Ethics Dunce: University of Illinois Chicago John Marshall Law School

Marshall

You knew I couldn’t let this one pass.

The UIC John Marshall Law School is officially changing its name to the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law. The decision, a capitulation to the unethical mentality of the cancel culture and historical air-brushing strategy embraced by the political Left, comes after months of review by a task force. The resulting report noted, “that despite Chief Justice Marshall’s legacy as one of the nation’s most significant U.S. Supreme Court justices, the newly discovered research regarding his role as a slave trader, slave owner of hundreds of slaves, pro-slavery jurisprudence, and racist views render him a highly inappropriate namesake for the Law School.”

The most influential and important jurist in U.S, history is a highly inappropriate namesake for a law school. Got it.

John Marshall was the fourth chief justice of the Supreme Court, (1801 – 1835), and the only essential one. He authored the majority opinion in Marbury v. Madison (1803) that established judicial review, giving the Court power to declare legislative acts and executive actions unconstitutional. Without Marshall, the Constitution wouldn’t work. He took a bold and controversial step to ensure that basic rights and principles would not be wiped out by a rogue Congress or a dictatorial President. How many landmark SCOTUS decisions does the nation owe to Marshall as a result? How different would our lives be without his deft adjustment to the balance of the Branches? Would the United States of America even exist at all?

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Observations On The U.S. Supreme Court “Final Four” For “Greatest Justice Ever”

The indispensible and, as far as I can discern, scrupulously non-partisan and objective Supreme Court analysis site SCOTUSBLOG, has, in a rare display of frivolousness, created a “bracket” quest for its readers to decide on the “the greatest Supreme Court justice” of all time.

The contest is now down to the “Final Four,” as a parody of the NCAA tournament that I somehow manage to miss every years because of my sock drawer emergencies. Writes James Rosomer:

This tenacious tetrad of justices (just enough to grant cert!) is an apt representation of 220 years of American jurisprudence. In their ideologies, their sensibilities and their historical eras, these four semifinalists are diverse in many ways – though the lack of racial and gender diversity also stands out as a sad reflection of the court’s history.

What matters is the intellectual diversity on the Court, not color or genes, but even SCOTUSBLOG apparently feels the need to pander to the woke mob. I’ll forgive Rosomer, and the readers who voted in the competition have mostly shown an admirable lack of ideological bias and substantial historical perspective. “A liberal icon, a conservative icon, an early 19th-century pioneer, an early 20th-century luminary” is how the blog correctly describes the finalists.

My favorite Supreme Court Justice was among the 16 entered, but didn’t make it to the finals. No, not John Marshall: my favorite is Hugo Black. That the best writer and the keenest legal mind of all (in my opinion) would lose to Earl Warren demonstrates the unavoidable vagaries of the term “greatest.” Is that intended to mean most important? Marshall has to win in that category. Most influential? Warren, perhaps, but that was as an administrator and leader, not as a judge.

Black was a First Amendment absolutist, and we could use his eloquence now. The black mark against Black is that he wrote the court’s majority opinion in Korematsu v. United States, which upheld Roosevelt’s decision to intern Japanese Americans during World War II. Black believed the judiciary should stay in its lane, and thus believed that the Court should not interfere with  legislative and executive actions during wartime. It is fair to say that everyone was wrong in the decision to take away the rights of Japanese Americans. Calling Black a racist, however is unsupportable. He joined the majority in Shelley v. Kraemer (1948), which invalidated the judicial enforcement of racially restrictive covenants.He joined the unanimous Brown v. Board of Education (1954)decision that struck down segregation in public schools.

Black, however, staunchly opposed bending the law and law enforcement to accommodate civil rights activism. He opposed the Warren Court’s penchant for  reversing convictions of sit-in protesters, saying In 1968,, “Unfortunately there are some who think that Negroes should have special privileges under the law.” Unfortunately, there are more who think that now.

Black argued that waiving legal consequences for laws broken for  “good causes” could eventually lead to support for evil causes later. Black said he was “vigorously opposed to efforts to extend the First Amendment’s freedom of speech” to conduct. Ah, well, I’m a Red Sox fan; I’m used to losing.

Of the remaining four, I would think Marshall is the easy choice.

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Ethics Quote Of The Month: New York Times Columnist Ross Douthat

seusscancelled-header

“It was mildly creepy to hear that the custodians of Theodor Geisel’s estate, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, consulted with a ‘panel of experts’ and decided to cease publishing six Seuss titles because they ‘portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.’ But it was much creepier that so few people notionally in the free-expression business, so few liberal journalists and critics, seemed troubled by the move.”

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, one of the paper’s three token conservatives (or perhaps “non-knee-jerk Democrats” is more accurate), in his column, “Do Liberals Care if Books Disappear?”

The question is a rhetorical one. Douthat knows the answer, and so do regular Ethics Alarms readers: “Only if the books that disappear are those they agree with.” Though the column focuses on the Dr. Seuss metaphorical book-burning, Douthat properly interprets what it signifies. Of course, he is appropriately late to the party, for it was obvious well before “If I Ran the Zoo” was under attack that the totalitarian-tending Democrats and their progressive supporters and allies were in favor of “good” censorship. Never mind—Americans rushed to their mailboxes to vote an anti-free speech regime into power anyway.

Better late than never for Ross, I guess. Here are some highlights (but read his whole piece):

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Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! You’re Cancelled, You Racist.

Suess birthday

Today is Dr. Theodore Geisel’s birthday. Better known to the world as Dr. Seuss, the author and illustrator of such classic children’s books as “The Cat in the Hat,” “Horton Hears A Who,” and my personal favorite, “Fox in Socks” because it drives my wife crazy, was born this day in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1904. Geisel, who used his middle name and his mother’s maiden name as his nom de plume, wrote 48 books (even some for adults). His work has now sold over 200 million copies and been translated into multiple languages. His style of verse and illustrating have been imitated and parodied countless times. Jesse Jackson even read “Green Eggs and Ham” on Saturday Night Live.

Nobody ever thought of Dr. Seuss books as “racist” until recent fads, events , cancel culture and The Great Stupid washed over the land. Well, OK, not “nobody.” Ethics Alarms had a post about the Seuss Museum in Springfield cutting a piece out of a Dr. Seuss mural because three prominent children’s authors who had been invited to attend the Children’s Literature Festival at the Museum threatened to boycott the event on the theory that the mural, painted to replicate a scene from Dr. Seuss’s first book “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,”  was, they claimed, offensive. It had, said one of the grandstanding hysterics, a “jarring image” of a man with slanted eyes and a coolie’s hat using chopsticks to eat rice, because, apparently, Chinese people never wore such hats, don’t use chopsticks and hate rice. I wrote, while awarding the museum an Ethics Dunce designation (I’m thinking about adding a “Weenie of the Week”…what do you think?):

There is nothing racially jarring about Geisel’s painting of a “Chinaman” except to someone already looking for offense. Dr. Seuss’ drawings can be fairly termed cartoons. The definition of a cartoon is “a simple drawing showing the features of its subjects in a humorously exaggerated way.”  What are these juvenile children book authors asserting…that all cartoons are racially insensitive? That only cartoon of non-whites are offensive?…Normal Americans, meanwhile, understand the cartoon art form, recognize that features are exaggerated, and thus do not take drawings like those by Dr. Seuss (or Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons) as literal or malicious.

Well, silly me. I thought this was just a one-off moment of woke insanity: I have since learned that the Woke never sleep. In the post, I referenced “The Simpsons” and the fact that nobody had called for the elimination of Apu. Apu has since been cancelled as “racially insensitive.” The show also decreed that white voice actors can no longer portray black characters, so Dr. Hibbard has a new sound. Presumably “The Simpsons” will eventually seek a low IQ hick to voice “Cletis the Slack-Jawed Yokel” and a socially awkward MIT PhD. to do the voice of Prof. Frink.

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Comment Of The Day: “Oh, Look! More Baseball Ethics Dunces! This Time, It’s the Baseball Writers’ Association of America”

I have been remiss in getting up “Comments of the Day,” another consequence of my frustration adapting to the new WordPress “block” system, damn it.  I usually hand le COTD posts from my laptop, and posts requiring my concentration and composition rather than the imported wisdom of others from the Fortress of Ethics Solitude, my office.

I’m posting this follow-up comment from Here’s Johnny regarding the baseball writers’ gratuitous smear on the original commissioner of baseball based on nothing but rumor, a desire to practice “anti-racism,” without actually doing anything, and the smug assumption that History Doesn’t Matter, Gratitude Doesn’t Matter, and Honors Don’t Matter.

And the dog is licking my toes

UPDATE: Well, that was a failed experiment. When I tried to move the text from Word to WordPress, I couldn’t make the format work from the laptop, so I’m back at my PC. That was 20 more minutes of my increasingly scarce time on Earth robbed by WordPress. I’m thinking of sending them an invoice...

Here’s Here’s Johnny’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Oh, Look! More Baseball Ethics Dunces! This Time, It’s the Baseball Writers’ Association of America”:

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Ingratitude, Racism And Statue Toppling At The Asian Art Museum

I’ll begin with the ethics conclusion, and show how we get there.

If your organization, institution, or nation owes its existence to an individual that hindsight-wielding critics want to erase, your choice is to tell them to get lost while continuing to officially recognize the debt such organization, institution, or nation  owes to that individual, or to dissolve the entity. Recognizing in some form the fact that a founder has blemishes on his or her past may be justified and practical. Continuing to benefit from that founder’s actions while metaphorically kicking him or her in the teeth, however, is unethical and, in fact, despicable.

Thus we arrive at the current controversy at the Asian Art Museum  in San Francisco. The focus of the mess is the bust of Adrian Brundage you see above. Brundage is most remembered as the long-time (twenty years) President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and most reviled for his decision not to cancel the Munich Games in 1972 after the terrorist attack on the Israeli team in 1972. (I agreed with him then, incidentally, and still believe that he was correct, and courageous, in his decision.) Brundage also, however, created the Asian Art Museum, which is the centerpiece of San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza, and which Brundage gave to the city in 1966 to house his fabulous personal collection of approximately 8,000 art pieces.

The New York Times story about the emerging controversy at the museum begins, “For 48 years, visitors to this city’s Asian Art Museum have had to pass the bust of Avery Brundage.” That’s right, they “had” to pass that bust because what they were coming to see belonged to Avery Brundage, the museum’s collection was his gift, and it was and is appropriate for that to be respected and acknowledged.

Given an opportunity by the zeitgeist of the George Floyd Freakout, however, the museum’s director and chief executive, Jay Xu, announced to a meeting of the board and commissioners in June that he was having Brundage’s bust  removed. There are two reasons given in the article. One is that Brundage was accused of being a Nazi sympathizer and anti-Semitic (with the decision not to stop the 1972 Olympics being cited as a prime piece of evidence for the latter), and that the museum he created “presents Asian art from a mostly white perspective.”

As for the last complaint, I will characterize it this way: it’s racism, pure and straight.

The George Floyd Freakout is being used to justify a national effort to “Get whitey,” and this disgusting outbreak of anti-white hatred (that so many white Americans are accepting with the meek submission and hollowed out character of post rats-in-his-face Winston Smith) will not end until sufficient numbers of the rational label it what it is: opportunistic hate and racism.

The museum presents Asian art from a “mostly white perspective”  because the museum’s collection was originally created by a  collector of Asian Art who was white. That does not justify an indictment of the collection, and if an Asian-American wants to establish a museum that reflects Asian art from a mostly Asian-American  perspective—not an Asian perspective now, be consistent, you racists!—then that Asian-American is welcome to spend millions on his or her own collection,  give it to the city, and see if anybody wants to see it. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Nikole Hannah-Jones

Nikole Hannah-Jones, staff writer at The New York Times and lead essayist in The New York Times Magazine’s “1619 Project” tweeted that she finds the common rebuttal of presentism—the popular practice of condemning those of different times and cultures for not magically acquiring the evolved beliefs and values that those who have had the advantage of decades and even centuries of experience, observation and enlightenment—that those criticized were of their time “offensive.”

“I mean, Hitler was a man of his time. Bin Laden was a man of his time,” the Pulitzer Prize winner tweeted. “It’s a justification and unnecessary.”

This is the quality of analysis and thought we now receive from the best of American. journalists, one who has been deemed worthy of the occupation’s highest honor.

First, it is profoundly unrealistic and unfair to expect those raised in a culture with long-established values to determine on their own that such values are flawed or based on faulty assumptions and information. This should be intrinsically obvious to anyone capable of critical thought. Continue reading

Cross-Filed Under ” Historical Airbrushing” And “Corporate Cowards”: Damn You For Making Me Defend Kate Smith, Even If It Means I Get To Bash The Yankees!

My father hated Kate Smith. Hated her. The jumbo alto radio star from the Thirties and Forties was still showing up on TV variety shows in the Sixties and Seventies, and my father always made us change the channel when she appeared. Smith had made a virtual career out of belting her four-square rendition of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” and Dad regarded it as patriotic pandering and exploitation. Thus it seemed appropriate that two teams we all hated in Boston, the New York Yankees and the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, periodically used the recording of Smith—and sometimes Smith herself— singing the song during games. Once 9-11 caused baseball to add the song during all games at the Seventh Inning Stretch (time to end that, by the way), Kate’s immortality seemed assured, especially in Yankee Stadium, where her rendition was rotated with a few other versions.

Then some enterprising social justice fanatics and “Hader Gotcha!” masters decided to do a deep dive and find something on Kate Smith. What they found was that among her hits in the Thirties were two songs that make Stephen Foster seem like Snoop Dog. One was “Pickaninny Heaven,” which described a “colored” paradise  with “great big watermelons,” and the momentarily famous “That’s Why Darkies Were Born,” which we will look at in some detail later. These presentist censors—remember, presentism is the fallacy of judging conduct from the past by the updated ethics and values of the present—protested to the Yankees, and that’s all it took to get Kate banished, presumably forever.  (The Flyers have also banned Kate.) The mighty Yankees whimpered in a public statement,

“The Yankees have been made aware of a recording that had been previously unknown to us and decided to immediately and carefully review this new information,. The Yankees take social, racial and cultural insensitivities very seriously. And while no final conclusions have been made, we are erring on the side of sensitivity.”

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Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Little House On The Cultural Divide”

There has been a paucity of Comments of the Day lately; it’s probably my fault. This one is by a first time COTD awardee, and involves the rare Ethics Alarms topic of children’s literature, in response to the Ethics Quiz about the justness of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name being stripped from the award created in her honor. Apparently her “Little House” books were not sufficiently prescient regarding modern sensibilities and 21st Century hindsight.

And no, I didn’t pick this comment because it includes a compliment to “The Wind in the Willows,” perhaps my favorite book of all time.

Here is Bob’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Quiz: The Little House On The Cultural Divide:

“Is it fair and reasonable to remove Wilder’s’ name from the award, essentially taking away an honor despite no new information or evidence arising?”

No.

Bit of backstory: my husband and I were both inveterate readers when we were children. Oddly enough, neither of us read “children’s books” when we were kids … we went from Dick and Jane to fairly adult novels very early on.

However, when we hit our 40s-50s, we started a campaign of reading the great classics of kiddie lit. (Just a note — “Wind in the Willows” is a masterpiece, the first six [and only the first six] Oz books are spectacular, E. Nesbit rocks and the popularity of “Peter Pan” is a mystery we have never plumbed.)Among those books were the entire Little House corpus. They are quite terrific. (As with most series, some are better than others.) While the attitudes may be dated, there is nothing “hateful” about them. In order to be hateful, there should be some evidence of a clear animus against a particular group of people; Wilder has no agenda, and simply reflects the attitudes common of her era.

It is essential to note that these books are not virulent anti-Amerind screeds, but stories of the heroic pioneers who built our nation. Native Americans occasionally cross this landscape, but these books are neither about nor against them.

It does seem as if there is a concerted effort to erase (or … re-envision) American history to something more palatable to post 1960s sensibilities. This is mischievous and dangerous, and should be confronted whenever possible.

Ethics Quiz: The Little House On The Cultural Divide

From the New York Times:

The American Library Association is dropping Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from a prestigious children’s literature award in order to distance the honor from what it described as culturally insensitive portrayals in her books.

The decision was made out of a desire to reconcile the award with the organization’s values of “inclusiveness, integrity and respect,” representatives of the association said in a statement on Monday. The award is given out by its children’s division.

“Wilder’s books are a product of her life experiences and perspective as a settler in America’s 1800s,” the association’s president, Jim Neal, and the president of the children’s division, Nina Lindsay, said in the statement. “Her works reflect dated cultural attitudes toward Indigenous people and people of color that contradict modern acceptance, celebration, and understanding of diverse communities.”

…Despite their popularity, Ms. Wilder’s books contain jarringly prejudicial portrayals of Native Americans and African Americans. In the 1935 book “Little House on the Prairie,” for example, multiple characters espoused versions of the view that “the only good Indian was a dead Indian.” In one scene, a character describes Native Americans as “wild animals” undeserving of the land they lived on.

“Little Town on the Prairie,” published in 1941, included a description of a minstrel show with “five black-faced men in raggedy-taggedy uniforms” alongside a jolting illustration of the scene.

Hmmmm.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for today:

Is it fair and reasonable to remove Wilder’s’ name from the award, essentially taking away an honor despite no new information or evidence arising? Continue reading