Category Archives: Government & Politics

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/20/17

Good Morning, everyone!

Good Morning, General!

Good morning, Traveler!

1. Sensing that there is now a new approach to undermining Donald Trump’s presidency with propaganda, today’s New York Times Sunday Review sports a front page almost completely occupied with a giant graphic of the President’s head without a face. In place of a face is a photo of the Charlottesville torchlight demonstration. suggesting that he approved of the demonstration and its primary participants’ white supremacy views. This is a complete lie, of course, and meets the definition of Anti-Trump porn. The rest of the supplement follows the front page’s tone.

2. An impeachment and conviction of President Trump absent the kind of offenses the Constitution specifies would be nothing less than a coup, and an illegal over-turning of an election for partisan gain. Please observe the individuals, professionals, pundits and elected officials advocating this: they are the ones treading close to treason, defined as “the crime of betraying one’s country, especially by attempting to…overthrow the government.”

3. Of course, the cowardly, chaotic and anarchistic juveniles calling themselves “Anonymous”—you can’t get more chicken that that—are all-in with the phony impeachment drive, and have published what it says are the private cell phone numbers of 22 GOP Congressmen to bully them into supporting the movement. I would give you a link, but the one sent to me has crashed my browser twice: apparently a story about Anonymous even makes my computer throw-up.

4. Then there is this Incompetent Elected Official, Democratic Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen, who announced this week that he will introduce articles of impeachment against President Trump “based on his defense of the white supremacists who participated in a deadly rally in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend.” While we’re at it, let’s call out The Hill for that slanted and misleading description.

First Cohen, who said,

“Instead of unequivocally condemning hateful actions by neo-Nazis, white nationalists and Klansmen following a national tragedy, the President said ‘there were very fine people on both sides.’ There are no good Nazis. There are no good Klansmen.”

Cohen is a simple-minded ignoramus with the historical perspective of a lump of granite, and you can quote me. Sure there were good Nazis. Is he really claiming that every German citizen who didn’t have the courage to risk liquidation by defying Hitler was evil? That every child indoctrinated in Hitler youth groups were beyond redemption? Here’s a good Nazi: Henri Salmide. Here’s another: Albert Goering.

And wait, didn’t Stephen Spielberg direct a movie about another good Nazi, one who is honored in the Holocaust Museum here in D.C.? I’m sure I recall something about that. Huh. I’m sure the name will come to me.

There have been good Klansmen too. Legendary Democratic Senator Robert Byrd was once a member of the Klan. So was Hugo Black, one of the greatest judicial minds ever to enhance the Supreme Court.  Yes, and even Harry Truman, a much-admired Democratic President, found it politically expedient at one point in his career to join the Klan.

Is Cohen ignorant and stupid, or does he just want to make sure Democratic voters who believe their elected representatives are ignorant and stupid? Those attempting to benefit politically by dividing the nation and sowing discord want to represent every issue as black and white, good and evil, with no acknowledgement that there are important nuances to consider. Cohen is an especially nauseating example, arguing that if a President doesn’t accept misleading progressive half-truths and jump through the hoops they set set up, he is a criminal. Nor can Cohen defend his double standard, embraced wholeheartedly by the anti-Trump’s gotcha! brigade, that if you march with the white nationalists against the purging of American history (which should be marched against, as it is ethically despicable) you are innately  bad, but if you march with hooded, violent thugs of the antifa movement in favor of Soviet-style historical editing and in an attempt to silence protected speech, you can still be the salt of the earth.

Nor can anyone.

5. Ah, yes, the Hill. It described the President’s remarks as a “defense of the white supremacists.” In fact, Trump never defended white supremacy. He defended the cause they claimed to be marching for, which was allowing Robert E. Lee’s statue to stand.  I also defend that cause, as well as the right of anyone to march in protest against the current orgy of statute-toppling, that virtuous activity that sometimes must be undertaken in the dead of night. Moreover, the Hill says that one side”participated in a deadly rally in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend,” as if there was not another side that also participated, one that included hooded individuals intending violence…or perhaps the hood were to hide bad cases of acne. This was exactly why it was appropriate for the President to level blame on both the demonstrators and the counter-demonstrators.

As always of late, the news media, like Cohen, wants to keep the public misled and divided.

_______________________

Pointer: Neil Dorr

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Accumulated Ethics Notes On The Charlottesville Riots, The Statue-Toppling Orgy and The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck, Part 2 Of 3: Amy Alkon Loses Her Mind

Part One is here.

Perhaps the scariest capitulation to the Confederate statue hysteria is Amy Alkon, the usually astute and level-headed blogger, advice columnist and political correctness foe (her book is called “Good Manners For People Who Sometimes Say Fuck“). I often quote her and cite her blog, which in some ways is similar to Ethics Alarms.  Tragically, this issue has both lobotomized and hypocritized her:

Not “Foolish” To Remove Confederate Statues From Public Squares — It’s What We Do To Be Decent Human Beings And Fellow Americans To Black Americans

That “so foolish” remark is how the President put it — and, as usual — as John McWhorter pointed out on CNN, it comes from an impulse appropriate to a 12-year-old boy.

There’s the argument some are dragging out that Jefferson owned slaves (so shouldn’t we yank his statues and pictures, too?). I’m disgusted by that; however, it’s a side note to what he was to this country — to all he gave to this country. So, no, I’m not for going around the country and doing searching background checks on all the subjects of monuments and pulling them down.

Having monuments to confederate leaders in public squares, however, is like naming a school “Hitler Junior High.”

It’s a horrible slap in the face to black citizens and it makes me sadder than any of the stuff that we’ve seen in the news lately.

Yes, disgustingly, people are actually fighting to have monuments up that glorify people who believed blacks to be inferior and fought to the death to protect that view and the shameful capture and enslavement of other human beings that went with it….

What? What hysterical, historically ignorant social justice warrior has a cocked gun at Amy’s head, making her type crap like this? Let’s see:

1. It is foolish…short sighted, destructive, presentist, hysterical, knee-jerk—to remove “Confederate statues” by which Suddenly Stupid Amy really means “Individuals who at some point in their career performed bravely or ingeniously in the Confederate army, or on the side the Confederacy.” Are monuments to President John Tyler, who served in the Confederate cabinet, Confederate monuments? Tyler is the one who decided that the Vice President should become President, not just acting-President, when a President dies in office. I’ve visited his home in Virginia; we honor him on President’s Day.

If Tyler hadn’t made his stand for the continuity of government, Lyndon Baines Johnson, the masterful liberal Democrat who moved heaven and earth to pass the Civil Rights Act, would almost surely never have been President at all. Every American should raise their eyes heavenward in thanks to Tyler’s statues and monuments, especially African Americans. Were his honors raised to emphasize Jim Crow? Hardly. Jefferson Davis was a distinguished statesman based on his public service before the civil war, just as Pete Rose was a record-setting baseball player before he got himself thrown out of baseball for gambling. Pete’s statue is justified for his on-field achievements, just as Davis’s honors can be justified by his that had nothing to do with the Confederacy.

2.The President’s words are typical of a twelve-year old. Those criticizing him for properly standing up for his nation’s historical record, complex human beings and major figures in our history who are not just good or bad but an amalgam of influences, upbringing, the times and regions in which they lived and the circumstances under which they made crucial choices, and for seeing immediately the perils of forced cultural amnesia may be more articulate—it isn’t hard—but have failed a test of citizenship that he has passed with flying colors.

3. The fact that Thomas Jefferson was not only a slaveholder but one who repeatedly raped a slave who did not have the power to say “no” while he was extolling her “inalienable rights” is no “side issue.” How breezily Alkon, a fierce feminist, abandons her values so she can oppose Donald Trump!

Yechh.

Alkon is taking the “No True Scotsman” fallacy in her teeth. “We must pull down the statues and memorials of supporters of slavery because they are insults to African Americans, but Jefferson isn’t really a supporter of slavery.” No, he was also a moral coward, a liar, a thief, and perhaps the biggest hypocrite in American history.  Forced to choose, I’ll take Robert E. Lee over Jefferson for character every time. However, Tom wrote our mission statement as a nation, defined our values in his words (though not his conduct), and managed to pull off the Louisiana Purchase.

Those achievements are worth every honor we have given him. The thesis behind the statue assault, however, is that only the bad stuff recognized in hindsight matters. Amy’s rebuttal to those who rightly recognize the unethical nature of that assertion consists of shouting “That’s ridiculous!” She doesn’t have a legitimate rebuttal. There isn’t one. Continue reading

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Accumulated Ethics Notes On The Charlottesville Riots, The Statue-Toppling Orgy and The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck, Part One

As an introduction, I have to say that this episode, which has quickly turned into an ethics train wreck of sweeping and perhaps catastrophic proportions, frightens me as few issues do. It has become a danger to free speech, to cultural diversity, to liberty, education, historical fairness, cultural cohesion and  common sense. It appears to be the metastasis of all the demonizing rhetoric, self-righteous pandering and virtue-signaling, and totalitarian-minded efforts to remold the past in order to control the future. The level of contempt, hate and intimidation being focused on those who—like me—are attempting to keep the issues in perspective by analyzing complex and emotional ethical components in context is causing the fervor involved to approach  that of unthinking mobs. The damage done by the worst mobs of the past, however, were mostly confined to a restricted region, or, like The Terror in France or the Red Scare here, were immediately repudiated one the fever broke. I’m not sure that this fever will break, at least not before it breaks us. It is the perfect storm of self-righteous fanaticism, as the anti-Trump hysteria collides with Obama era race-baiting and victim-mongering, both of which have run head on into the mania for air-brushing history to remove any mention of events, movements, attitudes or human beings that “trigger” the perpetually outraged of today.

Social media has magnified the intensity of this already deadly storm, by allowing once intelligent people to throttle their brains and judgment into mush by confining their consideration of the issues to partisan echo chambers. Daily, I am embarrassed and horrified by what I read on Facebook by people who I know—I KNOW—are capable of competent critical thought but who have completely abandoned it to be on the “right” side, where facile, half-truths and lazy conclusions are greeted by a myriad “thumbs up” and “hearts.”

And I am angry–contrary to popular opinion, I’m not usually emotionally involved in the issues I write about; like Jessica Rabbit, who isn’t really bad (she’s just drawn that way), I’m not usually as intense as I seem. I just write that way—that I am so tangential and impotent that what see so clearly has little persuasive power at all, because I’ve frittered away my opportunities to be influential in a thousand ways.

I have never allowed futility to stop me, though, because I have spent a lifetime banging my head against walls.

Here are the ethics observations I’ve been accumulating since the first torches were lit in Charlotte:

  • Please watch this video, from Ken Burn’s “The Civil War”:

I was moved when I first saw this, which was in the documentary’s final chapter, and I am moved still. The old Union soldiers moaned when they saw the men who had tried to kill them, and who had killed their friends and comrades, re-enacting their desperate open field march into deadly artillery. Then they dropped their arms and met their former foes, and embraced them.

These men didn’t think of the former Confederates as traitors, or racists, or slavery advocates. They, like the Union veterans, were just men of their times, caught up in a great political and human rights conflict that came too fast and too furiously for any of them to manage. They were caught in the same, violent maelstrom, and knew it even 50 years earlier. Soldiers on both side wrote how they admired the courage of the enemy combatants they were killing, because they knew they were, in all the ways that mattered, just like them. It was the Golden Rule.  After the war, these soldiers who had faced death at the hands of these same generals, officers and troops, did not begrudge them the honor of their statues and memorials, nor their families pride in the bravery of their loved ones.

Yet now,  self-righteous social justice censors who never took up arms for any cause and in many cases never would, employ their pitifully inadequate knowledge of history to proclaim all the Civil War’s combatants on the losing side as racists and traitors, and decree that they should be hidden from future generations in shame. We have honored men and women for the good that they represent, not the mistakes, sins and misconduct that are usually the product of the times and values in which they lived. In doing so, we leave clues, memories, controversies, differing vews, and stories for new generations to consider and better understand their own culture and society, and how it came to be what it is.

Those who want to tear down monuments to the imperfect, whether they know it or not, are impeding knowledge, perspective, wisdom, and understanding. They want only one view of history, because they will only tolerate one that advances their ideology and values—just as the Americans of the past believed in their values. Foolishly, I suppose, they trusted future generations to act on their own ethical enlightenment without corrupting the historical record. Continue reading

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From The “Grandstanding Ingratitude” Files…Ethics Dunce: Boston Red Sox Owner John Henry

Ah, Ethics Alarms heaven! The statue-toppling mania issue has collided with the Boston Red Sox, just two days after my pilgrimage to Fenway Park!

ESPN reported yesterday that Red Sox owner John Henry wants Boston to change the name of  the street that borders the legendary park, Yawkey Way, and he is trying to exploit the   current political correctness mania that has cities pulling down statues of war heroes in the dead of night to accomplish his goal.

That’s my characterization, of course, not ESPN’s.

Henry told the Boston Herald that he is “haunted” by the racist legacy of previous owner Tom Yawkey, who led the team from 1933 to 1976. Because he is haunted, he thinks that it is fair and right that the man who beyond question saved the team, ran it as a Boston institution and public utility, and is as responsible as anyone for the fact that Henry owns one of the prestige franchises in all of sports, should be dishonored and shunned because he wasn’t enlightened about civil rights long before Martin Luther King began marching.

Such disgraceful moral grandstanding and self-righteous ingratitude is seldom seen. But I guess if anyone should be able to grandstand, its someone who owns a baseball park.

For those who mock the idea that the desecration of Robert E. Lee’s statues leads directly to George Washington, now hear this; for the Boston Red Sox, Tom Yawkey is George Washington.

The only owner any one remembered before Tom Yawkee bought the team was Harry Frazee, consigned to Beantown Hell for selling Babe Ruth (and many other stars) to the New York Yankees in 1919. From that moment on, the team was a perennial loser, often in last place, while New York won pennant after pennant and sneered at its proud rival on the Bay. In 1933,

Tom Yawkey , a lumber tycoon and baseball enthusiast, bought the team and poured money and love into it, buying other team’s stars (Left Grove, Joe Cronin, Jimmy Foxx) and turning the team into worthy challenger to the Yankees.  From the beginning, Yawkey paid no  attention to the bottom line as he tried to build a champion out of the franchise, or as he put it, “to bring a championship back to the fans of Boston.” This was during a period when teams had permanent control over player contracts, and most owners used that leverage to pay players pathetic wages. Not Tom Yawkee. He was criticized for over-paying players–hilarious now, when we’re talking about his paying a utility infielder $15,000 when others of his ilk were making just $8,000, and current utility players make a couple million dollars a season. Sportswriters in Boston called the Red Sox a country club, and blamed Yawkee for “falling in love with his players.” In 1960, Ted Williams had to ask Yawkey to cut his salary, because he felt embarrassed after a bad year, his only one.

Was Yawkey a racist? He was born in 1903, and grew up during the Wilson Administration, when Jim Crow really took of. Sure he was a racist, along with about 95% of the whites in the nation.  Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-up: 8/18/17

Good Morning, Ethics Alarms Readers!!!!

1. I am so aggravated, offended and frankly frightened over how the Charlottesville politically-correct spin has been injected into the public’s brain by the familiar unholy alliance of the free speech-hostile left, the Soviet-emulating historical air-brushers, cowardly scholars and, of course, our impulsive and inarticulate President, that it is difficult for me to focus on anything else. As Billy Bigalow sings in “Carousel,” though, “I’ll try, by God, I’ll try…”

2.  Wolf Blitzer actually asked, on the air, whether the Barcelona terror attack was inspired by James Field’s homicide-by-auto in Charlottesville. I swear, this isn’t a Charlottesville commentary but a “How incredibly stupid does a journalist have to be before the public and his employers send him off to work at a bait shop?”  commentary. Is this some sinister effort to blame Robert E. Lee for terrorism in Barcelona? There have been  eight jihadi car-ramming terror attacks this year alone! Why in the world would a Spanish terrorist look to James Field’s for inspiration? Why would Wolf Blitzer even ask such a blitheringly idiotic question? How can we respect of trust major news media when it can behave like this?

As Ann Althouse wrote last week about a Washington Post story:

This is the kind of newspaper article I’m looking for, detailing what happened in Charlottesville, and I wish I felt more confidence that The Washington Post would tell it straight. Maybe this is straight, but how can I know? What trust has been shot to hell in the last few years of journalism! I’m still reading this, because it’s the closest I’ve come to the kind of careful report I want.

For me, once a major network anchor displays the utter stupidity (or contempt for the intelligence of its viewers) that Wolf’s speculation constitutes, I have enough information to never trust that news source….not that I didn’t already have sufficient justification for that conclusion.

3. I have come to the conclusion that all polls are inherently misleading, and those who cite poll results to justify or condemn policy decisions or initiatives are themselves untrustworthy. First of all, the polls reflect apples, oranges,  mangos and walnuts but treat them as if they are the same. When a majority of the public, for example, disapproves of Congress according to a poll, what does that mean? It means that some who disapprove do so because Congress is too conservative, while others regard it as not conservative enough. Since the two components of that disapproval diametrically oppose each other’s standards, the poll provides no genuine guidance or illumination. Such polls are also misleading because there is no way of knowing  how many of those polled are informed regarding the issues and legislative matters beyond reading headlines or watching Stephen Colbert. I don’t care what ignorant people think about things they haven’t bothered to think about, and neither should the news media or elected officials.  All polls should include the category, “I really haven’t studied this issue enough to have anything but a gut-level opinion.” “Don’t know/No opinion” is not the same thing. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-up: 8/17/17

Good Morning!

1. I got back late last night from my pilgrimage to say thanks to the Impossible Dream team, and now I’m on my way out to teach an ethics seminar for D.C. government attorneys. I haven’t caught up with the comments yet; I’m sorry. Things should be back to normal hear by this afternoon. Here are the surviving members of that 1967 Red Sox team that changed my life:

Incredibly, the Red Sox barely promoted the event, and had no memorabilia, not even a T-shirt, available at the souvenir stands. I asked one of the sales people, who said the team had given them nothing, figuring that the typical fan was too young to remember or care.

And people wonder why I object to tearing down statues…

2. …which the unethical Mayor of Baltimore ordered to be done yesterday in the dead of night. From the Times:

It was “in the best interest of my city,” Mayor Catherine Pugh said Wednesday, as she explained why she ordered Confederate monuments removed under the cover of darkness, days after violence broke out during a rally against the removal of a similar monument in neighboring Virginia.

“I said with the climate of this nation,” Ms. Pugh said later, “that I think it’s very important that we move quickly and quietly.”

With no immediate public notice, no fund-raising, and no plan for a permanent location for the monuments once they had been excised — all things city officials once believed they would need — the mayor watched in the wee hours on Wednesday as contractors with cranes protected by a contingent of police officers lifted the monuments from their pedestals and rolled them away on flatbed trucks…

David Goldfield, a professor of history who studies Confederate symbols at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, said the removal of the monuments in Baltimore was likely to be part of a “rolling cascade” of cities and states ridding themselves of, or at least relocating, similar statues.

”You’re going to see another wave of these removals.” Mr. Goldfield said. “The fact that it’s done fairly expeditiously is not surprising because if you do it quickly the opposition can’t build up, and the confrontations that we’ve had, not only in Charlottesville but elsewhere, will not materialize.”

By all means, move quickly and without notice or due process so lawful protests and expressions of public opinion “can’t build up.” “It was in the best interests” is such a versatile rationalization for unilateral government action.

Democracies don’t undertake controversial actions in the night. Dictatorships do. Pugh and others nascent fascist of the left are as responsible for “the climate of this nation” as much or more than anyone else, and now want to exploit the dangers of that climate to stifle dissent.

Perfect. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-up: 8/16/17

GOOD MORNING!

1. I’m heading to Boston and Fenway Park in a few hours to meet with two of my high school classmates and together pay our respects to the 1967 Boston Red Sox, the spiritual beginning of Red Sox Nation, and a group of men, then barely more than boys, who had as profound an effect on my life and view of it as anything I have ever experienced.

It’s the 50th Anniversary of that amazing team and the heart-stopping pennant race it won against all odds, in a four team race that came down to the final game of the regular season. I mean heart-stopping literally: the team wasn’t called “The Cardiac Kids” for nothing. TWO of my father’s colleagues at the Boston Five Savings Bank died of heart attacks while attending Red Sox games, during one of the 9th inning desperation rallies for which the team was famous. The only reason I didn’t perish in like fashion is because I was just 16 years old.

Why was this team, and that summer 50 years ago, so important to me? I don’t have time or space to answer that question well, and you’d probably wonder what I was babbling on about anyway. A 2017 film by Major League Baseball called “The Impossible Dream” does a fair job of explaining it, but it’s too short to do the job right.

I had listened to, watched or attended every Boston Red Sox game for five years, as the team lost and lost. From those bad teams, followed weakly by the city in those days, in a crumbling old park that seemed destined to be abandoned and torn down, I learned that winning wasn’t everything, that loyalty wasn’t easy, that Hemingway was right, and that baseball was about courage, humility, perseverance, doing your job every day, sacrifice, and hope, as well as usually losing at the end. That summer of 1967 taught me that hope is worth the effort even though hope is usually dashed by the ice water of reality, that you should never give up, that miracles do happen, and that nothing is as wonderful as when a community is united in a single, inspirational goal, no matter what that goal might be…and that you should never be afraid to give everything you have in pursuit of a mission, even when it is likely that you will fail.

I learned difficult, discouraging lessons, too. When an errant pitch hit Red Sox right-fielder Tony Conigliaro in the face on August 18, 1967, it was the beginning of a lesson that revealed its tragic last chapter 23 years later. That one taught me that life is horribly, frightening unpredictable, and that we envy others at our peril. It taught me that we need to do what we can to accomplish as much good as we can as quickly as we can, because we may lose our chance forever at any moment.

Tony C, as he was and is known as, was a beautiful, charismatic, local kid, the idol of Boston’s huge Italian-American community,  in his fourth season with his home town team at the age of 22. He dated movie stars; he recorded pop songs; he had a natural flair of the dramatic, and was destined for the Hall of Fame. One pitch took it all away. Although he had two comebacks and played two full seasons facing major league fastballs with a hole in his retina and his field of vision, Tony was never the same. After his final attempt to keep playing failed at the age of 30, he became a broadcaster, and at 37 was seemingly on the way to stardom again in 1982 when he suffered a massive, inexplicable heart attack—Tony  did not smoke, and had no family history of heart problems– that left him brain damaged until his death in 1990.

As Henry Wiggin, the star pitcher protagonist of the novel, play and movie “Bang the Drum Slowly” observes as he  reflects on the death of his catcher and roommate, everyone is dying, and we have to remember to be good to each other. But it’s so hard. Ethics is hard. The ethics alarms ring faintly when we are about the task of living, or not at all…

At the end of the story, the narrator, the best friend of the catcher (but not really that close a friend) recalls how quickly everyone on the baseball team went back to their selfish ways after their teammate went home to die Even the narrator, who was the leader of the effort to make the catcher feel loved and appreciated in his last days, ruefully recalls his own failing. The catcher had asked him a favor, just to send him a World Series program (the team won the pennant after he had become too ill to play), and he had forgotten to mail it until it was too late. How hard would it have been, the narrator rebukes himself, to just put it in an envelope and mail it? Why are we like that, he wonders?

1967 was the beginning of my exploration of that mystery too.

So I am going to Boston for the 30 minute ceremony. I can’t even stay for the game; I have a seminar to teach tomorrow morning, and the last flight out of Logan is at 9 PM. There will probably be just a small contingent from the Cardiac Kids: most of them are dead now, or too infirm even to walk onto the field. But Yaz will be there, and Gentleman Jim Lonborg; Rico Petrocelli, Mike Andrews, and maybe even Hawk Harrelson  and Reggie Smith. I will be there to say thank-you, that’s all.

And to show that I remember. Continue reading

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