Legislating Morality

I’m sure you have heard it: “we can’t legislate morality.” It’s frequently used as an excuse for doing nothing in the face of a social ill of some sort. And, of course, it could not be farther from the truth. There are countless examples of legislation that dictates moral behavior and I will simply note a couple. But first I need to say what “morality” is.

Every moral system I am familiar with recognizes the respect due to persons. I would even go so far as to say that respect for persons is the backbone of morality. It underlies our condemnation of “discrimination” that has become commonplace: it is wrong to deny any persons regardless of how they differ from us the respect that is due them. To do so is to discriminate against them. And this is just wrong. Respect for persons also gives rise to fairness which is recognized by any child as central to morality. Just try giving one of your kids a smaller piece of cake at a birthday party and you will see what I mean!

In any event, I can think of several examples of morality that have been legislated, starting with the Supreme Court decision in 1954 known as “Brown vs. Board of Education” that legislated against segregation in 17 states, determining that all public schools should thenceforth be integrated. I was a high school student in Baltimore at that time and Maryland was one of the 17 states. But we had an advanced program in our high school that attracted a number of black students so when the protests started after the decision was announced (by adults standing outside the school), we had no idea what all the fuss was about. In any event, by 1957 there were no more legally segregated schools in this country. And that was a good thing as segregation is clearly a violation of the principle of respect for persons. It has not stopped racism, of course, but we need to take things one step at a time. Attitudes cannot be legislated out of existence.

And then there was the “landmark” civil rights legislation pushed through under Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 that ended segregation not only in the schools but also in voting and the use of public facilities. I worked with two black men while in high school who used to tell me how painful it was for them and their families when they were traveling to stop for relief only to see the signs “No Colored.” Those signs were clearly wrong, and they were removed by federal legislation. A number of Southern states, especially, are currently working assiduously to re-introduce “Jim Crow” laws which are designed to deter minorities from voting, but these can be readily seen to be a violation of respect for persons.

I would go out on a limb somewhat and argue that the Affordable Care Act, also called “Obamacare” is an example of legislated morality. Under this law we are already seeing thousands of people who would otherwise be denied health care who can now afford to see a doctor when necessary. Clearly, this is an example of a good thing. Denying a person the health care they require is obviously an example of disrespect for them as persons. It is also grievously unfair. The fact that so many people oppose the law simply shows that their priorities are skewed: money means more to them than morality.

So when we hear the cry “you can’t legislate morality” we can rest assured that this is false on its face. Morality cannot only be legislated; it should be legislated. James Madison was confidant that those we selected to govern us would have the wisdom to do so in accordance with the “common good.” That may have been a pipe dream, but there have been cases when legislators and courts did the right thing and we can hope that this will continue in the uncertain future.

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Looking Back

I have been blogging for a little over a year now and it strikes me it is about time to take stock. I have to say this blogging thing has been great! I was hesitant at first, but the community of bloggers of which I am a part has been not only supportive but (more importantly) instructive — an extended family of bright and interesting people.  I have learned a great deal and have been able to sort a few of my ideas out and present them to appreciative readers who have made some very insightful comments. Granted, there have been dissenters and nay-sayers and disappointing days. I realize that my blogs do not brighten everyone’s day, and my son keeps catching me up on grammatical mistakes that might be off-putting for some.  But that’s the remarkable thing. In spite of the fact that I tend to see the glass half empty, I have still managed to post nearly 400 blogs in a little over a year and have had more than 9,500 readers — or at least “hits. ” I don’t know whether they have read a word I wrote. But I am delighted they at least stopped to see what was going on. And the truly astonishing thing about blogging is the international dimension of the medium. I have had hits from over 50 nations in the past quarter — even including countries like Slovenia and Bangladesh! And two of my new best blogging friends are from Great Britain and Ecuador if you can imagine.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that one of my readers happened to be the editor of Empirical magazine and he asked me to expand one of my blogs which he was kind enough to include in the December issue of that magazine (and an impressive magazine it is indeed!). Of special importance to me in this regard was the opportunity to send a second essay to Empirical in which I drew heavily on the data provided by a fellow blogger, the “old fart” (who will remain anonymous), whose contribution was vital to the underlying message of that essay dealing with the issue of climate change. That article is scheduled to appear in the January issue of the magazine. Again, the community to which bloggers become conjoined is the best thing about the entire enterprise in my view.

My best day was 126 views when I had the audacity to suggest that Andy Roddick should try to find something more important to do in his retirement from tennis than open another tennis facility. Apparently that blog struck a nerve. Do I draw from that day the conclusion that one needs to strike nerves to get readers? I hope not. In any event, I will keep on trucking along in my own way and relish the thought that a number of fellow-bloggers have sent me a variety of nice blogging awards and even if the daily numbers are not that impressive, they are rock solid. And, more importantly, I enjoy doing what I do, it keeps the mind alive, and I have learned a great deal from some very bright fellow bloggers. Too bad there aren’t more readers “out there” who can discover as I have how much of importance and interest these people have to say. In a world in which there is so much dreck being dispensed as wisdom these people need to be more widely appreciated. Some of them are truly exceptional in so many ways. It has been fun!

Too Many Victims

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was making a connecting flight back from Denver to Sioux Falls, South Dakota after reading a paper in Montana to an enthralled crowd of at least a half-dozen people. I was sitting midway in the plane with an empty seat next to mine. I realized to my dismay that it was the only empty seat left on the plane when I spotted a very large man ambling toward me from the front of the plane — and toward the  seat next to me. He took up the entire width of the aisle as he moved slowly toward me. I shuddered to think what was about to happen. In the event, I spent the next few hours curled up in half of my seat while the seat next to me overflowed with human person.  I should have been refunded half my fare, at least.

I gather this sort of thing happens fairly regularly, though I realize that some airlines require that large persons are required to pay for two seats (I hesitate to say “fat” persons: I suspect it is politically incorrect). This is eminently sensible. Unfortunately this was not the case in my flight from Denver. And the persons so charged would disagree that it is sensible as a recent story suggests — and I hasten to mention that this is an extreme example:

The death of a 407-pound woman after being denied boarding on three flights was “preventable,” according to an attorney for the woman’s husband, who plans to pursue legal action against three airlines.

As I say, this is an extreme example. But it makes my point: the husband of the person at the center of this episode is going to court to sue the airline which made every effort to accommodate a very large person but was unable to do so. As a result, she was forced to delay her flight and eventually was unable to receive the medical attention she required to save her life. Presumably. We are dealing in a counterfactual here since we have no idea what would have happened to this woman had she been able to fly home and receive the attention her attorney says she required. And if she was that sick why did she leave home in the first place? One wonders. In any event, it is a sad business (no, Yahoo News it is not a “tragic” event, just very sad. Tragedy happens rarely and we always bring it on ourselves. The Greeks knew that.)

But the question of just who the victim is in this situation requires analysis. The airline made every effort possible to accommodate a passenger who required extraordinary measures just to get her aboard. They even attempted to get her on two other planes that they hoped could be modified to allow her to board. The passenger who sat next to me, on the other hand, paid for one seat, yet he took up two — or, perhaps three (I couldn’t see beyond him to the third seat next to the window). I was inconvenienced as were a number of passengers in the case of the deceased woman whose flight was delayed while the airline attempted to figure out how to modify the plane to accommodate the woman. I did not die — fortunately. But I was royally pissed off and didn’t want to fly THAT airline again. I did not contact my attorney.

But those of us who have been imposed upon or somehow inconvenienced these days claim the status of “victim.” It is likely to garner sympathy from the people around us and it sometimes translates into large rewards from sympathetic juries. But win or lose we can feel sorry for ourselves. I know I still do.  But we would prefer to win. We do indeed live in a litigious age and the lawyers stand at the ready to file a brief on our behalf and get us into court so they can collect their fee and make the payments on their vacation home. Whatever. It is the way of the world.

Clearly the woman in this case was a victim. But whether the airline was responsible for her death remains for the courts to decide. From what I have read, it will be a hard case to make. But lawyers are clever people and I will never sell them short. Someone will pay big-time I suspect. And I will simply sit and stew, remembering the terribly uncomfortable trip I had those many years ago in a flight from Denver to Sioux Falls. So it goes.

Blog Award

I have come to the conclusion that blog awards are a bit empty. Friends give friends awards because they like their blogs. But every now and again someone you admire and are happy to have reading your blog sends you an award and it really means something. I have posted a few of these in the past and just received one recently that I truly appreciate. It says I have been given the “Blog of The Year” award and despite the fact that a number of others apparently received the same award, I relish it and want to spread the joy. So I will mention, as required, the original site from which the award originates: here. And I will cite the giver of the award, Barney of “Views From The Hill, an excellent blogger in his own right and one who makes frequent insightful comments on my blogs.

Additionally I would like to nominate several other blogs that deserve this award. They are well written and provide both delight and substance. If you haven’t already tried them, I urge you to do so.

1.circlesunderstreetlights. This woman writes fiction and I mean she WRITES fiction.

2. Zebra designs. This blogger is an artist who reveals dimensions of our world which we would otherwise miss. Fun stuff!

3. BTG is a thoughtful and concerned citizen who writes thought-provoking blogs that are worthy of wider distribution.

4. newsofthetimes. My favorite blogger who always sees the glass half full and keeps me smiling (which is no mean feat!).

5.EMILY. Emily January is a busy women who reads a great deal and shares her takes on the books with us. Her choices of reading material are what make this blog most interesting.

So I thank Barney for the award and hope readers will reach out to the above bloggers. It will make your world a brighter and more interesting place.

Over-Specialization

I am reading a history of early Rome that is well done but painstakingly detailed and slow reading. It’s title is Through The Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 A.D. Yes, that’s just the title. The book is by Peter Brown an Emeritus Professor of History at Princeton. Not long ago I was wading through another history book, The Creation of the American Republic 1776-1787 by Gordon Wood. I never made it through Wood’s book though I am downrightt compulsive about finishing books I have decided to read. The book is ponderous, provides much more detail than I require, and is not well written. So I gave up on it. The Peter Brown book, on the other hand, exhibits better writing and was recommended by a friend, so I will probably work my way through the 530 pages (with 200 pages of notes and index, which I will skip). It reminds me of the fact that we suffer from over-specialization in this country.

The phenomenon results in books written by professionals in the field for other professionals — I dare say historians would appreciate the details and copious notes in both of these books. I speak here of history, but the same thing can be said of books in other disciplines (reading philosophy is like swimming through glue). Even novels are now written by writers who seem to be writing for other writers, not for the average reader who just wants a good read. The novel has to be clever and in the latest postmodern fashion.

Music is composed that can only be appreciated by professional musicians. For the rest of us it sounds like a cat with its tail caught in the car door. Art has become specialized as well as artists experiment with their media and try to discover new ways to say the same old things. This is not such a bad thing in the plastic arts, since they are more readily appreciated by the unsophisticated viewer and new ways of seeing things can be exciting. The plastic arts may survive the trend toward overspecialization, though there is always the lunatic fringe who create works that can be appreciated only by others on the lunatic fringe. But in so many of the arts sophistication has become the key to appreciation.

In any event, the phenomenon of overspecialization has infiltrated our colleges and universities where there are now specializations within specializations. As Michael Polanyi said 50 years ago, “. . .it is a rare mathematician, we are told, who fully understands more than half a dozen out of fifty papers presented at a mathematical congress.”  And that was then! This has resulted in a hodge-podge undergraduate “education” where students take bits and pieces of this and that until something strikes their fancy (or they have decided going in that they will become physicians or CPAs and they stay on track for their undergraduate years and get trained but not educated). Neither of these alternatives amounts to a coherent education that broadens as well as deepens perspective. But that’s what we seem to be stuck with as the specialists, separated as they are from one another by discipline — and often by geographical location on campus — don’t (can’t?) talk to one another and cannot come to any sort of agreement about what kinds of things make for a defensible undergraduate education. The student is victim though she doesn’t know it.

And the rest of suffer as well when we want to know a bit about the history of humankind and we are faced with ponderous books that are deep in detail and shallow in writing skill and readability. The curious layman (and student) has been forgotten in this age of specialization where walls between schools of thought cannot be conquered even by the most determined climber.

Roving On Mars

I recently watched the NOVA episode telling about the building, launching, and successful landing of the Mars rover, “Curiosity.” It was amazing! I sat transfixed as the plethora of team members supported by hundreds of men and women worked their way through the thick tangle of problems connected with such an immense project. I followed closely as they considered every possible eventuality that could arise before and during a two-year venture on a planet where radio signals take fourteen minutes to reach us when the planet is at its closest.

I was inspired afterwards to check my computer for more detailed information about the rover and its myriad of technically sophisticated parts. Just think of the difficulties involved simply to get to the planet Mars safely — an extraordinary thing in itself. Though there had been three rovers before this one none was as complex, sophisticated, or heavy as “Curiosity.” The team had to think of every possibility and develop entirely new systems of delivery to get the capsule containing the rover safely to the planet millions of miles away and land it safely. And once there the two-ton mobile lab had to explore an alien surface in 60 degrees below zero temperatures, take and test soil and air samples, and send the results back to earth along with thousands of photographs. It really does boggle the mind.

It was indeed breathtaking and a marvel to behold, testimony to human intelligence and determination. At one point the parachute designed to slow the capsule down upon entering Mars’ atmosphere ripped apart in the wind tunnel during testing. It was about here that I started to  have questions. The team-member told us that after the first parachute ripped apart they went out and bought six of the most sophisticated cameras they could find to photograph the next test so they could figure out what went wrong. I am sure this was when I began to wonder how much all this must have cost and, the bigger question, why they were going to all this trouble. I never did determine the answer to the first question, but the answer to the bigger question was contained in the name of the rover itself: curiosity. It’s what makes humans climb impossibly high mountains and dive to the depths of the ocean. It is what brought Columbus to this continent (well, Bermuda). And it is an admirable quality indeed.

But probing more deeply into possible explanations we realize that the underlying rationale for what had to be an incredibly expensive venture involving hundreds of man-hours of some of the best and brightest people in America was to find out if there had ever been life on Mars. It’s certainly a question worth asking and I would love to know the answer.

But, again, as I thought about the program and read the material on the computer that gave me more details about the rover and its mission I read hundreds of words, but nowhere was it mentioned what the project had cost. Don’t they want us to know? It had to be hundreds of millions of dollars. And that was the thought that kept sticking in my craw. Hundreds of man-hours and hundreds of millions of dollars to find out whether or not there ever had been life on a distant planet. So I asked myself again, WHY?  What about life on this planet? Why aren’t we willing to commit this country to spending a fraction of that amount of money and man-hours to save this planet? I do wonder.

Getting It Right

In the aftermath of Black Friday and what is rapidly becoming Black Thursday — previously known as “Thanksgiving” — it is refreshing to read stories like the following:

PLYMOUTH, Mass. — Here in the birthplace of Thanksgiving, where the Pilgrims first gave thanks in 1621 for their harvest and their survival, some residents are giving thanks this year for something else: the Colonial-era blue laws that prevent retailers from opening their doors on the fourth Thursday of November.

In fact, throughout New England there are remnants of “blue laws” and a growing movement toward keeping Thanksgiving safe from commerce. And polls show that a large percentage of this country’s population finds the commercialization of the holidays unpalatable. But record numbers of folks still show up at the stores in the early hours of Black Friday and, increasingly, late on Thursday as well. One does suspect that the anti-shopping movement will fizzle out as commerce has money at its disposal and money as we all know can be very persuasive. And that’s the problem, isn’t it?

We have bought in to the notion that money talks and what it has to say is somehow important when, in fact, it has little to say and should be told to shut up. But that ship has sailed. We not only listen when money talks, we bow down and worship it and buy into its metaphors (‘sorry about that!) and applaud its wealthy heroes and blindly accept its definition of success.

We do not define success in terms of character and improving the lot of others as we most assuredly should; we do not applaud the feats of the true heroes, the volunteers who serve dinners at soup kitchens, the underpaid police and firemen who protect our lives daily, the teachers who have to deal with our spoiled children on subsistence wages, and the men and women who step forward during a crisis such as hurricane Sandy.  Instead we applaud the wealthy athletes and Hollywood actors and actresses in their $45 million homes whose shallow lives we follow avidly and seek to emulate. Those are our cultural heroes, not the ordinary folks who are selfless and go thankless and unappreciated every day of their lives.

But Plymouth, Massachusetts may have the right idea. Thanksgiving is the one holiday every year when commerce should be told to take a hike, when we should stop and think about what really matters: the many blessings we all share. Shopping should not be on the agenda. It’s bad enough we sit after a sumptuous meal glued to the television set watching one or more of the three NFL games provided for us by sponsors whose only goal is to make bigger profits. But, sad to say, the reason this day will eventually become a Black Thursday is precisely because there is a ton of money to be made and we will be told repeatedly to shop until we at long last get the message and leave the couch and head to the nearest box store. After all, we do want to get the best deal — and it’s first-come-first-served.

In the meantime, let’s give thanks to the folks in Plymouth who got it right. They are members of a vanishing breed and will soon go the way of the dinosaurs.

On-Line Hokum

There must be many school administrators who have too much time on their hands. They keep trying to come up with new ways to teach and learn forgetting that the best way to do that is to get the brightest teachers you can by paying them a decent salary and then turning them loose in the classrooms. Instead, they have fallen hook, line, and sinker for the electronic toys that have been incorporated into schools at nearly every level. This is part of the common educational practice of bringing the subject matter down to the level of the student rather than to have the student stretch and grow to reach a higher level. Give ’em what they want. The kids play with electronic toys, let’s incorporate them into the curriculum. Somehow. The latest educational fad in “higher” education is to make learning even easier and less painful: let the students stay at home where they can sit in front of a computer screen as passive vessels instead of in a classroom where they might accidentally interact with each other or, worse yet, the instructor.

I’m with Albert here: led by a purblind educational bureaucracy we are rapidly turning out idiots who cannot interact with one another and cannot use their minds except to turn things on and off. Socrates was never “certified” to teach, and he didn’t use the latest electronic gadget, either. Plato’s Academy also did rather well without the latest electronic toy, thank you very much. After all, Plato was able to turn out people like Aristotle without a huge cadre of administrators looking over his shoulder, a committee of well-meaning board members to answer to, or a single computer.

Our addiction to electronic toys has seriously inhibited human interaction as we see people walking down the street holding electronic devices to their ears or looking down at the device they are sending text messages from: they don’t talk to one another any more, they talk at one another — in broken English. As suggested above, the latest fad in higher education is the trend toward on-line learning, which is simply another way to guarantee that students will learn very little. I dare say it will soon catch on at the high school level as well.

However, studies have shown repeatedly that the lecture method — in the classroom or on-line — is the worst way to teach a subject for most students. In addition, the drop-out rates in on-line education are off the charts. Real learning takes place when people interact with one another. On-line lecturing is simply multiplying the lecture-system mistake by making it easier and faster — and cheaper. And there’s the rub. Education has become so costly that students are turning to on-line “universities” like The University of Phoenix, and the other colleges and universities realize they must either join the party or sit by as their high-paid faculty lecture to empty halls. It’s sink or swim. We are now told that a group of so-called “prestige” universities want to join the fray:

Now 30 Under 30 alum 2U, which has previously focused on online graduate degree programs, has decided to throw its hat into the ring. This week, the company, formerly known as 2tor, announced a partnership with a consortium of 10 universities to offer undergraduate courses online. The company’s new program, Semester Online, will launch in September 2013 with a catalog of about 30 courses offered by Brandeis, Duke, Emory, Northwestern, University of North Carolina, Notre Dame, University of Rochester, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, and Washington University in St. Louis.

Whatever the reason, we insist on embracing the latest fashion even when the evidence proves that it not only fails to deliver the goods, but it actually inhibits the results — teaching and learning in this case. Electronic gadgets do not enhance learning; as Jane Healy has shown, they actually inhibit learning. Their use has led to the incapacity of parts of the brain to function as they should, thereby making thought and coherent speech more and more difficult for growing numbers of students. Instead of embracing the latest fad, we might be better advised to simply reflect on the goal of education which is to enable young minds to grow and develop. We need to stop worrying about what is latest, or cheapest and easiest, and start to recall what is most effective: a good teacher in a room interacting with interested and curious students. Preferably they should sit in a circle.

What He Said!

[ This is a bit of a cop-out. But I spent Thanksgiving with my son and his family and wasn’t able to write a blog. But after seeing the feeble response the last two days I may stop blogging altogether. I must say I liked the time away from the computer! In any event, I am “borrowing” this editorial because I couldn’t have said it better myself. I hope I don’t get sued.]

LET’S MAKE FEBRUARY “NATIONAL GOVERNING MONTH.”

By Jeff Greenfield

Did you know that Hillary Clinton has a commanding lead in the Iowa caucuses, just 162 weeks or so away in 2016? That’s what POLITICO reported—“exclusively,” no less—60 hours or so after President Barack Obama was re-elected.

Did you know that Republicans are optimistic about re-taking the Senate in 2014, what with 20 Democratic seats in play compared with only 13 GOP seats? The Washington Post offered up a detailed look at the field in September, two months before the 2012 races had been decided.

Did you know that Republicans Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie and John Thune might run for president next time, along with Democrats Andrew Cuomo, John Hickenlooper and Martin O’Malley?

Now I know what you’re thinking: Here comes another rant deploring these worthless exercises in political prognostication.

But friends, the truth is I have given up the ghost. The forces that propel the political community into premature evaluation—or is it electoral dysfunction—are simply too powerful to withstand. Would-be candidates have money to raise, consultants to hire. Those in the congressional minorities gaze wistfully at the perquisites of sub-committee chairmanships and dream of wielding a gavel and holding forth on Sunday talk shows.

As for the political press: nothing better encapsulates our sense of priorities than a single sentence spoken by one of the nation’s best-known journalists who had a front-row seat during Obama’s first term.

“I’ve been waiting for this day for three and a half years!” this correspondent exulted from Des Moines last January, on the morning of the Iowa caucuses.

(I am preserving anonymity because those sentiments could have been expressed by dozens of others.)

Taxes? Budgets? Two wars? Yeah, yeah, but this is Iowa, baby!

So, rather than emulating King Canute and beseeching the tide of campaign-centric obsession to recede, I offer instead a more modest proposal: Let’s make February 2013 National Governing Month.

For that one month, let’s have our elected officials agree not to appear at any political gathering; not to fund-raise; not to hold committee hearings whose chief purpose is to embarrass the other party. Let’s have the president agree to a similar set of restrictions.

Instead, for the entire twenty-eight days, let the folks we just elected to run the government . run the government.

Instead of running across the street from the Capitol to offices where it’s legal to make money-begging calls, members of the House and Senate would stay at the Capitol, possibly even trying to discover some common ground.

Instead of churning out press releases, Tweets, blogs, and talking points, the army of political operatives would find other work to do — perhaps cleaning up public parks.

As for the press, the First Amendment does seem to preclude any official sanction for political gas-baggery. Still, it is at least possible to imagine that reporters might be shamed into temporary silence when a normally effusive political community collectively said, “Don’t you know this is National Governing Month? Call me March 1st.”

Okay, maybe that “shame the press” idea is overreaching.

But we are, I think, already getting a sense of what National Governing Month might offer us in the way of a more substantive, less overtly politicized political atmosphere.

When Congress and the White House built the political Doomsday Device known as “sequestration,” with its toxic brew of spending cuts and tax hikes, the assumption was that getting really close to the “fiscal cliff” would be unthinkable. With that cliff only weeks away, some serious analysis about the priorities of government and the nature of the tax burden has begun to dominate the conversation.

Now imagine making that kind of conversation a permanent part of the political calendar. Who knows? In those 28 days of National Governing Month, it might even occur to folks that dreaming about next election might not be the most productive use of time and energy.

Well, this is a fantasy.

Oh, Poor Baby!

Pity the poor corporate CEO. After all he needs to make his profits and this is the time of the year when he makes the most. Why shouldn’t he insist that his employees work on Thanksgiving? He is planning to take the kids out of private school early this year and fly them to Switzerland for a skiing vacation.  After all, they  went to Mexico last year and there’s no need to repeat the same old thing. And he wants to fly his family from Geneva down to Rome for Christmas day and have a nice meal. Those private jets don’t fly themselves and pilots don’t come cheap! Poor guy: all he wants to do is make sure this year his family has a REAL vacation! Those damned employees have signed another petition to put pressure on him to let them have Thanksgiving day off. What do they think this is, anyway?

Target is one of the larger chains to ignore the pleas and petitions of its employees, as this story in the Orlando Business Journal tells us:

A Target employee launched an online petition drive asking the company to push back opening hours and let workers spend Thanksgiving with their families, after the retailer announced it would open at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving for Black Friday shopping.

The petition has garnered more than 211,000 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon, the South Florida Business Journal reports.

It happened last year as well. The story has been repeated again this year as the Consumerist also tells us:

For the second year in a row, a Target employee has managed to secure hundreds of thousands of names on a petition asking Target to rethink its pans to start its Black Friday sale on Thanksgiving night. And for the second year in a row, Target is politely declining the suggestion and moving ahead as planned.

Target thus will demand that their employees work on turkey day again. This is the American way. The period from Thanksgiving until Christmas is the portion of the year when the businesses make the majority of their annual profits so the idea is to extend that period as much as possible in order to increase profits. If this means keeping the stores open on Thanksgiving Day, so be it!  As we have seen, it doesn’t stop here: the pre-Christmas sales now start before Halloween. It’s never too early to make a buck! This is not brain surgery. It’s not ethical, either. But we have long since given up on letting ethics stand in the way of Big Business.

There are companies, and especially small businesses, that care about their employees and attempt to work out some sort of compromise between the employees’ reasonable desire to spend time with their families during the holidays and the need to make sure the bottom line is black instead of red at year’s end. But the large corporations must answer to their stockholders and they tend to be heartless and unfeeling in the manner of Scrooge at this time of the year. But unlike Dickens’ wonderful tale, there’s no one person the ghosts can visit in order to activate a dormant conscience and make them realize what this season is supposed to be about. The Supreme Court has determined that corporations are persons. That’s absurd on its face, but even if it were true, it is a certainty that they don’t have a conscience.