Ethics Quote Of The Day (And For All Time): Abraham Lincoln [Missing Post Section Recovered!]

On this date in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln added a vital coda to the United States mission statement articulated in the Declaration of Independence nearly a hundred years earlier. Gary Wills, among other historians and commentators, has argued that with this single speech Lincoln reframed the purpose of the American experiment as well as clarifying its core values. Those values, it is fair to say, are today under the greatest threat since the Civil War today. Lincoln’s address lasted just two or three minutes (it was not even announced beforehand as a speech, but rather “remarks”), but also reframed the purpose of the war itself, as not only to preserve the union, but a struggle for freedom and equality for all.

There has been so much written about the Gettysburg Address that it would be irresponsible for me to attempt to analyze it here. It probably isn’t necessary to analyze the speech. Few statements speak more clearly for themselves: if ever a speech embodied the principle of res ipsa loquitur, this is it:

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NOW President Trump Should Concede [Corrected]

live_map_president

When I noted in last night’s ethics update that North Carolina’s Electoral College votes had been added to the Trump column, I was not aware that that Georgia had been called with Biden in a small but likely uncatchable lead (nonetheless, a recount is underway that will be complete on Wednesday: thanks to James Flood for the correction). Without Georgia, there is no sliver of a path for the President to be re-elected now. The Biden-Harris ticket has 307 EC votes, well above the 270 threshold required for election. RealClearPolitics, one of the very few news sources that did not display open bias and worse, a desire to push the election to a conclusion they favored, has the race marked as decided.

President Trump should make his concession speech today. He has a duty to concede as soon as possible, for the good of the country, in fairness to President-Elect Biden, and, though I doubt anyone could convince him of this (though I would love to have the opportunity to try), himself.

The President should do everything in his power to establish a clear contrast with the irresponsible conduct of Hillary Clinton after her defeat in 2016. She set out to undermined Trump from the beginning by refusing to accept that her loss was genuine and legitimate, thus setting the stage for a four-year effort by Democrats, the “resistance,” and the news media (the “Axis of Unethical Conduct”) to withhold national support of his leadership and wreck his term in office by unscrupulous and despicable means.

One reason this conduct by Clinton and her supporters was so destructive is that it created a precedent that risked being followed going forward to future elections, permanently weakening what had been a strength of American democracy. The President can go a long way toward undoing that damage. I think it is crucial to our national health that he do so, and the sooner the better.

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Ethics Corrupter: The Boston Red Sox

red_sox disgraced

Sometimes, a mere “ethics dunce” designation isn’t enough.

The decision, announced yesterday, by the Boston Red Sox to rehire disgraced manager Alex Cora to a two-year contract that will again put him at the helm of the team is disgusting and indefensible, unethical to the core. For me, it constitutes 2020’s second major ethics offense by an organization and a sport that has been important on many levels throughout my life, substantially challenging my loyalty and affection.

I was going to call the post “Ethics Strike Two On the Boston Red Sox,” but that formula would require me to give the team a third chance to disgrace itself before I called it “out” of my life, and I don’t know if I can do that. Nonetheless, I’m going to attempt to keep the emotional component of this most recent ethics breach on the metaphorical bench in this post as I try to be objective.

I won’t promise that I will succeed.

Cora was fired by the Red Sox in January after he was found to be the architect of the Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing scheme, one of the worst scandals in Major League Baseball history, trailing only the 1918 Black Sox scandal and the illegal player steroid era in its degree of damage to the sport. Commissioner Rob Manfred later suspended Cora through the end of the 2020 postseason. The revelation that Cora, a bench coach for then Astros manager A. J. Hinch,  had been at the center of an organized cheating scheme that helped bring the Houston Astros a World Championship also cast a shadow over the following year’s World Championship achieved by the Boston Red Sox, which had hired Cora as its manager. Did the cheating mastermind from Houston bring his unethical ways to his first managing job? Why wouldn’t he?

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Ethics Observations On President Trump’s Press Conference

P conference

The transcript is here.

1. This was pretty close to Donald Trump at his worst, if we don’t count episodes like his performing mocking imitations of journalists or insulting women’s appearances. It was also predictable. Even as bad as it was, I would rate the press conference as superior to Richard Nixon’s infamous concession speech when he lost his attempt to become Governor of California in 1962 (“You won’t have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore…”). There was no self-pity in Trump’s rant, just anger and indignation. Anger and indignation are appropriate and justified in this case.

2. He should not have given the press conference at all. Some Presidents could under these circumstances; this one can’t, and he should know that. All he could do is stir up division, or worse. Trump has no ethical bearings, so he feels (I’m sure) that since Hillary Clinton and the Democrats worked to undermine the legitimacy of his election in 2016, he is justified in doing the same to Biden. That’s not ethical, but that is how he thinks. So do a majority of Americans.

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LATE Morning Observations On Election 2020. So Far…

Screenshot-2020-11-04-at-11.09.15-AM-600x391

Tip: The most important observation is the last one.

1. In the hours between when I started the last post when I got back out of bed two-and-a half hours later, two crucial states where the President was shown leading flipped to narrow leads for Biden. This does not prove or even suggest chicanery, but under the circumstances it looks bad. (“Gee, they cheat fast!” was a comment on one of the conservative blogs following the election live.) The meme above may be unfair, but it accurately expresses what went through my mind when I saw the new totals.

This is why it is unethical to create “the appearance of impropriety” if you have anything to do with the government. People need to trust the government, its institutions, and the fairness and openness of elections. The appearance of impropriety is just as damaging as actual impropriety. We have already seen this in the aftermath of the Mueller investigation and the prosecution of General Flynn.

2.  Both parties have worked to deliberately create suspicion about the political process, and the decision to vastly increase the use of mail-in ballots, in what should have been recognized as a close election, knowing that doing so would delay the process, create opportunity for mischief, and keep the results of the election mired in uncertainty for days and even weeks was either epically incompetent or sinister. Now, instead of the single state having a “too close to call” vote total with the Presidency hanging in the balance as in 2000, we have six, which will presumably multiply litigation and uncertainty. That’s a disaster, no matter what the final result is, and it is a disaster that should have been avoided at all costs. It was unethical and negligent not to avoid it at all costs.

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Decided: The Ten Reasons I’ll Be Voting To Re-Elect President Trump [1-5]

John-Adams-Young

I’ll list these in no significant order, with the final section of the list following soon.

1. A commenter on this Althouse post (itself a motivation to vote for the President) wrote, “Althouse: ‘I could never lower myself to vote for someone like that. He’s icky. Eew!’” It made me realize that my long-held argument that voting for the President while maintaining my professional standards and integrity was impossible could be fairly accused of having the same motivation.

The election is for the benefit of the nation, not about how my vote makes me feel.

2. Four years ago, on the November 9, the day after Donald Trump’s shocking upset victory over Hillary Clinton, I wrote,

Give Trump a chance, and take note of those who will not. He is now in the most difficult job in the nation at the age of 70, with less relevant experience and preparation than any previous occupant of the office. For once, it’s a good thing that he’s an egomaniac and a narcissist, because otherwise he might be perseverating in terror right now. One cannot say that he begins with the most daunting set of problems any POTUS has ever faced, but it’s close. Give him a chance. Nobody becomes President wanting to fail, and not wanting to do a good job for his country and his fellow citizens.  Begin with that, and let’s see what happens.

I took note. Neither the resistance, nor the Democratic Party, nor the news media, nor most of the members of the public that were inclined to believe, trust and believe these voices, gave President Trump any chance at all. No previous elected President had been treated like that, and for good reason: our system does not and cannot work if the nation does not begin each new Presidential administration with the acceptance of its elected leader. The Democrats knew this, indeed they lectured Donald Trump on the subject when they were certain that Hillary Clinton would win.

The Axis of Unethical Conduct, knowing we had elected a President who would need more than the usual amount of support, burdened him further by according him less, hoping for a war, a depression, or a Presidential breakdown.

If this party strategy succeeds in achieving gaining power, it will become the norm. I have no illusions that the Republican Party is motivated by any stronger ethical ideals than Democrats, so if it becomes the norm, the nation is doomed to perpetual division, hate and conflict.

It is not enough to abstain in an election that will decide whether that will the fate of the United States of America. Responsible citizens must vote to reject it.

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Decided: The Ten Reasons I’ll Be Voting To Re-Elect President Trump; A Preface

Trump 2020

The Eleventh Reason is that I started feeling like I was drawing things out and avoiding being honest with myself, while also acting like my decision should matter enough to keep anyone in suspense. Nobody should vote for a candidate because of what anyone else does or thinks. One is obligated to use ethical principles and sound, unemotional reasoning to make decisions that become part of the course of our republic, but it must be a personal decision. It must also be made according to what a citizen really believes is in the best interests of the nation, society and culture in which he or she lives, not personal best interests, or according to what vote will permit you to deny responsibility for a choice that has to be made.

To hell with it. The vote in 2020 is important, and needs to be made for real reasons, not symbolic reasons, not reasons rooted in ego or professional ethics or what your Facebook friends will say or other irrelevant factors and considerations. All of us can keep our votes secret, but that choice isn’t open to me, really. I’ve written too much about the Trump Presidency and the election. Telling inquirers, “That’s for me to know and you to find out!” at this point would be cowardly; so would telling people what I think they want to hear.

There is only one question to answer: which candidate is the most responsible and ethical choice?

On that basis, the decision is easy and obvious—not pleasant, but easy and obvious.

I will be casting my vote, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, for President Donald J. Trump.

I’ll have the details in the post to come.

The Ethics Arguments For Voting For President Trump And Joe Biden, Part 2

2020 election

Part I is here.

At the end of this post, I will repost, from the archives, my Ethics Alarms essay from November 7, 2016 titled, “Donald Trump: A Pre-Election Ethics Alarms Character and Trustworthiness Review: 2005-2016.” I’m going to comment on how and why my assessment now is different (and how it is not) before the piece, because it’s long, and to some extent out of date.

Reading over the essay below, I had two thoughts immediately. One was that it was more vociferous than I remembered, and the other was amusement, looking at it again, of how many times I have been accused of being a “Trumpster” and a “Trump supporter” over last four years.

My assessment of Donald Trump has changed over that period in the following respects:

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The Ethics Arguments For Voting For President Trump And Joe Biden, Part I

2020 election

I’ll start with Biden, because the conclusion is easier, the argument is shorter, and the path is clearer.

There is no ethical argument for voting for Joe Biden, or the Democrats, in the 2020 election. None. Zip.

It’s really as simple as that. He is obviously sliding down the road to dementia: nominating him is the most irresponsible and cynical act by a major political party since the same party nominated Franklin Delano Roosevelt for a fourth term while knowing that he was desperately ill and unlikely to survive two years, much less four. Like today’s Democrats, they didn’t even take care to make certain that they had a Vice President who was up to the job. Indeed, there was no reason to believe that Harry Truman, a career political hack from the Missouri machine, had the character or skills to be President even with the most generous assessment of his record. But at least he wasn’t chosen purely because he had the right skin shade and primary sex characteristics. Yes, the democrats and the nation lucked out with Truman, who was one of the cases in Presidential history where a man has risen to the challenge, surpassing all expectations and past levels of performance. Depending on that to happen again is madness.

Even if he were not too old and cognitively damaged to be President, Joe Biden’s abandonment of so many of his previously held—well, supposedly—principles to maintain the support of the far, anti-American Left would be disqualifying. He should be disqualified because he is a serial sexual harasser running under the cloud of an accusation or workplace sexual assault. After all, his party, and his Vice President, declared such a record intolerable not very long ago. The emerging facts about his evident corruption in dealings with his son’s business interests should be disqualifying.

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Morning Ethics Shout-Out, 10/28/2020: “And Tyler Too…”

I am ashamed: when I listed my anti-depression playlist, I somehow managed to leave out one of the best and most exhilarating songs of the group: The Isley Brothers’ “Shout.” I apologize profusely.

1. Self-delusion is not ethical. When Ben Ferencz, the last surviving lead prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, finally leaves us (he’s in his nineties now and still going strong), I will make him an Ethics Hero Emeritus. As the new Netflix documentary about his astounding and ethics-focused life makes clear, few have devoted the time and energy to the cause of human rights and justice any more intensity or longevity than Ferencz. My admiration of him is only marred by his advocacy for pacifism, which the last portion of the film highlights. Ferencz was instrumental in the creation of the World Court, a kind of standing extension of the Nuremberg Trials which the U.S. has, wisely, refused to participate in. The legal scholar speaks passionately for the  cause of eliminating war by substituting law and international tribunals. The idea is delusional on its face, and also cynically exploited by those who know the idea is impossible, but who support it as a way to impose world government, and the concomitant reduction in individual liberty that would necessarily entail.

As Ethics Alarms has discussed many times, one great weakness of ethics as a discipline is its drift toward utopianism, and its persistent destruction of its own credibility by advocating goals and standards that cannot be achieved, indeed, that defy history and common sense. Has anyone asked Ben Ferencz if he really believes that Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, the USSR or current day North Korea and Iran would voluntarily submit to the edicts of a World Court? If he has, it did not make the documentary. One can understand why a man who has seen and experiences why Ferencz has during his long life would cling to the hope that some day war will be eradicated and peace will reign forever, but rejecting reality for comforting idealism does not, and never has, advanced the cause of ethics.

2. This would seem to be an easy topic for a bipartisan bill. (Why isn’t it?) Democrats introduced legislation making it illegal for banks and other financial firms to discriminate against their customers because of their race, religion, sexual orientation and other characteristics. I thought this was illegal already, but the absence of any mention of financial services constitutes a loophole in the Civil Rights Act. Thus “The Fair Access to Financial Services Act,” introduced a week ago by members of the Senate Banking Committee, would explicitly outlaw discrimination against bank customers. Right now, it is legal for banks and other financial businesses to treat some customers differently based on race as long as the services aren’t denied entirely. Banks can legally use racial profiling to delay customer transactions, or require extra steps to prove their legitimacy.

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