Tag Archives: democracy

Ethics Alarms Inauguration Day Musings

trump-inaug

In preparation for this post, I just read over the post from December 5 titled “Reasons to be Happy About the Election of Donald Trump?” I wanted to see if any of those reasons on the list, beginning with three that I endorsed from the Glenn Reynolds essay with the same name, without the question mark. Here are the ten:

1.  “Killed off dynastic politics, at least for now.”

2. “Kept Hillary out of the White House.”

3. “Crushing the media’s sense of self-importance”

4. His election, and Clinton’s defeat, pushes back against group identification politics.

5. It demolishes the propaganda that Barack Obama was a successful President.

6. It might spur more citizens to vote next time.

7. Trump’s victory showed that cheating to win, and behaving as if the ends justify the means, still don’t go down well with a lot of the public.

8. The entire Clinton saga has been predicated on their belief that you can fool enough of the people enough of the time, along with a well-practiced regimen of deny-deny-deny. lie, obfuscate, stonewall, accuse and delay, to get away withe all manner of unethical conduct while achieving wealth and power. Finally, it didn’t work. Hooray.

9. Trump’s election exposed, and is exposing, the hypocritical, anti-democratic, bitter, ugly, hateful side of progressives and Democrats.

10.  It is the kick in the teeth of political correctness that this restrictive, arrogant, smug and stifling cultural trend had been begging for.

The post concluded,

I have not changed my analysis that the price we will pay for these boons is likely to be exorbitant and painful at best. Nonetheless, they are still things to be grateful for, and not insubstantial.”

Almost two months later, having experienced the Trump transition and observed the horrifying 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck, which of these ten bear amendment or repeal? All but a few are as accurate now as then. #9, relating to the Democratic and progressive freak-out and what it represents, has intensified since December 5 and has been longer-lasting and more outrageous than anyone could have expected. Reynold’s item #3 about the election crushing the news media’s sense of self-importance was clearly wishful thinking, for it joined the embarrassing and destructive Democratic reaction to the election rather than learning anything. Fools.

Finally, there is #5. Trump’s election should have demolished the mythology that Obama has been a successful President, because he obviously has not been, and if he had been successful, Hillary Clinton would be about to be sworn in today.But Barack Obama, who like Donald Trump lives in his own narcissistic fantasy world, exited with a series of self-lauding propaganda lines—some issuing from the mouths of his team, like John Kerry—that the news media and punditry have treated as if he were a burning bush. No, Obama improved race relations! His was a scandal free administration! He did most of the things he wanted to do, and if it wasn’t for obstructive Republicans, he would have done much more! Citizens who weren’t happy and voted against Democrats just didn’t understand how well off they are! America’s standing in the world is terrific!  He is proud of his handling of Syria, and those 400,000 dead don’t prompt any regrets! This has been followed by jaw-droppingly dishonest puff-pieces by writers who should know better.

Here are  additional observations on Inauguration Day: Continue reading

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A “Peace On Earth, Good Will Toward Men” Ethics Quiz: The Bitter Propane Dealer

A Skowhegan, Maine Trump voter.

A Skowhegan, Maine Trump voter.

The quiz itself has little to do with the fact that Michael Turner is the kind of bad American, bad neighbor, bad community member and  jerk who makes Ebenezer Scrooge seem like a mensch, but ponder on his conduct anyway.  If you are one of the residents in Skowhegan, Maine   and you call Turner LP Gas in Skowhegan, Maine to buy propane to heat your home, you get this message from the owner:

“If you voted for Donald Trump for president, I will no longer be delivering your gas. Please find someone else.”

No, it’s not a hate crime, it’s just hate. It gets cold in Maine, and Skowhegan, like the rest of the state, has a lot of poor people among it’s 8500 or so residents. It also has many who are elderly and poor, for whom having to find another propane supplier may be not just inconvenient, but life-threatening. This is why we have public accommodation laws: To protect us, especially the vulnerable among us, from bigots and bullies like Michael Turner.

He is no different in his lack of decency and the void of ethical values in his soul than the racists who refused to allow black citizens to frequent their establishments before the Civil Rights Act, bridal shop owners who won’t sell wedding dresses to same-sex couples, and the innkeepers who turned away a pregnant woman and her husband long ago, on a night we celebrate soon.

Ethics Alarms has discussed this ugly phenomenon many times. The Bush administration tried to validate it by approving the so called “workers’ right of conscience, ” that permitted a wide variety of health care workers to refuse to administer treatments they found morally repugnant. President Obama, to his credit, restricted that wide-open door to division and bigotry, then allowed the rest of his years in office to exacerbate societal schisms to the point that we have large numbers of a political party trying to overturn a legal election while calling  Americans who dared to vote differently than they did racists, sexists and fascists.

A recent Ethics Alarms post titled, “Americans: End This Slippery Slope Now, Before It’s Too Late,” about a Washington, D.C. restaurant that publicly apologized for letting an alt-right group to eat there, asked,

Are all groups, families and individuals now going to be required to declare their political and ideological positions before being allowed to order a lasagna? What is an acceptable group? If there is a protest over a Black Lives Matter dinner,  will Maggiano’s apologize? If Mike Pence and his family eats there and the “Hamilton” cast protests, does that mean they will refuse to serve cannoli members of the Trump administration? Despite the fact that the protests came from progressives, the attack on the restaurant is totalitarian in substance.  What is being commanded is conformity of thought.

Ah, but the persecutors are the good guys, don’t you understand? They know they are right, so they can rationalize hurting anyone who isn’t like them. Michael Turner is this breed of citizen. I must admit, when I warned that electing Donald Trump would turn the U.S. into a nation of assholes, I didn’t anticipate that it would be assholes like Michael Turner.

There’s no quiz on this topic, for it is settled ethics that his practice of punishing neighbors for their political views stinks. No, the quiz involves the conduct of Turner’s customers:

Today’s Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz is this…

If Turner required customers to state that they voted against Donald Trump in order to buy propane from him, would it be unethical for Trump voters to lie?

Continue reading

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Americans: End This Slippery Slope Now, Before It’s Too Late.

maggianos

Ethics Alarms has repeatedly inveighed against public accommodations that have attempted to discriminate based on customers’ social and political views. This growing phenomenon is part of the ugly legacy of division and and hyper-partisanship created by the Obama years, and it threatens to get worse. If we want an ethical society and a healthy culture, we have to unite and reject this undemocratic tendency quickly and emphatically. It literally threatens all of us.

The specific incident prompting this alarm comes from a restaurant in my region, Maggiano’s Little Italy in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Last week, Maggiano’s was subject to a protest so vociferous that the restaurant has to shut down for the safety of employees and diners. The reason for the protest was that National Policy Institute (NPI), an alt-right group, was having a banquet there. In a grovelling e-mail to the community, Maggiano’s management wrote that

“We were not aware that NPI was dining with us or what the group represents. After the event, an attendee sent a tweet in which she made a “Sieg Heil salute” in support of Hitler and white supremacy. This expression of support of Hitler is extremely offensive to us, as our restaurant is home to Teammates and Guests of every race, religion and cultural background. We want to sincerely apologize to the community of Friendship Heights for inadvertently hosting this meeting, which resulted in hateful sentiment.”

When did it become required conduct for restaurants to investigate the liberal bona fides of a group before it could be granted leave to dine there? When did what a diner tweets after a meal become conduct a restaurant had to account for? If Maggiano’s can be bullied into apologizing for serving the NPI, why would serving any other group or organization that some group of self-righteous protesters find objectionable, fairly or not, pose a similar risk?

Put aside the Nazi salute: that’s inappropriate conduct in a public place, and the restaurant could certainly, and should, tell diners who behaved like that to leave. That’s not what the restaurant is apologizing for, however.  They are apologizing for hosting the group, despite its Constitutionally protected political views. Continue reading

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The Ethics Of Threatening To Leave The Country…And Leaving It

leaving

Leaving the U.S. just because of the result of an election is an anti-American move for a citizen, a per se demonstration of poor character, ignorance, and a lack of understanding of history and how the government works. Primarily, it is an insult to everyone  in the country, the nation itself, and a rejection of the social compact.

We live in a republic where everyone agrees to participate in the process of government, and that means accepting the benefits, privileges, rights and the responsibilities flowing from that citizenship. Certainly anyone here has a right to try to live where they want to live. However, the nation is no different before an election than immediately after it.  If one doesn’t like living in American, I think you’re nuts, and obviously you don’t crave my association very much, but okay, bon voyage! The attitude of the post-election refugees, however, is “Democracy is only a good thing when I get my way.” Nope, that is not the deal.

If you are willing to accept what you think are the benefits of winning, then you are obligated to accept the results if you lose, and keep working to make your nation and society better as you and your like-minded citizens see it. Leaving after the votes are counted flunks the Kantian test: what would happen if everyone acted like that? It would make democracies unworkable, and ultimately extinct.

The ethical time to leave is before the election. Stupid, but ethical.

Speaking of stupidity, the current freakouts by people—including some of my close friends and relatives—demonstrate the ravages of civic ignorance. They are embarrassing. No, the election doesn’t mean “the end of legal abortions.” No, it doesn’t mean “the suspension of civil rights.” No it doesn’t mean that “Muslims will be put in camps,” or that there will be “mass deportations.” These kinds of wild apocalyptic claims are irresponsible, but mostly show a lack of comprehension of the law, the Presidency, the legislative process and the courts. Now, Donald Trump, who is similarly ignorant of our government and our legal system, may want to do some of these things, just as he may want to make the national language Swedish. But he can’t. If you think he can, your focus should be on improving the educational system, because it failed you mightily. As Barack Obama discovered to his chagrin, legislation is hard, takes skill and perseverance, and requires process,  moderation, compromise and broad consensus.

So the citizens who actually leave aren’t committed to democracy, have little pride in the culture and history of the United States, and when they don’t get what they want,  they pick up their marbles and quit. Good riddance. The nation is stronger and healthier without them. As for their less wealthy but more stout-hearted soulmates, those currently engaged in protesting the results of the election, the equivalent of a public hissy fit, they may have some societal value, eventually.

Maybe they’ll grow up.

And maybe not. “Not our President”Not our President”??? You see, children, that’s the bargain. He is your President, because that’s the deal you make with a democracy: you agree to accept the results of the election, whether you voted for the winner or not. Wait, wait, I’m so confused! Wasn’t one of the reasons you and your Party and your candidate’s media mouthpeices were saying that Trump was a Nazi was that he suggested that he might not “accept the results of the election”? Bill Maher, Professional Asshole, apologized to Bush, McCain and Romney last week for calling them fascists, because it was unfair—rump, he said, Trump is the real fascist!

I think I recognize who are acting like fascists, and the behavior fits the tactics of the party and the candidate they supported.

Yet I digress. For this post is not about those wan and selfish souls who do export themselves, but the rich and famous who threaten—promise, actually— to leave if their candidate doesn’t win. What’s going on with them? Continue reading

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Post-Election Morning Ethics, Early Edition [UPDATED]

hillary-loses

Initial ethics observations following an amazing night in American history:

1. 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.

2. Those who are capable of being fair and objective should salute the shades of Mr. Madison, Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Adams, Mr. Hamilton and their colleagues. The Founders wanted a system that was capable of peaceful political upheaval when the public was dissatisfied and demanded change, and their unique creation was strutting its stuff last night. So much has taken place over the last year—the last eight years, really—that has undermined our democracy that it is refreshing to see its resilience and vitality. As before, I still believe that Trump is a cautionary tale about the danger when people who don’t understand leadership, ethics and government become the majority. On the other hand, it’s their country too, and the “elites” (how I detest that word) forgot that, repeatedly, shamelessly, and in many ways.

Jefferson would have reviled Donald Trump, but he would approve of the uprising.

3. Trump’s victory speech last night was widely reviewed as statesmanlike and gracious, which it was. It was also unusually coherent for him. Still, who can’t give a gracious victory speech? The effusive praise being lavished on this shows how low expectations are.

4. Hillary Clinton’s decision to not to appear in person at her headquarters and concede, also graciously, was a failure of character. On CNN, ex-Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and ex-Obama flack Van Jones got in an argument over this, but for once in his life, Lewandowski  was right. Given the backdrop of Clinton and the media questioning whether Trump would “accept defeat,” the decision by Clinton was just plain wrong: unfair to Trump, unfair to her supporters, hypocritical. Continue reading

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The 2016 Election And Ethics Zugswang

scylla-and-charybdis

In a July post I introduced the concept of ethics zugswang, described in the Ethics Alarms glossary as

From the chess term “zugzwang,” describing a board where the player with the next move worsens his position regardless of which move he chooses. Ethics Zugswang occurs when all the opportunity to choose ethical options has passed. Any course of action will have unethical consequences.

I often talk about ethics zugswang in my ethics seminars as well. It is a situation where  no ethical decision is possible, because of poor choices and a failure to play competent ethics chess, not thinking ahead, not anticipating worst case scenarios, and thereby creating a situation where  ethical options are unavailable. All that is left are options that do tangible harm. The idea is to avoid such messes by not blundering through life being governed by non-ethical considerations, emotions, rationalizations, recklessness and ignorance. Sometimes, however, despite all of one’s best efforts, ethics zugswang arrives anyway.

Such is the plight of the American citizen on Election Day, 2016. For months, thoughtful voters who care about democracy and want to participate in choosing their President responsibly have been trying to decide which of several unethical decisions is the best—the most ethical, or rather least unethical– of the available options. Being angry or indignant, or holding one’s breath until one turns blue, will not do. A decision has to be made, and refusing to make a decision is still a decision. (In chess, the most common response to ethics zugswang is to resign, to quit. But one cannot quit being a citizen in a democracy.)

In past posts, mostly in the comments, I and others have exchanged proposed analogies to describe the choice between choosing Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump to lead the country. Arguing that it was a binary choice that could best be compared to having one’s commercial airline flown by an untrustworthy pilot of questionable skill, motivations and objectives or, in the alternative, a seven-year old, a monkey or a spaniel, my position was that one choice was terrible and the other was infinitely worse, but the terrible one as at least survivable, with luck. Classical literature provides another useful analogy: the myth of Scylla and Charibdis.

In Greek mythology, they were two immortal and deadly monsters who lived on opposite sides the narrow waters in the Strait of Messina, between Italy and Sicily. Odysseus, trying to return home after the Trojan War,  faced the dilemma posed by having to choose between them in Homer’s Odyssey, Book XII. Scylla had been a lovely a sea nymph who was loved by the sea god Poseidon, but Poseidon’s jealous wife Aphrodite treacherously cursed the waters in which Scylla bathed. The god-poisoned water turned Scylla into huge and vicious monster with twelve legs, six heads on long, snaky necks, with each head having a triple row of shark-like teeth. The transformed Scylla’s loins were also covered by the heads of baying dogs. (Note to self: don’t mess with Aphrodite!) When ships passed close to her, Scylla’s six heads would each snatch one sailor, then devour them in her cave.

Charybdis was also once a nymph, a daughter of Poseidon, who angered Zeus, Poseidon’s brother. Zeus turned her into an even worse monster than Scylla. The transformed nymph lurked under a fig tree on the opposite shore from Scylla’s rock, drinking down and belching out  the sea three times a day, causing  fatal whirlpools no ship could survive. Odysseus managed to get the worst of this dual  monster dilemma, sailing close enough to Scylla to doom six of his sailors (who he never warned about the threat) and still seeing his chip wrecked by Charybdis, with him being the only survivor. The shipwrecked Odysseus barely escaped her clutches by clinging to a tree until the improvised raft that she swallowed floated to the surface again after many hours.  To be “between Scylla and Charybdis” means to be caught between two equally horrible alternatives.

As today loomed and this metaphor appeared more and more accurate, I sought wisdom from various versions of the story, only to gradually realize that I was not as certain as I once had been which candidate was which monster. Continue reading

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Debate Ethics: Trump’s “Breathtaking Repudiation Of American Democracy”

debate3

Substance, of course, is officially irrelevant to the 2016 Presidential election. This is a bitter “be careful what you wish for” realization for Ethics Alarms and its author, as I have long argued that leaders’ values and character are more important and should be given more weight in any choice of candidates than their political affiliations or official policy positions. I did not foresee  a race in which both candidates have definitively proven that they are unfit for office and corrupt beyond repair or redemption, and one of those candidates is so unfit that even the epic dishonesty and democracy-corroding conduct of his opponent cannot begin to justify a vote for him by anyone with the sense of a bivalve mollusk.

Thus, once again as in the first two debates, the leading story coming out of last night’s snark-fest relates to character, not substance. In this case, it doesn’t even relate to practical reality. Donald Trump was asked by debate moderator Chris Wallace,

Your running mate Governor Pence pledged on Sunday that he and you, his words, will absolutely accept the result of this election. Today your daughter Ivanka said the same thing. I want to ask you here on the stage tonight, do you make the same commitment that you’ll absolutely accept the result of the election?

..and after talking around the question interminable, as usual, Trump finally answered,

What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense, okay?

Hillary Clinton immediately pronounced the answer “horrifying,” and her assessment is currently being echoed on editorial pages and by pundits and analysts as if Trump announced that he was raising an army of NRA members to take the White House by force. Gasped the Washington Post this morning, in an editorial titled, “Trump’s Breathtaking Repudiation of American Democracy,” “Respecting the will of the voters has since the end of the Civil War allowed for a peaceful transition of power that has made this country the envy of the world….[Clinton’s flaws] fade to the status of trivia in the face of an opponent who will not accept the basic rules of American democracy.”The New York Times, in its editorial titled “Donald Trump’s Contempt for Democracy,” pontificated,

Mr. Trump’s meltdown in the closing weeks could be dismissed as a sore loser’s bizarre attempt at rationalizing his likely defeat. But his trashing of the democratic process, in service of his own ego, risks lasting damage to the country, and politicians of both parties should recoil from him and his cynical example.

It in no way excuses Donald Trump to take notice of the “breathtaking” dishonesty here.

Continue reading

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