I Hereby Grant Loyal Ethics Alarms Readers This Open Forum…

US Grant

Sorry, I had to find some way to feature U.S. Grant this morning, in part because he died on this date in 1885, but mostly because my son was named after him, and I love Grant Viktor Bowen Marshall with all my heart. Grant is one of the most interesting and complex of Presidential personalities, as well as among our most ethical Presidents. Even in death he was ethical: he spent his last days furiously writing out his memoirs so his family could be cleared of debt by selling them. (The publisher was Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain.) Grant was in the process of dying in agony of throat cancer, but he not only wrote through the pain, he did a fine job of it. I’ve read most of the Presidential autobiographies, and if there is one as good, I haven’t encountered it yet.

I suppose by now everyone knows my favorite piece of Grant trivia: he was christened Hiram Ulysses Grant, but was embarrassed that his initials spelled out “hug” (Grant was fanatically modest, and wrote that his wife had never seen him naked), so he flipped his middle and first names so the initials spelled “uhg,” as if that’s an improvement. Then some careless clerk at West Point substituted an “S” for the “H,” and the young Grant recognized that “U.S. Grant” was a pretty cool name, and kept it. The “S” didn’t stand for anything except “Hiram,” but he got sick of explaining this, so settled on “Simpson.” This eventually made Grant one of two U.S. Presidents with a middle initial S that actually was meaningless: the other is Harry Truman. If a source prints Harry’s name with a period after the S, it’s a hack outfit. Wikipedia has the period, for example. No, Truman’s middle name was just “S”…

But I digress.

Start writing about your ethical issues, concerns and observations, please…

Saturday Ethics Freakout, 6/20/2020: Fake News, Resignations, Topplings And Cancellations…But Also Hope

I know just how you feel, Homer.

1. Mainstream media journalism, 2020. I thank Tim Levier for this classic, from NBC News:

Fake news. First, the Court did NOT rule that Trump cannot end DACA. The opinion by Chief Justice Roberts said explicitly that he can. Second, “Dreamers”  were not legal immigrants so they cannot magically become legal immigrants. At best, they will be illegal immigrants who have been given a pass for their violation.  The tweet is deceptive, misleading, and incompetent.

2. Cancellations, Resignations and Topplings Update! The current list of entertainment celebrities and politicians who have been documented as wearing blackface for one reason or another is long, and if one falls to the mob, the rest might start feeling awfully nervous.

The list includes Justin Trudeau, Ralph Northam, Howard Stern, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Joy Behar, Sarah Silverman, Ted Danson, Gigi Hadid, Julianne Hough and Billy Crystal.  Right now rumors are swirling around the irredeemable Jimmy Kimmel, who has suddenly announced a hiatus, with many speculating that he is holding on to his job by a thread…and if he goes, the innocuous Fallon may be next. Though Stern, Kimmel and Behar are blights on the culture whose professional demise I would cheer, long past blackface dabbling should not be used to punish any of these people now….except perhaps the Virginia Governor.  Northam is a special case, because his party is wildly hypocritical to allow him to escape accountability when it is cheering on the mobs. However, again, a law school costume has no relevance to the Governor today.

As for Trudeau–I don’t care.

3. Cancellations, Resignations and Topplings Update, Literary Division. At the Poetry Foundation earlier this month,  leadership was forced to resign because its official grovel to Black Lives Matter and the George Floyd mob was deemed not abject enough. The Foundation had issued a brief, four-sentence statement on June 3, expressing “solidarity with the Black community” and declaring faith in “the strength and power of poetry to uplift in times of despair.” This prompted a critical uproar from the progressive poets, with another letter from members calling the statement “worse than the bare minimum” and an insult to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other African-American victims of police violence. The foundation’s president and board chairman then quit, because, I suppose, poets are lovers, not fighters.

“As poets, we recognize a piece of writing that meets the urgency of its time with the appropriate fire when we see it — and this is not it,” the letter said. “Given the stakes, which equate to no less than genocide against Black people, the watery vagaries of this statement are, ultimately, a violence.”

Genocide! Talk about poetic license. Continue reading

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

Encore! Presidents Day Ethics: The Presidents of the United States on Ethics and Leadership

It’s President’s Day, and I see that it has been five years since the most popular Ethics Alarms President’s Day post was published. That one, from 2011, reminds us of the ethics wisdom and leadership acumen of the remarkable men who have served their country in the most challenging, difficult, and ethically complicated of all jobs, the U.S. Presidency.

In the middle of a campaign season littered with some disturbingly unethical candidates, it seems especially appropriate to re-post that entry now….with some updates. In 2011, I left out three Presidents, including the current one. Now all are represented, most of them well.

So…

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Presidents of the United States of America:

 

George Washington: “I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.”

John Adams: “Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.” 

Thomas Jefferson: “On great occasions every good officer must be ready to risk himself in going beyond the strict line of law, when the public preservation requires it; his motives will be a justification…”

James Madison: “No government any more than any individual will long be respected without being truly respectable.”

James Monroe: “The best form of government is that which is most likely to prevent the greatest sum of evil.”

John Quincy Adams: “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”

Andrew Jackson: “One man with courage makes a majority.”   (Attributed)

Martin Van Buren: “No evil can result from its inhibition more pernicious than its toleration.”

William Henry Harrison: “There is nothing more corrupting, nothing more destructive of the noblest and finest feelings of our nature, than the exercise of unlimited power.” Continue reading

A Presidents Day Celebration (PART 2): The Good, The Over-matched, And Then There’s Abe

presseal

The Presidents between #7, Jackson, and #16, Lincoln, are almost entirely unknown to most of the public: not one in a hundred can name them all, and of those almost none can name them in order. Eight one-term Presidents, all trying to stave off the civil war in various ways, and all failing that mission.

I will never understand why learning the Presidents in order isn’t a standard requirement in the public schools. It’s not hard; it is a useful tool in placing events in American history, and it prevents embarrassments like the Cornell law grad I once worked with who couldn’t place the Civil War in the right century. Besides, we’re Americans, damn it. The least we owe the 43 patriots who have tried to do this job, some at the cost of their lives, many their health, and many more their popularity, is their place in our history and their names.

On with hailing the Chiefs with some of my favorite facts about them:

James K. Polk

“Hail to the Chief,” which had been sporadically in use since Madison’s day, became the official anthem of the office during the Polk Administration. Polk was a small, unimpressive man, and it was said that he needed the musical announcement when he entered a room or no one would notice him. Looks can be deceiving. James K. Polk was as wily, tough and as ruthless as they come. One reason may be that he was another Presidential survivor of an ordeal that would kill most people: as a teenager, he underwent a bloody frontier operation for gallstones with no anesthesia, tied to a table, biting on a rag.

Zachary Taylor

zachary-taylor

General Taylor, who was pursued by both the Whigs and the Democrats who both wanted to nominate him for President, was a great experiment  He was not a member of any political party, had never held public office prior  to becoming President, and had never even voted before becoming Chief Executive. He was also nearly illiterate. We often long for an apolitical President, a true, rather than a pretend, “outsider.” Taylor would have been an interesting test case, though the pre-Civil War political and social chaos was hardly the most promising period to try out the theory. Unfortunately he died of cholera less than half-way into his administration.

And he wasn’t even elected in a year ending in a zero! Continue reading

Ethics Train Wreck Updates: The Obama Presidency and The Washington Redskins

Obama golfing

1. Update: The Obama Presidency Ethics Train Wreck

This has been a week dominated by Ethics Train Wrecks old and new: the Ferguson Express, which will presumably slow down for a few months until we find out what the grand jury does and why; the previously dormant Donald Sterling choo-choo, which came around another bend in its tracks, and, predictably, the Ethics Train Wreck that is the entire Obama Presidency, highlighted by the President more or less intentionally refusing to act like an engaged leader, happily going back to fun on the links after making a statement regarding an American journalist beheaded on video by terrorists.

Naturally the latter concerns me more than the rest, but I have realized that most of those who are in permanent denial about this leader’s ineptitude simply don’t want to process the truth in this regard. Mention the obvious, or what should be, that this frightening confluence of crises domestic and foreign is an irresponsible time to be perceived as taking a break, and one is bombarded by specious comparisons with Bush or JFK’s home away from home on Cape Cod. Some observers have the integrity to concede what many–you know, those mean Obama critics who are out to get him because he’s black–correctly discerned long ago. Here’s The New York Times, consistently one of the President’s most incorrigible apologists:

“Yet the juxtaposition of his indignant denunciation of terrorists and his outing on the greens this week underscored the unintended consequences of such a remove. If Mr. Obama hoped to show America’s enemies that they cannot hijack his schedule, he also showed many of his friends in America that he disdains the politics of appearance. He long ago stopped worrying about what critics say, according to aides, and after the outcry over Wednesday’s game, he defied the critics by golfing again on Thursday, his eighth outing in 11 days on the island.

It was all the more striking given that Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain canceled his vacation after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria released the video showing Mr. Foley’s death because the accent of the masked killer suggested he came from Britain. Former Vice President Dick Cheney told Fox News that Mr. Obama would “rather be on the golf course than he would be dealing with the crisis.”

But the criticism went beyond the usual political opponents. Privately, many Democrats shook their heads at what they considered a judgment error.”

It is not a judgment error at all. It is just another example of Obama’s flat, flat, flat learning curve regarding leadership. Continue reading

Presidents Day Ethics: The Presidents of the United States on Ethics and Leadership

In commemoration of President’s Day, Ethics Alarms presents the ethics wisdom of the remarkable men who have served their country in the most challenging, difficult, and ethically complicated of all jobs, the U.S. Presidency.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Presidents of the United States:

George Washington: “I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.” Continue reading

The Wrong Lesson from Tiger’s Fall

So that’s the lesson, is it?

As the year end lists almost unanimously “award” Tiger Woods the distinction of engineering the Scandal of the Year, pundits also seem to be nearing consensus on the lesson we should take from the golfer’s fall, which is: “Don’t make athletes and celebrities your role models or heroes. They are human beings like everyone else, and are guaranteed to disappoint you.”

Oh, I see…it’s all our fault. Continue reading