Tales Of The Great Stupid: Clarence Darrow’s Worst Idea Takes Hold In New York City

America’s greatest trial lawyer, Clarence Darrow, defended guilty criminals in part because he believed that it was cruel and unjust to punish citizens who committed crimes, even violent ones. Darrow, a pioneering progressive, lectured, debated and wrote that people committed crimes because of conditions beyond their control: bad parents, stupidity, mental illness, no education, poverty. Since those who committed crimes literally couldn’t stop themselves, punishment was revenge without reason. Sending someone to jail, far from advancing civilized conduct, not only destroys the life of the perpetrator but also creates a false sense of accomplishment, ignoring the socioeconomic “root causes” of crime. Nobody born free, the lawyer fervently held, should lose his or her liberty because of bad genes or bad luck.

It was and is a batty theory, and until very recently, one wouldn’t find anyone advocating it who wasn’t lying, ignorant, or a criminal himself. No longer. Today Darrow’s worst idea is running amuck in several big cities in the grip of woke Democratic government, and where it stops, nobody knows.

Take New York City…please.

The Big Rotten Apple has decided not to prosecute “quality of life” offenses, from littering to public urination to jumping subway turnstiles, with the predictable result that the quality of life for law abiding New Yorkers has cratered. Last summer, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice crowed that “the number of New Yorkers held in New York City jails had shrunk by 27% in 10 weeks, bringing the city’s incarcerated population down to the lowest level since 1946.Wow! Isn’t that great? Of course, by some coincidence, murders and shootings were rising more quickly than ever before.

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Everyday Ethics: The Pizza Mess

ha-ha-nelson

Once again, we encounter the gratuitously hostile stranger phenomenon.

I was running a quick groceries errand today, and a young man right in front of me dropped a cardboard carton containing a hot slice of pizza on the floor. Naturally, it landed top down, and the pizza was smeared all over the linoleum. I was right beside him as he froze briefly, looking down at the mess forlornly.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I said, my Golden Rule reflex kicking in. I hate dropping food, especially ice cream cones and pizza; it brings back many childhood traumas. I genuinely empathized with the guy. And you know what? He completely blew me off. He didn’t look at me, acknowledge my expression of sympathy, or even grunt. He just left the dead pizza slice there, turned on his heels, and walked quickly off to call a staffer.

No, he didn’t have ear buds. He was just another rude SOB who has no interest in contributing to a congenial, mutually supportive society. Can you devise any excuse for this behavior? I don’t think there is an excuse. I think this is evidence that he is a member of the growing and thriving jerk component of American society. Why do so many bystanders refuse to demonstrate care for strangers in peril or stress? Reactions like I got is one of the reasons.

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From The “I Don’t Understand This At All” Files: Why Should ‘Historically Black Colleges’ Be Getting A Surge In Donations?

Make no mistake: I know why they are getting a surge in donations: cynical virtue-signalling and mindless George Floyd Freakout tribute. However, like the historically black colleges themselves, the phenomenon of picking now to celebrate segregated education, and mostly inferior education, is self-contradictory. It also highlights the hypocrisy of the “antiracism” movement itself, and the incoherence of the “diversity” chants coming from the Left.

For these colleges are the opposite of diverse. They are, in fact, discriminatory in concept and execution, and to see them “thrive” while activists are demanding literal quotas in other institutions in order to create numerical demographic parity—at least—is a blazing example of how the George Floyd Ethics Train wreck is less a cultural awakening than it is an opportunistic and unethical power play fueled by white guilt and cowardice.

The front page article in the New York Times today is so full of head-banging-on-the-wall moments I ran out of head before I ran out of wall. Here are some…

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Ethics Quote Of The Month: Andrew Sullivan

CRT2

“[T]he sudden, rapid, stunning shift in the belief system of the American elites…has sent the whole society into a profound cultural dislocation. It is, in essence, an ongoing moral panic against the specter of “white supremacy,” which is now bizarrely regarded as an accurate description of the largest, freest, most successful multiracial democracy in human history.”

—-Blogging pioneer Andrew Sullivan, yet another exile at substack, in his eloquent, brave, important and accurate essay, “What Happened To You?”

That’s probably not the best ethics quote in Sullivan’s latest essay. It’s just the earliest. There is also this bitter truth, as Sullivan’s brief approaches it’s climax:

Look how far the left’s war on liberalism has gone. Due process? If you’re a male on campus, gone. Privacy? Stripped away — by anonymous rape accusations, exposure of private emails, violence against people’s private homes, screaming at folks in restaurants, sordid exposés of sexual encounters, eagerly published by woke mags. Non-violence? Exceptions are available if you want to “punch a fascist.” Free speech? Only if you don’t mind being fired and ostracized as a righteous consequence. Free association? You’ve got to be kidding. Religious freedom? Illegitimate bigotry. Equality? Only group equity counts now, and individuals of the wrong identity can and must be discriminated against. Color-blindness? Another word for racism. Mercy? Not for oppressors. Intent? Irrelevant. Objectivity? A racist lie. Science? A manifestation of white supremacy. Biological sex? Replaced by socially constructed gender so that women have penises and men have periods. The rule of law? Not for migrants or looters. Borders? Racist. Viewpoint diversity? A form of violence against the oppressed.” 

I hate to drop spoilers with a master essay like Sullivan’s but I know a lot of people don’t follow links, and attention, as Willy Loman’s wife said, must be paid. Sullivan writes like an angel, so I quote him in fond hopes that readers will allow his persuasive prose to unfold as he designed it. Andrew begins by writing,

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A “Syestemic Racism” Case Study: Diversifyng Stage Management

Stage manager

A study published by the Actors’ Equity Association, the union for both actors and stage managers, revealed that between 2016 and 2019, 76% of stage managers employed on theatrical productions across the country were white. Only 2.63% were Black. Does that mean there is “systemic racism” in the theater world?

Absent a thorough analysis of the path by which individuals enter the field of stage management across the country, there is no justification for concluding that. I assume that the main factors are economic. Theater is an economically impossible pursuit. Those who go into it as a profession are often able to do so because they have financial resources from family or elsewhere that allows them that freedom. African Americans are less likely to have family wealth to support them, and performing has a greater potential for achieving wealth than the behind-the-scenes role of stage manager. As for the performers who, as an actor friend once put it, become actors because they aren’t good at anything else, they are not likely candidates for stage management because stage managers, like any other kind of managers, have to be smart. The theater is, in general, not a profession teeming with smart people. If you are smart, you choose a profession that isn’t financially unsustainable.

To be convinced that the lack of black professional stage managers is caused by racism, I would need to know what the pool of black stage managers is, and whether there are many qualified black stage manager who cannot find jobs. I don’t see that data. If the 2.63% of stage managers who are black represent all or most of the pool, is there a problem? Why? Who cares what color a stage manager is, if the individual knows how to handle the job and does it well?

One issue that the “systemic racism” advocates can’t seem to get their story straight about is the question of how race effects staff and management relations. In a healthy culture, there is no reason why a black stage manager couldn’t successfully oversee a predominantly white cast in a production, or the reverse. However, the racial distrust that the current “antiracism” rhetoric and policies engender almost guarantee conflict in a modern cast where there is racial diversity. Take it from the director of over 200 shows of all sizes and budgets, one thing no production needs is conflict.

Are black stage managers more likely to find racial grievances in a production environment? I don’t know. I wouldn’t be shocked if that was the case, but I will say this: I wouldn’t hire any stage manager of any shade who had a reputation for stirring up controversies. Stage managers exist to solve problems, and to make everything run smoothly. A social justice warrior stage manager? Not on my show.

A factor that is probably at work in keeping down the number of black stage managers is the basic and immutable logic of artistic team building. Successful and experienced producers and directors accumulate a group of people over the course of their work that they enjoy working with and who they believe contribute to their success. They will, in new projects, try to work with those same people. There is nothing wrong or unethical about that. But black directors and producers tend to have regular teams that reflect their social and professional circles, and white directors and producers are the same. Is this racism? I would call it “human nature” or “life.” And the more members of your team that you have no prior experience with, the greater the risk to your production. If I’m taking artistic risks, and I do, I want to minimize organizational risks.

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Down The Slippery Slope To Lawyer Censorship: First Giuliani, And Now This

silence

Rudy Giuliani, as discussed here, was just suspended from the practice of law on the basis of out of courts statements that the New York bar disagrees with, while representing a client they hate (Donald Trump), using a standard that has never been applied to a lawyer before.

Yet what was just done to South Carolina lawyer David Paul Traywick by the state Supreme Court was even worse, and more ominous. The Court ordered his suspension from the practice of law based on social media posts that were pure opinion, and that had no connection to the practice of law at all. Traywick lost his license for six months. He will also have to complete at least one hour of diversity education, undergo an anger management assessment, submit to an evaluation through the South Carolina Bar program Lawyers Helping Lawyers, and comply for one year with any treatment recommended by “re-education” authorities.

The Court felt justified punishing him after the South Carolina Office of Disciplinary Counsel received complaints from 46 people about Traywick’s Facebook posts. The posts were accessible to the public, and his profile identified himself as a lawyer while mentioning his law firm his law firm.

The Court found twelve posts by Traywick “troubling.”I will interject here that an individual’s statement on social media are none of a court’s business, indeed none of its damn business, unless they are libelous or criminal, or evidence in a case before it. None of the posts fit into those categories. Two of the posts nonetheless triggered the suspension:

  • On April 5, 2020, Traywick posted what the Court calls “an offensive comment regarding tattoos,” apparently so offensive the the opinion won’t even enlighten us to what it was. After whatever it was he was saying about tattoos, which could have only been an opinion, he  challenged his readers, “Prove me wrong. Pro tip: you can’t.” In a subsequent post in response to a comment, he wrote, “The general statement has exceptions, such as for bikers, sailors, convicts or infantry. But these college educated, liberal suburbanites. No, the rule was written for these boring mother fuckers. And they are everywhere. Fuck em. Especially these females, Jesus Christ!”
  • On June 3, 2020, at the peak of the George Floyd Freakout, they lawyer posted, also on Facebook,  “Here’s how much that shitstain’s life actually mattered: Stock futures up. Markets moved higher Monday and Tuesday. Fuck you. Unfriend me.

By no stretch of the imagination or the Rules of Professional Conduct do those statements justify suspending a lawyer’s right to practice law. It is protected speech under the First Amendment. It does not involve the practice of law. The comments are profane, but profanity is not grounds for discipline out of a legal context. They are vulgar, but the same hold with those. They may offend readers, but nobody is forcing readers to follow this jerk. The lawyer appears, based on his comments, to be an asshole, but being an asshole is not a disqualification for practicing law. It is often an asset, some might say. He may have been lying, but not in any way that could be linked to his trustworthiness as a lawyer, and lies are also protected speech unless they constitute fraud or perjury.

Yet the Court wrote,

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“Systemic Racism” Update

I need a graphic for “The Great Stupid,” but until I get one, that clip above from Ed Wood’s masterpiece, “Plan Nine From Outer Space,” will have to do. I have to check back and find out which generous reader sent me this after I asked if there was a “Stupid, stupid!” equivalent of the “Madness! Madness!” clip from “Bridge Over The River Kwai.” That’s the immortal Dudley Manlove uttering those words, by the way. And that was his real name!

Update: Commenter Wallphone found the “Plan Nine” clip, and has my enduring gratitude.

Here are some especially annoying recent developments on the incoherent “systemic racism” front.

1. Philonase Floyd, the brother of the late, great,George Floyd, said, following the sentencing of Derek Chauvin, “I just want to reiterate: not just black lives matter, all lives matter.” Strangely, he was not immediately condemned as a racist or racially insensitive and forced to apologize like so many others who were hounded mercilessly for saying “all lives matter.” Of course, the explanation is that Floyd’s skin shade gives him license to say “all lives matter.”

I only want to know the rules, that’s all. That seems like a reasonable request. But the systemic racism scam is truly Calvinball.The rules are made up and changed according to whatever is expedient at the time. Incidentally, there is a politician named Calvin Ball who is the county executive of Howard County, Maryland. Guess his party and race. [Hint: He’s allowed to say “All lives matter.”]

2. There has to be some designation for the cowards and enablers of rising totalitarianism that accurately describes sniveling traitors to democracy like Charlette LeFevre and Philip Lipson, the directors of Capitol Hill Pride in Seattle. I was considering the “Winston Smith Award,” but that seems unfair to Orwell’s tragic hero.

The two sent a letter to the Seattle Human Rights Commission that said,

“It has come to our attention that an event called ‘Take B(l)ack Pride’ at the Jimi Hendrix public park June 26th is charging Whites only admission as reparations. We consider this reverse discrimination in its worse form and we feel we are being attacked for not supporting due to disparaging and hostile e-mails. We will never charge admission over the color of a person’s skin and we resent being attacked for standing in those values.”

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Ethics Hero And Ethics Quote Of The Week: Jason Whitlock

Floyd statue

The George Floyd statue outside the Newark, NJ. City Hall.

I was introduced to sportswriter Jason Whitlock 20 years ago, when he was the featured speaker at a Kansas City legal convention I was attending. He was a forceful and entertaining speaker, and quick and witty in his question and answer session after his remarks. Since then, I have followed his career with interest, especially his recent emergence as a black conservative with the courage to be direct unequivocal, and not only regarding sports.

Commenting on the epic rant by a black parent and radio pundit about Critical Race Theory I featured over the weekend, esteemed Ethics Alarms commenter Humble Talent opined,

“One of the worst trends to come out of conservative politics in the last couple of years is to put up on a pillar any minority person that will say things that conservatives agree with. I think it’s a reactionary measure; Progressives say we’re racist, sexist, or homophobic, so we go out of our way to find female/minority/gay people to platform in order to prove we aren’t…Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think they’re bad people, I just don’t think they’re smart, funny, or talented enough to get space in conservative media absent these identity markers that conservatives seem especially hungry for….”

That point is legitimate, but it can’t be fairly applied to Jason Whitlock. Yes, I believe he has received special attention because he is a black man standing up to The Great Stupid, but he also deserves special attention because he is unusually astute, persuasive and eloquent. A white analyst, like, say, me, can be automatically squelched as biased when noting, for example, that George Floyd is an absurd and intellectually indefensible martyr for the Black Lives Matter movement since there was no evidence that his death was a product of racism, systemic or otherwise. When an astute, persuasive and eloquent black critic makes a similar argument, it demonstrates that my conclusion was not necessarily motivated by racial bias.

I know: people will say it anyway.

Whitlock has made a different argument regarding Floyd in his latest essay, but it is an excellent one. Indeed, if there were any integrity at the major newspapers, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, New York Magazine and the Usual Suspects that have destructively carried the banners of those who have, quite successfully, exploited that neatly symbolic manner of Floyd’s demise, he would not have had to seek publication in the relatively marginal Glenn Beck website, The Blaze, where he hosts a podcast called “Fearless.” The essay is titled, “The Veneration of George Floyd is racist and must be stopped.”

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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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Reflections On “Juneteenth”

Juneteenth

Guest Post by A.M. Golden

[Well THAT was fast! This morning’s Open Forum generated not one but two guest post-worthy comments regarding the newly created “Juneteenth” national holiday. I had intended to post on it yesterday; for once I’m pleased that life got in the way. This is the first; the second will appear shortly, and who knows? There may be more!–JM]

So let’s talk about Juneteenth, shall we?

A blatant attempt to pander to the African-American community. A federal holiday that only a small group of people actually celebrate. I’m still trying to figure out if I can go to the post office tomorrow.

I’ve also read one article already by a person of color who admits to feeling uncomfortable with the thought of white people celebrating this holiday.

So, no, this won’t be divisive, will it?

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