Monday Morning Ethics Calisthenics, 7/19/2020: Fig-Heads!

1. Our trustworthy news media, which we can trust to behave like this... From my AOL news feed: “Trump says he may not accept 2020 election results.” From the transcript of the Chris Wallace interview that the headline is referring to:

WALLACE: Are you suggesting that you might not accept the results of the election?

TRUMP: No.

What the President would not do is promise to accept the results if there were a  valid reason not to accept the results. Once Al Gore challenged the Florida vote count after Bush had been declared the winner in 2000, the long standing precedent, followed by election losers like Andrew Jackson, Samuel Tilden and Richard Nixon, all of which had reasons to question the results in their contests, of accepting defeat without a challenge was erased. If any of it remained at all, Hilary Clinton’s pursuit of some way of reversing the Electoral College tally in 2016 completed the job. Trump’s refusal to promise a return to the old tradition is reasonable,  especially with the chicanery enabled by mail-in ballots. What Joe Biden has suggested, despicably, is that Trump will not give up the Presidency even if he is defeated unequivocally and fairly. There is no justification for suggesting this. There is far more reason to believe that any Trump victory, even a resounding one, will send angry and frustrated Democrats into the streets

Trump, as usual, was trolling with his coy response here…

WALLACE: There is a tradition in this country — in fact, one of the prides of this country — is the peaceful transition of power and that no matter how hard-fought a campaign is, that at the end of the campaign that the loser concedes to the winner. Not saying that you’re necessarily going to be the loser or the winner, but that the loser concedes to the winner and that the country comes together in part for the good of the country. Are you saying you’re not prepared now to commit to that principle?

TRUMP: What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense. OK?

TRUMP: And you know what? She’s the one that never accepted it.

WALLACE: I agree.

TRUMP: She never accepted her loss and she looks like a fool.

This isn’t a topic he should be playing with, because the Democrats and the news media will claim that something sinister is in the works. Trump gives a strong hint of his real meaning: if Hillary looked like a fool by refusing to accept the election results, he wouldn’t want to behave like Hillary. But the President should have simply said, “If I lose, fair and square, of course I will accept the results.”

He also should have answered Wallace’s question as I would have, by saying, “Chris, the tradition you speak of has been rejected twice by losing Democratic candidates since 2000.”

2. There’s no excuse for this in 2020. I could not believe my ears as I watched “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”last night.

I thought that a TV version of “The Hard Way” (1991)  I watched a bit of until I couldn’t stand any more had wrapped up the all-time prize for idiotic Bowdlerization of movie dialogue with such substitutions as “slug in a ditch” for “son of a bitch.”  I mistakenly assumed that the days of red-penciling movie dialogue on the theory that a film’s audiences would be made up of six-year-old Mennonites and 88-year old nuns were long gone. But here was a a 2017 movie with a lot of rough language being made ridiculous by word censorship. “Fuck” was alternately represented by “flock,” “flip,” and “freak.” “Mother-fucker” became “flipper”—in a bar scene, I at first thought a fight started because one character called another a dolphin. “Bitch” for some reason was removed in favor of the word “cuck,” except it was pronounced like “cook.” A character complained about there being “too many cucks in here,” and for a second I thought I was watching “The Great British Baking Show.” All of these strange words ruined the movie, first because the silly replacements turned a smart and moving drama into a absurdist Monty Python skit, and second because the word substitution was so eccentric that I was constantly taken out of the story by wondering, “What word was supposed to be in there?”

In one scene, the protagonist played by Frances McDormand burst  into the police station calling the officer played by Sam Rockwell a “fig-head.” Another officer indignantly shouts at her, “You can’t come in here and call a law enforcement officer a fig-head!” Wait–what the hell is a fig head?

This is incompetent and unfair to the film, the artists who made it, and the audience.

3. OK, I admit it, I have no idea what Kanye West is doing. And I don’t care. After announcing he was running for President, then implying that he wasn’t, the mentally ill rapper held a campaign event yesterday highlighted by his criticism of Harriet Tubman on the grounds that she “never actually freed the slaves, she just had them work for other white people.”

This is gallactically stupid, but it’s still smarter than Candidate Trump’s criticism of John McCain’s war heroism. At least Tubman, her family and friends aren’t alive to exact their revenge on West should he get elected.

It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again! Ethics Observations On The Tubman Twenty Delay

A little more than a year ago, Ethics Alarms discussed a controversy over alleged “foot-dragging” by the Trump administration regarding the institution of the planned Harriet Tubman twenty dollar bill:

The latest outrage committed by the Trump Administration is dragging its collective feet and not completing the Obama Administration’s pandering to women and African-Americans—heck, maybe epilepsy sufferers too—by replacing President Andrew Jackson’s likeness with that of Harriet Tubman, the famed Underground Railroad conductor.  Jack Lew, Obama’s Secretary of the Treasury, announced the decision to put Tubman on the twenty in April 2016, too late to get the change done. …President Trump didn’t regard this deliberate swipe at the Seventh President, a transformative and important one whether you like it or not, and  the equivalent of  progressive statue-toppling —I didn’t see the connection at the time, because the Great Airbrushing hadn’t started yet, but that’s exactly what it is—as one of his top priorities, or, frankly, a priority at all. This is an outrage, according to a Washington Post editorial, “Mnuchin’s excuse for delaying the Harriet Tubman $20 bill is insulting.” A representative excerpt:

“No one can blame [Lew] for a failure to imagine that any future administration would be so petty and narrow-minded as to go out of its way to thumb its nose at women, minorities and history.”

Of course, removing Jackson is as much nose-thumbing as delaying Tubman’s honor,  and Trump’s resistance to following the usual Democratic racial and gender spoils script is no more political than the Post making this another “Orange Man Bad” manufactured controversy.

I have no problem with putting a female, an African-American, or someone who isn’t a Founder or a President on our currency. I also have no problem with honoring Andrew Jackson, who did as much to define the office as anyone. I also have no problem with President Trump refusing to exert himself to complete a purely political pander to the Democratic base pander by Obama, when Democrats have withheld from him the most basic courtesies and accommodations that any President should be able to expect from the opposing party.

Now it’s a year later, Harriet still isn’t on the twenty, and her honor looks further off than ever. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week that a new $20 bill would not be released until 2030 and that a future secretary would have to make the decision about whether Andrew Jackson would be replaced at all. In a news briefing, the Treasury Secretary explained that redesigning the currency required developing complicated anti-counterfeiting technology and a new printing process, and all of that takes many years.

“This is something that is in the distant future,” he said. Mnuchin also said that the currency timelines were set by career officials in an extensive interagency process, with the $10 bill next on the schedule to be redesigned and released in 2026. A Treasury Department spokesperson told reporters that the 2030 timeline was set before 2015 by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the Federal Reserve Board and the Secret Service. The decision was  to redesign the $10 and the $50 first because the $20 is the most used bill, thanks to ATM machines. Because it is the most used and is the favorite bill of counterfeiters—remember that it was a fake twenty that George Floyd was allegedly trying to pass before his fatal encounter with the police—the twenty dollar bill requires robust security features and sufficient time to make those security changes.

Observations: Continue reading

Why Do We Pay Any Attention To These People And What They Think At All?

Wait. what’s the matter with non-traditional casting?

Hollywood continues to presume to tell the public what their priorities and values should be, despite indisputable evidence that the entertainment industry is large run by narrow, venal, intellectually limited, under-educated people, and always has been. My now-deceased friend Bob McElwaine, who was born in Hollywood as the son of a silent film producer, was baby-sat by Clara Bow and played pick-up football games against Mickey Rooney as a child, had wonderful anecdotes about his time as a writer and  publicity agent during Hollywood’s Golden Era. He often would relate these jaw-dropping tales without attribution out of loyalty and his vows of confidentiality—it was his refusal to go public with these stories that led to his memoirs being rejected by publishers. They wanted dirt, and Bob refused to spread dirt or even embarrassing anecdotes about those who had trusted him, even after the clients and employers were dead.

Bob said that he witnessed this conversation in one studio executives ‘s office while trying to stifle giggles. A producer burst in full of excitement saying he had an idea for a blockbuster film. This was during the Fifties, when biblical spectaculars were the rage. “The Lord’s Prayer!” he said. “I know just the scriptwriter for it! Can you imagine the box office?” The studio chief laughed out loud. “The Lord’s Prayer! That’s ridiculous!” he chided. “Why, I bet you don’t even know The Lord’s Prayer.” Continue reading

Memorial Day Weekend Ethics Warm-Up, 5/26/19: The Fish, The Fist Bump, And Harriets’s Lament

Good Morning!

Here is another of my father’s favorite Sousa marches, “The Black Horse Troop.” I remember thinking about the march when I saw that the riderless horse in my father’s Arlington funeral procession was all black.

1. Let’s start with a fish story…

That’s Tom Volk holding  the nearly 17-pound walleye he caught along the Heart River in Mandan, North Dakota. Little did he know that what was briefly a happy experince for him would end up with him being attacked on social media and prosecuted by the state. A fish is considered hooked illegally—it’s actually a crime—if the hook was in the fish’s back rather than its mouth. As soon as Volk claimed the record, he was accused of cheating. The Game and Fish Department opened a criminal investigation. Volk had to hire  a lawyer, and the prosecution could have an impact on his career:  Volk serves as a city councilman in North Dakota and works in drug prevention for the state government.

Finally game wardens compiled an 11-page report on the fish after conducting witness interviews. The county prosecutor said  his office had reached “a consensus view” that the walleye had been improperly hooked. The chief game warden said he was convinced that the fish was “foul-hooked,” but also believed that Mr. Volk might not have known about the infraction until after he left the riverbank. His department issued a written warning, disqualifying the fish from record consideration, but no criminal citation.

The walleye could not be reached for comment. Continue reading

Observations On Donald Trump’s Harriet Tubman Comments

Harriet.Tubman 20

Don’t worry. Despite Donald Trump’s supposed “new leaf” that has him trying act and sound “presidential,” he’s going to continue to say ignorant, stupid and offensive things, because he really doesn’t know what is “presidential,” or ignorant, stupid and offensive, for that matter.

Today’s example was his off-the-cuff commentary about Harriet Tubman replacing President Andrew Jackson on the twenty-dollar bill.Trump said:

“I think Harriet Tubman is fantastic. I would love to leave Andrew Jackson and see if we can come up with another denomination. Maybe we do the $2 bill or another bill. I don’t like seeing it. Yes, I think it’s pure political correctness. He’s been on the bill for many, many years and really represented somebody that was really very important to this country.”

Observations:

1. Ethics Alarms offers this competence and responsibility-based rule for public figures, especially those running for President of the United States.

If you can’t say something that is constructive, coherent and adds substance to the discussion, keep your opinion to yourself.

Of course, that would mean Trump would seldom get to say anything. Still, this statement was completely gratuitous, vapid, clumsy and wrong. Continue reading

Monetary Affirmative Action: “Women On 20s”

Patsy Mink, almost certainly one of the 100,000 most significant Americans in our history.

Patsy Mink, almost certainly one of the 100,000 most significant Americans in our history.

Barbara Ortiz Howard was interviewed on CBS this morning, talking about her effort to put a female face on our money. The thrust of her argument distills down into simple math: there are a lot of women, so the money should reflect that. We are now in the realm of affirmative action, and this was a sitting duck for the effort. There is no criteria for being on currency, just death. It’s an honor, of course, and as an honor, should be taken seriously, though its hard to argue that the current slate of faces reflects any objective evaluation. Salmon P. Chase? Kennedy’s undistinguished three years in office didn’t earn him his place on the 5o cent piece; getting shot did.

I can’t work up much indignation over the campaign being played out on Howard’s website, Women on 20’s. Like all efforts to impose quotas and encourage group identification, the effort is devisive, and the site’s candidates to replace Andrew Jackson could serve as a primer on how affirmative action can have the perverse effect of diminishing the credibility and integrity of an accomplishment. Whatever one thinks about Jackson, he had a tremendous impact on the nation and its political culture, was a transformative national leader, and a historical figure of great significance. Quick: name the major legislative accomplishments of Patsy Mink, Shirley Chisolm and Barbara Jordan for example. Jackson towers over them in importance to the nation’s growth and long-term success. That doesn’t mean he has to be on a bill, but nobody will be able to argue again that being so honored means anything more than that a powerful constituency caught an accommodating Democratic President when he needed to bump a poll number. Continue reading