Landrieu’s Pay-off: Ethical and Playing by the Rules

[Like you, I am thoroughly tired of seeing Claude Rains’ Capt. Renault quoted in these situations, but sometimes his famous “Casablanca” line is too apt to resist. This is such a time.]

Pundits are “shocked—shocked!” that Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu traded her vote to allow debate on the health care bill for $100 million dollars of earmarked funds for Medicaid subsidies in her state. Fox demagogue/clown Glenn Beck called Landrieu a prostitute and a hooker. Time Magazine columnist Mark Halperin accompanied his condemnation of Landrieu with a disgusting photoshopped picture of the Senator sporting the infamous semen-hair gel ‘do from the raunchy comedy, “What About Mary?” The deal was widely called a bribe by indignant bloggers, angry conservatives, and even some liberals. Continue reading

“The Good Wife” and Bad Ethics

Julianna Margulies’ latest attempt to find another hit series after “ER” is a lawyer drama, “The Good Wife.” It tells of the travails and trials of a former litigator who returns to law firm practice after her prosecutor husband, played by “Mr. Big” Chris Noth, is sent to the slammer in a scandal that also involved marital infidelity. As lawyer dramas go, “The Good Wife” is fairly good about not distorting the legal ethics rules. It still slips up, however, as this week’s episode showed. Continue reading

The Ethics of Dithering

At some point, delaying  an important leadership decision stops being resposnible, and begins being unethical.

The White House put out word today that President Obama’s decision regarding troop levels in Afghanistan is on the verge of being revealed. When it is, a few things are certain. If his decision is to increase troop levels to the degree requested by the Pentagon, Obama’s pacifist Left supporters will be furious. If it is to withhold more troops and prepare for U.S, withdrawal, supporters of an aggressive war policy on the Right will go on the attack. If it is anything in between, neither of these camps will be happy.

It is also certain that nobody will be able to tell if what the President has decided is the “right” decision. Continue reading

Dallas Forgotten and the Duty to Remember

Yesterday was November 22. According to the vast majority of the news and entertainment media, it was no different from any other day, apparently. In all likelihood, the same was true of most Americans. “Oh, yeah…November 22! Better buy that turkey!”

November 22 is not like any other day in America, however. It is the date in 1963 that John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 46 years old and the 35th President of the United States of America, was assassinated on the streets of Dallas. Continue reading

Ethics and the Great Climate Change E-mail Heist

Warning! Stormy ethics waters ahead!

Computer hackers invaded the server at the influential Climatic Research Unit at The University of East Anglia, in eastern England, and left with over a decade’s worth of correspondence between leading British and U.S. scientists, including 1,000 e-mails and 3,000 documents. The information was passed on to dozens of salivating bloggers and science-minded websites, which  launched selections from the stolen material into the climate change debate just in time for the upcoming U.N. conference on the topic in Copenhagen. Continue reading

Spoiling “Precious”

Courtland Milloy is a Washington Post Metro columnist, which means that his job is to decry racial outrages even where there are none. This time around, he has been offended by “Precious,” the nearly universally acclaimed movie about an abused black teenager, and attacks it with gusto. [Typically I would link to the piece here. I’m not, and you will soon find out why.] Continue reading

Lobbyist Ventriloquism and the Abysmal State of Congressional Ethics

When Washington, D.C. attorney Robert Trout delivered his closing argument in the trial of former Rep. William Jefferson (now known as “Inmate CB476881”) for, among other things, accepting a large cash bribe that was later found in his office freezer, he told the jury that the prosecution was hypocritical and unfair. After all, he said, “If seeking political help was a crime, you could lock up half of metropolitan Washington, D.C.” Jefferson’s actions may have been unethical, and they were certainly a mistake, but really now: isn’t this just what all Congressmen do? Jefferson, Trout argued, just got a little bit carried away.

Jefferson was convicted, so there is some distance left for our faith in our elected representatives to fall before it hits rock bottom. The argument was still ethically disturbing in two respects. First of all, Trout’s pitch amounted to a jury nullification plea, a defense in which a jury is encouraged to ignore the law, and that is unethical lawyering.

Second, Trout may well have been right. Continue reading