Tag Archives: President Donald J. Trump

Idiot Ethics: A Brief Note

I used the term “idiot” three times in the recent post about Alex Jones. Periodically I get reprimands from commenters who chide Ethics Alarms for engaging in “ad hominem” attacks when it refers to a public figure as “an idiot.” IMy response is always the same: diagnosing someone as an idiot who behaves idiotically is not an “ad hominem attack.” Ad hominem means that one attacks a legitimate argument by attacking the arguer instead: “That must be wrong, because he’s an idiot!”  In the case of Jones, my point was very different: believing that John Podesta, in the middle of a Presidential campaign, would be running a sex ring out of a pizza place is per se idiotic, and it requires an idiot, like Alex Jones, to take such a story seriously. I’ll stand by that assessment.

Still you don’t read many pundits, and certainly no ethicists, who use that term, or related ones like dolt, dummy, moron and cretin. Is it unprofessional? It certainly isn’t common practice for professionals, though there are exceptions: the late Justice Scalia was not above calling out idiocy by name. I will even use the term occasionally in my ethics seminars, for example, to describe the lawyer who produced a hand grenade during his closing argument, and pulled the pin. Is this unfair? I don’t think so. Nor is it unfair to call the lawyer an idiot who recently had his pants burst into flame mid-argument to bolster his defense that his client didn’t deliberately set his car won fire, but that it spontaneously combusted.

Non-idiots don’t do things like that. If he doesn’t know he’s an idiot, someone needs to tell him.

Calling someone an idiot is an insult, obviously, and is a breach of civility. Civility, however, does not and should not interfere with the truth. Choosing to properly designate a prominent idiot as one is a public service, and to the more self-aware idiots, a kindness as well. Great damage can be prevented by making it absolutely unambiguously clear that someone is an idiot, as in “not smart, responsible, wise or educated enough to be trusted in his opinions or competence.”

Once upon a time, it was very rare for true idiots to rise to prominence and influence in the United States.  It was just too hard, and nobody was that lucky. This provided a great advantage over cultures where power and influence were conferred by birth.  Idiot kings and emperors were never in short supply. John Adams made the point that in America, the aristocracy, whose role in other nations was to stand as role models and typify the best of society, was uniquely created by ability, achievement, talent and intelligence. (John, a lawyer, naturally thought that lawyers fit the bill.) The bold concept behind American democracy was 1) that public education and civic duty would compel the citizenry to accept the responsibility of being capable of self-government, and that the “wisdom of crowds” would do the rest. Idiots literally could not rise to high office. They so obviously contrasted with the typical public servants that their careers fizzled out before the White House was within view. Stupid journalists, scholars, professionals and authors were also rare; indeed, it was once hard to find an idiot with a high school diploma, much less with an advanced degree. Continue reading

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Filed under Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Professions, Workplace

The False Lesson Of The GOP Failure To Replace Obamacare

They called off the Charge of the Light Brigade, the incompetent fools!”

Ethics Alarms feels obligated to state what should be obvious, but increasingly is not, as abuse is heaped on the Republican House and President Trump for failing to be able, for now at least, to agree on a replacement/repeal/fix for the Affordable Care Act, “Obamacare” its close friends….enemies too, come to think of it.

The headlines on stories all over the web describe the lack of a GOP bill are brutal:The failure of the Republican health care bill reveals a party unready to govern (Vox)…Republicans Land a Punch on Health Care, to Their Own Face (New York Times)…Inside the GOP’s Health Care Debacle (Politico). Those are the nicest ones. The conservative media’s headlines are even more contemptuous. This only reflects how much the prevailing delusion on the Left and by extension the Left’s lapdog media and punditry, has infected political common sense, leaving a Bizarro World* sensibility about what ethical governing is about.

It may be futile to point this out from this obscure corner of the web, but hell, I’m a fan of quixotic endeavors: the House health care bill was a bad bill. Virtually everyone who examined it thought so. If the thing had somehow been passed by the Senate (it wouldn’t have been, so this meltdown just got all the abuse and gloating out of the way early) and signed by the President (who admits that he has no idea what a “good” health care system would be), it would have thrown millions of lives and the economy into chaos. It isn’t responsible governance to pass bad laws. (Why is it necessary to even say this?) It’s irresponsible. The Republicans wouldn’t show they were “ready to govern” by passing an anti-Obamacare bill that made a bad mess messier; they would have shown that they were fools, reckless and incompetent.

You know: like the Democrats when they passed the Affordable Care Act. Continue reading

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And The Obamacare Ethics Train Wreck Rolls On…

Barack Obama’s legacy is a series of ethics train wrecks of remarkable and depressing longevity. The oldest of them, the Obamacare Ethics Train Wreck. may never stop rolling, leaving destruction in its wake forever..

Observations:

1.   It is clear that the Republicans will not be able to repeal, undo, repair or reinvent Obamacare, aka The Affordable Care Act, consistently with their rhetoric and the wishes of the thoroughly messed-up law’s abundant critics. The many bills passed by the GOP-controlled House to that end during the Obama Administration were grandstanding only: they passed because there was 100% certainty they would be vetoed. Now that such bills actually risk becoming law, Republicans are, reasonably enough, not willing to take the leap into the void.

2. The President has told Congress that if they are not prepared to deal with the repeal and replacement of the ACA now, he will move on to other priorities.  This is entirely responsible, both politically and pragmatically. Passing a sweeping law in haste that will affect millions of Americans would be irresponsible.

3. This means, of course, that the President’s campaign pledge to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something “great” “on Day One” was nonsense. On one hand, it was reasonable for him, or anyone, to assume that after seven years of complaining the party’s legislators had a viable plan ready to replace the affordable Care Act. On the other, it was dishonest to make such a pledge without ascertaining with certainty that what Candidate Trump was promising was within the realm of possibility. “Day One” is obvious hyperbole, but anyone making such a statement must assume that it will  be widely interpreted as “before the next Ice Age,” and thus should not be uttered unless the pledge can be fulfilled eventually. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, U.S. Society

Ethics Quote Of The Day: Five Ninth Circuit Judges

“We are all acutely aware of the enormous controversy and chaos that attended the issuance of the Executive Order. People contested the extent of the national security interests at stake, and they debated the value that the Executive Order added to our security against the real suffering of potential emigres. As tempting as it is to use the judicial power to balance those competing interests as we see fit, we cannot let our personal inclinations get ahead of important, overarching principles about who gets to make decisions in our democracy.

For better or worse, every four years we hold a contested presidential election. We have all found ourselves disappointed with the election results in one election cycle or another. But it is the best of American traditions that we also understand and respect the consequences of our elections. Even when we disagree with the judgment of the political branches — and perhaps especially when we disagree — we have to trust that the wisdom of the nation as a whole will prevail in the end.”

—-Five judges of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals  (Judges Jay Bybee,  joined by Judges Alex Kozinski, Consuelo María Callahan, Carlos Bea, and Sandra Segal Ikuta, attacked what Bybee called the “fundamental errors” in the February decision of a three-judge panel upholding the temporary restraining order that blocked President Donald Trump’s first executive order temporarily halting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

The opinion denounced the panel’s ruling as a “clear misstatement of law,” and stated that the five, constituting a larger number of judges than the three judge panel whose contrary holding was described as a “unanimous” 9th Circuit decision, had an”obligation to correct” it for the record.

“We are judges, not Platonic Guardians. It is our duty to say what the law is, and the meta-source of our law, the U.S. Constitution, commits the power to make foreign policy, including the decisions to permit or forbid entry into the United States, to the President and Congress,” the five judges stated.

Currently, the President’s revised order is held up by an even more widely criticized temporary restraining order issued by  U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson. As well as following many of the same lines of activist judicial reasoning the five judges criticized in their dissent, Judge Watson’s opinion heavily relies  on the campaign rhetoric of President Trump and statements by  chief aide Stephen Miller in TV interviews. This means, as several critical legal experts including Alan Dershowitz  have pointed out, that the exact same order, if issued by Barack Obama, would not have been blocked, and would have been found Constitutional.

Now that’s a double standard!

In criticizing their colleagues, the five judges said that the panel “brushed aside” the clearly controlling case law of Kleindienst v. Mandel, 408 U.S. 753 (1972) and ignored entirely the rulings in Kerry v. Din, 135 S. Ct. 2128 (2015) and Fiallo v. Bell, 430 U.S. 787 (1977).  The Supreme Court in Mandel recognized that First Amendment rights were implicated by an executive action but decided…

“when the executive has exercised its authority to exclude aliens on the basis of a facially legitimate and bona fide reason, the courts will neither look behind the exercise of that discretion, nor test it by balancing its justification against the First Amendment 11 interests of those who seek personal communication with the applicant.”

Continue reading

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And Democrats Will Call This “Success.”

The GenForward poll, as reported by The Associated Press found that a majority of young adults, 57 %, regard Donald Trump as an illegitimate President. The number includes three-quarters of black respondents as well as large majorities of Hispanics and Asians.

President Trump is many things. Ethics Alarms began years ago documenting those aspects of his abilities, temperament, skills and character that made him, by the analysis here, an unqualified, undesirable President. One thing that he is not, however, is “illegitimate.” There is no basis whatsoever to consider him so. He was selected to run by the process put in place by the Republican Party, over a large number of experienced and accomplished politicians (and then there was Ben Carson.) He was extensively covered by a hostile press, that all but announced (and in the case of the New York Times, did announce) that it was dedicated to his defeat. His opponent was the allegedly unbeatable, anointed heir to Barack Obama and the previous Democratic President, her husband, both of whose policies were a matter of record. President Trump did not “buy the election,” as he spent about half what his opponent did. Illegal voters, to whatever extent they played a part in the election, probably did not vote for him.

Donald Trump was elected because the right number of voters chose him in the right combination of states, and under the rules in place since the U.S. Constitution was ratified, his was a legitimate election, and he is a legitimate President beyond question. There have been a few Presidents whose legitimacy could be challenged—John Quincy Adams, John Tyler, Rutherford B. Hayes—but not President Donald J. Trump.

So why does a majority of young Americans now regard the President of the United States as “illegitimate”? They believe this because a deliberate strategy has been followed by Democrats, progressives and the news media to make them believe that. They have been told that the Electoral College is undemocratic, as part of a two month long onslaught of propaganda to get a group of electors not chosen for the purpose to overturn the election results. Major figures in the Democratic leadership have declared the President “illegitimate,” without official rebuke. Most of the Congressional Black Caucus boycotted the Inauguration on that basis. Democrats have loudly claimed that an FBI conspiracy was afoot to wreck Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and then attributed her loss to Russian “interference.” Finally, Democrats have claimed that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians to steal the election, essentially alleging treason. This last is the major artillery in the Delegitimize Trump battle plan, and it has always been intellectually dishonest, irresponsible, and reckless. Following on the theme, Democrats have even encouraged the use of the inflammatory term “the resistance” to sanctify those who claim the President is “illegitimate,” equating opposition to a duly, legally elected U.S. President with the underground French resistance to Nazi occupiers during World War II, a genuinely illegitimate government. This is indefensible and wrong. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, U.S. Society

Unethical Presidential Tweet Of The Month

Ugh.

Hip hop artist Snoop Dogg is desperate for some publicity, I guess, so why not troll President Trump?  He’s issued a music video of the song  “Lavender,” in which a Trump-imitating actor in clown makeup is sort of assassinated by the singer. This is art. It poses no threat to the President. Tasteless? Ugly? Provocative? You decide. Whatever you decide, however, the President’s tweet is factually wrong. Ken White explains at Faultlines:

This is all nonsense…First Amendment analysis isn’t mathematics, but it’s not philosophy, either. The rules, and how they have generally been applied, are knowable. The rules for whether a statement can be taken as a criminal threat against the President have been clear for 47 years, since Vernon Watts talked about putting LBJ in the sights of a hypothetical rifle. The rules governing claims of “incitement” are even clearer. Unless Snoop Dogg’s video was intended to produce, and likely to produce, imminent lawless action, or was intended as and objectively understandable as a sincere expression of intent to do Trump harm, it’s not criminal. Period. This is not a close or ambiguous call.

Correct. Now, as regular readers here know, I have an abundance of tolerance for the President’s tweeting. It’s not dignified, and it undermines his authority and dignity, and it embarrasses the government and degrades the office. Most of the tweets, however, are just stupid.

This one, however, misstates the law, and, as White points out, the President is sworn to protect the laws of the United States. You don’t protect them by misrepresenting them, or by miseducating citizens who are just as ignorant of the law as the President is.

This can’t be put off any longer: if he is going to keep tweeting, the President’s tweets have to be vetted by a lawyer.

NOT this one, though.

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Ethics Observation On The Trump 2005 Tax Return

Yesterday, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow endlessly hyped the fact that  veteran investigative reporter David Cay Johnston had obtained President Trump’s 2005 federal tax return. When it was revealed, the scoop didn’t justify the hype. Trump  paid 38 million in taxes that year,  24% of his income—not the top rate, but not “nothing,” which was the rumor Democrats were selling during the campaign.

Ethics points:

1. Whoever leaked the return broke the law, and doing so was unethical.  No, it’s not illegal for the news media to take material stolen by others and sanctify it via their First Amendment protections.  It should be though. When they do this, they aide and abet a crime, and Freedom of the Press wasn’t supposed to allow THAT. At very least, journalists should be required to reveal the names of the criminals who steal and release our proprietary documents. The publication of these makes such thefts worse, not better.

2. I don’t see why the President’s tax returns from 12 years ago has any genuine relevance to anything now. The returns were relevant to the decision of whether or not people wanted to vote for him. Now, the tax documents have no purpose, except for the insatiable Trump-bashers to have something new to bash him with. Anything will do.

3. David Cay Johnston was dishing about his “scoop” with GMA’s George Stephanopoulos, and decided to start a new rumor. He speculated that Trump leaked the return himself.  No evidence, not a drop, and yet that’s what this veteran reporter felt was justifiable to say on national TV. Gee, can we call THAT fake news?

4. Then, as he did with Maddow, the reporter went on about all the conflicts of interest that Trump’s financial dealings have created. Again, this is re-litigating the election. At this point, there is no practical way to eliminate Trump’s conflicts and the appearance of impropriety that they create, and he’s not going to bother trying. Johnston, and others, including me, never made a clear case to the public why the President’s unprecedented financial entanglements should have been disqualifying; nor did Hillary, in part because her own financial entanglements were disqualifying. Well, the train left the station, y’all. You had your chance, and botched it. Johnston, like so many of the other bitter-enders who want to turn back time, ultimately get back to, “But…but…but…we never should have elected this guy! Surely there is something we can do to undo it!”

No, there isn’t. Cut it out. Continue reading

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