Comment Of The Day: “Independence Day Ethics Fireworks, July 4th, 2021: ‘The Stars And Stripes Forever,’ And Other Matters”

Happy Birthday, America

This Comment of the Day on today’s Fourth of July post, by Steve-O-in NJ, needs no introduction. Neither does he, as the Ethics Alarms leader in Comments of the Day with more than 30 before this one.

Today we celebrate the birthday of the United States, well, some of us do, anyway.

Some say that today means nothing, because the actions of men more than two centuries ago do not match up with the opinions of people not even two years ago. Others say that today never meant a thing, because this nation is a bad nation that’s just happened to get it right once or twice. Thank God this generation is finally getting it right, and we’re finally moving past the past 245 years, they say. We can’t go back and change the results of the elections in 2016, 2000, and 1980, we can’t go back and convince Teddy Roosevelt not to run in 1912, we can’t go back and stop Congress from declaring war on Spain in 1898, we can’t go back and prevent the Civil War, and we can’t go back and convince the Founding Fathers to abolish slavery right out of the gate in 1787, they say. We can’t go back and make cooler heads prevail in 1775, or stop the arrival of slaves in 1619, or make Columbus turn back, they say. However, we the people of today can break with all of that, and move forward with a new nation, unfettered by that past. None of it means a thing. It’s tainted.

I seem to remember a man born Saloth Sar, better known as Pol Pot, saying it was now Year Zero and everything before was nullified. You can look up what happened there. I also seem to remember a man born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, later called Lenin, saying everything that came before was tainted and needed to be erased. You can look up what happened there too. Before that a revolutionary parliament that included such luminaries as Maximilien Robespierre declared it to be Year One of a new age, with the months of the year renamed completely and weeks of seven days replaced by weeks of ten. You can also look up what happened there.

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Independence Day With Ethics Alarms 4…Ethics Quotes By Americans To Preserve And Revere

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

The Declaration of Independence, authored by Thomas Jefferson, edited, ratified and signed by him,  Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton, William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn, Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton, John Hancock, Samuel Chase William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Benjamin Harrison Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton, Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross, Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean, William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris, Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark, Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry, Stephen Hopkin,  William Ellery, Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott, and Matthew Thornton.

“It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment, independence now and independence forever. “

—-Daniel Webster, U.S. politician and orator

“Liberty is the soul’s right to breathe, and when it cannot take a long breath, laws are girdled too tight.”

—-Henry Ward Beecher,minister and abolitionist.

“When we were the political slaves of King George, and wanted to be free, we called the maxim that “all men are created equal” a self evident truth; but now when we have grown fat, and have lost all dread of being slaves ourselves, we have become so greedy to be masters that we call the same maxim “a self evident lie” The fourth of July has not quite dwindled away; it is still a great day–for burning fire-crackers!!!”

—-Abraham Lincoln

“Without an unfettered press, without liberty of speech, all of the outward forms and structures of free institutions are a sham, a pretense – the sheerest mockery. If the press is not free; if speech is not independent and untrammeled; if the mind is shackled or made impotent through fear, it makes no difference under what form of government you live, you are a subject and not a citizen.”

—- Senator William Borah (R-ID), 1917

 “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

—-George Orwell

“Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”

—- Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

“The Republic may not give wealth or happiness, she has not promised these. It is the freedom to pursue these, not their realization, which the Declaration of Independence claims.”

—-Andrew Carnegie, American industrialist

“The freedom of America is the freedom to live your own life and take your own chances.”

—Thomas Sowell, scholar and social scientist

“Hurrah for the flag of the free!
May it wave as our standard forever,
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right.

Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.”

—–John Phillip Sousa, “The Stars and Stripes Forever”

“Democracy is like sex. When it is good, it is very very good. And when its is bad, it is still pretty good.

—–Anonymous.

“The real democratic American idea is, not that every man shall be on a level with every other man, but that every man shall have liberty to be what God made him, without hindrance.”

—-Henry Ward Beecher, American preacher

“Democracy is moral before it is political.”

—- Louis Brandeis, Supreme Court Justice

“The experience of democracy is like the experience of life itself…always changing, infinite in its variety, sometimes turbulent and all the more valuable for having been tested by adversity.”

—-  Jimmy  Carter, President, philanthropist
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Independence Day With Ethics Alarms 1… Ethics Quote Of The Month: President Donald Trump

“It is time for our politicians to summon the bravery and determination of our American ancestors. It is time. It is time to plant our flag and to protect the greatest of this nation for citizens of every race in every city in every part of this glorious land. For the sake of our honor, for the sake of our children, for the sake of our union, we must protect and preserve our history, our heritage, and our great heroes. Here tonight before the eyes of our forefathers, Americans declare again, as we did 244 years ago, that we will not be tyrannized, we will not be demeaned, and we will not be intimidated by bad, evil people. It will not happen.”

President Donald J Trump, speaking at Mt. Rushmore last night, and aggressively defending the United States of America, its Founders, its history and culture.

Bravo.

Last night’s speech, a ringing assertion of American greatness and a defiant condemnation of those who would topple it, despite the inevitable Trump flourishes of exaggeration, hyperbole, and deliberate provocation, was exactly what was needed, called for, and had to be said. It was inspiring, or should have been: I wonder about anyone who could read the transcript and not be stirred. I would ask, “What happened to you?” We also now know why it was appropriate to give that speech by Mt. Rushmore. The President extolled and defended our heroes, and devoted a section of the speech to each of the Presidents on the mountain, including, as CNN said last night to its damnation, “two slaveholders.”

There are about ten passages in the speech that I could have highlighted. I picked that one because it reminded me of this speech by a fictional President in a movie I detest, “Independence Day.” I would not be surprised to learn the speechwriter had that model in mind:

“President Whitmore” is talking about space aliens trying to destroys us. The mobs of America-haters who are attacking our core values and culture remind me of the aliens in “Invasion of the Body-Snatchers,” taking over the minds and bodies of one rational citizens, and terrorizing those who won’t submit to their “conversion.” Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 7/5/2019: Assholes, An Idiot, Morons, And Hating America

Good afternoon!

Did you burn your flag yesterday? Lots of people did, and the news media was full of enabling pieces proclaiming the act to be noble free speech. It certainly isn’t noble, but it is free speech, , just like Bill Maher calling Republican women “cunts.” Free speech,  abuse of the right, and signature significance for assholes.

1. Yes, Joe Biden is really an idiot. Who will point that out in the mainstream media? This quote is the kind of thing that President Trump gets routinely mocked for..and Joe?

BIDEN: “Look at what’s happening with Putin. While Putin is trying to undo our elections, he is undoing elections in Europe. Look at what’s happening in Hungary, look what’s happening in Poland, look what’s happening. You think that would happen on my watch or Barack’s watch? You can’t answer that, but I promise it wouldn’t have, and it didn’t.”

Psst! JOE! The Russian interference with the 2016 election DID happen on Barack’s watch, and yours. Or is this just another Big Lie? I have never in my life seen so many Orwellian assertions of the exact opposite of reality put forth by a political party on the assumption that the news media won’t flag it for what it is, and the certainty that the public will swallow it whole.

2. Please let me know which anti-President Trump media types admit that they were 100% wrong about the President planning on giving a partisan campaign speech yesterday. Because he didn’t. At least the Washington Post published conservative columnist Mark Thiessen’ s accurate delivery of the bad news (for the “resistance”) that the Trump Deranged had made fools of themselves, and that the Chief Troll in the White House had managed to get Democrats and progressives to align themselves against the Fourth of July.

Morons. Continue reading

Independence Day Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/4/19: Jefferson, Amash, Snyder [UPDATED]

Happy birthday, USA!

1. Thomas Jefferson’s Day. Since Nike chose this time to announce that it was ashamed of the Revolutionary War flag, and Charlottesville similarly picked this week of all weeks to distance itself from it most famous and accomplished son,  it is appropriate to recall why Thomas Jefferson is the single American who should be most honored on the Fourth of July.

At the Foundation for Economic Education site (excellent site, by the way), the organization’s president, Lawrence W. Reed, offers a cogent rebuttal to those who would metaphorically (or literally) tear down Jefferson’s memorials because he could not find it in himself to stop practicing slave-holding while publicly making the case against it. Reed writes in part,

More than any other man or woman, July 4 belongs to Thomas Jefferson. As the principal author of the charter that proclaimed America’s independence and the reasons that impelled it, his spirit and his words are essentially what we celebrate on this day.

That such praise is not deemed “politically correct” in some quarters and may even evoke hostility in others is not a pleasant commentary on the state of current political dialogue. A kind of intertemporal bigotry is loose in the land. It prompts the virtue-signaling self-righteous to judge people of the past against the conventions of today. Isn’t it strange that evolution is accepted as natural in the biological world but often not in the realm of human thought?

…[H]umans didn’t support slavery one day and then oppose it when they all woke up the next. Some people never saw the light; others were against it from the moment it first entered their minds. Millions in the late 18th and early 19th centuries were somewhere in between, and lots of them evolved on the issue over the course of their lives. In other words, they learned and they changed. That’s how humanity progresses.

Thanks to visionaries like Jefferson, Americans were forced eventually to end the contradiction between the words of the Declaration of Independence and the reality around them. Jefferson’s own words were evoked to accomplish that.

Historian Jim Powell, in his FEE article of July 1, 1995, titled “Thomas Jefferson’s Sophisticated, Radical Vision of Liberty,” addressed the slavery issue thusly.

“Though Jefferson had personal failings—in the case of slavery, a monstrous one—they don’t invalidate the philosophy of liberty he championed, any more than Einstein’s personal failings are evidence against his theory of relativity. Moreover, every one of Jefferson’s adversaries, past and present, had personal failings, which means that if ideas are to be dismissed because of an author’s failings, Jefferson and his adversaries would cancel each other out. When historians finish dumping on Jefferson, they still won’t have cleared the way for Karl Marx or whomever they admire. Jefferson’s accomplishments and philosophy of liberty must be recognized for their monumental importance.”

So yes, Thomas Jefferson wasn’t perfect. And neither are his critics. They should hope that across their entire lives, they might accomplish for liberty what Jefferson achieved in a few weeks of literary genius. He marshaled the English language on behalf of ideas, and they sparked liberty’s loudest thunderclap in human history….

2. Yes, Rep. Amash is an Ethics Dunce. One reason the Tea Party movement ran out of gas is that the elected officials who rose to power under its banner were mostly unqualified, doctrinaire, simplistic grandstanders who seemed to think bumper-sticker slogans are a substitute for reasoning. Amash is typical of the breed. He recently gained the praise of the Trump Deranged by declaring that the Mueller Report proves that the President engaged in “high crimes and misdemeanors” (it doesn’t, but any effort to undermine President Trump qualifies as heroic  to “the resistance”).  This predictably attracted a furious backlash in his district and his party, and Amash’s prospects for re-election in 2020 now appear to be about on par with John McCain’s.

His solution? Amash has declared that he is “disenchanted” and “frightened” by party politics, so he is leaving the Republican Party and becoming an Independent.

Party flipping mid-term is per se unethical, as I have pointed out here before.  He has a contract with his voters to serve in the party whose banner under which he presented himself for public service, and the party that helped fund his campaign. One of the few party-switchers in political history who did the deed ethically was former Texas  Senator Phil Gramm. [CORRECTION NOTICE: I had originally written “the late” here, because I was sure Gramm was dead. He’s not. I’m glad.] From my post about West Virginia’s Governor Jim  Justice, who switched from Democrat to Republican in 2017…

Just days after  he had been reelected to a House seat  as a Democrat in 1982, Gramm was thrown off the House Budget Committee in a dispute with party leadership. In response, Gramm resigned as a Representative, changed parties, and ran for his old seat as a Republican in a special election. He won easily, and  was a Republican ever after. That’s the honorable way to do it.

Rep. Amash isn’t honorable. He isn’t ethical. And after Election Day 2020, he won’t be in Congress.

Good. Continue reading

July 4th Celebration Ethics

Since anything this President of the United States says, tweets, decides or does is automatically wrong, bad, stupid or ominous (according to 90% of the news media and the immovable “resistance”) the big story today will undoubtedly be how lousy the Trump-produced celebration in Washington, D.C. is.

Nobody will mention that the celebration has been pretty continuously lousy for decades, low-lighted by the hollowed out, aging, croaking shell of The Beach Boys that headlined the festivities for so many years, giving it the whiff of a cheesy local summer  county fair. It was high time someone shook up the thing, and this President, who has experience in theatrical production, is as good a choice to do that as anyone, except for those who refuse to concede that he is good for anything.

Most of the recent bitching has focused on the President’s insistence that a tank be part of the festivities. I can see several reasons why the President, or any President, might want to do this. The tank is a symbol of  military force, and a less ambiguous one than parading soldiers. In the midst of the kind of tough diplomacy with several hostile powers, sending the message that this administration, unlike the last one, is not reluctant to project the threat of military action has some obvious benefits.

Or maybe the President just likes tanks. Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 7/3/2019: Holiday Follies [UPDATED]

The end of Pickett’s Charge, July 3, 1863

Happy weird mid-week day before a holiday when almost nobody seems to be working…and remember Pickett’s Charge, July 3, 1863.

But ethics never takes a break…

1. Oops! Did we miss the real holiday? On this date in 1776, John Adams wrote to Abigail that the day before, July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress had voted to declare American independence from the British Empire. Adams predicted that July 2 would eventually be celebrated by every generation of Americans with parades, speeches, songs and fireworks, which Adams called  “illuminations.” Why did he turn out to be wrong? Oh, because history is messy, mistakes don’t get corrected, and tradition becomes more important than facts. (Once again, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” rule applies: “When legend becomes fact, print the legend!” )

What happened on July 4th? The unsigned but ratified Declaration was sent to the printer on that date, and the printer dutifully marked his prints with “July 4, 1776”. The delegates didn’t start signing the document until August 2, and all the signatures weren’t down on parchment until November. The dramatic depiction of the signing taking place on July 4 in the musical and movie  “1776” is fake history.  It’s not all Broadway’s and Hollywood’s fault: the iconic painting “Declaration of Independence,” by John Trumbull, a version of which hangs in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington and which the actors are staged to re-enact in “1776” is often captioned “July 4, 1776.”

Trumbull’s artwork actually shows the moment on June 28 when the Declaration drafting committee officially presented its work to  the chairman of Continental Congress. John Hancock, There never was a signing ceremony.

Nonetheless, July 4 has, for some reason, been an unusually felicitous and significant day in U.S. history. It would be difficult to pick another that carried so much history, even without being the chosen date to honor the nation’s founding. Three of the first five U.S. presidents died on July 4, with John Adams and Thomas Jefferson famously dying on that date within hours of each other in 1826, fifty years after….the Declaration was sent to the printer.

But July 4, 1803, was the day word arrived from Paris that the Louisiana Purchase was complete, having been signed by Napoleon.  Without it, the United States would have been a very different country, and a much weaker and poorer one.

July 4, 1863 also was the date Robert E. Lee acknowledged his defeat at Gettysburg after his desperate, risky, massed attack on the Union line across a fence-strewn field and up a grade into artillery fire failed. That defeat probably sealed the fate of the Confederacy, and meant that this unique nation would, despite a bloody close call,  have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/2/2018: Bad Neighbors And Bad Journalism

Good Morning…

1. Ah, now THAT’S the ol’ Spirit of 1776!  In a subdivision near Sterling Heights in Chesterfield, Michigan,  a resident sent an anonymous letter to other residents, threatening  to take dire measures against them if they set off fireworks after 9 PM  this week. Here’s the letter…

Yikes.

I’m presuming that the real spirit of 1776 still breathes deeply in this nation, and that the reaction of the recipients of that letter will be to make certain that the noisiest fireworks possible are exploding every second during the time they are permitted to be by law, from the start of the week to the end. The neighbor is a coward, a jerk and a bully, and his bluff must be called as a matter of justice and honor. (Pointer: HLN)

2. Nah, the mainstream news media isn’t biased! In an absolutely correct and justified editorial note, Fox News’ Chris Wallace excoriated media outlets on “Fox News Sunday” for attempting to connect President Donald Trump to the newsroom shooting at Capital Gazette in Maryland. (This will, of course, be called an example of Fox News pro-Trump toadying by those same media outlets.) This was indeed one of the most transparent recent episodes of fake news peddling by CNN, Reuters and others in the mainstream media, who worked hard to make the case that the killer of five was motivated by the President’s repeated accusation that the media is “the enemy of the people.” We now know that the shooter swore that he would kill the Capital Gazette writer whom he targeted in the attack years ago, when everyone assumed that Hillary was going to be the next President. Continue reading

More Fourth Of July Ethics: PBS Deceives Its Audience, And Calls It A “Patriotic Thing To Do”

a-capitol-fourth-concert-fireworks03

I hate writing posts like this. I hate the fact that the culture’s appreciation of the importance of integrity, honesty and transparency has declined so much during the Obama Administration that I have to write posts like this.

PBS’s annual coverage of the nation’s Capital’s Independence Day celebration from U.S. Capitol was handicapped by the overcast and drizzly weather in the area.  At the point in the show where the National Symphony Orchestra plays the 1812 Overture’s finale while a spectacular fireworks display explodes over the Capitol dome, someone in authority decided that the obscured fireworks  partially blocked by clouds weren’t good enough, so  a video compilation of previous years fireworks were interspersed with them without any disclosure.

To be clear, what happened was this: PBS intentionally deceived its audience, and presented old footage while representing what was on the screen as live.

Social media noticed immediately. “PBS Aired Old Fireworks Footage This Year. Did It Make A Difference?” asked various media commentators, in various forms. Gee, that’s a head-scratcher!  Huh. Tough one! Does it make a difference when a government-funded station deliberately sets out to deceive its viewers? Do lies matter? Is it okay for a broadcast of a live event to be secretly altered with film from a different time and event? Does it make a difference if the news media lies to the public?

Of course it makes a difference. It’s wrong. It’s a lie. It makes public trust impossible. What’s the difference between faking a moon landing and faking a fireworks display? Ethically, they are exactly the same, what we in the ethics field refer to as lies. Continue reading

July Fourth Ethics: On Liberty And Freedom

US-original-Declaration-1776

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

—-The Declaration of Independence

“It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment, independence now and independence forever. “

—-Daniel Webster, U.S. politician and orator

“Liberty is the soul’s right to breathe, and when it cannot take a long breath, laws are girdled too tight.”

—-Henry Ward Beecher, abolitionist.

“Without an unfettered press, without liberty of speech, all of the outward forms and structures of free institutions are a sham, a pretense – the sheerest mockery. If the press is not free; if speech is not independent and untrammeled; if the mind is shackled or made impotent through fear, it makes no difference under what form of government you live, you are a subject and not a citizen.”

—- Senator William Borah (R-ID), 1917

 “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

—-George Orwell
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