Tag Archives: Robert E. Lee

Comment Of The Day on “Comment Of The Day: ‘Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/27/18: …And Slanted History’ [Item #5]”

This concise but useful comment of the day takes the baton from the previous one, which discussed the reasons for the increasing politicizing of American history, often with the objective of vilifying the American experience.

Here is JutGory‘s Comment of the Day on the post, Comment Of The Day: Morning Ethics Warm-Up. 11/27/18: … And Slanted History” [Item #5]

Tempted to write several times, but never felt I would have the time to do my thoughts (or the topic) justice. Not that I consider myself a good student of history, but even big idiots can usually crack the 90th percentile (and I am a bigger idiot than most).

Progressives are undoing a grand bargain. Grant won; Lee lost; Grant let the defeated army walk home; and Lee agreed the cause was lost. Both sides saved face; they agreed to bury the hatchet. The South had formal and substantive arguments that formed the basis for secession (or war). That issue was put to rest and both sides were able, through the wisdom of the generals on both sides, to put an end to the fight.

The hatchet has been dug up by the progressives. The honest differences cannot be entertained. There cannot be honor on both sides, which was the deal struck (even for the losing side). The implicit agreement to let the past be the past has been ripped open by those lacking the wisdom of the Founders, who kicked the can down the road, or Grant and Lee, who decided to stop kicking it. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, October 10, 2018: Incompetence Special

Good morning, and I mean it this time…!

1. My only Red Sox-related note: One reason I know that the news media can’t be trusted is that when I have first hand knowledge of a topic or event reported in the paper, I often find the reporting lazily, inexplicably, factually wrong. Here’s a trivial but illustrative example: this amazing play (It’s at 1:04 on the video) ended last night’s decisive Boston 4-3 victory over the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series:

Here’s how the Times described it:

“Kimbrel then got Gleyber Torres to hit a dribbler to third. Eduardo Nunez, a former Yankee, gathered it and threw slightly wide of first base, but another former Yankee, Steve Pearce, stretched to glove it an instant before Torres touched the bag.”

What? “Slightly wide”? A millimeter wider and the ball would have been in the dugout! If journalists can’t get little things right, why should be trust them to convey the important stuff?

2. Institutional incompetence  The historical airbrushing continues. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Washington and Lee University has decided to make changes to the names of some campus buildings after concerns from students and faculty.

On Tuesday, the Board of Trustees announced that it will rename Robinson Hall as Chavis Hall, in honor of John Chavis, the first African-American to receive a college education in the United States. He graduated from Washington Academy, the predecessor of W&L, in 1799. Also, Lee-Jackson House will be renamed Simpson Hall in honor of Pamela Hemenway Simpson, who served as an associate dean of the college and helped move to a co-ed environment in the 1980s.

The board also announced that effective immediately, it will replace portraits of Robert E. Lee and George Washington in military uniforms inside Lee Chapel with portraits of the two men in civilian clothing.

An educational institution that thinks it is appropriate to airbrush its own history can’t be trusted to teach anyone. Robinson Hall is named after the man who established the college, John Robinson. Yup, he was a slaveholder, but he established the school, and deserves prominent recognition for that. The decision to strip Washington and Lee of their uniforms is particularly ominous, hinting of several obnoxious biases. Soldiers are taboo now? Or is this a strike against “toxic masculinity”?  If the idea is to pretend that Robert E. Lee  is only notable for his post-military career as president of the university, that’s absurd and dishonest: if Lee had never worn the Confederate uniform, he would never have led the school, and nobody would know who he was today. Washington’s military brilliance  supersedes  his civilian achievements in significance and historical impact, for without General Washington there would be no United States of America.

My position is that it is negligent for parents to entrust their children’s minds to stupid people and incompetent schools. Washington and Lee and its administrators now qualify for that category.

Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/12/2018: The Cleveland Indians, “On The Waterfront,” And Garza v. Hargan

Good Mornin’!

(I know I’ve posted this “Singin’ in the Rain” showstopper more than once, but it makes me happy, so there.)

1. From the Cleveland Indians, a Robert E. Lee moment: As the Cincinnati Reds were threatening, with two outs, the bases loaded and the Indians clinging to a 4-3 lead, Tribe manager Terry Francona wanted to bring in left-hander Oliver Perez to face left-handed Reds slugger Joey Votto , the book move, a classic left on left matchup.  But pitching coach Carl Willis thought he heard Francona tell him to summon right-hander Dan Otero.“He thought I said O.T.,” Francona said, using Otero’s nickname. “I said O.P.” With the advantage of facing a right-handed pitcher (most lefties hit righties better) Votto promptly hit a three-run double off Otero, giving the Reds a 6-4 lead.

Even though it would have made no sense for Francona to ask for Otero, the manager emulated Robert E. Lee’s fine leadership moment, meeting with his battered troops after they were shot to pieces in Pickett’s Charge and telling them, “It was all my fault.” “It falls on me,” he told the press. “I actually talked to the team and told them that I thought I messed up.”

Some wags have suggested that the decline of creative baseball player nicknames was really at fault. If Francona had called for Vinegar Bend, The Big Train, , The Monster or “Death to Flying Things,” nobody would have been confused.

2. Forget the dishonest narrative and spin: here’s what really happened in Garza v. Hargan: No, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s eminently qualified nominee to fill retiring Justice Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court, did not try to block an illegal immigrant teen from having an abortion, as the desperate fear-mongering Democrats are claiming. 

In October 2017,  the ACLU filed suit against the Trump administration on behalf of “Jane Doe,” a pregnant teen from Cnetral America who had been arrested while entering the country illegally. Through  her guardian, Rochelle Garza, “Doe” sought release from the federal shelter where she was being detained to obtain an abortion. Eric Hargan, the acting secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services at the time, took the position that the government   had no obligation to facilitate Doe’s abortion.  She had the option of returning to her native country—where she belonged anyway— or being released to a sponsor. A federal trial judge ruled for Doe and the abortion, saying that the government’s refusal to release a minor from custody constituted an “undue burden” on Doe’s constitutional right to an abortion. HHS appealed to the D.C. Circuit, and on appeal, Judge Kavanaugh authored the majority opinion that reversed the lower court’s decision. Here is the crux of the opinion: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/25/18: Your School Shooting Ethics Train Wreck Update [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

1  Addendum to the “Weapons of War” post: I almost included this in the post itself, but it was long enough. During the debates here over the Confederate statue-toppling orgies and the Charlottesville riot, we often heard the defense that Robert E. Lee, et al., were unworthy of statues, monuments and memorials because they were traitors. I always viewed this as a rationalization for the real reason the Confederates are being airbrushed out of our public history, which is that their political and social beliefs don’t measure up to 21st Century ethics. The “traitor” argument is a neat way to distinguish Robert E. Lee from slave-owners like George Washington.  However, as the post explains, the United States was founded on the principle that it is not treason for citizens to seek to create a new government when they concluded that the current one has abused its power and cannot be reformed. That is certainly what the Confederacy believed. Under the Founding documents, they had every right to leave the Union, and would have done so peacefully had Lincoln allowed it. Robert E. Lee was wrong, and he was a racist, but he was no traitor. By Jefferson’s formula that was ratified unanimously by the Continental Congress, he was a patriot.

2. Everybody’s flailing. President Trump floated the much-mocked “arm teachers” suggestion, and then used the cultural DeLorean to retrieve the “popular culture is too violent” explanation. The gun violence in the U.S. is very much driven by our culture, and pop culture both reflects and affects it. Hollywood made some efforts to tone down the violence last year; it also had the worst year at the box office in a quarter of a century, so we’ll see how long that lasts. The President just doesn’t understand the Constitution very well: the government can’t force video games, music, TV shows and movies to be less violent, but it can launch efforts to build a public consensus to dial back the fictional killing.

You know, like Tipper Gore’s effort to get the sex, obscenity and violence out of rap music. That sure worked well. The Obama approach would be to send out a menacing letter saying something like, “We recommend that you tone it down, but of course we can’t make you, but you know there are a lot of ways we could make your life miserable if you displease us, not that we would ever try to muscle you or anything since it you have the right of free speech. Just a word to the wise between friends. Nice little business you have there; it would be a shame if anything were to happen to it…”

The President’s critics sneered that he is “flailing” on the issue. I don’t see that he is flailing any more than anyone else. To the zealots, “flailing” means “not advocating the repeal of the Second Amendment.”

3. At least Vox is honest. In this article, left-wing Vox argues that the solution to gun violence “isn’t a big mystery,” but then only uses innuendo to explain what the solution is. Guess! here’s the biggest clue (emphasis mine): Continue reading

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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

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/24/17 [UPDATED]

GOOD MORNING!

1. I’m moving this to the top from its original placement at the end. I warned that the mania for retroactive statue-toppling and historical air-brushing was a deadly slippery slope to cultural chaos from the moment Dylan Roof’s rampage primed the Confederate flag banning push. I said that there was no clear stop on that slope, and that this was a massive ethical error that would quickly spin out of control.

I am accepting apologies and “You were right, I was wrong” messages at jamproethics@verizon.net. I will reply gracefully.

2. It’s a good thing, in some ways, that President Trump has no ethics alarms, or has them but doesn’t understand what all the ringing means, because if he did, he might realize that he has put himself in ethics zugswang in the matter of former sheriff Joe Arpaio, the anti-illegal immigration zealot who is facing up to six months in jail for defying a federal judge’s order to stop targeting Latinos based solely on the suspicion of their legal status. Trump has been urged to pardon Arpaio. Let’s see:

  • Arpaio did defy a judicial order. Should a law enforcement official be treated especially harshly when he does this?

Yes.

  • The judicial order related to Arpaio’s practice of assuming that individuals of Hispanic descent were more likely to be violating the immigration laws in his jurisdiction than other citizens. Since his jurisdiction was rife with Hispanic illegals, was this an unreasonable assumption on his part? No. Was it still discriminatory? Sure. Is the balance between profiling, which in such situations is a valuable law-enforcement tool, and the importance of equal treatment under the law a difficult one legally and ethically? Yes. Does a sheriff have the right and authority to ignore the way this balance is decided one legal authorities define it?

No.

  • Is the determination of this balance often polluted by ideological biases, in this case, against enforcement of immigration laws?

Yes.

  • Do Donald Trump, and his supporters, and those Americans who may not be his supporters but who agree that allowing foreign citizens to breach our borders at will without legal penalties is certifiably insane, believe that Arpaio’s position on illegal immigration is essentially correct and just?

Yes.

  • Nonetheless, did his ham-handed methods give ammunition to open-borders, pro-illegal immigration, race-baiting activists like the one who told the New York Times,

“Trump is delivering a slap in the face to dignified, hard-working people whose lives were ripped apart by Arpaio. Arpaio belongs in jail, getting a taste of his own medicine. Trump wants to put Arpaio above the law, showing they are both about white supremacy.”

  • Is sending Arpaio to jail a political imprisonment?

Yes, although he made it easy to justify on non-political grounds.

  • Are political prisoners the ideal objects of Presidential pardons?

Yes.

  • Would pardoning him send dangerous messages (it’s OK to violate judicial orders you think are wrong; the ends justifies the means; Presidents should meddle in local law enforcement, “extremism in defense of liberty is no vice”) as well as defensible ones ( judges and elected official enabling illegal immigration are a threat to the rule of law; Joe is an old man with a long record of public service who deserves mercy even though he was wrong…)

Yes.

  • Will such a pardon, especially as the news media is again spinning to make the case that Trump is sympathetic with xenophobes and white nationalists, further inflame an overly emotional debate that needs to be calmed, not exacerbated?

God, yes.

  • Is the most responsible course for Trump to stay out of this mess?

YES!

  • Will he?

Of course not. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/22/17

Good Morning!

1. You cannot imagine how long it takes to prepare a post on WordPress when the internet connection is going out repeatedly, requiring a trip down a flight of stairs, re-booting the modem, scanning for a channel back up the stairs in my office, and furiously searching, reading and linking until Verizon kicks out again after three to ten minutes.

Since none of my 40 phone calls to the Verizon tech who promised that the three-months’ long problem was fixed and that he would sprint like a bunny back to our home to trouble shoot if the malady returned had received the courtesy of a response, I snapped, and got into my car to visit a Verizon wireless store about five minutes away that I didn’t know existed. For some reason the world, though sun-lit, was bathed in a weird light, and my neighbors were lying on the ground wearing what looked like 3-D glasses, but never mind: I had someone to yell at.

There were two young men about the age of my son manning the store, and I told one of them, through gritted teeth, the whole infuriating saga of how much Verizon DSL sucks and what useless customer service his employer provides, rendering both my business and my communications chaotic and unbearable. I didn’t expect anything, really. I just wanted to give hell to someone face to face.

To my shock and amazement, the young man actually did something. He got on the phone—I told him that I took sadistic pleasure in watching Verizon personnel go through the infuriating phone tree, get put on hold, get disconnected, end up in the wrong department, for all of this happened to him as I watched and listened—but he finally reached a supervisor, and told him that the story he had just heard from the gentleman in his office made him ashamed to work for Verizon, and he wanted to know how my problems could be addressed immediately. Yes, he knew that I had a tech visit already scheduled, “but since the same tech has been out there three times, each time assuring him that the problem was successfully addressed, why would he trust us to fix the problem now?”

“If I were him, I would have dumped Verizon and found another provider.”

After about 45 minutes, here was what he accomplished. He got them to agree to send a different and higher level tech this time. He set in motion the process of getting me fee rebates for the three months of intermittent service. And he gave me his card, with instructions to call him immediately if the problem wasn’t fixed. “If I have to, I’ll come to your house and personally see that you have functioning internet service from a new provider,” he said. “one way or the other, I will fix this problem.”

Now THAT’S customer service.

Stay tuned!

2. From President Trump’s speech yesterday:

The men and women of our military operate as one team, with one shared mission and one shared sense of purpose. They transcend every line of race, ethnicity, creed and color to serve together and sacrifice together in absolutely perfect cohesion. That is because all service members are brothers and sisters. They’re all part of the same family. It’s called the American family. They take the same oath, fight for the same flag and live according to the same law. They’re bound together by common purpose, mutual trust and selfless devotion to our nation and to each other.

The soldier understands what we as a nation too often forget, that a wound inflicted upon a single member of our community is a wound inflicted upon us all. When one part of America hurts, we all hurt. And when one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together. Loyalty to our nation demands loyalty to one another. Love for America requires love for all of its people.

When we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry and no tolerance for hate. The young men and women we send to fight our wars abroad deserve to return to a country that is not at war with itself at home. We cannot remain a force for peace in the world if we are not at peace with each other.

As we send our bravest to defeat our enemies overseas — and we will always win — let us find the courage to heal our divisions within. Let us make a simple promise to the men and women we ask to fight in our name, that when they return home from battle, they will find a country that has renewed the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that unite us together as one.

But as my Trump-deranged Facebook friends say, we know he doesn’t believe any of this. We know in his heart that he’s a racist Nazi. Besides, they don’t want to heal those divisions. They want to exploit them, and why would they want to be undivided from deplorable citizens they hate anyway? Continue reading

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