Category Archives: Leadership

Scott Brown And The Slippery Slope To Distrust

Stay classy, Senator...

Stay classy, Senator…

Who started our elected officials down the slippery slope to the point where the public viewed them as indistinguishable from any other celebrity? Was it when  Richard Nixon appeared on “Laugh-In” in 1968? Was it when ex-Speaker Tip O’Neill allowed himself the be shown in a commercial for Quality International Budget Hotels, popping out of a suitcase? Was it a decade earlier, when washed up song and dance man George Murphy won a U.S. Senate seat for California? There were critics who sounded the alarms loud and early about the dangers of our leaders trading on their visibility and power like any pop singer, athlete or actress; such critics were inevitably told to “lighten up.” We assumed, did we not, that our leaders, being responsible and respectful of our institutions,  would know what lines not to cross, and when their self-mockery, playing around and hucksterism would risk harming the credibility of democracy and the public trust.

Why would we assume that, especially as cynical politicians increasingly sought to win the votes of even more cynical young voters?

Ronald Reagan explained to an interviewer that while it would be fun to return to acting—playing a Bond villain, maybe—after leaving the Presidency, it would be unseemly. Is anything unseemly now? Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped out of a Governor’s mansion back into cyborgdom without blinking. Rudy Giuliani appeared in drag on Saturday Night Live while he was still mayor. Senators and House members eagerly grabbed cameos in sitcoms and dramas. Some were even good at it: Senator John Glenn’s guest appearance on “Frazier” is one of the highlights of the whole series. Did any of these eager publicity hounds consider that the more our leaders behaved like every other celebrity, the less reason the public had to believe they were any better, smarter, or more honest than the politically vocal and usually ignorant celebrities who supported them?

A public office is a public trust, and therefore the honor of that office is a gift that the temporary occupant should not trade upon for crass commercial gain and ego fulfillment.  It is bad, and corrupting, enough that the simple fact that they held high office is usually enough to guarantee former officials private sector employment in lobbying firms, universities, law firms and other lucrative enterprises. Still, the institution and positions a former elected leader leaves behind are still deeply affected by the conduct and the reputation of former occupants.

When I first studied Presidential leadership, the consensus among political scientists was that the public perceived the office of the Presidency according to the conduct, reputation, image  and character of George Washington.  Today, thanks to constantly sinking precedents, the public expects lies, excuses incompetence, and shrugs off greed, with the ugly example of the Clintons now reaching depths never envisioned even when Gerald Ford became the star client of the William Morris agency.

Yet somehow I didn’t think it would come to this. I didn’t foresee a former U.S. Senator following the lead of Marie Osmond and Kirstie Alley, and becoming a shill for a diet supplement.  I am so damn naive sometimes. I assumed that an ex-Massachusetts Republican Senator would no more follow that seedy path, no matter how much he needed the money,  then Sarah Palin would pose nude for Playboy. Yet here is Scott Brown, serving as spokesperson for AdvoCare products, which resemble Herbalife in their marketing plan and likely legitimacy.

His acceptance of such an undignified and dubious role harms every U.S. Senator, the institution of the Senate, and the republic itself. It further obliterates all pretense of superior character and respect for the institutions they serve from our politicians, and makes every single one of them appear less worthy of office, respectable or dignified in the eyes of citizens and voters. There are essays all over the web right now asking why slimy Donald Trump is polling so well, given that he is boor, a bully, a clod, a huckster and a self-promoting fool.

Scott Brown and the trend he represents is a big reason. “How is Trump any worse that the rest?” Trumps fans will ask. “At least he doesn’t pretend to be something he’s not.”  Dignity and respect for the privilege of public service have always been vital tools of leadership, and prerequisites for attaining it. This was understood for so long that our leaders forgot why those qualities were important.  Now they have neglected both for their own selfish, short-term gains in money, celebrity and ego-gratification, leaving a distrustful public that can no longer distinguish between statesmen and con artists….perhaps because there is no distinction left.

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Leadership, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture

More On Our Unethical Justice Department’s Attack on Reason: Now A Publication Having Its Rights Infringed Can’t Tell The Public That The Government Is Infringing Them

obama shhhh

The detestable abuse of power represented by the U.S. Government seeking to prosecute blog commenters for obviously hyperbolic criticism of the government was noted in this post, not that it aroused half as as much interest or comment as, say, Caitlyn Jenner’s come-hither glance on the cover of Vanity Fair. Nor did much of the blogosphere take notice, and if any national news media took heed, I missed it. For how can the Obama Administration chilling free speech and harassing a libertarian blog that frequently condemns its contempt for basic rights compete with the secret guest list of the Obama’s 500 closest friends invited to dance a night away to the music of Stevie and Prince?

Now Ken White, the libertarian lawyer/blogger/free speech warrior who honors Popehat with his wisdom has uncovered a further outrage: he believes, and has good reason to believe, that the government has slapped a gag order on Reason, thus stopping the website from alerting the public and the world regarding our government’s unethical and probably illegal conduct. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Rights, The Internet, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunces: The 21 Republicans Who Voted Against The Torture Ban

torture

As I explained long ago, torture is already a human rights abomination forbidden by U.S. principles, values, tradition and culture. That does not mean, and has never meant, that the nation’s official and sincere opposition to torture as an ethical absolute must not be subject to a genuine existential exception.  It does mean that an official policy that allows torture degrades the very reason for the nation’s existence.

This vital reason doesn’t even reach the fact that the United States has signed international treaties that state, unequivocally, that it deplores and rejects torture. That one is less complex; as I wrote about the Bush Administration’s doubletalk at the time…

Typically, the Administration is trying to finesse this uncomfortable fact by playing legalistic word games, requesting a “clarification” of what constitutes torture. This is intellectually dishonest, and blatantly so. The methods it wants to define as “something other than torture”…threatened drowning, cold room interrogations with subjects doused with water, beatings and other forms of assault and battery, obviously violate provisions of the Geneva Convention such as those requiring prisoners of war to be treated with “personal dignity” and “humanely,” and that they should not be subjected to “hardships and sufferings.” Meanwhile, torture is defined in Article 1 of the 1984 Convention as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession.” Simulated drowning, by this definition, is torture, and passing some official “clarification” that declares otherwise won’t change that. Depriving prisoners of sleep and making them stand wet in 50 degree temperatures aren’t going to suddenly become “humane” either, nor will such treatment suddenly cease to cause “hardship” and “suffering.”

The United States exists on the ideal that it, unique among nations past and present, asserts and acts upon its original dedication to the values of human life, liberty and pursuit of happiness above all else. The United States’ identity is that of the Good Citizen, the hero, the trustworthy one. Of course that’s a high aspiration; of course we will fall short of it sometimes, of course such an aspiration appears arrogant and superior to others, and so what? Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Scoreboard classics, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, U.S. Society, War and the Military

Obama’s Remarks On The Charleston Shooting Were Unethical, And Here’s Why:

Because every tragedy is a chance to sell policies on emotion alone...

Because every tragedy is a chance to sell policies on emotion alone…

President Obama’s comments this morning again emphasized his tendency to stoop to reckless, careless and divisive rhetoric when far better is called for.

He said in part:

We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.

Now is the time for mourning and for healing. But let’s be clear. At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency.

And it is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it’d be wrong for us not to acknowledge it, and at some point, it’s going to important for the American to come to grips with it and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.

The fact that this took place in a black church obviously also raises questions about a dark part of our history. This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked, and we know the hatred across races and faiths pose a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals….

Observations:

1.  How does Obama know that the shooter had “no trouble getting their hand on a gun”? He doesn’t know that, and it is a misstatement  to say that this assumption of his is a fact. We know that the shooter had a gun when he used it, and that’s all. For all Obama knows, he had a very difficult time getting his hands on a gun. For all Obama knows, it took the killer months, accomplices, money, elaborate maneuvers. Or is he saying that having a gun at all is proof that it was too easy to get one? What does that suggest?

2. Obama waited barely a few hours before politicizing a tragedy, and using it to stump for his gun policies. This was inappropriate, disrespectful, crass and cynical.

3. Reasonable and enforced gun regulations are necessary and rational, but it is intellectually dishonest —and politically inept—to use this kind of an incident (or Newtown) to promote them. Nothing short of outright gun banning will stop people like the Charleston shooter from acquiring guns, and gun banning is not going to happen, ever, nor should it. The anti-gun zealots who would love to see guns banned just respond to the Pavlovian stimulus of this kind of rhetoric, and the pro-gun nuts will see this as an outright effort to repeal the Second Amendment. This kind of statement accomplishes nothing but to gin up “the base,” and, frankly, I think that’s all it’s intended to do. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

A Woman On The $10 Bill, Because Pandering To The Democratic “Base” Is One Thing The Obama Administration Can Do Competently

Hillary-Money

I guess they couldn’t announce that they were putting Hillary on the $10 bill as the first female President because she isn’t dead. This also ruled out such equally worthy possibilities as Sandra Fluke, Gabrielle Giffords, Mattress Girl, Caitlyn Jenner and, of course, Michelle.

Yesterday’s announcement by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew was inevitable the second a feminist started lobbying for it. Never mind that that her effort was ignorant and self-refuting: the list she generated of women proposed as potential faces on the currency contained none whose historical contributions to the nation come within miles of the achievements of Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Jackson, George, Tom, Abe and Ben. Some of the women—Patsy Mink?—are footnotes at best, one (Margaret Sanger) balanced her leadership of the birth control movement with ugly advocacy of white supremacy and eugenics,  and one of the most qualified candidates, Abigail Adams, didn’t make the list at all.

In a year in which President Obama’s party is trying to justify running a corrupt, unqualified, untrusted candidate for President on the sole justification that she has a vagina, nothing was going to stop his administration from putting someone on a bill for the same “reason,” as well as the other reasons, affirmative action, cynical group identification politics, and trying to deflect attention from this crew’s utter incompetence in matters of national interest and substance.

For example, the week has been filled with the jaw-dropping story of how the Office of Personnel Management was hacked by China as a result of utter, unforgivable management incompetence. You know, like the utter, unforgivable management incompetence (or worse) at Justice, HHS, the Secret Service, the IRS, the Veterans Administration, Homeland Security, the TSA, Hillary’s State Department and others—I don’t want to rub it in by running the whole list. You can read about the OPM calamity here, here, here , here and here for a start, then watch this to clear your palatte, as in throwing up. Continue reading

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Filed under Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Leadership

Let’s Take The “Deranged And Unethical Ideologues” Test!

keep-calm-it-s-only-a-test-2

Recognizing insanity shouldn’t be that difficult, or impeded by political orientation. Yet as the Rachel Dolezal fiasco proves, it can be. (Now that we know that she previously claimed to be discriminated against because she was white, and heard her tell Matt Lauer that a black man was her father because she thought of him as her father, will all the loyal left culture warriors who chose to die on that silly hill after I warned them that they would regret it learn anything? I doubt it.)

Now, in the interest of improving everyone’s non-partisan wacko-detection and rejection skills, I offer these two examples, one from the left, and one from the right. If either seems reasonable to you, you flunk.

First, from the right, we have… Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Education, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Professions, Rights, Romance and Relationships, Workplace

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Me, On the Presidential Candidacy Of Donald Trump

uncle-sam-suicide

From my post in 2011 titled, Unethical U.S. Presidential Candidacies: Is Trump’s the All-Time Worst?, which suddenly became green again in the wake of the horrifying news that The Donald is running for Presient again, for real, this time, or as close to real as Trump ever gets. I wrote:

“Donald Trump is perfectly happy to make a mockery of the presidential nomination and election processes while distorting them too. If he manages to convince enough fools to vote for him, hell, sure…he’d have a blast running for President. If his run peters out, it’s still worth lots of publicity, and increases the value of the Trump “brand.” Even the most unethical of the previous candidacies were based on a sincere, if misguided belief that the country’s welfare would be served by it. Does Trump have that belief? I wonder. No, his can’t be called the most unethical candidacy. But it is reckless, and it is intentionally appealing to the worst in 21st Century American character: fear, celebrity worship, ignorance, and materialism. Meanwhile, every second of attention his candidacy distracts from serious consideration of our nation’s leadership reduces the chances of the public doing its hardest and most important job carefully and competently.”

More heartfelt and truer words have never been composed in my brain.

You can read some selected examples of Trump’s miserable character here, and I have only scratched the surface. Every other candidate for President, including Hillary Clinton, was just elevated in stature by Trump’s announcement.

Anyone, indeed anything, looks good compared to him.

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Leadership