How Sloppy (Or Dishonest) Historical Research Can Deceive For Decades: The Daniel “Doc” Adams Affair

AdamsDoc

While we’re on the topic of “disinformation”….

Let’s have a show of hands, shall we? How many of you think that Civil War General Abner Doubleday invented baseball? Let’s see, one…two...thirty four…wow, that’s still a lot, especially since Doubleday’s connection to the game was thoroughly debunked almost a century ago and there is no evidence that he ever claimed any credit for the development of the game. Nevertheless, a commission appointed in 1905 to determine the origin of baseball announced in1907 that “the first scheme for playing baseball, according to the best evidence obtainable to date, was devised by Abner Doubleday at Cooperstown, New York, in 1839.”

We now know—well, some of us know—that the “best evidence” was, to put it technically, crap. Abner wasn’t much of a general either.

OK, now those who have heard of “Doc” Adams ( 1814 – 1899) and know he was one of the major contributors to the invention of baseball as it is played today raise your hands. One..one? That’s all? Documents show that all Adams did—he was an early baseball player and later a league executive who oversaw writing “The Laws of Baseball”—was to establish the distance between bases at 90 feet apart, settle the length of a game at 9 innings and define a baseball team as nine players rather than eight, ten or eleven. He also invented the position of “shortstop.”

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Ethics Hero Emeritus: Rose Valland (1898-1980)

Rose-Valland

The remarkable 2008 documentary “The Rape of Europa” tells the story of the Nazi plundering of fine art across Europe. It is full of many accounts of heroism, none more impressive than that of Rose Villand, a meek-looking librarian out of central casting, who is as perfect and example of how ordinary people can rise to extraordinary levels of courage and innovation in times of crisis.

Rose Valland was born in Saint-Étienne-de-Saint-Geoirs, France on November 1, 1898. She earned two degrees in the arts from the École des Beaux-Arts in Lyon and also studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, then added degrees in art history from both the École du Louvre and the Sorbonne. Her academic credentials, however, did not immediately advance her career, as Valland began work at the Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris as an unpaid volunteer.

In October 1940, during the Occupation of Paris, the Nazis commandeered the Jeu de Paume Museum and converted it into the headquarters of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, or ERR, the Nazi art looting organization created by frustrated artist Adolf Hitler. There The Nazis stored paintings and other works of art stolen from private French collectors and dealers, including thousands of works taken from Jewish-owned galleries. The museum’s collaborating curator, Andre Dézarrois, fell ill in the summer of 1941, and in a stroke of fate for civilization, Valland became the de facto director of the museum. Jacques Jaujard, Director of the French National Museums including the Louvre, gave Valland a daunting assignment: she was to use her post in the museum to spy on the Nazi art theft operation.

The Germans, as explained in “The Rape of Europa,” took scant notice of the “little mouse” of a woman who kept her head down, seldom spoke, and appeared to follow orders. They didn’t even realize that she spoke German, but under their noses she was acquiring crucial information from the conversations of drivers, guards, and packers relating to the looted art treasures…60,000 of them. Villand witnessed the frequent shopping trips of Nazi Reichsmarshal Hermann Goering as he made more than twenty separate visits to the Jeu de Paume to select works of art for Hitler’s planned Führermuseum in Linz, Austria, and his own personal collection. Possessing a remarkable memory for details, she recorded her discoveries regarding the movements, names of the victims, number of pieces and where they were going, names of the agents responsible for transfers, names of the carriers, brands of the boxes, numbers and dates of convoys,as well as the names of the artists and the dimensions of the pieces that passed before her. She relayed the information to Jaujard and the French Resistance while keeping her own meticulous records. She warned the Resistance of convoys containing important artworks so that they would be spared, all while knowing that she would be executed as a spy if her activities were discovered by the Nazis—and at least twice, they nearly caught her.

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Noon Ethics Munchies, 7/14/2021: On Cuba, Big Lies, Roy Moore, and More [Corrected]

Munchies

1. The President gets a cheap shot...Commenting on Joe Biden’s generally hysterical speech about “voter suppression,” “Bonchie” writes on the conservative blog Red State,

“Of note here is that Biden is channeling Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels by using the phrase “big lie” to disparage Republicans who have concerns about the 2020 election. Yet, despite the phrase’s murderous, anti-Semitic past, the president seems to have no problem saying it repeatedly. In doing so, he echoed CNN’s Jake Tapper and others who have also been fond of the phrase.”

There is nothing wrong with using the phrase or the description. The device was championed by both Goebbels and Hitler, and is an accurate description of a propaganda tactic, an unethical but powerful one, used by both the Right and the Left. Whether the description is used fairly in any particular case is a separate issue. “Big Lies” is a very accurate description of the assault by the “resistance”/Democratic Party/mainstream media against Donald Trump—can you think of a better one?—which is why Ethics Alarms used it here and elsewhere.

What would be fair to note is that Biden has often been an eager employer of Goebbels’ favorite trick himself…as noted in this post.

2. Does anyone understand why Democrats are trying to downplay the current Cuban protests against the Communist government? This makes no sense to me. Thousands of anti-regime protesters took to the streets across the island over the weekend, waving American flags and chanting “Freedom!” and anti-government slogans. Cuba has been a repressive Communist regime since Fidel Castro pulled his bait and switch with the U.S. in 1959, but the most extreme elements in the Democratic Party, the proto-Marxists, have always thrown Cuba metaphorical kisses, like Michael Moore. Barack Obama reversed decades of U.S. policy by opening relations with Cuba without requiring any human rights concessions in return. One would think an outbreak of democracy on the island would be viewed as a good thing, but Biden’s paid liar, Jen Psaki, absurdly explained that the reason for the protests was “concern about rising COVID cases, deaths, and medicine shortages” rather than political oppression.

While Republicans have immediately announced their support for the Cuban people, Reps. Bobby Rush (D., Ill.), Steve Cohen (D., Tenn.), Barbara Lee (D., Calif.), Gwen Moore (D., Wis.) and the more 70 members of Congress, including “The Squad,” of course, signed a letter asking Biden to lift Trump sanctions Cuba in March. They have not had any comment on the demonstrations so far.

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Unethical Quote Of The Week: Barack Obama

 

Obama portrait2“Trump is for a lot of white people what O. J.’s acquittal was to a lot of Black folks — you know it’s wrong, but it feels good.”

Barack Obama, quoted in “After the Fall,” a new book by former Obama aide Ben Rhodes

James Traub, who reviews Obama acolyte Rhodes’ book for the New York Times Book Review, calls the quote “funny” and an example of the ex-President’s “almost unearthly equanimity.” I guess that’s one way of describing it. I tend to think the quote is more evidence that Obama is a bigoted asshole.

Despite being labelled a racist by the “resistance”/Democrat/ mainstream media alliance for his entire four years in office, Donald Trump has never had any quote attributed to him as clearly racist as this one. Nor, despite being a undisputed narcissist, has Trump revealed the level of narcissism necessary to equate rejection of his policies or leadership with allowing a double murderer to escape punishment, which is what Obama literally was saying.

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Sunday Ethics Shots, 7/11/2021: A Rescue, Larry Vaughn In Tokyo, Joe Trippi Trips, And “La Bamba” Meets Calvinball

Alexander Hamilton died on this date in 1804, in a bizarre episode in U.S. history with profound ethical and political implications. There Aaron Burr fatally shot dead the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury and essential political thinker in an illegal duel at Weehawken, New Jersey. It was, of course, unethical to break the law, especially for these two men, who qualified as national leaders. Hamilton’s son had died defending his father’s honor in 1801 at the exact same spot (What was Alexander thinking?)

According to Hamilton’s “second,” Hamilton deliberately fired his weapon into the air rather than at Burr, a gentlemanly gesture and also a profoundly stupid one, if Hamilton believed half the things he had said and written about Burr’s character for years. This was why they were dueling, after all. Burr’s second claimed that Hamilton fired at Burr and missed, and the more I’ve thought abut this, the more I’ve come to believe that this is the more likely scenario. Hamilton was anything but naive, reckless or stupid. Yes, he was a crack shot, but anyone can miss. Even if the gesture of “throwing away his shot” as “Hamilton” puts it, would have impressed some adversaries and been seen as a display of mercy and an offer of reconciliation, it made no sense at all with this adversary. Moreover, Hamilton considered Burr a threat to the nation—he was right about that—why wouldn’t he shoot him? Whatever really happened, Burr, who had the second shot, killed Hamilton with a ball that went through his stomach into his spine. Hamilton died the next day.

This ended Burr’s political career: Would killing Burr have ended Hamilton’s? Probably, but Burr was the one who had issued the challenge. Maybe Hamilton would have been excused by the public. Maybe he would have ultimately become President; all the Founders of his magnitude except Ben Franklin did. For good or ill, Alexander Hamilton would have been a strong and probably transformative leader. But if he hadn’t died at Weehawken, it’s unlikely that we would have “Hamilton” the musical….

1. Baseball, hotdogs, and a bystander hero. Dr. Willie Ross, the father of Washington Nationals pitcher Joe Ross, saved the life of a choking fan midway through yesterday 10-4 Giants win over Washington at Oracle Park in San Francisco. Ross saw that a female spectator was choking, and when Ross came over to her seat to check on her, she couldn’t talk. Ross helped dislodge two pieces of a hot dog by using the Heimlich maneuver, then reached into her throat to take out the third and final piece. The woman, who is a nurse, could breath and speak at last. Ross received a standing ovation from nearby fans.

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Why Is Banning The Teaching Of Critical Race Theory In Schools Ethically Justifiable When Banning The Teaching Of Evolution Is Not?

Critical Race ban

On this, the 96th anniversary of the beginning of the Scopes Trial in 1925, let’s consider attorney Clarence Darrow’s opening statement. Here is the crux of it:

“…Along comes somebody who says ‘we have got to believe it as I believe it. It is a crime to know more than I know.’ And they publish a law to inhibit learning. This law says that it shall be a criminal offense to teach in the public schools any account of the origin of man that is in conflict with the divine account in the Bible. It makes the Bible the yardstick to measure every man’s intellect, to measure every man’s intelligence and to measure every man’s learning. Are your mathematics good? Turn to Elijah 1:2. Is your philosophy good? See II Samuel 3. Is your astronomy good? See Genesis 2:7. Is your chemistry good? See – well, chemistry, see Deuteronomy 3:6, or anything that tells about brimstone. Every bit of knowledge that the mind has must be submitted to a religious test. It is a travesty upon language, it is a travesty upon justice, it is a travesty upon the constitution to say that any citizen of Tennessee can be deprived of his rights by a legislative body in the face of the constitution.

Of course, I used to hear when I was a boy you could lead a horse to water, but you could not make him drink water. I could lead a man to water, but I could not make him drink, either. And you can close your eyes and you won’t see, cannot see, refuse to open your eyes – stick your fingers in your ears and you cannot hear – if you want to. But your life and my life and the life of every American citizen depends after all upon the tolerance and forbearance of his fellow man. If men are not tolerant, if men cannot respect each other’s opinions, if men cannot live and let live, then no man’s life is safe, no man’s life is safe.

Here is a country made up of Englishmen, Irishmen, Scotch, German, Europeans, Asiatics, Africans, men of every sort and men of every creed and men of every scientific belief. Who is going to begin this sorting out and say, “I shall measure you; I know you are a fool, or worse; I know and I have read a creed telling what I know and I will make people go to Heaven even if they don’t want to go with me. I will make them do it.” Where is the man that is wise enough to do this?

If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach it in the public school, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private school, and the next year you can make it a crime to teach it from the hustings or in the church. At the next session you may ban books and the newspapers. Soon you may set Catholic against Protestant and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the minds of men. If you can do one you can do the other. Ignorance and fanaticism are ever busy and need feeding. Always they are feeding and gloating for more. Today it is the public school teachers, tomorrow the private. The next day the preachers and the lecturers, the magazines, the books, the newspapers. After a while, Your Honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until, with flying banners and beating drums, we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted torches to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind.

As mentioned in the post earlier today, the issue of whether a state could ban the teaching of evolution was never settled in Scopes, but many years later in the Supreme Court case of Epperson v. Arkansas (1968), which struck down a state law that criminalized the teaching of evolution in public schools. Epperson, however, was narrowly decided on the basis that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits a state from requiring, in the words of the majority opinion, “that teaching and learning must be tailored to the principles or prohibitions of any religious sect or dogma.” It was not based on freedom of speech, or as Darrow termed it, “freedom of thought.” The Theory of Evolution and “Critical Race Theory” are both theories, though one is based in scientific research and the other is a product of scholarly analysis. Though the latter seems to carry the heft of religious faith in some quarters, freedom of religion is not the issue where banning critical race theory is involved. Nor, realistically speaking, is freedom of speech as Darrow describes it.

School districts, which are agents of the government, have a recognized right to oversee the content of what is taught in the public schools, within reason, and when the purpose is defensible. Teachers are not free to teach whatever they choose, though their controversial choices cannot be made criminal, just grounds for dismissal. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals made this clear in Evans-Marshall v. Bd of Ed of Tipp City Exempted Village Sch Dist. (6th Cir. 2010), a case involving a high school English teacher who was fired for using classroom assignments and materials without following the appropriate steps for approval. The court stated, “Even to the extent academic freedom, as a constitutional rule, could somehow apply to primary and secondary schools, that does not insulate a teacher’s curricular and pedagogical choices from the school board’s oversight.”

School districts still can’t define a curriculum so narrowly that it violates students’ constitutional rights. In Board of Island Trees v. Pico (U.S. 1982), the U.S. Supreme Court held that the school district could not remove books from the school library without a legitimate pedagogical reason, because doing so violated students’ free speech rights of access to information.  Districts and schools are also limited to what they can require children to study, though most cases in this realm again involve religion. However, once school districts and schools have defined a legally permissible curriculum, courts will give them broad discretion to implement it even over community and parental objections. For example:

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Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, July 10, 2021: Remembering The Unethical And Bizarre”Monkey Trial”

Scopes

Ooooh, it’s Clarence Darrow time again, and as I will show in another post shortly, this has serious, and underappreciated current day relevance.

For on this date in Dayton, Tennessee, the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial began in 1925, not only one of the most famous trials in U.S. history, but also one of the most misrepresented, misunderstood and, frankly, silly trials as well. John Thomas Scopes, a young high school science teacher, was accused of teaching evolution in violation of a new Tennessee state law which made it a misdemeanor punishable by fine to “teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.” Town officials persuaded Scopes to volunteer to get arrested for the offense, not so much to challenge the law but because alocal businessman figured out that it would put Dayton on the map. His plot succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. The American Civil Liberties Unio—-yes, they once cared about the First Amendment—announced it would defend Scopes, and hired an aging but famous Clarence Darrow to do the job, which included making sure his client was convicted, so they could appeal the verdict to the U.S. Supreme Court, where even a monkey judge would know that the Tennessee anti-evolution law was a blatant First Amendment violation.

William Jennings Bryan, the three-time Democratic presidential candidate who was seeking his fourth shot at the White House, volunteered to assist the prosecution in his guise as a fundamentalist Everyman. The Monkey Trial got underway with in-person coverage by renowned cynic H.L. Mencken and hoards of other reporters. Parts of the trial were broadcast nationally over the radio, an all-time first. Preachers set up revival tents along the city’s main street; venders sold Bibles, hot dogs and souvenirs like monkey dolls and fans to tourists. A carnival “exhibit” featuring two chimpanzees and a “missing link” opened in town: the alleged “Monkey Man” was 51-year-old Jo Viens, who was short, had a receding forehead, and whose jaw protruded like an ape. One of the chimpanzees wore a plaid suit, a brown fedora, and white spats, and periodically was allowed to run around on the courthouse lawn.

To recap, the “trial” was based on a contrived “crime” committed with the cooperation of authorities, and the defense was to make sure Scopes was convicted, not acquitted. But things got even more Bizarro World-like. At one point, Scopes told Darrow that a substitute teacher, not him, had actually taught the Darwin class, and Darrow told the teacher to shut the hell up about that rather crucial detail. When Judge John Raulston ruled that expert scientific testimony on evolution would be inadmissible, Darrow decided that his sole expert witness would be Bryan, one of the prosecutors. (No, this had never happened before and has never happened since.). Raulston ordered the trial moved to the courthouse lawn for this spectacle, fearing that the weight of the spectators and reporters inside would cause the courthouse floor to collapse.

Darrow treated Bryan as a hostile witness, though they knew each other, were both political progressives, and were both doing what they loved best, performing in front of a crowd. Popular legend holds that Darrow made a monkey out of Bryan, which was how the famous play (“Inherit the Wind”) based on the trial and its many TV and movie versions portrayed the showdown, but reading the transcript tells a different story. Bryan’s answers were cagey and clever, but he had a big problem: he knew his answers were being broadcast to potential voters who were not fundamentalists, yet he couldn’t afford to alienate the Bible-Beating jury. Darrow had no such dilemma: remember, he wanted to alienate the jury, and knew that if Bryan insisted that the Bible was literally true, “The Great Commoner” would end his political career (though it was almost certainly over anyway.) . Thus Bryan argued, for example, that God explained things in the Bible in ways that could be understood by the people of the time. For example, God obviously knew that the Earth moved around the sun, and not the other way around, but HE just said, in the Bible, that the sun “stopped,” so as not to confuse the faithful.

The weirdness got worse: in his closing speech, Darrow asked the jury to return a verdict of guilty in order that the case might be appealed. I’m pretty sure this is an abuse of process and wildly unethical: isn’t a request to be found guilty indistinguishable from a guilty plea? This tactic did have a mean consequence for poor Bryan: under Tennessee law, the admission of guilt meant Bryan couldn’t deliver the grand closing speech he had been preparing for weeks. It took eight minutes for the jury to return with a guilty verdict—why did Darrow feel he had to ask for a verdict that was pre-ordained, other than to deny Bryan his big finale?— and Raulston ordered Scopes to pay a fine of $100, the minimum the law allowed.

After all of this, the ACLU’s scheme still failed: the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the Scopes verdict, but on a procedural technicality, so the case never got to the U.S. Supreme Court at all. The constitutional issue was officially unresolved until SCOTUS overturned a similar Arkansas law.

Can you guess why this fiasco has special relevance in 2021?

Watch this space!

A “Bias Makes Professionals Stupid And Unprofessional” Update

Trump photo defaced

Perhaps the saddest aspect of the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck and the resulting mass effort to bring down Donald Trump was the corruption of virtually all of our society’s professions, and the vast majority of their members. Educators, psychiatrists, teachers, judges— journalists, of course, though they were already pretty far gone; broadcasters, of course. Entertainment professionals and performers, heaven knows (That’s the Dixie Chicks and their clever and subtle political commentary above.) In addition to theater professionals, two more of my professions have disgraced themselves: lawyers and ethicists. The listserv of a legal ethics organization I belong to was virtually cackling with joy over Rudy Giuliani’s partisan and dangerous interim suspension in New York, while the same group has been notably unenthusiastic about criticizing out-of court hyperbole by anti-Trump lawyers like the recently sentenced Michael Avenatti. (I may have missed some more balanced attention because I dropped out of the group for about 18 months in disgust over its bias.) Here is a tweet by a conservative attorney that was just offered to the group for comment on whether it raised issues of professional misconduct:

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Verdict: Feminists And Lesbians Need To Find Better Role Models And Heroes

Violette Morris

“On This Day She” is a book published this year dedicated to “the women whom [sic] time has forgotten; those who didn’t make it into the history books and those whom [sic] society failed to uphold as significant figures in their own right.” There is also a website following through on the premise of the book (and promoting it), from whence the misleading tweet above emanated. Though the book does admit to including women who engaged in “the bad” and who it deems unjustly ignored by history, the tweet above undercuts that admission. The hint is in the last sentence. Why was Morris killed by the French Resistance in 1944?

She was a Nazi, that’s why, and a traitor as well. Morris, a French citizen, sourced black-market petrol for the Nazis, ran a garage for the Luftwaffe, and drove for the Nazi and Vichy hierarchy. After Germany took over France, she worked to foil the operations of the Special Operations Executive, an English organization that aided the Resistance. Claims that she also engaged in spying activities and Nazi torture are disputed, but never mind: what she did do was sufficient to have her known as “The Hyena of the Gestapo” and sentenced to death in absentia. She was ultimately shot and killed—assassinated, to be technical— when her car was ambushed by the Resistance.

Good.

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Afternoon Ethics Clean-up, 7/5/2021: July Fifth Weirdness And “Justice”

Celebrating July 5th as a federal holiday is affirmatively strange, because not much good happened on this date. Ted Williams died on July 5, 2002, for example. In 1852, Frederick Douglass picked this date to give his “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” anti-America speech to the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society in Rochester, laying the groundwork for anti-America movements in the black community ever since. On this date in 1921, baseball began unraveling the worst scandal in U.S. professional sports, as it concluded that the 1919 World Series had been fixed by gamblers bribing the key players on the Chicago White Sox, aka “The Black Sox.” It was also the date, in 1865, that a military tribunal convicted David Herold, George Atzerodt, Lewis Payne, Mary Surratt, Michael O’Laughlin, Edward Spangler, Samuel Arnold and Dr. Samuel Mudd of “maliciously, unlawfully, and traitorously” conspiring with John Wilkes Booth and others to assassinate President Lincoln on April 14, 1865, and planning to kill General Grant, Vice President Johnson, and Secretary of State William Seward. It was one of the most unfair trials in U.S. history, despite the fact that all of the alleged conspirators were probably guilty. Herold, Atzerodt, Payne, and Surratt were executed [above].

In short, it’s not a good date for ethics.

So far…

1 Ethics Alarms has a new Ethics Villain to keep tabs on. David Cole, the ACLU Legal Director who made an ass of himself and attacked his organization’s own client by criticizing a SCOTUS decision that followed the ACLU’s position, was the main authority in a New York Times review of the Court’s just completed term. Here’s nice Cole quote: “The new court is definitely conservative, but that doesn’t mean it is necessarily hostile to civil liberties. It protected many liberties that conservatives favor, including religious liberty, property rights, free speech, the privacy of the home and the right of the wealthy to donate to charities anonymously.”

No partisan bias there! Wait, David, just what are the rights that the progressive justices protect?

2. Speaking of SCOTUS, Steve-O-in NJ asked for my opinion of this idiotic essay in The Week: “The case for ending judicial review.” It reminded me that I never finished the Ethics Alarms compendium of fake news categories, of which this is one: Fantasy Controversies. This kind of essay might as well be “The case for eliminating sex,” “The case for using flatulence to fly to the moon” or “The case for a cheese-based economy.” There is no way for Congress to stop the Court from overruling laws—Separation of Powers exemplified— it finds unconstitutional short of a Constitutional amendment, which is fantasy itself. At the end of the essay, the author concludes, ‘Well, maybe it’s not such a good idea after all.’

It is unethical to waste readers’ time.

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