Ethics Dunce: Christ Church In Alexandria, Virginia

I’m sorry, George. You know. Morons.

Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia—the city where I and my family live— announced that it will take take down a memorial plaque  marking the pew where Washington sat with his family.

“The plaques in our sanctuary make some in our presence feel unsafe or unwelcome,” church leaders said. “Some visitors and guests who worship with us choose not to return because they receive an unintended message from the prominent presence of the plaques. Many in our congregation feel a strong need for the church to stand clearly on the side of ‘all are welcome- no exceptions.”

The unspoken but implied rationale is that George Washington was a slave-holder, and that this outweighs everything else. Never mind that the entire white population when he was alive believed that blacks were a lower breed of human. Never mind that it would have been literally impossible to grow up in agrarian, slavery dominated Virginia as a member of the plantation class without embracing slavery. Never mind that Washington continued to ponder the injustice of the practice, and eventually decided never again to buy or sell another slave while advocating slavery’s eventual abolition.  In his will, Washington left directions for the emancipation after Martha Washington’s death, of all the slaves who belonged to him.  Never mind that.

Never mind that without George Washington’s courage, leadership, aversion to excessive power and astonishing charisma and trustworthiness, there would be no United States of America. Continue reading

The Cruelest Month And The Duty To Remember


If we have the education, curiosity, perspective and respect for our origins and those who have gone before us, the calendar is a source of constant reminders of what matters in life, and how we can be better citizens and human beings. It is a common belief among Millennials, and a lot of older Americans too, that history is irrelevant to their lives, and this is both a fallacy and a self-inflicted handicap. Not that keeping history in mind is easy: in this month, which T.S. Elliot dubbed “the cruelest,” paying appropriate respect by remembering is especially difficult.

Still, respecting history is our duty. It won’t be remembered, perhaps, but in April, 2012, a 23-year-old drunken fool named Daniel Athens was arrested for climbing over a barrier to urinate on a wall at the Alamo. Monday, a Texas judge threw the book at him, sentencing him to 18 months in state prison for vandalizing a National Monument and a shrine. The sentence seems extreme, and is a good example of how the law is a blunt weapon with which to enforce ethics. The Alamo has near religious significance in Texas, brave men died there, and the ruins serve as a symbol of critical virtues like loyalty, sacrifice, dedication, courage and patriotism. Athens, himself a Texan, defiled the memory of the fallen and symbolically rejected the values and heritage of his community and fellow citizens. Unfortunately, the harshness of the sentence will create sympathy for him: 18 months for peeing? But how else does a culture reinforce the importance of respect for the past? I don’t have an answer. Perhaps I would have sentenced him to take an exam on the lives of Travis, Crockett, Bowie, Seguin and the rest, as well as the siege itself, and imposed the jail term only if he flunked.

Yesterday, Major League Baseball celebrated the heroism and transformative life of Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier on April 15, 1947 by becoming baseball’s first black player, setting in motion powerful forces that propelled the cause of civil rights. Every player wore Robinson’s now retired uniform number 42, and there were commemorative ceremonies in the ball parks where it wasn’t too cold and wet to play ball. This remembrance had a difficult time competing with tax day, as history usually does when our immediate life concerns beckon.

Other important historical events deserving reflection, however, were more or less ignored entirely, for April 15 is a historically awful day: Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: Massachussetts Democrats

Then again, the values of Massachusetts Democrats in choosing Senate candidates has a certain consistency…

95.7 percent of the 3,500 delegates attending the Massachusetts state Democratic convention in Springfield, Mass. endorsed faux-Cherokee Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren for U.S. Senator.  Since Warren’s support exceeded 85%, Marisa DeFranco, the only declared opposition to Warren’s nomination to oppose Republican Senator Scott Brown’s bid for re-election, will not have the chance to test Warren in a primary.

Since no Democratic candidate had ever won more than 86 percent of the vote in the 30 years of the state party’s endorsement process, the party’s doubling down on the thoroughly disgraced Warren is a stunning rejection of ethical principles.

Warren, just this week, admitted that she had told Harvard that she was a Cherokee after she had been hired, prompting the University to list the blue-eyed, blonde-haired scholar as “a woman of color” in its diversity statistics. She had explicitly denied this for months. She has shown to be a plagiarist, a liar, a fake, and a hypocrite, and an inept politician as well. Her party’s response to all of this was to make it impossible for its members to reject her at the polls, and to nominate a candidate of integrity to oppose Brown.

What does the conduct of Massachusetts Democrats demonstrate? Continue reading

Recipe Rationalizations

Go ahead: tell him that recipes are trivial.

The Elizabeth Warren recipe plagiarism is turning into a fascinating study of whether objectivity and fairness can survive partisanship. So far, the results are depressing.

There is increasingly persuasive evidence that the recipes contributed by “Elizabeth Warren, Cherokee” to the cookbook “Pow Wow Chow” were not Native American recipes passed down over generations as Warren represented them, and that she 1) knew this and 2) intentionally misrepresented and disguised their origins while lifting them, barely altered, from other published sources. Faced with this, Warren supporters are falling back on classic rationalizations rather than accepting, reluctantly, the obvious import of the data: their candidate is an untrustworthy faker.

Howie Carr, the Boston radio talk-show host who initially uncovered the plagiarism in “Pow Wow Chow,” reveals more details of one of Warren’s apparent thefts in today’s Boston Herald. For her version of the recipe for “Herbed Tomatoes” that she lifted from the September 1959 edition of Better Homes and Gardens, Warren made a few strategic changes, Carr reports.  She cut one the “one-half teaspoon monosodium glutamate” from the ingredients ( “Apparently MSG was not available at the Muskogee Stop & Shop in 1856,” writes Carr) and also eliminated the option of using margarine rather than butter, since “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Buffalo Grease” was not on the shelves of her elusive Cherokee ancestors. This indicates an intent to deceive by Warren, in addition to her plagiarism.

Central to the defenses offered for Warren by Democrats are the following classic rationalizations: Continue reading

“Pow Wow Chow” Follow-Up: My Breitbart Interview On Harvard and Professor Plagiarism

Michael Patrick Healy, an author and conservative activist, interviewed me today regarding what Harvard Law School’s response ought to be if indeed Elizabeth Warren engaged in plagiarism with her contributions, as “Elizabeth Warren, Cherokee”, to the cookbook “Pow Wow Chow.”

His article, including the interview, are on the Breitbart Big Government site, here.

The Significance of “Pow Wow Chow”

Great title, by the way….

There is mostly bad ethics news for Elizabeth Warren fans from the re-discovery of the 1984 cookbook she contributed to called “Pow Wow Chow,” but some good news too. The good news is that the 28 year-old cook book, edited by her cousin and listing the current Harvard professor and Democratic Senate contender as a contributor named “Elizabeth Warren, Cherokee,” shows that Warren didn’t just concoct her claims of Cherokee heritage to achieve minority status to help her get faculty jobs through university diversity hiring policies. Oh, she intentionally employed her dubious heritage credentials to get that edge, no doubt about it. But the cookbook shows that though she was only 1/32 Native American by the most generous calculations and was assuming that lineage on the basis of hearsay alone, Elizabeth Warren really had convinced herself that she is a Cherokee, and probably believes it to this day. Hence her obsession with being able to call herself a Native American appears less opportunistic and more, well, nuts. [ Note: for a thorough though excessively sympathetic review of Warren’s claims, read this, in The Atlantic.]

In fact, it looks like a severe case of Sixties Liberal Delusion Syndrome, also known as Billy Jack Disease. Warren talks and writes like a stereotype campus liberal, and like her Sixties campus forbears, she must have figured out in early adulthood that kinship with oppressed minorities is the antidote to white guilt and the ticket to a perpetual state of self-righteousness and victimization. If my diagnosis is correct,  Warren’s lockstep liberal mindset seized upon her family lore about American Indian heritage, and installed it as a cornerstone of her self-image as a foe of the capitalist, white-dominated American power structure. I am sorry I doubted her; I now think it is likely that she has long thought of herself as a true Cherokee. True, I think that is ridiculous; I think extending that attenuated minority identification into a resume enhancement, allowing her to displace more deserving candidates, is indefensible; and I think her obsession calls her judgement and stability into question. But at least she wasn’t lying. About that.

Yes, this is the good news.

The bad news is that Warren’s contributions to the cookbook appear to be misrepresented and stolen. Continue reading

Comments of the Day: “UNICEF’s Unethical War Against International Adoption”

A Rumanian child in an orpahanage for "incurables," circa. 1990, enjoys his "heritage."

A post that is a year old recently attracted two important comments, thanks to a link to the essay from another website. The topic is international adoption, an issue that I have a special interest in as the parent of an adopted son who was born in Russia. I have seen first hand the conditions described in these posts, and when I wrote the original article, I was unaware of the substantial movement opposing international adoption, a misguided effort with tragic consequences to the children these people supposedly want to protect. I am aware of it now. It is an especially tragic example of what happens  when tunnel vision and ideology causes individuals to lose perspective and objectivity.

I am taking the unusual step of pairing two comments as the Comment of the Day.  They arrived together, and compliment each other well. You might want to read the original post, “UNICEF’s Unethical War Against International Adoption.”

Here are the Comments of the Day, by Mel and Holly F. Continue reading