Category Archives: Government & Politics

9 Observations On The Boston Herald’s “Racist” Cartoon

Obama-Watermelon-1

1. (UPDATE) I’m adding this new #1 right at the beginning—there were originally only 8 observations—because some of the early comments suggest that I over-estimated some of my readers’ scholarship, historical knowledge and/or sensitivity on this issue, so let me be direct:  the reference to any African- American having as affinity to watermelon is about a half-step from calling him or her a nigger, and maybe even closer than that. Clear? This is not a political correctness matter. If the reference is intentional, there can be no debate over whether it is racist or not. It is. The President of the United States should not be subjected to intentional racial slurs.

2. I’m amazed—I just don’t know how this could happen. How could this cartoon make it into print? Cartoonist Jerry Holbert explained that he came up with the idea to use watermelon flavor after finding “kids Colgate watermelon flavor” toothpaste in his bathroom at home. “I was completely naive or innocent to any racial connotations,” Holbert said. “I wasn’t thinking along those lines at all.” Is this possible? In a political cartoonist? On one hand, since the racial connotation is so obvious and so predictably offensive, it seems incredible that a cartoonist for a major daily would dare offer such a cartoon unless he really didn’t perceive the racial stereotype it referenced. On the other, the man is a political cartoonist, not a Japanese soldier who’s been hiding in a cave for decades. How could he not know this? How could his ethics alarms, racial slur alarms, survival alarms not go off?

I don’t get it. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Race

Update on the Secret Service: Mud

muddy

The Secret Service Director, Julia Pierson, resigned.

Because today’s news carried yet another tale of a dangerous botch by her agency, an episode in which the President was allowed to ride in a elevator with an unscreened individual who had a gun on his person, this looks like a final straw situation when no final straw was needed.

It was crucial that she be fired, by Obama, and that this be made clear, as well as why she was being fired: incompetence, poor performance by the Service, no trust of confidence by him, Congress or the public. This should have been conveyed immediately after the fence-jumper fiasco. If not then, immediately after Pierson’s embarrassing performance before Congress yesterday. The message that the President himself will not tolerate sub-par performance would be a welcome and encouraging one even as ridiculously late as that would be, six years into his Presidency.

But no. As usual, the Administration’s message, and values,  are as clear as mud. Homeland Security Secretary Joe Jeh’s statement announcement of the resignation was typical equivocal murk:

1. I have accepted Pierson’s resignation.

2. I salute her 30 years of service.

3. We are studying the fence-jumping incident.

4. Scrutiny “by a distinguished panel of independent experts of the September 19 incident and related issues concerning the Secret Service is warranted. The Panelists will be named shortly.”

5. “The Secret Service is one of the finest official protection services in the world, consisting of men and women who are highly trained and skilled professionals prepared to put their own lives on the line in a second’s notice for the people they protect. Last week, the Secret Service was responsible for the protection of the President as well as 140 visiting heads of state or government as they convened at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. Likewise, in August the Secret Service handled the protection of 60 world leaders as they convened in Washington, D.C. for the African Summit. As usual, the Secret Service executed these highly complex and demanding assignments without incident. There is no other protection service in the world that could have done this.”

So if the Secret Service it is so good, and performed so well recently, why is the Director quitting? Why is a panel needed, if the agents are so well-trained and the agency performs so well?

Mud.

____________________

Pointer: Slate

Sources: Washington Post 1, 2

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Filed under Government & Politics, Leadership

Curse You, Steven Bochco!

Uh-uh-uh! Love and forensics don't mix!

Uh-uh-uh! Love and forensics don’t mix!

TV writer and producer Steven Bochco, in “Hill Street Blues” and subsequent creations, liked to show the justice system flourishing despite every segment of it having romances and sex with every other segment: judges sleeping with lawyers, associates sleeping with partners, police officers having sex with defense attorneys, paralegals boinking supervising attorneys…oh, the combinations were endless. David Kelley, he of “The Practice,” “Boston Legal” and “Ally McBeal,” took the theme to new heights and depths, and “The Good Wife” has ploughed some new ground—sex with investigators!—too.

It doesn’t work, you know. None of it. These all create conflicts of interest, and are either ethical breaches or the doorway to them. Mustn’t have sex where you have a duty to seek justice rather than nookie.

Now from California comes news of another unfortunate coupling. The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office has moved to dismiss a 1989 cold case homicide of Cathy Zimmer, filed earlier this year against her husband and his brother. It seems that the prosecutor originally assigned to the case had “an undisclosed and improper relationship” with the case’s forensic lab technician. This is the kind of thing you would see if Steven Bochco wrote “CSI.”

District Attorney Jeff Rosen explained: “We have an absolute and ethical duty to enforce the laws in a just and objective manner and without regard to sympathy, bias or prejudice for or against any particular party. We offer our deepest apologies to the family of the victim, but based on the totality of the circumstances, we simply cannot proceed without taking the time to reexamine and reevaluate the case in order to ensure we have not violated the rights of the accused, nor compromised the integrity of the criminal justice system.”

I assume—I hope—that there isn’t as much cross-pollinating in the labs, law firms, courtrooms and police precincts as Hollywood seems to think.

__________________________

Pointer and Source: ABA Journal

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture

Finally There’s Name For The Conduct I’ve Been Calling Unethical For Years…Now Let’s Agree To Stop It

eclipse

That name is “partyism.”

From Harvard Professor Cass Sunstein:

“…party prejudice in the U.S. has jumped, infecting not only politics but also decisions about dating, marriage and hiring. By some measures, “partyism” now exceeds racial prejudice — which helps explain the intensity of some midterm election campaigns. In 1960, 5 percent of Republicans and 4 percent of Democrats said that they would feel “displeased” if their son or daughter married outside their political party. By 2010, those numbers had reached 49 percent and 33 percent. Republicans have been found to like Democrats less than they like people on welfare or gays and lesbians. Democrats dislike Republicans more than they dislike big business.”

Based on what I’ve seen, the fact that Republicans/conservatives  are nearly twice as likely to be “partyists”  as their hated enemies to the left on the political spectrum doesn’t surprise me. Most of the manifestations of the bigotry I’ve seen out in the open and written about here—restaurants that give discounts to praying customers and bars that claim that they will only serve “red voters”—have come from that sector, but 33 percent isn’t anything for liberals to be proud of, either. Over all, the trend is horrible for the country. As I wrote regarding “Mary’s,” the restaurant that favored its religious customers…

“I detest this kind of thing, and so should you, because it is ethically indefensible and un-American to the core….splitting the world into them and us, good guys and bad guys, the virtuous and the reviled. All of “Mary’s” customers are human beings, and that is the only thing that should matter in the United States of America.”

I confess that since I have been observing this phenomenon, I am preconditioned to think the Stanford research that purported to measure it as has validity. Most social science research, especially involving politics, is so skewed by researcher bias and agendas that it is inherently dubious, and perhaps this example is too: I wouldn’t rely on the percentages. Also 1960 would have to be the absolute low water mark in U.S. political passions, after the remarkably non-partisan, unifying two terms of Dwight Eisenhower while the public felt united against a common enemy in the Cold War. I’m guessing the numbers in, say, 1860 would show a sharper divide.

I do think that the intensity of emotion, rising to bigotry, distrust and hate, in the nation’s political polarization is growing, is very alarming, and dangerous to our health and future. I’d like to know more about where it resides. Is the bulk of the bigotry coming from the low-information voter, who uncritically absorbs every campaign smear, bumper sticker insult and Facebook meme as fact—you know, morons? Or are the individuals who would rather die than see their daughters marry men who oppose the family’s favorite party the narrow-minded political junkies who watch only Fox News and listen to Rush, or who cheer Al, Chris, Rachel and the 24-7 conservative-bashers on MSNBC? I’d like to know.

Naturally theories will abound regarding the reasons for this new bigotry. In a general sense, it is pure cognitive dissonance, and can be explained by people today caring more about politics and ideology than they have for quite a while. People care about something when they sense that it matters to their lives, health and welfare, as well as those around them: if political views were regarded as no more important than what baseball team one rooted for, there is no way substantive bigotry would attach to them. With foreign threats looming, the economy weak, nobody certain of the right policies in so many crucial areas and the pettiness, corruption and ineptitude of parties in and out of power, trust has plummeted. When we can’t trust those whom we have given the job of looking out for our welfare, we become worried and scared, as well we should. Then it makes sense to care more about politics. If we care more, and feel strongly about what should be done either out of a lack of sophistication and gullibility (the morons) or from unbalanced self-education (the zealots), then those who proclaim opposing views seem more obnoxious and more threatening, prompting active discrimination. The Stanford study found that “discrimination against the out-group is based more on out-group animus than in-group favoritism.” That figures. But for a nation, it is suicidal.

This nation of ideals gleaned from a diverse population must value trust and belief in what all citizens share more than it embraces passion and anger over what we disagree over. If we cherish the basic principles of democracy, then we must accept, encourage and respect dissent, frank speech, the shocking opinion and the minority view.  We must always keep our minds open to new ideas, different solutions to old problems, and the possibility that we, or the public officials, scholars and pundits we favor, may be wrong on any one topic or issue. If we can’t do that, we doom ourselves and our culture to self-righteousness, doctrine, cant  and rigidity, which block out enlightenment like an eclipse blocks sunlight. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society

Will President Obama’s New Leadership Model Cripple U.S. Management Competence For Decades?

America in ruins

 It seems to be a distinct possibility.

The President of the United States is the culture’s most powerful, visible and influential leader. Like it of not, he is also a role model for leadership and management across society. He has the most responsibility, the largest organization to oversee, and the most vital interests at stake. The management and leadership techniques he uses necessarily set a standard others, especially young, inexperienced, aspiring leaders and management, will be encouraged to emulate.

What are they learning? To begin with, they are learning to accept a startlingly low standard for “confidence.”

The President has now issued two statements that he has “confidence” in the Secret Service. The assessment has special significance because the health and safety, the very lives, of the President, his wife, his young children and his staff is in the Secret Service’s hands, and the agency would seem to have demonstrated beyond all doubt that it is incapable of meeting any reasonable expectations or trust. We know that the agents are barely trained, and that they lack professionalism and self discipline. We know that agents availed themselves of prostitutes in South America, and got drunk on duty in Amsterdam. We know that  a gunman fired at least seven bullets that struck the upstairs residence of the White House in 2011, aided by a botched Secret Service response, and that just this month a deranged fence-jumper got into the residence and was running amuck before he was stopped.

The Service’s statement on that incident was jaw-dropping, saying agents “showed tremendous restraint and discipline in dealing with” an intruder who could have had a bomb or deadly intent. How could this President, any President, any leader, any manager, have “confidence” in a security force under these circumstances, with its own management displaying such a bizarre attitude?

Well, I don’t know. It’s a brand new paradigm, the most lassez faire, gentle, kind,empathetic and understanding, hands-off, no-fault, no standards, no accountability leadership style I have ever seen at any management level higher than a lemonade stand. I’m sure many members of the public, especially those who goof off at their jobs, steal supplies, file fake reports, arrive to work stoned, never finish assigned tasks and think they have a right to keep their jobs and paychecks no matter how useless they are, would love to have Obama as a boss. Such a boss would express confidence in the most obviously inept and untrustworthy employee imaginable, and apparently mean it. And never, never fire him. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership, U.S. Society

Dear Political Blogs: Be As Partisan As You Like, But Don’t Make Your Readers Stupid

It's a coincidence that Monsanto had the better legal argument each time, yes. Is that what you mean?

It’s a coincidence that Monsanto had the better legal argument each time, yes. Is that what you mean?

It pains me greatly when a Facebook friend (and real friend too) posts something from a right-wing or left-wing website that is ignorant and misleading, as if she has something enlightening to share. Then I am forced to point out that 1) the post was written by someone pretending to have knowledge he did not; 2) those agreeing with him and assuming he had a valid point are hanging out with like-minded partisans who reinforce each others’ happy misconceptions, and 3) that the lawyers who cheer on conclusions that can only be explained by the fact that the concluder can’t spell law, much less under stand it. This typically loses two to ten names off my Facebook friends list. Well, too bad. They should be ashamed of themselves.

The case I have in mind: a site called “Forward Progressive: Forward Thinking for Progressive Action”—hmmm, I think it is a progressive site!—attacked Clarence Thomas for his participation in the recent SCOTUS decision in Bowman v. Monsanto. The Court ruled for Monsanto in a patent case against farmers in a matter involving the reproduction of products whose patents have expired. To Dyssa Fuchs, the writer for Forward Progressive in this case, Thomas had a clear conflict of interest and should have recused himself.

She cites the judicial code, she cites the U.S. statutes, she–of course—cites her belief that Monsanto is evil, and of course, like all good progressives, she hates Thomas, who has the effrontery to be both a hard-core conservative and black. The fact is, however, that she has no idea what she is talking about. Thomas had no conflict of interest in this case, nor does he have an “appearance of impropriety” problem because someone determined to prove that he is corrupt doesn’t understand what improprieties or judicial conflicts are, or for that matter, what lawyers do. Continue reading

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If Someone Praises The Job Eric Holder Did As Attorney General, That Tells You All You Need To Know

eric_holder_ap1

Eric Holder was the most political, biased, inept and undemocratic U.S. Attorney General  in at least 70 years, with the  exception of Nixon’s AG, John Mitchell, who went to jail. And the Attorney Generals have been uniformly terrible in this period; being one of the two worst takes talent, determination, broken ethics alarms and wretched judgement.

Those who praise Holder either are doing so without any idea about his record, or because they want the justice system in the United States to be racially and ideologically biased. The results of the latter, which is Holder’s real legacy, can be seen in the rising distrust between races, and the frequent description of Holder as being Obama’s “scandal goalie.”  The latter isn’t completely fair, because the news media has also been the President’s scandal goalie. The proof: few of the mainstream media retrospectives on Holder’s tenure mentioned the Justice Department’s refusal to hold a thorough and open investigation of the still unfolding I.R.S. scandal, which should have, and under any Republican administration, would have, included an independent prosecutor, because the news media would be screaming for one. This abdication of duty and naked partisanship by Holder alone condemns him. Unfortunately, there is a lot more.

You can begin with the “inside baseball” reports that Justice, under his administration, is a confused mess. That’s hardly surprising, for since the President eschews management and oversight, this is the tendency up and down the system. Without well-regulated policies and oversight, partisan meddling flourishes.

I have neither the time nor the energy to detail each and every example of Holder’s toxic racial and partisan biases, or his flat out ineptitude; there are too many to list, and I am sure I don’t know about some whoppers. Never mind: a fraction of the list would have made the resignation of any other Attorney General mandatory and beyond debate.  Holder is black, and this guaranteed that short of setting fire to the Supreme Court, he would only leave when he was ready. That alone is disgusting.

Here are some other Holder achievements:

1. “If Holder had his way, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, might now be on death row,” says ABC. This is the media spinning for Holder: his efforts to have the terrorist tried in New York City was when I first realized how out of his depth he was.

In the contentious Congressional hearings on the matter, Holder told the nation that“Failure is not an option. These are cases that have to be won.” “That have to be won”? Failure, as in acquittal, is “not an option”? This was a confession of the muddled, simultaneously alpha and omega false logic that would become a hallmark of Obama World. Holder proclaimed that the world had to see the United States give its enemies a fair trial, then told Congress that the “fair trial” he was proposing was a show trial,  a kangaroo court, in which justice meant a guilty verdict. It was a stupid, stupid thing for any lawyer, much less an Attorney general to say. Tragically, it was no aberration.

2. Holder refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, though it was a law passed by Congress and signed  by a Democratic President. I think he should have been impeached for that. Slate, among others, says that he was “vindicated” because the Supreme Court held the law unconstitutional. They didn’t vindicate his refusing to do his job. It is not the prosecutor’s duty to veto laws duly passed by the legislature and signed into law, nor should he have the power to do so. Holder’s precedent took a bite out of the rule of law, and stood for stunning arrogance. He viewed DOMA as a civil rights incursion: gee, what other laws don’t you like, sir? We found out: he didn’t like drug laws, because he sympathized with the poor, black criminals that tended to violate them. His solution? Minimize the penalties, and send the message that abusing illegal drugs was no big deal. Democrats wanted to curry favor with the Hispanic-American voting bloc? Holder was eager to assist by not enforcing the Federal laws, and by doing everything he could to prevent the states from policing illegal immigrants as well. In a system of laws, favoring authorities that pick and choose which to enforce according to their political beliefs is endorsing obstruction over process, and politics over justice.

3. When acting unconstitutionally suited Holder’s partisan masters, however, he would do it. In 2013, the Justice Department  seized Associated Press phone records, and monitored Fox News reporter James Rosen following a story he published in 2009 on Iran.

4. Holder oversaw specious and intellectually dishonest justifications for the U.S. policy of assassinating suspected terrorists without providing them with a trial, and or any evidence that they were planning imminent attacks. By defining the word imminent in the broadest possible way, this advocacy for the elimination of due process equaled the worst deceits of the Bush Torture Memos, the only difference being an official pass from the Obama-enabling press. The policy, basically a license to murder, ensured that assassinations could be carried out against anyone who the U.S. government feared if the person was located on foreign soil and could not be captured.

5. Then there is Operation Fast & Furious, the proof positive that Holder was going to get away with anything and everything. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lost an estimated 1,400 weapons in Mexico, among them: two guns that were used to kill U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in December 2010.  Holder is the supervisor of the ATF, but testified before the House Judiciary Committee that he had only known about the sting named “Operation Fast & Furious,” for a few weeks. Then investigators uncovered memos on Fast & Furious sent to Holder in July 2010. A reasonable conclusion was that Holder had lied under oath. Oh, no, Holder “explained,” he never read the memos. He was incompetent, not culpable. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Holder indignantly denied a DOJ cover-up, saying that“This operation was flawed in concept, as well as in execution,”  and refusing to be held accountable for his own department’s deadly botch. Bolstered by Obama’s assertion of executive privilege, which prevented future prosecution, Holder refused to turn over documents related to the fiasco. Congress held Holder in contempt in June 2012, and he thoroughly deserved it, because the American people had a right to know the extent of the bungling in the highest reaches of the Obama Administration.

6. Although the supporters of Holder claim that his legacy was built on a dedication to civil rights, this was only in the narrow areas where the Democratic Party saw political advantage. He was not concerned, for example, in the civil rights of Americans when the government wanted to use modern surveillance technologies to spy on them. In the 2012 Supreme Court case U.S. v. Jones, Holder’s Justice Department argued that the police did not violate the Fourth Amendment by attaching  GPS devices to cars so they could know where they were going and where they had been, with that evidence used to acquire evidence. incriminate, try and imprison.  The Supreme Court rejected that position unanimously, because it was a mark of a burgeoning police state.

7. When Democrats wanted to create racial divisions, however, to rile up the base, Holder reported for duty. He assisted the unconscionable effort, still ongoing, by Democrats to characterize a responsible and necessary protection of the integrity of the voting process—photo IDs—as a racist plot, though the measure had long ago been approved by liberals, and only recently became stigmatized as “voter suppression.”

8. Holder’s major wound that he inflicted on the nation was his clear intention to project the image of a black Attorney General whose concern was minorities, whose assumption was that whites were the enemy, and whose biases were front and center. An early cue was his department’s abandonment of charges against two New Black Panthers who stood armed outside a Philadelphia polling place. The controversy, assisted by the media, devolved into an argument over whether this was an example of Justice receiving orders from the political Machiavellis in the White House, or just a lousy, bigoted example of “discretion.” A long official investigation found the latter, but either way, the message sent to white Americans was that this Justice Department was not especially interested in protecting their rights. In the Trayvon Martin shooting and the Ferguson episode, two local issues that should not have been his concern, Holder made statements, engaged in gestures and took actions that signaled his allegiance to the black victims, and opposition to the white (or “white Hispanic”) individual accused. He repeatedly spoke collaboratively before Sharpton’s followers, endorsing their diagnoses of a racist nation, and, by extension, a white population aligned against African Americans. Especially revolting was his repeated attempts to duck legitimate accountability for, you know, being terrible at his job, by race-baiting, such as when he explained Congressional criticism of his handling of Fast & Furious—a career-ender for any white Attorney General, or an appointee of any President who believed in accountability, by saying in 2011…

“This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him, both due to the nature of our relationship and, you know, the fact that we’re both African-American.”

It shouldn’t have to be said, but I’ll say it anyway: the job of Attorney General, like the job of President, must be, and must be seen as being, absolutely neutral regarding race. Holder intentionally projected himself as an AG who cared more about minorities than non-minorities, increasing distrust, undermining respect in the justice system, and dividing the nation.

9. Not that he wasn’t feckless and incompetent too: for example, Holder’s Justice Department, almost certainly to ensure later campaign support, allowed multiple corporate criminals to escape serious punishment. For example, the Justice Deportment made a ridiculous plea deal to allow Halliburton executives to avoid jail time after they destroyed evidence of their culpability in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The company agreed to pay the maximum allowable fine of $200,000, accepted  a three-year probation;  continued its cooperation with the government’s criminal investigation (which it had to anyway), and  made a voluntary contribution of $55 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to clean off those oil-covered sea birds and otters. It could do this with the confidence that hard-core Democrats, being total hypocrites, would still attack the Republican party as a cadre of soulless corporate fat cats and insist that any criticism of Holder’s Justice Department and his boss’s administration was rooted in racism.

And again, the amazing thing is: That’s not all.

Any politician, elected official, pundit, columnist, civil rights leader or President who declares that Eric Holder was a wonderful public servant and a great American is telling you one of three things, or all of them:

  • They are liars.
  • They don’t know anything about Eric Holder, or
  • They believe the integrity of the nation’s laws should be warped and the public trust should be forfeited for a race-based, partisan agenda.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll be taking names.

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