Ethics Verdict: The Democrats Will Be 100% Responsible For The Damage The Impeachment Will Do To The nation.

Impeachment, though it is doomed to fail, will be terrible for the country in too many ways to count, and the Democratic Party, abetted by the mainstream news media, will be 100% responsible for the harm. Not 75%. Not 99%. 100%.

I know I’m going to have to write a lot in the coming months about this, and I’m already sick of it, but if progressives, the media and the Democrats had treated this President as every one of his predecessors had been treated, we would not be here. They all decided to actively search for a justification to remove this President from office without an election. The calls for impeachment and contrived legal excuses to remove him began before Trump even took office.

It is satisfying, I suppose, in a mordant way, that the Democrats somehow trapped themselves into using one of the lamest and least persuasive justifications for an impeachment inquiry imaginable, and will pay a steep, steep price for it. Even the fact that the party and the media will suffer greatly for their attack on democracy, however, does not sufficiently mitigate the damage they will have done to the nation. Continue reading

The Trump Presidency And “The Caine Mutiny”—A Reminder

Turner Movie Classics ran “The Caine Mutiny” again last night. It reminded me of what I wrote two years ago, when I really didn’t think that the “resistance” and the Democrats would continue on the destructive path they have for this long. I even wrote, foolishly, “This is the last time I’m going to try to explain why the fair, patriotic, ethical and rational approach to the impending Presidency of Donald Trump is to be supportive of the office and the individual until his actual performance in the job earns just criticism. Attempting to undermine a Presidency at its outset is a self-destructive act, for nobody benefits if a Presidency fails.” Of course, it was far from the last time I returned to the topic. In my defense, how could I know, at a point where the term “the resistance” hadn’t even surfaced yet, that the unparalleled assault on a President would not only continue, but escalate to the point where a newly minted Congresswoman would announce to a cheering mob, “We’re going to impeach the motherfucker!”?

Watching the movie, however, was striking. I know it well; I can recite many of the dialogues from memory. Yet the parallel with the Trump Presidency struck me stronger than ever before, and sent me back to that previous post, in which I wrote,

In The Caine Mutiny, a film version of the stage drama and novel “The Caine Mutiny Court Martial,” Captain Queeg (Humphrey Bogart), a man whose war-shattered nerves and self-esteem problems have rendered him an erratic and an unpopular officer, falters in his command during a storm. His officers, frightened and already convinced that their captain is unfit for command, mutiny. At their military trial, their defense attorney causes Queeg to have a breakdown on the witness stand, winning the case for the accused mutineers. Later, however, at the post trial victory party, the lawyer, Barney Greenwald (Jose Ferrer),  shames his clients. He represented them zealously, but he tells them that they were, in fact, at fault for what occurred on the Caine:

Ensign  Keith: Queeg endangered the lives of the men.

Greenwald: He didn’t endanger any lives.You did. A fine bunch of officers.

Lt. Paynter: You said yourself he cracked.

Greenwald: I’m glad you brought that up, Mr. Paynter, because that’s a very pretty point. I left out one detail in court. It wouldn’t have helped our case. Tell me, Steve, after the yellow-stain business, Queeg came to you for help, and you turned him down, didn’t you.

Lt. Maryk: Yes, we did.

Greenwald: You didn’t approve of his conduct as an officer. He wasn’t worthy of your loyalty. So you turned on him. You ragged on him, you made up songs about him. If you’d given Queeg the loyalty he needed, do you think all this would have come up in the typhoon? You’re an honest man, Steve, I’m asking you. You think it would have been necessary to take over?

 Maryk: It probably wouldn’t have been necessary.

Keith:  If that’s true, we were guilty.

Greenwald: Ahhh, You’re learning, Willie!  You don’t work with the captain because of how he parts his hair…you work with him because  he’s got the job, or you’re no good.

Exactly.

      Or you’re no good.

Donald Trump is in over his head. He knows it, I think. Maybe, just maybe, with a lot of help, a lot of support and more than a lot of luck, he might be able to do a decent job for his country and the public. It’s a long-shot, but what’s the alternative? Making sure that he fails? Making him feel paranoid, and angry, and feeding his worst inclinations so he’s guaranteed to behave irrationally and irresponsibly? How is that in anyone’s best interest? That’s not how to get someone through a challenge, especially someone who you have to depend on.

Continue reading

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

The Three Circles, Prime Directives, And President Trump [With Addendum]

I can’t believe I have never written about this diagram before, but apparently I haven’t. That’s my fault, and a major one.

The diagram, the creation of my friend, attorney John May, shows the inter-relationship of the three ethical systems professionals must employ when they face ethics problems. For although we tend to think about making decisions in one context, there are several, and which sphere—these are circles after all—we choose will often determine what balance of values, principles and outcomes dictates the ultimate course.

Here are what the circles represent:

The Big Circle, in yellow, includes the ethics culture that we all live in. It includes our nation, society, community, family, and friends, and is a messy, inconsistent, multi-faceted, often contradictory melange of traditions, religion, customs, literature, history, heroes, fables, family influences, teachers, peers, laws, and more. This the largest system of all, the sun to the planet-sized influence of the other two systems. within it are not only the often competing ethics theories of Reciprocity, Absolutism, and Utilitarianism, but also all the variations in between and beyond–Ayn Rand, Nietzsche, Marx, and many others. In his invaluable book “The Science of Good and Evil,” Michael Shermer posits that despite all the internal inconsistencies, the Big Circle is remarkably functional, agreeing on what is right and wrong perhaps 97% of the time. The disagreements are in the realm Shermer calls provisional ethics,  akin to what Ethics Alarms is referring to when it cites The Ethics Incompleteness Principle. These are the troublesome problems where the usual principles don’t always work.

 

The Core Circle, in green, represents the values, principles, beliefs and the priority of these for an individual–you. It comprises all of those, plus such core qualities as conscience, self-esteem and courage. It’s location in the Big Circle varies with the individual. A section of it even may protrude outside Big Circle, representing the degree to which a person does not embrace the values of his or her community or culture.

Finally, there is the Compliance Circle, in red. That circle defines the special ethics of a profession, and includes ethics codes, traditions, aspirational values and professional obligations and duties.

Notice that part of the Red Circle is outside the Yellow one. These are the values about which a profession is bound to adhere to at all costs, even though the society at large often and even usually does not have the same ethical priorities. Quoting Star Trek, this is Prime Directive territory. In Gene Roddenberry’s fictional Star Fleet, it was forbidden to use the immense power a starship could muster to interfere with a planet’s inhabitants and their conduct, even to prevent what appeared to be a horrible wrong.  This principle would be repugnant to the the public at large. For example, if a starship had an opportunity to stop a genocidal race from wiping out another race on its planet, the Prime Directive would make it a crime to do so. The Big Circle would certainly view this as monstrous, but the Prime Directive wisely holds that interference must be avoided. Continue reading

An Ethics Quote Of The Day From The Washington Examiner and A Jumbo From The Editor Of The Washington Post

light-on-the-truth

“[T]he mainstream media has dropped its standards since President Trump was sworn in. Rather then adjusting adeptly to Trump’s easy relationship with the truth and his tendency to abuse members of media, by dialing up their standards, a significant number of journalists have tripped over themselves recently to repeat every bit of gossip and half-cocked rumor involving Trump and his administration….Now this isn’t to say that all coverage of this new administration has been slipshod. Rather, it’s to say that there has been a disturbing and unusually large number of stories that have turned out either to be overhyped, inconclusive, half-true or flat-out incorrect. There have also been a number of reports whose sourcing is so thin, that to believe them would be to take a major leap of faith.The one thing that these reports have in common is that they fail to provide readers with a clear and indisputably accurate picture of what is really going on at White House. The press’s most important role is to shine a light on those in power. Bad reporting only muddies the waters, and it gives powerful people more room to do as they please. After all, whom are you going to believe: the guy at the top or the newsroom with a recent track record of botched reporting? We didn’t get to the point where people find the press less credible than the Trump administration by some freak accident.”

—-The Washington Examiner, in a story today called “Mainstream media errors in the Trump era: Your catalogue of the media’s bias-fueled failure-fest.”

What the Examiner calls its database of biased and incompetent reporting since January 2o can be found here.

It’s a fair list, and I will quote the exactly accurate point above when I get another comment that says, “Why do you think the mainstream media reporting is more important than Trump’s outrageous conduct?”  and “How can you say the news media is untrustworthy when the Times, Post and Wall Street Journal do excellent investigative reporting?”

President Trump is trying to do his job, as he promised he would, as well as he can. To have any chance of doing it successfully, he will require more than the usual amount of patience, support, and responsible criticism from the nation. He may well fail, but no respectable and patriotic American or organization, news or otherwise, should be trying to make him fail. ( I refer you to this post, For The Last Time: This Is Why The Post-Election Attacks On Trump And His Election Are Unethical)

(Yes, in case I haven’t made this clear before: The so-called “resistance” is undemocratic, unethical, and thoroughly despicable.)

Journalists, in contrast, are not doing their jobs, and indeed are doing the opposite of their job, which is properly and ethically to convey facts, not to distort them for their own political purposes. At this point in the post-election left-wing freak-out, the news media doesn’t even see its own obvious bias, just as  fish aren’t aware that they are in water. Continue reading

For The Last Time: This Is Why The Post-Election Attacks On Trump And His Election Are Unethical

This is the last time I’m going to try to explain why the fair, patriotic, ethical and rational approach to the impending Presidency of Donald Trump is to be supportive of the office and the individual until his actual performance in the job earns just criticism. Attempting to undermine a Presidency at its outset is a self-destructive act, for nobody benefits if a Presidency fails. Wishing for a failed Presidency was what Rush Limbaugh did in 2008, and he was justly condemned for it, substantially by the same people who are saying the same thing he did, but about Donald Trump. They were right then, and they today are just as wrong, and despicable,  as Rush was.

I have had numerous debates, on and off Ethics Alarms, with usually reasonable people who take the #NotMyPresident position, which is nonsense on its face. If you are a citizen, Trump is your President. We don’t have, or allow, citizen states. You can dissent, and support political opposition, but you still must obey the laws and be loyal to the nation, which means loyalty to the nation’s elected leadership. Loyalty doesn’t require agreement, but it does require respecting legitimate authority, and seeking what is best for the United States of America. Constitutional crisis is never good for any nation. A crippled government is never good. A leader estranged from the public is never good. Seeking these things is irresponsible and foolish, but more than that, it is dangerous.

In The Caine Mutiny, a film version of the stage drama and novel “The Caine Mutiny Court Martial,” Captain Queeg (Humphrey Bogart), a man whose war-shattered nerves and self-esteem problems have rendered him an erratic and an unpopular officer, falters in his command during a storm. His officers, frightened and already convinced that their captain is unfit for command, mutiny. At their military trial, their defense attorney causes Queeg to have a breakdown on the witness stand, winning the case for the accused mutineers. Later, however, at the post trial victory party, the lawyer, Barney Greenwald (Jose Ferrer),  shames his clients. He represented them zealously, but he tells them that they were, in fact, at fault for what occurred on the Caine: Continue reading

My NPR Conversation About Ethical Responses To The Trump Election

trump_protest

Monday afternoon I was on an NPR panel for Tom Hall, of the Baltimore NRP affiliate, along with two other guests. It was an hour long show, with call-ins. You can hear it here.

Obviously the topic is germane to the John Oliver post. I have to apologize for posting that while flying around and being buffeted by speaking obligations. I never dreamed, silly me, that the simple assertion that Americans, as well as non-American comics, should follow a tradition of two century’ duration and give a new president-elect the respect due the office, and the chance to live up to the crushing responsibilities of the office before heaping abuse on him. After all, we would want the same. It is a tradition that ennobles the country and democracy, and should be regarded as an absolute ethical requirement, the least a new President deserves. It is also beneficial to all, healing the wounds of the campaign, and binding the country together. In short, every ethical system supports this basically decent conduct. I did not expect decency, fairness, respect and patriotism to be controversial. Trump shares responsibility for the reaction the post is getting, but it is still depressing.

A couple of brief notes on the session: Continue reading