When Statue-Toppling Is Acceptable…

Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam has begun the process of removing Virginia’s statue of Robert E. Lee  from the U.S. Capitol, where each state has a statue of two state heroes. Ethics Alarms has been uncompromising in opposing the progressive movement to remove the statues of figures past generations admired and believed worthy of memorials and honors because of their achievements. The phenomenon is the essence of the deplorable “cancel culture,” where any transgression or past conduct viewed as repugnant in the light of “presentism” or political correctness is treated as justification to airbrush their lives out of our culture and history. Slaveholding has been the ultimate trigger for such airbrushing, even when the individuals being erased made crucial contributions to our nation. That criteria endangers our Founders like Washington, Jefferson and Madison, without whom our nation would not exist.

Lee, of course, is the fulcrum of this battle. The Confederate icon  has long been admired for his character, loyalty and courage, as well as his brilliance as a military strategist. As the Confederacy has increasingly been regarded as fighting for slavery by modern historians (though it’s more complicated than that), Lee’s own sin of owning slaves is increasingly see as being compounded by his role in fighting to preserve the process, and committing treason to do it. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Month: Pete Buttigieg

“The people who wrote the Constitution did not understand that slavery was a bad thing.”

South  Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg in 2011, disgracing himself and betraying the trust of the a group of students who trusted him to tell them the truth. Instead, he made them ignorant while encouraging disrespect and distrust of the Founders, an especially sinister component of the Democratic effort to undermine the Constitution and to “remake” America.

I reluctantly concluded that Buttigieg was, to be indelicate, an asshole almost exactly a month ago, after he returned the contributions of two lawyers who represented  Justice Kavanaugh when Buttigieg’s party was attempting to destroy him using an unsubstantiated and conveniently recalled alleged episode when he was in high school. With Buttigieg, unlike, say, Joe Biden, I assume he is educated and intelligent, and thus I knew that this was dishonest grandstanding. Mayor Pete knows that lawyers do not personally endorse those they represent, even if much of the public does not. Worse, in justifying his actions, Buttigeig’s campaign declared that Justice Kavanaugh was guilty of sexual assault. I wrote,

Buttigieg rejects fairness, due process, logic and decency to declare a Supreme Court Justice with a history of  impeccable professional and personal conduct guilty of a crime without evidence, and further impugns the lawyers who helped protect him from a vicious political attack, all to suck up to the worst elements of the Democratic base. This is signature significance. Pete Buttigieg is an asshole. Good to know.

It’s also good to know that my assessment in November was accurate, as this re-surfaced episode confirms, and that the mayor didn’t just recently become an asshole as he pursued the Presidency (an occupational hazard) but has been one all along.

Good to know. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day: “Pre-Thanksgiving Day Ethics Wrap-Up, 11/27/2019””

 

Alizia Tyler’s Comment of the Day predictably set off another round of debates relating to the Civil War. There are few episodes in our history that are so rich with ethics and leadership controversies, so it is not surprising that Lincoln, secession, slavery, the Confederacy, Lee and other objects of contention keep finding their way here, most recently in connection with the relentless Confederate Statutory Ethics Train Wreck.

Red Pill Ethics has made an impressive entry in this fascinating and ever-green category. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post,”Comment Of The Day: “Pre-Thanksgiving Day Ethics Wrap-Up, 11/27/2019””….I’ll be back at the end.

I sat and argued Lincoln a bit to my significant other. Or at least all the things history kind of brushes aside.

1) Laws determine what we can’t do, not what we can do. If there is no law saying that an act is illegal then it is by definition legal. This is the foundation of American law. The government just can’t make up rules and arrest you for things that aren’t illegal.

By this universally true standard, the South’s secession was legal. There is no law prohibiting it and, historically, none of the early states entered the union with the understanding that it was an unbreakable agreement. Indeed the federal government was deliberately made to be a weak structure to preserve the autonomy of the states. To this day there is no law saying that the states can’t leave the union – in any case such a law would be deeply hypocritically and ethically bankrupt given America’s rebellious origin. Some Supreme Court cases have touched the issue but their constitutional basis is literally non existent – “Texas had become part of ‘an indestructible Union, composed of indestructible states’ ” uhhhhh where does the constitution say that?

2) At the time of the Civil War, secession was widely if not universally viewed as a legal option. So a few Southern States peacefully succeeded and ordered all Northern troops out of their sovereign territory. The feds did not comply. They sat in Fort Sumter and did not leave. The Confederacy then blockaded the Fort to prevent it’s resupply that the unlawful occupiers of that land might be forced to leave. Again the Feds did not comply. Instead they ran the blockade and sent more men and material to the Fort. Sorry fam, but when one nation sends troops into another nation to occupy their land… that’s an invasion no matter how bloodless it may be. The modern equivalent of a bloodless invasion like this would the Russian annexation of Crimea. Bloodless but inarguably illegal and an act of war. If Ukraine had gotten its shit together and actually had a functioning military or military alliances it very likely would have been the start of a big ol’ war. As it stands though, Ukraine lacks the power to fight back and so it took the invasion on the chin.

The South did not. They opened fire on the Fort and eventually took it back – and they managed to do it without actually killing anyone. A bloodless invasion was met with a bloodless defeat and sovereign land was returned to its sovereign owner. In any case, the North’s soft invasion and the previously unheard of authority that it implied so alarmed the other states that four more states who had initially opposed secession then decided to secede. The North then blockaded the South’s ports and invaded Virginia. Even Maryland and Delaware, Northern states, considered withdrawing from the Union but were prevented from doing so by federal intervention…which brings us to the next evil that Lincoln’s administration perpetrated. Continue reading

Thank God It’s The Friday Ethics Warm-Up, 8/23/ 2019

(Dreary, gloomy day outside; working on having a brilliant day inside.)

1. Feeling guilty about the Red Sox. I haven’t watched or listened to a game in over two weeks. The reason is that it’s just not fun, it’s too stressful, and I am already stressed to the max with non-baseball matters. I’m fairly sure this is the longest voluntary sabbatical I have ever taken from my team, and it is my team, throughout 80% of my life, a constant presence, inspiration and source of enlightenment. I have never relied on the team winning to justify my interest and loyalty. I just love the game, the suspense, the players and the endless supply of unpredictable stories and surprises.

BUT…this season has been uniquely frustrating. The Red Sox won 108 games last season on the way to the World Championship, and it was, especially by historical Red Sox standards, an insanely enjoyable ride. Virtually everything went perfectly, over the season, in the play-offs, in individual games.Whatever was needed to win, somebody always came through: it was like a movie. Baseball isn’t usually like that (well, except for the Yankees for about 50 years). I even said at the time, as my wife reminds me, “The Sox are going to pay big time for this one.”

Boston was confident coming into 2019 with virtually the exact same sqaud that had been unbeatable in 2018. Regression to the mean, however, is a force of nature, and especially with this team, for some reason. Since 1918, every single time the Sox have won the American League pennant, the next season was a bust, and often a horrible bust. Devastating injuries, unexpected bad years, clubhouse dissension, astoundingly bad luck: I’ve seen it all, and before, I’ve endured it all as a fair price to pay for the joys of the past and to come. This season, for some reason, I can’t take it, and I feel like an ungrateful wretch.

2. Got it: slavery is the cause of everything bad in the United States, and all whites want black people to get sick and die. Does anyone who can think clearly think this latest bit of dishonest guilt-tripping propaganda is going to help Democrats prevail, rather than  just harden racial and partisan divisions? Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Unethical Times Op-ed Of The Week?”

Timothy Egan’s spectacularly dishonest op-ed for the Times, The Founders Would Gag at Today’s Republicans: The cult of Trump has embraced values and beliefs that Jefferson, Washington and Lincoln abhorred,” was one more conservative- and Trump-bashing exercise disguised as a history lesson, albeit for Americans who know little about history and foolishly assume that they can trust pundits like Egan to enlighten them. Of course, all such exercises in time-traveling appeals to authority are inherently dishonest. 18th century minds, even those as sharp and creative as the Founders possessed, would go into shock at most of what they saw today if somehow provided the opportunity, and would take a while to understand why things have evolved as they have.

Frequent commenter JutGory sat down and treated Ethics Alarms readers with an analysis of developments the Founders would have had trouble with without indulging in the sort of cherry-picking and distortion Egan did to pander to the Times’ progressive readership. The result of what Jut called his “retro-prognostications” is a genuinely educational post, and a distinguished Comment of the Day.

Here it is:

If we are doing retro-prognostications, I bet I could do better:

Disclaimer: the Founders would probably be a bit mystified at the technological advances in general.

They would not be surprised by the abolition of slavery. They would be half-surprised that it took a war to do it (“We put in an amendment process for pretty much this reason, people!”)

They would probably be surprised at how much power the Supreme Court (the weakest branch) wields. Of course it only wields that much power because the other branches have gotten more powerful. To wit:

They would be surprised by the 16th Amendment (income tax), as it is a direct tax of the individual by the Federal Government, but okay (“Yay, Amendment process).

Of course, money is power, so, with more tax money comes more power.

They would be completely baffled by the 17th Amendment (direct election of Senators). That opens the Senate up to national influences, instead of influence from a small group of state legislators. That was kind of the whole point of the Senate: to represent the States, not its citizens.

But, you can’t pass a farm subsidy bill if Senators answer to their legislatures.

Can’t get universal healthcare if Senators stand in the way.

But, you change the Senate selection process, you get popular candidates, supported by national appeal and no specific understanding of the needs of the State (Hello, Al Franken!)

The power grab of the Commerce Clause would puzzle them. Continue reading

Instagram Shows Us Once Again That Social Media Is Dedicated To Rigging Public Debate And Discourse To Ensure Progressive Policies

But conservatives are the autocrats and fascists.

This thoughtful and provocative cartoon by Adam Ford, the founder of the  conservative satire site, The Babylon Bee, was banned as “hate speech” by Instagram:

Observations:

1. Blaming this on a flawed algorithm won’t wash. Yes, it is difficult to write programs to identify genuine non-substantive speech designed only to insult denigrate or defend, and this means that a fair and competent social media platform must lean toward being over-permissive rather than unjustly and illogically censorious.

2. Obviously, the cartoon doesn’t qualify as hate speech even under the vaguest and most sweeping definition of a term that is too flexible anyway. The comparison between slavery and abortion isn’t new, and it keeps arising because abortion advocates have yet to rebut it. Both issues involve what one side believes is a human rights violation that is defended by denying the humanity of the victims, or arguing that the abuse of the victims is justified by the benefits to those abusing them. The analogy has been raised in films (such as “The Island”) and television (as on a memorable episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” The cartoon could be and should be used in classroom discussions on the question of abortion.

3. For that to happen, however, people have to see it, and be allowed to think. Social media, when it censors speech and opinion that offend the sensibilities of the “woke” simply because such speech challenge progressive ideology and cant, isn’t “protecting its users.” It is protecting its allies from having to prevail in policy debates with facts, logic and ethics by bluntly silencing dissent. This is becoming a bad and frightening habit. In his new book “”A Thousand Small Sanities,” liberal commentator David Gropnik writes, “The contemporary left can sometimes seem to have an insufficient respect for the fragility of the very same liberal institutions that allow its views to be broadcast without impediments.” Ya think??

4. Meanwhile, the controversy isn’t being covered by the mainstream media at all, at least not yet. Thus other institutions are enabling social media’s content-based ideological censorship by not publicizing it. All the better to have the metaphorical frog of the American public boiled slowly in progressive censorship before they know what’s going on. (Yes, you pedants out there, I know that you can’t really boil a frog to death slowly, but that’s the old myth.)

5. One overly kind Christian website tried to come up with ways Instagram might have legitimately concluded that the cartoon was hate speech:

There is another possible reason Instagram flagged Ford’s post in question. Throughout the comic, which equivocates old hypothetical pro-slavery arguments with modern pro-choice rhetoric, Ford refers to black people as “blacks” — a term often flagged as offensive, though some style guides do permit “black” to be used as a noun as well as an adjective. While Instagram does not specifically forbid the use of “black” as a noun in their community guidelines, it does require users to only “post photos and videos that are appropriate for a diverse audience.”

Even accepting this theory, the censorship is unethical and ominous. So if “some people” find a term that is generally accepted elsewhere as “offensive,” that justifies banning a substantive message? It is still oppressive speech policing no matter how one looks at it.

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