A President Was Right, The Bunker Hill Indiana Police Are Wrong…And Also Ethics Dunces:

bunker-hill-police-2016-12-14

In Bunker Hill, Indiana, the police department resigned en masse over complaints about mismanagement and alleged unethical requests from the town council.
Town Marshal Michael Thomison submitted his letter of resignation and the resignation letters from his four unpaid deputies during the regular meeting of the town board last week.

Thomison alleged in his “I quit! Write your own damn parking tickets!” letter that the town board asked him to be involved in “illegal, immoral and unethical conduct,” as well as cutting police support and refusing to communicate with the officers. The Bunker Hill town council issued a statement denying the accusations, but it doesn’t matter what the provocation was. The police were in the wrong. This was settled long ago, by a wise man who clarified a bedrock principle of public service. Doing so helped make him President of the United States.

In 1919, as America recovered World War I, prices were rising faster than wages. With soldiers returning from Europe flooding the U.S. labor market, the burgeoning labor movement seized the nation. One-fifth of the country’s workers went on strike that year. New York’s harbor workers, textile workers in Massachusetts,  dressmakers, phone workers, elevated train workers— a general strike in Seattle closed all businesses from February 6 to 11. Some feared a Communist take-over.

The Boston police force was at the end of its forbearance. Starting pay for new officers had not risen in 60 years; police wages were  lower than those of unskilled factory workers. Officers worked seven days a week, with a day off every other week. They could not leave town without special permission. The typical work week for police was between 72 and 98 hours, and officers were required to sleep in the station houses, where conditions were uniformly horrible, with sub-standard sanitation, baths, beds, and toilets.

By June of 1919, with their legitimate grievances unaddressed, the police tried to unionize. The Massachusetts governor and his attorney general put forward legislation to make unionization illegal for public employees. The police responded  by voting 1,134 to 2 in favor of a strike, and scheduled it to start at evening roll call the next day.

On September 9, 1919, the Boston Police Department officers went on strike. Boston descended into lawlessness, with everything from petty crimes to looting and riots, and the  harassment of the striking officers. The mayor and the governor called out the State Guard, with the governor being adamant that there would be no settlement of grievances until the police returned to their jobs. To show he wasn’t bluffing, he eventually had  5,000 State Guards guarding the city with  mobile units using machine guns. His blunt and unequivocal statement made him nationally famous:

“There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.”

The police strike collapsed. By mid-December, the police commissioner had hired a new police force with higher pay, better working conditions, and additional holidays.

Police didn’t even have to pay for their own uniforms any more.

The next year that stalwart governor was nominated as Vice President on the Republican presidential ticket. By 1921, he was Vice President, and by 1923, President of the United States. His famous pronouncement about strikes against the public safety was one of his least concise statements. He was, of course, Calvin Coolidge.

Silent Cal was right in 1919, and he’s still right. Whatever the provocation and however just their cause, the Bunker Hill police were harming the public when they quit without notice or warning, and violated the public trust.

Meanwhile, Miami County Sheriff Tim Miller says that county deputies will patrol the town and respond to calls until a new police department can be hired.

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Comment of the Day (And Response): “MORE Gender Issues Confusion Monday, PART 3:The New York Times’ Hit Piece On Donald Trump And Women”

I am late posting this provocative and wide-ranging comment from repeat-Comment of the Day author Chris Marschner. Chris attempts to explain, and even defend, the unwillingness of  Donald Trump supporters to find literally any misconduct or verbal outrage sufficient reason to reject him. On the way, he touches on affirmative action, SNAP, voter ID laws, the transgender bathroom controversy, and more.

I’ll have some substantial comments at the end. for for now, here is Chris Marschner’s Comment of the Day on the post, MORE Gender Issues Confusion Monday, PART 3:The New York Times’ Hit Piece On Donald Trump And Women:

[Commenter Humble Talent] stated, “Pundits don’t understand why saying dumb things about women or minorities doesn’t skewer him. I do: His voters don’t care. His voters don’t care where people pee, they don’t care how many abortions the lady down the street gets, they don’t care about racism, sexism or whatever-phobias. They care about taking care of their families. They care about jobs. This is the demographic Bernie and Trump tapped into. People not like us. Uneducated people. People living day to day. Bills to pay and mouths to feed, when nothing in the world is free.”

First let me say that I find Trump’s rhetoric distasteful and I did not vote for him in the Maryland primary.

Labeling all Trump supporters as “uneducated and unlike us” may be too simplistic. Actually many do care where people pee or how many abortions take place. You might want to consider that it is just a matter of priorities when faced with the possibility that a progressive candidate like Hillary Clinton might get elected leading to further stagnation of their upward mobility while forcing them to succumb to even more government intrusion into their lives.

Perhaps there is also a group of educated voting taxpayers who are tired of being labeled as social misanthropes when engaging in reasonable debate over a variety of issues. Many well educated people who earn more than the median income but less than that which is necessary to be absolutely financially independent understand the economic repercussions of challenging some progressive ideas that are at odds with their own reasoned thinking. How exactly does a conservative faculty member debate a topic when he/she runs the risk of being labeled a racist, Uncle Tom, misogynist or other type of person in what could be called the “Hater” segment of society for not towing the employer’s or the group’s normative thinking. How many business owners publically regurgitate the progressive ideology or opt for a low profile to avoid the onslaught of protesters that can threaten that which they may have spent a lifetime working long hours to build

I could also argue that many private corporate cultures are an outgrowth of weighing the economic pros and cons of taking an ideological stand and often opt for the culture that prevents further costly governmental intrusion into their operating policies. Only a few have challenged the government’s desire to dictate corporate culture and policy.

Continue reading

Three Strikes And You’re Untrustworthy: Why VA Secretary Robert McDonald Must Be Fired

McDonald

I was going to post this story as an Ethics Quiz when I first saw it yesterday at the Huffington Post.  The most recent head of the troubled Veteran’s Affairs Dept., Robert McDonald, falsely claimed in a videotaped comment that he served in the Army’s elite special forces. In fact, his military service of five years was in fact spent almost entirely with the 82nd Airborne Division during the late 1970s. The quiz question was going to be whether this alone required his dismissal.

My conclusion: assuming that he only did something like this only once, and it was not a Sen. Richard Blumenthal or a Brian Williams situation involving repeated self-glorifying falsehoods, I would have been willing to let this pass were he not in the position he is in: Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Veterans are justly sensitive on the topic of stolen valor and imaginary service. The last individual to hold McDonald’s job was asleep on the job and betrayed his constituency: they should not be asked to trust a successor who lies about his military service, even once. I understand that this is a tough verdict, and why others could reasonably argue that one casual remark to cheer a homeless veteran should not be a career catastrophe. In fact, as I write that, I’m thinking that I could be persuaded to adopt that position as well.

However, that is not all there is to this situation. For McDonald had already shown a tendency to play fast and loose with facts, perhaps influenced by his boss, who is similarly inclined, and the Vice -President, of course, when he isn’t harassing women. Continue reading

Marion Barry and The Julie Principle

Poor Julie. Luckily for her, she didn't exist. Washington, D.C. does.

Poor Julie. Luckily for her, she didn’t exist. Washington, D.C. does.

The Washington Post just discovered that D.C. Councilman Marion Barry is unethical, and boy, is it steamed!

Well, that’s not quite fair. The Post editors authored an editorial about Barry’s latest example of his complete rejection of ethical principles other than his guiding star, which is “If it’s good for Marion Barry, it’s good for everyone else.” Barry recently published a self-congratulatory, delusional autobiography (I nearly wrote about it, but I was afraid doing so would make me nauseous), “Mayor for Life,” and right in the acknowledgments, he announces that one of his council aides, LaToya Foster, spent “nights, weekends, and many long hours of assistance” working on book at taxpayer expense.  Using D.C. government employees as his personal staff was standard operating procedure for Barry during his various pre- and post-crack terms as mayor, so there is little chance that he played it straight this time. No chance, really. A Washington City Paper investigation of calendar entries and emails showed that Foster’s work on Barry’s book “stretched far beyond her off-hours and into the D.C. Council workday, an arrangement that appears to violate D.C. Council ethics rules.”

The Post should stop editorializing about Barry’s ethics and instead focus attention where it might do some good: the D.C. voters and citizens he has thoroughly exploited and corrupted. Barry is a prime example of what I have dubbed The Julie Principle, evoking the famous lyrics of Julie’s lament in “Show Boat,” “Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly…”   If Oscar Hammerstein was writing those lyrics today about Barry, the song, sung by voters of D.C.’s Ward 8, would go,

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly”

Marion Barry will cheat, steal and lie..

Can’t help loving that man of mine. Continue reading

In Marion’s Footsteps: the Jaw-Dropping Shamelessness of Harry Thomas Jr.

A true role model: Washington D.C. politicians ask, "What would Marion Barry do?"

The most notable scoundrel in recent Washington D.C. government history is former mayor and current City Council member Marion Barry, he of  “The bitch set me up!” fame. What marked Barry was and is his remarkable shamelessness. Whether he was caught smoking crack, or giving government salaries to girlfriends, or not paying his taxes, or engaging in any number of other public and personal outrages, his attitude has always been to shrug his shoulders and presume that everyone will just let him go on being an elected political leader, as if his complete disrespect for law, honesty and responsibility is irrelevant to his qualifications to serve. And you know what? In the District of Columbia, he is correct.

He is also not alone in this attitude, in part because Barry has helped mightily to warp the ethical culture in his city over the past three decades. His most recent disciple is D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), who has just agreed to repay the District $300,000 of the taxpayer dollars he misappropriated  for his personal and political use. D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan announced last week that his office was withdrawing a one million dollar lawsuit against Thomas in exchange for that settlement, saving the District the cost of litigation. The lawsuit had been backed up with strong evidence that Thomas used public funds to fund golf trips to Pebble Beach, buy himself an Audi SUV, and in a nice touch of class, pay for a $143.71 visit to Hooters. Funds budgeted by the council for youth baseball was diverted by Thomas to Team Thomas, a nonprofit founded and controlled by the Council member. Naturally, Thomas also was shown to have engaged in plenty of old-fashioned graft,  soliciting gifts and contributions from private businesses contracting with the city.

Is Thomas ashamed? Contrite? Apologetic? Nah! And he isn’t planning on leaving his job, either. Instead, he issued this nauseating statement, saying in part: Continue reading

Appearance of Impropriety II: “Here’s Approval For That Deal You Wanted…What? Sure I’d Like to Work for You! Wow, I Never Saw THAT Coming!”

What's there to be suspicious about?

Meredith Attwell Baker, a member of the Federal Communications Commission who voted to approve Comcast’s takeover of NBC Universal in January, is leaving to  become senior vice president of government affairs for ….Comcast-owned NBC Universal.

Hey, why are you so suspicious, you jaded cynic, you? Comcast says it did not begin discussions with Baker about a possible job until after the takeover had her seal of approval. So it’s all on the up and up! Right? Right?

Okay, let’s say we believe that, since doing otherwise would amount to bribery. It doesn’t matter, and I don’t care. Taking a major job with  a company whose back you scratched with a favorable ruling as a government regulator looks terrible, promotes public distrust, erodes faith in regulatory structures, and is unethical. There are other jobs in the world for people with Baker’s credentials; she doesn’t have to take one that makes the U.S.  government’s business regulatory apparatus look like it’s fixed.

A condition of any regulator’s employment with a federal agency should be a pledge that he or she will never accept a paid position for a company that has benefited from the regulator’s rulings…not in a year, not in a decade, not ever.

Comment of the Day: “The Ethicists, Backing Judge Walker and Gay Marriage, At An Unacceptable Price”

The motion to vacate Judge Walker’s ruling on Proposition 8 has been filed, you can read it here. Since the original post, I have detected some cracks in the formerly near-united front of legal ethicists and journalists deriding Walker’s critics. Some of them are finally, grudgingly, admitting that the Judge might not have handled his potential conflict so well after all, and that the motion is not a frivolous, anti-gay outrage as they originally labelled it.  The most rickety of the rationalizations put forth on Walker’s behalf, advanced by some his most respected defenders, is that he had no obligation to reveal his own sexual orientation by disclosing his domestic arrangement because of its intimate and private nature. Yet the judge voluntarily disclosed it after his decision was in the books, raising a rebuttable presumption that his original silence was to avoid suggestions of conflict, not out of a desire for privacy.

First time commenter Jada adds her Comment of the Day to the discussion: Continue reading

The Ethicists, Backing Judge Walker and Gay Marriage, At An Unacceptable Price

"Oh, all right...as long as we like the decision."

Thanks to the Judge Walker controversy, now have proof that the best legal ethicists in the nation are human. I suppose that’s something.

My colleagues in the legal ethics field are arguing—decreeing, really— that Judge Vaughn Walker’s decade-long same-sex relationship didn’t need to be disclosed before he ruled against Proposition 8 (California’s voter-approved gay marriage ban) because, they say, it created no reasonable doubts about his impartiality. Coincidentally, they also really, really like his decision. But then, so do I. Continue reading

When Satire Is No Excuse: The Jeff Cox Affair

Now if Cox came to work like this, I take it all back...

Indiana deputy attorney general Jeff Cox tweeted “use live ammunition” in response to a tweet by progressive magazine Mother Jones that riot police had been ordered to remove union supporters from the Wisconsin state Capitol in Madison. Mother Jones published the tweet as evidence of what it believes is the predominant conservative mindset, and the progressive blogosphere was soon using his tweet as a rallying cry.

Cox was fired Wednesday. Quite correctly, too. Continue reading

More on Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut’s Lying Attorney General

Now that we know a little bit more about Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Attorney General whose pursuit of a U.S. Senate seat has him periodically masquerading as a Vietnam War veteran, it is clear that simply defeating him at the polls isn’t enough. He should be impeached as Attorney General, and deserves professional discipline from the Connecticut Bar as well. Why? Well, he’s an unrepentant serial liar on a grand scale. Lawyers, including Attorney Generals, are prohibited from engaging in dishonesty, misrepresentation, fraud and deceit, and it is professional misconduct when this rises to a level that calls a lawyer’s trustworthiness and fitness to practice law into question. Does pretending to have credentials, especially military combat experience, that you do not have in order to get a job reach this level?

Of course it does. Continue reading