Three Ethics Metaphors: The Rise, The Presidency And The Fall Of Donald J. Trump, Part I

dog pilot

I have to cleanse the blog of Trump related markers, like having “The Presidential Impeachment And Removal Plans, 2016-2020” link under the home page banner, and the “This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President” categories to tag articles. I’m not nostalgic or anything, I just hate blog housekeeping. But It’s also time to close that chapter with an ethics assessment of the Trump Presidency.

Three metaphors I applied to the nation’s Trump adventure nicely encapsulate what went on, I think. Beginning in late 2015, I derided the idea that electing (or nominating) Donald Trump to be President was the equivalent of the passengers in an airplane navigating a storm voting to let a dog (in some versions, a chimp) try flying the craft. The metaphor was apt, and it’s still apt, even though the dog/chimp equivalent did not crash the plane and kill everyone in it. That was moral luck, as pure as it can be. It was madness for this country to permit a man with Trump’s well-documented character flaws and proven proclivities both and executive and a human being control the destiny of the nation in 2016. Concluding otherwise is indefensible. A valued commentator here has apparently abandoned commenting here because he objected to my tendency to designate what he considered opinions as facts. I’m sure that he considers this one of those, but he’s wrong and I’m right. It’s a fact that Donald Trump had proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that he was unfit to be President before the 2015 debates, and he did nothing during the campaign to undercut that conclusion. It’s a fact that a dog shouldn’t fly a plane, and similarly, it’s a fact that Donald Trump should not have been allowed to come within miles of the White House, except as a visitor. Hillary was right: for the most part, those who were advocating Trump’s Presidency were deplorable: ignorant, reckless, irrational, walking and voting examples of the perhaps fatal flaws in democracy. She was just the worst possible individual to make that observation, since giving Clinton and her party the power she sought, while different from allowing a dog to fly the plane, was still wrong. It was just more like allowing a kamikaze pilot to fly the plane.

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Evening Ethics Cool-Down, 5/5/21: Toyota, Patents, And The Cheating Homecoming Queen

Frozen-Jack-Nicholson

I don’t want to over-use the “This Date In Ethics” concept, but attention must be paid: this was the day, in 1961,that Navy Commander Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. boarded the Freedom 7 space capsule to becoming the first American astronaut to travel into space.

In these times where so many aspects of our culture are working to imbue Americans with fear of living, when people wear masks in their cars and teachers are willing to cripple both the economy and children’s education to minimize their risk of catching a virus, it should be remembered that a young, healthy man risked his life and the chance of a fiery death to advance America’s science and the spirit of exploration.

1. For some reason (Cognitive dissonance?) I haven’t been checking Althouse as often since she decided that her readers were hogging too much attention on her blog by insisting on posting comments. She still has an admirable talent for cutting through the BS. Reacting to today’s announcement that Facebook’s “quasi-indepedent” board upheld FaceBook’s partisan and anti-democratic ban on Donald Trump’s posts. Ann writes, “I’m not surprised. If the decision had gone the other way, Facebook could have found some new offense and banned him again.”

Not could have, though; would have.

2. How is this fair or equitable? Once again, Toyota is giving a special discount to “recent college graduates.” This is, of course, ham-handed pro-college virtue-signaling, but wouldn’t you guess that non-college grads of the same age need such discounts more? In the TV ad, we see a nice, upper-middle class white girl from childhood to college—it sure looks like her parents can afford a car…or she can afford a full-price cheaper car. Interestingly, this is one of the relatively few TV ads running now that dares to feature a white character who doesn’t at least mitigate her ingrained evil by being part of a mixed-race family.

Special deals on products and services for special categories of Americans—yes, even veterans—are divisive and incoherent.

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Annals Of “The Great Stupid”: Pro Baseball Postpones a Game Because A Black Man Is Shot By A Police Officer

Today I arranged my day so I could watch the Boston Red Sox (who are on a roll) play the Minnesota Twins in a day game at the Twins’ park. Minutes before the game, it was called off, though the sun was shining and a crowd was on-hand. Why? Well, Daunte Wright, 20, was killed by a police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota., about 10 miles northwest of Minneapolis.

This has, or should have, nothing whatsoever to do with baseball, or any other activity in the Twin Cities or anywhere else. It is a local law enforcement event, and as of now, it is impossible to determine what happened with certainty. Never mind, though: Black Lives Matter has decreed that every death of a black man or woman in a confrontation with police is by definition an undeniable example of race-motivated homicide, and the proper response is to riot.

First and foremost, the proper response is never to riot. Protesting and demonstrating are seldom the proper responses either. Second, rioting, demonstrating, protesting, and making accusations about an event before it has been made clear what in fact occurred, is irresponsible, dangerous and indefensible always, with no exceptions.

The female police officer shot Wright yesterday afternoon after pulling his car over for a traffic violation and discovering that he had a warrant out for his arrest. The police tried to detain Wright; he briefly struggled with police, and then he stepped back into his car, apparently trying to flee.

Of course he did. In the vast majority of these police-involved deaths with black Americans involved, the eventual victim resists the lawful orders of police. George Floyd did it. Mike Brown did it. In such cases, I bristle when I am told, as I heard one activist say today, that the community should “honor” the victim by not rioting. Those who get shot or killed as a direct result of resisting arrest should not be “honored,” because that is not honorable conduct. It is anti-social conduct that ruins some lives and ends others.

Body-camera video released by the police department shows the officer shouting, “Taser!” before firing her gun. She is then heard on the video saying, “Holy shit. I just shot him.”

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Afternoon Ethics Delights, 4/6/2021:

The U.S. entered The Great War on this date in 1917, surely among the most disastrous decisions the nation has ever made. Unfortunately, almost all of the debate over whether we “should” have gotten involved in the seemingly pointless quarrel among the European powers is polluted by hindsight bias, consequentialism, and a disregard for moral luck. Yes, it’s true that The Great War led to a far worse one, and that Germany winning what became World War I probably would have kept Adolf Hitler painting houses. But that’s cheating: we can only assess the legitimacy of the U.S. entering the war on the basis of what was known at the time.

1. Baseball uniform ethics. Oh yeah, this makes a lot of sense. The Boston Red Sox uniforms have been red, white and blue for almost a century—perfect for the team’s annual Patriot’s Day game, which occurs in the morning so the crowd can watch the end of the Boston Marathon. Only Massachusetts, Maine and Connecticut celebrate Patriot’s Day, when Paul Revere (and his two friend) rode to warn the Boston suburbs that the British were coming in 1775.

Well, Nike is now pulling baseball’s strings (there is evidence that the company that employs Colin Kaepernick as a spokesperson helped push MLB into punishing Atlanta for Joe Biden’s made-up racist voting law claims), and part of its deal with the sport is that it will design new uniforms for many of the teams. Here are the uniforms the company thinks the Boston Red Sox should wear to celebrate Patriots Day, since those old colors just reflect the flag of the racist nation founded on the backs of slaves:

They look like eggs.

And of course, no red socks.

2. The rest of the story! Remember this post, about San Francisco’s lunatic school board declaring that one-third of the city’s school names, including those honoring Washington, Jefferson,  Lincoln, James Madison and both Roosevelts , Presidents Monroe, McKinley, Herbert Hoover and James Garfield; John Muir, the naturalist and author; James Russell Lowell, abolitionist poet and editor; Paul Revere,  Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,  Daniel Webster, and current California Senator and former city mayor Diane Feinstein must be replaced so as not to honor individuals who were, in the words of an over-acting character in “The Birds”,

Rendering the equivalent of Tippy Hedren’s slap to these idiots has been, well, just about everybody, from historians, scholars, parents, anyone with an IQ above freezing, and even San Francisco’s reliably woke mayor. Implementing the re-naming was also expected to embroil the city in litigation. So now, the school board, after pausing its grand cancellation project, is expected to overturn its decision after wasting a lot of time and money, and making the city appear even more absurd than it usually does, which is quite an achievement.

You would think that someone on the school board would have been sufficiently smart, competent, responsible grounded in reality to predict the fate of such a mass historical airbrushing. Nope!

This isn’t called The Great Stupid for nothing, you know.

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Regarding Governor Cuomo’s Apology…

Schodengers douchbag

[I’ve been looking for a chance to use this expression for a while. It derives from the quantum mechanics paradox called Schrödinger’s Cat in which a hypothetical cat in a closed box may be considered simultaneously both alive and dead as a result of being linked to a contingent subatomic event that may or may not occur. I’ve really never understood the cat, but Schrödinger’s Douchebag I get.]

He was cornered, so the Governor of New York, already being buffeted by one serious scandal, decided to try to talk his way out of another one. Two staffers have gone on the record to accuse him of sexual harassment, and one of them related two instance of sexual assault (a kiss and a stroke on the legs). The Gov’s initial vague denials didn’t work, so yesterday the falling Democratic star tried a sort-of apology. Here is the statement:

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Delayed Morning Warm-Up, 2/26/21: The Good, The Bad, And The Deranged…

Sorry-For-The-Delay

I just completed my ethics legal seminar, and wow, Trump Derangement runs deep. I kept getting these off topic questions about whether Trump’s lawyer in the impeachment trial was sanctionable for “lying.” Lawyers know better than that: unless you present false evidence (like, just as a wild example, claiming the rioters “killed’ and officer when they did not), advocacy for a client is immune from prosecution, liability or professional discipline. Finally an attendee messaged the group to say, “Can we please stop wasting everyone’s time with these Trump Derangement political questions?”

1. Good! As discussed here, country music superstar Morgan Wallen was suspended indefinitely by his record label and removed from hundreds of radio stations across the country after he used a “racial slur” that no news reporting organization would tell us what it was. OK, I did and will: he was captured on camera saying “nigger” in banter with his friends outside his home, and a malicious neighbor posted the video to social media. Now, I am happy to report, the efforts to “cancel” the singer appear to have largely flopped. The Times reports,

[H]is breakthrough release, “Dangerous: The Double Album” to No. 1 once again. It has held the top spot on Billboard’s album chart for six weeks in a row now, the longest run in the peak position since Taylor Swift’s “Folklore” last summer, and the only country album to spend its first six weeks at No. 1 since Garth Brooks’s “The Chase” in 1992. In its sixth week out, “Dangerous” had the equivalent of 93,000 sales in the United States, including 112 million streams and 10,000 copies sold as a full album, according to the tracking service MRC Data, which is owned by Billboard’s parent company. So far, “Dangerous,” which has 33 tracks in its “bonus” version, has logged just short of one billion streams in the United States.

Meanwhile, a country music station in Knoxville reversed its ban on Wallen’s records after polling listeners, who voted more than 9-1 to have them played again. Other stations are sure to follow, and not because the audience is full of racists who like to use that mysterious word, whatever it is, that the New York Times won’t specify, but because art is distinct from artists, and it is ignorant and foolish to confuse them. Art enriches our lives, and the more of it the better. Unfortunately, there is no correlation between virtue and talent.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/24/2021: The Sarcasm Edition

First appearance in 2021 of my favorite Ethics Warm-Up intro. Maybe that’s why 2021 ethics has gotten off to such a rotten start…

In addition to its significance in the siege of the Alamo, yesterday’s date of February 24 has other important ethics markers, perhaps some more important than Travis’s iconic letter. Perhaps the most impact on U.S. history was this date in 1803, when Chief Justice John Marshall (no relation that has been shown to my satisfaction) handed down the landmark decision in William Marbury v. James Madison, Secretary of State of the United States, establishing the legal principle of judicial revie. That’s what gives the Supreme Court the authority to limit Congressional power by declaring legislation unconstitutional. I doubt very much that the United States would still exist as a free republic had not that case been decided as it was, yet the result was probably dictated more by partisan politics than philosophy.

Marshall, in his majority opinion, declared that acts of Congress in conflict with the Constitution are not valid law and therefore are non-binding on the courts, and that the judiciary’s first responsibility is always to uphold the Constitution. And if two laws conflict, Marshall wrote, SCOTUS has the responsibility of deciding which law applies in any given case. Periodically members of Congress, pundits and even academics have criticized the decision, but there can be little doubt that had Marshall not led the Court to make this stand, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights would have been quickly shredded.

This is particularly relevant now, when the Democrats in Congress have signaled that they want government authorities to decree what is factual and what is “disinformation,” while they also seek to weaken Second Amendment rights. Incidentally, there is a prominent statue of Marshall at the Supreme Court, and a recast in John Marshall Park, near Judiciary Square, also in D.C. Another recast is in Philadelphia. Marshall owned hundreds of slaves, which is entirely irrelevant to his essential influence on our government and values. Clearly, many, perhaps most, of the college students in the U.S. would prefer that a non-slave owner had headed the Court, even if it resulted in a nation that slipped into allowing the virtual slavery of all citizens to a national government that “knew what was best.”

1. Oh, sure. Why not? We all know that committees are so effective at leadership. A letter signed by three dozen House Democrats urge Joe Biden to relinquish full control over the country’s nuclear weapons in favor of a committee of legislators. “…Vesting one person with this authority entails real risks,” states the letter, inspired by Rep. Jimmy Panetta of California. “Past presidents have threatened to attack other countries with nuclear weapons or exhibited behavior that caused other officials to express concern about the president’s judgment.While any president would presumably consult with advisors before ordering a nuclear attack, there is no requirement to do so,” the letter adds. “The military is obligated to carry out the order if they assess it is legal under the laws of war. Under the current posture of U.S. nuclear forces, that attack would happen in minutes.”

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Ethics Inquiry: Did Sen. Cruz Do Anything Wrong?

Cruz trip

As Bill Clinton might say (and probably has, maybe more than once), it depends on what your definition of “wrong” is.

Millions of Texans were left without electricity this week in the middle of the state’s power crisis following a massive winter storm. The Senator’s wife Heidi sent text messages to friends and neighbors complaining that their home was “FREEZING,” and that she wanted the family to escape on the 17th to someplace warmer, at least until Sunday. The mission, if her husband chose to accept it: get to the luxury Ritz-Carlton in sunny Cancún, Mexico. The destination is apparently a family favorite. The GOP Senator did accept, and the Freezing Cruzes fled Houston, hopping an afternoon flight. The consensus of the news media, the commentariat and social media was that…

In fact, you would think Cruz had been caught having a secret romantic rendezvous with a goat. Incriminating photos of Cruz and his wife boarding the flight launched a full-fledged scandal. How dare he flee a crisis when his state was in misery? Ted responded by playing the Parent Card, explaining he had flown to Mexico “to be a good dad” and to chaperone his daughters and their friends, and he promised he was coming back yesterday, which he did.

When he returned, Cruz admitted that his family trip had been a mistake. That is undeniable.

But was it unethical? Was it wrong?

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A Presidents Day Encore: “How Julia Sand Saved A President And Changed The Nation”

Chester Arthur and Julia

I’m pretty sick of U.S. Presidents and Presidential history at the moment, so for my own state of mind and perhaps yours, I’m re-posting a 2015 article about my favorite story about a President ever. Here it is…

In my overview of the U.S. presidency (the four parts are now combined on a single page under “Rule Book” above), I noted that our 21st President, Chester A. Arthur, was one of my personal favorites and an Ethics Hero. He confounded all predictions and his previous undistinguished background, not to mention a career marked  by political hackery and toadying to corrupt Republican power broker Roscoe Conkling, to rise to the challenge of the office and to effectively fight the corrupt practices that had elevated him to power. Most significantly, he established the Civil Service system, which crippled the spoils and patronage practices that made the Federal government both incompetent and a breeding ground for scandal.

I did not mention, because I did not then know, the unlikely catalyst for his conversion. Recently a good friend, knowing of my interest in Arthur, his tragic predecessor, James Garfield, and presidential assassinations sent me a copy of Destiny of the Republic, the acclaimed history of the Garfield assassination and its aftermath by Candace Millard. It’s a wonderful book, and while I knew much of the history already, I definitely did not know about Julia Sand. Her tale is amazing, and it gives me hope. If you do not know about Julia and Chester, and it is not a well-known episode, you should.

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One Acquittal, Three Quotes, Four Reactions

Trump acquitted

Former President Trump was acquitted in the second impeachment trial stemming from the Democrats’ relentless effort to remove him from office after his shocking election in 2016. In both efforts, the two-thirds super-majority necessary to convict was always impossible, because unlike previous impeachment efforts, these involved no crimes, and were not bi-partisan . They were exercises in pure partisan warfare, despite the contrary intent of the Founders and the flood of exaggerated rhetoric from Trump’s enemies who had presumed he needed to be impeached from the moment he was elected.

The sudden vote yesterday came as a surprise, as the Senate had just voted to allow witnesses in the “trial,” and that would have extended the fiasco considerably. I assume, without knowing, that the Democratic leadership finally figured out that its plot wasn’t working, and that it was time for the party to cut its losses. They might still be considerable. I hope they are considerable. This has wounded the nation badly, and the party that has blathered on about accountability needs some, and hard.

Republican Senators Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania voted guilty along with every Democrat. Interestingly, only two of the seven have a law degree, which may partially explain why they think a guilty verdict is defensible (it’s not.) The two lawyers, Romney and Murkowski, are barely Republicans and have been consistently anti-Trump. The fact that not a single Democrat had the integrity to buck the party’s mandate and oppose such a damaging precedent and such a dubious impeachment tells us all we need to know about the state of the current Democratic Party.

Now, three quotes following the vote:

Quote #1: From law professor and blogger Glenn Reynolds:

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