John Kelly’s Statement About General Lee And The Civil War Was Fair, Benign And Accurate, And The Historians And Journalists Claiming Otherwise Have Exposed Themselves And Their Professions, Not Kelly, And Not The President

[I’m sorry: this post is long. The provocation for it is serious, however, and I couldn’t thoroughly shred this despicable media effort to make what John Kelly said yesterday something it was not and not even close to being without going over my word limit. I hope you read it. It’s hard to try to counter a concerted effort to mislead and lie to the public from this tiny outpost.]

This development yesterday really depressed me. Either the leftward professions are losing their collective minds, or they are so dedicated to turning the public against the president that they will engage in complete fabrication. Both conclusions are frightening.

Yesterday, CNN reporter April Ryan thought it was appropriate to end a White House press briefing by shouting, “Sarah, is slavery wrong? Sarah, is slavery wrong? Does this administration think that slavery was wrong? Sarah, does this administration believe slavery was wrong?” What, other than a complete absence of fairness and professionalism, provoked this unethical outburst? It was this statement by Trump Chief of Staff John Kelly, as he was interviewed by Fox News’ latest star, Laura Ingraham, regarding the The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck, specifically the Charlottesville controversy over the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. Here is Kelly’s entire statement:

“I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man.He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”

Based on that statement, April Ryan, and other hair-trigger “resistance” zealots, concluded that there was now a question whether the Trump administration “thinks slavery is wrong.”

Astounding.

But such is the dishonest and biased state of the news media today.

Let’s begin by examining the components of Kelly’s statement.

A. “I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man.”

There are no contemporary  accounts from anyone who knew Lee that he was not honorable, meaning honest, moral, ethical, and principled, the usual synonyms for honorable. I doubt Kelly was using the word in its most literal sense, “worthy of honor,” but he might have been, The argument is, and I would make it, that such traits a honesty, integrity, courage and other ethical values make any individual, famous or not, worthy of honor.

Lee was terribly, tragically wrong in his choice regarding which side to fight for during the Civil War. I am not an admirer of Lee for this reason. However, during his life there were many episodes where he exhibited exemplary character.  His immediate acceptance of responsibility for the failure of Pickett’s Charge was one, meeting his returning soldiers personally and exclaiming, “It was all my fault.” Another was his insistence that the Confederate army surrender rather than take to the hills in guerrilla resistance that might have extended the Civil War indefinitely.  Lee was flawed, and few men in history who were so admired by their contemporaries have made such a tragic mistake. That does not alter the fact that he was an honorable man.

The problem is that the modern Left does not believe that it is possible to be honorable and to not embrace the Left’s most fervently held principles, even if you lived centuries ago. This is, in part, why  our politics are so uncivil, and why partisans today show less respect to those with differing opinions on public policy than Lee and many of his generation showed to members of the enemy army who were trying to kill them.

B. “He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today.”

This is a statement of fact. Lee’s position was certainly consistent with Kelly’s statement. In some kind of magic, un-negotiated  conspiracy to take what Kelly said to mean something he emphatically did not say, one writer after another has claimed that Kelly was arguing that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery. Here, for example, is Vox:

“Though this view has long been promoted and even taught in schools around the country, there has been a new push to recognize the cause of the Civil War as rooted in a disagreement about slavery and the refusal of Southern states to give it up…”

Though what view?  Kelly wasn’t opining on the reason for the Civil War, or what was the root cause. He was talking about Robert E. Lee. Is there any question that if Virginia had decided not to secede—as of course it seceded over slavery—Lee would have fought with the Union? I have never read any historian or biographer who said otherwise. Here’s Biography.com, usually an uncontroversial distiller of historical consensus in its Lee biography:

“But Lee’s commitment to the Army was superseded by his commitment to Virginia. After turning down an offer from President Abraham Lincoln to command the Union forces, Lee resigned from the military and returned home. While Lee had misgivings about centering a war on the slavery issue, after Virginia voted to secede from the nation on April 17, 1861, Lee agreed to help lead the Confederate forces.”

That’s what Kelly said. Not every soldier thought that loyalty to state over country was the correct priority, and Kelly wasn’t saying that Lee’s position was the dominant one. It was a common one, however. 1861 was less than a hundred years after the culturally diverse Colonies came together to fight the American Revolution, and the states had been fighting over the balance of power between the federal and state governments almost non-stop ever since. Kelly was acknowledging the fact that Lee’s extreme state loyalty seems odd today, when so many citizens live in several states during their lives, and move from one to another without giving it a second thought. 150 years ago, citizen bonds to the state of their birth was a far, far greater issue, and being asked to take up arms to fight against that state would have posed a wrenching dilemma for most Americans.

That is all Kelly said. If one doesn’t understand the context of Lee’s decision to fight on the same side as the defenders of slavery, then one cannot begin to assess Lee’s status as an American figure. Anyone leaping from that statement to “the Civil War wasn’t fought over slavery” is engaging in a clinical level of confirmation bias, and that’s exactly where the attacks on Kelly are coming from. This statement, that doesn’t mention slavery, isn’t about the root cases of the Civil War, and that only explicates Robert E. Lee’s  overwhelming reason for fighting for the Confederacy, is being deliberately distorted to show that President Trump and others in his administration are apologists for racism. The fact that nothing in Kelly’s words even hint at that didn’t stop this example of mass race-baiting, based on air. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Bret Stephens’ Capitulation To New York Times’ Anti-Second Amendment Culture”

Well, to be fair, who ever heard of a Jewish militia?

Ethics Alarms commenter Mrs. Q is quickly becoming a favorite here, and her thoughtful and, as usual, refreshingly blunt commentary on the gun control debate shows why.

Here is Mrs. Q’s Comment of the Day on the post, Bret Stephens’ Capitulation To New York Times’ Anti-Second Amendment Culture…

“If the opposition disarms, well and good. If it refuses to disarm, we shall disarm it ourselves.”

-Joseph Stalin

***

“Given the FACT that per-capita death-by-gun rates are anywhere from 1,000% to 3,000% higher in the US than in any other civilized country:

IS THIS A PROBLEM? OR NOT?”

“…what is YOUR solution to what seems, at least to me, to be a rather large problem…”

—Charles Green (Ethics Alarms commenter)

***

Anti-2nd amendment enthusiasts and those in favor of the 2nd amendment have two different ideas about what ‘the problem’ is. Having once been very anti-gun to becoming in favor of the 2nd amendment (but not gun owner myself) was a journey that redefined what the primary ‘problem’ is.

Like many leftists I could unquestioningly retort gun “facts”. Certainly I still have concerns around gun violence, and generally pro 2nd amendment folks think gun violence isn’t a good thing either. So first off if we’re going to have a reasonable debate, we need to remember both sides care about people and life. It’s how life is preserved and who it needs to be preserved from – that makes the difference and defines ‘the problem’.

What began to change my mind was the view from those who were disarmed and suffered greatly for it. As mentioned in the post, Jews (and Germans) were disarmed before things got deadly crazy. In communist regimes the people, except for military, were disarmed. In this country blacks and Native Americans were disarmed and more easily murdered (When Bloomberg suggested, in 2015 that black men should be disarmed, we should have seen that as a bad sign). Let’s not forget that Wounded Knee was bigger mass murder than Las Vegas…

Now lets consider how many lives have been lost because citizens were forced to register their arms, were easier to find because of it, and eventually died because they couldn’t protect themselves and their families from tyrants. How many couldn’t have a gun in the 1st place and got killed? Would anyone like to crunch those numbers?

As a woman here’s another view: Rape in Europe is skyrocketing and making women vulnerable due to political correctness and a lack of self protection that would truly stop a predator. In December 2015 the NY Times noted the clear statistical connection between rapes and migrants. Kristin Rhode from the Oslo PD testified that Norway was unwilling to admit “this was a big problem.” Should women, gays, and others vulnerable to potential harmful ideologies wait for a reluctant government more concerned with the appearance of multiculturalism, to protect them? Is this what is meant by “civilized” counties? No. Their socialism is not protecting them. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Dear Harvard: Fire President Drew Faust And Dean Rakesh Khurana”

Polar bear snowstorm

Not a comment on the post so much as on the underlying conditions that spawned it, Ethics Alarms reader Chris Bentley weighed in on the lack of ideological diversity on campus and the fact that many leaders both educational and political think that’s just fine. The key  question: do you listen to an argument against what you may believe with an open mind, or a closed one? The ethical answer is “Open,” but the predominant mindset on college campuses believes there isn’t any question to that effect.. Wrong is wrong, and the Left is Right, so the the only question is, “Do you allow those with wrong ideas speak at all?”

It is terrifying that universities, of all places, would ever consider that issue unsettled in the United States of America.

Here is Chris Bentley’s Comment of the Day inspired by the post, Dear Harvard: Fire President Drew Faust And Dean Rakesh Khurana:

“They know best, after all.”

Only a tertiary connection to the topic, I know, but I just got done listening to Obama’s Howard Univ. speech. While there is no doubt that he is a captivating orator, one thing kept striking me. The repeated refrain to the students, that they needed to “listen” to those that they disagree with, and not try to have speakers who think differently from you banned from campus, b/c, as his grandmother used to say “Don’t do that…Every time fool speaks they are just advertising their own ignorance. Let them talk.”

Continue reading

The North Carolina Transgender Bathroom Freak-Out, LGBT Activists And Shared Accountability For An Ethics Train Wreck

rest rooms gender

Yes, the new North Carolina anti-LGBT law is excessive, dumb, an over-reaction and probably unconstitutional. More than that, however, it is an example what can happen when the proponents of opposing views refuse to listen to or respect each other, don’t attempt to minimize bitterness and conflict, and prefer to settle problems by going to war. The law exemplifies the ignorance, fear and reflex defensiveness of human beings when faced with inevitable cultural change, but it could have been avoided if LGBT activists and advocates had not demonized their opponents and used political leverage to push for extreme positions that were neither necessary nor clearly correct.

North Carolina’s conservatives are horrified at the idea of biological males being allowed to use women’s rest rooms when the “males” identify as female, so the state passed a law that appears to allow all forms of discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation. The new law establishes a statewide nondiscrimination ordinance that explicitly supersedes any local nondiscrimination measures. The statewide protections cover race, religion, color, national origin and biological sex,  but not sexual orientation or gender identity. Whether it is intended to do so or not, this seems to say that in the eyes of North Carolina, discrimination against LGBT citizens is fine and reasonable.

Well, it isn’t, and thus the law itself is unethical—incompetent, irresponsible, unfair, unjust, uncaring, and disrespectful.

Good job, State legislature,  Gov. Pat McCrory, and North Carolina. You’re all an embarrassment to the nation.

Still, this whole mess  occurred because activists couldn’t come up with a reasonable accommodation that would still the concerns of those old fashioned citizens who think ladies rooms shouldn’t be frequented by people who can pee standing up, while still meeting the minimal requirements of the Caitlyn Jenners of the world. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: “Don’t Eat The Daisies” Ethics

I’m trying to take a breather from the Syrian refugees, President Obama, Presidential candidates and rampaging college students, and an ethics issue from a 1960 Doris Day comedy is as far away as I can get.

In “Don’t Eat the Daisies,” a movie loosely (very loosely) based on the humorous mommy anecdote best seller by Jean Kerr, wife of then New York Times  theater critic Walter Kerr, newly appointed prime drama critic Larry McKay (David Niven), his lovely wife Kate (Doris), their four rambunctious kids, their sheep dog and their wise-cracking house-keeper (Patsy Kelly)—yes, this was essentially the “Brady Bunch” without the girls—move to the country. Doris gets roped into the annual musical (for charity, natch) of the very amateur Hooten Holler Players. They ask the Larry for a play they could use, and he isn’t very helpful, so Doris calls up Alfred North, an old friend of the couple and a successful novelist played by Richard Haydn, best known as the sneaky Max in “The Sound of Music,” who has just had his first Broadway play skewered by McKay (Integrity! Integrity!). He is secretly seething and seeking revenge. The betrayed playwright siezes his chance: he sends Doris an obscure, terrible Foriegn Legion melodrama by an unknown author, and the Hooten Holler players turn it into a musical spoof.

Days before its ready to open, after all the tickets have been sold, Doris asks David to watch a rehearsal. He immediately recognizes the plot and some particularly awful lines: he wrote the  play under a pseudonym! “BWAHAHAHAH!” laughs Max, or rather Alfred. Larry’s  onetime friend, now relentless foe, has set the critic up for humiliation and professional doom, for other New York critics have been tipped off that the play getting its world premiere by the Hooten Holler Players is in fact the creation of the hypercritical critic himself. Once this abysmal mess is seen and taken apart by the critic’s rivals, his judgment will never be taken seriously again.

Niven demands that the production be cancelled, and forbids the Players to perform his work. Doris, who stars in the play, begs him to reconsider: the humble theater group will be ruined, and the charity will lose much needed support. The critic explodes: why does she care more about the amateur theater group than her husband’s career? She tells him that his theatrical power and fame has made him petty and mean. Their marriage seems ready to disintegrate.

Your retro-Hollywood Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is..

What’s going on here, and what do you do about it?

Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week: Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV)

President Obama's leadership education progress: no change. Sorry.

President Obama’s leadership education progress: no change. Sorry.

“Now, that’s just not the way you do legislation. It’s not the way a democracy works. And it’s not the way the … three branches of government should work.”

—- Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat who supports the stalled Keystone Pipeline, referring to President Obama’s preemptive announcement that he would veto the bill before he knew exactly what the final bill would be.

President’s Obama’s supporters should pay attention to this episode: even if the President has a flat learning curve, perhaps they are more teachable. Manchin is right. Anyone with a passing familiarity of how Presidential leadership has worked in the past, is supposed to work, and is well understood by both scholars and practitioners to work, recognizes that this is a sparkling example of the obtuse refusal of Barack Obama not merely to master the skills of his job, but even to acknowledge them.

I really don’t care a fig about the pipeline. I think the President’s opposition is foolish—this is a bone thrown to the most extreme climate change activists, for there is no reliable research that shows that the pipeline will “accelerate global warming”—but my understanding of all the  factors involved is an inch deep. I really don’t care about it. I do care that the President doesn’t know how to do his job, and would prefer to make sure that Democrats can keep saying that he would have accomplished so much if Republicans hadn’t blocked his every brilliant plan.

A veto is a bargaining tool. Only Obama, of all of our Chief Executives, has failed to grasp that. The opposoition wants something. This means that you, as President, have an opportunity to get something you want. You negotiate. You horse trade. You bluff. Maybe you can’t come to an agreement. Maybe you can’t trade the pipeline, with some further limitations, for, say, your extravagant plan to make community college free for all, which otherwise has no chance whatsoever of ever happening. But you try. it’s called “being President.” It’s called “leadership.” It’s called “competence.”

And yes, it’s also called Democracy and the three branch system.

Incompetence Personified: Six Years, And He Still Doesn’t Understand His Job.

No change. Amazing.

No change. Amazing.

The flat learning curve reared its ugly head again in President Obama’s post-shellacking press conference. I did not expect him to admit that the election results were a direct repudiation of his leadership, management and policies, because the man is a narcissist, and he can’t process such information. I expected him to spin the defeat as insignificant from a public will perspective, and he did, noting that only a third of the electorate bothered to vote. That is, of course, the 30% that has been paying attention.

But I was genuinely surprised that he still, still, after all this time, displayed a complete lack of comprehension of what Presidential leadership involves and has always involved since the beginning of the position two centuries ago. Persuasion. Compromise. Trading. Negotiation. Repeatedly, Obama kept saying that he was sure that he and Republicans would find “common ground.”  When they did, he said, things would get done. He made it clear, however, that if he didn’t agree that a policy measure was in the best interests of the country or wouldn’t work, he would block it.

This is madness. It may sound reasonable to civicly ignorant casual observers of the government, as is most of the President’s supporters, but that characterization of how laws get made and a system of checks and balances works would produce a D in any political science course in any junior college in America. The President is obviously intelligent. I presume he’s read about the Presidency….I don’t know, maybe he hasn’t. Is it possible that he doesn’t know that every President made deals with hostile legislators that resulted in laws that President detested, in exchange for moving along policies that were worth the sacrifice? How can he not comprehend this, after six years? The man is President of the United States, and after six years, he still thinks the job is about giving orders and making decrees. Continue reading

The Ethics Alarms List of Debate Cheats and Fallacies

fallacy

I realized it was time to post the definitive Ethics Alarms List of Debate Cheats and Fallacies after once again having to point out to an indignant commenter that calling  him a jerk based on a jerkish comment was not an ad hominem attack, and that saying idiotic things on-line carry that risk. Here, at last, is the current list, adapted from multiple sources. As with the Rationalizations List, with which this occasionally overlaps, I invite additions. Participants here should feel free to refer to the various fallacious arguments by number, and to apply critically them to my posts as well as the comments of others. Am I immune from occasionally falling into one or more of these bad debate techniques and rhetorical habits? No. The other reason I wanted to get the list up was to reinforce my own efforts to be persuasive without being manipulative.

1. Ad Hominem Attack

An ad hominem attack means that one is substituting the character or quality of an adversary’s thought for the argument the adversary is presenting. This is unfair, as well as misleading. “Your argument is invalid because you are a crook, a fool, an idiot” is an ad hominem attack. It is not an ad hominem attack to prove an argument idiotic, and conclude, on the basis of signature significance, (which requires that an  argument be so idiotic that no non-idiot would conceive such a thing and dare express it),that the one making the argument is an idiot, since only an idiot would make such an argument. Confusing the true ad hominem attack with the latter is a useful deflection by poor advocates of the fair consequence of their advocacy. Idiots can still hold valid positions, and disproving the position has nothing to do with proving they are idiots.

1 a. The Toxic Introduction.

A more subtle application of the ad hominem attack is The Toxic Introduction, where the argument of another is introduced by noting a negative quality about the individual. The effect is to undermine the argument before it has even been heard, by its association with a less than impressive advocate.

2. Butch’s Stratagem (The Straw Man)

Continue reading

The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Show Us The Way

“The operation was a success, but the patient died.”

“We had to destroy the village to save it.”

Massada. That worked out well too.

I’m sure the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union approves of these classic oxymoronic statements, because its members are currently patting themselves on the back for standing up to Hostess Brands, Inc and not giving an inch in contentious labor negotiations that had put them on the picket line. “I think we’re the first ones who have stood up and said, ‘We’re not going to let you get away with it,’” was the message the union’s resolve sent according to  Sue Tapley, the strike captain at the Biddeford, Maine Hostess plant. “You can fight them. You can shut them down.” “Unions have been losing power for years,” added  a striking worker outside of the same plant. “This is an exceptional case. If Hostess had been allowed to get away with what they’d been trying to do, other corporations would have lined up to try the same tactics. Hopefully, this will be an example to other companies not to break their unions.” Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Quiz: Holder’s ‘Brainwash’ Comment”

"You want 'consensus'? I'll give you consensus, Pilgrim..."

Penn, who has been on a roll lately, has another Comment of the Day regarding the prospects of a cultural shift in public attitudes toward guns in America. I’ll have some thoughts afterwards, but right now, here is Penn COTD on the post, Ethics Quiz: Holder’s “Brainwash” Comment:

“I’m seeing a problem here that’s as insoluble as “what to do with the homeless.”  It comes up again and again: defending the right to bear arms against teaching non-violence — okay, that’s simplistic, but I think you know what I mean. Since arguments on both sides have been validated, their proponents feel duty-bound to reiterate them.

“Granted, consensus is a no-go in our culture. You win or you lose: compromise is a dirty word, and a win/win situation, while given lip service as a goal (e.g. good sportsmanship), is not an acceptable outcome.  Thus neither argument, in theory or in practice, takes a step further in solving in the short-term the problem of what to do with an increasingly violent society (schools, families, criminals, celebrities, etc.), a society embedded in an ever-shrinking, increasingly threatening world. Thinking that these guns/no guns arguments have some pragmatic use keeps us, so to speak, backward. Continue reading