Hope Lives! D.C. Votes For Ethics

Time for a new fish head in the District of Columbia.

Time for a new fish head in the District of Columbia.

A continuing battle on Ethics Alarms, one that bursts into flame when elections loom, is whether it is responsible to vote for an unethical candidate for office because he or she supports policies the voter favors. I resolutely vote “no” on that proposition, believing that in the long run, government and society are better served by plodding but trustworthy public servants than wily and corrupt ones. The ideal, of course, is to find candidates who are competent, trustworthy, dedicated and who pursue effective policies. Good luck.

Few cities have embraced the opposite of the Ethics Alarms approach more consistently than the District of Columbia. The nation’s most liberal region has traditionally chosen to ignore corrupt city officials, and has paid a high price. A culture of corruption has been festering in the District for decades, spear-headed by the smug, machine-politics reign of Marion Barry, elected both before and after a prison sentence for possessing crack (in the midst of an anti-drug campaign for schoolchildren, naturally). Barry still pollutes D.C. government as a city councilman, but his legacy is complete: the whole government is an ethics sewer.

In 2013, more than thirty D.C. employees were arrested, indicted, pleaded guilty or were sent to jail from  such diverse cesspools as the D.C. Department of Employment Services, the Department of Human Services, the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp., a city-owned hospital, the Office of Campaign Finance, D.C. Medicaid, the Corrections Department, a charter school and Medicare. The tally of money embezzled, accepted in bribes, defrauded or spent on illegal political campaign contributions was about $19 million. Former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. pleaded guilty to stealing $350,000 in taxpayer money meant to benefit children. Former council chairman Kwame Brown pleaded guilty to a felony bank fraud charge; and former council member Michael A. Brown confessed to an illegal bribery scheme. Colbert King, the Washington Post’s city beat columnist who tirelessly urges the city to clean up its act cataloged the extent of D.C.’s corruption last year. He pointed out:

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The President And The Redskins: Learning Curve Flat As Ever

An updated graph of President Obama's learning curve on his practice of gratuitous commentary on the jobs, businesses, and duties of others. Oddly, it looks exactly like the last such graph, and the graph before that...

The  updated graph of President Obama’s learning curve regarding the Presidential practice of gratuitous commentary on the jobs, businesses, and duties of others. Oddly, it looks exactly like the last such graph, and the graph before that…

In the long list of example of President Obama interfering with private decisions, court cases and local matters that the occupant of highest office in the land has an obligation not to meddle in, his comments on the Washington Redskins are among the least annoying. It was a wishy-washy statement, all in all, that he gave to the AP:

“If I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team — even if it had a storied history — that was offending a sizable group of people, I’d think about changing it.”

Does anyone doubt that owner of the Washington Redskins, Dan Snyder, hasn’t thought about it? On its face, the statement is petty, but of course, as the President resolutely refuses to learn, everything the President of the United States says, scripted or non-, regarding national policy or local matters, be they about red lines or how victims of gun violence look like his son, the President’s comments are seized upon, blown out of proportion, spun, used as weapons, provocations and ammunition, and generally warp public policy discourse, public opinion and personal and local decision-making. Continue reading

D.C.’s Official, Tolerant, Peaceful and Just Oppression of Donnie McClurkin

Donnie McCutcheon: Unfit to honor MLK Jr.?

Donnie McClurkin: Unfit to honor MLK Jr.?

Grammy Award-winning gospel singer Donnie McClurkin, who is African-American and also a pastor, is furious that he was dumped from the roster of performers at “Reflections on Peace: From Gandhi to King,” a city-sponsored concert on August 10 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, honoring the 50th anniversary of King’s March on Washington. He should be furious; so should any authentic follower of Dr. King. By targeting McClurkin, lesser men than King shamed his legacy by showing disdain for principles the martyred civil rights leader fought for, like tolerance, courage, honesty and inclusiveness. You see, McClurkin’s politically incorrect views on homosexuality rendered him, to the arbiters of political discourse, unfit to perform.

Courage among the District’s political leaders is almost in as short supply as trustworthiness, as city Mayor Vincent Gray demonstrated by caving to complaints made by, his office explained, a dozen people, including local gay activist and longtime civil rights advocate Phil Pannell. Pannell called the gospel singer’s public statements on homosexuality “vile.” Wow, a dozen people and one prominent activist! Pretty near a whole nation was opposed to King when he started his crusade for civil rights, and his successors can’t mount the courage to tell a dozen people advocating political discrimination to pound sand. Continue reading

Slate’s Unethical “Redskins” Blackout

You know what Redskins really means, don't you? It means standing up to political correctness bullies.

You know what Redskins really means, don’t you? It means standing up to political correctness bullies.

Via the usually rational reporter David Plotz, we learn that Slate has decided that the Political Correctness Gods will no longer allow the on-line magazine to use the name of Washington’s NFL team when it is reporting on Washington’s NFL team. This is, of course, presumptuous, arrogant, and lousy journalism. It is not the media’s job to re-make the world into what pleases them. Slate doesn’t like the Redskins name so it’s not going to publish it. This seems to be the current mode of operation in the media today–it is no longer dedicated to reporting and commenting on the news, but rather reporting and commenting on the news it doesn’t find “offensive.”

The Redskins, as a team nickname, is certainly the strongest case for those who believe in censorship of team names with ethnic or national origins. The NCAA has already gone way beyond any rational execution of that mission however, and even in the case of Redskins, an unquestionably racist term when applied to Native Americans, the objection to a sports  team name with supposedly negative historical implication has a lot of the “a chink in the armor” nonsense about it. For in Washington, D.C. and in football bars and Sunday afternoon gatherings, Redskins is not a slur, and does not refer to native Americans. It is the name given to a squad of NFL players who play pro football in the name of Washington, D.C., and a franchise that is worshiped in the city. When the name is used, it is not aimed at Native Americans or intended to denigrate them. It does not refer to Native Americans, and not intended to give offense. It is intended to designate the football team, because that is the team’s name. How can someone be offended at the use of a name that is not intended and is not a slur in the context of the use in question? There two answers to this: 1) Most people, including rational Native Americans, aren’t, and 2) Because such people want to be offended.

The name “Redskins” was never intended as a slur, as I have explained here before. Continue reading

Political Correctness, Abuse of Power, the Redskins, and Spite

I’m sure glad I don’t own the Washington Redskins.

Boston RedskinsI say this without even considering the current problem of having a head coach who let the franchise player ruin his knee. I’m glad I’m not Dan Snyder because the annual sniping about his team’s unfortunate name pulls me in opposite directions ethically and emotionally, and I don’t enjoy being Rumpelstiltskin.*

If I owned the Washington Redskins and was being pragmatic as well as ethical, I’d just bite the bullet (oops! Is that phrase banned now?) and change the team’s name. The debate is stupid, but it’s a distraction no sports franchise needs. I would dig in my heels against political correctness zealots who demand that the Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Blackhawks and other Native American-themed names get tossed in the ash heap of history, but “redskins” is undeniably a term of racist derision, despite the fact that it isn’t that in the context of football. In football, it just means those NFL players in red and gold that a whole city worships year round.

If, however, I wanted to take a much needed stand against the unethical tactics of political correctness bullies everywhere, refuse to yield to an argument that is as dishonest as it is illogical , I might well do what Snyder has done so far out of pure orneriness and spite, which is to say to the team’s critics, “Stick it!” Continue reading