KABOOM! There’s nothing else to say, really…My head is all over the room…

Voter fraud

Melowese Richardson, a poll worker who was convicted of multiple counts of voter fraud and just released on probation from a five year prison sentence, was brought up on stage  to rousing applause as Rev. Al Sharpton joined State Representative Alicia Reece at a rally to kick off the drive for an Ohio “Voter’s Bill of Rights” amendment.

My head is scattered all over my hotel room, so I am struggling to be articulate, restrained and calm.

The cynicism of Democrats on the voter fraud issue approaches…oh, hell, I can’t do it!

HOW DARE THEY? Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Virginia Democratic Lieutenant Governor Candidate Ralph Northam

Democratic Party candidate Ralph Northam cannot possibly lose the Virginia Lieutenant Governor race today; in fact, he should win by a landslide. His Republican opponent, African-American minister E. W. Jackson, is so conservative he makes his running mate, gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, look like Saul Alinsky, and I’m only exaggerating a little bit. From the pulpit, he has made statements that sound like they were ghosted by Pat Robertson in one of his crazy moods, like when he seemed to be suggesting that children with birth defects were being punished for their parents sins. Jackson doesn’t believe in evolution, thinks that government programs have done more harm to blacks than slavery, and could fairly be described as homophobic.

Still, he is a citizen, a candidate and a human being, so when he offered his hand to his soon-to-be victorious opponent Northam following a TV debate, there was only one decent, civil, ethical, statesmanlike response for Northam: take it, and shake it. That is traditional, civilized, and polite, and for Northam to do what he chose to do instead—ignore Jackson and his hand and snub the Republican, refusing even to look him in the eye—on live TV, no less!— shows him to be an arrogant, unmannered, uncivil jerk of the breed that has brought American politics, government and discourse to a new low. Continue reading

The Associated Press And The Scandal That Wasn’t

It was tough giving my dog the bad news that the AP had screwed up...

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

Ten Ethics Observations On The Government Shut-Down


Stipulated: I am not in generally favor of government shutdowns, just as I do not favor strikes, boycotts, Massada-style mass suicides, wars, or any other destructive tactics, strategies and actions in response to impasses over important matters. Sometimes, however, they are necessary and responsible. Sometimes, they are not.

1. It is fascinating reading the comments on the shutdown from my friends on Facebook. It is startling how many of them simply parrot back partisan talking points they have heard on CNN and MSNBC, but especially striking are the angry rants of the government employees who appear to take the shutdown as a personal affront. How dare the evil Republicans disrupt their lives, their paychecks, their work schedule, their vacations! I wonder if my friends have the same reactions to labor strikes, wars and national disasters. Do they really believe that those elected officials struggling to decide on crucial matters of policy, firmly believing in a course that is right for the nation and reaching an impasse, should just shrug off the serious implications of the issue at hand and say, “But, hey, Joe Finsterwald will have a tough time if his agency has to shut down, and the Bradys’ DC vacation will be ruined, so the heck with it: go ahead with that law we think will be a disaster for the country. We’ll back off.” Do those Facebook complainers really think that would be responsible governance? You know, guys, this isn’t personal: it’s called politics and two party government. It’s part of the deal. Disagree with the policy arguments if you have the knowledge and perspective to do so, but taking the position that the entire business of running the country revolves around your convenience over the next few days or weeks is as juvenile as it is irresponsible. If you work for a private company, you risk disruptions because of business failures, competition and re-organizations. If you work for the government, you risk things like this. It’s not only about you.

2. What various polls show about what the American public believes or doesn’t believe is irrelevant, and anyone on either side of the dispute who cites them as support for the Affordable Care Act or gutting the Affordable Care Act is either naive or trying to deceive. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “The Right Thing In Spite Of Themselves: CNN And NBC Abandon Their Hillary Projects”

Frequent commenter and left-leaning warrior Ampersand delivers a typically provocative and well-stated comment touching on many matters. Here is his

I'm sure it's justcoincidence that no similarly misleading and undignified photo of President Obama found its way into the newsmedia during the 2012 campaign. Just luck of the draw. Could have just as easily happened to Democrat or Republican...

I’m sure it’s just coincidence that no similarly misleading and undignified photo of President Obama found its way into the newsmedia during the 2012 campaign. Just luck of the draw. Could have just as easily happened to Democrat or Republican…

Comment of the Day, on the post “The Right Thing In Spite Of Themselves: CNN And NBC Abandon Their Hillary Projects,” and yes, I’ll have some comment of my own afterwards:

“Especially in primary debates, I’d like to see more partisanship. Why shouldn’t candidates in the GOP primaries face questions from solidly right-wing partisans? Why shouldn’t the Democrats have to face questions from solidly left-wing partisans? There are a couple of reasons I’d like to see this.

“One, primary voters are typically more partisan than average voters. Their views should be represented. Rush is more likely to ask questions that genuinely reflect the concerns of tea party voters than some empty suit from CNN is. Ditto for Melissa Harris Perry (say) and progressives.

“Two, I’m sick of right-wingers whining about media bias every time their candidates prove to be idiots. It is NOT biased or ‘gotcha’ to ask what magazines a candidate reads; and if a candidate can’t think fast enough on her feet to answer that question, it’s NOT the media’s fault. I’d really like to see your people being asked questions only by people with impeccable right-wing credentials, so that when some of your candidates inevitably give bad answers, you’ll be forced to actually accept some actual responsibility, rather than whining and blaming everything on the “biased’ media. Continue reading

Vote Rugby Marshall For Governor Of Virginia: It’s The Right Thing To Do!

That's Rugby on the right...

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

Sen. Inouye And The Duty To Leave

A distinguished life, missing one important act of leadership

A distinguished life, missing one important act of leadership

Washington D.C. and Hawaii are awash in tributes to the late Senator Daniel Inouye, who died last week, in office, at the age of 88. This is as it should be. Inouye was a historic figure in his state, a war hero (a Congressional Medal of Honor recipeient, in fact) , a statesman, in in all respects, from every source I’ve seen, the epitome of an honorable U.S. Senator and a good man.

But he stayed too long at his job. This is an obvious statement, since he dropped dead while still committed to filling his position for four more years. In 2010, Inouye ran for office knowing that he would be 92 when he finished his term. In this he was irresponsible, just as his former colleagues Robert Byrd, Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms and many, many others were irresponsible before him. Senator Inouye even allowed himself to become President pro tem of the Senate, placing him third in line to succeed to the Presidency, after the Vice President and Speaker of the House.

We do not need term limits: if the voters, as they do, choose to keep electing representatives on the basis of nostalgia, or laziness, or fear of change, or loyalty, that’s democracy, just as it’s democracy that they elect officials for no better reasons than the fact that they had popular or successful grandfathers, parents, and spouses. The presumption in democracy is that we elect leaders who are better qualified to assess our best interests than we are, and that means that we should be able to trust them to know when it’s time to take themselves out of the active process of governing, and to remove from us the opportunity to irresponsibly confer power on those who are no longer fit to wield it. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Florida Governor Rick Scott

Less worthy of integrity than cashing a check or renting a car, according to the Justice Department.

I should add to the heroes list the governors of the states that are challenging the Justice Department over blocking their voter ID requirements as well, but Scott is a worthy representative. His law suit is a little different than theirs, but the principle is the same, the target—Eric Holder’s politicized and incompetent Justice Department—is the same, and the objective, ensuring the integrity of elections, is also the same.

The Department of Justice, of all institutions, shouldn’t be adopting the sadly popular phisosophy, growing like mold on a large segment of progressive America, that it is wrong to enforce legitimate laws if doing so risks having disparate impact on particular groups. It certainly shouldn’t be using its power to join in the desperate race-baiting that seems to be part of the desperate Democratic game plan for President Obama’s re-election. Attorney General Holder has been making the rounds of African-American groups, rattling the civil rights sabers and proclaiming that requiring voters to show proof of identity and citizenship is a racist plot. This is either cynical politics or proof of intellectual deficiency, and since it is Holder, telling which is difficult. Holder, after all, requires identification to get into his building, his office, and his public appearances, but presumably nobody would accuse the first black and most race-conscious Attorney General in the nation’s history of being anti-black. Yet I  submit that the importance of ensuring the integrity of  elections in a democracy is rather more important than ensuring that only citizens get to hear Holder make speeches accusing states of racism and voter-suppression for attempting to enforce the law. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Problem of the Buried Video

"He stole my vote!"

The video is meaningless. It shows college student Barry Obama speaking at a 1991 rally for radical college professor Derek Bell. At one point, the future president hugs Bell. So what you say? No kidding. That doesn’t mean that the anti-Obama truth squad wouldn’t try to make something out of it; indeed, they are now. The video has surfaced as Andrew Breitbart’s farewell poke in the eye to Democrats, and it’s not much of a poke.

The only interesting aspect of the tape is that Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree said that he had the video and buried it during the 2008 campaign.  “I hid this during the 2008 campaign,” Ogletree said. “I don’t care if they find it now.”

Your Ethics Quiz: Is it unethical for an individual to hide theoretically damaging material relating to a presidential candidate he favors until after the election, if the material in fact contains nothing that would affect the vote of any individual with  intelligence superior to that of the average civic-minded horseshoe crab?

My answer: Definitely. I don’t care whether the information is extra-marital affairs, drug use, a DUI or appearing at a frat party in a tutu. No one has the right to withhold information, even stupid and useless information, from the media and electorate.  If the information is relevant, then the public has a right to know about it. If it isn’t, as this tape appears to be, then why hide it? If the tape was intentionally kept from the public, the conduct can’t be defended on the basis that it did no harm—the intent was to do harm. If one person would have changed his vote because he doesn’t want a President who ever hugged Derek Bell, even though that person is probably a fool, no one had no right to take away that vote through deception.

It’s all hypothetical, apparently, because Prof. Ogletree has explained that his “confession” was a joke, and was understood as such when he made it, if not reported that way. [Thanks to Barry Deutch for the link.]

So nobody hid anything, and those those horseshoe crabs who voted for Obama weren’t deceived after all.

Voting Reform Ethics

It is interesting that Attorney General Eric Holder would choose to become the point man for a  partisan effort by the Obama administration to demonize new voter qualification measures in 14 states. Holder is an embarrassment, credibly accused of lying to Congress in its efforts to get to the bottom of the Fast and Furious fiasco, and justifiably regarded by objective observers as incompetent even before his claim that the botched and deadly gun-smuggling operation went on under his nose without his cognizance, because, you know, he doesn’t read his e-mails. There are many viable theories why President Obama hasn’t yet asked Holder to leave, all plausible, all disturbing: Obama really thinks he’s doing a good job; Obama is being loyal to a loyal employee to the detriment of the nation; Obama is too passive an executive to fire anybody; Obama is afraid of backlash if he fires his highest-ranking black appointee; and my personal favorite, Holder may be horrible, but he’s not as horrible as the last Attorney General, Alberto Gonzalez, whom Bush refused to fire. Also inexcusably.

It is possible that Holder’s speech equating reasonable reforms to limit the opportunities for voter fraud with voter suppression was calculated as a way to ingratiate himself to left-leaning media critics whose support he will surely need as the Fast and Furious noose tightens. It is possible that his argument that the measures are aimed at minorities and the poor is part of Team Obama’s electoral strategy to divide the country—further—along lines of economic status, race and ethnicity. It is even possible that he is sincere. No matter: it is an unjustifiable argument. Continue reading