Voters in Alabama, Louisiana, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont are voting next month on measures that will eliminate an exception to prohibitions against slavery or involuntary servitude when forced labor is part of the punishment for a crime. In Alabama, for example, the State Constitution would be amended to remove an exception that allows involuntary servitude “for the punishment of crime.” The U.S. Constitution also has an“exceptions clause” that allows convicted criminals to be forced into involuntary servitude.
The clause is found in the 13th Amendment, which was ratified in 1865: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
If such a measure passes, forced prison labor could be challenged a a violation of Constitutional rights. “We do not need to enslave people in order to punish them,” the New York Times quotes on former prisoner and an advocate of the proposed legal changes as saying, a typical example of lazy advocacy. No, we don’t need to make prisoners work as part of the prison experience. That’s not the issue. The question is whether society is acting unethically when it does so. Right now, absent an elimination of the prison exceptions to involuntary servitude, the practice is legal.
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is….
Is it unethical to make prisoners work while incarcerated for little or no compensation?
Anti-Trump madness, aka. Trump Derangement, is causing some Republicans and conservatives to support Democrats, progressives and anti-American totalitarians on the rise in their gradual rejection of all traditional American institutions, heroes, symbols and images. On the Left, the reason for the push to kick them into the dustbin of history is a basic dislike of the nation and its values generally: it’s always been racist, sexist, and imperial, you see, essentially bad, so it needs to be torn down. Everything American became unbearable once slavery was strategically accorded a position so deep and low on the cognitive dissonance scale that the United States’ historical connection to it drags literally everything American below the center line.
Here’s Dr. Festinger’s essential scale again:
The idea is that what we associate with something or someone inevitably affects how we feel about them. If, for example, I am positively inclined toward a character on a TV show—let’s say that character has a plus 4 score on my scale—and that character states admiration for someone whom I detest, say Megan Rapinoe (at least a minus 20 in my estimation), that obnoxious opinion would pull the once-admired character well below zero, which indicates neutral regard. Dr. Festinger’s theories argue that Megan would also improve her ranking by being connected to that character. Continue reading →
Apparently the Mad Left’s historical air-brushing mania that began with toppling statues of important American figures from the Confederacy such as Robert E. Lee, moved on to removing statues of Teddy Roosevelt and banning benign college mascots that evoked the Revolutionary era (like George Washington U’s “Colonial”), and generally has sought to “cancel” any American patriot or President who owned slaves, is now turning tours of Thomas Jefferson’s and James Madison’s homes in Virginia into attacks on the two essential figures in our democracy.
At Monticello, Jefferson’s self-designed home that is a tourist attraction in Charlottesville, Virginia, the non-profit operating the site is using its progressive political agenda to make a visit less a pilgrimage of respect than indoctrination into anti-Jeffersonism. A recent visitor described the experience as “depressing and demoralizing and truly upsetting,” with Jefferson-hostile tour guides claiming that his reputation is “wildly overblown.” Of course, this is all because Jefferson was a slave-holder, in direct contradiction of the values and rights he espoused in the Declaration of Independence. Arguably, Jefferson’s slave-holding was more revolting than that of other men of his time, as it included treating one of his slaves, Sally Hemings (and his dead wife’s half-sister) as his concubine. Ick. But Jefferson was a weak and conflicted man with a brilliant and perceptive mind; his slave-holding and other personal flaws, and there were many, are not why he must be celebrated and honored as one of those most responsible for the nation’s existence.
A group of Texas educators have proposed to the Texas State Board of Education that slavery should referred to “involuntary relocation” in second grade social studies sessions.
I supposed it’s nice that conservatives are back to mastering the “it isn’t what it is” trick, this one the variation known as “it wasn’t what it was.” Lately it’s the Left’s cover words that have been most in evidence, like “choice” for abortion, and “gun safety,” when what they mean is “gun ownership restrictions.” Then there is “equity, diversity and inclusion” for “racial preferences” and “restorative justice” which really means “letting criminals get away with slaps on the wrist for serious crimes so they can prey on their communities again but at least there won’t be ‘over-incarceration.'”
All of these (and so many more) used by the Left and Right—never forget “enhanced interrogation” “rendition,” and “detainees” (you know: prisoners without trials forever)— are base deceit designed to deceive—-in other words, lies.
Lying to kids, however, is especially despicable. Slavery was not “involuntary relocation” any more than it was “free room and board” or “Community singing.” Those “educators”( a working group of nine, including a professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley) have revealed their absolute lack of fitness for their jobs, for mis-education is the opposite of education. They should apply to be White House press secretaries. Or New York Times op-ed writers. Fire them. Parents? Are you paying attention?
“The board — with unanimous consent — directed the work group to revisit that specific language,” Keven Ellis, chair of the Texas State Board of Education said in a statement. Board member Aicha Davis, a Democrat, said that the proposed wording is not a “fair representation” of the slave trade.
Apparently so, at least for some members of the teaching profession whose judgment parents are supposed to trust blindly, according to President Biden and others.
Just a few days ago, Ethics Alarms discussed [#3] the vile treatment of a social studies teacher by the San Francisco’s Creative Arts Charter School, which suspended her and forced her to grovel an apology for bringing cotton bolls, into her class as part of a lesson on the cotton gin and its impact on slavery and the Industrial Revolution. Commenter Curmie, a teacher himself, properly condemned the school’s reaction in a post on his own blog, here.
However, a Rochester, NY white middle school teacher told his class of mostly black students to pick seeds out of cotton bolls during his lessons on slavery in a seventh-grade social studies class. In another fun exercise, the same teacher brought in handcuffs and shackles for the black students to put on. White children were allowed to opt out of the cotton-picking, reportedly, while black students were not. When a black child balked at putting on the shackles, the teacher threatened her with punishment.
Not only is Kwame Anthony Appiah the most trustworthy and competent of all those who have authored the New York Times Magazine’s “The Ethicist” advice column, he’s also the only one who could be called a true ethicist, as he teaches philosophy at N.Y.U. Thus it is with great disappointment and sadness that I must report that “The Ethicist” has fallen victim to the dreaded Woke Virus, which, has, in the Times’ own lexicon, been “raging” through the paper for quite some time, poisoning its judgment, and as bias does, making its employees stupid.
Given Appiah’s assignment, which is to hand out ethical advice regarding various dilemmas and conflicts posed by correspondents, I would have thought that both he and the Times would have insisted that he practice social distancing and wear a Hazmat suit when visiting the office—maybe even eschew reading the paper. I guess not.
What continues to amaze, as pro-abortion supporters and activists throw every conceivable argument they can come up with against the proverbial wall in hopes that one might stick,is how insubstantial, emotional and often intellectually dishonest those arguments are. As the Supreme Court deliberates, we are certain to hear and read many more, and I honestly can say that I am hoping for a legitimate and persuasive one to finally emerge.
What I fear we will get, however, as the arguments do not stick but slide off that wall like wet tissue, is more warnings, threats, insults and jeremiads, like Justice Sotomayor’s despicable “stench” question, which I translate as, “Aren’t you properly terrified that if we don’t just do as the pro-abortion machine demands rather than analyze a difficult problem objectively according to facts, law and ethics, people who have already made up their minds regardless of all of those will be furious?”
The “pro-choice” rhetoric increasingly reminds me of the arguments made by the slave-holding South as thoughtful abolitionists and the anti-slavery sentiment strengthened ten-fold by “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” began backing defenders of “the peculiar institution” into a corner. They primarily invoked invalid or dishonest arguments: “science” and “studies” claiming to prove that black people were not quite human (see above), and did not have the “necessities” (to quote poor Al Campanis a century later) to be free; slavery had been permitted so long that it constituted a betrayal to end it; a Supreme Court ruling had protected the practice, and the way of life that slavery’s practitioners enjoyed and benefited from immensely would be threatened if slavery were banned. These are all essentially the same arguments being advanced today to justify continuing to treat another group of vulnerable and exploited human beings as property and non-humans. The fetus doesn’t deserve human rights because it isn’t “viable” or “cognizent.” A right that has been part of the law for half a century should never be challenged. Roe v. Wade is to the unborn as Dred Scott was to slaves.
And, perhaps most of all, American women have thrived by treating developing babies as disposable by “choice.”
Here is Ryan Harkins’ Comment of the Day addressing the related argument, advanced by a law professor, that the right to kill the offspring of incest and rape is essential to the advancement and success of people like her.
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?
Here’s a revelation: that melody, my favorite of the Easter hymns, is the work of Sir Arthur Sullivan. Yes, that Sullivan.
1. Oh, no!Not the National Review too! We are indeed surrounded by idiots…in this story about how Hispanic activists are pushing to keep former President Barack Obama’s name off a school building in Waukegan, Illinois because, you see, he enforced the law by deporting illegal immigrants—can’t have THAT!—the National Review writes, “The Waukegan Board of Education looks to rename two of its schools, Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Daniel Webster Middle School. The board formed renaming committees for the schools named after Jefferson, who owned slaves, and Webster, who supported slavery.”
This is how the American public gets stupid. Of course it’s beyond idiotic not to name a school after the man whose vision of a new nation and whose brilliant mission statement made our existence possible, not to mention the fact that his words planted the seeds that resulted in slavery’s eventual end in North America. Letting that pass for the nonce, however, Daniel Webster, the New England lawyer, U.S. Senator and member of multiple cabinets in the 19th Century did not “support slavery,” and saying he did is historical libel.
To the contrary, Webster was a lifetime opponent of slavery. In an 1837 speech he called slavery a “great moral, social, and political evil,” adding that he would vote against “any thing that shall extend the slavery of the African race on this continent, or add other slaveholding states to the Union.”
Webster, however, also did not want to see a civil war, or to have the Southern states leave the union over the slavery question. His most famous quote, “Liberty and Union, now and for ever, one and inseparable!” expressed his priorities. Webster was one of many patriots and brilliant figures of the time desperately seeking a way to keep the nation together while slavery was stressing its bonds. He supported several compromises to that end, including the much-criticized Compromise of 1850, which included the reviled Fugitive Slave Act. Those who condemn Webster now for his best efforts to avert war and mass secession are engaging in the worst kind of hindsight bias. What would be their brilliant solution to the situation faced by Senators in the 30 years before the Civil War?
My analysis has always been that Webster, Henry Clay and others successfully delayed the inevitable schism over slavery until, by good fortune or, as Abe liked to say, “providence,” got a President in office who had the guts and the skill to deal with the dilemma boldly and successfully. If the South had seceded under any of the Presidents after Jackson and before Lincoln, we would have two Americas on this continent today—or maybe just one, enslaved by Nazi Germany.
Daniel Webster did NOT “support slavery.” Show some damn respect.
If there is any American whose birthday should be a national holiday, it is George Washington, born this day in 1732 in Westmoreland County, Virginia, the first of six children of Augustine and Mary Ball Washington. If I have to tell you the reasons he was “the essential man” in American history, well, I guess you’re the product of our current public school system, a recent college graduate, a Democrat, a Black Lives Matter enthusiast, or something. There is no rational excuse for every American, yes, even African-Americans, to not be grateful for this day. Martin Luther King is now the only individual to have a national holiday dedicated to his honor, while Washington’s memory was dumped into a hodge-podge of lesser figures including Franklin Pierce, William Henry Harrison and now, Donald Trump. King is worthy of his day, but to honor King over Washington is as good an example of “putting the cart before the horse” as one could find. Shame on us. True, George is not lacking honors, with the capital city named for him, a towering monument, cities and towns in many states, Mt. Rushmore, and his image on both the most-used bill and coin. Nonetheless he earned all of it, and this date should be a holiday.
On The Ethics Alarms home page, you will see to your right a link to the list of ethical habits some historians believe made Washington the remarkably trustworthy and ethical man he was, ultimately leading his fellow Founders to choose him, and not one the many more brilliant, learned and accomplished among them, to take on the crucial challenge of creating the American Presidency. Directed to do so by his father, young Washington copied out by hand and committed to memory a list called “110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” It was based on a document compiled by French Jesuits in 1595; neither the authors nor the English translator and adapter are known today. The elder Washington was following the teachings of Aristotle—another Dead White Man whom most Americans alive today couldn’t tell you Jack S-word about— who held that principles and values began as being externally imposed by authority (morals) and eventually became internalized as character. As I wrote when I first posted them here,
The theory certainly worked with George Washington. Those ethics alarms installed by his father stayed in working order throughout his life. It was said that Washington was known to quote the rules when appropriate, and never forgot them. They did not teach him to be a gifted leader he became, but they helped to make him a trustworthy one.
Would that readers would access that list more often. And politicians. And lawyers. And educators…
1. How ignorant and ungrateful? THIS ignorant and ungrateful…