Observations On That Disturbing Trump Cabinet Meeting

Yesterday’s weird, televised segment of the Cabinet meeting was troubling in many ways. If you missed it, and I am envious if you did because it will haunt my nightmares for a long time, here is what happened:

Trump began by giving a positive assessment of his first 143 days and said,”Never has there been a President….with few exceptions…who’s passed more legislation, who’s done more things than I have.” Bad start. Trump, in fact, has signed very few bills. “Never—with few exceptions”—is classic Trump-speak, aka gibberish. This is also the kind of statement Trump’s Furies call “lies.” This was not a lie. In some convoluted way, the President thinks its sort of true. THAT’S the problem, not that he’s lying.

This was just the appetizer, though. The full course was the Cabinet officials, one by one, around the table, taking turns praising their boss.  This could not have been spontaneous. It reminded me of “King Lear”s” opening when the old, fading monarch requires each of his three daughters to tell him how much they love him as the price for getting a piece of his kingdom.

The charade began with Vice President Pence, who called it the “greatest privilege of my life” to serve in the Trump administration. Then Attorney General Jeff Sessions said it was an “honor” to serve Trump, and the rest of Trump’s Cabinet more or less aped what Pence or Sessions had said. Maybe they had all been given talking points. As a final inducement to projectile vomiting, Lackey-in-Chief Reince Priebus gave us a suck-up for the ages:

“On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people And we’re continuing to work very hard every day to accomplish those goals.”

And may I fellate you here, sir, or later?

Disgusted and depressed observations:

1. This is exactly the kind of self-destructive fiasco  a top Chief of Staff who has a proven record running successful government operations on the state or national level could and would prevent. Instead, Trump has a Chief of Staff who actively made it worse. In February, Ethics Alarms featured my post calling for the appointment of such a figure as “the single most ethical thing President Trump could do.” That was four months ago, and this is more desperately needed now than ever.

2. Since this horrible display did happen, we now can say with certainty that none of the President’s inner circle has the influence, guts or common sense to stop him when he yields to his worst instincts.

3. We can also conclude that not a single member of the President’s Cabinet possesses  sufficient integrity, courage, principle or self respect to be trusted by the American public. These are billionaires and generals, and not one said to Trump, “I’m sorry, Mr. President, but this will make you look weak and me look like an ass-kissing yes-man. I won’t do it, nor will I remain in a Cabinet stocked with lapdog sycophants who would debase themselves and their high offices by doing it.  Do you discard this idiotic charade, or do I resign now?”

Shame on them, every one. Continue reading

Let’s Adopt Adam Weinstein’s Values And Arrest Adam Weinstein

For the dangerous crime of not agreeing with Adam Weinstein...

For the dangerous crime of not agreeing with Adam Weinstein…

In a jaw-dropping post on Gawker-–I would suspect link bait if this wasn’t a disturbing trend-— a supposedly (formerly?) reputable journalist argues that anyone who challenges global warming orthodoxy should be prosecuted as a criminal. Here is Adam Weinstein making a fool out of himself (actually, only a fool could write such crap), and doing it by quoting as an authority the absurd Prof Lawrence Torcello, whose earlier advocacy of punishing global warming skeptics I wrote about in this post. Weinstein:

Those denialists should face jail. They should face fines. They should face lawsuits from the classes of people whose lives and livelihoods are most threatened by denialist tactics. Let’s make a clear distinction here: I’m not talking about the man on the street who thinks Rush Limbaugh is right, and climate change is a socialist United Nations conspiracy foisted by a Muslim U.S. president on an unwitting public to erode its civil liberties. You all know that man. That man is an idiot. He is too stupid to do anything other than choke the earth’s atmosphere a little more with his Mr. Pibb burps and his F-150’s gassy exhaust. Few of us believers in climate change can do much more—or less—than he can.

Nor am I talking about simple skeptics, particularly the scientists who must constantly hypo-test our existing assumptions about the world in order to check their accuracy. That is part and parcel of the important public policy discussion about what we do next. But there is scientific skepticism… and there is a malicious, profiteering quietist agenda posturing as skepticism. There is uncertainty about whether man-made climate change can be stopped or reversed… and there is the body of purulent pundits, paid sponsors, and corporate grifters who exploit the smallest uncertainty at the edges of a settled science.

I’m talking about Rush and his multi-million-dollar ilk in the disinformation business. I’m talking about Americans for Prosperity and the businesses and billionaires who back its obfuscatory propaganda. I’m talking about public persons and organizations and corporations for whom denying a fundamental scientific fact is profitable, who encourage the acceleration of an anti-environment course of unregulated consumption and production that, frankly, will screw my son and your children and whatever progeny they manage to have.

Those malcontents must be punished and stopped.

Continue reading

Pete Seeger Was No Hero, But That’s OK

“Was Pete political? Of course,” wrote singer Tom Paxton in a featured Washington Post salute to folk legend Pete Seeger, who died this week at the age of 94.“He was political as Walt Whitman was political, as Clarence Darrow and Woody Guthrie were political; as, for that matter, all of us should be political. He felt that ordinary people deserved protection from bullies of all stripes and his was the gift of being able to express this belief in music and in the way he lived his life.”

Reading Paxton’s dewy-eyed remembrance and the formal obituaries and tributes from most of the news media, one would never suspect that Pete’s belief in protection against all bullies didn’t stop him from being a fervent supporter of and an apologist for one of the worst bullies in human history, Josef Stalin, and not just momentarily, but for most of Seeger’s life. The fact that supposed news organizations nearly unanimously decided to gloss over that element of Seeger’s legacy tells us a lot about the Left, our journalists, bias….but not a lot about Pete Seeger.

If I followed my heart and my tapping foot but not my brain (and if all I knew about Pete was what I read in the newspapers and read from my theater colleagues on Facebook—And only in our Orwellian reality would someone of such incomparable achievement, one who displayed such overwhelming humanity, have been held in contempt of congress. An inspiring life,” wrote one, who should know better), I would have made Seeger an Ethics Hero Emeritus. He had some notable heroic moments, as when he stood up to the House Un-American Activities Committee, refusing to take the Fifth Amendment while defying the Committee in defense of the First, and getting himself cited for contempt of Congress and blacklisted as a result. I was thrilled and proud of him in 1968, when fresh off the blacklist he appeared on the Smothers Brothers show and sang his “Big Muddy” song (which you can watch above) with anger and passion, condemning the Vietnam war in metaphor and calling LBJ a fool on national television at a time when such a direct insult against the President was taboo. I didn’t even completely agree with Seeger at the time, but this was brave protest art at its finest and most effective.

If only the hypocrisy of continuing to support a system of government and a regime that tolerated no freedom of speech and that would have squashed a protester like Seeger as if he were a maggot had occurred to the folk singer while he was doing these things. But it did not. Folk singers tend to be like that, and Pete Seeger, one of the greatest folk singers, was more like that than any of them. Continue reading

Sen. John McCain And Critics of “The Handshake”: The Pain Of Obama Derangement Syndrome

The Horror.

The Horror.

There are many, too many,  aspects of President Obama’s conduct of his office that deserve to be singled out for legitimate criticism. Shaking hands with Raul Castro at a non-political gathering of world leaders is not one of them. It’s not even close.

The fury with which Republican and conservatives large and small, prominent among them Sen. John McCain, have attacked the President for this obligatory, unremarkable and  essentially meaningless nod to civility shows that they are in full fever with Obama Derangement Syndrome, a crippling malady with antecedents in the Nixon, Reagan, Clinton and Bush 43 administration. Rapid psychiatric intervention is called for. In this instance, President Obama is blameless. He did what any responsible President would do, and what many before him have done. Continue reading

The Prince, The Sex Offender, and the Ethics of Friendship

Prince Andrew with one of his friend's victims in 2001

The ethics of friendship is complicated.

President Bush claimed to be friends with Vladimir Putin. F.D.R. once said that Josef Stalin was his friend. President Obama was famously friendly with dubious characters like Rev. Wright and William Ayres.

History is full of heroes and near-heroes who had infamous friends, though the extent of the often friendship is difficult to know. Sammy Davis, Jr. and Elvis were supposedly buddies with Richard Nixon. Bill and Hillary Clinton were close friends with Dick Morris. Wyatt Earp was a life-long friend of “Doc” Holliday; Andrew Jackson may have been friends with pirate Jean Lafitte, who helped him win the Battle of New Orleans. We simultaneously celebrate loyal friends, and yet we also judge people by the company they keep. Should we condemn individuals who have friends with serious character flaws or a history of unsavory acts? Or should we admire them for sticking with their friends when everyone else is turning against them? Continue reading

Egypt Ethics: Integrity Deficit on the Right

It has been fascinating and troubling listening to conservative radio talk-show host Mark Levin lambast fellow conservatives who have been siding with the revolutionaries trying to end the 30 year rule of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Levin argues that such support is foolish and ignorant, because there is no way for the United States to be sure that the resulting new government, even if it is more democratic than the current one (hardly a difficult bar to clear), wouldn’t be worse for the interests of the United States. Continue reading

Note to Anti-Defamation League: Stick To Dafamation

Everybody who watches baseball on TV knows that Fox color man Tim McCarver talks too much. He’s smart, sometimes perceptive, but his opinions during a broadcast constitute the sports equivalent of Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound.” Last week, commenting on a Yankee Stadium game that was preceded by the team’s annual “Old Timer’s Day” parade of superannuated Yankee greats, McCarver chose to express his outrage at what he saw as the Yankees’ banishment of former manager Joe Torre (now managing the L.A. Dodgers after an acrimonious departure from New York, followed by a tell-all book) to relative obscurity: Continue reading