Ethics Warm-Up, 9/21/2020: The “Waiting To Hear What Democrats Will Threaten Next” Edition.

Does anyone else find it remarkable that Democratic Party leaders aren’t the least concerned with how reasonable Americans might react to them talking like mobsters and thugs? Yesterday, Nancy Pelosi seemed to say that they might impeach the President if he nominates a judge to replace Justice Ginsburg. I suppose it’s comforting that the party is finally being open about the fact that it now regards impeachment as a pure partisan weapon, but how do you you threaten impeachment if a President fulfills his constitutional duties? For that matter, how can Democrats scream that the late Justice’s “dying wish” must be respected when it would require contradicting her statement about final year SCOTUS nominations: “The President is elected for four years, not three. So the powers that he has in year three continues into year four… and that’s how it should be”?

Well, it’s a rhetorical question, of course. Democrats have abandoned any pretense of consistency and integrity in their destructive anti-Trump mania. I thought this arch tweet was on point, but incomplete:

The list is much longer.

1. Love it. Princeton, engaged in BLM suck-up grandstanding, confessed that systemic racism is embedded there, so the Department of Education asked if Princeton doesn’t discriminate on the basis of race, as must be the case to continue recieveing federal funding.  The Education Department’s demand for an explanation got full huminahumina treatment in the statement Princeton issued in response. The excuse is that they aren’t at fault for the racism, since “everybody’s been doing it,” and at least Princeton acknowledges the problem.

Weak. Continue reading

Ethics Catch-Up, 7/23/2020: Waiting For Baseball Edition [Corrected]

This moment in “Field of Dreams” was how I started off my baseball and culture presentation this week. Ironically, the speech has always irritated me, because of its stagey blocking, and because it is a speech that sounds like a  speech, and is essentially right out of the book the film was based on. In the novel, “Shoeless Joe,”,the “Terrence Mann” character played by James Earl Jones was real life (and then, still living) recluse author J.D. Salinger. I dislike the speech, but the scene always moves me, for a personal reason.

As Terrance Mann stands, giving his speech, the ghostly players of the past silently assemble behind him in Ray Kinsella’s (Kevin Costner, of course) magic corn field. One of the players behind him has been identified in the film as Smokey Joe Wood, a 30 game winner with the World Champion 1912 Boston Red Sox. Just a few years before the film was made, I had been in the Fenway Park grandstands as  Smoky Joe, feeble, in his mid-nineties and in a wheel chair shortly before his death, barely threw out—more like dropped—the first pitch at a Red Sox Old Timer’s game, to a standing ovation.  And here he was, in that  corn field, but young and vital again.

Gets me every time….

1. Ethics query: is it ethical to perform “Piggies”? I just caught an old concert clip in which George Harrison and Eric Clapton performed the obnoxious pseudo-Marxist ditty “Piggies” (from the White Album) to thunderous applause.

[Notice of correction: I originally wrote that “Piggies” was a Lennon composition. All these years I assumed it was, heavy-handed and juvenile politics that it was. I am stunned that the song was George Harrison’s doing; I thought better of him.]

This was well after the Manson murders: I had never heard anyone perform the song in decades. Admittedly, it is just moral luck that a madman seized upon the White Album Beatles songs as his inspiration to mastermind the slaughters of  Sharon Tate, her unborn child, and her house guests, as well as supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary the following night. However, “Piggies” was the one song referenced directly in both murders. It is not inconceivable that if the White Album had omitted that song—no great loss, either–at least the LaBianca murders might not have taken place. I know I can’t hear the song without picturing carnage, and it seems to me singing the song is like a celebration of Manson’s work. I wouldn’t ban it; I don’t believe in banning anything.  I just think it’s bad taste to play it or perform it.

Is that inconsistent with my objection to “canceling”  “Dixie,” “My Mammy,” “Rockabye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody,” “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” “Oh Susanna!” and other songs that are redolent of the Old South? I would argue that those songs have the virtue of being great tunes and important cultural touchpoints…in other words, works of musical art that justify themselves. “Piggies,” in contrast, is musical junk, like about 20% of the White Album filler. Continue reading

Waning Sunday Ethics Reveries, 7/12/2020: You Know, Ethics Isn’t Fun For Me When Everyone’s Acting Irrationally

Let’s see what we have today…

1. Oh. The art made some people uncomfortable. Well that’s a good reason to destroy it… Vermont Law School is going to paint over a mural in its student center that celebrates Vermont’s role in the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement. Several students and alumni had recently objected to its depictions of African Americans and said it made some people uncomfortable.

VLS President and Dean Thomas McHenry said in a campus-wide email last week that the mural in the Chase Community Center  painted by Vermont-based artist Sam Kerson in 1993 had to go because “the depictions of the African-Americans on the mural are offensive to many in our community and, upon reflection and consultation, we have determined that the mural is not consistent with our School’s commitment to fairness, inclusion, diversity, and social justice. Accordingly, we have decided to paint over the mural.”

Translation: ‘Some of our African American students and alumni as well as supporters of the George Floyd Freakout thought this was an ideal time to show what they could  do by crying “racism” in an institution that could be counted upon to cave to just about any demands in order to avoid being called “unwoke” and be swarmed by social media mobs. And they were right!’

The mural is titled “The Underground Railroad, Vermont and the Fugitive Slave” and has two 8-by-24-foot panels, with four scenes in each panel intended to“celebrate the efforts of black and white Americans in Vermont and throughout the United States to achieve freedom and justice,” the artist’s website says.

The first panel includes half-naked Africans being forced into slavery and sold at auction, as well as resistance symbolized, in part, by “the resurgence of African culture via drums, masks and costumes.”

The second panel includes images of John Brown, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Beecher Stowe, as well as a scene where a blonde Vermont woman tries to block the view of a bounty hunter bearing down on fugitives trying to escape slavery on the Underground Railroad. Here it is…

VLS students Jameson Davis and April Urbanowski resembled yahoos at a modern art exhibit complaining that “them dang Picasso people look like freaks!,” writing “One issue of many, is the fact that the depictions of Black people are completely inaccurate. Regardless of what story is being told over-exaggerating Black features is not OK and should not be tolerated.”

The artist is not happy. “This is a monument to abolition in Vermont and a description of the people who struggled against slavery, and it is important to our culture,” Kerson said of his mural. “To paint it over is outlandish — it’s like burning books. It’s so inflammatory, I can’t believe it’s actually happening.”

Forget it, Sam. It’s George Floyd Freakout Town… Continue reading

My Ethics Conflict: Woodrow Wilson’s Name Should Have Been Removed At Princeton Long Ago, But Erasing It Now Opens The Floodgates, Part II: The Case For Expunging Wilson [Corrected]

Woodrow Wilson’s name should have never been put on

Yet President Wilson ended up being honored by having his name plastered on buildings, schools and bridges (like here in Washington, D.C) more than most Presidents, in part because influential Democratic historians, notably Kennedy family flack Arthur Schlesinger Jr., pushed the false narrative that he was a great idealist and a great leader. This required burying Wilson’s well-documented record as a racist, though the rest of his record wasn’t great either.

In Part I, I gave the official Ethics Alarms argument for not tearing down honors to Wilson now that Black Lives Matters and its allies are in full Soviet/Maoist cultural bulldozing mode. When Wilson is gone, I see little stopping the mob from tearing down Franklin D. Roosevelt memorials next, to name just one example of where this slippery slope leads.

Despite leading our nation through an existential depression and World War II, FDR had his own black marks regarding racism and discrimination, arguably as many as Wilson. In  1916, a document was discovered  showing that  Roosevelt, as Wilson’s Deputy Secretary of the Navy, personally signed an order segregating bathrooms in the Navy Department. As President, FDR wouldn’t allow his black and white White House servants to eat together.  Everyone knows (or should) that he imprisoned about 70,000 American citizens because they were Japanese, and just last year, “The Jews Should Keep Quiet: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise and the Holocaust” revealed  archival evidence of FDR’s callous and bigoted treatment of European Jews prior to and during the Holocaust.  Franklin Roosevelt was a racist and an anti-Semite. When we get into retroactively dishonoring Presidents virtually all of them are at risk.

However, there are persuasive arguments that Wilson is a special case. Continue reading

My Ethics Conflict: Woodrow Wilson’s Name Should Have Been Removed At Princeton Long Ago, But Erasing It Now Opens The Floodgates, Part I: The Case For Woodrow

Reviewing, I see that the original Black Lives Matter attack on American values, history and culture first broke out in 2015. Then as now, Democrats rushed to embrace the racist group’s anti-white, anti-police and anti-America agenda, seeking, as usual, to enamor itself with its base. That was also the first time Princeton University was urged by student activists to remove honors to Wilson from the campus, though Wilson was not only a President of the United States (and according to Democrats until recently, one of the greatest) but also a lauded president of Princeton. The 2015 calls for his airbrushing out of Princeton’s history coincided with many similar attempts, some successful, to dishonor past historical figures whose legacies or conformity with modern values had been called into question.

College campuses, not city streets, were ground zero in 2015. Yale and the University of Missouri led the madness. At Mizzou, black students manufactured racial outrage out of ambiguous and off-campus incidents, then engaged in what Ethics Alarms then termed  an “I’m mad at the world and somebody has to pay for it” tantrum (Hmmm! Still sounds pretty good!), demanding all sorts of special accommodations and race-based policies and hirings, and demanding the university president’s resignation. Thomas Wolfe did resign, giving us an early precedent for all the capitulation and cowardice we are seeing today. As we’re seeing today, intimidation, race-bullying and attacks on free expression and language were part of the assault:

  • Amherst students demanded a crack-down on any free speech in the form of criticism of Black Lives Matters or the protest goals.
  • Dartmouth’s Black Lives Matters members roamed through the campus library, verbally assaulting white students attempting to study.
  • Smith College held a sit-in, and barred reporters-–the new breed of campus freedom-fighters just don’t like that pesky First Amendment—unless they promised to cover the protest positively. .
  • Occidental College students occupied a three-story administration building, demanding “a series of actions ranging from racist to just unreasonable to oppressive” in the name of “safety” and “diversity”, of course. Predictably, the leftist faculty which helped make the students this way were fully supportive.Refresh your recollections with the list of student demands here; my favorites: demanding an increase in tenured black professors and black doctors; funding for the student group for black men, which is racist and counter-diverse by definition; and “elimination of military and police rhetoric from all documents and daily discourse.”

Why is this so familiar? Continue reading

Observations On The La Jolla High Cartoon Controversy

I was going to make this an Ethics Quiz, but category that  can’t quite encompass the issues involved, and the more I considered it, the more certain I became of what should have happened. Here is the story:

A student-drawn cartoon was  published last month in the La Jolla High School’s “Hi-Tide” newspaper. It depicted eight ethnic groups in a blatantly stereotypical manner ( which is to say, it was a cartoon), with each figure pictured wearing T-shirts with messages  reinforcing the stereotypes. The cartoonist’s purpose was to lampoon the controversial H&M ad that caused the company to pull the ad and apologize:

Here was the student’s cartoon…

The requisite number of sensitive students and /or their sensitive parents complained about the cartoon to compel the school principal to grovel an apology, saying that the decision to publish the cartoon was an “error in judgment and a breach of all the values we hold dear at La Jolla High School,” since the cartoon depicted multiple ethnic groups as “ugly racial stereotypes.”

Observations: Continue reading

“The Indefensible ‘Nigger’ Double Standard,” The Sequel!

From Princeton comes exactly the same scenario that I wrote about in March of 2016.

This time, it was anthropology professor Lawrence Rosen who used “nigger” multiple times during a lecture this week in his Anthropology 212 course, “Cultural Freedoms: Hate Speech, Blasphemy and Pornography.” “What is worse, a white man punching a black man, or a white man calling a black man a nigger?” Rosen said, in the context of describing “what is acceptable as free speech and what is not.”

Several black students walked out of the class in protest, two registered a complaint, and now Princeton has vowed to sponsor “a dialogue” with students. This gives far  too much legitimacy to their objections.  The students enrolled in a course about hate speech, blasphemy and pornography, and protested when the professor said an offensive word?

The school’s response should be “Stop looking for ways to be offended and to put others on the defensive, learn the meanings of the concepts of ‘intent,’ education,’ and ‘context,’ and grow the hell up.

As the 2016 post about the identical nonsense at the University of Kansas concluded, “Context matters, and in the case of nigger, the only context that matters is what the word was intended to communicate. The “context” of the speaker’s skin color does not matter.”

I am happy to be able to post that clip from “The Life of Brian” again, in which an official condemning a man for uttering the taboo “Jehovah”is executed for saying the word in order to condemn him.

I wonder if those Princeton students would get the joke.

[A related post is here.]

________________________

Pointer: Other Bill

Down The Slippery Slope: Yale Embraces Historical Airbrushing

john-c-calhounFrom The New York Times:

After a swelling tide of protests, the president of Yale announced on Saturday that the university would change the name of a residential college commemorating John C. Calhoun, the 19th-century white supremacist statesman from South Carolina. The college will be renamed for Grace Murray Hopper, a trailblazing computer scientist and Navy rear admiral who received a master’s degree and a doctorate from Yale.

The decision was a stark reversal of the university’s decision last spring to maintain the name despite broad opposition. Though the president, Peter Salovey, said that he was still “concerned about erasing history,” he said that “these are exceptional circumstances.”

“I made this decision because I think it is the right thing to do on principle,” Mr. Salovey said on a conference call with reporters. “John C. Calhoun’s principles, his legacy as an ardent supporter of slavery as a positive good, are at odds with this university.”

And there we go!

How cowardly and equivocating  Salovey is! If he’s concerned about erasing history, and he should be as an educator, then he should have the principles and fortitude not to engage in it. But “these are exceptional circumstances,” he says. This is right out of the Rationalizations list: The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times” and The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now.”  For good measure, he adds a third rationalization, The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do.”

Of course it’s not the right thing to do. The right thing to do would be to teach the smug protesting young ignoramuses, who only know that Senator Calhoun was a slavery supporter as if that is the reason he is regarded as one of the great Senators in U.S. history (it’s not), any more than Andrew Jackson is defined solely by “The Trail of Tears,” that history is complex, cultures evolve, leadership is hard and even the most accomplished human beings are flawed gaspachos of greatness and sin. That would be the right thing because Yale is allegedly an institute of higher learning. This is the act of an institute of political correctness, intellectual laziness and stereotyping.

There were other rationalizations embedded in Salovey’s betrayal of history and culture, such as..

1A. Ethics Surrender, or “We can’t stop it.”

Sure you can, if you have any integrity and care about your obligation to educate rather than capitulate.

13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”

And what cause would that be, sir? Your sophomoric students are demanding that important historical figures be airbrushed out of existence like Soviet Politburo figures out of favor, and Yale’s cause is supposed to be teaching  young minds to be more tolerant of the complexities of the real world. Now Yale’s cause is “Find the path of least resistance, and maybe they’ll calm down!”

15. The Futility Illusion:  “If I don’t do it, somebody else will.”

This is only true if Yale is unable to articulate why it is important not to banish historical figures from the nation’s past as soon as activists get wind of a weakness they can exploit to bring themselves power. Continue reading

A Plague Of Misleading Headlines

Fake headline

The mad quest for clicks appears to be leading websites that should know better to sink to misleading or outright dishonest headlines on the web. For someone like me, who has to scan these looking for possible ethics issues, it is an increasingly annoying phenomenon. Readers need to speak up. The practice is unethical, and moreover, suggests that the source itself isn’t trustworthy.

Here are three current examples;

1. The Daily Beast: “Idiocracy’ Director Mike Judge: Fox Killed Our Anti-Trump Camacho Ads”

Boy, isn’t it just like that conservative, Trump-promoting Faux News to help The Donald by using its power, influence, lawyers, something to stop the makers of “Idiocracy,” that comic classic, from being used to save the country from American Hitler?

That’s sure how the Daily Beast wanted its largely Democratic readership to react to its headline over the story about a fizzled effort to use the the film’s character  of ex-porn star future U.S. President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Drew Herbert Camacho, played by Terry Crews, in a series of comic spots ridiculing Trump’s candidacy. The story, however, never quotes Judge as saying Fox—that would be the movie side of Twentieth Century Fox, not Fox News, which had no say in the matter: the company produced the film and owns the right to it and all of its characters—killed the project.  All Judge says is that the idea of doing a series of such ads didn’t come to fruition, for a whole list of reasons which might have included Fox’s distaste for the project.. Of  Fox, he says this..

“I think also Fox… yeah, they… even though they’ve probably forgotten they still own it…”

The writer then suggests that company owner Rupert Murdoch might not like the idea, and thus prompted, Judge replies,

“Yeah. That’s the other thing. I think there was a roadblock there, too…I just heard that [the proposed ads] were put on the shelf, so it looks like they’re not going to happen.”

Based on this, the author, typical Daily Beast hack Marlow Stern, writes, “It looks like Fox refused—and the ads are now dead.” Stern never says that Fox refused; it is the “reporter” who says it. Meanwhile, when the Daily Beast writes about “Fox,” it is referring to Fox News 99.9% of the time, and knows that’s what its readers will think when they read “Fox.”

The headline is intentionally misleading, and a lie.

(Incidentally, the movie is a great concept that under-delivers on its premise and potential, and should be a lot funnier than it is) Continue reading

Update: Some Perspective On Justice Scalia’s “Racist” Question About Affirmative Action

Big fish, meet small pond...

Big fish, meet small pond…

Ethics Alarms recently discussed the unfair attacks on Justice Scalia, now even extending to calls for his resignation, for his legitimate question in oral argument about whether black students accepted into elite schools via affirmative action might be better off being able to excel in less competitive institutions. The question was not racist, reflecting common sense, nor was it necessarily Scalia’s position, as it was an argument raised in one of the briefs on the case. Never mind: much of the media still characterizes the query as outrageous, and social justice warriors are trying to make the episode out to be smoking gun evidence of Supreme Court bias in anticipation of a negative ruling in the case regarding affirmative action.

As the Daily Beast reveals, however, there is a much better explanation than racism for why Scalia might find the argument powerfully supported by the research of Richard Stander and Stuart Taylor in their book “Mismatch” compelling. Young Nino Scalia was a star in elementary school, but failed the entrance exam for the Jesuit High School in Manhattan. His father told him that he might ultimately be better off at a less competitive school where he could shine, and that’s what happened.  Scalia later graduated first in his class at a less prestigious high school. Then he was rejected again when he applied to Princeton University.  Again he took a step down, attended Georgetown University instead, and was first in his class. Continue reading