Lost Day Ethics Catch-Up, 9/19/2020: Even Ketchup Can’t Cover The Bad Taste Of This Post!

1.  Is it possible that this is real? A couple allegedly sent this email to wedding reception invitees, explaining that their meals would be determined by the value of the wedding gifts they planned on bringing.

Are there really people this crass? Who in their right mind would do anything but send a curt “Bite me!” note to such a couple, and resolve never to waste a second on them again?

2. OK, I don’t see anything wrong with this, at all. The assignment for an Iowa City school district online learning program asked students of all races to write four sentences about what they would do if they were a slave who was freed.

“Think very, very carefully about what your life would be like as a slave in 1865,” the students were asked.  “You can’t read or write and you have never been off the plantation you work on. What would you do when you hear the news you are free? What factors would play into the decision you make?” After an uproar from parents, the assignment was removed and the teacher was placed on administrative leave. A statement from the district called the assignment “inappropriate” and said it “does not support and will not tolerate this type of instruction.”

What would that be? Assignments that call for critical thought and imagination?

Dibny Gamez said her 14-year-old daughter, Ayesha, who is black, would not complete the assignment because it made her feel uncomfortable. “She just starts tearing up,” Gamez said. “And I was, like, ‘No, listen, you don’t have to be ashamed of who you are.’ I said, ‘You are beautiful for who you are. Don’t let not one soul make you uncomfortable for who you are.’” How would that assignment make a rational student be ashamed of who she is?

Justin Grinage, a professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Minnesota , claims that assignments asking students to role-play enslaved people or slave owners trivialize or distort the actual events of slavery. “The best-case scenario with lessons like this is that students come away with a fabricated lie about history. So, best-case scenario, they don’t really learn anything, or they learn the wrong thing,” Grinage told reporters. “Worst-case scenario is that it’s a deeply traumatic experience for students of color, particularly Black students.”

Why? Because he says so? Such an assignment is an excellent way to open up the topics of slavery, how it persisted, what led to its abolition, and why it is such an emotional and controversial issue, as well as empathy, the Golden Rule, and ethics. Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: The District of Columbia Facilities, and Commemorative Expressions Working Group

You can’t fix stupid, as they say.

Or ignorant. Or ungrateful. Or obsessed.

In the document below, the product of The District of Columbia Facilities, and Commemorative Expressions Working Group, appointed I really don’t care when by Mayor Muriel Bowser, an arrogant and juvenile  committee recommends the “cancelling” of, among others, in our nation’s Capital, by removing all mention of their names, as well as their statues and memorials,

  • Christopher Columbus
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Francis Scott Key
  • Alexander Graham Bell
  • George Mason
  • President Andrew Jackson
  • President Thomas Jefferson
  • President James Monroe
  • President Woodrow Wilson
  • President William Henry Harrison
  • George Mason
  • President John Tyler
  • President Zachary Taylor, and, of course,

George Washington, after whom the city itself is named, and without whom the nation would not exist. Continue reading

In Defense Of The Terrorist: Clarence Darrow Eulogy For John Brown

In the ongoing debate here regarding what constitutes a great American—sparked by reader valkygrrl’s guest post on the topic as well as the President’s recent remarks at Mount Rushmore, the question of whether abolitionist John Brown belongs has been the most contentious. I don’t believe that one can ethically assign a murderer and law-breaker (and unraveling fanatic) like Brown to the “great American” category,  but a figure unquestionably smarter than I whom I believe unquestionably was  one of the greatest Americans did, and his argument deserves attention and thought. That figure is Clarence Darrow.

Brown was much admired by Darrow’s iconoclast father, Amirus Darrow, and his mother was an anti-slavery activist, turning the Darrow home into a stop on the Underground Railroad.  Born in 1857, Darrow was too young to remember the pre-Civil War period, and Brown was hanged in 1859. Nonetheless, the admiration for Brown was passed on from father to son, and there are moments in Darrow’s career where his actions seemed consistent with Brown’s philosophy of the ends justifying the means when the stakes were important enough, notably the conduct that almost got him disbarred and imprisoned for jury tampering. (Darrow was guilty, but was acquitted because he had a great defense attorney—Clarence Darrow.)

John Brown was a hero of Darrow’s , who didn’t have many: the abolitionist, Voltaire, and his friend and mentor John Peter Altgeld were about it, as far as I can tell. Periodically, on the anniversary of Brown’s birthday (May 8), Darrow would give a speech eulogizing Brown to a progressive group. Its final sentence is the most quoted:

The radical of today is the conservative of tomorrow, and other martyrs take up the work through other nights, and the dumb and stupid world plants its weary feet upon the slippery sand, soaked by their blood, and the world moves on.

Incredibly, Darrow’s John Brown Eulogy is impossible to find on the web now; I have no idea why. (Enter that sentence in Google, and what pops up is…me!) Thus I am  reproducing Darrow’s speech here, for two purposes: first, to let you consider Clarence Darrow ‘s argument for why we should honor John Brown, and second, to have an online home for it.

It is not the whole speech, but my own shortened and edited version. I am still hunting for the whole document in a form I can post (I have it in several books), and when I find it, I’ll substitute the complete version for this: Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Independence Day With Ethics Alarms 1… Ethics Quote Of The Month: President Donald Trump”

Adding international and historical perspective  to yesterday’s post regarding President Trump’s “dark and divisive” speech at Mt. Rushmore ( the mainstream media narrative has been so remarkably consistent that it has been credibly suggested that a memo went out. I could believe it…), E2 gives us this Comment of the Day on “Independence Day With Ethics Alarms 1… Ethics Quote Of The Month: President Donald Trump”:

Re the media’s race/Trump racism false commentary:

Doesn’t anyone know any history? As an amateur historian of British history, Churchill, the Holocaust, and WWII, I understand the horrors of British imperialism in the 18th-19th century (Africa, the Near and Far East, and on and on), but…

Queen Victoria (against the South’s fond hopes) refused to support the Confederacy for one reason: slavery. Despite England’s need for cotton, she wouldn’t put her stamp of approval on slavery in the interest of their economy. Of course one could argue that British imperialism was almost as bad as slavery, but it really was not, and unlike the French, who conquered African nations, hunted with chieftains, slept with their women, stole their resources, then left when it seemed appropriate or necessary, the British, in their unique fashion, created whole government structures (e.g. India) that survived as useful bureaucracies after WWII and the end of British imperialism. Smart they were, though, creating the British Commonwealth, which their conquered countries could join if they chose. An amazing number did.

But slavery of a particular race was not in the British ethic. (Or the Romans either, who enslaved everyone they conquered, regardless of race/origin/culture…) The result — especially after WWII — is that Britain became populated by traditional Englishmen, Indians, African blacks, Asians — all with the hope and most always the realization of good, safe, respected, lives. (The European Union, Brexit, etc., is changing that, I’m sure. It’s been a decade since I’ve been to England.) But to the point: Continue reading

Stipulated: The Emancipation Statue Represents White Supremacy. It Still Has To be Protected.

Facts don’t matter to a mob. This is why indulging mobs–ever and at all—is foolish and dangerous. It is also why the current push to remove the Emancipation Statue, also known as the Freedman’s Memorial, has to be resisted, and successfully.

I know a slippery slope when I see one; I think I’ve established that since I saw this particular slippery slope  being greased five years ago. I saw that it would slide right into the Founders and an attempt to separate the United States from its origins and the brave and brilliant patriots who risked everything to attempt this experiment in liberty.

If any statute of Lincoln is allowed to satisfy the mob’s lust for vengeance and power, any memorials and honors to Jefferson and Washington are doomed, including the Washington Monument. As with the less violent and more dignified—but no less dangerous— mobs that destroyed lives and reputations during the Red Scare and McCarthy  era, politically motivated mobs like the Black Lives Matter-catalyzed demonstrators will treat each victory as a green light for escalation. It is astounding that so many supposedly educated people in government, academia, business and the arts have somehow forgotten this fact in their rush to grovel and submit, hoping, as Winston Churchill observed of appeasers, that the crocodile would eat them last.

The attack on America escalated when NFL players began “taking a knee” during the playing of the National Anthem, one of the main symbols of our nation and its values. The players and their spiritual leader, Colin Kaepernick, made incoherent efforts to explain why their disrespect during the Anthem wasn’t aimed at the melody, but at the nation it—well, the racism that—well, they never could manage to explain their logic. That’s because the protest was really aimed at the United States itself. Continue reading

Senator Kaine’s Slavery Speech: A Farce In Four Acts

ACT I

During Senator Tim Kaine’s remarks yesterday on the Senate floor (actually, since this post concerns the use of words and accountability thereof, I guess I should clarify: he wasn’t speaking about the floor. Nobody talks about the floor in the Senate) as the Virginia Democrat addressed the issue of police department accountability , he uttered this remarkable passage:

“The first African Americans sent into the English colonies came to Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619. They were slaves. They had been captured against their will. But they landed in colonies that didn’t have slavery. There were no laws about slavery in the colonies at that time. The United States didn’t inherit slavery from anybody. We created it. It got created by the Virginia General Assembly and the legislatures of other states. It got created by the court systems in colonial America,We created it.”

“We” did not “create” slavery. There is no rational dispute on this point. Even if Kaine was  saying that Virginia, his state, created slavery, that’s not true either. The colony of Virginia is not “we”: it is not the state of Virginia, and it is not the United States of America. “We” used here is transparent white guilt peddling by Kaine, and it is inaccurate.

That transgression, however pales by contrast to the head-scratching statement that “we” created slavery. Of course the United States didn’t create slavery: slavery existed before the United States did. (Nor did slavery create the United States, which is the discredited and intellectually dishonest thesis of the New York Times’ “1619 Project.” which somehow won a Pulitzer Prize for its “creator,” Nikole Hannah-Jones , who, like Kaine, was just making stuff up.) The United States certainly did inherit slavery from somebody (that makes two words in this bizarre passage that Kaine either deliberately misapplies or doesn’t know what they mean): the U.S. inherited slavery from the colonies, which had inherited them from Great Britain.

In the 17th century, the British colonists (and the colonists of other European nations)  used African slaves in North America rather than  European indentured servants. Althoughit didn’t “create” slavery either, Spain, not “we,” probably deserves credit for introducing (but still not “creating”) the commerce of slavery in the Americas. (Native Americans practiced slavery long before Europeans arrived.) Historians estimate approximately 6 million to 7 million enslaved people were taken to North America before the United States’ founding. Inherit, the description that Kaine rejects, is an apt word: the colonies inherited slavery from its European owners.

It’s not unfair to expect a U.S. Senator from Virginia to be familiar with the Declaration of Independence. Why did Thomas Jefferson, who authored the first draft of the the founding document,  condemn King George III over England’s participation in the slave trade if his own colony “created it”? Tom wrote,

“He has waged cruel War against human Nature itself, violating its most sacred Rights of Life and Liberty in the Persons of a distant People who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into Slavery in another Hemisphere. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain.”

After intense debate, the Second Continental Congress removed Jefferson’s passage condemning slavery, thus setting up the conflict that metastasized into the Civil War, but allowing the Declaration to receive the indispensable support of the slave-holding colonies, which were, like the other colonies then, part of the British Empire.

Conclusion: Senator Kaine’s statement that the United States “created slavery” was untrue by any historical and linguistic measure. It was either dishonest, stupid, or ignorant, and there is no defending it. He was engaging in U.S. bashing, because that’s what the George Floyd mob’s purpose is, and his Party is along for the ride.

ACT II Continue reading

Great. Now We’re Cancelling Bells…

BAD bell! BAD BELL. Nobody likes you, Bell. You’ve been bad!

Apparently Louisiana’s Tulane University believes in curses, or maybe it is the irredeemability of inanimate objects. What ever you want to call it, its theory is bats.

In a letter emailed to the Tulane community, President Mike Fitts and Board Chairman Doug Hertz said they were informed last week that the “Victory Bell” was originally used to direct the movements of enslaved people on a plantation. This means, apparently, that the bell itself is no longer fit to be seen or heard by decent people.

“It is terribly disheartening to learn that it is, in fact, a vestige of a horrific part of our nation’s past,” Fitts and Hertz wrote. “Now that we understand its history as an instrument of slavery, continuing to use this bell in a celebratory manner would run counter to our values.”

What values are those, exactly? No wonder substantial numbers among recent generations of Americans think that we are obligated to eradicate all images, symbols, memorials and references to the Confederacy, slavery, Jim Crow or other aspects of racial discrimination, if a piece of metal has to be banished because of what it was rung for over a 150 years ago.

The Victory Bell was cast in 1825 and donated  to the school by  a former Louisiana governor and Tulane law school graduate. Beginning in 1960, the bell stood in front of Fogelman Arena and was rung after Tulane basketball victories for decades. In 2011, the bell was refurbished and moved to the front of the university’s McAlister Auditorium, where, at least as far as anyone can tell, it has not been proselytizing students about the joys of slavery, ringing out “Dixie” all by itself, or attacking unwary students with its clapper. Nonetheless, I’m certain students would tell you that they won’t feel “safe” with a plantation bell around.

It’s a bell. Continue reading

Sundown Ethics, 2/20/2020: Post Nevada Debate Mourning Edition

I hope you had a nice day…

The reaction among the Facebook Borg after last night’s car wreck of a debate was interesting; very muted, subdued, remarkably few comments regarding the debate, some denial, and some epicly stupid comments. I use four classes of the Deranged on Facebook: there are four or five genuine friends who are in clinically dire condition but who also don’t take serious disagreements personally. There are the inexplicable Facebook Friends who I don’t care if I upset them or not, or, franfly, if I ever see r hear from them again. Then there are nice people who I like and respect when they aren’t reciting back resistance talking points drilled into their brains like in a Mengele experiment. I leave them alone, even when one of them writes something unbelievably stupid. Today’s example: the kind, funny, brilliant actress and teacher who wrote, “Bernie and Warren are not extremist left. Sorry. They demand systemic change to support the people.” I had to wrestle myself to the ground not to respond to that one. And she’s a teacher.  Any more questions about why so many twenty-somethings are hypnotized by Sanders’ Bolshevik leftovers?

In the fourth class are strangers who are friends of friends. I randomly pick off a few of these every day for fun and practice.

1. Speaking of denial: here’s a Twitter exchange passed along by Arthur in Maine:

On the related topic of Bernie supporters’ often ugly rhetoric, it is amusing to read the same people who have used the actions of most extreme of President Trump’s supporters to characterize him protesting that Bernie bears no responsibility for his followers’ misconduct. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/18/2020: ARRRGH!!!

Grrrr…

Well, that’s my reward for setting the all-time ethics Alarms record for posts yesterday (8): I wake up to find my desk top won’t connect to the internet, sending me into Verizon Customer Service Hell. Then the tech puts me in safe mode, where I can connect to WiFi, but my password stops working, and I can’t get out of safe mode. I’m doing this post on my laptop, or as it affectionately known on Ethics Alarms, the Typo Machine. Other asides:

  • The Get Well bouquet Other Bill sent my wounded wife on behalf of the blog’s commentariat after her fall finally withered after exactly three weeks. It brightened our home and her spirits, and we are very grateful.
  • We joke about Trump Derangement, but the phenomenon resembles an actual illness, unlike its predecessors, the Clinton, Bush and Obama Derangement Syndromes. What has changed is the news media, which feeds and magnifies the mob-mentality and blind hatred with its daily, sometimes hourly, click-bait outrage stories aimed at the President. The Deranged immediately post them to a throng of “likes,” spawning the usual insulting comments. Imagine, a daily game based on denigration of the President of the United States, played daily and gleefully by millions of Americans. It is not healthy, responsible, respectful, or fair.

1. Wow, the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal is  making people angrier as time goes on. MLB is taking measures to protect Astros players from retaliation from pitchers, as dark comments have been made about how the competition will inflict punishment on the cheating players even if Commissioner Rob Manfred has not. Yesterday, a poll participated in by thousands of baseball fans favored the Astros having to forfeit their 2017 World Championship by a three to one margin. (Please  recall that taking away the title was my recommendation when the scandal first broke.)

I also find it disturbing that while the Astros players and owner have been on an apology tour (though not a very effective one), deposed Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who was identified by the MLB investigation as the mastermind behind the sign-stealing scheme, has said nothing–no confession, no apologies, no statements at all.

Another scandal related note: the MLB Network’s Brian Kenny expressed amazement at the difference between players angry reactions to the sign-stealing revelations and the way they closed ranks and largely refused to condemn the steroid cheats. “They say now that they weren’t playing on a level playing field with the Astros knowing what pitches were coming,” Kenny said. “Level playing field! What did they think was the situation when the batters were juicing?” Continue reading

When Statue-Toppling Is Acceptable…

Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam has begun the process of removing Virginia’s statue of Robert E. Lee  from the U.S. Capitol, where each state has a statue of two state heroes. Ethics Alarms has been uncompromising in opposing the progressive movement to remove the statues of figures past generations admired and believed worthy of memorials and honors because of their achievements. The phenomenon is the essence of the deplorable “cancel culture,” where any transgression or past conduct viewed as repugnant in the light of “presentism” or political correctness is treated as justification to airbrush their lives out of our culture and history. Slaveholding has been the ultimate trigger for such airbrushing, even when the individuals being erased made crucial contributions to our nation. That criteria endangers our Founders like Washington, Jefferson and Madison, without whom our nation would not exist.

Lee, of course, is the fulcrum of this battle. The Confederate icon  has long been admired for his character, loyalty and courage, as well as his brilliance as a military strategist. As the Confederacy has increasingly been regarded as fighting for slavery by modern historians (though it’s more complicated than that), Lee’s own sin of owning slaves is increasingly see as being compounded by his role in fighting to preserve the process, and committing treason to do it. Continue reading