DC’s “Ethics Subway Train Wreck,” A Tragedy In Six Acts

…or, “A Streetcar Named Stupid”…

This is a Nation’s Capital, drama my friends…an ugly ethics mess, in

ACT I

Eating on a Metro train is a criminal violation in Washington, D.C., but the transit authority seems to think that enforcing laws is icky, or something, so Metro Transit Police Chief Ron Pavlik sent out an order on May 8, telling officers to “cease and desist from issuing criminal citations in the District of Columbia for fare evasion;  eating; drinking; spitting, and playing musical instruments without headphones until further advised.”

Telling officers not to enforce laws is per se incompetent and irresponsible. If you want to repeal the law, fine. An unenforced law, however, is an invitation to chaos. If the directive to ignore it is secret, then the public that sees scofflaws unimpeded assumes that law enforcement isn’t doing its job. If the public knows that the law won’t be enforced as a policy, then it will begin engaging in the conduct the law was made to prevent.

This is idiotic.

ACT II

Local author Natasha Tynes saw a Metro employee eating on a train,  and reported the woman to transit officials by tweeting a photo of the woman, in uniform, eating on the Red Line. She also tweeted that when she confronted the woman for breaking Metro rules, the woman replied, “Worry about yourself.” “When you’re on your morning commute & see @wmata employee in UNIFORM eating on the train,” Tynes tweeted. “I thought we were not allowed to eat on the train. This is unacceptable.”

She’s right. It’s unacceptable. Telling Metro officials that they should not ticket violators of the law does not mean that Metro employees are free to violate the law. This is a predictable result of Pavlik’s unethical order. Tynes, however, was engaging in responsible citizenship.

ACT III

In response to the tweet, the head of the MTA workers’ union stated that the employee had “done nothing wrong.”

This is ethics ignorance. There is a law against what the worker did, and the fact that violations (stupidly) weren’t being enforced doesn’t alter the wrongness of the conduct one iota. This is Ethics 101. Teach ethics in school!

Morons. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Ashlea Johnson And The Supporters Of Her Petition

Crack Mayor

How wrong is the Change.org petition posted by Ashlea Johnson and demanding that TMZ remove and apologize for the above headline announcing the death of Marion Barry?

1. This is an attempt to whitewashing a very soiled legacy.

2. Barry, and no one else, ruined his legacy. Next to using crack while Mayor of Washington D.C. (and being filmed in the process), Barry is best known for his immortal quote after his arrest with an old girl-friend and drug pal: “Bitch set me up!”

3. TMZ has both the freedom to publish whatever it chooses however it chooses, as long as it is true. This is true. Barry was “the Crack Mayor.” Deal with it.

4. It would have been good for all if Barry’s enablers and supporters forced him to apologize and be accountable for his various crimes, hustles and misdeeds, of which the crack was only the most spectacular. Instead, Ashlea Johnson and those like her kept electing Barry, who was unrepentant and unreformed, to office,  sending the message to District politicians that character and honesty, even good citizenship, don’t matter as much as group identification and cronyism

The TMZ headline was certainly not kind, polite or diplomatic, but rogues, miscreants and thieves do not deserve pleasant or respectful obituaries. When Bernie Madoff dies, he will be called a swindler, because he was one. When Anthony Weiner passes on, he will be noted as the “sexting Congressman,” because that was his legacy. Monica Lewinsky will be eulogized in the press as Clinton’s intern plaything, or something nastier: what else should she be remembered for? Marion Barry could have earned a headline describing him as a transformative mayor of the nation’s Capital, for he had the ability to be that and more. Barry chose to be the Crack Mayor instead.

Ashlea should have sent him a petition about forty years ago, demanding that he stop being such a jerk.

________________

Pointer: Mediaite

 

Will President Obama’s New Leadership Model Cripple U.S. Management Competence For Decades?

America in ruins

 It seems to be a distinct possibility.

The President of the United States is the culture’s most powerful, visible and influential leader. Like it of not, he is also a role model for leadership and management across society. He has the most responsibility, the largest organization to oversee, and the most vital interests at stake. The management and leadership techniques he uses necessarily set a standard others, especially young, inexperienced, aspiring leaders and management, will be encouraged to emulate.

What are they learning? To begin with, they are learning to accept a startlingly low standard for “confidence.”

The President has now issued two statements that he has “confidence” in the Secret Service. The assessment has special significance because the health and safety, the very lives, of the President, his wife, his young children and his staff is in the Secret Service’s hands, and the agency would seem to have demonstrated beyond all doubt that it is incapable of meeting any reasonable expectations or trust. We know that the agents are barely trained, and that they lack professionalism and self discipline. We know that agents availed themselves of prostitutes in South America, and got drunk on duty in Amsterdam. We know that  a gunman fired at least seven bullets that struck the upstairs residence of the White House in 2011, aided by a botched Secret Service response, and that just this month a deranged fence-jumper got into the residence and was running amuck before he was stopped.

The Service’s statement on that incident was jaw-dropping, saying agents “showed tremendous restraint and discipline in dealing with” an intruder who could have had a bomb or deadly intent. How could this President, any President, any leader, any manager, have “confidence” in a security force under these circumstances, with its own management displaying such a bizarre attitude?

Well, I don’t know. It’s a brand new paradigm, the most lassez faire, gentle, kind,empathetic and understanding, hands-off, no-fault, no standards, no accountability leadership style I have ever seen at any management level higher than a lemonade stand. I’m sure many members of the public, especially those who goof off at their jobs, steal supplies, file fake reports, arrive to work stoned, never finish assigned tasks and think they have a right to keep their jobs and paychecks no matter how useless they are, would love to have Obama as a boss. Such a boss would express confidence in the most obviously inept and untrustworthy employee imaginable, and apparently mean it. And never, never fire him. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Bindi the Jungle Girl

Bindi Irwin,posing with an American politician

Bindi Irwin,posing with an American politician

It shouldn’t surprise us that 14-year-old Bindi Irwin, a.k.a. “Bindi the Jungle Girl”, has the stuff of ethics heroism. After all, she is the daughter of Steve Irwin, the late lamented “Crocodile Hunter,” and his intrepid wife, Terri Irwin. She has also been hosting her own Australian TV show since she was 7, in which Bindi regularly faces-off with the same nasty critters that amused her father so.

But Bindi’s heroism doesn’t involve crocodiles on this occasion, but rather the treachery and deceit of American politics. She was asked to write an article about protecting the environment for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s e-journal. (I’m not sure why this is a topic for discussion by the Secretary of State, but never mind.) After spending many hours of school time writing the piece for the “Go Wild – Coming Together for Conservation” edition of the newsletter last month, Bindi received the edited version of her 1000 word essay from State and found that it was drastically changed to the point of being rewritten completely.  ( You can read the original essay—which isn’t bad at all—here, and the re-written one, on a substantially different topic, here. She refused to let it be published with her name as author, withdrew it, and called foul to the Australian press.

This is called integrity. It is a rare and exotic breed in today’s Washington, D.C. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Finis: The New Black Panthers Voter Intimidation Affair”

Michael, who also just made a “Comment of the Day”-worthy point regarding the recent post about schools banning homemade lunches for students (you can read it here), makes an important point about reports that dismiss allegations of government misconduct as “unsupported.” There is an obvious parallel with the public’s misinterpretation of verdicts finding the likes of O.J. Simpson (who did kill his wife and Ron Goldman) and Barry Bonds (who did lie to a Federal Grand Jury) “innocent” because the government prosecutors did not meet their burden of proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Here is Michael’s Comment of the Day on the post, Finis: The New Black Panthers Voter Intimidation Affair: Continue reading

Finis: The New Black Panthers Voter Intimidation Affair

The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, a careful, professional, non-partisan group charged with reviewing allegations of U.S. Government attorney misconduct, released the report on its investigation of the contentious Civil Rights Division handling of the case of two paramilitary-clad members of the New Black Panthers, one carrying a club, who appeared to be at a Philadelphia polling place in November 2008 for the purpose of intimidating voters. The men were videotaped, and the YouTube  video of them standing at the polling place was provocative, to say the least.

To briefly recap:  Voting Rights Act prosecution was initiated by the Bush Justice Department, and subsequently scaled down by the Obama Justice Department. Two career Civil Rights Division attorneys resigned over the handling of the incident, alleging that political appointees within the Obama Administration had pushed a policy of not prosecuting African-Americans under the Act—in other words, race-based enforcement. Continue reading

Adrian Fenty and the Leader’s Duty of Likability

Arch Lustberg is an old friend, and also a wise man. He is a communications trainer and expert par excellence, and the number of failed politicians who would have been elected had they hired him is legion, and growing with every election. One of Arch’s mantras is that likability is essential to trust. A public figure can be brilliant, creative, eloquent and effective, but if he or she is not liked, all of those assets may be not be enough to win the support of the public. Arch was proven right once again when D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, praised by the D.C. media for a series of reforms in the city, notably of the infamously bloated and ineffective school system, lost his bid for re-election. Fenty, as reported by the Washington Post, really believed that doing his job would be enough, that the symbolic gestures and image-building activities used by savvy leaders to cement their electoral base were unnecessary, a waste of time. Now he is out, defeated by an opponent who embraced the endorsement of Marion Barry, whose corruption of the D.C. political culture still endures, three decades after he was mayor.

If you think I am going to argue that Adrian Fenty is a principled public servant laid low by public ignorance and warped priorities, you are wrong. Continue reading