Lincoln Chafee’s Batty Ethics Argument For The Metric System


Ugh. I can’t let this pass.

Yesterday I happened upon Lincoln Chafee on one of the Sunday shows, giving his elevator pitch for why he should be President. You may recall that Chafee, former Republican Senator and Governor of Rhode Island, turned independent after being defeated for re-election and now is following Bernie Sanders’ example, declaring himself a Democrat for the purpose of getting nominated. Chafee is another politician, like the Bush bothers and Hillary Clinton, who owes his initial political prominence to being related to a popular political figure rather than his own innate abilities. As he made obvious the more he spoke…

His two primary campaign positions were 1) “Wage peace”—whatever that means. This is right up there with John Lennon songs as serious policy discourse,  though I’m sure ISIS is fascinated by the concept, and 2) Adopt the metric system. Chafee borrowed this from the idea machine known as the Andrew Johnson administration, as Andy was the first President to officially acknowledge the benefits of the U.S. adopting the less eccentric measurement system used by Europe. I’m sure we all can agree that this is one of the most pressing issues facing the country today.

However, Chafee really got my attention, and sparked this post, when he attempted to combine his two prime objectives, which is no mean trick. I tried to find a transcript, video or a news report to document this, but so far I have failed: maybe everyone is trying to be nice. I swear I am not making this up, though I wish I were.

Chafee argued that the United States should adopt the Metric system because it invaded Iraq and didn’t find the weapons of mass destruction.

He really did. He said that adopting the metric system was the right thing to do because first and foremost, it would show that we were sorry for the invasion, that we no longer regarded ourselves as smarter than everyone else, that we would be humbling ourselves before the world, and announcing that we were finally part of the world community. (You know, like when the pods get you in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”) And, Chafee said, the conversion has other benefits, so everybody wins!


1. I was going to make this an Ethics Dunce post, but ethics dunce doesn’t begin to cover how mind-blowingly stupid Chafee’s argument is. First of all, even if he were correct that the United States is obligated to show penance for making a good faith effort to enforce a the terms cease fire that the U.N. didn’t have the integrity to enforce itself, removing a brutal and dangerous dictator and his two monstrous sons, and sacrificing soldiers and treasure to do so, his reasoning is bats. “The United States humbly apologizes for helping to mess up the Middle East and stir up terrorists like hornets in a nest sprayed by a hose, so we think the proper way to make it up to everyone is to start using meters and liters. There. We’re even now.” What kind of mind thinks like that? That’s not making amends, reparations, damages or compensation, that’s an insult, trivializing the alleged offense, as well as one that makes an government offering such an “apology” look like, well, look like it’s run by utter boobs.

Like Lincoln Chafee.

2.  Chafee betrays his Obama-like belief that the Unites States as a culture should reject any aspirations to higher principles, goals, missions and values than the cesspool of realpolitik that is the rest of the world, using the metric system as symbolic surrender. The advocates of this irresponsible and culturally destructive position are the ones who always begin arguments with “the United States is the only Western nation that..” as if “everybody does it” is the definitive, unarguable factor in deciding right and wrong. The fact that the United States was the only nation in the world to try its experiment with representative democracy, was spectacularly successful and changed the world as a result seems beyond the comprehension of politicians like Chafee.

3. The failure of the metric system to take hold the other times a conversion has been attempted in the U.S. is attributable to the national character of independence and defiance of government edicts that Chafee wants to jettison. This is an American strength, even though, as in the case of weights and measures, it has its price. Chafee said yesterday that Canada made the transition smoothly, so why would the U.S. be any different? This man has the hubris to run for President, and he doesn’t understand that U.S. culture is very different from Canada, and that Americans don’t think like Canadians.

4. Is it unethical to run for President when you are this silly and incompetent? I think so. Democrats are at risk of being stuck with the most corrupt, disliked, mistrusted candidate of any major party in U.S. history, and to present yourself as an alternative that almost makes her look good is irresponsible.

5. The state of Rhode Island elected this silly man repeatedly because his name was familiar, and had pleasant associations for them due to his father. Isn’t that pathetic? Chafee majored in the Classics, studied to be a specialist in horse hoof care  and worked at a race track before entering politics. With little but his name to recommend him, Chafee was appointed to his father’s seat in the U.S. Senate when  former long-time Rhode Island governor John Chafee, died in 1999. Lincoln Chafee won re-election the same year. Care to guess how many voters didn’t realize Lincoln wasn’t his father? This sad sequence has been repeated for centuries, in both parties, in every state, saddling our government at every level with sons, daughters, siblings and widows who are unqualified for office. It is citizenship malpractice.

6. Of course it makes sense for the U.S. to convert to the metric system. Using Iraq to justify it, however, is the argument of a total dolt, and yes, an Ethics Dunce.

58 thoughts on “Lincoln Chafee’s Batty Ethics Argument For The Metric System

  1. His first campaign adds can be those “Metric Marvels” PSAs that they used to try to push the system in the late 70s/early 80s that couldn’t hold a candle to “Schoolhouse Rock.”

  2. In Canada, we ostensibly use the metric system, but because our major trading partner is the US, the vast majority of our day to day is still in imperial units. We use inches and feet for building and height, although we use kilometers when talking about vehicles (Kilometers an hour, 23 Kilometers to Winnipeg). And we’ll use pounds when discussing body weight or freight, but grams or kilograms when talking about package weights. Funnily, the one thing that we utterly ignore America on is also probably the easiest conversion, we use liters for everything and gallons for nothing, even though an easy four liters are in a gallon, as opposed to 2.54 centimetres in an inch and 28.34 grams an ounce. Education! You should really adopt Celsius too, while you’re at it though… It really doesn’t drop 40 degrees at the Canadian border.

    But most of all. Don’t elect idiots. If I had to pick one. Please don’t elect idiots.

    • Fahrenheit is better. 100 degrees and above=a very hot day. I fail to see why Fahrenheit is incompatible with metric measurements.

      (Rankine is an absolute temp scale where 0 R=-459.67 F. It is only used when dealing with extremely cold temperatures near absolute zero.)

    • I swear, even going back to Bachmann and Kucinich, I have never seen a putative candidate appear to be such a complete, jibbering fool on TV. It was shocking, and I had low expectations already. The man made Biden look like Pat Moynihan.

  3. There is no inherent advantage in the metric system as compared to customary system. The only reason we bother to learn it is that America does trillions of dollars in trade with countries that do use it.

    Remember, 55 mph=88 km/h.

      • I think the main reason that the metric system has never been implemented in America involves the huge cost inherent in that conversion, not to mention the confusion. I still remember how the Mars Climate Orbiter came to grief because one contractor worked out the orbital trajectory in metrics based on a previous calculation that was in English units. The whole damn thing burned up in the Martian atmosphere. Another billion dollars down the drain!

    • OK, convert 359 miles to inches in your head. Now, convert 359 kilometers to cm in your head. Metric is much easier.

          • I’m going to be upfront and as dead honest as I can. I’m against the metric system because I grew up with empirical measurement and I’m comfortable with it. I can come pretty close to showing hoe long a foot is with my hands, and a yard. Even an inch. I can envision a mile, not a kilometer, and I know 4 wuarts make a gallon. It is way too late in my life for me to try to learn a whole new system.

            • Aside from inertia, the human scale of the old standard is the biggest thing it has going for it. It’s mathematically messy, but its most frequently used measurements are cast in dimensions that are intuitively human.

              Those darn wuarts, though…they throw me every time. How many are there in a gallon again?

              • Bingo. It’s far more intuitive – far more natural – and far more human.

                It made sense for Europe to pick an arbitrary and clinical system like the Metric system given their proclivity for corrupting weights and measures across and even within national lines.

                But I wonder if it subconsciously affected their way of thinking.

  4. Is this all the Democrats have to offer for the White House? Corrupt women, overt communists and moonbat hippies?! What’s happened to the American electorate that any of these people are in office and are not in prison or an asylum??

  5. Jack,
    I’m glad you included point 6, else I was going to be awful confused. I agree his argument is ludicrous, but arguing against the metric system on the grounds of American Exceptionalism alone is just downright silly.

    Also, I think Germany should show contrition for the Holocaust by adopting Hebrew as it’s official language (or Yiddish, at least) and the Catholic church should adopt the Qur’an as an apology for the Crusades. I mean, after all, fair’s fair.


    • You do know that rejecting the absurd argument that we should accept the Metrics system to symbolically reject American exceptionalism isn’t remotely the same as arguing that we must reject the Metrics system because accepting it rejects American exceptionalism, right? A.)Accepting or rejecting the metrics system has nothing to do with American exceptionalism, and B)in the abstract, it makes sense.

      Some people reflexively make the argument that if the rest of the world does it, we shouldn’t, in reaction against idiots like Chafee, who argue that if the rest of the world embraces something—not executing murderers, nationalizaing health care, infringing on free speech and freedom of the press—it must be right. In truth, both arguments are equally illogical. There wasn’t anything in the post that suggested otherwise.

      • Jack,
        That’s what I said! When I said “is” I meant that such an argument is (or would be) silly. I wasn’t suggesting you made the argument; my point was that I originally THOUGHT you were making such an argument until I more closely read the post (which is why I said “I’m glad you included point 6 …” The mistake was mine, not yours, and I apologize for the confused wording.

        You mentioned that one of the reasons you always thought I was antagonistic was because 80% of my posts were made when I disagreed. Thus, I’m trying to even out the average by posting more often when I DO AGREE (as in this case).


        • I appreciate it. My point was that even without #6…which was included to avoid any hint of misunderstanding, I thought I had avoided the argument you were properly objecting to.

        • Did the Catholic Church command those atrocities?

          It would seem to me that *the Crusades* a necessary outflanking maneuver to distract the surging Muslim tide into fighting on their own turf we’re, of themselves, *a good* thing.

          Individual and collective atrocities within the Crusades would seem to me to be the problem of the individuals who ordered them or carried them out…

          So again, would the Catholic Church have anything to apologize for or the various Crusaders who overstepped their limits of action?

          • Whether the Church should apologize for the crusades in general is debatable. To the extent that an institution can apologize for what it did over 800 years ago, however, the church has much to apologize for at least in terms of how the crusades were conducted.

            The Church is somewhat responsible for the actions of those whom it encouraged to go on the crusades in the first place, in the same way that an employer is somewhat responsible for the actions of his employees, even if it was just because he hired them in the first place. In the case of the Sack of Constantinople, Pope Innocent III had already excommunicated the crusaders who attacked the Christian city of Zara. He then forgave them so they could continue the crusade. By doing so, he bore some responsibility for the Sack of Constantinople, given that the crusaders had already demonstrated what they were willing to do.

            • These things didn’t happen in a vacuum. Ostensibly the crusades were about spreading the Christian Faith, but in reality, they were a response to centuries of aggression from the middle east.

              • The ostensible reason for the crusades was to provide access to the Holy Lands for Christians, as well as to spread the Catholic faith (especially if you include the Northern Crusades and the Albigensian Crusades). The Crusades were a response to aggression from the Turks against the Byzantine Empire, but aggression from the Middle East does not justify sacking Constantinople.

                • Justify, no. Mitigate… slightly. And the goalposts have officially moved from “apologising for the crusades” to “apologising for the sack of Constantinople.”

                  • Constantinople was once called Byzantium and was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. Once the Turks captured it, they changed the name to Istanbul.

                  • I used the example of the Sack of Constantinople because it was a pretty egregious atrocity committed by the crusaders, because it was basically the result of the Fourth Crusade (which had been launched against the Saracens but ended up attacking the Christian Eastern Roman Empire) and because Pope John Paul II actually apologized for it.

                    The crusaders that actually fought in the Middle East committed other misdeeds (see, e.g., the career of Reynald de Chatillon).

                    Also, the Albigensian Crusade probably warrants an apology as well.

          • In that regard, absolutely not. But you know how the world works, by now. Never, EVER, place blame on the persons or person actually responsible…especially when there is a large, active group we HATE we can blame it on (Muslims are ALWAYS the exception. They’re never responsible for anything.).

  6. OK, I have a question. Why do people think we didn’t find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? The New York Times has published numerous articles about the chemical weapons we found, including an article just last year claiming the US Army has covered up the injuries US servicemen have sustained by chemical weapons. CBS news has reported that US servicemen exposed to mustard gas and sarin were required to keep it secret and were even denied medical treatment to keep it secret. How can you report this and then turn around and say there were no weapons of mass destruction found?

    In addition, the current Iraqi government sold over 500 tons of enriched uranium that Sadam Hussein had stored.

  7. A few decades ago this was all the rage. I remember roadsigns on some state highways had both. Fenway Park had meters and feet on the wall markings.

    As a retired teacher when I did math I would teach both the English and metric systems and do cross curriculum with the history of both. Students could pickup metrics quickly.

    I travel a bit overseas and have to wrap around the system with some quick conversions so I am bi-measurement?

  8. I’m all for adopting the metric system (because after 10 years I can’t make heads or tails of feet yet), but when an argument as stupid as this comes up I feel like maybe there’s something to that funky way to measuring things maybe.

  9. To quote Abe Simpson (which you should have done):

    “My car gets 40 Rods to the Hog’s Head and that’s the way I like it!”


  10. I hate to rattle Charles cage on this topic, but the reason this isn’t changing is culture. The non-metric system is woven through so much of our literature, music, drama, history. We think in this system, and the culture is swimming in it. “16 Tons,” “A Thousand Miles,” “110 in the Shade,” “…and miles to go before I sleep…” It’s not just commerce and habit.

    From John Adams in “1776”: “There’s more to this than a filthy purse-string, Rutledge!”

    God what an idiot Chafee is!!!. I still can’t get over it.

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