November 5, 2020: A Date Full Of Ethics, Good, Bad, And Complicated

November 5 is one of the ethically significant days in U.S. history and, as Willy Loman’s wife famously said, “Attention must be paid.” For example,

  • On this day in 1912, arguably the most destructive and unethical President in US history, Woodrow Wilson, was elected, thanks to Teddy Roosevelt’s inability to get his ego under control. Wilson, a racist, super-charged Jim Crow; after gaining re-election by boasting that he kept America out of the Great War, he entered the war anyway, destroying the lives of thousands of young men to no discernible purpose. When he was a key member of the “Great Powers” leaders to decided on the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, he permitted ruinously punitive conditions to be imposed on Germany, seeding the anger and nationalism that led to the Second World War. He did this so that his pet project, the League of Nations, would be included in the treaty, and then couldn’t even get the U.S. Congress to approve the idea or join the body itself. Meanwhile, Wilson, against the warnings of medical experts, sent thousands of infected soldiers to Europe, spreading the deadly flu that killed millions. If our current pandemic should be laid at the feet of China, and it should, the so-called Spanish Flu by rights should be remembered as “the American Flu,” or better yet, “Wilson’s Flu.”

As a final unethical flourish, Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke while trying to get the public behind his League of Nations, and allowed his wife and doctor to hide the fact, as they illegally ran the country from his bedside. Despite all this, historians lied to the public for decades, listing him as one of the greatest Presidents, when he may have been the worst.

  • In Minnesota on Novembber 5, 1862, more than 300 Santee Sioux were sentenced to hang for their part in an uprising that was probably justified by outrageous mistreatment. A month later, President Lincoln all but 39 of the death sentences and granted a last-minute reprieve to one more, but the other 38 were hanged on December 26 in a mass execution. Lincoln is often criticized for this, but in truth he had a very difficult utilitarian ethics conflict to solve, and, as I wrote here, did his usual good and ethical job. From the post:

Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Unethical Quote Of The Month: Joe Biden”

I bet Michael, when he submitted this Comment of the Day, had a feeling I’d groove on it. After all, it’s about a President, I’m a Presidents nut,  and he ends up agreeing with me, which is always welcome.

He also raises and interesting question that was not considered in the post. If we judged Presidents on a racism scale that weighted their attitudes according to how they compared to the culture and predominant beliefs of the day, which Presidents would come out looking best? That’s how baseball stat analysts judge players across eras, and it makes sense: players are compared to league averages while they were playing, and then the stats are adjusted accordingly.  For example, Carl Yastrzemski’s .301 average in 1968 was more impressive, and represented better hitting  in his offensive context, than Lou Gehrig’s .354 mark in 1936, when ten players hit at least .350.

Analyzed that way, Woodrow Wilson comes out as the most racist President, more than the slaveholders. Jefferson, despite being a slaveholder, looks relatively good in the context of his times. So, I think, does Teddy Roosevelt, unapologetic white supremacist that he undoubtedly was.

Here’s Michael’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Unethical Quote Of The Month: Joe Biden”: Continue reading

My Ethics Conflict: Woodrow Wilson’s Name Should Have Been Removed At Princeton Long Ago, But Erasing It Now Opens The Floodgates, Part II: The Case For Expunging Wilson [Corrected]

Woodrow Wilson’s name should have never been put on

Yet President Wilson ended up being honored by having his name plastered on buildings, schools and bridges (like here in Washington, D.C) more than most Presidents, in part because influential Democratic historians, notably Kennedy family flack Arthur Schlesinger Jr., pushed the false narrative that he was a great idealist and a great leader. This required burying Wilson’s well-documented record as a racist, though the rest of his record wasn’t great either.

In Part I, I gave the official Ethics Alarms argument for not tearing down honors to Wilson now that Black Lives Matters and its allies are in full Soviet/Maoist cultural bulldozing mode. When Wilson is gone, I see little stopping the mob from tearing down Franklin D. Roosevelt memorials next, to name just one example of where this slippery slope leads.

Despite leading our nation through an existential depression and World War II, FDR had his own black marks regarding racism and discrimination, arguably as many as Wilson. In  1916, a document was discovered  showing that  Roosevelt, as Wilson’s Deputy Secretary of the Navy, personally signed an order segregating bathrooms in the Navy Department. As President, FDR wouldn’t allow his black and white White House servants to eat together.  Everyone knows (or should) that he imprisoned about 70,000 American citizens because they were Japanese, and just last year, “The Jews Should Keep Quiet: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise and the Holocaust” revealed  archival evidence of FDR’s callous and bigoted treatment of European Jews prior to and during the Holocaust.  Franklin Roosevelt was a racist and an anti-Semite. When we get into retroactively dishonoring Presidents virtually all of them are at risk.

However, there are persuasive arguments that Wilson is a special case. Continue reading

My Ethics Conflict: Woodrow Wilson’s Name Should Have Been Removed At Princeton Long Ago, But Erasing It Now Opens The Floodgates, Part I: The Case For Woodrow

Reviewing, I see that the original Black Lives Matter attack on American values, history and culture first broke out in 2015. Then as now, Democrats rushed to embrace the racist group’s anti-white, anti-police and anti-America agenda, seeking, as usual, to enamor itself with its base. That was also the first time Princeton University was urged by student activists to remove honors to Wilson from the campus, though Wilson was not only a President of the United States (and according to Democrats until recently, one of the greatest) but also a lauded president of Princeton. The 2015 calls for his airbrushing out of Princeton’s history coincided with many similar attempts, some successful, to dishonor past historical figures whose legacies or conformity with modern values had been called into question.

College campuses, not city streets, were ground zero in 2015. Yale and the University of Missouri led the madness. At Mizzou, black students manufactured racial outrage out of ambiguous and off-campus incidents, then engaged in what Ethics Alarms then termed  an “I’m mad at the world and somebody has to pay for it” tantrum (Hmmm! Still sounds pretty good!), demanding all sorts of special accommodations and race-based policies and hirings, and demanding the university president’s resignation. Thomas Wolfe did resign, giving us an early precedent for all the capitulation and cowardice we are seeing today. As we’re seeing today, intimidation, race-bullying and attacks on free expression and language were part of the assault:

  • Amherst students demanded a crack-down on any free speech in the form of criticism of Black Lives Matters or the protest goals.
  • Dartmouth’s Black Lives Matters members roamed through the campus library, verbally assaulting white students attempting to study.
  • Smith College held a sit-in, and barred reporters-–the new breed of campus freedom-fighters just don’t like that pesky First Amendment—unless they promised to cover the protest positively. .
  • Occidental College students occupied a three-story administration building, demanding “a series of actions ranging from racist to just unreasonable to oppressive” in the name of “safety” and “diversity”, of course. Predictably, the leftist faculty which helped make the students this way were fully supportive.Refresh your recollections with the list of student demands here; my favorites: demanding an increase in tenured black professors and black doctors; funding for the student group for black men, which is racist and counter-diverse by definition; and “elimination of military and police rhetoric from all documents and daily discourse.”

Why is this so familiar? Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, Father’s Day Edition Though There’s Absolutely Nothing Here About Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day.

On YouTube, the first comment on this video is from someone who writes, “It’s a grate song.” Yeah, THAT guy had one hell of a father…

1. Bored with statue-toppling and honor stripping yet? Obviously the Hun and Vandals aren’t. Here in the D.C. universe, George Preston Marshall the original owner of the Washington Redskins who was the NFL’s version of Cal Griffith, lost his statue two days ago when the D.C. government pulled it down after protesters had vandalized it. Mayor Bowzer is one of the Democratic mayors who are actively enabling the protests. Of course, with statues being indiscriminately being toppled now, the gesture is increasingly less meaningful. Woodrow Wilson, the white-supremacist, racist President who spread the Spanish flu around the world by sending infected troops into Europe when he  sent the U.S. into The Great War for no discernible reason, and who then planted the seed for World War II by sitting by and allowing the victorious English, French and Italians inflict devastating punitive  term on Germany as long as he got his pet project, the League of Nations, into the Versailles Treaty, will have his name removed from buildings by Monmouth University and  Camden, New Jersey. A private college in West Virginia announced last week that it is removing the name of the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd from its health center. The Democratic Byrd may have been a reformed KKK member, but he also brought many millions of dollars into rural West Virginia, thus explaining the proliferation of his family’s name there. Surely you heard that protesters in Liverpool, England, want to rename Penny Lane of Beatles song fame, because a Liverpool man with the last name of Penny was a slave-trader. Was the street actually named after him? No, there’s no indication that it was, but hey, any association with the name Penny now has a “connection” to racism, so let’s see how far this goes. Penny candy! Penny arcades! Penny loafers!  Penny, Sky King’s niece on the old TV show!

Meanwhile, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, the owned of Eskimo Pie, now says the name is “derogatory,” and that it will be changing the product’s name and marketing. The head of marketing  told CBS News. “We are committed to being a part of the solution on racial equality, and recognize the term is derogatory.”

This is yet another example of the Niggardly Principle. The term Eskimo, according to the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, actually came from the French word esquimaux, meaning one who nets snowshoes, like what  Arctic peoples do. Never mind: the rumor started that the term was racist because racist Europeans used it. I highly doubt any native Inuit people are offended by the name of the ice cream bar. In fact, many Native Alaskans still refer to themselves as Eskimos, in part because the word Inuit isn’t part of the Yupik languages of Alaska and Siberia. Is it racist when they use it?

Losing its famous brand will almost certainly eliminate the product, costing business and jobs, but apparently it’s worth it for the company to signal it’s virtue with a move that can’t possibly have any salutary effect on racial equality whatsoever.

“Madness. Madness!” Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: CNN And Marc Lamont Hill”

More self-flagellation is in order: the problem when one gets behind in posting important Comments of the Day, new entries tend to push themselves into line, making it harder to catch up. The quiz about whether CNN was ethical to fire Marc Lamont Hill spawned this too- interesting- to- put- off discourse on the use of violence in activism in the U.S.  To recap, Hill had told the U.N, in the course of advocating pushing the Jews into the sea,

“Contrary to western mythology, black resistance to American apartheid did not come purely through Gandhi and nonviolence. Rather, slave revolts and self-defense and tactics otherwise divergent from Dr. King or Mahatma Gandhi were equally important to preserving safety and attaining freedom.”

To this,seasoned Ethics Alarms commenter Isaac wrote,

He’s also wrong about uprisings and violent tactics being “equally important” to African freedom and equal rights in America. Not even close to true. If anything such tactics, while understandable, hindered the hard uphill battle being fought by the likes of Douglass and King. You can trace virtually every single concrete step forward in both the abolition and civil rights movements to peaceful activists, non-violent advocacy, and people working within the American systems to change them. Not sexy, but true.

This sparked Michael R’s Comment of the Day on the post Ethics Quiz: CNN And Marc Lamont Hill:

I would disagree with you on your points about violent tactics. Violent self-defense was an integral part in the Civil Rights movement in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The Deacons for Defense and other armed groups of black men provided armed guards for civil rights leaders. Without groups of armed black men like the Deacons for Defense, CORE would have been wiped out. The KKK would have won and the civil rights movement would have collapsed. Continue reading

I’m Sorry To Have To Do Again This So Soon, But I Promised…Unethical Quote Of The Week: NYT Book Reviewer Jennifer Senior

I’m going to kill this fake history if it’s the last thing I do…

“But one thing we know for certain: History conspired against Clinton. No non-incumbent Democrat has succeeded a two-term Democratic president since 1836, and 2016 was a year when voters were pining for change.”

—-New York Times book reviewer Jennifer Senior, spinning for Hillary in her review of “What Happened”

I promised. I promised myself and Ethics Alarms readers that every time Presidential historian Doug Brnkley’s false election night statement that voters seldom elect the same party into the White house 12 years running is quoted as an explanation for Hillary Clinton’s loss, I would point out that this is a lie, and an especially awful one when issued on national TV by a supposedly-credible historian

Based on today’s New York Times review of Hillary Clinton’s excuse-and-blame fest in the wake of her defeat last November, I, and the truth, are making a little joint headway. Reviewer Jennifer Senior has refined Brinkley’s false history and now has a technically accurate but equally misleading version.

Yes, it is true: No non-incumbent Democrat has succeeded a two-term Democratic president since 1836. There is a threshold problem with even this reduction: why does the “rule” only apply to Democrats? Apparently Democrats can use the excuse that voters never vote in non-incumbents of the same party after 8 years, but Republicans can’t. Sorry, John McCain! Tough luck, Richard Nixon!

Democrats are so comfortable with the concept of double-standards when it benefits them. It’s scary.

The larger problem with this factoid is that it is deceitful. Using 1836 sounds impressive: Wow, this hasn’t happened for almost 200 years! No wonder Hillary lost! It’s not so impressive when one points out, as Senior doesn’t have the integrity to do, that there have been only three elections before 2016 when a non-incumbent Democrat had a chance to succeed a two-term Democratic President. Three. 3. III. I can flip heads with a coin three times in a row (or tails) any time I want to, in less than five minutes. The fact that in just three elections cheery-picked for certain similarities (though they were anything but similar) the same party lost proves, or even indicates, nothing. Suggesting it does is either ignorant or dishonest. (In Senior’s case, I vote dishonest, but I could be wrong.) Continue reading

Which Presidents Would Have Tweeted Trump-Style If They Had A Twitter Account?

The tweet above from the President as he doubled down on his unusually stupid attack tweets against Joe and Mika got me thinking. He’s not entirely wrong. Trump is the first President to use social media personally and for candid statements and observations, bypassing the news media, and almost all of the previous Presidents had no choice in the matter. Fourth of July weekend always gets me thinking about the Founders, and the Founders get me musing about the Presidents, and I found myself playing this mind game: Which of our Presidents, had they has access to Twitter, would have used it in a Trumpian manner?

I should clarify some issues at the outset. None of the Presidents would have used Twitter in a stupid, juvenile and boorish manner like President Trump, because none of them were that stupid, juvenile and boorish. (On the other hand, none of their critics, being comparatively responsible and sane, would have argued that stupid, juvenile and boorish tweets were justification to remove the previous 44, as Keith Olbermann thinks.) By using Twitter in a Trumpian manner, I mean using it…

..Personally…

…for the purpose of by-passing the news media and White House spokespersons…

…in order to make declarations of intent, emotions or satisfaction, or

…to attack, accuse, denigrate, compliment, rebut, defend, joke, troll, or otherwise

…communicate directly with the public.in an unfiltered manner.

One other caveat: Trump would definitely be establishing new Presidential norms were his tweets less obnoxious and embarrassing. By the time his term(s) are over, he mat have given Presidential tweeting such a bad reputation that no future POTUS will dare use Twitter for fear of being compared to the Mad Tweeter of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

All right, on to the inquiry!

Which of our previous Presidents would have used twitter in one or more of the ways Trump uses it. based on what we know of their character and leadership styles?

Continue reading

Willful Amnesia And The Great Cat And Dog Massacre

Did you know that animal-loving British families killed an estimated 400,000 household pets—cats and dogs—in the first week after Great Britain declared war on Germany in September, 1939? Neither did I, and now a new book by Hilda Kean, “The Great Dog and Cat Massacre,” sets out to remind us of that ugly episode.

As the New York Times review of the book notes and Kean explains, the mass euthanasia was “publicly lamented at the time,” but has since been erased from memory.  But why has it been erased from memory, and how? This is a disturbing cultural phenomenon that Ethics Alarms has covered before, notably in the post about dance marathons in the U.S. during the Depression. One of the definitions of culture is what we choose to remember and what we choose to forget. Forgetting, however, while often psychically soothing and an easy way to avoid guilt and accountability, is a pre-unethical condition. That which has been forgotten can no longer teach us, and a society that collectively decides to pretend something cruel, horrible or traumatic didn’t happen risks allowing it to happen again.

This, of course, is one more reason why the recent progressive mania for historical airbrushing is dangerous, irresponsible and unethical. Keep that statue of “Joe Pa” on the Penn State campus. Leave  King Andy on the twenty dollar bill.  Don’t take down that bust of Bill Cosby in the TV Hall of Fame. All civilizations have fallen heroes, moments of panic, times when they forget their values and betray their aspirations. Of course it is painful and embarrassing to remember these things, but also essential if human ethics are going to progress instead of stagnating, or even going backwards. We associate the elimination of cultural memories with totalitarian regimes, and for good reason, for they are blatant and shameless about it.

No nation is immune from the process’s appeal, however. When I was going to grade school and studying the Presidents of the United States, Jackson and Woodrow Wilson were routinely hailed by (mostly Democratic) historians as among the greatest of the great. The first Jackson biography I read barely mentioned the Trail of Tears. I read four well-regarded biographies of Wilson that ignored his support for Jim Crow, and the degree to which he deliberated reversed advances in civil rights, being an unapologetic white supremacist. The influenza epidemic that killed millions was excised from my school’s history books. Thomas Jefferson’s concubine, Sally Hemmings? Who? Continue reading

Unethical Meme Of The Week: Democratic Underground

Meme

I know I could batter internet memes all day, but this one, by the Democratic Underground, particularly annoys me, as has the “chicken hawk” canard that knee-jerk anti-war activists have been wielding for decades.

To begin with, it’s an ad hominem argument, and thus unethical on its face. The question is whether a military option is the best and most responsible solution to an international problem, not who is asserting that it is. It is also an incompetent argument, as in stupid. There  is nothing about typical military experience that conveys expertise in foreign affairs or international politics. Military service, as in training, marching, being deployed and shooting a gun, and military action, as a strategic tool of diplomacy and international politics, are two different things. Lincoln was a superb Commander in Chief, but he didn’t gain that ability from his brief combat experience fighting Black Hawk Indians.

In fact, what is  the statement above supposed to imply? No Commander in Chief has had to risk personal combat if he chose war. Because there has been no draft since the the Nineties, the only way a political leader would ever have military experience would be if he chose a military career, which would mean that the meme suggests that a military career is a prerequisite for national leadership. But Democrats don’t believe that; nobody believes that. In fact, Democrats are wary and suspicious of the military, which they believe, with some justification,  is biased toward military involvement. They don’t even especially respect military service: look at how James Webb was treated in his brief presidential run. Continue reading