“I always try to find something good that comes out of conflicts like this, and perhaps people realize that this is not a Ferguson problem at all; it’s a problem around the country. And as long as people feel awkward and embarrassed in talking about the racism that exists, we can never, never, never attack it…The indifference of the patrol officer’s an indication that good people ought to say that you should be sorry when you take anybody’s life. It’s not just the question of what you thought of whether you were afraid…. his total indifference just polarized that community, and I only wish that — that they had not vented themselves in a violent way and taken advantage of people coming together, white and black, and saying that you should at least be able to say you made a hell of a big mistake at least.”
—–Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), wandering confused in the ethics wilderness while discussing the Ferguson mess on MSNBC.
I supposed we should expect Rep. Rangel to be completely muddled when it comes to ethics, given his own history. Still, seldom have I seen such a dog’s breakfast of responsible sentiments and ethics ignorance in the same set of comments:
- Congratulations are due to Rangel for admitting that this Ethics Train Wreck unfairly settled in Ferguson, which is being made to suffer disproportionately for the conduct of many communities and elected officials across the country, as well as the political opportunism of civil rights activists.
- However, public officials have an obligation to be clear. What “racism that exists,” exactly? Anywhere in the U.S.? Absolutely: let’s talk about it. In the shooting of Brown? No racism is in evidence at all: if that’s what Rangel is referring to, and many will assume its is, the statement is irresponsible. Was he talking about the grand jury decision, which was the context of the interview? Prove it, Charlie. Otherwise, stop planting distrust with a population that is paranoid already.
- Michael Brown’s actions, from Wilson’s point of view, forced him into a situation that has resulted in his career being ruined and life being permanently marred….and Rangel thinks Wilson should apologize? This is completely backward. Wilson owes no apologies to Brown, and certainly none to Brown’s parents, who have been carrying on a vendetta against him, calling him a murderer while expressing no acknowledgment that the son they raised had any responsibility for the confrontation that took his life. If anyone owes anybody an apology, it the parents who owe Wilson. Rangel thinks Wilson should apologize for trying to do his job, for not letting Brown take his gun, for not letting him resist arrest, for not letting himself be attacked, and that is ridiculous.
A bad day for Machiavelli is a good day for America.
Consequentialism rules supreme in Washington, D.C.; that is the tragedy of our political system. If unethical conduct is perceived as having a positive outcome, few in D.C. will continue to condemn the means whereby those beneficial and lauded were achieved. Worse, the results will be seen as validating the tactics, moving them from the category of ethically objectionable into standard practice, and for both political parties
Thus we should all reluctantly cheer the likely demise of the Senate’s gun control bill yesterday. The compromise background check provision that failed wasn’t perfect, but it would have been an improvement over the current system. Nevertheless, the post-Sandy Hook tactics of gun control advocates, including the President and most of the media, have been so misleading, cynical, manipulative and offensive that their tactics needed to be discouraged by the only thing that has real influence in the nation’s Capital: embarrassing failure.
The tainted enterprise begins with the fact that it should not have been a priority at this time at all. Newtown did not signal a crisis; it was one event, and that particular bloody horse had left the barn. The supposedly urgent need to “prevent more Sandy Hooks” was imaginary, but it apparently served the President’s purpose of distracting attention from more genuinely pressing matters, notably the stalled employment situation and the need to find common ground with Republican on deficit and debt reduction. Meanwhile, the conditions in Syria have been deteriorating and North Korea is threatening nuclear war: why, at this time, was the President of the United states acting as if gun control was at the top of his agenda? It was irresponsible, placing political grandstanding above governing. In this context, Obama’s angry words yesterday about the bill’s defeat being caused by “politics” were stunningly hypocritical. The whole effort by his party was about nothing other than politics. Continue reading
I hear Ralph was good with a knife.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, who uttered the title above, would have loved the Federal government, for which consistency in logic or policy is often alien indeed. In the midst of a mass effort to disarm the American people of guns with the dubious logic and arrogant presumption that they don’t need powerful weaponry since, after all, the government will save us, the TSA, it has been revealed to me by my observant son, has secretly adopted exactly the opposite position, using polar reasoning.
My son, who likes knives almost as much as he likes guns, showed me several potential weapons in his collection that would legally pass through the new air travel regulations. He notes that officials defending the lifting of the ban on blades that could do as much damage as the box cutters of 9/11 have pointed to the self-reliance of air passengers, who have subdued several mid-air threats. “Don’t you get it?” my son says. “They’re arming passengers! They won’t say that directly, but it’s pretty obvious. The passengers on Flight 93 had to boil water and use food carts. Now hijackers might be facing a hundred angry people with knives.”
I get it! An armed and ready populace is a good thing! When the government says so, that is. So…. it makes sense to arm untrained air passengers when they face a deadly threat without police nearby, but schools should be “gun free zones” and it’s nuts to arm untrained teachers…indeed, trained and law-abiding gun owners should be disarmed lest they shoot Harvey Milk. I hearby predict that the little knife policy will last until a child gets killed by a mad airplane coach passenger wielding one, whereupon President Obama will invoke his “save just one child” rule, Rep. Rangel will declare that millions of children are being killed by little knives, and Jim Carrey will tweet that nobody who cares about children would oppose a little knife ban. The knives will then be not only prohibited again on airplanes, but will be confiscated by edict, since there’s no Bill of Rights provision protecting little knife ownership.
The behavior of our elected officials is consistent after all.
Emerson’s quote applies perfectly.
Now if she gave a statistic like this, it would be news.
Rep. Charlie Rangel, I should mention at the outset, should have been sent home by his constituents after demonstrating beyond question that he had reached the point of entitlement and arrogance where he believes principles of ethics no longer apply to him. But the Democratic Party chose to nominate the venerable Harlem icon, and his loyal, if irresponsible, New York district re-elected him, as it has been doing approximately since the dawn of time. Don’t think for a moment that this doesn’t have relevance to Rangel’s recklessness in the case I’m going to discuss. Why should we expect Rangel to be responsible, accurate or prudent in his public statements if nobody will hold him accountable? It’s not as if ethics is going to be a priority for him for its own sake.
Discussing the demise of Diane Feinstein’s assault weapon ban in the U.S. Senate, Rangel blamed the National Rifle Association in a videotaped, semi-incoherent rant that included this:
“I’m ashamed to admit it but its politics and its money. The NRA has taken this position, there is no reason, there is no foundation. There is no hunter that needs automatic military weapons to enjoy the culture of going hunting. But you know it’s really basically the absence of the voices of good people. I cannot believe that politicians are afraid of the NRA. We’re talking about millions of kids dying — being shot down by assault weapons, were talking about handguns easier in the inner cities, to get these guns in the inner cities, than to get computers. This is not just a political issue, it’s a moral issue and so when we condemn the NRA we should not ignore the fact that a lot of people that have taken moral positions have been solid on this big one.”
That’s right: Rep. Rangel said that millions of kids are being shot down by assault weapons. That’s what he said, on camera. Now, the facts in this case are not only easily checked, they are also at variance with reality in the approximate proportion that 2013’s America is not like Oz. Continue reading
We’ll never get a trustworthy Congress this way.
So much for “the wisdom of crowds.” Last night, knowing (theoretically, at least) that the one completely irrational choice for the nation at this critical juncture in its history is more gridlock born of ideological intransigence, voters sent a dysfunctional Congress back to Washington, opting for a radical conservative House and a radical liberal Senate despite telling pollsters that this was the least trusted Congress in history. Just to make sure compromise and movement would be as difficult as possible, the public also re-elected a President who, whatever his other virtues, has shown neither the ability nor the inclination to engage in effective negotiation with his political adversaries on the Hill. There were plenty of more responsible options available to voters:
- Commit to the President, and give his party majorities in both Houses of Congress so he could get his policies implemented, for better or worse,
- Give the Senate back to the GOP, so some of the bills the House has passed can be sent to the President’s desk
- Sweep everybody out and try a new team to see if it can do any better.
But no. The American public, in its infinite wisdom, opted for nearly the exact toxic partisan mix that has served the nation so miserably for the past two years. Unquestionably, the biggest ethics failure on election night was this one.
Yet there was progress, as voters rejected some of the more unethical officials offering their services. Unfortunately, these wise and ethical choices were greatly diluted by other unforgivable ones. On the plus side: Continue reading
“This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him, both due to the nature of our relationship and, you know, the fact that we’re both African-American.”
—-Attorney General Eric Holder, explaining what he believes to be the motives of “extreme factions” in their efforts to hold him accountable for the Justice Department’s “Fast and Furious” debacle in an interview with the New York Times.
That's right, Eric. It's not because you've been a pathetic Attorney General---heck, aren't they all?
Ah, the race card! What a versatile, powerful weapon in the arsenal of public figures under scrutiny, criticism and attack who happen to be African-American! How comforting it must be to know that when it gets really difficult, even impossible, to talk your way out of a mess of your own making, there us always this last ditch, accountability-ducking tactic that will cause reporters to recoil, accusers to quail, public sympathy to shift, and Al Sharpton and Tavis Smiley to leap to attention. Play the race card! Jesse and Al have made a career doing it. Clarence Thomas, Barry Bonds, Marion Barry, Armstrong Williams, Herman Cain, and so many others resorted to it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s always worth a try…unless, of course, you have sufficient dignity, honesty and integrity to resist the impulse. Say what you will about Charlie Rangel, and I’ve said plenty, but he never claimed that his ethics problems were due to his race. It’s strange to praise someone for not resorting to dishonest and unconscionable tactics, but so automatic is the race card ploy among prominent African Americans in peril that I think Rangel deserves more credit than I gave him. Continue reading
Sorry, Lance…good guys don’t cheat.
Back when Barry Bonds was still playing baseball, a sportswriter mused about why it was that everyone assumed Bonds was a performance-enhancing drug cheater despite his protestations to the contrary, while most Americans and sports journalists brushed away similar allegations regarding Lance Armstrong. Both competed in sports with acknowledged steroid abuse problems; indeed, the problem in bicycle racing was presumed to be more pervasive than in baseball. (A few years later, with the banning of multiple Tour winners, the presumption became a certainty.) Both athletes had improbable late career improvements in their performance to reach previously unimaginable dominance in their respective sports. Both had to explain or deflect multiple credible accusations of cheating and circumstantial evidence that suggested that they were doping. Both claimed they had never failed drug tests, and there were good reasons to doubt the denials.
So why was Bonds a villain by consensus and Lance an untouchable hero? The sportswriter explored many theories (Apologies: I cannot locate the article. If someone can, please send it), among them the greater popularity of baseball over cycling, Bond’s startling physical transformation into a behemoth while Armstrong remained cyclist-sinewy, Armstrong’s inspiring story as a cancer survivor, Armstrong’s philanthropic work,and the fact that Bonds, unlike Armstrong, was black. The biggest difference, however, and to the writer the key one, was that Armstrong acted the role of a hero, while Bonds refused to. Armstrong was friendly and accommodating, while Bonds was angry, intimidating and antagonistic. Armstrong seemed like someone who played by the rules, and who lived his ethical values. Bonds seemed like a rebel, one who wouldn’t hesitate to break the rules for his own benefit. In short, the public wanted Armstrong to be the hero he seemed to be, so they ignored the evidence linking him to performance-enhancing drugs.
After last Sunday, the disparate public perception of Bonds and Armstrong, always illogical, became unsustainable. Continue reading
Wisconsin Democrats have filed an ethics complaint against Governor Scott Walker.
The complaint, and the filing of it, are unethical. Really, really, really unethical. Here’s why. Continue reading
Will Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas be impeached because he failed to disclose his wife’s income, as required by Federal law, for at least five years? No.
Should he be? Probably not, though if it was proven that he intentionally used incorrect information, he could be found guilty of perjury. More likely is a civil penalty. In any event, his wife’s income isn’t a crucial piece of information in Thomas’s case, though his ideological enemies will argue otherwise. Such an omission is virtually never a cause for judicial discipline.
Is it a serious breach of his duties nonetheless? Yes. Continue reading
Happy New Year, and welcome to the Second Annual Ethics Alarms Awards, recognizing the Best and Worst of ethics in 2010!
This is the first installment of the Worst; the rest will appear in a subsequent post. (The Best is yet to come.) Continue reading