Tag Archives: abuse of power

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Martina Navratilova

"Hey, Kershaw! Martina wants to know why you're afraid to give us your position on fracking!"

“Hey, Kershaw! Martina wants to know why you’re afraid to give us your position on fracking!”

“So many athletes are afraid to use their platform to do the right thing and speak what they feel, and that’s very depressing.”

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova to approving New York Times sports reporter Juliet Macur, as the former tennis great prepared for her keynote speech at a human rights event at the Department of State.

Wrong, Martina. There is no “platform.” You earned credibility and influence regarding social and political issues by intelligently and boldly standing up for your own rights and privileges, on issues that affected you directly and about which you had an important perspective and a legitimate reason to speak out. Female athletes. Discrimination. Gay rights. Feminism. You had credentials and authority in all of those areas, and using your status as a sports star to spark intelligent debate was responsible and fair.

Once you had established your credibility, analytical abilities and skill at articulating issues while taking informed positions on them, then you had earned added legitimacy separate from your athletic prowess and stardom. You’re a smart person: smart people’s informed opinions should be listened to and considered no matter what the topic. Many other athletes have expanded their legitimate authority and influence this way. Muhammad Ali. Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Ted Williams. Billy Jean King. Bill Bradley.

Athletic stardom, however, confers no more assumed expertise regarding issues unrelated to sports than being a paper-hanger or a busboy. The difference is that famous athletes, like famous singers and actors, are admired and idolized by many people, especially among the young, who are incapable of resisting the siren influence of their heroes. There is nothing good about this, and everything wrong about it. Tom Brady supports Donald Trump, and the only reasonable reaction to that is to conclude that Tim Brady is a moron. However, that’s not how blank-slate sports fans react to his endorsement. For too many of them, the sequence is pure cognitive dissonance: Continue reading


Filed under Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Leadership, Sports, U.S. Society

Judicial Ethics Quiz: The Cranky Judge

Judge Clarke (L) and artist's representation (R)

Judge Clarke (L) and artist’s representation (R)

A three-judge panel in California found misconduct in Judge Edmund Clarke, Jr’s treatment of one or more jurors in a jury pool for a murder trial.

Your challengeGuess which of the incidents was found to be an abuse of judicial power and authority.

A. Judge Clarke also told a potential juror who wrote that she had only $25 in her checking account that “every one of these lawyers spent more than that on lunch today.” He excused the juror, and after she left, Clarke told everyone in the courtroom how much the juror had in her account. When a second potential juror disclosed he had only $33 in his checking account, Clarke again announced the amount and said that his savings put the other juror “in the shade with that big account.”

B. Judge Clarke reduced another juror to tears reprimanding her after she appeared to change a form to indicate that she did not speak English, which he found incredible. She said  had lived in the United States for 25 years. Clarke said,

“Most people that have been in this country for 10 years have picked up enough English. [Twenty] or so, they’re moving right along. And 25 years is—so you better have a different reason why you want to be excused than that.” 

After she began weeping loudly because, she said later, she was ashamed because she didn’t speak English, he dismissed her from the panel.

C. Finally, Judge Clarke became annoyed at a juror who had written on her hardship form, “Having Severe Anxiety!!” next to her drawing of a frowny  face. “I work as a waitress and make minimum wages, plus I’m planning a wedding in two months and all of these things, especially this courthouse are aggravating my anxiety terribly. On the verge of a meltdown!” Clarke  excused her from jury duty,  but when she added that the clerk who was checking in potential jurors was “really disrespectful” to everyone, he  told the woman that she could stay in the hallway and tell him more at the end of the day. When the dismissed juror insisted that she had to leave, he said,

“No, you’re staying. You’re staying You’re staying on. I’ve been a judge for seven years. No one’s ever complained about my clerk. But I’ll be happy to hear your complaint at the end of the day. So go to the hall and stay and come in, act like an adult and you can face her and tell me everything she did wrong.”

The woman did as she was ordered and apologized to Clarke after waiting for an hour court to be adjourned. The judge  asked her how she would have felt if he came to the restaurant where she worked and criticized her in front of everyone, saying, 

“If you came here thinking that this was going to be Disneyland and you were getting an E Ticket and have good time, I’m afraid you have no sense of what is going on in this building. Now, seven years ago the first clerk that was assigned to me, she’s still here. The only clerk I’ve ever had. One juror, in all that time, out of thousands, has ever complained about her. That’s you. You can leave now knowing that’s what you accomplished.”

D. All of the above.

Take the poll, and then go to the answers after the jump.

Continue reading


Filed under Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Quizzes

More Unethical—But NICE!— Police Tricks

This nice officer appears to be lobotomized, which at least gives him an excuse for his conduct...

This nice Halifax, VA. officer appears to be lobotomized, which at least gives him an excuse for his conduct…

The politically-fanned hatred and distrust for police has seemingly caused the profession to lose its bearings entirely. We have the Ferguson Effect in major cities, where police avoid proactive law enforcement for fear of getting in any confrontations with  African Americans, and now the desperate efforts of police to be loved is starting to spawn the Police As Cuddly Do-Gooders movement.

This will not end well.

Last week on a hot Friday in Virginia, Halifax police pulled drivers over to—SURPRISE!— hand out ice cream instead of tickets, and captured some of the reactions on camera. Officer Brian Warner said his officers “just wanted to spread some summer sweetness in the community.” They had patrol cars  equipped with coolers of ice cream, and they stopped about 20 motorists, handing out cones instead of tickets after the drivers were convinced they were being stopped for infractions.


Warner, I’m afraid, is an idiot. Stopping a car to do anything unrelated to police work is an abuse of power and authority, and unethical. It doesn’t matter if it’s a well-intentioned abuse of power, or a nice abuse of power. It’s wrong, and I would make the case that it’s also illegal, no matter how nice it is.

I’m glad I wasn’t caught on camera, because my message would have been this: Continue reading


Filed under Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement

So It Has Come To This: Criminalizing Burps In Middle School

At  Cleveland Middle School in Albuquerque, a persistent class clown, age 13, kept burping in class, followed by the usual titters from his classmates.

I was in class with one of these characters in the 8th grade, and I must admit, his burp was something: loud, long, low, and seemingly inexhaustible. He was yanked out of class, he was sent to detention, his parents were called, he was suspended, and eventually, without too much conflict, he learned to cut it out. (They never caught the guy who shouted “HOG!” in a raucous voice during study hall.) Apparently this method was beyond the abilities of the  Cleveland Middle School staff to execute.

The teacher, Ms. Mines-Hornbeck, called the police, who arrested and eventually cuffed the boy. Principal Susan LaBarge and Assistant Principal Ann Holmes  not only suspended him for the rest of the school year, but allowed the criminal justice process to proceed, with the boy being processed for the charge of  violating a New Mexico statute, N.M. Stat. Ann. § 30-20-13(D), that reads…

No person shall willfully interfere with the educational process of any public or private school by committing, threatening to commit or inciting others to commit any act which would disrupt, impair, interfere with or obstruct the lawful mission, processes, procedures or functions of a public or private school.

That’s right: arrest and criminal prosecution for burping in class.

None of the staff at the school, apparently, had an ethics alarm go off that induced them to point out that the year long suspension was an unethically harsh punishment, and the criminal charge was tantamount to child abuse. I remember that in the fourth grade at Parmenter School in Arlington, Mass, my friend Timmy Russell was moved to leap to his feet during a math lesson and do a ten second imitation of Elvis singing “Hound Dog.” Everyone laughed, including the teacher. Then, that burst of childish energy over, she went on with the lesson, because she was a confident professional.

In New Mexico, 2016, Timmy would have broken the law. Continue reading


Filed under Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

The Good News: At Least The Cops Didn’t Shoot Anyone In This Traffic Stop, And No One Got A Ticket For “Driving While Black”… The Bad: What They Did Was Still An Abuse Of Authority

Pop Quiz: How many idiots in this photo?

Pop Quiz: How many idiots in this photo?

Is this really what we are going to put up with now—city police departments so desperate for love (and not to have their members picked off by snipers) that they start pandering to citizens in idiotic ways? That’s not the way to earn anyone’s respect and trust. It is, however, a good way to lose it.

Three NYPD officers from the 101st Precinct in Far Rockaway cops  pulled over the car being driven by Yehuda Coriat, 22, with his 20-year-old girlfriend, Sorah Oppen as a passenger. The police accused the couple of transporting weapons and drugs in the car.

Then they grilled Oppen about her boyfriend, ordered her out of the vehicle, and told her to open the trunk — and out came balloons! That was the cue for Coriat to get down on his knee and propose!



This is wrong, wrong, wrong; an especially horrible example of the “Awww!” Factor, in which conduct that makes sentimental souls get all gooey inside is mistaken for ethical conduct. Continue reading


Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Love, Professions

Marilyn Mosby Secures Her Reputation As One Of The Most Shamelessly Unethical U.S. Prosecutors Of All Time

The other shoe dropped: prosecutors dropped all remaining charges against three Baltimore police officers accused in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray,  following the acquittals of three other officers  by Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams. He was expected to preside over the remaining trials, and, as the Bible says, the writing was on the wall.

Make no mistake: this result was completely and entirely the result of the incompetent, unethical conduct of State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who vaingloriously announced charges against the officers in the immediate wake of rioting in Baltimore, following the dictates of a mob. She did this without sufficient investigation, evidence or, despite the ethical requirements of her office, probable cause. She had the city of Baltimore agree to a large damages settlement for Gray’s family before any of the officers were tried, prejudicing their cases. She spent millions on the prosecutions, and shattered the lives of all six officers, and yet never made a case that justified any of it.

There are more unethical things that a prosecutor can do, and they certainly do them. Some prosecute individuals they know are innocent, which is a bit worse than prosecuting someone who might be guilty because a mob wants blood. Those unethical prosecutors, however, try to cover their tracks. Not Mosby: she’s proud of being unethical, because its the kind of unethical conduct that African-American activists think promotes justice. Justice is when someone pays with their life or liberty if an African American dies, regardless of law or evidence.  That’s the theory, anyway. Continue reading


Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement

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


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