Ethics Hero: Humorist Dave Barry


Humorist Dave Barry managed to find sufficient humor in 2016 to write his annual satirical year-end review and not fail to reach the high standards he has set for himself in this endeavor for about four decades. That would be justification enough for making the 69-year-old writer 2017’s first ethics hero, but there is more.

Most striking, perhaps, is that the column is both funny and fair. Unlike virtual all topical satire today, it does not take sides, nor show partisan bias. Some of this may be related to the fact that Barry is a self-proclaimed libertarian (perhaps explaining why his long piece did not exploit the humor potential in the campaign of the ridiculous Gary Johnson, or even more, surprising, the fat naked guy running around the podium at the Libertarian convention), but most of it springs from his possession of basic integrity as well as an impressive absence of bias. This distinguishes Dave Barry from such alleged comics and satirists as Samantha Bee, Jon Stewart, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, Amy Shumer, Chelsea Handler, Chris Rock, Seth Myers, Sarah Silverman, Bill Maher, John Oliver, Larry Wilmore, Trevor Noah, and the Saturday Night Live writers, all of whose point of view can be fairly summarized as the belief that if a Democrat, progressive or President Obama has ever done anything foolish or ridiculous, there’s probably a good reason for it.

This remarkable trait, now almost extinct but once known as “an open mind,” allows Barry to write such passages as..

And we voters did our part, passing judgment on the candidates, thinning the herd, rejecting them one by one. Sometimes we had to reject them more than once; John Kasich didn’t get the message until his own staff felled him with tranquilizer darts. But eventually we eliminated the contenders whom we considered to be unqualified or disagreeable, whittling our choices down until only two major candidates were left. And out of all the possibilities, the two that We, the People, in our collective wisdom, deemed worthy of competing for the most important job on Earth, turned out to be …

… drum roll …

… the most flawed, sketchy and generally disliked duo of presidential candidates ever!

Yes. After all that, the American people, looking for a leader, ended up with a choice between ointment and suppository…

and Continue reading

A Catastrophic Existential Failure Of Ethics And Institutions

Now what, Ben?

Now what, Ben?

I woke up this morning nauseous, after a restless night. It could have been dinner, but I’m pretty sure that it was Indiana.

Not that seeing Ted Cruz suspend his quest to be President was upsetting in and of itself. He’s a terrible candidate and a dangerous man, and almost certainly unelectable, which in his case is a good thing. As it did with Chris Christie, who was exposed as a character-free fraud; as it did with Jeb Bush, who demonstrated an inability to think; as it did with Ben Carson, who proved why his theory that leaders need no relevant experience at all was nonsense; as it did with Marco Rubio, who provided the definitive definition of “empty suit,” the primary system worked, and eliminated aspiring nominees who were unqualified and unfit in various ways.

It has not worked, however, with Donald Trump. This was not a failure of the primary system or the political system (Hillary Clinton’s impending nomination will be a failure of the political system) but something far more ominous. We are faced with the threat of an unstable, incoherent, ethics-free and irrational man becoming our President because of a catastrophic breakdown in the ethics of our cultural, societal and political institutions, over a long period of time. As a result, our democracy, ideals and way of life are imperiled as never before.

It didn’t have to be this way. It’s just how things broke, that’s all. The United States has sewn the seeds of its own destruction many times before and lucked out, smelling like a rose after mistakes, miscalculations and stupid actions that easily could have ended Mr. Jefferson’s experiment in tragedy and chaos. We might get lucky again, I suppose. Trump might get squished by a falling piece of space junk. Hillary Clinton might get possessed by the spirit of Julia Sand. I wouldn’t bet on it though. Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Day: George Will


“Ted Cruz’s announcement of his preferred running mate has enhanced the nomination process by giving voters pertinent information. They already know the only important thing about Trump’s choice: His running mate will be unqualified for high office because he or she will think Trump is qualified.”

-Conservative columnist George Will, in a piece nicely consistent with the Ethics Alarms position that the Republican Party’s ethical duty is to refuse to nominate Donald Trump, whatever the cost.

Will’s observation is concise, logical, and absolutely true. Nothing I can add will improve on it.

The Boaty McBoatface Affair, And What It Means For Donald Trump

Boaty McBoatface

Great Britain’s National Environmental Research Council has a new $300 million ship being readied for a 2019 launch. It is a 128-yard-long, 15,000-ton beauty designed to serve as a “new polar research vessel which will deliver world-leading capability for UK research in both Antarctica and the Arctic.”  The Council put naming its new ship to the public, and asked for it to choose a name. Apparently in the grip of a Monty Python hangover, the name overwhelmingly chosen in an online vote was “Boaty McBoatface.”

Uh, no. Science Minister Jo Johnson announced that another, more suitable  name would be chosen.“The new royal research ship will be sailing into the world’s iciest waters to address global challenges that affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people, including global warming, the melting of polar ice, and rising sea levels. That’s why we want a name that lasts longer than a social-media news cycle and reflects the serious nature of the science it will be doing,” he said.

Jonathan Turley, who has written two posts about “Boaty McBoatface,” is expressing dismay that humorless bureaucrats would reject “democracy.”  And I’m sure if George Washington Law School decided to have the public pick a new name for the professor’s employer, he’d embrace whatever whimsical, law-mocking choice they made, like “The Greedy McLieface School of Law.”

Turley thinks the ship’s popular name is funny, ergo he thinks its just fine. Of course, he doesn’t have to justify the agency’s budget, or put the gag name on his resume, or convince people to take the projects of an organization seriously when its flagship presents itself as a lark.

Johnson and his colleagues have a higher ethical duty than blindly accepting a “democratic” vote from people who don’t really care about the National Environmental Research Council’s work. “Boaty McBoatface” would be detrimental to the Council’s public image, self-image, moral and effectiveness. They had a duty to reject it. Prof. Turley thought it would be great for T-shirt sales.

He really needs to get off campus more.

Final thoughts: Continue reading

Unethical Donald Trump Quote Of The Day: His Post-Wisconsin Primary Wipeout Statement, Making Richard Nixon Look Classy By Comparison

nixon-and trump

Of course, Donald Trump makes almost anyone look classy by comparison, including that drunk who threw up on your lap on the subway. (He apologized.)

On November 7, 1962, Richard Nixon made his official concession statement after losing the election for Governor of California to incumbent Pat Brown, Jerry Brown’s father. Nixon had barely lost the U.S. Presidency in one of the closest election ever two years earlier, and earning the governor’s seat in the Golden State was supposed to be the beginning of his comeback. The loss was devastating, but Nixon made it more so with a bitter, graceless, self-pitying concession speech that became part of his legacy. It was a long, extemporaneous, rambling mess. Read the whole thing, by all means, or watch the video, because it really is remarkable.  Here are some highlights: Continue reading

Observations On The CNN-Telemundo GOP Candidates Debate

1.  I heard that National Anthem rendition on my car radio, and thought, “That can’t possibly be as off-key as it sounds, can it?” Then my various singer friends started howling on Facebook. I don’t know why debates are now treated like ball games, but there are thousands upon thousands of singers, male, female, and juvenile, who can sing the anthem well, and a lot better than Dina Carter did last night. There’s no excuse for getting someone who can’t stay on pitch.

2. Ben Carson prompted me to throw a magazine at the TV with his fatuous “we won’t solve America’s problems by trying to destroy each other.” It’s a competition, you fool. Someone should have shown you how ridiculous your wasteful candidacy was months ago, and you wouldn’t be clogging up the process now. If Donald Trump, a viper in the nursery, wasn’t ahead, Reagan’s admonition not to attack fellow Republicans might be a wise and ethical practice. Now, it is the equivalent of pacifism during World War II.

3. That was weak, incompetent moderating by Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash, allowing Trump to speak over Rubio and Cruz who were doing a good job pointing up his hypocrisy and corruption. As usual, Trump’s rebuttals weren’t rebuttals at all but distracting attacks, pitched to the gullible.

  • Rubio said, correctly, that Trump criticized Mitt Romney for talking about “self-deportation” in 2012, while Trump is talking about self-deportation now.  Trump said: “I criticized Mitt Romney for losing the election. . . . He ran one terrible campaign!”  No, actually Trump criticized Romney’s self-deportation policy specifically.
  • Rubio said Trump is the only person on the stage who’s hired people from other countries for “jobs that Americans could have filled.” Trump replied, “I’m the only one on the stage who’s hired people! . . . You haven’t hired one person in your life!” It’s completely irrelevant to the issue, just another deflection.
  • Cruz pointed out that Trump contributed to the three Democratic Senators and two of the  Republican Senators he now accuses of pushing “amnesty.” Trump retorted that “I get along with everybody; you get along with nobody,” an ad hominem attack that ducks a legitimate criticism.

4.  Trump had one brilliant, perfect, Presidential and appropriately tough response to ex-Mexican President Vicente Fox who swore Mexico would never pay for Trump’s “fucking wall.” (We have heard increasing vulgarity from media figures like Chris Matthews, President Obama and others, and now the breakdown in official civility has crossed our borders. Yes, I blame Donald Trump, and as he grandstanded about the “disgusting” word used, someone should have had the wit to note that he has personally lowered the standards of leadership discourse more than any figure since the Nixon tapes were released.) Trump’s response: “The wall just got 10 feet taller!”

Excellent. Continue reading

The Failure Of Any GOP Candidate To Answer This Question Directly Should Disqualify Them All


[I will probably do an overview of the entire debate, but this has been straining my skull for hours now, and I have to get it down or die.]

Telmundo open-borders advocate and activist-journalist Maria Celeste Arraras asked this offensive question to tonight’s Republican contenders—well, four contenders and Ben Carson, who has the relevance of a streaker at a baseball game:

After the last presidential election the Republican party realized that in order to win the presidency it needed the support of Latinos. Guidelines as to how to accomplish that were spelled out in an autopsy  report that concluded, and I’m going to quote it, “if Hispanic Americans hear that the GOP doesn’t want them in the United States they won’t pay attention to our next sentence.”

So, do you think that your fellow Republican candidates get it?

The question is misleading, assumes an answer, is based on an unethical premise, and is the worst sort of “when did you stop beating your wife?”hackery. It required a rebuke, and a firm rebuttal. Everyone ducked it. Where was Ted Cruz’s quick and precise rhetoric to call the moderator on an outrageous assumption? Where was Donald Trump, who supposedly owns this issue? Where was Rubio, who desperately needed a chance to clarify his muddy position? Continue reading