Category Archives: Incompetent Elected Officials

Why Dan Pabon’s DUI Stop Matters To Everyone, And Why He Must Resign

Pabon Apology

Colorado Rep. Dan Pabon (D. North Denver) was considered a rising political star. Among his well-publicized public policy triumphs was to  help pass a law forcing convicted drunk drivers to appear before a DUI victim-impact panel.

Then Pabon himself was pulled over in his vehicle on St. Patrick’s Day evening for driving under the influence of alcohol. Instead of Pabon accepting his fate as an honest lawyer and elected official should, the video of the stop shows the legislator trying to persuade the officer who stopped him not to make the  arrest. He tells the officer that he is a state representative who is driving a car without his legislative plates. He asks the officer to call a supervisor or the city attorney so they can direct the officer to give him mulligan. When Officer Brian Bienemann explains that he cannot let Pabon off and indeed would be subject to discipline if he did,  Pabon pleads,  “Is there any way we can avoid this possibility? This is going to change my life.”

After Pabon pleaded guilty and gave an emotional apology (above) to the public and the legislature, saying  “I have taken full responsibility. I have done everything above board,” the editors of The Denver Post begged to disagree. They called for his resignation in an edotorial. They were correct, but they weren’t clear enough about why.

The Post was upset that Pabon didn’t specifically apologize for trying to use abuse his position and power to avoid legal accountability for a serious violation of the law, even after the video of the stop was leaked to the news media. Of course he didn’t. Like most current elected officials, he didn’t see anything wrong with that. Don’t they deserve special consideration and privileges?

There can be no sufficient apology for what Pabon did. Elected officials and other government personnel must not view themselves as deserving special immunity from the laws and regulations they impose on society. Pabon’s attitude and attempt to play the “Do you know who I am?” card is poison to democracy, and exactly the kind of “fix” Donald Trump’s speech last night correctly condemned.

The public sees a Secretary of State expose sensitive information to discovery by the enemies of the United States, and not only is she not punished, she is selected to run for President. The public sees HUD Secretary Julian Castro blatantly violate the Hatch Act, combining an official appearance with campaigning for Clinton, and  then learns that the President will not discipline Castro in any way. Casrto is also considered a “rising political star.” A nation in which individuals who break the law are still considered “rising stars” and prospects for national leadership has its values in a tangle. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

Ethics Dilemma: What Do You Do With Steve King?

Steve King

Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) is an infamous loose cannon, as well as being Cro-Magnon in his politics. He is prone to misstatements, colorful hyperbole and utter nonsense. There are head-scratching lists all over the web of his “greatest hits.”  Once, for example, he suggested that “For every time we give amnesty to an illegal immigrant, we would just deport a liberal.” OK, that was tongue in cheek (I hope), if hardly helpful to the cause of mutual respect and comity, but this probably wasn’t:

“If there is a sexual predator out there who has impregnated a young girl. Say a thirteen year old girl; and it happens in America more times than you and I would like to think. That sexual predator could pick that girl up off the playground at the middle school and haul her across the state line and force her to get an abortion to irradiate the evidence of his crime and bring her back and drop her off at the swing set and that’s not against the law in the United States of America.”

Actually, that would violate a number of laws, but never mind: Rep. King is an ultra-conservative idiot, and “the Julie Principle” applies: fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly.” If the good people of Iowa want someone like this to be one of their voices in the House, so be it, but don’t expect me to eat as much corn as I might otherwise.  Unfortunately, though, elected officials whose minds and tongues are not well connected to each other and who lack ethics alarms as well eventually get themselves into real trouble, unless they are nominated as the Republican candidate for President, like Steve King’s favorite orange tycoon.

The cock finally crowed for Steve King this week when, appearing on MSNBC  (which loves to book really stupid Republicans and conservatives because it makes all Republicans and conservatives look as stupid as MSNBC’s audience thinks they are) leftist pundit Charles Pierce engaged in typical ageist, racist-baiting that good progressives think is perfectly fine. He sneered about “old white people” controlling the  GOP and said that Republican convention was filled with “loud, unhappy, dissatisfied white people.”

Naturally, Steve King saw this as his signal to embrace white supremacy, saying..

“This whole ‘white people’ business, though, does get a little tired, Charlie. I mean, I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about? Where did any other sub-group of people contribute to civilization?”

Excellent timing, Congressman! Here is the nation on the verge of racial conflict, with police being targeting for death and afraid to police, while the black community is being convinced that a white justice system is biased against them, and you start talking like a Grand Dragon on national TV. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Race

To Be Fair To Incompetent Elected Official Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), His Nemesis, Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla) Is Incompetent Too.

Incompetence and idiocy in Congress is a bi-partisan ethics problem.

Rep. Louie Gohmert and Rep. Corrine Brown reportedly almost came to blows during last month’s cynical Democratic “sit-in” demanding that Sen. Susan Collins’ anti-Due Process, anti-Fifth Amendment, pre-crime “We have to DO something!” gun bill get a vote in the House despite being, you know, unconstitutional and totalitarian. Gohmert and Brown were screaming at each other and had to be separated.

Gohmert has proven himself to be an idiot, and idiots do not make competent members of Congress. To be fair, however, Brown is as least as big an idiot, and may be a crook as well.

Brown was charged with 24 counts of fraud late last week based on an investigation that found her and her Congressional staff using a college scholarship fund as “a personal slush fund.”  Federal prosecutors allege that the Congresswomen and her chief of staff, Elias “Ronnie” Simmons, used her position and office to solicit hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to the fake charity.

Brown’s jaw-dropping response? This:

“These are the same agents that was not able to do a thorough investigation of [shooter Omar Mateen], and we ended up with 50 people dead,” Brown said. Having made that ridiculous rationalization-soaked diversion official (they aren’t the same agents, by the way), she moved on to playing the race card, the default defense of all unethical African-American officials.

But first I should mention that the rationalizations behind Brown’s diversionary  non-explanation are…

22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse or “There are worse things.”

26. “The Favorite Child” Excuse (“Why are you punishing her when there are people more deserving of punishment?“)

54. The Scooby Doo Deflection, or “I should have gotten away with it!”

On her blog, Brown attributed the indictment to racism and had the gall to compare her fate to those of the two men recently killed in police shootings as well as the assassinated Dallas police officers, writing in her blog,

“Two black men were needlessly gunned down by police; five Dallas police officers were slain by a demented man, and on Friday I had to appear in federal court. I’m not the first black elected official to be persecuted and, sad to say, I won’t be the last.” 

OK, I’m ready to call it! She’s even worse the Louie. Nevertheless, a battle between the two would have been the Godzilla vs. Mothra of incompetent elected officials. Two bad they didn’t just let these twin embarrassments to the Congress go at it.

 

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Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX)

I know this is like shooting fish in a barrel—dead fish, in fact— but I need some levity about now. Of course it’s no joke, and indeed tragic, that a certifiable fanatic like Gohmert can reach a position of influence in our government, and a greater tragedy that there are so many equally unfit officials, from both parties. Few, however, are willing or able to expose their cognitive deficiencies as deftly as Congressman Gohmert.

When a gay, progressive friend posted the story about this, I assumed that he had been caught (again) in a web hoax. Surely Gohmert isn’t THAT stupid. Nobody is that stupid in Congress, surely. Yet he is, and the story was correct and true.

This happened a while back, during the “general speeches” portion of House proceedings on May 26, 2016. It was little noted, because if it had been, I would hope that GOP leaders would have placed him in a padded room and denied him the opportunity to ever speak for the party again.

Here, in part, was Gohmert’s anti-gay, science fiction rant (the video of his whole speech is above): Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials

Ethics Quote Of The Day: Ann Althouse

politifact_photos_Obama_speaking_in_Poland

Why is racial discord the problem of the summer 2016? If anyone has what it takes to unify the country over race it is Barack Obama, who is President right now and who had been President for 7 1/2 years. If it makes any sense to be deciding the current presidential election on this issue, if this longed-for capacity is something that can possibly exist, then Barack Obama would be doing it now and would have been doing it for years.

Before you push us to judge whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump would do better in bringing us together in racial harmony, Mr. Healy, please say a few words about why President Obama has failed. Of course, neither Clinton nor Trump inspires hope for a new opportunity at racial harmony. That’s what Obama did in 2008. He was ideal for that issue and we voted for the hope. Now, so many years later, things seem even worse. Can you analyze how that happened? Because that did happen. I don’t see how we can begin to think about what more Trump or Clinton could do unless we understand why President Obama failed.

—–Law professor Ann Althouse, on her blog, responding to an op-ed piece in the New York Times by Pat Healy bemoaning the inability of either Trump of Clinton to respond to the Dallas shootings in a manner that unifies rather than divides.

1. I admit it: sometimes I look for other commentators who have discerned what I have discerned and use their quotes to state what I would normally be writing myself. Althouse is a left-leaning eccentric moderate who is not overtly political, and who is skilled at overcoming her own biases. She voted for Obama (at least once), and she plies her craft as a law professor in Madison, Wisconsin, as progressive a community as there is. I have found Obama’s leadership ability and Presidential performance wanting in almost all respects since early in his administration and have explained my analysis here.  The price I pay for this is that those who are in denial over what should be obvious (though terribly disappointing and sad) feel that my consistent  criticism gives them the opportunity to mask their denial by  labeling me an Obama-hater, a partisan (as if I wouldn’t be equally critical of an incompetent Republican President with a flat learning curve) and even a racist. A quote like Althouse’s is not so much an appeal to authority—I disagree with Professor Althouse a lot, though not her dislike of men wearing shorts—but choosing to allow someone else to say well what I may not have said any better, and to prove that I’m not the only one coming to such conclusions.

2. The President’s comments on the shooting deaths of officer-involved deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile, in Falcon Heights, Minnesota were irresponsible, inflammatory, and typical of his approach to race relations from the very beginning, when he stuck his influential nose into a controversy between a competent white Cambridge police officer and a race-baiting black Harvard professor. Then, without knowing any of the underlying facts, he suggested that the white police officer was at fault and the black professor (a friend of his) was blameless. His remarks about the police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota issued from the same bias. I’ll just comment on the beginning of his statement, which is enough to make the point: Continue reading

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Comment of the Day: “California’s High Speed Rail Fiasco”

astrodome

I’m behind on posting Comments of the Day, and the first to be sprung from the backlog is this, from johnburger2013, giving yet another account of political leaders defeating the public will to pursue expensive and irresponsible projects that do not and cannot live up to the promises made to justify them. I wonder if there is a category of informed people who simultaneously deride the motivation for the Brexit vote, and yet condemn debacles like the California high-speed rail project. The issue, as it usually is, is trust.

Here is johnburger2013’s Comment of the Day (that day being almost a weeks ago) on the post, California’s High Speed Rail Fiasco:

Here in Houston, there is a constant litany of ideas about what to do with the Astrodome, it being one of the man-made wonders of the world (until the King Dome left it in the dust). The Dome was moth-balled when Reliant Stadium (now NRG Stadium) was built about 11 years ago, after the Astros got their own facility in Downtown Houston (thank you, taxpayers), and the Dynamo got their own facility (thank you, taxpayers), and the Houston Texans got NRG Stadium (again, thank you, taxpayers). The Rockets never played there, but they have a new stadium, too (thank you a fourth time, taxpayers), so they are not to blame. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo doesn’t use the facility either, because they use NRG for their events (the parking stinks, though, as big-ass crowds of people have to take limited numbers of buses and light rail [which only goes to downtown, thank you a fifth time, taxpayers] to outlying parking venues).

Continue reading

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Four Supreme Court Decisions: Abortion, Guns, Affirmative Action, Corruption…And Ethics. Part 2: McDonnell v. United States

Virginia Governor McDonnell shows off the luxury watch he got as a gift from a businessman he barely knew who expected expected nothing in return...

Virginia Governor McDonnell shows off the luxury watch he got as a gift from a businessman he barely knew who expected expected nothing in return…

Governor Bob McDonnell, Virginia’s Republican governor from 2010 to 2014, was charged with using his office to assist businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr., who, often with Mrs. McDonnell as a conduit, gave his family wedding receptions, loans, vacations and jewelry worth more than $175,000. I wrote about this scandal here, here, and here. The gifts were legal, thanks to absurdly lenient Virginia ethics laws, just as they were obviously unethical, except perhaps to the clueless McDonnells.

Governor McDonnell arranged meetings for Williams and attended events with him. My favorite part of the criminal trial was when McDonnell claimed that he never dreamed that Williams expected anything in exchange for all of his gifts, and then Williams said that of course he expected some favors in return. The jury found that McDonnell’s actions amounted to corruption and a quid pro quo exchange amounting to bribery. A federal appeals court upheld the conviction.

The Supreme Court’s 8-0 decision this week to vacate the conviction upholds the principle that even if someone has done something obviously bad, there has to be a law against what was done before the act occurred in order to convict him. It’s a rather narrow decision. The Court points out that the law McDonnell was convicted of breaking requires “official acts” to be bought and sold for the law to be breached, but that all McDonnell did was hand out political favors to his “friend”: setting up meetings, communicating his favor, greasing the wheels, essentially. (Much is made of the fact that Williams didn’t benefit very much from any of this, which is just moral luck. It doesn’t make what the governor did any less sleazy.)

Wrote Chief Justice Roberts in his opinion for the unanimous Court: Continue reading

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