Jeanette Rankin, The Pearl Harbor Ethics Dunce

This post is a day late, I guess. A friend on Facebook posted the headline above, bringing the episode back to me.

Jeanette Rankin (1880-1973) is a feminist icon, and with good reason. She was the first woman to be elected to Congress (From Montana), even before women were  able to vote under the Constitution. [She also played a pivotal role in  the passing of the 19th Amendment, finally granting all women in the U.S. the right they should have had from the beginning. (Montana was one of the states that allowed full voting rights to woman before the 19th Amendment was passed.)

But Rankin voted against declaring war on Japan after its deadly sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, the only member of Congress to do so. In her case, the fact that the only woman in Congress also was the sole opposition to war was no coincidence.

As a trailblazing feminist,Rankin believed that feminism was a natural ally of pacificism. She believed that having women in power instead of men would mean fewer wars, and  less violence. By today’s standards, I would call her a bigot, and that particular brand of bigotry still lurks under the surface of the modern feminist argument that more women should be elected to positions of power just because of the inherent virtue attached to having only x-chromosomes. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/30/18: Scary Ethics Stories!

Good Morning!

(And HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my brilliant, talented, always challenging, Trump-hating lawyer little sister, Edith Sophia Marshall!)

1 Quiz results: about 90% of responders found the drag Python sketch about a ladies club re-enactment of Pearl Harbor funny. Whew. As for the one voter who said that it was unfunny because it made light of human tragedy and violence, I’m glad you never attended any of the stage comedies I directed.

2. Ending birthright citizenship for illegal immigrant offspring? President Trump told Axios in an interview that he was preparing to issue an executive order to end birthright citizenship for children of immigrants here illegally. “It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t…You can definitely do it with an Act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.”

I have found no authorities who agree with Trump’s lawyers, if indeed they are telling him that. If they are, I don’t blame him for listening to them: if there was ever a President who was legally clueless, it’s this one. Some conservatives are livid about the suggestion (obviously all illegal  immigration-boosting liberals are as well), noting that this proposal is exactly as unconstitutional as Obama’s immigration-related EOs. I tend to agree with them. Ethically, the birthright rule is an incentive to break the law and anachronistic, since it originated when there were no legal restrictions on immigration nor reasons to have any. if the question gets to the Supreme Court, however, it will pose an integrity test for the conservative justices. Their philosophy is that you can’t just re-write or ignore the Constitution when it gets in the way of desirable policy, and this is a perfect example.

It is also very possible—likely?— that the President was using this trial balloon to energize the anti-illegal immigration base as the “caravan” continued its march. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/7/17: Al Franken’s Day That Will Live In Infamy [UPDATED]

Battleship USS West Virginia sunk and burning at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. In background is the battleship USS Tennessee.

Good Morning, Bad Memories…

1 The duty to remember…The most amazing thing about Pearl Harbor was perhaps how lucky the United States was that the sneak attack by Japan, as devastating as it was, didn’t permanently cripple our ability to defend ourselves. Two links lead to explanations why. Here is a letter written by Admiral Nimitz, then in his eightieth year. to Admiral David L. McDonald, the present Chief of Naval Operations. The National Review provides the tale of how a forgotten Georgia Congressman, Democrat Carl Vinson saved the country and probably the world.  An excerpt:

For nearly a decade before Pearl Harbor, Vinson had schemed and politicked in brilliant fashion to ensure that America was building a two-ocean navy larger than all the major navies of the world combined. Vinson had assumed in the mid-1930s that fascist Japan and Germany posed existential threats to the United States. For America to survive, he saw that America would need mastery of the seas to transport its armies across the Pacific and Atlantic.

This is Thank You Carl Day. Read it all.

2. ‘I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t smart enough, and doggone it, nobody likes me!’ This appears to be the end for Senator Al Franken. If it’s not, the end is near and inevitable. His seventh new accuser was the tipping point, for some reason, though her story Franken denies—especially the part where the anonymous woman claims that after she ducked his attempt at a spontaneous kiss in 2006, he  protested, “It’s my right as an entertainer! ” The soon-to-be-former Senator told Politico,

“This allegation is categorically not true and the idea that I would claim this as my right as an entertainer is preposterous. I look forward to fully cooperating with the ongoing ethics committee investigation.”

That “It’s my right” comment sounds to me like a desperate attempt to save face by making a joke out of an awkward situation, not a serious claim. If I’m right, then Franken’s statement is deceit: he’s saying that he would never claim such a right, but he isn’t saying that those words never came out of his mouth. Al’s slippery, mealy-mouthed, not-quite apologies are a large part of why he’s in this mess, as I wrote here. 

Still, no one should be presumed guilty or face negative consequences for a public accusation by an accuser who refuses to go on the record. This is basic fairness and due process. Never mind: the Democratic women in the U.S. Senate are less interested in due process and fairness than grandstanding and standing for the proposition that women must be believed in cases of sexual assault, unless they were assaulted by Bill Clinton. I think that’s the rule, right?

They led a coordinated attack on Franken yesterday by 16 U.S. Senators, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York—you know, the one who championed “Mattress Girl”?–who  wrote in a 650-word statement,”While Senator Franken is entitled to have the Ethics Committee conclude its review, I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve.”

That’s right, Senator, it’s better to send the message that due process is just a sham to make doing what you want to do look fair.

For example, how do you like this (from Politico):

Two former colleagues of the woman independently corroborated her version of events, including Franken telling her he had the right to try to kiss her because he was “an entertainer.” The first former colleague interviewed by POLITICO said she was told of the incident in 2006, shortly after it happened. The second former co-worker said she was made aware of the encounter sometime in 2009 or 2010.

What? Those women didn’t corroborate the the accuser’s “version of events”! How can any journalist write such junk? How could an editor let it pass? All they can do is corroborate that the woman said this happened, not that her account is accurate or true.

But again, never mind. This is The Terror. Al’s a man, Democrats have been caught in the web of hypocrisy they started spinning when Clinton was President, and his metaphorical blood must cleanse them. Continue reading

From The “When Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring” Files: Newt Gingrich’s December 7th Tweet

gingrich-tweet

Some random thoughts on an incredible display of terrible taste, as I wrestle to keep my cranium from blowing…

1. Why in the world would Newt do this? How could he, or anyone, not understand that this would be hurtful to many, and appreciated by none? Has he decided to compete with Donald Trump for most Reckless Twitter-User? Is he trying to make Trump look responsible by comparison? Why, Newt? Why?

2. Perhaps this is the beginning of regular laudatory tweets from Newt in appreciation of other geniuses that did Americans harm.

March 6: “Today we celebrate Santa Anna’s brilliantly executed surprise dawn raid on the Alamo, and his efficient slaughter of more than 200 Texans in 1836”

April 14: “A date for all Americans to commemorate John Wilkes Booth’s superb planning and marksmanship, confounding President Lincoln’s security to shoot him in the head with flair in 1865!”

August 8: “Let us not fail to admire surgical precision with which the dedicated follower of Charles Manson carried out their slaughter of five people in 1968”

September 11…well, you get the idea.

3. What’s truly nauseating is that poor, insecure Newt is so desperate for affirmation that he will use, of all things, the tragedy of the attack on Pearl Harbor to make himself appear, (he thinks), worldly, cerebral and analytical. All he really accomplished is to reaffirm what most cognizant Americans have known for decades…

4. …that Newt is about as big a jerk as this society has ever produced.

 

Ethics Quiz: The 9-11 Memorial Museum Restaurant

" So...who's hungry?"

” So…who’s hungry?”

I’m sure this will come as a shock to some, but there are ethics controversies that I do not have strong opinions on, because I think both sides have strong ethical arguments. The dispute over whether the planned restaurant at the recently opened memorial and museum on the site of the Twin Towers bombing is one of them.

Con is  stated succinctly by New York Post columnist Steve Cuozzo, who wrote, “A bar and grill by any name on top of burnt fire trucks and human ashes is just plain gross.” Also being criticized is a black-tie party held at the museum to celebrate the opening. Said a family member of a firefighter who died that day: “This is the final insult and desecration of these 9/11 remains.”

The Pro, or at least the “It’s no big deal” position, is laid out by Ann Althouse, who wrote:

“At some point the taking of offense itself becomes offensive. Maybe out of respect for the dead, no one who still walks the face of the earth should ever laugh or take pleasure in anything every again. More than 100 billion human beings have died, perhaps right where you are standing/sitting/reclining right now. How dare you ever do anything? Look out your window and visualize the ghosts of all the human beings who, over the course of history and prehistory, died within that view. Will you mourn for them… ceaselessly… until you are one of them?”

The ethics issue is obviously respect. What is enough, and what is disrespectful? The analysis involves finding the right analogy, perhaps. There is a gift shop and restaurant at the Gettysburg Battlefield Visitors Center, but not on the site of Pickett’s Charge. The Holocaust Museum has a gift shop and snack bar as part of the complex, but nobody was exterminated in Washington, D.C. There’s no gift shop or snack bar at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; you can’t buy a sandwich at the Alamo. Is the 9-11 restaurant like the one at the Pearl Harbor museum, or is it like having a fish and chips eatery over the SS Arizona? The Pennsylvania site where Flight 93 crashed is being treated as hallowed ground, while the section of the Pentagon where its victims perished on 9-11 is back to being a workplace.

Is this just the Ick Factor,  something that feels a little “off,” like watching musicals and comedies in Fords Theater with Lincoln’s empty, ghostly box looming over the stage, or something more?

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz today…

Is placing a restaurant over the 9-11 Museum, on the site where 3000 people were murdered, disrespectful?

Continue reading

Natasha Leggero’s Stand: Protecting The Jester’s Privilege

 

"Sing what you like, Fool. Just make sure I laugh."

“Sing what you like, Fool. Just make sure I laugh.”

In days of old when knights were bold, it is said, the King’s Fool was able to safely say outrageous, disrespectful things to the sovereign that might get anyone else drawn and quartered. This lucky exemption came to be known as the Jester’s Privilege, and it existed, and exists, for valid reasons. Humor, satire and all the other permutations of comedy are essential to societal sanity, and it makes sense to give the broadest discretion to practitioners of the craft in their efforts to provoke laughter—which is, as Reader’s Digest still reminds us monthly, “the best medicine.” That means that comics should not fear decapitation if their inspiration of the moment fails to provoke the desired mirth, or touches an audience member’s sensitive areas. In addition, the jester is sometimes able to expose a truth that will not be reached any other way.

It sounds like a good rule, and it is a good rule, but as with most ethics-related rules, applying it is difficult. Who gets the Jester’s Privilege…only professional comics, or does it apply to amateurs too? What about non-jesters just trying to be funny? “It was just a joke!” is a classic excuse invoked by insensitive and vicious people, including politicians, when they say something outrageous, as they try to use the privilege without a license, and in so doing, make it less effective for the humorists who really need its protection. Not everyone should assume that they have the full armor of the Jester’s Privilege. Mockery and ridicule are too often used as political weapons of targeted destruction.

Should some subjects be exempt from the Jester’s Privilege? The official position of comics, comedians, wags and wits has long been “No,” but even in Ye Olde Days, jesters sometimes went too far, and ended up with their heads on pikes. The problem any humorless king had after doing this, of course, was finding a jester willing to hazard a joke more edgy than “Why did the king cross the road?” For that reason, I think it’s vital that the Jester’s Privilege be strong and a near absolute. The sin that matters is not being funny, which means topics of unusual sensitivity take care of themselves.For centuries, for example, comics imitated and mocked those afflicted with speech impediments, especially stuttering, with big laughs guaranteed. Somewhere along the line, though, Porky Pig stopped being funny. The absence of laughs was enough to retire him; no heads had to roll.

On NBC’s New Year’s Eve show, the following exchange occurred between host Carson Daly, comic actress Jane Lynch and rising comedienne Natasha Leggero:

CARSON DALY: SpaghettiOs on Pearl Harbor Day, they sent out a tweet featuring their mascot holding an American flag asking people to quote “take a moment to remember #PearlHarbor with us.” It offended a lot of people, corporations glomming on to, you know, sentimental American historic traditions, seemingly looking for people in business. It wasn’t good. But you were offended for another reason.

JANE LYNCH: I’m offended because they were referring to SpaghettiOs as pasta.

NATASHA LEGGERO: I mean, it sucks that the only survivors of Pearl Harbor are being mocked by the only food they can still chew. It’s just sad.

Hilarity ensued, as the NBC gang laughed uproariously. Almost immediately, Leggero was getting flamed all over the social media and the wbs for denigrating the Greatest Generation. Steve Martin, I assume, would have humbled himself and apologized immediately, but not Leggero. Continue reading