Further Reflections On “Juneteenth”

Guest Post by Michael West

My summary observations of something that is more complex than most people make it out to be:

The Fourth of July must always be the preeminent holiday in the American “liturgy”. Even for the slaves whose lives were spent in a state of legalized kidnapping, it was their Independence Day also even while they didn’t enjoy the reality of it. Yet I understand some arguments, such as those who perpetuate Frederick Douglass’s observations on Independence Day. But frankly, anyone espousing that attitude *still* are anti-American.

BUT, it should surely be acknowledged that even while Independence Day was for ALL Americans (even those who in reality didn’t enjoy its blessings), there were those who in reality didn’t enjoy its blessings. And an end to their legalized kidnapping, finally realizing the values of the Declaration, SHOULD be celebrated.

Now, whether that celebration ought to be “Juneteenth”, or the ratification of the 13th Amendment (January 31, 1865), or the Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863), or the defeat of the Confederacy, I don’t know. Still, it is appropriate for the U.S. to honor such a momentous event that all Americans should be grateful for.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/25/2021: The George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck Is One Year Old Today

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It really is amazing: I have already read three references today to George Floyd’s death as a cultural watershed in the U.S. society’s recognition of racial injustice, yet there remains not a single piece of evidence or a logical argument that Floyd’s death had any relationship to his race whatsoever. This was a manufactured narrative that the news media deliberately advanced in flagrant defiance of the facts. I have challenged more indignant progressives than I can count to justify treating Floyd’s death as anything but negligence and brutality by a local cop who should never have been allowed to keep his badge. All they can come up with is that the officer was white, and Floyd was black—in other words, presumed racism based on skin color, which is itself racism, or that the episode had a positive impact, justifying treating it as something it was not. That, of course, is an “ends justifies the means” rationalization.

The ugly episode is a lesson, not in “racial reconciliation,” but in how events can be manipulated for political gain—in this case, involving violent protests and virtual societal extortion— if there is no trustworthy news source to keep the public informed.

Today is also the anniversary of another ethics low in U.S. history. It was on this date in 1861 that President Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus so he could keep a Maryland state legislator locked up on the charge of hindering Union troops.

SCOTUS Chief Justice Taney issued a ruling stating that President Lincoln did not have the authority to suspend habeas corpus, but Lincoln, channeling his inner Andrew Jackson, just defied the Court. Five years later, another Supreme Court case held that only Congress could suspend habeas corpus.

1. The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck misses its biggest target. Good. The giant images of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson carved into Stone Mountain as Confederate nostalgia’s answer to Mount Rushmore have survived the latest effort to tear them down. The Confederate flags at the base of Georgia’s Stone Mountain, placed there by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, will be removed, and new exhibits will offer a more thorough history of the park, including the role the Ku Klux Klan and resistance to desegregation played in its creation. Also good. The thing is a pro-Confederacy monument to be sure, a defiant one, but it also is a piece of history that should be seen, debated and thought about.

Many dedicated historical censors are upset that the mountain art will not be blown up any time soon. arguing that racist anger, not a desire to honor the South’s heroes, inspired the monument’s creation. OK, and so what? It is a vivid historical relic. Fall River’s Joe Aronoski, 82, told the New York Times after touring Stone Mountain, “It’s American history. It shouldn’t be destroyed. What are you going to do? Make-believe the Civil War didn’t happen?”

Well yes, that’s the general idea behind statue-toppling: make believe any events that make some people “uncomfortable” didn’t happen.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/21/2021, To A Chorus Of Cicadas

Cicada Ethics: Sweep up all the disgusting things (and their husks) that have accumulated on your front walk at least twice a day so people don’t have to walk on them and their dogs don’t eat them.

1. Charles Grodin (1935-2021): Thanks a lot! Charles Grodin was a talented and versatile actor who was extremely good at playing dislikable characters. We can blame him (not Jon Stewart) for creating the unfortunate cultural phenomenon of the allegedly funny TV talk show host who decides he is qualified to bombard viewers with partisan rants. It’s a self-indulgent abuse of power, position and trust, but it’s also now the norm, with every late night talk show host (and Staurday Night Live) but the generally sweet James Cordon using their show as a platform to bash Republicans and conservatives and extoll progressives no matter how mockworthy they are. Grodin started the bait-and-switch (He’s funny! Wait, why is he so angry and preaching at us?) in the mid-Nineties, and though it eventually killed his show (not soon enough), the template was born.

Grodin made Ethics Alarms in 2014, with his campaign against the felony murder rule.

2. Speaking of staying in one’s lane…Yet another ugly result of social media is the phenomenon of people publishing uninformed opinions that they are unqualified to be so emphatic about. A baseball writer and recovering lawyer, Craig Calcaterra, whom I have referenced here before, has migrated from NBC Sports to substack, and is asking me to subscribe to his newsletter. Craig is funny and smart, and his baseball analysis is superior to most. But he is addicted to making political pronouncements, and while he has a right to his biased and often ignorant opinions on things he’s far from an expert on, I’ll be damned if I’ll pay to read them. For essentially the same reasons I object to watching football players “take a knee” during the National Anthem, I expect sports writers to stick to sports. Here’s a tip to anyone peddling a newsletter to me: I regard referring to the January 6 Capitol riot as a “deadly insurrection” as Democratic Party propagandist and signature significance for a pundit who is not concerned with facts.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/20/21: Happy Birthday, John Stuart Mill!

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John Stuart Mill (1806–73), was born on May 20, not merely the most important figure in ethics to have a connection to this day, but also the most important human being born on this day in the history of civilization—yes, even more than Cher, who turns 75 today. Mill’s refined the concept of liberty that required the freedom of the individual in opposition to state control. He was the most influential proponent of utilitarianism, the crucial ethical theory developed by Jeremy Bentham. He helped reform scientific inquiry and research, recognizing the pervasive risks of confirmation bias, by clearly explaining the premises of falsifiability as the key component in the scientific method.

Mill was also a Member of Parliament and a towering figure in liberal political philosophy. You have certainly heard or read his most famous quote: “A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will lose both, and deserve neither.”

A thorough biography and analysis of his work is here.

1. Justice Breyer doesn’t care about making sure the Supreme Court doesn’t get more conservative. Good. That’s not his job. Democrats realize that their control of the Senate is hanging by a thread, “thread” defined as a few superannuated Senators who could drop dead any second, giving the GOP a majority. Thus they are increasingly pushing Justice Stephen G. Breyer, 82, to retire now so Joe Biden can name an appropriately liberal replacement (who will also have to be female and black, vastly limiting the pool of possible choices without concern for actual legal competence.) “Breyer’s best chance at protecting his legacy and impact on the law is to resign now, clearing the way for a younger justice who shares his judicial outlook,” wrote Erwin Chemerinsky, the hyper-partisan dean of the law school at the University of California, Berkeley in The Washington Post this month. Got that? The 80+year-old Democratic Senators have to hold on to their jobs like grim death, but Breyer is being lobbied to retire. Hypocrisy, they name is Democrat! But it isn’t Breyer:

The Justice has been particularly vocal about the importance of not allowing politics to influence judges’ work, including their decisions about when to retire. “My experience of more than 30 years as a judge has shown me that, once men and women take the judicial oath, they take the oath to heart,” he said last month in a lecture at Harvard Law School. “They are loyal to the rule of law, not to the political party that helped to secure their appointment….If the public sees judges as politicians in robes, its confidence in the courts, and in the rule of law itself, can only diminish, diminishing the court’s power.”

I wonder if he’s read (or seen) “The Pelican Brief”…Meanwhile, research suggest that retirement tends to kill Supreme Court Justices. A paper in The Journal of Demography studied the effects of retirement by Supreme Court justices on their future longevity, and found that the effect of retirement was about the same as smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. The Democrats don’t care if Breyer dies sooner than later, though, as long as he does it when they can pick his successor, or after he’s quit.

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The Democratic Party Has Announced That Discrimination Against Asian-Americans Can Be Justified

It can’t.

This was a significant and revealing vote in the Senate last week in many ways.

Senate Democrats united to vote down an amendment from Senate Republicans designed to bar “Federal funding for any institution of higher education that discriminates against Asian Americans in recruitment, applicant review, or admissions.” The addition was proposed for the grandstanding Senate legislation called the “COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act” that would require “expedited review of hate crimes” by the Department of Justice with “online reporting of hate crimes or incidents” and “expand public education campaigns aimed at raising awareness of hate crimes and reaching victims.”

This unnecessary legislation, sponsored by Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono, passed the Senate 94-1, because nobody is against “hate crimes.” Yet oddly, the Democratic Party, at least in the Senate, appears to be in favor of discrimination against Asian Americans. Why is that? The Yea-Nay vote was 49 – 48, with no Republican voting against the amendment, and not a single Democrat voting for it.

“We have major universities in this country that are discriminating in admissions against Asian-Americans,” Louisiana Republican Senator John Kennedy (R-La) said. “Discrimination is discrimination…This is wrong, it is contemptible, it is odious.” Yes, yes it is. But the current ideology of the political Left now holds that discrimination against whites is good discrimination (they have it coming, after all, the racist bastards!) and discrimination against Asian-Americans is necessary discrimination. The argument is vile, and indefensible in law or ethics, which is why, so far at least, the mainstream news media is burying the story and the vote. The passage of the pandemic hate crimes act is being trumpeted everywhere, perhaps because the news media is complicit in the wildly inflated public belief in the extent of the problem it addresses, but the Democratic rejection of S.Amdt. 1456 is barely mentioned at all. Regarding this, I will repeat the same rhetorical question I asked once already here: “Why is that?”

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The Andrew Yang Affair

Andrew Yang, as of this week the front-runner for mayor of New York City, did nothing unethical.

Well, allow me to modify that. Allowing yourself to be placed at the mercy of a stranger while being videoed is political incompetence. And his fake laugh was too convincing.

The video above, since the news media no longer allows the public to hear or read essential aspects of such stories because journalists regard themselves as public censors, is confusing, so here is what transpired.

The whole, unblurred, unbleeped video is on TikTok, and WordPress won’t let me embed TikTok. Someone the candidate to let him take a phone video as another stranger, a smiling and giddy black man, asks Yang whether a man, “while he’s fucking bitches, can he keep his Timbs on?.” — a reference to Timberland boots. Yang’s answer, under the circumstances, is pretty deft: “I think it’s purely up to your partner.”

Then the classy New Yorker asks Yang whether he “choke[s] bitches,” and Yang laughs—convincingly, I must say— and leaves.

Gotcha!

Yang’s polite engagement with the man after he used the word “bitches” and his apparently hardy laughter after the “choke bitches” line made him an inviting target of feminists and his rivals.

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Of COURSE The United States Has To Spend Trillions On Infrastructure Renewal, And Of Course Ignorance, Incompetence And Dishonesty Will Screw It Up. Again.

Welcome to the first Russian doll Ethics Alarms post, in which a series of essentially identical essays are nested to shout out a truth that hasn’t changed in decades. That truth is that the infrastructure of the United States is getting progressively worse.

Sub-truths nested in that one include these:

  • This was an urgent crisis 40 years ago, and has only been getting worse since.
  • Both parties and all Presidents since—Nixon? Johnson?—are equally responsible, because they all  participated in “kicking the can” down the rotting road for political gain. This was and is political cowardice. Maintaining the infrastructure is one basic function of government, like national defense and law enforcement, that both Big Government and limited government advocates can agree on. However, since infrastructure rot is only a headline matter when bridges collapse, airliners crash or sewer pipes burst spreading disease and death, it’s a long term expense with benefits that the public won’t see immediately, if at all. Their grandchildren, however, will have better lives.
  • Politicians prefer short-term benefits, like sending checks directly to potential voters (and favored interest groups) under the fantasy of “economic stimulus.” This is a bi-partisan breach of duty and ethics.
  • As with everything else, the news media is stunningly incompetent in explaining the facts. I just heard two Fox News talking empty-heads arguing about whether sewer and water pipes were “infrastructure.” This is because much of the partisan attacks on Biden’s proposal has focused on the relatively small proportion of the financial requirements that will pay for  “roads and bridges.'” Of course sewer and water pipes are infrastructure, and indeed among the most dangerous parts of a nation’s infrastructure to let deteriorate, as ours have in too many major cities to count. You people (Dana Perino and Bill Hemmer in this case) are incompetent idiots, and should be working at a 7-11. Also included in the “infrastructure,” in case you care: canals, airports, railways, public transportation, barges, ferries, waterways, traffic signals, the power grid, and more. You are making the public even more ignorant than they already are. You’re a disgrace. I hate you.
  • Jobs are not infrastructure, but to listen to the advocates of renewal,  you would think that creating jobs is the main reason to undertake the effort. This is disinformation, and also unforgivable.
  • A rotting infrastructure hurts the economy in thousands of incremental, sinister, unavoidable ways, making goods more expensive, people poorer, limiting economic growth, and yes, costing jobs, with all of these effects getting worse over time.
  • No, the nation can’t afford to do what needs to be done–which is what will lead to national disaster if it is not done. That is because we have allowed the national debt to reach the red zone, and again, both parties are to blame, Republicans for irresponsible tax cuts, and Democrats for creating out-of-control social programs. However, whether we can afford it or not, we have to do it, spend the money, raise the taxes, be responsible…or we are dooming the nation. That is the situation cowardly, incompetent, venal and dishonest leadership has created.
  • I see little hope that President Biden’s efforts are any more serious or that they will be any more successful than the proposals that have gone before. It is true that even some infrastructure repair is better than none, but Democrats and progressives have painted themselves, and the nation, into a corner.

For example, the Biden administration has blocked a major highway expansion in Houston, Texas, claiming that the project is racially discriminatory and harmful to the environment. The state was about to begin a proposed widening of certain sections of Interstate 45 that has been years in planning when the Department of Transportation invoked the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to temporarily shut it down pending further review, Politico reported.

The department’s intervention is supposedly  a “test case” for Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, has claimed  “racial injustice” in highway construction and vowed to make “righting these wrongs an imperative” under his leadership. Local activists say that the highway expansion would disproportionately harm black and Hispanic communities by displacing more than 1,000 homes, hundreds of businesses, five houses of worship, and two schools along the stretch of highway.

If race, class and the environment are going to be the priorities, then essential infrastructure maintenance is impossible. It is that simple.

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Not QUITE Hypocrisy, But Close Enough For An Eye-Roll: The Democratic Attempt To Reverse An Iowa House Election

Democrats have only a razor-thin 219-211 advantage in the House of Representatives (with five current vacancies). Although state officials declared Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks the winner in the state’s Second Congressional District after she won her race by just six votes out of nearly 400,000 cast, and though she took the oath of office in Washington in January, Nancy Pelosi set the ball rolling for the House of Representatives to overrule the state and award the seat to Miller-Meeks’ Democratic opponent, Rita Hart.

She has refused to concede the race, claiming that 22 disallowed ballots should have made her the winner if counted. The House has the rarely used power under the Constitution to arbitrate “elections, returns and qualifications of its own members,” and in 1969, Congress passed the Federal Contested Elections Act to set up a clear process governing how it should hear and decide such cases. So now Democrats have initiated an investigation by the House Administration Committee, a full-scale review into the election that could lead to impounding ballots, a hand recount and ultimately a vote by the full House to decide the election.

But…but… I thought members of the House and Senate refusing to accept the state-certified results of the 2020 Presidential election was an attack on democracy itself (although this too is allowed under the Constitution)! Well, that was Republicans, you see, and the complaining candidate was Donald Trump. Come on. Be reasonable. Besides, why would anyone suspect that the review of the Iowa House election would be subject to partisan bias and manipulation?

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Another Media-Protected Democrat Is Accused Of Sexual Misconduct By One Of Those Women Who Must Be Believed

This time, it’s Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, who wasn’t exactly in the best of shape politically to start with—you know, all those dead nursing home residents and a his cover-up and everything.

But we have seen how this usually plays out, have we not? Keith Ellison, formerly co-chair of the DNC, was accused of abuse by two exes, but managed to get elected Attorney General of Minnesota. Virginia Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax also has been accused of sexual assault by two women, one claiming rape. Fairfax swears the encounters were consensual, and maybe they were…but then that’s what they always say, isn’t it? Then, of course, there is Joe Biden, whose former staff member accusing him of rape didn’t stop the vast majority of American women, those progressive, feminist warriors, from voting for him.

Lindsey Boylan, a former aide to Cuomo, came forward with detailed allegations of sexual assault and harassment against the governor yesterday, adding to the accusation she had made last December. Boylan accused Cuomo of kissing her on the lips and asking her to “play strip poker” on a plane ride on his official jet. “Governor Andrew Cuomo has created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected. His inappropriate behavior toward women was an affirmation that he liked you, that you must be doing something right,” Boylan wrote. “He used intimidation to silence his critics. And if you dared to speak up, you would face consequences.”

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George Washington’s Birthday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/22/21: Happy Birthday, George! We’re Sorry Your Country Has Become Populated With So Many Ignorant, Ungrateful Fools…

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If there is any American whose birthday should be a national holiday, it is George Washington, born this day in 1732 in Westmoreland County, Virginia, the first of six children of Augustine and Mary Ball Washington. If I have to tell you the reasons he was “the essential man” in American history, well, I guess you’re the product of our current public school system, a recent college graduate, a Democrat, a Black Lives Matter enthusiast, or something. There is no rational excuse for every American, yes, even African-Americans, to not be grateful for this day. Martin Luther King is now the only individual to have a national holiday dedicated to his honor, while Washington’s memory was dumped into a hodge-podge of lesser figures including Franklin Pierce, William Henry Harrison and now, Donald Trump. King is worthy of his day, but to honor King over Washington is as good an example of “putting the cart before the horse” as one could find. Shame on us. True, George is not lacking honors, with the capital city named for him, a towering monument, cities and towns in many states, Mt. Rushmore, and his image on both the most-used bill and coin. Nonetheless he earned all of it, and this date should be a holiday.

On The Ethics Alarms home page, you will see to your right a link to the list of ethical habits some historians believe made Washington the remarkably trustworthy and ethical man he was, ultimately leading his fellow Founders to choose him, and not one the many more brilliant, learned and accomplished among them, to take on the crucial challenge of creating the American Presidency. Directed to do so by his father, young Washington copied out by hand and committed to memory a list called “110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.”  It was  based on a document compiled by French Jesuits in 1595; neither the authors nor the English translator and adapter are known today. The elder Washington was following the teachings of Aristotle—another Dead White Man whom most Americans alive today couldn’t tell you Jack S-word about— who held that principles and values began as being externally imposed by authority (morals) and eventually became internalized as character. As I wrote when I first posted them here,

The theory certainly worked with George Washington. Those ethics alarms installed by his father stayed in working order throughout his life. It was said that Washington was known to quote the rules when appropriate, and never forgot them. They did not teach him to be a gifted leader he became, but they helped to make him a trustworthy one.

Would that readers would access that list more often. And politicians. And lawyers. And educators…

1. How ignorant and ungrateful? THIS ignorant and ungrateful

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