The Ethics Mess That Is US Race Relations, Chapter I: The Killingly Redmen Fiasco

In Killingly, Connecticut, the local high school’s mascot has long been  a Plains Indian, and its athletic teams have been called the Redmen. Then, in 2019, the Nipmuc Tribal Council across the state border in Massachusetts complained that the name and mascott were offensive. [There’s an interesting discussion of the association of the color red with Native Americans here.]  Once the complaint was made, other Native American groups decided, “Yeah! We’re offended too!” along with usual gang of offended-by -proxy political correctness zealots. (Does this all sound familiar? It should.)

As typically happens in such situations, the people in charge decided to take the path of least resistance—this is how political correctness and expression suppression take hold, as you know–and in July, the Killingly  school board voted to eliminate  “Redmen” and the mascot and change it to “Redhawks.” It’s just a name, right?

Well, not this time. The uproar was so great that restoring “Redmen” became an election issue. Supporters of the old name and mascot took  control of the school board in the November 2019 election. However, while the new members had enough votes to eliminate the “Redhawks” name, they couldn’t muster enough to restore “Redmen.” “There is no mascot at this point,” said Craig Hanford, the new Republican board chairman, and he sent the dispute to a committee.

Fans of the football team, it was reported, shouted “Go Redmen!” during games during the rest of the season, wore Redmen jerseys and hats, and told anyone who asked that there was nothing racist about the name. One fan wore the grammatically perplexing sweatshirt, “Born a Redmen, Raised a Redmen, Will Die a Redmen.Continue reading

And That’s The Rest Of The Stupid Story: Finally, Apu Is Officially Toast. Or A Somosa. Whatever.

Hank Azaria, who has performed the voice of the Indian convenience store owner Apu since  1990, now says the series will capitulate to The Woke and Widiculous, and eliminate the character, who represents a stereotype. You know, unlike all the other characters on “The Simpsons.” “All we know there is I won’t be doing the voice anymore,” Azaria told the website SlashFilm. “We all made the decision together… We all agreed on it. We all feel like it’s the right thing and good about it.”

OK, what’s right and good about it? Hank is a Hollywood actor, so I don’t expect much nuanced ethical analysis from him, or any kind of analysis, really, but if an animated satire show can’t defend using stereotypes in a cartoon, then it might as well just give up.

I’m embarrassed to say this is the fourth post on this silly story, but like so many others, it is canary dying in the mine stuff. Yes, it’s just one canary. Still, the mine is looking awfully toxic.

A recap: The controversy was launched when a new documentary debuted Nov. 19, 2017  called “The Problem with Apu.” It reveals that Indian-Americans….well, at least some,  viewed Apu as a charged stereotype, and were especially upset that a non-Indian actor (Azaria), did the voice. I responded,

Move through the muck and emerge in the bright sunlight of reality,  and one sees that there is no problem with Apu. There are problems with lacking a mature reaction to humor and satire, being deliberately hyper-sensitive, power-grabbing using group-identification politics, and cynically looking for offense to justify claiming victim status,  but there is no problem with Apu.

I would love to know why Indian-Americans feel all the other characters in the show can be  outrageous stereotypes and extreme caricatures,  but Apu is unacceptably offensive and insensitive. This is contrived victimization. One cannot reasonable compare the Indians feasting on bugs and chilled monkey brains in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” to Apu because 1) Apu is entirely benign: he is one of the smartest, sanest and nicest characters in “The Simpsons,” and 2) he’s a cartoon.

“The Simpsons”writers initially took the responsible approach to this contrived controversy: they ridiculed it, taking my route and  noting that it was a cartoon, meaing to sane people that the accusation that the show was marginalizing human beings was not worth  arguing about, being box of rocks dumb. Here was the woke rebuttal to that, from a white female critic offended on behalf of cartoon Indians everywhere: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/27/2019: Two Bingos, Two Drag Shows, and Poop

Good morning!

1. Is it me, or is this TV commercial indefensibly gross, and signals the impending end of civilization?

2.  Reasons not to duck the New York Times op-ed pages…Yale student Kathryn Hu contributed a sane and thoughtful essay on the topic of classic operas with characters and plot elements that seem sexist or racist to today’s more enlightened audiences. As we know, today’s “woke” censors of the arts and arbiters of what we are allowed to watch and hear have their own solution: never do the piece again, despite its obvious virtues, or interpret and rewrite it out of existance or into nausea, like John Legend injecting “It’s your body and your choice” into the lyrics of “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” I had to suppress my gorge from rising while reading this article, for example, that described the current production of  J.M Barry’s 1904 classic “Peter Pan” in Washington D.C:

In [Playwright Lauren Gunderson’s] version now playing at Shakespeare Theatre Company (retitled Peter Pan and Wendy…), the character of Tiger Lily has been completely reconceived. No more the helpless princess in distress, Tiger Lily is now a spirited and fearless Native rights activist whose people thrived in Neverland long before Captain Hook’s pirate ship dropped anchor and Peter showed up with the Lost Boys.

Because as we know, there were so many Native American activists in 1904. To anyone with brain cells and cultural perspective that haven’t been woked to death, it is obvious that Barry’s Neverland is a child’s fanciful impression of Indians, pirates, and friendly wild animals. It has nothing to do with reality , so imposing current day adult political views on the and characters is neither fair nor necessary.

Hu’s solution to the supposed horrors of 19th Century biases and social mores in opera: Continue reading

A University Demonizes Diversity Of Thought

The headline in the New York Times last month read, “Indiana University Admits That Professor’s Views Are Vile, And That It Can’t Fire Him.” Nice. First, another party can’t “admit” someone else’s opinions are vile, as if there is a universal standard for “vile.”  Second, the headline assumes that the professor is the villain in this controversy, but then, that’s the Times for you: taking sides instead of reporting the facts.

I apologize for missing this chapter in the ongoing effort to intimidate and persecute anyone whose views do not align neatly with the mandated progressive orthodoxy.  The Times piece in question is dated November 23; not only was that my wedding anniversary, but I was also on an ethics training road trip without a functioning laptop. (I have one now.) I’m pretty sure I would have perceived the need for Ethics Alarms to bring some fairness to the assault on Professor Eric Rasmusen, though, as you will see, he is very capable of defending himself, if he could get a fair hearing (or reading).

The reason he can’t is because the news media has already decided that he should be shunned, as students try to run him out of academia and the marketplace of ideas.

To be clear, Professor Rasmusen is the victim of unethical conduct here, not the perpetrator of it. His “crime,” and it is not supposed to be a crime in the United States or academia, is asserting non-conforming views on his personal blog.  The news media framed the story to undermine Rasmusen by stating as fact that he “used his social media accounts to denigrate women, people of color and gay men.” That is a false and unfair characterization, Rasmusen uses his blog and social media accounts to cover a wide range of topics, often brilliantly, from the perspective of a Christian conservative. Continue reading

Now We Know Who Simpson College Is Named For, I Guess.

It must be Homer, because that appears to be the level of cognition being  taught to its students, by equally dunder-headed faculty.

I’ll try to make this short, because we’ve had the same discussion recently. I have made a vow, however, to remark with disgust on such idiocy every time it raises its hole-riddled Homer-shaped head.

John Bolen, a retired professor of religion working part-time at  Simpson College, uttered the dreaded shibboleth “nigger”  during a class. He used the word to discuss the word, of course, and not as a racial epithet, but Homer and similarly handicapped students can’t make such nuanced distinctions. Bolen was using the word to make the hackneyed, stale and simplistic analogy with the Washington, D.C. pro football team’s nickname “The Redskins,” but he triggered mass outage by not using baby-talk (“N-word”) or Pig Latin (“Iggernay”) instead of English as if his audience consisted of  adults and could hear a word used to describe itself without having a psychotic episode because of the color of the speaker. Continue reading

Here’s A “War On Christmas” Angle I Was Not Aware Of….The War On Hannukah

In Portsmith, New Hampshire,  the UNH & Seacoast Chabad Jewish Center requested that a 9-foot  menorah be placed in Portsmouth’s Market Square during the eight days of Hanukkah this December (22nd-30th). Blogger Jeff Dunitz, whose platform is the excellent blog, The Lid, darkly predicts that Portsmith will soon be headed to “Fesivus” like neighboring Durham, which has banned the tree-lighting ceremony (yes, it’s a “holiday tree”) as well as the wreaths thatthe town had previously displayed on town light poles.  The town council appareently feared that they were too much of a Christmas reference. Town manager Todd Selig said the town might agree to hang something from the poles, “non-descript star,” to “add light and festivus” to the season.

Dunitz is offended by something else. Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 11/15/2019: Idiots, “Friends,” Rationalizations And Doing Things The Hard Way

The Korean War memorial on the Washington Mall….moving and ghostly.

Greetings!

1. The media, doing its best to make the public stupid. Yesterday the collected dolts  of “The View” managed to mangle the concept of hearsay, following a Democrat rep’s absurd contention that hearsay evidence cold be “better” than  direct testimony.  The panel show also misrepresented how the Clinton impeachment proceeded.

Sunny Hostin, the alleged conservative on the panel,  said that  President Clinton’s impeachment  was the result of Linda Tripp’s  testimony, saying , “Clinton was impeached because of Linda Tripp’s testimony, which was complete hearsay!”

How wrong can a statement be? Clinton was impeached because he lied under oath in a hearing involving the civil law suit against him by Paula Jones (as well as for lying to a grand jury and obstruction of justice.) Tripp had made an illegal tape recording of Lewinsky, which was not hearsay. Tripp’s tape was used to get Lewinsky to admit the affair, which was clearly not hearsay. Then there was that stained dress. Had not direct testimony and physical evidence backed up Tripp’s account, Clinton almost certainly   not have been impeached

2. This is why we can’t have nice things. It was inevitable, with all the recent resurgence in interest in the 90s sitcom “Friends,” that the long-running and still-popular show would finally be subjected to one of those depressing reunion specials. This was especially likely because the aging cast isn’t much in demand these days, and mots of them could use a boost.

But Beware, “Friends,” the woke posse is watching. The show about six white hetero singles living in New York was not diverse, and has been criticized in the 15 years since it ended for being implicitly racist, sexist, and anti-LGBTQ. Thus the Righteous have decreed, “Friends’ reunion is all we have wanted for years, but HBO Max version better have more racial diversity and LGBTQ representation.”

Thus we get this,

[T]he iconic NBC show is not without its problems, and yet it entertained us in real-time for ten years and for years after that, making us laugh on the days we are feeling low and making us believe that they will be there for us. It is only natural that we want to relive those feelings again, but even those of us who grew up on ‘Friends’ have outgrown those insensitive jabs about Chandler’s (Mathew Perry) drag queen father, unwarranted fat-shaming of Monica (Courtney Cox), repeated complicity of Joey’s (Matt LeBlanc) sexism and so on.

When the show does return in – hopefully – 2020 for an HBO Max audience, we should hope that it is rich in diversity without it being about tokenism. It is unfathomable that this group of friends who live in New York, the melting pot of America, hasn’t made friends with more diverse backgrounds. Even more so, it is difficult to believe that they haven’t even interacted with people of different sexualities, sexual identities, and races for them to know better than to make jokes about them. It may have flown in the 90s and 2000s, but it definitely isn’t going to in the current day and age.

No, we should hope that it is funny, but if awkward virtue signalling and making sure that all the EEOC boxes are checked while making up for ten years of insensitively showing a group of friends who hung out primarily with people like themselves (like most of us), are going to be the priorities, and you know they will be, it would be kinder and more responsible to leave Ross, Chandler, Joey, Phoebe, Rachel and Monica where they belong—in the past, on re-runs.

Incidentally, one of the two funniest jokes I ever heard on “Friends” involved “fat-shaming.” The groups was watching an old home movie taken when Monica was a grossly over-weight teen. The now svelte woman, embarrassed, said, “They say that the camera makes you look 15 pounds heavier,” to which Chandler replied, “Just how many cameras were on you?”

3. Upon reflection, I don’t think I need to add this new rationalization. The Rationalization List is stuck at 99, and I have been wondering what #100 would be. When I was writing about the now-fired Canadian hockey pundit Don Cherry bringing himself down with his big mouth, I was annoyed by how many of his defenders argued that Don was just being Don, and since he was always Don, and “didn’t mean anything” by being Don, and was popular because he was Don, being Don shouldn’t be held against him. I suspect this bothered me so much because it appears to be the only thing keeping Joe Biden from being ripped to pieces by #MeToo Furies, as he richly deserves to be. So briefly I considered the need for a “It’s just who he is” rationalization.

Upon reflection, I demurred. This is cutting the rationalizations too thin. We already have Rationalization 41 A. Popeye’s Excuse, or “I am what I am”:

Sure, let’s stipulate that the jerk is exactly who and what he presents himself as being. This doesn’t excuse his conduct in any way. He is what he is, and what he is is an irresponsible, narcissistic, rude, boorish, uncivil, nasty, destructive, ignorant, impulsive untrustworthy and despicable creep. Being a real  irresponsible, narcissistic, rude, boorish, uncivil, nasty, destructive, ignorant, impulsive untrustworthy and despicable creep is no more ethical than being a phony one. In this case, transparency is not a virtue.

..and Joe Biden even has his own rationalization springing from Cherry-like excuses, Rationalization 38B, Joe Biden’s Inoculation or “I don’t deny that I do this!”

A sub-rationalization to #38. The Miscreant’s Mulligan or “Give him/her/them/me a break!,” Joe Biden’s Inoculation argues that habitual bad conduct is mitigated by one’s open admission and acknowledgment that one’s engaging in it is an ongoing problem.

I think this base is well covered. The search for #100 goes on…

4. Why didn’t she just take the bar exam one more time?  I don’t understand this story at all.

Roberta Guedes graduated from Stetson University College of Law in 2014, but she  failed to pass the Florida Bar exam twice. The traditional remedy for this is boning up and taking the exam again, and again if necessary, but noooooo. 

Instead, federal prosecutors say, she used the name of a classmate  to register two new law firms with the state Division of Corporations. Agnieszka Piasecka attended law school with Roberta, and the friends  talked about starting a law firm together, When Guedes flunked the bar exam, Piasecka who did not flunk,   opened her own firm in Clearwater,  specializing in wills and trusts, immigration, and divorce cases.

The plot began when Guedes offered Piasecka the free use of her  office in downtown Tampa to meet with clients a few times.

In September 2014, Guedes incorporated a firm she called Ferguson and McKenzie LLC, listing Piasecka as its registered agent. In November, she started a second legal services business called Immigration and Litigation Law Office, Inc., listing another woman, Arlete Chouinard, as a vice president and manager.  Neither Piasecka nor Chouinard knew about this. She created websites for both companies, including claims of  national and international offices that didn’t exist, and faked partners and associates using stock photos. She also represented clients, accepting fees while never telling them that she had no license.

Now Guedes, 40, faces prison time after pleading guilty to federal charges of mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. It is fair to say that it is now too late to pass the bar exam.