Tag Archives: Thomas Jefferson

A Presidents Day Celebration (PART 1): I Love These Guys, I Really Do. Yes, Every One Of Them.

Hall of the Presidents

I have a lifetime love affair with the Presidents of the United States.

I love these guys, every one of them. The best of them are among the most skilled and courageous leaders in world history; the least of them took more risks and sacrificed more for their country than any of us ever can or will, including me. Every one of our Presidents, whatever their blunders, flaws and bad choices, was a remarkable and an accomplished human being, and exemplified the people he led in important ways. Every one of them accepted not only the burden of leadership, but the almost unbearable burden of leading the most dynamic, ambitious, confusing, cantankerous and often unappreciative nation that has ever existed. I respect that and honor it.

I have been a President junkie since I was eight years old. It’s Robert Ripley’s fault. My father bought an old, dog-eared paperback in the “Believe it or Not!” series and gave it to me. It was published in 1948. One of Ripley’s entries was about the “Presidents Curse”: every U.S. President elected in a year ending with a zero since 1840 (William Henry Harrison) had died in office, and only one President who had dies in office, Zachary Taylor, hadn’t been elected in such a year. The cartoon featured a creep chart—I still have it—listing the names of the dead Presidents, the years they were elected, and the year 1960 with ???? next to it. When Jack Kennedy, the youngest President ever elected, won the office in 1960, my Dad, who by that time was sick of me reminding him of the uncanny pattern, said, “Well, son, so much for Ripley’s curse!”

You know what happened. (John Hinckley almost kept the curse going, but Ronald Reagan, elected in 1980, finally broke it.) That year I became obsessed with Presidential history, devising a lecture that gave an overview of the men and their significance in order. My teacher allowed me to inflict it on my classmates.  Much later, Presidential leadership and character was the topic of my honors thesis in college. When I finally got a chance to go to Disneyland, the first place I went was the Hall of Presidents. When the recorded announcer said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Presidents of the United States!” and the red curtain parted to show the audio-animatrons of all of them together, it was one of the biggest thrills of my life.

Today I will honor our past Presidents with some of my favorite facts about each of them, trying hard not to get carried away. Is it ethics? It’s leadership, which has always been the dominant sub-topic here, but yes, it’s ethics.  I know I’m hard on our Presidents, as I think we all should be: supportive, loyal, but demanding and critical. I am also, however, cognizant of how much they give to the country and their shared determination to do what they think, rightly or wrongly, is in the country’s best long-term interests. File this post under respect, fairness, gratitude, and especially citizenship. And now…

“Ladies and Gentlemen, the Presidents of the United States!

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Government & Politics, History, Leadership

Ashley Judd, Hillary Clinton, and Celebrity Malpractice

Mount Rushmore

I had hoped to have my “Celebrity Code of Ethics” complete for this post, but it isn’t, so I’ll just allude to some of its likely provisions.

I like Ashley Judd, I really do. I’m not sure why she never became the reigning female light drama star of her generation; she’s every bit as good as Sandra Bullock or Julia Roberts, and that voice! Now she’s routinely relegated to repetitious action movies and will be playing Jennifer Lawrence’s mother any day now—oh well, that’s show biz. Judd is also more articulate and intellectually curious than the average celebrity, so it was with great pain and disappointment that I learned that she had recently said this, in an interview with Larry King, about the presidential prospects of Hillary Clinton:

“I think she might be the most overqualified candidate we’ve had since – you know, Thomas Jefferson or George Washington.”

Now, I don’t expect celebrities to be historians or experts on anything  other than their profession and areas of specialty. However, one tenet of celebrity ethics is the same as that of doctors: “First, do no harm.” That means, for someone like Judd, a celebrity has an ethical duty to recognize that a disturbing number of people think that because she is rich and famous, she is necessarily  informed, responsible and wise, as well as a role model, and therefore, unlike the usual drunk on a barstool, when that celebrity says something outrageously ignorant, stupid and misleading, hundreds of thousands of people believe it and align their own beliefs accordingly. That’s harmful, and doing it is unethical. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, Professions

The Ethics Conflict Of Chevy Chase’s Newland Fountain and How To Resolve It

Chevy Chase Circle

Chevy Chase Circle is the official border separating the District of Columbia and Chevy Chase, Maryland. The inscription on the fountain at the center of Chevy Chase Circle honors Francis Griffith Newlands, saying, “His statesmanship held true regard for the interests of all men.” He was a three-term senator from Nevada,  serving from 1903 until his death in 1917, but more important to this controversy, founded the Chevy Chase Land Co., which created neighborhoods on the Washington and Maryland sides of the circle. Yes, the founder of Chevy Chase is honored with a fountain in Chevy Chase Circle. What could possibly be wrong with that?

The problem is that Senator Newlands was a racist, and a proactive one. He was a white supremacist who described blacks as “a race of children” too intellectually handicapped for democracy. In 1912, he attempted to have  the 15th Amendment, which granted voting rights to African American men, repealed. Not surprisingly, his vision of Chevy Chase did not include black residents, or Jewish ones for that matter.

The Advisory Neighborhood Commission that represents the D.C. section of Chevy Chase wants to remove Newlands’ name from the fountain, and has introduced a resolution calling on the D.C. Historic Preservation Office to rename the landmark “Chevy Chase Fountain.” The reason is his advocacy of anti-black policies.

This is a classic ethics conflict, a problem in which valid ethics principles oppose each other. There are so many conflicting ethical principles and objectives at work here: Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, Public Service, Race, U.S. Society

Now THIS Is An Incompetent Lawyer

Now that's who you want defending you in your capital murder trial..Thomas Jeffer..wait, WHAT???

Now that’s who you want defending you in your capital murder trial..Thomas Jeffer..wait, WHAT???

Dennis Hawver, an Ozawkie, Kansas attorney, was disbarred last week by the Kansas Supreme Court. The court ruled that Hawver showed “inexplicable incompetence” as a defense attorney for Phillip Cheatham, charged with first degree murder and tried in a 2005.  Cheatham’s conviction was overturned and  a new trial was ordered  in 2013, on the grounds that Hawver did not provide an adequate defense and thus Cheatham did not receive a fair trial. Yes, I think that was a fair assessment, given that..

  • In voir dire, Hawver told prospective jurors that his client was “a cocaine dealer” who had “killed another cocaine dealer with a gun.”
  • During the trial, he informed the jury that his client had previously been convicted of voluntary manslaughter, even though prosecutors had agreed to less prejudicial  stipulation that the Cheatham had a “prior felony conviction” without further details.
  • Hawlor failed to present evidence that might have shown that his client that was not in the city where the murder occurred at the time it occurred. He failed to investigate alibi witnesses.
  • He didn’t track his client’s cellphone to find his location at the time of the murders.
  • During the sentencing phase of the trial, after his client had been found guilty, Hawlor said “the killer” should be executed.

 

  • Hawver  made the creative argument at trial that his client would never have left a witness alive if he had been the one who shot the two female victims.

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Independence Day Ethics: Historian Hype, Liberal Bias, And The Great Punctuation Mystery

founding-fathers-declaration-of-independence

First, a little background…

I have often found it depressing that historians so often lack the ethical integrity necessary to do their jobs. If there was any profession in which avoiding bias would seem to be paramount, historical research and analysis would seem to be it, but that just isn’t the case. Because historians are academics and scholars, and because academia has become almost exclusively a hot-house of left-ward ideology for more than half a century, too many historians view their duty as using the past to manipulate the present and future.

My introduction to this came early, when I was a fifth grader suddenly fascinated with the U.S. Presidency as the first national election that I could follow approached. I read various assessments of who the greatest of our past POTUSes were, and there was near consensus, it seemed. Washington and Lincoln, naturally, were “the berries,” and they were joined as “greats” by Jefferson, Jackson, Wilson, FDR, and Truman, Democrats all. Teddy Roosevelt was “near great”; Eisenhower was a dud. What a great party this Democratic Party must be! Of course, Jefferson’s racial hypocrisy, Jackson’s lawlessness and persecution of Native Americans, Wilson’s racism and bungling of the peace after World War I and FDR’s complicity in locking loyal Japanese-Americans in prison camps was never mentioned. Over time, I learned that even the most respected American historians were likely to be pursuing partisan agendas. The classic example, of course, was Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., who carefully and unforgivably culled the facts he deemed worthy of revelation in order to add John Fitzgerald Kennedy to that list of brilliant Democratic Presidents. Was I surprised when a large number of prominent American historians signed a petition opposing the impeachment of President Clinton, a Democrat, thus asserting that a degree of dishonesty and lack of trustworthiness that was sufficient in every state in the union to mark a lawyer as unfit to practice was nonetheless not sufficient cause to remove a President from office?

I was not.

This brings us to the Case of the Missing Comma, brought to us by Danielle Allen, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., aided and abetted by her left-leaning allies. Allen (who by the purest coincidence has a book out!) claims a major discovery. The iconic sentence in the Declaration of Independence“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–”—was not intended to end in a period, as all current quotations and reproductions show, and the official transcript produced by the National Archives and Records Administration indicates.  Allen claims that her extensive research indicates that the period at the end of that phrase almost certainly did not appear on the original parchment version of the Declaration, and was mistakenly included in later versions. Just in time for July 4th (when Allen’s publicist calculated that her “Eureka!” would get maximum exposure) Allen explained to the New York Times that the extra period contributes to a “routine but serious misunderstanding” of the famous document signed by the Second Continental Congress in 1776. Continue reading

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Filed under History, Marketing and Advertising, Professions, Research and Scholarship, Rights, U.S. Society

Autonomy: The Ethics Alarm That Obamacare Should Be Setting Off, But Isn’t

fire_alarm

Autonomy. This is the ethical value, a sub-set of the “respect” section of the Josephson Institute’s Six Pillars of Character, that is suddenly absent from the value set of the New American Left. This is cause for concern to say the least, because autonomy is the very value that was the impetus for the nation’s founding, and that is at the core of the Bill of Rights as well as the “inalienable rights” that introduce Mr. Jefferson’s mission statement for our strange experiment in self-governance. Beginning back in Bill Clinton’s administration, advocates of a nationalized health care system, including President Clinton himself, began floating the historical and logical nonsense that Jefferson and the Founders would have enthusiastically supported national health care. This is, of course, a cynical lie if one is educated (as it was in Clinton’s case) or proof positive of complete unfamiliarity with, oh, everything about the Founders, their political philosophy, and political philosophy generally. Whatever the value of a national health care program, the idea that the government would presume to dictate how one managed something so personal and intimate as one’s own health would have horrified  every signer of the Declaration, from its author to Button Gwinett.

That Mr. Jefferson’s supposed followers—he is the Original Democrat, by most lights, would reach the point of maintaining that the public’s beliefs, opinions and attitudes must be bent to their will is a development that threatens the existence of United States society and culture as we know it. The recent flare in this emergency arrived via the mugging of Brandon Eich, ex-CEO of Mozilla, who was deemed by the liberal elite as unworthy of keeping his job (though Mozilla is an internet company and he is an innovator in the field) because he was not convinced of the rightness of same-sex marriage by the elite’s newly determined, and well past,  deadline—a deadline that such progressive icons as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton also missed, but never mind. Conformity to Progressive Truth has become the order of the day, and woe be to any good citizen who dares to oppose it. Does this sound like freedom to you? “Choice,” to use a popular rallying cry in the protest against the “War against Women?” It doesn’t sound like freedom to me. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Bioethics, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day: Ethics Bob Asks: “Did Torture Lead Us To Bin Laden”? My Answer: “So What If It Did? It Was Still Wrong.”

How did we end up discussing torture on Christmas Eve?

Sorry about that.

timebombHere is a stimulating comment by Zoebrain in the “Zero Dark Thirty” torture thread. I’m especially fond of it, because as theoretical and probably impossible as her resolution would be in practice, it neatly addresses the central problem conflict in the “torture is an absolute wrong but you might have to use it to save the world” scenarios, like the familiar “ticking bomb” hypothetical.  In her analysis. one violates the absolute rule, but accepts a proportional penalty for doing so.

I advocate a similar approach in legal ethics in situations where a lawyer decides as a matter of personal conscience that he or she must violate core legal ethics values, like keeping the confidences of a client, in furtherance of a higher objective not recognized be the Rules of Professional Conduct, such as keeping a serial killer from going free.

Here is Zoebrain’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Bob Asks: “Did Torture Lead Us To Bin Laden”? My Answer: “So What If It Did? It Was Still Wrong.” Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Religion and Philosophy, War and the Military