Tag Archives: competence

The Single Most Ethical Thing President Trump Could Do Right Now

Whoever this is, Trump needs him badly.

Whoever this is, Trump needs him badly.

As the Michael Flynn fiasco demonstrates, the infant administration of President Trump is foundering in disorganization, arrogance and confusion. This is not unusual for first term Presidents, though of course the news media would have us believe so, and most President learn quickly enough, along with their staffs and advisors, to steer into calmer seas before it is too late. However President Trump faces special challenges, both from his unusual non-political background and the non-stop hostility he faces from the opposition party and the news media. Every other President has received a so-called honeymoon, because everyone knows that the job is enormous and it is ludicrous to expect a President to master it quickly. Then there is the problem of the President’s own, shall we say, limitations.

Nobody who becomes President of the United States wants to fail. In this President’s case, it is clear (or should be) that not failing will require him to do a hard personal audit of what he does well, what he knows, what he doesn’t know, and where he is desperately over his head. Good, effective leaders have the courage to perform such audits, and failed ones do not. I am certain they taught Trump this in business school. Now comes the hard part. He has to recognize that his operations as constructed do not work, and will drag everything down, and quickly, if he does not act quickly to address the problem. Thus he has an ethical obligation to do what is always difficult for any leader, and especially pathological narcissists like Trump. He needs to admit that he needs help, and that his current personnel can’t provide what he needs. The President promised to hire the best people, and he doesn’t have them, at least not where he needs them most.

President Trump lacks a top Chief of Staff who has a proven record running successful government operations on the state or national level. When Ronald Reagan’s second term nearly ran aground, former Republican Senator Howard Baker took over the job of Chief of Staff. Currently, Trump doesn’t have an experienced Washington, D,C. operator who can command respect and keep him out of trouble. Steve Bannon is an ideologue, and uselesss for that role. Reince Priebus is, as most already knew, a weak political hack and a light-weight. He has to be replaced. Steve Miller is another governing neophyte ideologue, and Kelleyanne Conway is , like Priebus, a hack—she’s a pollster, essentially—way, way over her head. This is a low-level, inexperienced, pathetic crew, and President Trump better realize it. I suspect he does.

Today he had a meeting with Chris Christie, which made me (and not only me) wonder if Trump has seen the writing on the wall and realized that he needs an experienced leader and manager of substance and talent to save him from what are dangerously weak advisors, and a bumbling staff.

Fortunately, the GOP has a long, deep bench for this purpose. At this point, the only thing stopping the President from doing the competent, responsible thing and hiring one of them is his own ego. In rough order, here are ten individuals (there are more) who have the ability to maximize the chances of President Trump avoiding a crippling pattern of gaffes, misadventures and scandals: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Leadership

The President’s Ethics Grades So Far

six-pillars

Is it fair to grade President Trump on his ethics after less than a month? Of course. If he wanted to pay attention to this area, the President would certainly seek an objective progress report. There has been enough activity in three weeks to give some preliminary grades. Ethics Alarms began this adventure with low expectations; after all, I have never read or heard a single statement from the President, ever, that suggests that he thinks about or cares about ethics at all. His behavior and opinions appear to be entirely governed by rationalizations, emotions, and impulse. However, we do have hope, and three weeks of a presidency is not sufficient to extinguish it. There is plenty of time for President Trump to address his ethical shortcomings

Let’s use the Josephson Institute for Ethics’ Six Pillars of Character for this exercise. All graded categories should be regarded as incomplete, and the offered grades as provisional only. Remember, these are ethics grades only.

I. TRUSTWORTHINESS, including Honesty in communication, Candor, Truthtelling, Reliability, Sincerity, Honesty in Conduct, Integrity, Loyalty

The President and his agents, like Spicer and Conway, have been especially loose with facts and assertions, some of which can be excused a bit as carelessness, but the sheer volume of misinformation is daunting. I suppose one could argue that Trump is reliably unpredictably, but that’s not what the value of reliability is all about. The President’s astounding verbal sloppiness makes it impossible to gauge sincerity (is he really out to ban Muslims, or just determined to keep out Muslim terrorists?) I score Trump relatively high on integrity, as shown by his Inaugural speech. Whatever he thinks he means, he really means it. (The contrast is Hillary Clinton.) Trump is loyal. Loyalty is a troublesome value that can be abused as often as not: he was loyal to appoint Ben Carson to the cabinet, but it’s still an unethical act, since Carson is unqualified beyond belief. But loyalty also covers conflicts of interest, and the appearance of impropriety. The President’s conflict of interest problems have not been seriously addressed, and won’t be.

He hasn’t been trustworthy, so his grade here is..

F

II. RESPECT, including Civility, Courtesy, Decency, Dignity, Tolerance, Acceptance, Autonomy Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Leadership

TV Critic Neil Genzlinger’s Absurd Quote, Samantha Bee, And The 9th Circuit’s Travel Halt Decision]

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First, a quote…

“There is a lot of bravado in this series about how comics are society’s truth-tellers. As Keegan-Michael Key puts it: “The comic has become the person who pulls back the curtain to show the world that: ‘Do you see that this is happening? We didn’t make this up.’”Of course, we’ve just been through a period in which comedians of all sorts joked about one possible outcome of the American presidential election as if it could never actually come to be, and it came to be anyway. Now, the comics holding that curtain may be realizing that, sometimes, the world isn’t listening or doesn’t care.”

—New York Times TV reviewer Neil Genzlinger, in his conclusion to the review of CNN’s documentary on the history of television comedy.

Ugh.

The reason, Neil, that the world “isn’t listening or doesn’t care” is that with very, very rare exceptions, the political pronouncements of comedians are simple-minded, ignorant, juvenile or worse. Unfortunately, comics are increasingly laboring under the delusion that their junior college degrees, narrow life experiences and success at making drunks cackle imbues them with some genuine authority to pass judgments on complex policy issues. This is manifestly untrue. The clowns are on TV because they are, or were, allegedly funny, not because they have anything more sophisticated to offer regarding foreign policy or tax reform than the average guy on a barstool.

I have now seen an ad for Samantha Bee’s comedy show “Full Frontal” approximately a million times, or so it seems. If she is really this  ignorant, her show should be banned by the NEA. All of her featured riff is about how horrible the President is—well, at least that’s original—and it ends with her statement, complete with “any idiot should know this” facial mugging, that “lawyers call” Trump’s temporary immigration halt from seven nations “unconstitutional.”  Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

Supreme Court Vacancy Ethics: A Competent Choice, An Unethical Announcement, And An Irresponsible Reaction

gorsuch

You know, if every day is going to set off multiple political ethics controversies, I’m not going to have time to write about lobster hats.

Last night, President Trump selected Colorado federal appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch as his Supreme Court nominee.

A. The Choice

Except for those who literally are determined to freak out and condemn anything President Trump does, this was a competent, responsible choice. He would be one of the best of the available choices for any Republican President, more qualified than Obama’s snubbed selection, Merrick Garland, to fill the same vacancy, and Garland was certainly qualified. It’s ridiculous that Gorsuch is one more Harvard grad on a Court that is exclusively Harvard and Yale, but that aside, he adds some diversity of outlook by being from the middle of the country rather than the coasts. He writes clearly, unlike, say, Justice Kennedy, and is not a pure political ideologue, like Ginsberg or Alito.

Before the Democrats’ rejection of Robert Bork shattered the tradition of allowing every President the privilege of having his SCOTUS nominations approved absent real questions about their competence or honesty, a nomination like this one would have garnered bipartisan praise. Trump made a responsible, competent, choice. Really. He did.

B. The Announcement Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement

The Easy Ethics Verdict On Trump’s Middle East Immigration Suspension

immigration-protests

There are three steps to evaluating the ethical nature of any law or government action. The first is what was done. The second is how it was done. The third, and usually most difficult to assess, is why it was done, and whether the measure’s objectives are ethical, including whether the measure can reasonable be expected to accomplish them. . What President Trump’s controversial Executive Order temporarily halting immigration from seven Muslim nations is was covered in the previous post on the subject. Thanks to the fact that our mainstream journalists are incapable of reporting some news events without allowing their biases to distort or confuse the facts, the what was misrepresented to the public, and that misrepresentation is reflected in most discussions of the relevant issues on the web.

How the measure was implemented is an ethics  issue, as this involves competence, responsibility, accountability, diligence and leadership.

The Executive Order was incompetent and irresponsible.

There, that was easy.

It’s nice to be able to post an analysis here that nobody will disagree with. Usually I don’t even bother posting such verdicts.

The sudden order (you can read it here) caused world-wide confusion. Passengers were barred from flights to the United States. Customs and border control officials received notice and instructions in the wee hours of the morning, and many began work without knowing what they were supposed to do.  The order  blindsided Trump’s cabinet—what there is of it so far—including Homeland Security chief John Kelly and, incredibly, “Mad Dog”  Mattis, the new Secretary of Defense, who was not consulted by the White House during the preparation of the order and was not given an opportunity to provide input while the order was being drafted. Mattis did not see a final version of the order until a few hours before President Trump arrived to sign it at the Pentagon. Now he really has reason to be be mad. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

My Breakfast Confrontation At McDonald’s

mcd-checkout

I’ve been mulling this experience for a while, and since it still ticks me off, and since today seems like an especially provocative time to raise it, here it comes.

I was accompanying my wife as she went to a clinic for some early morning outpatient surgery, and as she waited in the one-chair-short reception room, I went next door to a McDonald’s to order breakfast. As usual, my wallet had moths flying out of it, so I knew it was going to be a debit card purchase. My apparently mute clerk took my order —remember when Ray Kroc insisted that every employee say “Hello!” and “Thank-you”? Now you are lucky to get eye contact and a grunt—the modest amount appeared,  and I swiped my card. The machine told me that the card was rejected. I swiped again. Rejected again.

“OK, now what am I supposed to do?” I asked. : This is a good card, and there is plenty on money in the bank.”

My clerk  said only, “Pay!”

“I can’t pay, because of your stupid machines. I want to buy my breakfast. This is my only means of payment. The card readers is  malfunctioning!”

She said again, louder and with irritation, “PAY! PAY!”

“Don’t tell me pay pay, because I just told you, I tried to pay pay, and  your equipment won’t let me pay pay! Find a way for me to pay!” I replied, with the delightful intensity for which I am well-known.

Now she started angrily shaking the receipt at me, shouting PAY three times and nothing else, apparently having reached the zenith of her language skills.

“LOOK!” I said. “This is your store. All I want to do is pay a lousy 7 bucks for a sausage biscuit and a coffee, and this machine is stopping me. I can’t pay if your lousy equipment isn’t maintained. FIND A WAY FOR ME TO PAY! That’s your job!”

You’ll never guess her response.

No, go ahead, guess. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Daily Life, Etiquette and manners, language, U.S. Society, Workplace

It’s Theater Ethics vs. High School Ethics, And Incredibly, Both Win

New Jersey’s Cherry Hill School District announced last week that the planned Spring student production of the 1998 Broadway musical “Ragtime” would continue to be rehearsed and would proceed, despite the complaints of some parents. However, student actors would not use “nigger” and other racially-charged terms in the original script. They would be changed or eliminated, the District said.

A spokeswoman for the district, said at the time that officials had already been discussing the possibility of censoring the Cherry Hill High School East production when the Cherry Hill African American Civic Association and the NAACP offered their remedies: censorship, political correctness, and bye-bye free expression and thought. Of course this was their reaction. It is simple-minded, but typical of left-wing political correctness tyranny. It doesn’t matter what ideas are being conveyed, certain words cannot be used to convey them. Whenever possible, the heavy boot of government should crush the non-conforming expression. Also “of course,” lily-livered school administrators initially offered no opposition. Duck the controversy, and the real issues be damned. After all, it’s just a high school musical.

Unfortunately, there was the little issue of licensing agreements. “Ragtime” is a work of art, not that the NAACP cares, and artists have a right to control how their work is performed, even in Cherry Hill. The contract under which the school was allowed to produce the show specifies that the script and songs must be performed as written, no exceptions.

The National Coalition Against Censorship, the Dramatists Guild of America, and Arts Integrity Initiative wrote a smart letter urging the school officials “to reconsider and reverse [the] decision to censor “Ragtime”:

“Ragtime’s” use of racial slurs is an historically accurate and necessary aspect of a play that explores race relations in the early 1900s. Ragtime helps minors understand the brutalities of racism and the anger that has historically accumulated, partly through the use of racially offensive language. In contrast, censorship of such language ignores historical reality and presents a falsified, whitewashed view of race relations. Censoring the play will only perpetuate ignorance of our past. While we empathize with concerns about the emotionally disturbing effects of hearing or uttering racial slurs, we believe such concerns are to be resolved through educational means, not by censoring a renowned text. In our experience, similar concerns… have best been confronted through dialogue rather than censorship.”

Then the students, who had been rehearsing the show since before Christmas (no, real high school performers can’t prepare an elaborate show of professional quality in a few days, as “Glee” would have us believe), created a petition on Change.Org: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, Popular Culture, Race, Rights, U.S. Society