The Ethics Conundrum Of The Undisciplined Mind: What Does The President Mean When He Says He Mispoke?

Today President Trump said he had “realized that there is a need for some clarification” regarding his remarks yesterday.

“In a key sentence in my remarks I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t” The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.’ Sort of a double negative.”

Contradicting what most critics took to be his message yesterday,  the President proclaimed his “full faith and support for America’s great intelligence agencies,” adding,

“I have felt very strongly that while Russia’s actions had no impact at all on the outcome of the election, let me be totally clear in saying that — and I’ve said this many times — I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place.”

Knowing what we know about Donald Trump—I’m not speaking here to the anti-Trump unhinged, who “know” that he is a fascist, colluding, cheating autocratic moron menace who stole the election and who is only President to con the nation and raid its coffers—what does all that mean? What does it mean when someone who thinks and speaks—and acts— like Trump does says, ‘I didn’t mean what I said’?

Not only don’t I have any idea, I don’t think it is possible to know. I see the following possibilities: Continue reading

Let’s Play “Unethical, Confused, Shameless Or Just An Idiot”! Today’s Guest: NY Congressman Tom Suozzi (D)…

Last week, Congressman Suozzi participated in the student walkout for gun control outside the US Capitol,  and called on the youth of his district to back gun ownership restrictions. “I think we should engage the high school students of #NY03, and all of Long Island, to promote gun violence prevention legislation,” he tweeted earlier.

This week, however the gun-grabbing Congressman endorsed the concept of an armed citizenry prepared to overthrow the government…specifically, the current one. This, of course, requires more than rocks and slingshots. It requires guns. Citizens opposed to President Trump had to consider the option of resorting to “Second Amendment,” Suozzi said in  March 12 talk to constituents, saying in part,

“It’s really a matter of putting public pressure on the President/ This is where the Second Amendment comes in, quite frankly, because you know, what if the President was to ignore the courts? What would you do? What would we do?”

After an audience member called out, “What’s the Second Amendment?” (I know, I know. Sigh), Rep. Suozzi answered, “The Second Amendment is the right to bear arms!”

 

Afterwards, Suozzi’s office tweeted out one of the Thomas Jefferson quotes often cited by the NRA and Second Amendment defenders:

“What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms!”

OK, audience, are you ready? We’ve heard the evidence: this isn’t like John Kerry saying that he was for the Iraq War before he was against it. This is like Kerry saying that he was for the Iraq War WHILE he was against it! So it’s time to play the popular new political game show that’s sweeping the nation, “Unethical, Confused, Shameless, Or Just An Idiot”!

Here’s your challenge! Is Congressman SuozziUnethical, Confused, Shameless, Or Just An Idiot?

Choose carefully!

You have only a minute…

 

Thanks for playing, everyone!

See you next week!

 

Reconsidering “Lincoln,” Lincoln…And Trump

I’ve been reading a lot about Abraham Lincoln of late. A book by William Hanchett called “The Lincoln Murder Conspiracies” reminded me that while President Jackson is the closest historical match for the populist, outsider aspect of Donald Trump’s rise, the startlingly close match for the antipathy and hatred Trump has faced from the moment of his election eerily traces the experience of Abraham Lincoln.

Like Trump a minority President, Abe won only 39.8% of the popular vote but was still comfortably elected by the Electoral College. As with Trump, his opposition refused to give him a chance to govern or unify the nation, although in his case, the Democrats divided the country literally, seceding from the union before Lincoln took the oath of office. Today’s Democrats are without that option (thanks to Lincoln!), but are doing everything else in their power to undermine the elected leader. (And California, the most Democratic state, is saber-rattling about seceding.) Also like Trump, Lincoln did not concede that his lack of a popular vote majority in any way robbed him of a mandate to govern.

From the moment the election results were known, many Democrats proclaimed the election of Lincoln itself to be an act of aggression, a “declaration of war.” Many in Lincoln’s own party—even his own Attorney General—accused him, with some justification, of engaging unconstitutional measures. The Governor of New York evoked the Revolutionary War generation, saying that they would not stand for such incursions on their rights. Constitutional expert George Ticknor Curtis of Massachusetts predicted that the Lincoln Presidency would “be an end to this experiment in self-government.”

Meanwhile, pundits and critics heaped personal abuse on Lincoln, calling him grotesque, a barbarian, ” gorilla.” Diarist George Templeton Strong, whose words are so often quoted by Ken Burns in his documentary about the Civil War, called him a “yahoo.” It was said that fashionable New Yorkers would be ashamed to be seen in the presence of someone as boorish and uncultured as Lincoln;  it was rumored that he rejected handkerchiefs and “blew his nose through his thumb and forefingers, frontier-style.” As late as 1864, a New York editor wrote,

“[The President] is an uneducated boor. He  is brutal in all his habits and in all his ways. He is filthy. He is obscene. He is vicious.”

Somehow, despite this cruel barrage of ad hominem rhetoric, arguably more successful then that it would be now since the public has more knowledge of the President and can make their own observations, Lincoln persevered to meet the greatest challenges any President ever faced.

While still pondering some of the parallels with today’s relentless attacks on our current President, I watched again the 2012 Stephen Spielberg-directed film “Lincoln,” which was almost unanimously praised when it was released, and which I enjoyed a great deal when I first saw it. This time, however, “Lincoln” revealed itself as an ethics corrupter. Continue reading

Pop Ethics Quiz: Is This Hypocrisy?

"Do as I said, not how I wished they would have done before I said it, and definitely not to me now. Got that?"

“Do as I said, not how I wished they would have done before I said it, and definitely not to me now. Got that?”

In 2003, Dennis Hastert, then Speaker of the House and as yet unmasked as a child molester in his days as a High School wrestling coach,  said

But it is equally important to stop those predators before they strike, to put repeat child molesters into jail for the rest of their lives and to help law enforcement with the tools they need to get the job done.”

The news media has labeled this statement hypocrisy. Is it?

It is not.

Hypocrisy is a statement of moral or ethical standards that an individual proves by his own actions that he does not believe. The actions that supposedly mark Hastert as a hypocrite had already taken place when he made that statement in 2003. There is no reason to assume that he did not believe that sexual predators should be stopped and prevented from doing harm to others, even though he had been one, and indeed even if he was still inclined to molest young men in 2003.

This is another version of the flawed argument that a parent who smoked pot as a youth cannot credibly demand that his or her own child not do the same. What makes a hypocritical statement is insincerity and pretense at the time it is made, demonstrated by conduct in close temporal proximity to that statement. Continue reading

North Carolina Rep. Billy Richardson (D- 44th District) Now Says He Was Wrong To Vote For “The Bathroom Law”

[CORRECTION: The original version of this post erroneously identified Richardson as a Republican. He is a Democrat. Ethics Alarms apologizes for the error. As far as the assessment of the conduct goes, I do not believe it makes any difference, however.]

Billy Richardson’s rational-sounding, remorseful, full-throated endorsement of diversity and respect for LGBT Americans is the most disgusting and damning piece of political weaseldry I have ever seen, and, I desperately hope, ever will see. This man voted for the new North Carolina law that validates oppression against gays and transgender individuals, and now “upon prayer and reflection,’ suddenly sounds like Dan Savage on a polite day. The law is a travesty, he says. It undermines the right to be free of discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation, he says. I agree with him, but why did he vote for the bill in the first place, and why is he suddenly a passionate human rights advocate now?

I can answer both questions, because they have the same answer. Both his vote and his sudden reversal are the result of having no principles, not integrity, no core beliefs, no courage, no honesty, and no business holding high office. The law was not mysterious: it is blatant in its objective and philosophy. Voting for such a bill is signature significance: no one who has any respect of regard for LGBT citizens, their families, or the Constitution under which they live would consider voting for such a law, unless the official voting just casts his votes according to where he senses the winds are blowing, and regards politics as a game of profit, like playing the stock market. Once the law provoked violent opposition and the likelihood that the 1) the state would lose revenue and jobs and 2) the fools who voted for such a despicable measure would pay a dear price, Richardson was suddenly filled with contempt for those  “who would demonize a group of citizens to gain political advantage and to advance an unjust agenda.” You know, like him.

“Instead of recognizing the right to be free of discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation, HB2 gives green light to this discrimination in housing, employment and other areas,” he writes.  “To paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, we must never make any group of citizens a stranger to the laws of their own state.”

Gee, who sent that quote to him, God? He does tell us he was praying about this, after all. Boy, Richardson is quite a walking advertisement for the power of prayor! Just like that, BOOM!, his entire political, sexual and civil rights philosophy changed, and his favorite songs became “Kumbaya,” “We Shall Overcome,” “This Land is Your Land,” and “YMCA.”

Richardson is insulting his state’s citizens by showing that he regards them as gullible fools, and perhaps they are. I know that the foes of the bill will be happy to use him now as a politician who, mirabili dictu, has seen the light, even though he has outed himself as a cowardly, principle-free liar.

Does one of his bigoted colleagues who will fight like a rat to defend this awful law deserve more respect than Richardson? Absolutely! Richardson is the soldier who will switch sides as soon as it is clear that his own side is losing. He is the epitome of what Donald Trump’s supporters believe all politicians are–soulless, untrustworthy, craven, glib and able to wrap themselves in any disguise for a single purpose: their personal profit and survival. Such politicians are useless to anyone, and the scourge of democracy. Continue reading

Fairness To Clinton: #WhichHillary Is Fair, Black Lives Matter Isn’t

Racial Justice Sign

Protesters who interrupt speeches are not engaging in free speech, they are defiling it. We can expect protesters of all sizes, shapes and colors to be interfering with campaign appearances this year, forcing candidates into a lose-lose-lose proposition of either giving the activists a platform they don’t deserve, rewarding rude and disrespectful behavior and looking weak (as Bernie Sanders did last year, allowing a Black Lives Matter group to hijack a campaign appearance), trying to ignore the disruption and thus being unfair to those who came to hear a speech without static, or being  confrontational with the protesters and alienating voters who may sympathize with their cause.

This is one area in which Donald Trump has a clear advantage: since neither he nor his addled supporters care about ethical values, he can safely be abusive to protesters, and he is. At the rate his abuse is escalating, I expect him to egg on one of his mobs to burning or eating one by the spring.

Thus I must sympathize with Hillary Clinton, who just had an ironic ethics encounter. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “World Series Ethics: Another Pine Tar Sighting, As Baseball Ethics Rot Gets A Thumbs Up From Legal Ethics Rot”

Volquez, unaware...

Volquez, unaware…

I think I made a poor call deciding not to write about the interesting ethics question that arose during Game #1 of the just completed World Series.

We learned during the broadcast of Game 2 on Fox that Daniel Volquez, the father of Kansas city Royals Game #1 starting pitcher Edinson Volquez, had died of heart trouble during the day in the Dominican Republic. But Volquez’s family had asked the team not to inform Volquez until after the game, and the team, on behalf of the family, asked the same of the broadcasters, directing them to withhold the news from the TV audience. I decided to pass on the story because I couldn’t confirm that Volquez didn’t know about his father’s passing, though it now appears he did not. That was foolish: the ethics issues are the same regardless of whether he knew.

Fortunately Ethics Alarms reader Noah D. insisted that the issue was attention worthy, and wrote his own commentary. I’ll have some comment at the end. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, World Series Ethics: Another Pine Tar Sighting, As Baseball Ethics Rot Gets A Thumbs Up From Legal Ethics Rot: Continue reading

World Series Ethics: Another Pine Tar Sighting, As Baseball Ethics Rot Gets A Thumbs Up From Legal Ethics Rot

Sal Perez

Cameras during Game #2 of the 2015 World Series revealed that Kansas City Royals catcher Sal Perez had what appeared to be pine tar on his shin guard during the game. This would presumably be there for the purpose of surreptitiously smearing some of the gunk on the ball, then throwing it back to the pitcher so he could “get a better grip on the ball,” a.k.a “tamper with the baseball so it can do loop-de-loops.” This is illegal. It is cheating. According to Rule 8.02(a)(2), (4) and (5), the pitcher shall not expectorate on the ball, on either hand or his glove; apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball; [or]  deface the ball in any manner. The rule is unambiguous, and if a pitcher or a catcher is caught violating the rule, they are thrown out of the game with a suspension and fine to follow.

None of this happened to Perez or his pitcher that night. According to NBC Sports blogger Craig Calcaterra, a former practicing lawyer who I am officially disgusted with, the reason was that “Nobody cares,” including Calcaterra.

I wrote extensively about Major League Baseball’s unethical attitude toward violations of this particular rule last year, after an absurd sequence in which Yankee pitcher Michael Pineda was caught by TV cameras apparently using pine tar on his pitches without compliant from the opposing Red Sox, followed by Sox manager John Farrell saying that he hoped he would be “more discreet” about his cheating “next time,” and then when Pineda was more obvious about it next time, Farrell complained to the umpires, who threw Pineda out of the game (he was also suspended). I wrote, Continue reading

Integrity And Future “Madam President”

Are you excited about having Hillary as run for President yet?

hillary-clinton1From Mediaite:

During a contentious interview on NPR’s Fresh Air, Clinton scolded host Terry Gross for persistently asking questions about the former Secretary of State’s “evolution” on the issue of gay marriage….Clinton publicly endorsed same-sex marriage only last year, leading many to surmise that she either withheld her true feelings on the issue all along, or had simply come around to the voting public’s increasing support for the issue. On Thursday morning, Gross attempted to understand Clinton’s change of heart, provoking a testy response.fter repeated questioning and several defensive responses, Gross told her interviewee: “I’m just trying to clarify so I can understand.”

“No, I don’t think you are trying to clarify,” Clinton fired back. “I think you’re trying to say I used to be opposed and now I’m in favor and I did it for political reasons, and that’s just flat wrong.”

She continued: “So let me just state what I feel like you are implying and repudiate it: I have a strong record, I have a great commitment to this issue, and I am proud of what I’ve done and the progress we’re making.“

What could this possibly mean? What is Clinton repudiating? That she opposed gay marriage until last year? That she said she opposed gay marriage? What is she proud of? That she only changed her mind when it was politically expedient? That she came to the conclusion that gay marriage was a human right after lots of other non-gay American—like me—had been making the point for years? Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: SunTrust Bank

pop weasel2

“SunTrust supports the rights of all Americans to fully exercise their freedoms granted under the Constitution, including those with respect to free speech and freedom of religion.”

—-SunTrust Bank, doing its best Cracker Barrel imitation by reversing its decision, announced  earlier in the day, to pull all of its listed properties with the Benham brothers’ bank-owned property business.

SunTrust was following the lead of craven, political correctness bully-enabling HGTV, which a week ago announced it was canceling a planned home renovation show hosted by the Benhams as punishment for their conservative views on same-sex marriage, because, as we all know, gays are the heart and soul of the home renovation business. Thus emboldened, the bank decided that citizens opposing same-sex marriage as taught by the faith they had been raised to embrace deserved to have their business harmed, since that’s what the SunTrust suits’ moistened fingers in the wind told them their sensitive, right-thinking customers wanted.

But the announcement turned that wind into a roaring hurricane of protest from conservatives, and, we can at least hope, some actual liberals among Democrats who comprehend that banks should not be enforcers of the growing, un-American movement to make life nasty, brutish and short for anyone who dares to see the world differently from the news media, the universities, and the rest of the thought-crime legislators among us. Thus the quick reversal, and the noble words above.

So why is SunTrust’s impeccable affirmation of their iron-clad support for our precious freedom unethical? Continue reading