Tag Archives: Lincoln assassination

Saturday Evening Ethics Update, 4/14/2018: Important Women Die Too, Fundraising Insanity, And Campus Segregation Is “In” Again

Good evening, everyone!

(This morning was completely unmanageable…)

1. This day in history..April 14 belongs with December 7, November 22 and September 11 as the four evil dates in American history, for Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on this day in 1865, yanking the course of events into a new riverbed. Who knows where we might be today if Booth had been foiled?

2. Oh, yeah, themThe New York Times is suddenly including more obituaries of women in its pages, the result of a ridiculously late realization last month that the paper’s  stories of death warranting special note had been overwhelmingly male from the paper’s birth. In March, the paper confessed,

Since 1851, The New York Times has published thousands of obituaries: of heads of state, opera singers, the inventor of Stove Top stuffing and the namer of the Slinky. The vast majority chronicled the lives of men, mostly white ones.

Charlotte Brontë wrote “Jane Eyre”; Emily Warren Roebling oversaw construction of the Brooklyn Bridge when her husband fell ill; Madhubala transfixed Bollywood; Ida B. Wells campaigned against lynching. Yet all of their deaths went unremarked in our pages, until now.

It is a welcome reform. The Times is also looking back over history to remedy the past bias and injustice, launching a special project to publish, a bit late, many of those obituaries that it had failed to write when remarkable women died. You can find the latest additions here.

3. What’s going on here? Wall Street billionaire Stephen A. Schwarzman agreed to give $25 million to the Abington, Pennsylvania high school he attended  in the 1960s. The money would finance  a massive upgrade in the facility. The school, in return, agreed to name the school in his honor, hang a portrait of him in the building, honor his twin brothers elsewhere in the school, and give him the right to review the project’s contractors and approve a new school logo.

Then the deal was announced. Local residents appeared at a standing-room-only, five-hour school board meeting last week to protest.  There was an online petition (naturally), and calls for school officials to resign.  And what was it about the quid pro quo that the people objected to? The quote from Robert Durham, who works at the local Chevrolet dealership and sent two sons through Abington Senior High School is explanatory as any:

“I just think there’s too much influence about big money, Wall Street money, in our society,” he told reporters.

Oh. Continue reading

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Leslie Johnson, the Implications of Guilt and the “Innocent Until Proven Guilty” Confusion.

In the context of American justice, “innocent until proven guilty” means that nobody is legally guilty of a crime until a court proceeding has ruled so after a fair trial. The term is nowhere in the Constitution or Bill of Rights; it flows from the Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment, requiring that no one can lose his or her freedom or property without due process of law. What it does not mean is that a wrongdoer is literally innocent of a crime until a jury or judge has officially declared that he is. If he did something, he did it, and if we all know he did it, we don’t have to pretend he didn’t or that we don’t.

I saw Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald on television and get taken into custody on the spot, and still had to listen to broadcasters say he “allegedly shot Kennedy’s assassin” as if it was still just a theory. By this standard, John Wilkes Booth only “allegedly” shot Lincoln, since he was never tried. The fact that a theater full of people saw him do it, leap to the stage and run off derringer smoking, doesn’t mean a thing. He’s as pure as the driven snow, innocent forever. Continue reading

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Unethical Questions, Anti-Semitism, and Greenberg’s Chase

I first encountered the device of the unfounded accusatory rhetorical when, as a teenager, I became fascinated by the Lincoln assassination conspiracy. A best-seller at the time was Web of Conspiracy, an over-heated brief for the theory that Lincoln’s War Secretary, Edwin Stanton, and others were in league with John Wilkes Booth. The author, a mystery writer named Theodore Roscoe, was constantly suggesting sinister motives by asking questions like “The sealed records of the official assassination investigation were destroyed in a mysterious fire. Was the War Department afraid of what the documents would prove? Would they have implicated Stanton? We will never know.”  This tactic is on view regularly today, used generously by the purveyors of modern conspiracies, but it is also a regrettably common tool of journalists and historians. Now the eclectic sports journalist Howard Megdal (who also edits a terrific website, The Perpetual Posthas found a new use for it. His question: “When Hank Greenberg of the Detroit Tigers made a run at Babe Ruth’s season home run record, falling two short with 58 in 1938, was he pitched around because he was Jewish?” Continue reading

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