Tag Archives: courage

The President Is Right About The Mainstream News Media, And It Can’t Handle The Truth, Part II: The Press Conference

press-conference

Based on the hysterical—yes, that’s a fair word—reaction from pundits and reporters to the President’s news conference last week, I assumed there had to be something that the transcript didn’t pick up, like he was wearing a Gooney bird on his head, or naked, or bit someone. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews called the President “manic” and compared him to Soviet spy Alger Hiss.  Brian Williams described it as an unhinged” press conference “brought to you by narcissism, thin-skinned chaos, and deeply personal grievances.” CBS This Morning’s  co-host Norah O’Donnell called the 77 minute affair “astonishing…an unprecedented display of accusations and exaggerations.” Fellow co-host Gayle King chimed in: “The President’s outburst of frustration left many observers bewildered.”

A response to the session that really was unhinged came from New York Times columnist David Brooks, who clarified for  me what the indignant political elite sound like when they have finally been backed into a corner, writing,

“Judging by his Thursday press conference, President Trump’s mental state is like a train that long ago left freewheeling and iconoclastic, has raced through indulgent, chaotic and unnerving, and is now careening past unhinged, unmoored and unglued.”

From this, Brooks concluded, disgracefully,

“This does not feel like a sustainable operation. On the other hand, I have trouble seeing exactly how this administration ends. Many of the institutions that would normally ease out or remove a failing president no longer exist.”

Damn elections! What does Brooks think he is talking about? Trump has accomplished many things he promised to do in less than a month; it is one of the most productive first 30 days any President has had in history. He has appointed an excellent Supreme Court Justice. The stock market is booming. When has any President been judged “failing” or been “eased out” after a month, or three, or six, or ever, absent criminal activity? Never. Brooks, like Democrats and the news media, are pronouncing the Trump Presidency dead because they don’t like him, his style, or what he wants to do. That does not justify writing as if he has done anything to justify removing him, except that this is the theme of the “resistance.”

Citing cherry-picked negative polls, like, say, the ones that said Trump had no chance of winning the election, Brooks then gives his blessing to undemocratic, insubordinate and seditious conduct to undermine an elected President:

“The Civil Service has a thousand ways to ignore or sit on any presidential order. The court system has given itself carte blanche to overturn any Trump initiative, even on the flimsiest legal grounds. The intelligence community has only just begun to undermine this president.”

A responsible newspaper doesn’t publish this.

Then I watched the whole conference.  I thought back to the first debate, which I thought Trump blew horribly. Charles Krauthammer sneered after the debate and said it was the end of Trump’s candidacy, and that everyone could see now that he was shallow, clownish, and unfit to lead. I agreed heartily.

Clearly, Charles and I missed something. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, U.S. Society

Few Political Stories Make Me Angry. This One Makes Me Angry. And Frightened.

brideg-collapse

In these three posts—Blame Everyone for Infrastructure Ruin: Unethical, Irresponsible Priorities from Reagan to Obama (2010); Ethics Heads-Up: When the President Talks About “Investment in Infrastructure,” Pay Attention (2011); Hole-in-the-Roof Ethics: If Obama Asks For Massive Infrastructure Renewal, the GOP Must Support It. (2011), I laid out the unanswerable case for making national infrastructure renewal a priority. Let me just quote from the three, to save me typing time…

In the early Eighties, I oversaw an independent study funded by the Highway Users Federation and the National Chamber Foundation called “Transport Tomorrow,” exploring the immediate need for transportation infrastructure repair and expansion in all modes of transportation: roads, railway, waterway, and airports. In the process of learning how dire the need for massive construction and repair was if America’s future commercial needs were to be met, the study commission made a disturbing discovery: urban water and sewer systems were crumbling too. There was literally not enough money to fix all the roads, bridges, tunnels, water mains and sewer pipes that had to be fixed, and the consequences of not doing so would be economic paralysis and worse, disease and even social unrest.In the face of this looming and undeniably real disaster, the Reagan Administration did—pretty much nothing. Neither did the Bush, Clinton and Bush II administrations…

Seldom is a solution to a problem so obvious, and so conducive to bi-partisanship. It is a solution to two problems, really: America’s dangerously rotting infrastructure, and the nation’s dismal unemployment rate. Spend the money, trillions if necessary, to repair and replace existing roads, railway beds, waterways, sewer systems, airports and bridges.  It still won’t get us where we need to be, but we’ll be much better off than if we let the current deterioration continue, and we’ll save money in the long run, too—real savings, not phony health care reform savings that evaporate once reality kicks in.

There is no justification not to do this, nor is there any legitimate excuse for any elected official not to vote for it. (And no, not wanting to give the President a victory is not legitimate…or ethical, or patriotic.) Repairing the infrastructure isn’t “discretionary spending,” it is essential, unavoidable and cost-effective spending, unless it is diverted into new boondoggles and pork. No new structures, unless they replace unrepairable old ones. No light rail systems or bullet trains; what is needed is basic maintenance and repair….everywhere. It is already late, but “better late than never” has seldom been as appropriate.Will fixing the infrastructure add to the deficit? Not really, because it already is an expense that we know will have to be made, or else. If the sewer systems and waterworks break down, we start dying. If bridges collapse, we die too. That isn’t even mentioning the increasing costs in energy and commerce caused by a decaying transportation system. The sooner we pay for it, the less it will cost, so sooner is per se better for the economy, and it is perfect timing given the employment crisis.

Yes, Obama better have a way to pay for it, with real budget cuts and reasonable taxes. If he plays politics with the proposal by making it impossible for the GOP to support (as some pundits, like the Post’s Eugene Robinson, have advised), shame on him. This has to be paid for, but it also has to be done…If Obama puts a fair, reasonable, relatively pork-free proposal on the table, Republicans would be despicably unethical to reject it.

As we now know, the Obama Administration proposed, and the GOP Congress opposed. This is a long-term bi-partisan failure, but it must be remembered that Obama had no credibility on this issue, and he never did propose a a way to pay for it “with real budget cuts and reasonable taxes.”

I was reminded of this issue when I read yesterday about how engineers have concluded that over 9% of the nation’s bridges are structurally deficient. Bridges are just part of the infrastructure disaster to come—just wait until the 200-year old sewer and water systems in some cities start breaking down, and we have Flint, Michigan times a thousand—but they are illustrative of our government’s failure. Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership

Finally, A 2017 Inspiring Ethics Story! A 5th Grade Basketball Team Teaches Adults About Priorities And Values

st-johns-vote

I love this story out of New Jersey.

A Catholic Youth Organization 5th grade basketball team out of Clark, New Jersey had played all season with an 11-child roster including nine boys and two girls. In late January the director of the CYO league informed the team that the word had come down from the archdiocese that playing as a coed team offended Jesus or something and thus violated league protocol T team would either have to remove the two girls from the team or forfeit the rest of its season.

The adults running the team had screwed up, you see.

Oops. Sorry kids. Our bad, you pay for it.

These options were unacceptable, and any 10-year old would see it. In fact, any 10-year old did. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Gender and Sex, Religion and Philosophy, Sports

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

Down The Slippery Slope: Yale Embraces Historical Airbrushing

john-c-calhounFrom The New York Times:

After a swelling tide of protests, the president of Yale announced on Saturday that the university would change the name of a residential college commemorating John C. Calhoun, the 19th-century white supremacist statesman from South Carolina. The college will be renamed for Grace Murray Hopper, a trailblazing computer scientist and Navy rear admiral who received a master’s degree and a doctorate from Yale.

The decision was a stark reversal of the university’s decision last spring to maintain the name despite broad opposition. Though the president, Peter Salovey, said that he was still “concerned about erasing history,” he said that “these are exceptional circumstances.”

“I made this decision because I think it is the right thing to do on principle,” Mr. Salovey said on a conference call with reporters. “John C. Calhoun’s principles, his legacy as an ardent supporter of slavery as a positive good, are at odds with this university.”

And there we go!

How cowardly and equivocating  Salovey is! If he’s concerned about erasing history, and he should be as an educator, then he should have the principles and fortitude not to engage in it. But “these are exceptional circumstances,” he says. This is right out of the Rationalizations list: The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times” and The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now.”  For good measure, he adds a third rationalization, The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do.”

Of course it’s not the right thing to do. The right thing to do would be to teach the smug protesting young ignoramuses, who only know that Senator Calhoun was a slavery supporter as if that is the reason he is regarded as one of the great Senators in U.S. history (it’s not), any more than Andrew Jackson is defined solely by “The Trail of Tears,” that history is complex, cultures evolve, leadership is hard and even the most accomplished human beings are flawed gaspachos of greatness and sin. That would be the right thing because Yale is allegedly an institute of higher learning. This is the act of an institute of political correctness, intellectual laziness and stereotyping.

There were other rationalizations embedded in Salovey’s betrayal of history and culture, such as..

1A. Ethics Surrender, or “We can’t stop it.”

Sure you can, if you have any integrity and care about your obligation to educate rather than capitulate.

13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”

And what cause would that be, sir? Your sophomoric students are demanding that important historical figures be airbrushed out of existence like Soviet Politburo figures out of favor, and Yale’s cause is supposed to be teaching  young minds to be more tolerant of the complexities of the real world. Now Yale’s cause is “Find the path of least resistance, and maybe they’ll calm down!”

15. The Futility Illusion:  “If I don’t do it, somebody else will.”

This is only true if Yale is unable to articulate why it is important not to banish historical figures from the nation’s past as soon as activists get wind of a weakness they can exploit to bring themselves power. Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Race, U.S. Society

The Michael Slager Trial: When The Ethical Course Is To Not Exercise a Right

shooting_of_walter_scott

Michael Slager is the white North Charleston police officer who stopped African American Walter Scott for a taillight violation on April 4, 2015, and in the ensuing events, ended up fatally shooting Scott as he fled the scene, in the back, as recorded on a cell phone video. Of all the many police-involved shootings, this is the least equivocal. Slager is guilty of murder of one kind or another: in South Carolina, there is only one kind, and  mitigating circumstances are reflected in the sentence. He could receive life in prison, or much less time.

But every criminal defendant has the right to be tried by a jury of his peers before the law finds him guilty, and Slager is taking full advantage of the right. In doing so, he is forgoing his last clear chance at redemption. The former officer—he has already been fired for the episode and not just put on paid leave, as is usually the case—is understandably trying to avoid a conviction and jail time, even though, should he be acquitted by some miracle or act of mass hypnosis, it would be certain to provoke even more anger and distrust in the black community, and, I would hope, among non-African Americans as well. A justice system that finds, no matter how it reaches such a conclusion, that an officer who shoots a fleeing man dead like Slager did is not guilty needs to be blown up and seeded with salt. When Slager’s first lawyer saw the video, he quit.

Do you think an acquittal is impossible? Don’t. All that is needed is a jury full of people who “think,” and I use the word generously, like the signers of this petition. I’m pretty sure that there are more than twelve of them available. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Rights

Holiday Ethics Assigment: Quick! Watch These 25 Great Old Ethics Movies Again Before You Go Bonkers Too!

movie-theater

I am compiling a new list of great ethics movies to help those troubled by the recently completed Presidential campaign, the election and its aftermath. I haven’t decided whether to reveal it piecemeal, or collectively as I have before, but I do need to begin by presenting the previous list of 25, actually the combination of several previous posts. Ethics films I have covered individually since those lists debuted, like Spotlight and Bridge of Spies, will eventually be added.

For now, here’s the top 25. Don’t pay attention to the order.

1Spartacus (196o)

The raw history is inspiring enough: an escaped gladiator led an army of slaves to multiple victories over the Roman legions in one of the greatest underdog triumphs ever recorded. Stanley Kubrick’s sword-and-sandal classic has many inspiring sequences, none more so than the moment when Spartacus’s defeated army chooses death rather than to allow him to identify himself to their Roman captors (“I am Spartacus!”)

Ethical issues highlighted: Liberty, slavery, sacrifice, trust, politics, courage, determination, the duty to resist abusive power, revolution, love, loyalty.

Favorite quote: “When a free man dies, he loses the pleasure of life. A slave loses his pain. Death is the only freedom a slave knows. That’s why he’s not afraid of it. That’s why we’ll win.” [Spartacus (Kirk Douglas)]

2.  Hoosiers (1986)

“Hoosiers” is loosely based on true story, but its strength is the way it combines classic sports movie clichés—the win-at-all-costs coach down on his luck, the remote superstar, over-achieving team—into a powerful lesson: it isn’t the final victory that matters most, but the journey to achieving it.

Ethical issues highlighted: Forgiveness, generosity, leadership, kindness, courage, loyalty, diligence, redemption.

Favorite quote: “If you put your effort and concentration into playing to your potential, to be the best that you can be, I don’t care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, in my book we’re gonna be winners.” [ Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman)]

3. Babe (1995)

A wonderful movie about the virtues of being nice, the greatest civility film of all time. Second place: “Harvey.”

Ethical issues highlighted: Civility, kindness, reciprocity, loyalty, courage, love, friendship, bigotry, bias.

Favorite quote: “Fly decided to speak very slowly, for it was a cold fact of nature that sheep were stupid, and there was nothing that could convince her otherwise…The sheep decided to speak very slowly, for it was a cold fact of nature that wolves were ignorant, and there was nothing that could convince them otherwise”  The Narrator (Roscoe Lee Browne) Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Popular Culture, Professions, U.S. Society, War and the Military