Category Archives: Leadership

Ethics Hero: Sen. John McCain

waterboard1

While other Republicans are attacking the Senate report on torture as a political hit piece by Democrats—which, in part, it is, but that doesn’t diminish its significance—the one Senator who has experienced torture is supporting the report’s conclusions and criticism, saying…

I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good. Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguished us from our enemies.”

Exactly.

My position on this topic is unchanged from what I wrote in 2006, which you can read here.

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Filed under Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, Leadership, U.S. Society, War and the Military

President Lincoln’s Misunderstood Ethics Crisis: The Great Sioux Uprising

Dakota hanging

As part my so-far futile efforts to leave Ferguson in the rear view mirror, let’s revisit one of the Abraham Lincoln’s great ethical dilemmas during the Civil War, in which today’s date, December 1, was pivotal.

Minnesota’s Great Sioux Uprising, now usually called the Dakota-U.S. Conflict, was among the bloodiest Indian wars in the West, with hundreds of Native Americans, settlers and military casualties. The Sioux were defeated soundly, and the U.S. Army tried 303 Native Americans by military commission, finding them guilty of war crimes and sentencing them to death by hanging. Federal law required Presidential approval of the death sentences, and this was a problem Abraham Lincoln, the President at the time, did not need.

For it was 1862, and the Civil War was raging. This was a year full of Union defeats, indeed, disasters, like Fredericksburg, and both the war and Lincoln’s ability to lead it were in peril. Lincoln was also calculating all the political angles before issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. On top of the burdens of war and politics, he was coping with personal tragedy: his young son Willy had died nine months earlier, and Mary Todd Lincoln was teetering on emotional collapse from grief.
Now he had to decide whether to allow the execution of more than 300 Indians convicted in trials that were no better than kangaroo courts. Few Americans were concerned about the fate of the Native Americans, but Lincoln, with all of his other worries, took on the task of reviewing the trial records. What he found was manifest injustice.  Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, War and the Military

Deval Patrick’s Indefensible, Terrifying Admission

Welcome to my nightmare...

Welcome to my nightmare…

It is 4:30 AM. I can’t sleep, and among the reasons are not, as you might think, the fact that my father died five years ago today and I miss him terribly, or that this is my birthday, and I am that much closer to my own death. No, the cause for my tossing in bed is that I read  Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s comments on “Meet the Press” about the Michael Brown shooting (yes, those eleven Ferguson posts still weren’t enough) just before retiring, and they have been giving me nightmares.

What Patrick’s remarks suggest to me  is that this incident is quite literally driving Democrats, civil rights activists and African-Americans crazy, causing them to lose their grip on basic principles of ethics and democracy. Here is what Patrick said, in part, in his interview with Chuck Todd, who, incompetently, did not ask properly probing questions in response (falling over in a dead faint would have also been appropriate):

“Look, without knowing all the facts, of course I wanted to see an indictment. And mostly because I think a trial and the transparency of a trial would be good for the community. And because so many of us have the supposition that police officers are not going to be held accountable and not going to have to answer for the shooting of unarmed, young, black teenagers.”

I challenge any civil libertarian to defend this statement. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race, Rights, U.S. Society

Incomprehensible Ethics Quote Of The Month: Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY)

Rangel

“I always try to find something good that comes out of conflicts like this, and perhaps people realize that this is not a Ferguson problem at all; it’s a problem around the country. And as long as people feel awkward and embarrassed in talking about the racism that exists, we can never, never, never attack it…The indifference of the patrol officer’s an indication that good people ought to say that you should be sorry when you take anybody’s life. It’s not just the question of what you thought of whether you were afraid…. his total indifference just polarized that community, and I only wish that — that they had not vented themselves in a violent way and taken advantage of people coming together, white and black, and saying that you should at least be able to say you made a hell of a big mistake at least.”

—–Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), wandering confused in the ethics wilderness while discussing the Ferguson mess on MSNBC.

I supposed we should expect Rep. Rangel to be completely muddled when it comes to ethics, given his own history. Still, seldom have I seen such a dog’s breakfast of responsible sentiments and ethics ignorance in the same set of comments:

  • Congratulations are due to Rangel for admitting that this Ethics Train Wreck unfairly settled in Ferguson, which is being made to suffer disproportionately for the conduct of many communities and elected officials across the country, as well as the political opportunism of civil rights activists.
  • However, public officials have an obligation to be clear. What “racism that exists,” exactly? Anywhere in the U.S.? Absolutely: let’s talk about it. In the shooting of Brown? No racism is in evidence at all: if that’s what Rangel is referring to, and many will assume its is, the statement is irresponsible. Was he talking about the grand jury decision, which was the context of the interview? Prove it, Charlie. Otherwise, stop planting distrust with a population that is paranoid already.
  • Michael Brown’s actions, from Wilson’s point of view, forced him into a situation that has resulted in his career being ruined and life being permanently marred….and Rangel thinks Wilson should apologize? This is completely backward. Wilson owes no apologies to Brown, and certainly none to Brown’s parents, who have been carrying on a vendetta against him, calling him a murderer while expressing no acknowledgment that the son they raised had any responsibility for the confrontation that took his life. If anyone owes anybody an apology, it the parents who owe Wilson. Rangel thinks Wilson should apologize for trying to do his job, for not letting Brown take his gun, for not letting him resist arrest, for not letting himself be attacked, and that is ridiculous.

Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race, War and the Military

Watch “Blue Bloods”

Blue Bloods

I owe Tom Selleck an apology. The long-time genial hunk, famous as “Magnum, P.I.” and notable in show business lore for missing the career opportunity of a lifetime when contractual obligations forced him to turn down the role of Indiana Jones in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” has guided his CBS police series “Blue Bloods” to five seasons, exploring tough ethics dilemmas in virtually every episode, and usually doing it very well. For some reason, I’ve only cited the show a few times, once critically, and it deserves better. Netflix started streaming the show, and my wife has been watching about three a day. I really hadn’t been paying sufficient attention, or respect. It’s a wonderful ethics show, the best since “Star Trek, the Next Generation’s” hay day, and one of the very best ethics TV shows of all time.

Selleck plays fictional New York City police chief Frank Reagan. The show could be called “The Conflicts of Interest Family, ” because law enforcement is the family business, and Selleck’s large brood includes two sons, one a patrolman and the other a detective, under his command, and a daughter who is an assistant district attorney. Reagan delicately balances the jobs a father, mediator and boss, all while being given back-seat advice from his father, who is retired but was also a NYC police chief.

I have found myself thinking about how Selleck’s character would react to the Ferguson ethics train wreck. Police shootings have been frequent topics of episodes, as have political efforts to demonize police. Frank was a fan of New York’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy, and accusations of profiling do not reduce him to a mass of apologetic jelly. Meanwhile, he has forged a working relationship or trust with the City’s black mayor, whose loyalties to the black community, and more than a few dubious civil rights headline-seekers.

Selleck is a credentialed, if low-key, Hollywood conservative, and his show’s demographics are just short of Social Security territory.  It’s too bad: teachers should assign the show and discuss the episodes in class. The episode I wrote about earlier was an entire ethics course on its own, but hardly unique in the series: What should an undercover cop do when a child is imperiled in a burning building, and he is the only one who can get to the kid in time? If his photo is taken by the media that arrive on the scene, not only is his cover blown, but his life and family may be in danger. He hands off the child to his partner, who is the on photographed and becomes a hero. The city is clamoring for the Chief to decorate him as a hero. Naturally, the real rescuer is a Reagan.  Should the partner be willing to live a lie? Should the Chief deceive the public and preside over a fake ceremony to preserve an undercover operation that might bust the mob?  This was a memorable “Bluebloods” episode. but many reach this level of ethics complexity, and the duds are far and few between. This season the show has explored many ethics problems that have been debated in the news, such as campus rape, police body cameras, the “blue line,” news media bias, and others.

I apologize, Mr. Selleck. I have neglected your excellent efforts to present ethical dilemmas in law enforcement, leadership and parenting to the public in an intelligent, balanced, courageous and entertaining manner. Great job, on a great show. Please keep it up. I promise to pay closer attention.

 

 

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

The Fire Chief’s Book

Chief Cochran

Chief Cochran

I may I agree with this result. I think. My problem is that I don’t see a natural stop on this very slippery slope.

The Atlanta Fire Rescue Department has suspended Chief Kelvin Cochran for a month without pay this week after employees complained about the content of his self-published religious book, “Who Told You That You Were Naked,”  which is available in paperback on Amazon.com. The Chief’s book calls homosexuality a “sexual perversion” that is the moral  equivalent of “pederasty” and “bestiality.” Elsewhere, Cochran wrote that “naked men refuse to give in, so they pursue sexual fulfillment through multiple partners, with the opposite sex, the same sex and sex outside of marriage and many other vile, vulgar and inappropriate ways which defile their body-temple and dishonor God.”

The Chief apparently distributed his book to some of his subordinates, who found his published views offensive and complained.  In handing out the suspension, the Atlanta Mayor’s office said, “The bottom line is that the [Mayor Kasim] Reed administration does not tolerate discrimination of any kind.” Cochran, said the Mayor, will be prohibited from distributing the book on city property; he will also be required to undergo sensitivity training.

Ah yes, now comes the brain-washing.  Continue reading

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Filed under Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, Workplace

The Ferguson Riots: Of Course.

A car burns on the street after a grand jury returned no indictment in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri

From Ethics Alarms, August 17, 2014:

IF the evidence supports the conclusion that Brown charged at Wilson, neither the family of the slain teen, nor the African American community in Ferguson, nor the protesters, the race-hustlers, the black and progressive politicians who benefit by preserving racial tension and distrust,  much of the news media and many, many pundits and political bloggers, will change their rhetoric, accusations or the prevailing Ferguson narrative one bit. They need for the narrative as it stands to be true, and want it to be true. Massive confirmation bias will ensure that the death of Mike Brown will be talked about, protested and regarded as an example of racist police oppression of young black men, and the truth, in the end, will be irrelevant.

I hope my prediction is wrong.

But it was not wrong. Everything that has happened since the announcement that the grand jury returned no indictment against Darren Wilson has been inevitable for months, and more so since no responsible steps were taken by the Obama administration to prevent it all. The desultory, disgusted, support-of-the-rule-of-law-by-rote speech by the President tonight, calling for calm while signaling to all by tone, expression and body language that his personal opinion was in conflict with his words, couldn’t have helped.

So now the race-baiters, dividers, bigots, rioters, looters, and hustlers, as well as the rest who have waited for so long to exploit this tragedy for partisan and ideological objectives, have what they want.

My thoughts on the matter from an ethics point of view were stated here a month ago. The riots, lootings and burnings hadn’t happened yet, but otherwise everything is as it was when I wrote…

At this point, confirmation bias has completely taken over the Ferguson story, meaning that a combination of factors—police incompetence; a toxic racial culture in the city and region;  the racial distrust carefully nurtured by Democrats, the Obama Administration, and an irresponsible news media; anger and cynicism by non-black, non-race-baiters over the disgraceful George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin tragedy;  the slanted reporting of Brown’s shooting from the outset, and especially the full commitment of the civil rights establishment to make this incident the centerpiece of an attack on racial profiling and police violence against blacks regardless of whether the facts of the case justify it—now make any fair resolution of the incident impossible. They also guarantee that whatever occurs, the end result will be police anger, more racial division and distrust, and activists continuing to promote a false or misleading narrative as truth, just as in the Zimmerman-Martin debacle. It is hopeless….

….the activists don’t care, literally don’t care, about [what really happened and why] For them, the issue is simple. A white cop in a racist police department shot an unarmed black teen to death, and that means that it was a racially motivated murder.

The police and their mostly conservative defenders also don’t care about the details. Once again, a dedicated public servant who put his life on the line was forced to use deadly force against a dangerous thug who attacked him, and because the cop is white, is being persecuted and unjustly maligned.

Everyone is poised to see what they want to see, believe what supports their biases and agendas, and shout loudly about injustice regardless of what occurs, fertilizing the ground for the next incident they can exploit, along with cynical politicians.

Good job, everybody.

_______________________

UPDATE: The grand jury documents are beginning to trickle out. Here is Officer Wilson’s testimony.

 

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race, U.S. Society