Ick Or Ethics? The Nauseating Social Media Meme

I have a long-time friend whose spouse has the above Facebook meme as a social media avatar. As a result, I have serious reservations about having any further interaction with either of them.

Once again, I am bedeviled by the phenomenon of public virtue-signaling, a non-virus epidemic that mostly manifests itself among smug progressives. There is no question in my mind that such ostentatious declarations are obnoxious and nausea-inducing, and thus offensive. But are they unethical?

The last time I addressed this issue was when these signs, mercifully short-lived, starting popping up on my neighbors’ lawns.

Then, I see that I was adamant, writing in part, Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Week: John Hinderaker

“It is almost unbelievable how ignorant and ill-educated America’s college students are. They are well below average in every material way. For all my life I have been an advocate for higher education, but I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that college is generally a mistake, as young people are mostly misinformed there, rather than educated. There are a few technical fields–medicine, engineering, possibly law–where such education is actually useful. Otherwise, we and our young people would be better off if they eschewed institutions like Colgate in favor of trade and technical schools, or immediate entry into the labor market. They couldn’t possibly do worse than to pursue the typical four-year liberal arts degree.”

—-Attorney-blogger John Hinderaker, in a Powerline post about the  hostile treatment conservative  author Heather McDonald received from Colgate students when she was invited to speak there.

The reason this seems almost unbelievable to Hinderaker, and the reason I chose this as an ethics quote, is that his painful conclusion that nobody wants to admit is true. I don’t want to admit it, and I was becoming convinced of this decades ago, when I  was part of the administration of Georgetown Law Center and discovered that we had Yale graduates who couldn’t write a coherent sentence, and later, when I had Stanford interns who thought Jane Fonda was an aerobics instructor and who looked at me blankly when I mentioned the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and still later, when a smart young woman who had graduated from Hofsta didn’t know who Jackie Robinson was, and when a Skadden Arps attorney with a Cornell degree guessed that the Civil War was fought sometime in the 1930s.

This is why I was not disappointed when my son, scion of a family with three Harvard graduates and a career Harvard employee, announced that he saw no point in going to college. Continue reading

The Big Lies Of The “Resistance”: #8 “Trump Only Cares About Himself, Not The Country”

When I combined the seven previous “Big Lies of the Resistance” posts I though I had collected them all. What a mistake. Not only had I complied an incomplete list, I had managed to miss the most egregious, unfair and, for the impeachment effort, the most useful Big Lie of all. I’m sorry. It’s time to remedy my error.

I’ve been feeling the need to add Chapter 8 to the Big Lie record since the midst of the Democrats’  ostentatiously unfounded impeachment claims over the President’s dealings with the Ukraine. Their entire argument was built on an assumption: President Trump sought further information regarding the suspicious activities of Joe and Hunter Biden while the elder Biden was Vice-President and the younger was somehow pulling down big bucks from a Ukrainian corporation only to “find dirt” on his likely opponent in the Presidential election. This description was repeated over and over again by the news media, like a mantra or a hypnotic suggestion. Hearing it so often and repeated with such certitude, one might almost forget that the President of the United States has a legitimate purpose in finding out whether a high elected official in the previous administration was influence peddling, sacrificing the interests of the nation for a wayward son.

The President’s attackers and those who have been searching for a way to remove him without having to prevail at the ballot box have framed the controversy as if there was no reason on earth to suspect Joe Biden of wrongdoing–after all, he’s a patriot—so Trump’s waving a Congressional aid package as a carrot that could turn into a stick was an attempt to “interfere with the election.”

The funny part is that there was never any evidence that this was Trump’s motive. It was assumed that this was Trump’s motive because “everyone” knows he’s a bad guy.

We heard this during the Russian conspiracy investigation constantly: Trump “colluded” with the Russians because of course he did—he’s that kind of guy. The Trump haters who slowly devolved into the Trump Deranged came to regard the President’s character as one and the same as guilt of the dastardly acts they attributed to him. This is called, I remind you, bias. Bigotry. Prejudice…the intellectually indefensible assumption that someone is guilty of unethical acts because of who and what they are, rather than what we know they did. Continue reading

Ten Ethics Observations On The President’s 2020 State Of The Union Message

The text of the speech is here.

1. As I mentioned at the end of the previous post, my professional assessment, as a speech coach and a stage director, is that Trump’s delivery–timing, pacing, energy, focus, expressiveness, emphasis, technique–was excellent. Like other politicians (and me, frankly) the President is best, most relaxed, most persuasive and likable, when he is speaking extemporaneously. This time, though the speech was obviously scripted, he delivered it like his more familiar riffs.

And he has improved over his term in office. So many POTUSes have not.

2. As for content, I saw the speech described as “Reaganesque.” That’s high praise, but not far off. There were no ringing catch phrases, but the most important feature was that the speech was positive, optimistic, and upbeat. This was especially remarkable because many expected the President to be combative and defiant, and to directly address his impeachment. Not doing so was wise, and indeed ethical. Living well is the best revenge, and the President’s recitation of his administration’s achievements, no matter how the factcheckers spin them—it’s Trump, so we assume hyperbole—was a virtuoso dismantling of Big Lie #5: “Everything is Terrible.”

It’s not terrible, of course, far from it, and the false narratives constantly repeated by the Democratic candidates about how the middle and lower classes weren’t benefiting  were belied by Trump’s statistics asNancy Pelosi stared.

3. The repeat stunt of having all the female members of Congress on the Democratic  side wear white  was juvenile, incoherent and dehumanizing. I was reminded of the sperms in Woody Allen’s “Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask.” Whatever their chant was, it didn’t work. The President deserves ethics points for specifically condemning late term abortion in front of this group, and featuring a little girl born at 23 weeks was a powerful visual aid.

Most Americans do not approve of late term abortions, and the device of making Democrats explicitly show their disapproval of Trump’s vow to stop it exposes a gaping ethics black hole on the Left.

4. At times I wish Ronald Reagan had never introduced the manipulative technique of using guests in the audience for applause and heart-rending moments, but I have to admit President Trump used it like no one before him, shamelessly but effectively.  I just hope nobody tries to top it, because that was my limit, and perhaps a bit over.

There was the African-American boy who wants to join the Space Force, and his 100 year-old Tuskegee airman great-grandfather, in uniform, having just been promoted to  general by Trump. There was the young African American girl who had been denied her application for a tax credit scholarship to attend a private school in Philadelphia because the state’s Democratic governor had vetoed a funding bill. The President told her she would get her scholarship after all, as she and her mother beamed. There was the new President of Venezuala, symbolizing a capitalist rescuer for a nation wrecked by socialism. Rush Limbaugh, recently diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, appeared genuinely overcome when Mrs. Trump awarded him the Medal of Freedom on the spot. Also on the spot was a surprise reunion between a military wife and her soldier husband, back from deployment.

Great drama, great sentimentality, great showmanship. It was a combination of Oprah, Maury, and “Queen for a Day,” but schmaltz works, and the President proved himself a master of it.

5. Pelosi’s guests included Fred Guttenberg, the father of a high school freshman killed in the 2018 mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He got himself removed from the audience by shouting something about his daughter as the President pledged to preserve the Second Amendment. Using the victim of tragedies as political props is an objectionable stunt (Trump did this too, with Kelli Hake and her son;  Army Staff Sergeant Christopher Hake, was killed  in Iraq, a victim of the late Iranian terrorist leader Qasem Soleimani. Another guest was the brother of Rocky Jones, the victim of an illegal immigrant in Tulare County, California, and the parents of an ISIS victim, but Trump’s guests didn’t disrupt the event. They had also lost loved ones to bad people, just like Guttenberg, but do not advocate taking away law-abiding people’s rights in their grief. Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch

“The real problem here is the increasingly common practice of trial courts ordering relief that transcends the cases before them. Whether framed as injunctions of ‘nationwide,’ ‘universal,’ or ‘cosmic’ scope, these orders share the same basic flaw—they direct how the defendant must act toward persons who are not parties to the case….

“Equitable remedies, like remedies in general, are meant to redress the injuries sustained by a particular plaintiff in a particular lawsuit. When a district court orders the government not to enforce a rule against the plaintiffs in the case before it, the court redresses the injury that gives rise to its jurisdiction in the first place. But when a court goes further than that, ordering the government to take (or not take) some action with respect to those who are strangers to the suit, it is hard to see how the court could still be acting in the judicial role of resolving cases and controversies. Injunctions like these thus raise serious questions about the scope of courts’ equitable powers under Article III”…

It has become increasingly apparent that this Court must, at some point, confront these important objections to this increasingly widespread practice. As the brief and furious history of the regulation before us illustrates, the routine issuance of universal injunctions is patently unworkable, sowing chaos for litigants, the government, courts, and all those affected by these conflicting decisions…

“If a single successful challenge is enough to stay the challenged rule across the country, the government’s hope of implementing any new policy could face the long odds of a straight sweep, parlaying a 94- to-0 win in the district courts into a 12-to-0 victory in the courts of appeal. A single loss and the policy goes on ice— possibly for good, or just as possibly for some indeterminate period of time until another court jumps in to grant a stay. And all that can repeat, ad infinitum, until either one side gives up or this Court grants certiorari.”

——Justice Neil Gorsuch, concurring in the grant of the stay of a nationwide injunction imposed by a district judge in New York against the implementation  of the Trump administration’s new immigration standards.

The new rules impose additional criteria for determining which potential immigrants  are likely to be dependent on the U.S. government for benefits  and therefore ineligible for green cards and eventual U.S. citizenship. These were proposed in October, 2019, but have been blocked by Democratic judges until today’s decision. Continue reading

The Tipping Point Nears…

You know, Vince, in Iran they’d cut your hand off for this. Maybe in Hollywood too, now that I think about it…

Two episodes in recent days have pushed me closer to the tipping point at which I am forced to conclude that even as an ethicist who has held fast to the principle that no one who both reveres the office of the President of the United States and who believes that the office must be held by a man (or a woman, Bernie!) of outstanding ethical character with strong supporting ethical values can ever vote for Donald Trump or want to see someone like him, if there is such a creature, leading this nation.

I am not there yet, but I would have never dreamed at any time in 2012 through most of 2019 that I could get this close. It is true that President Trump has been far more successful than I expected in the narrow category of policy, domestic and foreign. It is true that he has displayed some admirable character traits, though they have all been in the category I call “enabling virtues,” meaning that they are traits that can serve both good and bad motives and objectives. It is also true that this President has never been given a fair chance to do his job, as he has been undermined, harassed and obstructed since the moment he took office in unethical ways never experienced by any of his predecessors with similar intensity and duration.

Nonetheless, voting for someone like Donald Trump to lead the United States of America is ethics antimatter to me, and professionally impossible—right now. However, the behavior of the “resistance” and  Democrats increasingly indicates that they must be decisively defeated so their current approach to American culture, society, rights and political conduct is sufficient ruinous that they begin a period of urgent reform.

Relatively small events often are tipping points with me, and both of these are small as well. However, when conduct is undeniably signature significance, proving that a group or individual is corrupt and untrustworthy because only the corrupt and untrustworthy would behave in such a way even once, my mind’s made up. I consider these two episodes frightening and if not quite constituting tipping points for me, coming too close for comfort.

I. The Vince Vaughn Affair Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: Authors Stephen King And Don Winslow

Winslow, King, and their extortion target

Wow. Talk about having defective ethics alarms.

Bestselling novelists Stephen King and Don Winslow (he’s a best-selling detective novelist; I assume you know who King is) have offered to donate $200,000 to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital if  White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham will finally hold a press conference, something the Administration stopped having ten months ago.

I assume you can quickly assess what is wrong with this, even though these successful, wealthy, adult men cannot:

  • They seem to think their wealth entitles and empowers them to manipulate the President of the United States,

   What hubris. What arrogance.

  • The two writers are using sick children as their hostages to try to bend the White House to their will.

Nice. Continue reading