President Trump’s First Year: The Ethics Alarms Ethics Audit

 

I planned to do this on November 8, but other matters intervened. Properly I should wait until January, I suppose. Yet I don’t see the grades changing significantly in a month or two.

For the most part, this ethics audit doesn’t consider policy matters. Calling policies unethical is usually a cheap shot and an expression of partisan priorities. I believe that the DACA is unethical; many believe that killing it would be unethical. I could not make a useful analysis using these kinds of controversies.

To keep this simple, I’m going to use the relevant ethical values listed in the Josephson Institute’s Six Pillars of Character, and add some extra categories at the end. As a preface, I have to say that there aren’t many surprises here. I had already concluded long ago that the concept of ethics is meaningless to Donald Trump. In Three Circles terms, he has only one circle, his own, and a Core circle unmoored to either a formal code of ethics or public standards of conduct will only be ethical by accident. I was hopeful that, like other Presidents of dubious character and troubling pasts when they reached office, Trump might make a concerted effort to adopt more traditional Presidential ways. This was always a long-shot, and so far, I see no signs of it happening.

Here are President Trump’s ethics grades through November of his first term, with comments and explanations where needed: Continue reading

Dear Madison Ave: As Long As TV Commercials Keep Getting More Gratuitously Vulgar, Ethics Alarms Will Keep Objecting To Them. I’m Sure You Are Trembling In Fear.

It is tragically clear now that Madison Avenue has decided there is a cultural consensus that it is incredibly funny to imply vulgar words and make sexual allusions in TV commercials. Objections to this as juvenile, culturally degrading and gratuitous from this quarter have no effect, accept to attract the usual “lighten up” comments from applauding vulgarians. Well, I don’t care. Ethics Alarms will keep pointing out what wrong anyway. You want a President who boasts about the size of his penis during a debate? THIS is how you get a President who boasts about the size of his penis during a debate. You want a President who uses  a menstrual reference to  attack a female journalist? This is how you get that too.

The only satisfaction, I suppose, is the same uncivil vulgarians who most object to the results of this cultural pollution are also the ones sending the “lighten up” comments.

Since August of last year, the Kraft Heinz Company’s newest frozen meals brand, Devour, has been advertising its products with a TV ad in which a boss catches  his employee becoming sexually aroused by his lunch,  to  which he applies a sexy spank with his fork. The ad’s tagline: “Food You Want to Fork.”

Nice.

Kraft says the ad is aimed at men aged 25-35, so I guess that’s okay then. Everyone knows that demographic is made up of assholes—is that the theory?—and the best way to please them is to make the kind of juvenile sexual innuendo that we had in naughty songs like “Shaving Cream” about when I was 12. It’s so hilarious when people use a word that sounds like a dirty word in a context where it is obviously intentional, but don’t really say the word, because, see, its, like, not polite.  Got it. My sides are splitting. Continue reading

Autonomy: The Ethics Alarm That Obamacare Should Be Setting Off, But Isn’t

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Autonomy. This is the ethical value, a sub-set of the “respect” section of the Josephson Institute’s Six Pillars of Character, that is suddenly absent from the value set of the New American Left. This is cause for concern to say the least, because autonomy is the very value that was the impetus for the nation’s founding, and that is at the core of the Bill of Rights as well as the “inalienable rights” that introduce Mr. Jefferson’s mission statement for our strange experiment in self-governance. Beginning back in Bill Clinton’s administration, advocates of a nationalized health care system, including President Clinton himself, began floating the historical and logical nonsense that Jefferson and the Founders would have enthusiastically supported national health care. This is, of course, a cynical lie if one is educated (as it was in Clinton’s case) or proof positive of complete unfamiliarity with, oh, everything about the Founders, their political philosophy, and political philosophy generally. Whatever the value of a national health care program, the idea that the government would presume to dictate how one managed something so personal and intimate as one’s own health would have horrified  every signer of the Declaration, from its author to Button Gwinett.

That Mr. Jefferson’s supposed followers—he is the Original Democrat, by most lights, would reach the point of maintaining that the public’s beliefs, opinions and attitudes must be bent to their will is a development that threatens the existence of United States society and culture as we know it. The recent flare in this emergency arrived via the mugging of Brandon Eich, ex-CEO of Mozilla, who was deemed by the liberal elite as unworthy of keeping his job (though Mozilla is an internet company and he is an innovator in the field) because he was not convinced of the rightness of same-sex marriage by the elite’s newly determined, and well past,  deadline—a deadline that such progressive icons as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton also missed, but never mind. Conformity to Progressive Truth has become the order of the day, and woe be to any good citizen who dares to oppose it. Does this sound like freedom to you? “Choice,” to use a popular rallying cry in the protest against the “War against Women?” It doesn’t sound like freedom to me. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Matt Labrum, Union High (Roosevelt, Utah) Football Coach

Six Pillars

Matt Labrum, head coach of Union High School in Roosevelt, Utah, suspended all 80 of his players, citing  a lack of character. He instructed them all to turn in their jerseys and their equipment, and announced that there would be no football until they earned the privilege to play. Labrum gave his shocked players a letter titled “Union Football Character” which declared in part,

“The lack of character we are showing off the field is outshining what we are achieving on the field. It is a privilege to play this wonderful game! We must earn the opportunity to have the honor to put on our high school jerseys each Thursday and Friday night!”

Instead of practicing during the days leading up to this weekend’s game, the students were ordered to perform community service, to attend study hall and go to a class on character development. They were also required to perform service for their own families, and write a report about their actions. Academically, the players were told to be on time for classes, and to improve their grades.

It is unclear what prompted the coach’s action, though some of the players, he felt, had engaged in cyber bullying, and he was aware of other instances in which various players had not, in his view, lived up to exemplary standards of behavior. Several of them had been rude and obnoxious, he had learned to other students and teachers—in other words, they were behaving like high school football players. Rather than punish individual students, Coach Labrum decided to impose team wide measures designed to foster good character. His theory, clearly, was to encourage a team culture of ethical conduct, strengthened  by group encouragement and enforcement of shared values. Labrum is also a gifted salesman, since it appears that opposition from students, their parents and the school administration has been minimal.

In many schools, including colleges, football players are the biggest jerks on campus: the culture of school sports too often nurtures entitlement and arrogance. Imagine a school athletic culture in which the athletes were expected to embody the best of ethical values both on and off the field.

The implications are staggering.

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Pointer: Lianne Best

Sources: Yard Barker Deseret News

The Damage of Health Care Reform “By Any Means Necessary”

I have no idea whether the health care reform bill, assuming it finally gets passed in one form or another, will make things better or worse, and if you are honest about it, neither do you…and neither, I am certain, do most of the elected representatives who will have voted for it or against it (or for it and against it) by the time the dust clears. To only cite the most obvious proof, the bill’s current form was just posted yesterday, giving Congress 72 hours to read and understand over 2,000 pages of technical jargon and badly-written prose. I don’t believe I have ever read 700 pages a day for three days at any point in my life, and if I have, I know it had to be something more diverting than a health care bill.

Relying on second-hand analysis—also by individuals who haven’t read the current bill—simply puts us (and the members of Congress) at the mercy of the biases of those rendering the opinions. For example, one of my favorite commentators, Robert Samuelson, has persuasive arguments against the bill here and here, while one of my least favorite, Paul Krugman, weighs in on the bill’s virtues here and here. Now, I think Krugman has squandered his credibility by blatant untruths in the past (One howler, his infamous statement about the national health care systems of Canada and Great Britain that “We’ve all heard scare stories about how that works in practice; these stories are false” is derisively quoted almost daily by Wall Street Journal blogger James Taranto as he relays tales of national health care horrors from the London press), but the man has won a Nobel prize: maybe he’s right and Samuelson is wrong. I really don’t know.

I do know this, however: whether the bill proves to be disaster or panacea, the manner in which President Obama and the Democrats have gone about passing it has done real and lasting harm.  Continue reading