Saturday Ethics Warm-Up: “Important Ethics Stories That I Don’t Feel Like Writing A Lot About Or Am Thoroughly Disgusted With” Edition

Happy Weekend!

I hope you’re not working the whole time, like I am. However, the Red Sox have their first Spring Training game, they are playing the Yankees, and all is serene.

1. Another one of Trump’s “best people” bites the dust, or should soon.   Judge Kenneth A. Marra of Federal District Court in West Palm Beach ruled that accused serial pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s secret sweetheart plea deal agreed to by Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta when he was a federal prosecutor violated federal law.

The corrupt arrangement  protected the billionaire from serious jail time and also  protected his politically-connected  friends including, notably Bill Clinton, from accountability despite their visits to Epstein’s  infamous island resort via the so-called “Lolita Express,” the private plane where young girls allegedly provided sexual services to the passengers. Ick.

I wrote a post about this unfolding scandal here. At that time, last November, I wrote,

“I do not see how Acosta can remain as Secretary of Labor following these revelation, incomplete as they are. I don’t see how we can trust his judgment, and even if, somehow, he could justify the deal with Epstein on legal, technical or pragmatic grounds, I doubt that the general public would be reassured. He should resign.”

Hey, I beat Jonathan Turley by almost three months!

2. Is the media assault on Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) for being an abusive boss legitimate? I have to say, it sure looks like it. The moderate Democratic Presidential hopeful might also be the target of a leftist news media that favors her more extreme competitors, but most Americans don’t know much about Klobuchar and can’t pronounce her name. The news media needs to introduce her, but it also shouldn’t poison the well. Conservatives, who don’t like her but like her a lot better than the likes of Senators Warren, Harris or Booker, are defending Klobuchar by arguing that she is being subjected to a double standard, since so many male officials past and present have been equally unpleasant. That’s just an “everybody does it” rationalization. There are good reasons to worry about the judgment and temperament of leaders who treat subordinates disrespectfully and cruelly, as in yesterday’s Times story about Klobuchar demanding that an aide clean her comb.

The problem is that the mainstream news media is not applying similar scrutiny, at least not yet, to similarly dubious candidates like Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.

3. Great. Just what we need.   “If Mueller is done, states could file their own charges — even against Trump,” says the Washington Post. So this is really the way it is: “the resistance” and its Democratic allies will continue to harass and obstruct the elected President forever, as their endless tantrum over losing the 2016 election. I have written that nothing could make me vote for someone with Donald Trump’s non-ethical approach to life as President, but I am beginning to think that only a Trump victory in 2020 will save the country from an endless cycle of partisan sabotage of Presidents, regardless of party, going forward. This unethical strategy has to fail, and fail hard. Continue reading

More Blackface Ethics From The Ethics Alarms Double Standards Files: The Zulu Club Parade

In other threads around the blog, I have argued that the politically correct position against black make-up on a non-black individual, which is that it is the equivalent of “blackface” and thus racist per se regardless of the intent or purpose of the wearer or how it is reasonable perceived by others, is the declaration of a taboo rather than a logical argument. We have reached a similar taboo state with the use of the term “nigger” (and I have just violated that taboo by printing the word.) Teachers and professors have been punished for expressly employing the word to discuss racist uses of the word in other contexts. This is obviously bats—such instructors are not engaging in racist speech or intending to do so—but that is how taboos work. It’s like saying “Niagara Falls” in the old vaudeville skit.

Amusingly—hypocritical searches for secret exits when one is hoisted on one’s own petard amuses me—the fact that two Democrats in Virginia were found to have once worn black make-up has set off new safaris on the Left to find  a way to define blackface so the taboo approach doesn’t hurt the good people—you know, anyone who isn’t a conservative or a Republican. Now harsh focus has fallen on a black group that has used blackface for over a century.

The Zulu parade is staged on Mardi Gras by the New Orleans African-American philanthropic and social club. The Zulu Club’s paraders, both black and white, wear blackface and grass skirts, a tradition that began in 1909. How is the Zulu Club’s fun and games different from Gov. Ralph Northam wearing blackface to imitate Michael Jackson—in a nice way, of course?

As far back as 1956, when an NAACP officer criticized the parade’s dress-up,  the Zulu tradition has been controversial.  “It’s always made me cringe,” wrote Jarvis DeBerry, a columnist with the Times-Picayune newspaper on Twitter. “That said, they swear it’s satire.” What? How is THAT a defense? The original blackface was satire, and it was satirizing blacks. Kim Coleman, an African-American woman who is curator of the city’s McKenna Museum of African-American Art, was interviewed by the New York Times and told the paper that she was  offended by “the sight of white people in blackface.” Does that mean black people wearing blackface is OK, because it satirizes white racists satirizing blacks? I presume she knows that black performers during Jim Crow sometimes had to wear blackface to be allowed on stage. That image isn’t disgusting? Continue reading

On Perceptions Of Racism

1. “Prehistoric Man.” Above is a musical number from the acclaimed, indeed classic, MGM musical “On the Town,” starring Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Jules Munshin, Ann Miller (the soloist), Vera-Ellen, and Betty Garrett. Questions:

  • Did it make you feel uncomfortable? Why or why not?
  • Should the number make you feel uncomfortable?
  • Is it blackface without blackface? Does the African sculpture late in the number matter? How about those outrageous masks and head gear?
  • If it’s not blackface without blackface, what would be the politically correct objection? That it offends cave men?
  • Would a black performer in the number eliminate any objections to it?

I felt weird about the number the first time I saw it, decades ago. Yesterday, when I watched it again, I really felt uncomfortable, and resented the fact that I did. This is what the culture does to you, whether you like it or not. Is a culture where a silly musical number like “Prehistoric Man” is considered offensive healthier than the culture that spawned it?

2. What planet was Ralph Northam raised on? The Virginia Governor, who has managed to stave off calls for him to resign despite a) wearing blackface in medical school and b) being completely unbelievable in his various explanations of when and why, has also revealed himself to be so ignorant of race issues and history that it boggles the mind that he could have been elected in the first place. Behold:

  • He dressed up using blackface to emulate Michael Jackson.
  • He saw nothing amiss for 30 years in having a photo of a man in blackface (possibly him, though he denies it) and an individual in KKK robes on his medical yearbook page.
  • He had to be told by a campaign worker in 2018 that wearing blackface was considered objectionable and a reference to racist minstrel shows and Jim Crow.
  • He was unaware until recently that the film “Birth of a Nation” is considered racist. To this I have to say, “Whaaa?” A public official should have some minimal knowledge of history, and this is the Governor of Virginia, birthplace of President Woodrow Wilson, who championed both the KKK and “Birth of a Nation.”
  • In his interview with Gayle King on CBS, Northam referred to slaves as “indentured servants.” She had to correct him. At least he didn’t call slaves “unpaid interns.”
  • In his Washington Post interview, Northam somehow managed to hold everyone else responsible for his inexplicable ignorance: “It’s obvious from what happened this week that we still have a lot of work to do. There are still some very deep wounds in Virginia, and especially in the area of equityThere are ongoing inequities to access to things like education, health care, mortgages, capital, entre­pre­neur­ship. And so this has been a real, I think, an awakening for Virginia. It has really raised the level of awareness for racial issues in Virginia. And so we’re ready to learn from our mistakes….First of all what I plan to do . . . is to make sure that we have sensitivity training — in our Cabinet, in our agencies. I also plan to reach out to our colleges and universities and talk about sensitivity training. Even into the K through 12 age range, that’s very important.”

The fact that Northam was and is jaw-droppingly obtuse and ignorant of the history of race in this country does not mean everyone is similarly handicapped.

  • Then the Governor had the gall to say  on CBS, “Virginia needs someone that can heal. There’s no better person to do that than a doctor. Virginia also needs someone who is strong, who has empathy, who has courage and who has a moral compass. And that’s why I’m not going anywhere.”

Ugh. The doctor line is an insult to everyone’s intelligence, and too facile to be accepted with anything but mockery. Doctors heal wounds and illnesses, not social and political maladies. Meanwhile, nothing in Northam’s handling of this scandal shows courage or a moral compass. What it shows is cultural obliviousness, a refusal to accept responsibility, and desperation to hold onto power despite being proven unfit to do so.

Northam doesn’t know racism when he sees it, and such a leader is hardly the one to address the problem.

I bet he’d enjoy “Prehistoric Man.”

 

________________________

Sources: The Hill 1, 2, Buzzfeed, National Review

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/9/2019: “Your Host Is Finally Feeling Better’ Edition.

Good day!

1. More evidence that a lot of Americans have trouble with this “democracy” thing. Former Democratic Representative John Dingell ofMichigan died this week at 92. He became  the longest-serving member of Congress in history before he finally agreed not seek re-election in his 80s, but that’s not the real head-exploder in his obituary. It was this…

“Dingell first arrived to Congress in 1955, taking over the seat held by his father John Dingell, Sr., who had died earlier that year, and the younger Dingell continued to serve in the House for more than 59 years. He announced in 2014 that he would not seek re-election and instead his wife, Debbie Dingell, ran for his seat and is now serving her third term.”

A little googling will reveal that Daddy Dingell served in Congress from 1933 until Junior took over. That means that voters in the district have sent only members of the Dingell family to Washington for 86 years. Debbie Dingell, the alliterative named widow of the departed, had no apparent experience in legislation before she was elected to hold the Perpetual Dingell Seat.

This is laziness, civic inattention, vestigial aristocracy and passive democracy at work, or rather, in a semi-coma. There is no excuse for electing leaders based on family connections and name recognition, except that Americans have been doing it for a couple of centuries. I know you can’t fix stupid, but the parties are exploiting stupid, and that goes to the heart of democracy’s greatest weakness: government by the people means a lot of really lazy, ignorant, biased and irresponsible people are going to involved in government.

2. Of course. The New York Times today defends the ongoing efforts by Congressional Democrats to make it impossible for the elected President to govern by burying the administration in specious and intrusive investigations. “Harassment? Nope. Oversight.” is the disingenuous headline of the paper’s Saturday editorial. Oversight is an important Congressional function, but investigations based on the logic “Gee, this guy seems sleazy to me and we don’t trust billionaires, so let’s keep digging into his personal and business affairs until we find some dirt” or “So far our impeachment bills have gone nowhere, but if we keep investigating, I bet we can find some real offenses” are not oversight. Oversight must be handled in good faith, and there is no good faith among Democrats, who made their intentions clear the second Trump humiliated Hillary Clinton. Their stated objective is to get him removed from office by any means possible, and if that fails, at least to reduce his public support to the point where he cannot govern. Harassment in the workplace is defined by creating a hostile work environment that makes it impossible for the target to do his or her job. Could this describe what kind of work environment the “resistance” and the news media (the Times, in defending Congressional Democrats, is also defending itself) have created for President Trump any more precisely? Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: College of William And Mary

“That behavior has no place in civil society – not 35 years ago, not today. It stands in stark opposition to William & Mary’s core values of equity and inclusion, which sustain our mission of learning, teaching, and research.”

—William and Mary  president Katherine Rowe, explaining the justification behind the school’s disinvitation of Virginia Governor  Ralph Northam to peak at the school following the revelation that he wore blackface in 1984, when he was a medical student.

This is the quality of thought, logic and fairness being displayed at the highest levels of our education institutions? Bad behavior in 2019 has no place in 2019’s society, and bad behavior in 1984  had no place in 1984 civil society. It may have no place in 2019’s civil society, but since it didn’t occur in that society, that doesn’t matter. What matters in civil society now is what those in that society now  they behave now, and how we can trust them to to behave in the future.

There is no reason to believe, now, today, based on his relevant, recent conduct, that Governor Northam is going to engage in the conduct in question now, or that his conduct in 1984 suggests that he is likely to engage in that conduct in the future. Continue reading

Super Bowl Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/3/219…To Remind You That You Can’t Be Serious About Ethics And Support The NFL. Sorry.

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME

...ethics?

Started this post in the morning; now, after another wipeout sick day, I’m trying to get it up before midnight. I’m sorry.

1. As a refresher...here’s last year’s Super Bowl guilt trip. I’d write a fresh one, but believe it or not, I’m still sick and in bed. Key quote:

It’s your choice. If you do choose to cheer on the Pats and the Eagles [this year, the Rams], though, don’t pretend that you don’t know that what you’re really cheering, enabling, and ensuring will keep ruining lives.

Incidentally, NFL TV ratings are way up this year. DEE-FENCE!

2. Today’s blackface news...This is not a parody; academics really are this ridiculous: in New York Times op-ed too dumb to link to, headlined ‘Mary Poppins, and a Nanny’s Shameful Flirting With Blackface,’ Professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner argues that the scene in the original 1964 film in which Mary cavorts with the chimney sweeps and ends up with her face blackened by soot is racially offensive, because it emulates blackface. Points:

  • This utterly deranged PC nonsense was actually seemed worthy of publication.
  • This tells us the risks parents of today take by entrusting the minds of their children to irresponsible institutions and educators who have devolved into advocates for racial paranoia.
  • Linfield College, in Oregon, employs this lunatic, meaning that its administrators think that someone who watches a fantasy dance number performed by chimney sweeps and sees a racist message can be trusted to teach its students.
  • Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, who collaborated on the 2004 stage adaptation of Mary Poppins that returns to the West End later this year, explained for the benefit of the Times, the crazy professor, and anyone so gullibve as to take either of them seriously, that Mary’s acceptance of the soot on her face is meant to be a gesture of support for the sweeps. “All she wants to do is join the sweeps and show them she isn’t standing apart – that she wants to belong to that group. It’s a touching scene and it displays a warm friendliness towards the sweeps,” he said. Funny, I was able to figure that out when I saw the film the first time, and I was 14-years old.

Continue reading

Never Mind The Blackface: Governor Northam Should Resign Because He Is Cowardly, Untrustworthy, Dishonest And Too Weird For Words

And it is unethical for a governor to be cowardly, untrustworthy, dishonest and too weird for words. Virginia’s governor has embarrassed his state, it’s citizens, and everyone who voted for him. He is a source of humiliation for his party. He cannot lead, or do anything but harm while he remains in office.

You host here at Ethics Alarms is still sick and bed-ridden, but I had to crawl to my office for this. Wow. From the moment he appeared in the most unethical campaign ad I had seen from a Virginia candidate for office, appealing directly to anti-Trump derangement and hate by calling the President of the United States a “maniac,” I knew there was something seriously off about Ralph Northam, and, frankly, about anyone who would vote for him. His recent “oh, this is how you go about aborting a baby who has already been born” comments confirmed that assessment, ” but I was not in favor of forcing him out of office because he had appeared in blackface while a medical student 34 years ago. However, Northam’s conduct and statements since initially apologizing for the photo that surfaced this week are not 35 years old. They reveal the current character of the individual changed with overseeing the government of Virginia. That character is intolerable for any leader, and it was not what the Virginians who voted for Northam—I wasn’t fooled, but you can fool some of the people some of the time—believed they were electing.

In today’s Saturday Night Live-ready press conference, Governor Northam, his poor wife by his side, gave a bravura performance in self-character assassination: Continue reading