Category Archives: Government & Politics

Ethics Dunce: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Oh, nice: class act, Senator.

OK, its safe: tell him off now, Senator.

OK, it’s safe: tell him off now, Senator.

Having used a broad anonymous brush to tar the entire group of male Senators as sexist pigs while being unwilling to risk the enmity and loss of trust by her colleagues by naming names (and wisely so), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) cravenly caved to media and pundit hectoring by naming a dead man. Yes, ancient Senator Daniel Inouye, Hawaian icon, relic of an earlier era (and its sexist norms), war hero, and conveniently in his grave so he can’t defend himself, was the one Gillibrand fingered today as the elder Democrat who told Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand  not to “lose too much weight now” because “I like my girls chubby,” as she related in her book. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Workplace

“How Can People Consider Voting For Candidates This Unethical?”: New York State Assembly Candidate Charles Barron (D) and Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis (R)

Barron (top); Ardis (bottom). Do your civic duty and vote: cyanide will be handed out when you leave...

Barron (top); Ardis (bottom). Do your civic duty and vote: cyanide will be handed out when you leave…

(“How Can People Consider Voting For Candidates This Unethical?” or HCPCVFCTU for short will flag the worst of the worst, the really awful politicians  whose lack of ethics should be a source of humiliation to all who support them.)

I have pledged to keep this category balanced between Republicans and Democrats, and since the first candidate featured was a Democrat and the utterly horrific candidate who came to may attention this morning also belonged to that party, I am featuring two politicians this morning to avoid the inevitable accusations that I take my orders from Glenn Beck and Fox News:

  • Charles Barron (D)  Barron is a New York City Councilman who is expected to coast to an easy victory after winning a Democratic primary for an open seat on the New York State legislature. He is an outspoken fan of Third World military dictators, Communist thugs and murderers, among them the late Libyan leader Muammar el-Quaddafi and former Cuban President Fidel Castro. “All my heroes were America’s enemies,” Barron proudly told the New York Observer in a recent interview. One of his favorite role models is Zimbabwe’s repressive President Robert Mugabe, whom he compares to Nelson Mandela. “I would love for him to come to Albany. I would love for him to come anywhere in the United States, really,”  Barron says. “I think he’s a shining example of an African leader on the African continent.”

Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Rights

Kansas Politics Ethics Sludge (Cont.): In Taylor v. Kobach, The Court Rules That The Statute Was Violated In Compliance With The Statute…

quote-i-have-seen-the-truth-and-it-makes-no-sense-anonymous

I write here often that we must distinguish between law and ethics, and as a lawyer, I am comfortable with the reality that a decision required by the law may be unethical, in that the results may harmful and undermine the broad goal of what a law or laws are supposed to accomplish: a healthy society, a functioning government, a safe and happy public and justice. Just as doctors need to develop emotional armor that allows them to go on practicing medicine when the operation is a success but the patient dies, so must judges learn to move on when interpreting a law as written has an absurd result, and they must allow that result to occur. I understand all that.

I still can’t understand the opinion in Taylor v. Kobach, however.Maybe someone can explain it to me with a straight face. The opinion itself is beyond reproach, clear and unassailable. The problem is that it ignores the Mastodon in the courtroom: the letter that the opinion deems sufficient to meet the requirements of the statute in question embodies a lie, and defeats the intent of the very statute that the court is using to declare the letter valid.

How can judges do that? How can they stand doing that? Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement

The Kansas Senate Race Ethics Disgrace: Who Can You Trust?

Nobody, apparently.

Welcome to Kansas.

Welcome to Kansas.

The Kansas U.S. Senate race demonstrates why so many Americans tune out politics, spit on both parties, and simply assume that there is no way to avoid being governed by knaves, cheaters and fools.

If you haven’t been following this dispiriting  embarrassment, I commend and envy you. The election is considered a crucial one that could decide control of the Senate, where the Democrats currently have a majority that looks shaky at best. The Kansas Republican incumbent, Pat Roberts, appeared beatable in the GOP primary, and he was in a tough three-way race in the election. Trailing in the polls, the Democratic nominee, Chad Taylor, pulled out of the race, leaving Roberts to run against an independent, Greg Orman, who has belonged at various times to both parties,  who wants to leave his real loyalties secret for now and who looks like he might beat Roberts. The Kansas secretary of state, Kris Kobach, claimed that under the law, Taylor couldn’t withdraw with the letter he wrote for that purpose, and had to stay on the ballot. This week, Kobach’s position was rejected by the Kansas Supreme Court.

This account just skims the surface of the real sludge in this bi-partisan cesspool. Consider: Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement

How Can People Consider Voting For Candidates This Unethical? [The First In A Special Ethics Alarms Election Year Series]

Mary Burke

Mary Burke

With this post, Ethics Alarms launches a  special limited series, “How Can People Consider Voting For Candidates This Unethical?” or HCPCVFCTU for short. My goal will be to have approximately equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans named by election day. It should not be hard. Please send your nominations and suggestions to me at jamproethics@verizon.net.

The first candidate in the series: Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke.

A substantial portion of Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke’s published jobs plan for Wisconsin was lifted directly from the plans of three earlier Democratic candidates for governor in other states

Burke’s economic plan “Invest for Success” includes virtually word for word sections from the jobs plans of Ward Cammack, who ran for Tennessee governor in 2009, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (in 2008) and John Gregg who unsuccessfully ran for governor of Indiana in 2012. Buzzfeed has links to all of these, as well as Burke’s plan that uses them all.

Burke is blaming a campaign consultant, now fired, named Eric Schnurer. Apparently he also worked on the other campaigns, and engaged in self-plagiarism. Nevertheless, this is a pathetic excuse, and doesn’t relieve the candidate of full responsibility for trying to foist a phony plan on constituents:

  • This is supposed to be her plan, not a consultant’s off-the-shelf retreads.
  • Obviously, if it is substantially based on what was proposed for other states in plans as much as six years old, the “plan” has little to do with Wisconsin’s particular needs in 2014.
  • The “plan” proves that Mary Burke gave no thought to an important part of what she is allegedly running to accomplish in Wisconsin, and just rubber stamped something that sounded good by campaign fudging standards.
  • Is this the kind of employee Burke hires? Fakers and cheats? Is this the sort of oversight she provides? None? What is she doing, planning on running for President? Is this how much the public can trust her to be serious, substantive, attentive and trustworthy? Not one bit? It would seem so.
  • Then, when she is caught at being lazy, careless, dishonest, superficial and deceptive, Burke’s response is to deny responsibility, and blame someone else because she put her name on a stolen, recycled, vague and superficial “plan.”

How Can People Consider Voting For Candidates This Unethical?

__________________

Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Leadership

The ISIS Mission: Once Again, “The March of Folly”

March into wall

[I'm back home., and am almost finished with doing six ethics presentations in seven days in four states. I just added the photo of the Faber band marching into the wall in "Animal House"---the ultimate "march of folly"--- and more importantly, fixing about ten typos in the post. I knew ttey would be there. I had an 8 AM start time for my seminar, which would end at noon, and then had to drive to Boston, ditch my rental car, and fly back to Virginia. I wanted to get the post on this topic up, but knew it would be rushed, and that I wouldn't have time to proof it carefully until late in the day. Maybe I should do that; I don't like posting sloppy content. I apologize for the typos, but it was either a timely post with mistakes, or a late post without.  My choice; I'll accept your verdict.]

“The March of Folly” was historian Barbara Tuchman’s most specific exploration of the theme of many of her works. It was a cold-eyed retrospective of how supposedly brilliant people in power can follow through on destructive and objectively stupid policies; how a mission, ordered by a  leader, travels the arc from aspiration to delusion, and how the public, paralyzed by deference to authority, inertia, restraint, and irrational hope. accepts flawed premises long after the damage they are doing and will continue to do are obvious and undeniable. Tuchman calls this lethal tendency of policymakers throughout history a “process of self-hypnosis.” She concentrates on its long and bloody history using examples spanning the Trojan War,  through the British handling of the American rebellion, and the Vietnam War. In another book, she applied similar analysis to the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade. This is exactly what is going on with the ridiculous and pre-doomed Obama plan to arm the Syrian rebels to fight ISIS—but not the Syrian regime, which is who they are currently fighting. I doubt whether anyone with the necessary influence will stop it until it becomes a chapter in another historian’s sequel to Tuchman’s classic.

Because I have been in a hotel room between three ethics presentations in the Providence area, I have had a rare opportunity to watch much of the hearings on the proposed ISIS plan, as well as listen to the reaction on all of the news networks, from all sides of the political spectrum. I have also watched the President’s speeches on the subject. Seldom has something involving national policy unfolding before my eyes so clearly indicated a shocking deficit of either ethical leadership, or, in the alternative, competent leadership.

I don’t need to bombard you with links: nobody, with the possible  (and frightening) exception of President Obama, believes the proposed plan to defeat-degrade-stop-“send to the Gates of Hell” (pick your rhetoric) can possibly work as it has been described. Not the generals; not Republicans; not Democrats, not CNN’s Chris Cuomo and Carol Costello, who kept shaking their heads in amazement during the hearings, and not Fox News’ Shepard Smith, who was  hilarious as well as eloquent in his sarcasm and dead-eyed disgust while questioning various experts and pundits about what was being said on Capitol Hill.

Nobody believes that American air power and “advisors” alone can accomplish the objectives of this campaign without eventually involving combat troops. The idea is being ridiculed by anyone who knows the region, the participants, and the facts of military strategy, and who is not under orders by the President to toe the official line. (Who knows what poor John Kerry and Chuck Hagel think?Who knows if they are even thinking….) Yet it appears Congress is going to approve this born-to-fail plan anyway. Why? Well, some Republicans and Democrats believe that when the Commander-in-Chief asks for Congressional approval in a military action, he should get it. This is irresponsible. Some Republicans want an Obama military fiasco to hang around his neck, and are willing to spend billions and kill people to do it. Some Democrats would support their man in the White House if he asked them for a resolution that the moon was made of cheese. And some are undoubtedly idiots.

Is the President? No, he’s not an idiot. He is a hopelessly, tragically over-matched leader without the skills or character required for the job, making terrible choice after terrible choice and lacking the courage to forget politics and lead. He hates war–real war, not video game war, but war in which  Americans get shot, blown up and killed, and where the bad guys can’t be attacked solely from the safety of the skies, which is to say, war. His ideals in this respect are and always were completely contrary to the requirements of being the President of the United States. He is as close to a pacifist as we have ever had in that office, and pacifists do not belong there.

Sometimes, international crises and threats require American soldiers, with weapons, fighting. The President doesn’t like it? Too bad. (“I…hate…war,” said Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in one of his many memorable speeches.) The public is tired of combat? Tough. The nation still has obligations, and sometimes there are no happy choices. “I’m tired of being responsible; I’m tired of having to sacrifice; I’m tired of being part of the constant battle against chaos that is life”—none of these are rational and responsible sentiments, and a competent leader has to know when to ignore them. The Democratic Party’s progressive base is, in essence, pacifist in philosophy? Gee, sorry. Republicans have their screwballs too. This isn’t the time for politics, partisanship, or ideology unhinged to the real world.

What’s going on here?

Incredibly, it really seems to be this simple: Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Government & Politics, History, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Leadership, War and the Military

Ethics Quote of the Week : NPR Sports Commentator Frank Deford On Football, Values and Brains

football-brain-injury-symptoms

“A new study shows that almost one-third of NFL players will suffer long-term cognitive problems. Granted, that’s professionals, but obviously younger brains are at jeopardy on all gridirons. What mother or father can any longer willfully allow a son to play such a game with such odds? Verdict: Football is dangerous to your brain.”

NPR Sports commentator Frank Deford, in his weekly commentary, this time focusing on the deteriorating reputation and public image of pro football, and how football fans, so far at least, don’t seem to care.

It’s dangerous to your brain in more ways than one.

The NFL Vikings, for example, having decided first that sitting out one game with pay was sufficient to punishment for their star running back who beat his four-year-old son black and blue, then reinstating him for the next game, apparently on the theory that it had thrown a bone to critics, then pulled him off the roster again following new reports of an old story, involving Adrian Peterson allegedly beating another toddler son. (Peterson spreads his seed far and wide and with great generosity and abandon, having an estimated seven or more children with an equal number of unmarried women. The NFL and NFL fans have never shown any disapproval of this irresponsibility conduct, of course.) Now, we have no evidence in this latest allegation beyond text messages in which Peterson admits giving the boy a “woopin,” which is presumably the same as a “whuppin.” Peterson’s lawyer says nothing happened, and indeed, no complaint was made and no charges were filed. So what does the Vikings’ move mean? Is the NFL team concluding from this ambiguous incident that what Patterson did to his other child (that is, one of his many other children) was worse than the horrific photos already showed they were? How much worse could his conduct be? Is it sending the message that all corporate punishment is wrong? Who the hell is the NFL, which allows its players to maim each other, to tell me that I’m a child abuser if I spank my son? Or are the Vikings simply proving, as the league itself did it when banned Ray Rice only after a video showed him doing what it had to know he had done when it suspended him earlier for only two games, that it has no clue what’s right and what’s wrong, what is acceptable violence and what is unacceptable, what the public will ignore and what is so bad that it shouldn’t matter whether the public will ignore it or not?

Football is as dangerous to your values as it is to your brain. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Research and Scholarship, Sports, U.S. Society