Ethics Quote of the Week: Senator Rand Paul

Senator Paul, forever young.

Senator Paul, forever young.

“I think that’s the real hypocrisy, is that people on our side, which include a lot of people who made mistakes growing up, admit their mistakes but now still want to put people in jail for that. Had he been caught at Andover, he’d have never been governor, he’d probably never have a chance to run for the presidency.”

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky), in reaction to Jeb Bush’s admission that he smoked marijuana heavily as a student. Bush currently opposes the legalization of medical marijuana.

Oh, great: Rand Paul is 16 years old.

The chip off the old libertarian block Ron Paul (who would legalize heroin, ecstasy, LSD, you name it) now proves that he has no idea what hypocrisy is. It is troubling: Senator Paul is an MD, and can be an articulate and powerful speaker;  he can take bold strategic political steps that his Republican colleagues are too timid to try, like correctly charging Hillary Clinton with complicity in her husband’s sexual predation,  but he repeatedly conveys the impression that he’s just not all that bright. This quote is a sterling example. Continue reading

Reflections On President’s Day, 2012: A United States Diminished in Power, Influence and Ideals

Rep. Ron Paul is fond of saying that the United States shouldn’t be the world’s policeman, and thanks to irresponsible stewardship of America’s resources and horrific maintenance of its ideals, his wish has already come true. One result is a world that has no functioning opposition to evil, a world at the mercy of chaos with no champion or guiding inspiration in sight. The other result is a United States that no longer stands for its own founding principles.

For proof, we have only to look as far as Syria, where a brutal dictator is killing his own people at an accelerating rate. Although his people have tired of his tyranny, Hafez al-Assad, like Gaddafi before him, seems determined to kill as many of his own countrymen as he has to in order to stay in power. Our President, Barack Obama, has delivered stern admonitions and disapprovals, which is this President’s style and approximately as effective as tossing water balloons. The Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton, expresses frustration, for all the good that does. The killing, of course, goes on.

If you think I’m going to advocate U.S. action in Syria, you are wrong. Quite simply, we can’t afford it—not with a Congress and an Administration that appear unwilling and unable to confront rising budget deficits and crushing debt with sensible tax reform and unavoidable entitlement reductions. Yesterday Congress and the President passed yet another government hand-out of money it doesn’t have and refuses to raise elsewhere, among other things continuing to turn unemployment insurance, once a short-term cushion for job-seekers, into long-term government compensation for the unemployed. Part of the reckless debt escalation was caused by the last President unconscionably engaging in overseas combat in multiple theaters without having the courage or sense  to insist that the public pay for it, and the current administration is incapable of grasping that real money, not just borrowed funds, needs to pay for anything. The needle is well into the red zone on debt; we don’t have the resources for any discretionary military action.

Ron Paul thinks that’s a good thing, as do his libertarian supporters. President Obama, it seems, thinks similarly. They are tragically wrong. Though it is a popular position likely to be supported by the fantasists who think war can just be wished away, the narrowly selfish who think the U.S. should be an island fortress, and those to whom any expenditure that isn’t used to expand  cradle-to-grave government care is a betrayal of human rights, the abandonment of America’s long-standing world leadership in fighting totalitarianism, oppression, murder and genocide is a catastrophe for both the world and us. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: The Washington Post

"I am wearing this bag for the benefit of my former employer while I rip him to shreds."

“A person involved in Paul’s businesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid criticizing a former employer, said Paul and his associates decided in the late 1980s to try to increase sales by making the newsletters more provocative. They discussed adding controversial material, including racial statements, to help the business, the person said.”

The Washington Post, in a story by Jerry Markon and Alice Crites (“Paul pursued strategy of publishing controversial newsletters, associates say”) that contradicted Rep. Ron Paul’s denials that he was aware of or endorsed racially offensive content in newsletters published under his name during the 1990s.

The inherent dishonesty of the anonymous source of the Post’s story apparently didn’t register on the paper’s reporters or editors. It wasn’t that the source wanted anonymity to avoid criticizing Paul; he, she or it wanted anonymity to avoid accountability for the information being revealed in order to attack Paul.

How credible is a source whose anonymity is justified by an obvious lie? Not very, but apparently credible enough for the Washington Post to base a 1700 word story on anonymous allegations, essentially branding Paul as a liar without giving its readers any basis on which to assess the motives or credibility of the accuser.

[Ethics Alarms thanks James Taranto for the point.]

Ethics Hero: Rep. Ron Paul

The identity of Mitt Romney's knight in shining armor was a surprise, but it shouldn't have been.

Ron Paul is, to engage in understatement, unusual, and often in a good way. How many politicians, for example, will actively defend their adversary in a campaign  right before a critical vote? Yet that’s what Ron Paul did, defending Mitt Romney, his main competition for the GOP presidential nomination, after Romney had blooped a line that will undoubtedly haunt him for a long time. “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me,” Romney had said. “You know, if someone doesn’t give me the good service I need, I want to say ‘You know, I’m going to go get someone else to provide that service to me.” It was predictable that the line would be truncated and taken out of context, and it was…by the press, by Jon Huntsman, by Rick Perry. It will surely be used against Romney by President Obama, who has adopted the position that people should be able to hold on to jobs whether they do them well or not— Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano, for example. But Paul would have none of it, saying,

“I think this is just typical politics and they’re unfairly attacking him on that issue,” Paul said outside a polling place at Webster School in Manchester. “He never literally said what they say he said. They’re taking him way out of context.”

Paul also defended Romney’s history as CEO at Bain Capital, the subject of a new attack video by Newt Gingrich, as an example of the free market working properly. “You save companies, you save jobs when you reorganize companies that are going to go bankrupt,” Paul said. “They [the critics] don’t understand.” Continue reading

Iowa Aftermath: Five Ethics Lessons

The Iowa Caucuses produced a bumper crop of ethics lessons.

Ah, it may look like corn, but but there are kernals of ethics knowledge in those Iowa fields!

1. People may do the right thing for the wrong reasons, but what counts is that they do the right thing. Jaw-dropping statements from some Evangelicals in Iowa that they just couldn’t see voting for a woman to be President had many pundits writing that Iowa was too backward to have such a prominent role in electoral politics. The result of this particular bias, however, was to knock Rep. Michele Bachmann out of the race, a result she had earned with her serial irresponsible statements and half-truths. And it was a bias that she courted, both by her repeated nod to subservience in her own marriage and her self-identification with the Evangelical bloc. The bigotry that helped end her candidacy was a bigotry that she  supported, and that equals rough justice, but justice nonetheless.

2. The news media’s lack of diligence and professionalism warps the process. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: Rep. Ron Paul

Warren G. Harding, the patron saint of "Nobody's perfect!" presidencies.

“I don’t think anybody in the world has been perfect on management, everybody that’s ever worked for them. So, yes…  it’s a flaw. But I think it’s a human flaw… I admit that I’m an imperfect person and didn’t monitor that as well.”

–GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, responding to ABC’s Jake Tapper’s question about whether his accountability for racially inflammatory statements made in his name in newsletters published by him 20 years ago raise legitimate doubts about his management abilities.

Anyone who’s read this blog much knows what I think of the “nobody’s perfect” excuse for misconduct. To be precise in this case:

1. Nobody said you weren’t human, Ron. Humanity is a rather low bar for a presidential candidate, don’t you think?

2. There is a lot of territory between “perfect” and “letting people write racist and homophobic content under your name in a for-profit newsletter.” For example, the rest of the Republican field is as far from perfect as one could imagine, yet none of them have done that.

3. People who fail to fulfill core management functions when they oversee a project are imperfect, flawed and human, and also called “inattentive and incompetent leaders.” Imperfect, flawed and human individuals can be good and effective Presidents of the United States. Inattentive and incompetent leaders, however, cannot.

The Third Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2011 (Part 1)

Yes, it was Joe Paterno's year, all right.

Welcome to the Third  Annual Ethics Alarms Awards, recognizing the Best and Worst of ethics in 2011!

This is the first installment of the Worst; Part 2 is here. And the Best is here. 

2011 prompted more than 1000 posts, and even then I barely scratched the surface of all the ethical dilemmas and unethical conduct swirling around us. If you have other choices for the various distinctions here and in the subsequent Awards posts, please make them known.

Here are my selections:

Unethical Community of the Year:  Huachuca City, Arizona. Leading the way among American communities that believe, in their hysteria, that former sex offenders who have served their sentences are nonetheless fair game for persecution and the denial of basic rights as citizens and human beings, Huachuca County passed an ordinance that bans registered sex offenders from the use of all public facilities, including parks, school and libraries.  Runner-up: Obion County, Tennessee. Last year, Ethics Alarms gave the county runner-up status as “Unethical Community of the Year” for sending its volunteer fire department to watch a man’s house burn down because he had failed to pay a $75.00 fee. In 2011, it did it again. I swear: if Obion County hasn’t come up with a better system and this happens again in 2012, Obion County will get the title no matter what some other unethical community does.

Most Warped Ethical Values: The Penn State students who protested the firing of football coach Joe Paterno, because, you know, he was such a great football coach that a little thing like allowing a predatory child molester to run amuck on campus shouldn’t be blown all out of proportion. Runner-up: Ron Paul supporters.

Unethical Website of the Year: Lovely-Faces, the anti-Facebook stunt pulled by Paolo Cirio, a media artist, and Alessandro Ludovico, media critic and editor-in- chief of Neural magazine, to show how inadequate Facebook’s privacy controls were. To do it, they stole 250,000 Facebook member profiles and organized them into a new dating site—without the members’ permission. The site embodied “the worst of ethical thinking: taking the identities of others for their own purposes (a Golden Rule breach), using other human beings to advance their own agenda (a Kantian no-no) and asserting that their ends justify abusing 250,000 Facebook users, which is irresponsible utilitarianism.” Continue reading

Spin, Rationalizations and Denial From the Ron Paul Faithful: An Ethics Lesson

What does Fred Astaire in blackface have to do with Ron Paul? Not much.

There are a lot of reasons to regard Rep. Ron Paul, currently facing what should be his last hurrah in the idiosyncratic Iowa Caucuses, as the model for politics and leadership as we wish it could be. He says what he means. He doesn’t pander. He isn’t afraid of uncomfortable truths. He has integrity. This explains why the supporters of the one true libertarian in the U.S. Congress seem ready to fight to the end to preserve his presidential candidacy, though its long-term prospects are about the same as those of Frosty being elected President of Hell. They are, as a result, providing the rest of us with a textbook example of how loyalty and dedication can spawn intellectual dishonesty, cause otherwise good and intelligent people to substitute rationalizations for reason, and lead to corruption. How did all those idealistic young lawyers end up in jail supporting the plots of Richard Nixon?  Why did otherwise honest and ethical Democrats, elected officials and feminists twist their principles into pretzels to defend Bill Clinton’s using White House staff as a personal dating bar and lying about it under oath?  This is how. When you believe that a leader is good, then affirmative proof of flaws that disqualify him for leadership must be justified and explained away. It often isn’t even a conscious decision: this is cognitive dissonance at its strongest. The results, however, are the same as intentional deception.

Over at The Daily Caller, Wesley Messamore, who is Editor in Chief of the HumbleLibertarian.com, has registered an impassioned and angry defense against Paul critics who, like me, regard the content of his newsletters from the Eighties and Nineties an automatic disqualification for Paul as a presidential nominee. I don’t mean to pick on Messamore: his arguments are typical of Paul defenders; he’s no worse than the rest. His article, however, neatly covers all the unethical tactics Paul’s followers have had to embrace to convince themselves that their hero hasn’t failed the leadership test.

Here they are: Continue reading

Ethics Alarms Awards: The Sioux City GOP Candidates Debate

What do Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich have in common with "Blazing Saddles'" Gabby Johnson?

There were ethics revelations, lessons and cautionary tales in last night’s final debate before the Iowa Caucuses. The envelopes, please!

The Boy Who Cried Wolf Award

Winner: Rep. Michelle Bachmann

Bachmann  twice protested that she was constantly being accused of not having her facts right, when she really did. This is a hard lesson for people like Bachmann, but she might as well learn it now: when you habitually make factual errors and then deny that you made them, people aren’t going to trust you to be responsible with your claims or to be telling the truth. Nobody has spun as many whoppers and jaw-droppers as Bachmann in the last year, and nobody has more consistently tried to deny the truth when her misrepresentations were brought to her attention. Or to put it another way: once a candidate has claimed that 6th President John Quincy Adams, who was all of 8-years-old when the Declaration of Independence was signed, qualifies as “Founding Father,” nobody is going to credit your representation of “facts” whether they are accurate or not.

The Gabby Johnson Award

Winners (tie): Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Rep. Ron Paul Continue reading

Trump Follies Integrity Test: The Grades Are In!

Today Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann  declined the invitation to participate in the NewsMax debate, moderated by Donald Trump. All the GOP Presidential contenders have now responded to the opportunity accept some television exposure in exchange for playing pawns in Donald Trump’s tawdry manipulation of the media, public attention and the political process for personal promotion purposes.

The Ethics Alarms grades are in for this integrity test,  based on rapidity in assessing the revolting nature of the exercise, clarity in condemning it, and personal integrity demonstrated by the handling of the whole embarrassing stunt.

Here they are:

AJon Huntsman and Ron Paul get the highest grades for declining quickly and for the right stated reason—Trump.

C+: Mitt Romney was the third to  decline, but also told Trump it was for scheduling reasons, losing points for weasel words, or, in the alternative, really not objecting to The Donald. As usual, who knows what Romney really believes?

D : Perry and Bachmann, for waiting until they knew who else was debating. Perry used the same excuse as Romney, and Bachmann declined “respectfully.” That loses points: Trump doesn’t deserve any respect.

D-: Rick Santorum. OK, he should flunk, but he’s desperate, and only a debate with nobody else at it would give him a chance to stand out. He couldn’t resist temptation. I sympathize.

F: Newt. He has no excuses. Or integrity.