Tag Archives: trust

Note To Prof. Painter On His Teeth Gnashing Over Trump’s Conflicts: “If You Have No Option, You Have No Problem,” or “NOW You Tell Us?”

Ethics expert Richard Painter, who was White House ethics counsel from 2005 to 2007, has authored a thorough, convincing and I’m quite certain accurate brief about all the problems arising from soon-to-be President Donald Trump’s vast business connections, and the conflicts of interest they can and will involve. It’s an automatic ethics train wreck. Here’s Painter:

Even absent a quid pro quo, the Emoluments Clause bans payments to an American public official from foreign governments. Yet they will arise whenever foreign diplomats stay in Trump hotels at their governments’ expense; whenever parties are organized by foreign governments in Trump hotels (Bahrain just announced such a party in a Trump hotel this week); whenever loans are made to the company by the Bank of China or any other foreign-government-owned bank; whenever rent is paid by companies controlled by foreign governments with offices in Trump buildings; and whenever there is any other arrangement whereby foreign government money goes into the president’s businesses….How can we expect a Trump administration to rein in loose lending practices, particularly in the real estate sector, when the president himself owes hundreds of millions of dollars to banks? What will he do when a foreign dictator acts up in a country where there is a Trump hotel?

Yikes. Yikes and true. Also Yikes, true, and why are you bringing this up now when there is absolutely nothing that can be done about it? Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Texas Republican Elector Art Sisneros

art-sisneros

….As an Elector, I came to conclusion I have three options under our current system. I can 1) vote for the nominee of their party under which I was elected, 2) vote for someone else and be considered a faithless elector (a term I despise), or 3) I could resign my position if the candidate turns out to be someone I can not, in good conscience, vote for. I believe under the right circumstances every option is not only valid, but can be ethically the righteous thing for a Christian to do. The question that everyone wants answered is, what will I, an Elector who is under the conviction that our nominee is not a biblically qualified candidate, do? After wavering back and forth, my conscience is finally at peace with the decision I’ve made….If Trump is not qualified and my role, both morally and historically, as an elected official is to vote my conscience, then I can not and will not vote for Donald Trump for President. I believe voting for Trump would bring dishonor to God. The reality is Trump will be our President, no matter what my decision is. Many are furious that I am willing to have this discussion publicly. Personally, I wish more civil officers would be honest about their convictions. Assuming a Trump Presidency is their ultimate goal, they will get that. The problem is, that isn’t what they want. They want a democracy. They will threaten to kill anyone who challenges their power to vote for Skittles for dinner. That is evidence alone to prove that our republic is lost. The shell may remain, but in the hearts of the people and functionality of the system our republic is gone.

…I believe to resign is to honor the intent of the pledge as it relates to the people of my district. Since I can’t in good conscience vote for Donald Trump, and yet have sinfully made a pledge that I would, the best option I see at this time is to resign my position as an Elector. This will allow the remaining body of Electors to fill my vacancy when they convene on Dec 19 with someone that can vote for Trump. The people will get their vote. They will get their Skittles for dinner. I will sleep well at night knowing I neither gave in to their demands nor caved to my convictions. I will also mourn the loss of our republic.

This excerpt doesn’t do the tortured elector justice, as he expounds on his torment in detail in this remarkable blog post.

Observations:

1. His ultimate decision was the ethically correct one, the “book answer”: Resign, and let someone who can and will do what the voters expect take his place. He reached it using some unethical and crooked paths, though.

2. His post is a rationalization-fest with muddled thinking and dubious history thrown in. Sisneros inadvertently makes an ironclad case for why we don’t want electors like him to have the power to veto the electorate. This guy is too confused and emotional, not to mention biased and theocratic, to be trusted for such a job. Who knows? The other electors may be even worse. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History, The Internet, U.S. Society

Trump, Master Of Rationalizations, Scores A Perfect #4 AND A Perfect #5!

Former District of Columbia Mayor Marion Barry attends a news conference on the steps of Washington's city hall Monday, July 6, 2009. At the news conference Barry's attorney Frederick Cooke said Barry vehemently denies the allegation by Donna Watts-Brighthaupt, and that he's confident the stalking charge will be dropped. Barry, 73, stood behind Cooke but said nothing. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Somewhere, Marion Berry is smiling…

This is juuuust the beginning…

I have noted before that our President Elect never expresses any ethical awareness, and uses rationalizations exclusively to explain and justify his conduct. This is typical of say, 12-year-olds, but is less common among professionals in responsible positions.

Trump just authored a classic example, following the expression of concerns about his conflicts of interest, which are massive, unavoidable, and which should have been addressed seriously long ago, like in a Presidential debate, and at length. Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton and various journalists felt it would be more helpful to their cause to spend time talking about what Trump had said about an over-weight Miss Universe and in a private conversation with Billy Bush. How did that work out for you, guys?

Now various lawyers and ethics experts are saying that Trump “must” sell off his business holdings because his company’s myriad business entanglements will cast many White House decisions under a cloud. The President Elect has a neat answer for them, to wit:

“The law’s totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest.”

— Donald Trump, interview with the New York Times, Nov. 22, 2016

Bravo! This is a perfect expression of Ethics Alarms Rationalizations #4, and #5

4. Marion Barry’s Misdirection, or “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical.”

The late D.C. Mayor and lovable rogue Marion Barry earned himself a place in the Ethics Distortion Hall of Fame with his defense of his giving his blatantly unqualified girlfriend a high-paying job with the DC government. Barry declared that since there was no law against using the public payroll as his own private gift service, there was nothing unethical about it. Once the law was passed (because of him), he then agreed that what he did would be wrong the next time he did it.

Ethics is far broader than law, which is a system of behavior enforced by the state with penalties for violations. Ethics is good conduct as determined by the values and customs of society. Professions promulgate codes of ethics precisely because the law cannot proscribe all inappropriate or harmful behavior. Much that is unethical is not illegal. Lying. Betrayal. Nepotism. Many other kinds of behavior as well, but that is just the factual error in the this rationalization.

The greater problem with it is that it omits the concept of ethics at all.  Ethical conduct is self-motivated, based on the individual’s values and the internalized desire to do the right thing. Barry’s construct assumes that people only behave ethically if there is a tangible, state-enforced penalty for not doing so, and that not incurring a penalty (that is, not breaking the law) is, by definition, ethical.

Nonsense, of course. It is wrong to intentionally muddle the ethical consciousness of the public, and Barry’s statement simply reinforces a misunderstanding of right and wrong.

Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

Let’s Hear No More About Facebook “Values”

china-facebook-1024x576

The New York Times reports that Facebook has developed software that will enable partner Chinese companies to monitor popular stories and topics that Facebook users share across the social network. Facebook’s partner would have power to decide whether those posts should show up in users’ feeds and suppress posts from  in specific geographic areas. The censorship and information-suppressing software  was created to help Facebook get into China, a lucrative market where the social network has been blocked. CEO Mark Zuckerberg is, sources say, full supportive of this effort by Facebook to make the subjugation of Chinese liberty easier.

One of Facebook’s core mission statements is “Make the world more open and connected.” Like so many mission statements, it is public relations deception. If Facebook was devoted to this mission, it would not even consider breaching its intent, letter and spirit by spending time and money to develop censorship software.

Facebook’s real mission is making a fortune by expanding into new markets. Let us not debase the topic of this blog by defaulting to Rationalization # 25. The Coercion Myth: “I have no choice!”

Facebook has a choice, the ethical one. That choice is to tell China it has a choice: either accept Facebook without censorship, of do without it. Google and Twitter, neither exactly paragons of virtue, have been blocked there for refusing to yield to the government’s  censorship requirements. Boy, when a company isn’t even as ethical as Twitter..wow.

This is the company we are going to trust to decide what is “real news.”  Ridiculous.

Prominent Democratic Party supporter Zuckerberg, like the party itself, is insufficiently allergic to the methods and objectives of totalitarianism.

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Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Facebook, Government & Politics, Rights, Science & Technology, The Internet

My Ethics Hero: Some Guy In The Harris Teeter Meat Section

I was doing some quick shopping yesterday at a large Harris Teeter supermarket in Alexandria, Virginia. My list from my wife included an option—always a doorway to a shopping confidence crisis—between a whole chicken, a small marinated chicken, or two large chicken breasts. I had decided on the marinated bird, but couldn’t find them where they usually were, and was more or less frozen, like the “hosts” in “Westworld” get when Anthony Hopkins wants them quiet, staring where I expected them to be.

“I’m going to buy one of them, the question is, which one?” a jaunty, relaxed voice close behind me said. At that moment I realized I had been staring at turkeys (I wasn’t there to buy one), and I turned around, not startled but curious, to face a broadly smiling, handsome, bearded African-American man about my age, probably a little younger.

“Isn’t it a little early?” I asked, smiling back. Being habitually disorganized, I am typically shopping  for everything the day before Thanksgiving.

“Oh, no, not for me!” he said, laughing. And he told me that he was going to cook up one or more turkeys for his church on Sunday. We talked about the ways he cooked his turkeys; he preferred to smoke them. He was also a grilling specialist. He took out his phone and showed me pictures of his specialty, ribs. We talked about his favorite recipes, and his church, his family, and its Thanksgiving plans, as I told him about mine. I mentioned that my wife was our traditional Thanksgiving chef, and that got the discussion turned around to marriage. We both have been married a long time, and he took me by the shoulders and talked intensely about commitment in relationships.

I had a twenty-minute conversation with this delightful stranger, just standing by the meat section. Finally, I announced  that I had to finish my assignment, and wished him wonderful holidays. I offered him my hand and introduced myself; he shook it firmly, and gave his name in return. Then we spontaneously hugged each other, which I never do, being from Boston and trained to be reticent in such intimacies, he flashed that terrific smile, and we parted.

My encounter with this exuberant gentleman suddenly made me feel good about life, my community, the country and the human race as I had not for a very long time. I think we’ll be all right. All that had happened was that a stranger just reached out and began a conversation about something two people shared, showing openness, kindness, human interest and trust, and a connection was made. That’s all it takes.

I start conversations with strangers a lot; it was something my father did. He was better at it than I am, and my friend in the Harris Teeter meat section is obviously a grandmaster. But as the holidays approach, and I keep reading these essays about families boycotting each other because of Trump-Clinton divides, it is so obvious that my dad and my turkey buddy are the wise ones.  We’re all just human beings together on a short and unpredictable trip: we should  just focus on that, and reach out.  Why is it so hard? Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Daily Life, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Quotes, U.S. Society

Comment Of The Day: “The Democrats’ Petition To Overturn The Election”

William Plumer---the first faithless elector. Jerk.

William Plumer—the first faithless elector. Jerk.

The effort of many Democrats to reveal their party as one rapidly evolving into an anti-democratic one that will try to take and hold power by divisive, coercive, and extra-legal means continues, so this Comment of the Day is not stale, fortunately, though I am four days late posting it. The discussion regarding the Ethics Alarms post about the Change.org petition to persuade state electors to try to reverse the results of the election was enlightening, and complaining about the Electoral College continue. Much of that is just unethical citizenship seasoned by ignorance. This post, unlike most of the others, made an articulate, measured case that provided useful information. Here is Jim Nevertrump‘s Comment of the Day–I’ll be back briefly for a final comment—on the post, “The Democrats’ Petition To Overturn The Election”

We are at a critical juncture. The choice as to the next leader of the most powerful nation in history could well spell disaster for our collective future, for the future of the globe and the human race. Devastation awaits humanity from either of two crises – we can foreseeably suffer nuclear annihilation on the one hand, or broad environmental decimation on the other. A misstep here is one that we cannot chance. With a miscalculation once made, there’s no recovery. Beyond those two vital dangers, there are enormous questions pertaining to life and death, health and disease, wealth and destitution, power and servitude, crime and punishment. All these are on short fuses, and a wrong turn will inflict suffering on a great many.

On the question of anointing the next president, the book is not closed. The Constitution challenges us to take a good hard look. Continue reading

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The Sessions Nomination: President Elect Trump Flunks A Responsibility Test

Oh, yeah, this is JUST what we need...

Oh, yeah…this is JUST what we need…

Is Senator Jeff Sessions, now definitely Donald Trump’s choice to be his Attorney General, a bigot? I have no idea, but it doesn’t matter. Nor does it matter that the blaring “Trump is a racist” narrative relentlessly repeated by the left is unsubstantiated and based on innuendo and distortion.

Racial tensions in our nation are unacceptably high, and not even primarily because of the election. It is irresponsible for Trump, at this crucial juncture, to do anything at all that will add to those tensions, or exacerbate African-American fears, however unjustified, that he will not be a President of all citizens, regardless of creed or color. His nomination of Senator Sessions does exactly that, and he must know it.

In 1986, a much younger Sessions was nominated by President Reagan for a federal judgeship. At sensational Congressional hearings, Justice Department prosecutor J. Gerald Hebert testified that in  1981, he had met with Sessions, then the United States attorney in Mobile, Alabama. Hebert told Sessions that a federal judge had called a prominent white lawyer “a disgrace to his race” for representing black clients.

“Well,” Hebert testified Jeff  Sessions replied,  “maybe he is.”

Hebert also testified that  Sessions had referred to the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP as “un-American” for “trying to force civil rights down the throats of people.” Then an African-American prosecutor testified that  Sessions had referred to him as “boy” and  that he had joked that he thought that the Ku Klux Klan “was O.K. until I found out they smoked pot.” Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society