confront reality rather than avoid it using rationalizations, delusions and drink.

Few Americans have seen “The Iceman Cometh,” largely because it is seldom produced. The original version is well over four hours long, and in my view, every minute cut diminishes the play’s message and power. (The film version above was cut significantly) The play also requires a large ensemble cast of unusual talent and intelligence. It’s so much easier and safer to produce “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

Unfortunately, O’Neill’s plays are meant to be experienced on stage, and on stage, they work. Reading O’Neill is a chore, and another reason his works are not produced enough is that directors, producers and playreading committees can’t get past the text. O’Neill didn’t help by often writing dialogue in dialect. It’s tough going, though no more so than Shakespeare. (You can read the play here.)

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Sunday Ethics Apparitions, 8/16/2020: Triceratops? What Triceratops? What IS A Triceratops?

1. From the Ethics Alarms cultural literacy files. I remember this re- tweet by acclaimed novelist Joyce Carol Oates from 2015; I can’t believe I didn’t post on it then. (Pointer to Ann Althouse for reminding me of it today):

Now,  I would like to believe that Oates was joking (I’m not sure about Tilley), but she is not known for madcap humor. Apparently “Jurassic Park,” Steven Spielberg  and popular culture are beneath her, and she was so focused on literature in school that dinosaurs completely missed her attention. I regard this as being estranged from one’s culture, and I regard that as irresponsible.

2. Question: If Twitter is taking down tweets involving hate speech, why is unequivocal hate like this permitted? Robert Trump, the President’s younger brother, died yesterday. The President wrote,

“It is with heavy heart I share that my wonderful brother, Robert, peacefully passed away tonight. He was not just my brother, he was my best friend. He will be greatly missed, but we will meet again. His memory will live on in my heart forever. Robert, I love you. Rest in peace.”

Yet the hateful, vicious “resistance” couldn’t rise to a moment of bipartisan decency. The hashtag #wrongtrump, is the second highest trending on Twitter, with more than 80,000  tweets last I checked. Among the the ghouls were journalist David Leavitt., ” who tweeted, “What did he promise the devil for the Grim Reaper to take the #wrongtrump ???” (5.7 thousand people “loved” the sentiment), and Bishop Talbert Swan, president of the Springfield, Massachusetts, branch of the NAACP (and a pastor, which will perhaps help illuminate my attitudes toward organized religion), who wrote “Dear Grim Reaper, You took the #wrongtrump.” That one got 10,000 hearts.

These are mean, bad people with dead ethics alarms. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 3/29/2020: Well, It’s Happened. People Are Going Nuts.

Good Morning!

I’m still sane!

For now….

1. Cultural literacy note. Ann Althouse, holed up and desperate for non-virus topics (as are we all), has been reduced to reading Woody Allen’s newly published memoirs and commenting on them. Today, reviewing a section where Allen said that his “literary heroes” growing up did not include Julian Sorrel, but did include comic book super-heroes like Hawkman and Submariner, among others. Ann, who’s a bit younger than me, openly admits that while she knows Julian Sorrel (“The Red and the Black”–yechhh). but never heard of Hawkman or Submariner.

Is that a girl thing? Admittedly, those are two relatively minor heroes in the D.C. and Marvel comic book universes, but Ann has had a long time to catch up. It reminds me that one’s perspective on so many matters—everything?—is affected by the shape of the culture one perceives, and holes, even little ones, make a difference. Althouse frequently reveals that she is weak on some popular culture (especially movies and TV). She’s a commentator on the American scene, and people are influenced by her opinions.  Nobody can know everything, but the fewer holes, the better.

2. Krazy Kollege Ethics...

At Slate, legal commentator John Culhane thinks Falwell is asking for lawsuits: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/31/2020: A Man’s Home Is His Box, And More…

Hello, Ethics Alarms, Good-bye January…

Between the nauseating impeachment charade and baseball’s cheating scandal (and the largely ethically ignorant commentary regarding it),  the bias of the mainsteam media reaching critical mass in episodes like this and the Don Lemon panel’s mean girls mockery of those dumber than dumb Trump supporters, mounting evidence that Democrats are going nuts based on the rise of a superannuated Communism fan in the race for the party’s Presidential nomination, and, of course, my wife doing a face-plant into some asphalt,  it was a not a happy 31 days at The House of Ethics.

Amazingly, it has been a very good month for the President, becoming the first POTUS to unequivocally endorse the anti-abortion movement by appearing at the March for Life, cutting a partial deal with China, ridding the world of Qasem Soleimani (and in doing so, prompting  his domestic foes, including the news media, to publicly sympathize with a terrorist and a nation that habitually calls for America’s destruction), releasing a Mid-East peace plan that is garnering support everywhere but from Iran, the Palestinians, and, of course, the U.S. media, and seeing economic figures so good even the New York Times has been forced to acknowledge them, all while being called every  name in the book and an existential threat to democracy on C-Span by the Democratic House impeachment managers.

1. “Dolemite Is My Name” We finally watched “Dolemite Is My Name,” (on Netflix), Eddie Murphy’s homage to comic Rudy Ray Moore and  his 70s Blaxploitation film “Dolemite.” So much for my proud claims of cultural literacy: I never heard of  Moore or his film, which is apparently a genre classic. Moore is regarded as the Father of Rap; how did I miss this for so long? Murphy’s movie tells the mostly true story about how a group of complete novices, led by Moore, made an exuberantly idiotic movie (faithful to Moore’s formula for success with black audiences: “Titties, funny, and Kung-Fu”) for $100,000 that grossed 10 million.

The movie is fun as a black version of “Ed Wood” (same screenwriters, I discovered later) and won some awards. For it to be make any 2019 Ten Best lists, however, is blatant race pandering by critics. Continue reading

Monday Ethics Left-Overs, 11/25/2019: Dog Dissonance, Chick-Fil-A’s Surrender, Yang, And Yar

Happy Holidays!

1 Trivial Ethics. In an old episode of “Law and Order: Criminal Intent,” the nautical termword “yar” came up. This was a Jeff Goldblum episode, and he remarked, in the odd, ironic, strangely reflective manner that is Jeff’s trademark, “Yar! Katherine Hepburn used that word in “The Philadelphia Story,” right? Yar? Who did she say that too?” His partner replied, with great certitude, “Jimmy Stewart.”

WRONG. Tracy Lord (Katherine) has two “yar” discussions, one with her fiance, played by John Howard, and another with ex-husband Cary Grant, who built boats. These scriptwriters are in show business, dammit. “The Philadelphia Story” is a classic. Nobody working on the TV show knew the right answer? Nobody bothered to check? This is how America’s collective minds get clogged with ignorance.

2. Now I can begin my personal boycott of Chick-Fil-A. Last week Chick-fil-A announced that next year it is officially cutting ties with the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), the charitable organizations that have sparked protests and boycotts against the chicken restaurant chain because they, and the chain’s CEO, Dan Kathy, are known to oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds.

According to the chain, in 2018, its foundation donated $115,000 to the Salvation Army and $1.65 million to FCA. This is a big blow to both organizations.

“We made multiyear commitments to both organizations, and we fulfilled those obligations in 2018. Moving forward you will see that the Chick-fil-A Foundation will support the three specific initiatives of homelessness, hunger and education,” a representative said.

Translation: They capitulated to viewpoint bullying, and now others will feel empowered to use totalitarian methods to extort other organizations and businesses.

This issue was deftly covered in a major thread in last week’s Open Forum: Continue reading

Let’s Try To Remember Diahann Carroll, Shall We?

The problem is that when it comes time to honor those who have made a positive contribution to our country and culture, nobody remembers who they are. I confess, it drives me nuts. Today a medical technician revealed that she had no idea what “Ben-Hur” was. No chariot race, no galley slave scene. Well, she’s a drag on the culture. Catch up.

Actress and singer Diahann Carroll, 84, died on October 4, and her death received small and momentary notice. Yet she was another one of the brave, trail-blazing African Americans whose intelligence, charm, talent and willingness to take risks helped move the stubborn needle toward racial conciliation and away from bigotry. Of course, she was remarkable–unusually gorgeous, unusually talented, unusually intelligent. It never seemed like she set out to become a civil rights and cultural icon, but somehow the  position just found her. Most important of all, when she was given the chance to make white people think differently about black people, she did it. She also made it look easy. Continue reading

High Noon Ethics Warm-Up, 9/5/2019: Arggh!…Yay!…Yechhh!…Hmmm…and Good!

Mornin’!

1. More historical ignorance to make you suicidal: Here’s Anna L.’s review of her visit to the Gettysburg Battlefield on the park’s Yelp page:

Boooorrrringggg. First off, it was nothing like the movie. All I saw were a bunch of fields and rocks. All the tourist shops, bars, and hotels in the area kept saying how I should check this place out. I kept getting confused with all of the plaques and monuments. Who was fighting who, I have no idea. The abandoned cannons looked tacky. I give this one star for the overweight character actor in the square, but that’s about it. Yaaawnnn.

I don’t even want to think about the political positions and favored candidates of an American this…this…I can’t even think of a good description. “It was nothing like the movie”????? And how many people like her are out there, rotting our culture and values from within?

Arrgh.

2. It’s about time. wouldn’t you agree? I’m amazed this took so long. Starting next year, BMC Toys in Scranton will begin adding  little green  Army women to the little green Army men that are such a standard kids’ toy. Since they debuted in 1950s, none of the iconic toy’s  manufacturers  have crossed the gender line. BMC is one of the  ew producers of plastic soldiers left in his country, and will soon be offering these:

Yay! Continue reading

More Cultural Literacy: The “Hard” Citizenship Questions.

In one of the many ways the news media tries to influence public attitudes (which is not its job), the New York Times is constantly including propaganda of various subtlety to bolster the case of illegal immigrants, or as the Times dishonestly calls them, “migrants,” “undocumented immigrants,” or just “immigrants,” the most deceitful label of all. One sally consisted of arguing how unfair it was that those applying for citizenship had to answer questions that current citizens would struggle with.

A recent example was a quiz, culled from the 100 questions that examiners pick from at random when an aspiring citizen is completing the application process. “With your American citizenship on the line, could you answer the following question?” the piece began. “Take a moment. Because, according to a 2011 study, this is the hardest of the 100 possible questions asked on the United States citizenship test.”

That question was “How many Constitutional Amendments are there?” (The answer is 27.) Yeah, that’s pretty difficult. It also isn’t especially meaningful to a citizen; I’m not big on specific dates and numbers: if you know enough to look them up, then you know enough. In other words, a citizen should know that there’s a right to legal representation, a speedy trial, to vote, to assemble, to worship as one pleases, and that a President can be removed from office if he’s physically unable to perform his duties without checking, but whether the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment is the 8th or 9th Amendment is essentially a trivial detail.

Not if you’re an immigrant trying to gain the privilege of American citizenship, however. There is nothing at all unfair about requiring new citizens to demonstrate the commitment and dedication necessary to learn about their new nation. Most lawyers couldn’t pass the bar exam now without studying again; it’s the same principle. It would be better if Americans didn’t take their nation and its history for granted, but that’s human nature, and they know that their citizen cannot be taken from them for mere ignorance, even if they don’t know where that guarantee is in the Constitution.

The Times:

One survey found that 64 percent of American citizens would fail the test…Immigrants taking the exam as part of their citizenship application tend to fare much better. The combined pass rate for the civics exam and an English evaluation performed in the same interview is 91 percent, U.S.C.I.S. reported in December.

Good. One of the privileges of citizenship is to become lazy and ignorant, but we don’t want you here if you start out that way.

Here are the rest of the hardest ten. (I got them all right, as I should have. They are not truly hard, or shouldn’t be.) Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Review, 7/13/2019: The Uncomfortable Truth About “The Lion King,” The Green New Deal, Children At the Border, Blackface, And Harvey Weinstein

Hi!

Is it unethical for an ethics speaker to drop trow during a program? I think so. It was a situation I narrowly avoided this morning. I am a rather animated speaker, and after I slammed the D.C. ethics rules into the floor to illustrate a point, my effort to retrieve the volume resulted in the rear snap of my galluses pulling loose from the back of my pants. With an unpantsing imminent (and about to be streamed live to hundreds), I asked my moderator to come down from his platform and rescue me by reclipping the devices on, which he did.

Hilarity ensued.

1. “Asshole” ethics. In another episode today, I referred to Harvey Weinstein as an “asshole,” in the context of discussing the multiple David Bois ethics problems in handling the Hollywood mogul’s representation. The exact statement was “Even assholes deserve competent representation.” This came closely after I had mentioned that lawyer incivility was an ethics problem whether there were explicit rules against it or not. One of the attendees in cyber-space texted a query as to whether it was uncivil for me to use the term “asshole.”

I answered that I was reminded of the moment in  “1776” when one of the members of the Continental Congress challenges Thomas Jefferson’s use of the term “tyrant” to describe King George. Is it really necessary, Jefferson is asked, to use such a harsh word? Why resort to an insult? “Because the King is a tyrant,” Tom replies.

I went on to say that I have found that in certain situations, only certain harsh words are sufficiently accurate.  What should I call Harvey, a miscreant? A jerk? No, the man is an asshole, I said. I’m not using the term as an ad hominem attack, but as the most accurate term I can think of for someone who has done the things he has done to so many women while indicating no remorse at all. I do not use the term indiscriminately, and would not use it in certain forums, such as open court. But I do not believe in word taboos, and when the description, however harsh, fits, it is not uncivil to make a Harvey Weinstein wear it.

2. Now, what’s the right word for THIS? In the Washington Post,  Dan Hassler-Forest reflects on the themes of “The Lion King” and asserts that the lions, hyenas, and gazelles are “stand ins for human societal organizations” and that the themes of the movie “incorporates the white supremacist’s worldview.” Hassler-Forest is an author and public speaker on “media franchises, cultural theory, and political economy” who works as assistant professor in the Media Studies department of Utrecht University in the Netherlands. “No matter how you look at it, this is a film that introduces us to a society where the weak have learned to worship at the feet of the strong,” his article asserts. Continue reading