If Chris Farley had been elected mayor….
I’ve received a wave of emails from helpful readers, with links to news reports about Canada’s shame, drunk, crack-smoking, lying Toronto mayor, Rob Ford. “Write about this!” they suggest.
The mayor of a major Canadian city is a law-breaker, a substance abuser, an addict, and ill. When your defense to a video showing you smoking crack is “I was so drunk, I don’t remember it,” that should say it all. He initially lied about the allegations of his crack use. He calls up radio stations in a drunken state. He is caught on tape drunkenly screaming that he want to murder someone. His various public stances to keep his job have ranged from shameless appeals to pity— “I hope none of you ever find yourself” in such a state, a reverse Golden Rule tactic that amounts to arguing “Do unto others as you would want others to do unto you if you were the irresponsible, addict mayor who will do and say anything to stay in office”—to that old stand-by, Bill Clinton’s “I’m just going to concentrate on doing my job and accomplishing what the voters elected me to do,” as if they elected Ford to embarrass the city. Continue reading
Texas Judge Elizabeth E. Coker will be resigning from her post as judge in the 258th District Court of Polk, Trinity, and San Jacinto Counties as part of a deal that allows her to resign rather than face disciplinary action. The ethical transgressions she apparently engaged in were many, shocking and outrageous. Investigators found that she regularly engaged in ex parte communications with members of the Polk County District Attorney’s Office, the San Jacinto County District Attorney, and defense attorneys regarding cases pending in her court, favored certain attorneys and was prejudicial toward others in both trials and court appointments, and even met with jurors, without the knowledge of counsel, while they were deliberating in criminal trials, in order to influence their verdict. Even as she was being investigated for judicial misconduct, Coker attempted to influence a material witness against her prior to that witness’ testimony before the Disciplinary Commission, and lied about it when she was questioned about her contact with that witness.
Yet as awful as all that is, these are not the most spectacular of her ethical breaches. Continue reading
It was tough giving my dog the bad news that the AP had screwed up…
Over the local evening news came a stunning report: Terry McAuliffe the Democratic candidate for Governor of Virginia, where I vote and make my home, had been accused in federal documents of lying to investigators checking the facts behind a Rhode Island death benefits scheme. Confirmation bias being what it is, I had no trouble giving the report full credence ( I long ago concluded that McAuliffe is sleazy and will lie whenever there is a perceived up-side for him, though I never thought he was stupid), and informed my dog, Rugby, for whom I am organizing a write-in campaign, that his chances of being Governor were looking up. Then, less than two hours later, I was preparing to write about this latest development in the most ethics-free governor’s race in the country, and checked online for more details. I discovered only this:
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Associated Press has withdrawn its story about documents in a federal fraud case alleging that Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe lied to a federal official investigating a death benefits scheme. The indictment did not identify McAuliffe as the “T.M.” who allegedly lied to investigators.
Wait…how could this happen? How could the Associated Press, the nation’s premiere news agency, essentially accuse a candidate for high office in a highly contested election of a felony less than a month before votes are cast, just in time for the story to be the lead story all over the state in question, and then withdraw it shortly thereafter? Don’t tell me about “mistakes”: the AP and the profession of journalism have standards and procedures of long-standing that, if followed diligently, ensure that this never happens. Facts must be checked and confirmed by reliable sources. Supposition must not be stated as truth. Here is the AP’s distillation of its ethical framework: Continue reading
“Most theorists of self-government have maintained that certain modest virtues are necessary to democracy and free markets: deferred gratification, diligence, a prudent concern for the future. There is an ongoing American debate about the degree to which government can or should promote such virtues. But here is an extraordinary case of government actively undermining the moral underpinnings of market capitalism for its own benefit. It holds out the promise of sudden wealth without work or productive investment, engaging in a purposeful and profitable deception. A corrupting fantasy becomes a revenue stream, dependent on persuading new generations to embrace it. Perhaps we have given up on government as a source of moral improvement. Does this mean we must accept a government that profits by undermining public virtues? Nearly 20 years ago, William Galston and David Wasserman wrote, “While history indicates that gambling is too ubiquitous to suppress, moral considerations suggest that it is too harmful to encourage. The most appropriate state stance toward gambling is not encouragement, but rather containment.”’
——- Washington Post op-ed columnist Michael Gerson, on the implications of a new report by the Institute For American Values titled, “Why Casinos Matter.” Continue reading
That’s Rugby on the right…
Periodically, the same contentious argument breaks out on Ethics Alarms after I assert my position that voters should support the candidate who is the most honest and trustworthy–the one with the most ethical character—regardless of his or her policy positions. My argument is bolstered when someone like Anthony Weiner—and fortunately there aren’t many candidates like him— runs for office on the extreme opposite concept, that even demonstrably horrible character and dubious trustworthiness are irrelevant as long as a candidate holds the right policy views. He was just clobbered in his quest for NY mayor, getting just 5% of the vote, every one of them cast by a lunatic, porn star, mental defective or ethics dunce. I doubt that his wife voted for him. Client #9. Eliot Spitzer, also lost in his race for Controller…and he is like Weiner.
My position is shaken when faced with a fiasco like Virginia governor’s race, where a proven huckster, Terry McAuliffe, is carrying the Democratic banner and Ken Cuccinelli is the Republican choice. (I live in Virginia.) That McAuliffe is corrupt to the core, like his pals, the Clintons, there is no doubt. He is pure Machiavelli, and worse, he is gleeful about it, like his pal Bill, but without the charisma. I learned all I needed to about McAuliffe’s character when I learned that he tried to bribe Ralph Nader to drop out of the 2000 Presidential race, but that was hardly the only evidence. Virginia Democrats disgraced themselves by nominating him. I wrote about his public dissembling here and here; I didn’t even go into his dubious financial dealings andthe strange way —well, if you think cronyism is strange— he got rich investing in Global Crossing—as I said, the sliminess of his character has never been in doubt.
Cuccinelli, however, is worse: he’s just unethical in different ways. Continue reading
Our surprisingly ethical U.S. culture on display…
Aniruddh Khachaturi an is from Mumbai, India, and has been in the U.S. for the past two years, studying computer science at Carnegie Mellon. For some reason his observations about what surprises him about American culture are newsworthy, according to Investors Daily, as opposed to, say, anyone else. They are thought-provoking, however, especially this : he is impressed with the nation’s “strong ethics”:
“…everyone has a lot of integrity. If someone cannot submit their completed assignment in time, they will turn in the assignment incomplete rather than asking for answers at the last minute. People take pride in their hard work and usually do not cheat. This is different from students from India and China as well as back home in India, where everyone collaborates to the extent that it can be categorized as cheating.”
I happen to think he is right, and that this is probably the reaction of most foreigners who spend much time here. Compared to almost everywhere else on the planet, the population of the U.S. is more ethical, and the U.S. culture is more concerned with ethical values, as one should expect in the only nation expressly founded as the expression of ethical ideals.
Nonetheless, our culture has shown alarming signs of growing more tolerant and even accepting of unethical conduct, and that is worthy of more than merely academic concern. Continue reading
How is Eleanor Holmes Norton like Don Fanucci?
In more ways than you might think.
Someone connected to a lobbyist released a voicemail of the D.C. delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton (D, not that the same kind of voice mail hasn’t been left by countless Republicans too), shaking down an industry that is greatly affected by the committee Holmes chairs (though she may not vote on the floor, the District being the victim of taxation without representation) for a financial contribution, in a wounded/threatening tone reminiscent of the Sicilian gangster Don Fanucci in “Godfather Part II” who shakes down a poor merchant by asking for “enough to wet my beak.” Cenk Uygur is almost humorously unsettled by Holmes’ naked venality and the quid pro quo corrupt practices it represents, and I sympathize.
As long as voters, leaders and the news media tolerates this kind of culture, complaints about the unresponsiveness of our elected representatives are laughable. It should be obvious that the first step to a better republic is refusing to tolerate bribery.
Here’s the clip.
Source: Advice Goddess
Thank God Clinton is a Yalie…
From the Harvard Gazette (Full disclosure: My parents met at Harvard, so I owe Harvard my life, literally. My mother worked in the Harvard administration f0r 25 years, and I (C 1972, American Government), my sister and my father all graduated from the college):
“IOP [ Institute Of Politics] fall visiting fellows include Hilda L. Solis, former U.S. labor secretary (2009-13) and U.S. representative (CA-32nd, D; 2001-09) and Antonio Villaraigosa, two-term mayor of Los Angeles (2005-13). Visiting fellows traditionally meet with student groups; lead discussion groups on topical issues and their experiences in public and political service; and participate in public policy classes.”
Antonio Villaraigosa engaged in exactly the kinds of unethical practices that Harvard is supposed to be training leaders to eschew. He is neither academically distinguished (he flunked the bar four times) nor an appropriate role model, and for Harvard to intentionally expose its students to a repeat ethics violator like Villaraigosa is a breach of trust and responsibility. It is ethically indefensible.
Right now, I am in a state, Virginia, where the Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, has been exposed for accepting unreported gifts. While mayor, Villaraigosa set the record for the largest ethics fine levied in California state history — $41,849 — for failing to disclose about $42,ooo in free tickets he received to Los Angeles Lakers games, the finals of “American Idol” and more than two dozen other sports and entertainment events. Accepting gifts and not reporting them provides the slippery slope to bribery, and involves the use of an official position for personal advantage. Continue reading
Comparing ethics to Ms. Jones’ position is apples to Oranges…
Are government ethics at all levels really getting worse, or is it just that we have more and easier access to the evidence than we used to? I hope it’s the latter. I fear it’s the former. Certainly I have never seen anything as disgusting as San Diego Mayor Filner’s determination to stay in office as evidence mounts that he is a serial sexual harasser and a menace to any woman who is unfortunate enough to come within arm’s reach. Despite the fact that the number of women coming forward to accuse him has reached eleven (actually I haven’t checked since last night…it’s probably more by now), and despite polls that show that two-thirds of the city’s voters think he should resign ( the other third are Democrats, which should, but won’t, cause some critical self-examination by the party that claims to be on the right side in “the war against women”), Filner refuses to do the honorable thing, and instead will force the city to spend millions on a recall.
The carnivals of the shameless in San Diego and New York have been keeping less spectacular but equally troubling tales elsewhere from getting proper attention. In Louisiana, for example, where ethics has always meant something other than, well, ethics, we have this sequence of events.
Orange Jones is the executive director for the New Orleans chapter of Teach For America. Which she was elected to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the state’s Ethics Board chose to declare, in opposition to the recommendation of its own attorneys, that the obvious conflict of interest—Teach For America bids on state teaching contracts, which are awarded by the board—wasn’t one, on the disingenuous theory that Jones was only the head of the city’s Teach For America operations, not the whole state’s. Continue reading
Why is this man smiling?
I posted earlier on the blatant violation of basic conflict of interest principles (not to mention de facto bribery) by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R). Following increased criticism and talk of forcing him to resign, McDonnell announced on his weekly radio show (“Ask the Unethical Governor,” or something like that) that he was returning the many gifts and repaying the loans that came to him and members of his family from Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie William.
His comments read like a primer on how to sound like a slippery and dishonest politician, which, it seems clear, he is. Here are some highlights, with my comments in bold: Continue reading