Tag Archives: abuse of power

Ethics Quiz: Virginia’s Forced Vasectomy

"Well, they can't all be "shouting fire in a crowded theater," Oliver. So you had an off day....it happens.

“Well, they can’t all be “shouting fire in a crowded theater,” Oliver. So you had an off day….it happens.

One of the skeletons in the Old Dominion State’s closet is the 1924 “Virginia Eugenical Sterilization Act,” a  law allowing the sterilization of citizens adjudged to be in a long line of mentally deficient idiots. The law was upheld in the infamous  1927 Supreme Court opinion in Buck v. Bell, in which the great Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, to his undying shame, wrote,

“It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind…Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

So approved, Virginia’s eugenics law lasted into the 1970s, allowing the state to sterilize more than 7,000 people in mental institutions. The law was repealed in 1979, and victims are seeking reparations. Now the ghost of that law is hovering over the resolution of a current case.

The only thing Virginian Jessie Lee Herald has done on his 27 years more than get in trouble with the law is have children: so far he has had seven (with six mothers) and his current wife says she wants more. He recently fled the scene of a car crash with his injured 3-year-old son. Herald pleaded guilty to felony child endangerment, felony hit-and-run, and misdemeanor driving on a suspended license. Investigators who went to his home found his child to have been neglected, with, among other things, shards of glass in his diapers.

A Shenandoah County prosecutor, Illona White, proposed a plea deal that would reduce Herald’s prison sentence to just four years: he would have to agree to a vasectomy. He took the deal, which also requires him to pay for the operation.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

 Is it ethical for a state to make a convicted felon choose between prison time and sterilization?

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Filed under Childhood and children, Citizenship, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, History, Law & Law Enforcement

Political Correctness Delusions #2: The U.S. Military Naming Its Helicopters After Native American Tribes Is A Slur

Military Helicopters 0088

The scourge of political correctness causes many kinds of damage, but the most ominous is that it intentionally greases a steep slippery slope. The effort to constrain private and public expression according to an endlessly versatile definition of “offensiveness”  is a desirable weapon for political activists, grievance bullies, censorious and debate-challenged advocates, weenies, and busybodies. Once one specious argument for strangling another small sliver of free speech succeeds, usually after capitulation in the face of relentless vilification and hounding aided and abetted by the press, this ugly and anti-American faction of the progressive movement just moves on to another target. The process  will never end, although it will get more oppressive, restrictive and absurd. That is, it will never end until a backlash and an outbreak of rationality stops it in its tracks.

The Patent Office’s politically motivated (and doomed) attack on the Washington Redskins was an example of political correctness at its worst, and sure enough, here comes another deluded censor with a related and even sillier grievance. Simon Waxman wrote a jaw-dropping op-ed for the Washington Post arguing that the military’s use of Native American names and works on its helicopters and weaponry is a “slur.” Why, you ask? Because the white man cheated and defeated the Indians using superior fire power, that’s why. Yeah, sure, we pretend to honor their bravery now, but that’s just to salve our guilty consciences.  He blathers…

The message carried by the word Apache emblazoned on one of history’s great fighting machines is that the Americans overcame an opponent so powerful and true that we are proud to adopt its name. They tested our mettle, and we proved stronger, so don’t mess with us. In whatever measure it is tribute to the dead, it is in greater measure a boost to our national sense of superiority. And this message of superiority is shared not just with U.S. citizens but with those of the 14 nations whose governments buy the Apache helicopters we sell. It is shared, too, with those who hear the whir of an Apache overhead or find its guns trained on them. Noam Chomsky has clarified the moral stakes in provocative, instructive terms: “We might react differently if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes ‘Jew’ and ‘Gypsy.’ ”

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Sports, U.S. Society, War and the Military

Ethics Hero Emeritus: Senator Howard Baker (1925-2014)

Howard_Baker

Howard H. Baker Jr., a three-term Tennessee Senator whose trademarks were integrity, honesty, and a refusal to allow partisanship get in the way of what he believed was the right thing to do, died today.  The Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky,  called him “one of the Senate’s most towering figures.” How ironic, or perhaps just insincere. If McConnell understood and admired the qualities that made Baker “towering” he couldn’t possibly be the divisive, petty, ultra-partisan hack that he is. Then again, comparing Baker’s career and character to the scrimy, petty, self-centered and ethics-challenged dwarves that make up all of McConnell’s colleagues  in both Houses and on both sides of the aisle reveals such an obvious disparity that even the sorry likes of McConnell couldn’t deny it.

Howard Baker stands especially tall in my memory as I watch the disgraceful conduct of House Democrats, doing all they could to derail the I.R.S scandal hearings and to prevent the uncovering of facts surrounding the executive branch’s abuse of power, because they have chosen political loyalty and expediency over transparency, fairness, duty to country, and trust. Contrast this horror show with the principled stance of Baker during Watergate, seeking uncomfortable truths rather than throwing obstacles in the way of efforts to uncover them, treating abuse of power and attempted cover-ups from his own party’s President as he would the same from a Democrat, asking the famous question, “What did the President know, and when did he know it?” Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, U.S. Society

Is It Possible That The Democratic Party Is As Corrupt As Its Conduct In The I.R.S. Investigation Suggests?

Corleone testifiesThis began as an Ethics Dunce post, but designating Congressional Democrats as ethics dunces for their current, apparently agreed upon and coordinated response to the disgraceful I.R.S. scandal—and it is a scandal—appears far more sinister than that. This appears to be a cover-up, and a particularly blatant, clumsy and desperate one, as well as a sickening display of a major political party abandoning its principals and constituency—meaning the American people and not donors, sycophants or “the base”—to impede an effort to get to the truth.

Here’s Post columnist Michael Gerson’s fair summary of the I.R.S. affair to date:

“To review: After President Obama blamed “two Dilberts in Cincinnati,” an inspector general’s report found that high-level IRS officials in Washington were involved in directing additional scrutiny toward tea party groups seeking tax exemptions. [I.R.S. official Lois]Lerner admitted as much, before taking the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying before the House oversight committee. The House of Representatives held her in contempt. And now the evidence of possible communications between Lerner and other agencies (including the White House) has gone missing under suspicious circumstances. It could be a regrettable series of rogue operations, IRS management failures and technical glitches. Or they could be taking us for fools. If there was any political motivation for this abuse of power, it is a form of corruption — the kind of thing Americans like to criticize in countries they regard as less developed. And the circumstantial evidence is strong. This wave of heightened IRS scrutiny came after Democratic senators, warning of possible abuses spawned by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, demanded additional IRS scrutiny of nonprofit political groups. Because evidence of political influence is both plausible and circumstantial, a special counsel is needed to sort out the truth.”

The summary, in an accurate article titled “An arrogant and lawless I.R.S..” doesn’t include the fact that nobody has been disciplined or held accountable in any way for what occurred, including any of the imaginary scapegoats in the Cincinnati office. It doesn’t note that I.R.S. Commissioner Koskinen delayed informing Congress of the lost e-mails for months, after assuring members, under oath, that they would be provided. Yesterday, Koskinen stooped to Bill Clinton levels of deceitful parsing, arguing that when he swore to Congress that he would deliver all e-mails, he meant only all the e-mails that existed, since he couldn’t deliver those that no longer existed. Why didn’t he mention that those key Lerner e-mails had vanished? He wasn’t asked! Meanwhile, a government archivist testified yesterday that not informing Congress that the e-mails had been lost indeed violated a federal statute. Also yesterday, the I.R.S. admitted that it illegally played politics in 2012, leaking confidential tax information from an anti-gay marriage group to the pro-marriage Human Rights Campaign. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, The Internet

Five Ethics Observations On The Redskins Trademark Decision

Washington-Redskins

1. Several commenters predicted that the ruling of the U.S. Patent Office cancelling the registered trademark of the Washington Redskins would warrant a “Kaboom!” here, the Ethics Alarms designation reserved for occurrences or statements so outrageous that they make my head explode. Please. Even pre-weakened by previous cranial fireworks, my head isn’t that unstable. The decision was neither a major surprise, nor was it as momentous as the ignoramuses in the media, social media, and Harry Reid pronounced it to be.  (More on the decision here.) The Redskins retain their federal trademark registrations until all appeals have been exhausted, and that process could take years. The registrations will be canceled only if the team loses all appeals, and if I were owner Dan Snyder, I would appeal up to the Supreme Court if I had to. This should be done not to preserve the Redskins name, which is archaic and at this point more trouble than its worth, but to beat back the forces of government censorship of thought and words, of which the anti-Redskins campaign is a significant, if relatively trivial, part.

2. Washington Post sports columnist Sally Jenkins, not a fan of the name, beat me to a column about what is really troubling about the decision, as she wrote… Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Marketing and Advertising, Race, Rights, Sports, U.S. Society

“What Would Jesus Do?” My Guess: Devote His Energy To Something Other Than Forcing A Free Citizen To Re-Name His Own NFL Team

jesus football

The Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ, consisting of 180 congregations with 40,000 members from Richmond to New Jersey, voted unanimously to boycott of the Washington Redskins’ games and merchandize at its annual meeting. This decision is expected to pass to the national governing body of the church, which oversees 5,100 congregations with about 1 million members, which is expected to endorse it.

It would be good to know that the world is in such fine shape that this is the most pressing of our earthly challenges as far as United Church of Christ can see. Unfortunately, that’s not the import of this story. The story shows how political correctness, illicitly pursued by the abuse of official power, can and will spread throughout the culture, leading institution and organizations to believe that it is ethical to try to bend others to their will based on subjective views of “offensiveness.” It is not, however. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Marketing and Advertising, Religion and Philosophy, Rights

The I.R.S. E-Mails: The New York Times, Flagship Of The Respectable Mainstream Media, Proves Its Corruption

IRSInvestigations

Washington, DC – Today, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) issued the following statement regarding the Internal Revenue Service informing the Committee that they have lost Lois Lerner emails from a period of January 2009 – April 2011. Due to a supposed computer crash, the agency only has Lerner emails to and from other IRS employees during this time frame. The IRS claims it cannot produce emails written only to or from Lerner and outside agencies or groups, such as the White House, Treasury, Department of Justice, FEC, or Democrat offices.

You can be forgiven if you somehow missed this story, though it is obviously alarming, newsworthy, and possibly sinister. Many in the mainstream media have gone out of its way to ignore it. Yet this is likely or certainly possible spoliation, the illegal destruction of documentary evidence during litigation or an official investigation, which the House inquiry into the IRS’s irregularities regarding the approval of conservative groups prior to the 2012 election certainly is. If a private company “lost” key  and potentially incriminating evidence like this, indictments would follow. (RIP: Arthur Andersen) Recall, please, that Lerner pleaded the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination—her right, but hardly cooperative or comforting. This news is even less so.

Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany Jr., M.D. (R-LA) added, “In the course of the Committee’s investigation, the Administration repeatedly claimed we were getting access to all relevant IRS documents. Only now – thirteen months into the investigation – the IRS reveals that key emails from the time of the targeting have been lost. And they bury that fact deep in an unrelated letter on a Friday afternoon. In that same letter, they urge Congress to end the investigations into IRS wrongdoing. This is not the transparency promised to the American people. If there is no smidgen of corruption what is the Administration hiding?”

Good question.

And yet, The New York Times decided that this wasn’t “news fit to print” anywhere. Roger Kimbell marvels: Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

Congratulations, Sen. Reid: Abusing Government Power To Stifle Political Speech And Participation Works!

 

Nice choice of role models, Harry.

Nice choice of role models, Harry.

From the Washington Post:

“Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid’s relentless attacks on the billionaire Koch brothers are having an unforeseen impact: spurring other wealthy Republican donors to give more money to groups that keep their supporters’ names secret. Several prominent pro-Republican advocacy groups say they are benefiting from a burst of cash as some donors — fearful of harsh public attacks such as those aimed at the Kochs — turn away from political committees that are required by federal law to reveal their contributors.”

What a surprise. Citizen participants in the political process who see others like them engaging in no illegal or unethical conduct. other than taking positions with which the leader of the U.S. Senate disagrees. being called “un-American” and having their reputations and names savaged by him in speech after speech on the Senate floor, decide that it is no longer safe for a citizen to openly contribute to political causes in the U.S.

Democrats who use this development to attack the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, eliminating financial limits on the expressive activities of domestic advocacy groups and legal entities in political campaigns, will reveal themselves as beneath contempt. Reid, primed by President Obama, who has also crossed that line that must not be crossed by using his high elected office to call down the public’s disapproval on private citizens for their political views, has engaged in conduct that deserves the label of “McCarthyism.” Fair Americans, pundits, journalists and politicians of all political stripes ought to be candid and open about who is the ethics villain here. It is not the Koch Brothers, the Supreme Court or the GOP donors who are turning away from transparency. It is the disgraceful Senator Harry Reid.

At last count (in April; an update is needed), Reid had attacked the Kochs by name 134 times, when it is a breach of Senate tradition and a violation of the intent of the U.S. Constitution for a government official acting in his  official capacity to do so even once. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Environment, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

“Camp Kill Jews” Ethics

And they say “Washington Redskins” is offensive.

"What a charming name! What does it mean in your language? Oh...wait, WHAT???"

“What a charming name! What does it mean in your language? Oh…wait, WHAT???”

From Spain comes the news that the town of Castrillo Matajudios, which literally means “Camp Kill Jews,” has voted to change its name after 400 years. This appears to be part of Spain’s recent, rather belated, I would say, efforts to acknowledge and express regret to Jews for the persecution they endured during the Spanish Inquisition.

Strange as it seem, the current name probably came into being not to denigrate Jews, but to protect Jews in the town who had officially converted to Catholicism under threat of torture and death. As such, it is a piece of history, and the words convey information about the town, the country, and the people who lived there, not a slur….except to someone who knows nothing about the town.

I’m not aware of a perfect analogy for this situation. It has some similarities to the plight of the towns of Blue Ball, Pennsylvania, named for a famous and long-gone hotel in the area, and the Amish community of Intercourse, Pennsylvania, named when a common uses of that term conveyed “fellowship.” In a  parallel universe where political correctness was dictated by social conservatives rather censorious progressives, these towns might be getting coercive signed letters from Republican Senators “suggesting” that they change their names to something less offensive, even though, as with the Redskins name, history and context would be lost. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, History, Marketing and Advertising, Race, Religion and Philosophy

KABOOM! A Judge Bends Over Backward To Make Sure A Crooked Cop Keeps His Pension

head_explodes

I don’t see how a justice system that allows this nonsense can maintain any credibility whatsoever. Thus my brains and skull fragments are scattered all over my office. Read on at the peril of a blown cranium.

James Romano is the police chief of Scott Township and a part-time police officer in Dickson City in  Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania. Last year, he was investigating sexual misconduct charges against a local high school teacher that he had filed himself. Romano began a romantic relationship with a woman whom he was interviewing as part of that investigation. In the process, he revealed confidential investigative information about the case ( he told her she was “his favorite victim”), and when he learned that she was going to be interviewed by authorities, Romano texted her a message saying “just remember nothing about me,” and later told her not to tell the truth to investigators. Roman was charged with two counts of intimidation of a witness or victim, and one count of obstructing administration of law or other governmental function.

Are you ready? Romano pleaded guilty and agreed to resign his post, but his lawyer persuaded Lackawanna County President Judge Thomas Munley to defer Romano’s sentencing until the state confirms that the former chief will receive his pension, a determination that may not be made until Mr. Romano turns 50, seven years from now.

KABOOM!

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Filed under Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Workplace