Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/3/2018: Remember Pickett’s Charge! Edition [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

1. “General, I have no division!” At about 2:00 pm, , July 3, 1863, by the little Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg, Robert E. Lee launched his last, desperate and audacious stratagem to win the pivotal battle of the American Civil War, a massed Napoleonic assault on the entrenched Union position on Cemetary Ridge, with a “copse of trees” at its center. The doomed march into artillery and rifle fire, across an open field and over fences, lasted less than an hour. The Union forces suffered 1,500 casualties,, while at least 1,123 Confederates were killed on the battlefield, 4,019 were wounded, and nearly 4000 Rebel soldiers were captured. Lee’s bold stroke had failed spectacularly, and would go down in history as one of the worst military blunders of all time.

That verdict is debatable, but this is not: Pickett’s Charge, as the attack came to be called, holds as many fascinating ethics lessons as any event in American history, and this blog has returned to it for enlightenment time and time again.

There is the matter of the duty to prevent a disaster that you know is going to occur, the whistleblower’s duty, and the theme of Barbara Tuchman’s work, “The March of Folly.” There was Robert E. Lee’s noble and unequivocal acceptance of accountability for the disaster, telling the returning and defeated warriors that “It is all my fault.” The defeat also turned on moral luck, with many unpredictable factors, such as the intervention of a brave and intrepid Union cavalry officer named George Armstrong Custer, who also teaches that our greatest strengths and most deadly flaws are often the same thing, and that the Seven Enabling Virtues can be employed for both good and wrongful objectives.  Pickett’s Charge shows how, as Bill James explained, nature conspires to make us unethical.

Pickett’s Charge also teaches that leadership requires pro-active decision-making, and the willingness to fail, to be excoriated, to be blamed, as an essential element of succeeding. Most of all, perhaps, it illustrates the peril’s of hindsight bias, for without a few random turns of fate, Robert E. Lee’s gamble might have worked.

2. Funny how if you continually denigrate someone based on his color and gender, he will eventually stop respecting you. Stanford University has established a Men and Masculinities Project  that aims to help men develop “healthy and inclusive male identities”—because they obviously don’t have those now.  “We acknowledge that male identity is a social privilege, and the aim for this project is to provide the education and support needed to better the actions of the male community rather than marginalize others,” anti-man-splains Stanford’s gurus. Stanford, of course, is not alone in pushing the ubiquitous progressive narrative that men are toxic, along with whites, making white men the worst of all. Perhaps this might explain why support for Democrats among young white men is falling fast.

Nah, it must be because they are sexist and racist…

3. But..but…settled science! The Economist estimates that as many as 400,000 papers published in supposedly peer-reviewed journals were not peer-reviewed at all. Scientists, scholars and academics are no more trustworthy or alien to unethical conduct than anyone else, but because most of the public (and journalists) don’t  understand what they write about and have to accept what they claim on faith, they are presumed to be trustworthy.

Think of them as the equivalent of auto mechanics.

4. Thank goodness I don’t trust polls! Gallup says that a record low of only 47% of US citizens are “extremely proud” to be American, a figure dragged down by Democrats, of whom, according to the poll, only 32% are “extremely proud.” I attribute this discouraging result to

  • Historical ignorance. The United States saved the world, something few nations can claim, and has been the catalyst for democracy and increased human rights worldwide. Its freedoms allowed creativity to bloom, giving the world many of its greatest technological and scientific advances.
  • An increasingly anti-American higher education culture that has indoctrinated many young Americans into hating their own country. The poll shows that not going to college makes one more likely to be proud of the U.S. I’m not surprised.
  • The “deplorables” narrative regarding the election of President Trump, which has been pushed by the news media as well as the educational community, Democrats and “the resistance.” I didn’t vote for Trump, nor am I happy to have someone with his massive character flaws in the White House, but his election showed how vigorous our democracy is. It proves that U.S. citizens are not placid sheep, easily manipulated by the news media, and that eventually smug elites who broadcast their contempt for regular citizens and continually pat the public on the head to say, “Now, now, we know best, and if you don’t think so, you’re a racist, sexist, xenophobic bigot!” will go too far, and get a well-deserved thumb in the eye. That thumb was Donald Trump, and the willingness to poke it is the American spirit. I am extremely proud that spirit still flourishes despite all the efforts to extinguish it.

In that Harvard-Harris poll noted in a previous post, 53% of Democrats polled said that any illegal immigrant who  makes it to America’s borders should be allowed to stay. That’s a position that is completely indefensible, except perhaps with proof of a closed head injury. What kind of law holds that one shouldn’t break it, but if you do, then bygones should be bygones?

The Left’s support of open borders, as recently displayed by demands that ICE be abolished is one of the most irresponsible, irrational, intellectually dishonest and self-evidently mad delusion in recorded history, right up there with universal disarmament and world communism. Get well quick, Democrats.

5. No, ma’am, YOU’RE the jerk.  Just like Maxine Waters. A woman named Kristin Mink decided that EPA administrator Scott Pruitt doesn’t have the same rights as every other citizen to dine unharassed in a public place, so she accosted him in a restaurant in Washington, D,C, in a confrontation that was posted on Facebook. “I would urge you to resign before your scandals push you out,” she said in conclusion. Mink hauled her infant along with her to ensure that Pruitt couldn’t even tell her to get out of his face–that “kids as human shields” tactic that the Left now employs with gusto.

“We deserve to have someone at the EPA who actually does protect our environment; someone who actually does believe in climate change and actually takes it seriously for the benefit of all of us, including our children,” Mink said as Pruitt stared back at her. That’s a perfectly valid opinion, and she can express it online, in a blog post, or in letters to editors and members of Congress. She does not have the right to prevent an official from enjoying his meal, and again I am disgusted that nobody, including the restaurant staff, had the integrity and guts to intervene. Please, God, let me be in a restaurant when someone pulls this kind of stunt!

The jerk, and she is a jerk, wrote later that Pruitt was “cowardly” for not engaging with her, and that citizens have a “responsibility” to confront “unethical” and “immoral” officials whenever they encounter them. Wrong. Someone believes that every official is unethical or immoral, and what Mink is calling for is open-season on all public servants, making such service dangerous, unpleasant, and impossible. Such a position requires a complete rejection of the Golden Rule.

As it happens, Pruitt IS unethical, and should resign. That doesn’t change the fact that he has a right to dine out without being accosted by Maxine Waters’ newly recruited bullies and thus.

28 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/3/2018: Remember Pickett’s Charge! Edition [UPDATED]

  1. 6. It isn’t just officials, its supporters as well. A while ago there was a story about a Kent State grad who had pictures with her AR-15. She was recently harassed too. The harasser pentioned twitter followers to pay her $50 to punch her. I don’t think that would have lasted long.

    Also, I don’t know if you saw it, but Rachel Dolezal was sentenced for fraud. Seems ironic.

  2. #6 When will the eco-terrorists and plane hijackers of the 60-70’s going to make a comeback? Seems like the environment is ripe for such “activism”. But seriously, maybe this a Republican false flag operation, to make everybody harass public servants, so less people want to go into public service and thus the govt will shrink, less bureaucrats, less bloat, so on and so far. This must be the 3D chess everyone speaks so highly of! Boy, I hope the Dems have any toes or feet left come election time, because they are in overdrive in shooting their feet with .50 cal rounds.

  3. I think Aleksei has it right, but I’ve also mentioned the possible return of that kind of terrorism. Tell us, Jack, you’re out to dinner in the Warehouse and you look over, lo and behold, Jeff Sessions, his wife, their daughter, naval officer SIL (he’s actually a submarine captain) and grandchildren are there having dinner. Out of nowhere, four or five people accost them, telling him he’s this, he’s that, he ought to be ashamed of himself. No one else says a word. What do you say or do?

    • I get up, walk over, and tell the jerks to let the group eat and peace. Then I call out for the restaurant staff to do its job, pointing out that the disturbance is interfering with MY meal as well. Next I entreaty other onlookers to stand up for basic principles and the Golden Rule.

      I am DYING for this to happen., somewhere, with someone. If it’s me, even better.

      • Then Jack would get media coverage as the one brave citizen who stood up for what’s right, he would be invited to some news channels for interviews, EA readership explodes, get invited to White House to give an ethics talk. That would be great moral luck if it were to happen! I will consult with my Voodoo doctor on how to increase the probability of such an occurrence.

        • If you’d been paying attention lately, you’d know that it would be far more likely that most media coverage of such a scenario would label Jack as an “angry white male Trump supporter” for coming to the diners’ defense in that scenario. Probably with a carefully-edited 2-second video loop that makes him look as bad as possible.

  4. Scott Pruitt is probably the biggest disappointment of all Trump’s appointees. He’s a lawyer. He should know something about the appearance of impropriety, at a minimum. I loved him for suing the EPA over CO2 being deemed a pollutant under the Environmental Protection Act. Now he’s just a distraction and a dumpster fire.

  5. There are what are known as military virtues and they are not necessarily the same for soldiers as civilians. After all, a sensible army wouldn’t have made Pickett’s Charge — these were veterans and they knew that eight or nine times out of ten, such a charge failed abysmally during the Civil War, e.g. Fredericksburg or Cold Harbor.

    On the other hand, that tenth time — in that war — it did succeed, e.g. Missionary Ridge. As you say, had George Custer and his cavalry not foiled the other component of Lee’s plan that day, who knows what might have happened? But he did and the Confederates did not succeed and Lee’s army was never quite the same afterwards.

    One of the really amazing aspects of Pickett’s charge is that there were actually troops who made it across all that killing ground and came to grips in hand-to-hand fighting with the American defenders. Only a relative handful and only briefly, but still . . .

    • Custer happened upon Forrest as Forrest was moving to turn the Union flank, and initiated a headlong mounted attack even though grossly outnumbered. Ebb and flow followed…. Custer eventually breaking the Confederate maneuver. Based on numbers, Custer’s decision was folly.

      Those beaches in western France in 1944 defied reason. And then, today no less, so is the idea of “jumping out of a perfectly good airplane”.

      Note: it was my research to confirm Custer’s work at Gettysburg that led me to this site… Google showed Jack’s post regarding the ethics of Custer’s behavior. That was more years ago than I can accurately recall.

      • “jumping out of a perfectly good airplane”

        Reminds me of a time long ago, in a place not so far away, when a certain young Army corporal had occasion to ride in the venerable C-130, out of which paratroopers sometimes jump. This particular old bird was operated by the Texas Air Guard, who have a very cavalier attitude toward Army grunts of any sort.

        The young man noticed many leaks and repairs with an overtly ‘makeshift’ look about them, one of which had quite a puddle of some unidentifiable muddy liquid forming on the deck. Mildly alarmed, he ventured to bring this an old Texas Air Guard sergeant’s attention. “Son, there is nothing to worry about if you see leaking: now if you DON’T see it leaking, worry, as that means we have run out of whatever was supposed to be in that system.”

        At which point the young recruit learned the truth about paratroopers: sometimes it is not a ‘perfectly good airplane’ one is jumping out of.

        • On a particularly bumpy ride to the drop zone, where it seemed the pilots had most recently rated in the cockpit of a roller coaster, our jump master stood us up and shuffled us to the door. The 1st man out got to see ground straight below him as the pilot, humorous fellow, thought such a maneuver to be exhilarating. This jump, was an equipment jump, meaning we were laden with 80 pound ruck sacks, and rifle cases. Worse for the guys jumping the mortar tubes.

          We flew about 20 minutes to the drop zone, and stood, hooked up, for what seemed to be another 20 minutes. In the Louisiana summer, it had to have been pushing 100+ degrees.

          As we lined up on the DZ, occasional bumps, throwing us off balance, I could see out a window we were about at the line that the light would go green.

          Suddenly the jump masters and safeties began yelling at us to go sit back down.

          After our equally toilsome flight back and landing on the tarmac, we disembarked the plane and huddled around the jump-masters.

          “So the pilots told us we couldn’t jump because there was an engine fire and so we had to land…”

          Us: “wait…we were over the Drop Zone and a fire was imperiling the plane….?”

          Them: “yes…”

          Us: “So why didn’t we exit the plane then?”

        • And slick, I suspect that you know as well as I do, it would matter to them not at all. My oldest son was an Airborne Ranger, Full of Blood and Guts and Danger.

  6. Regarding item #2 –
    Alienating white voters is death to the Democrat party. If white people EVER start voting with any kind of solidarity that black voters do, the Democrats will never win anything more than minority districts.

  7. 1. Note that Lee’s acceptance of blame likely lengthened to Civil War, as personal loyalty and spirit kept the Confederate Army fighting long past all reasonable expectations.

    2. Gee, tell people they are terrible, and there is nothing they can do about it, and they might not support you. They might also decide to embrace your worst fears about them. ‘Then let us be evil’

    3. So much of science… is just partisan hackery. Make sure to only pay the scientists who produce the fake facts you wish to support, and you get to where we are today. Both sides have done this in the past, but the progressives have refined this tactic to a keen edge the past decade. Then arrogance sets in, and they get caught cheating, as they have.

    4. Please let the recent trend define the Democrats nationwide, as they are going on the record with their true beliefs. The mask is slipping, and at a time when common Americans are paying attention. Such is the stuff of a major turning point in a nation’s history.

    5. There was no 5

    6. Lets just make this standard policy, and use it on the Left’s public servants. I am sure they will enforce this behavior. Lefty better reign in the wingjobs, cuz the new right is learning fast.

  8. Re: #’s 2, 3, 4, & (now) 5
    It will be interesting to see how much the #WalkAway movement takes off. May not be a direct benefit to the Republicans, but could be very damaging to the Dems.

    Also, I think you have a secret “don’t” just before “understand” on #3 😉

  9. Re; Peer review.

    There are thousands of “peer reviewed journals” on known blacklists that are vanity press publications.

    A few moment’s searching would determine if any academic article is actually from a genuine journal, or from one of the many fakes based out of warehouses in Mumbai, Nigeria or the UAE.

    The more political the issue, the higher the chance the author paid money for it to be published in one of these bogus journals, in the expectation that it will be quoted as genuine in political articles by those of like mind.

    These “journals” have usually got similar names to genuine ones. For example, LexisPublisher is a vanity press outfit operated from Tehran.


    Academia can do nothing to stem the flood of such bogus publications, but it can and does warn students about them, so the only victims are those outside Academe – or the incompetent, but that’s genuinely rare.

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