Our Untrustworthy, Perplexing, Depressing State Legislators

As a passionate supporter of American democracy in both practice and theory, I find the proliferation of ignoramuses, fools and morons among both elected representatives and the voters who allow them to acquire access to the levers of power to be a constant source of discouragement. The old adage about democracy being the worst form of government except for all the others is scant consolation, true as it may be. I only tune in to the reliably idiotic goings on at the state legislature level when someone or some news story forces me to take a look, which I anticipate with enthusiasm akin to that I felt toward going down into our scary basement when I was a kid. (OK, up until I moved away at 21. OK, STILL.)

Here are two examples from today….that I know about.

Alabama took another step toward near-total abortion ban legislation, House Bill 314, the “Human Life Protection Act.”  The Republican-supported bill is  in  direct defiance of 1973’s Supreme Court  Roe v. Wade ruling, an obvious gambit to try to get the conservative Roberts court to overturn it. Grandstanding, obstinacy, call it what you will, this bill is futile, foolish, and incompetent. An outright reversal of Roe is not in the cards, not even in the most fevered fantasies of anti-abortion fanatics and pro-abortion absolutists. The new law, if it becomes a law, will be struck down by a the highest Alabama court, and won’t make it to the Supreme Court docket. It’s an illegal law, that’s all. A law reestablishing child labor or repealing female suffrage would have about as much chance of getting the Court’s attention.

If Roe is to be weakened or modified, it will occur incrementally, with the Court ruling on legitimately debatable regulations regarding when a fetus or unborn child qualifies for full Constitutional protection. It is understandable that ordinary, untrained, confused citizens might think that the way to remove established Court precedent is to directly oppose it with a state law, but  that’s because, for most of them, making laws isn’t their job. State legislators, on the other hand, have no excuse but their own lack of preparation for their civic duty, and ignorance. Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Louisiana State Senator Troy Brown

troy-brownYet another ridiculous example of bizarre people with bizarre values being elected to office, calling into question  the competence of the voting public. The populace at issue in this case is Napoleonville, Louisiana, who elected Democrat Troy Brown as a State Senator.

Brown has pleaded no contest in two separate domestic violence cases in recent months. He beat up his girl friend, and later bit his wife. He also doesn’t live in the district he represents, but the Senate was preparing to expel him based on the fact that he is a serial domestic abuser.

Brown does not understand this at all.

“I think my actions warranted a punishment. I think my punishment should be commensurate with what occurred,” Brown said adding that the expulsion proceedings were the equivalent of “an execution.” His argument is that the two episodes of violence against women were only charged as misdemeanors, not felonies, and the legislative body’s rules specify removal for a felony conviction, but do not define other conduct that is ground for expulsion, other than “conduct unbecoming a Senator.”

And really now, is punching your mistress of ten years and biting your wife “conduct unbecoming a Senator”? Come on. Be reasonable.

After admitting in court to punching his girl friend, Brown blamed blackouts he experienced when drinking alcohol, a malady which he said was  brought on by brain damage sustained in a past car accident.

Ah!

Well that’s OK then!

To paraphrase Dean Wormer in “Animal House”, “Drunk, violent and brain damaged is no way to be a State Senator, son.”

After Brown was arrested  last year for biting his wife and again pleaded no contest, he apologized  to his constituents for his behavior, announcing he had started taking anger management classes.

Ah! He’s angry, violent, drunk and brain damaged.

This guy has a grrrrrreat future in politics! Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official of the Month: Don Dwyer (R), Maryland House of Delegates

Hey, after he leaves politics, Don Dwyer has a future as a cruise captain...in HELL...

Hey, after he leaves politics, Don Dwyer has a future as a cruise captain…in HELL…

How is Maryland House of Delegates Member Don Dwyer unqualified to serve? Let us sing the ways:

1. Call him irresponsible… He piloted his 27 foot power boat, named “The Legislator,” while (allegedly, of course) roaring drunk, causing an accident and a wreck  that resulted in injuries to seven people, including a five-year-old-girl. His trial is in October.

2. Call him unreliable… He also was recently arrested for DUI, resulting in fifteen charges including driving under the influence of alcohol, reckless and negligent driving, displaying expired and suspended registration, and driving 70 mph in a 55-mph zone.

3. Throw in undependable, too…Apparently Dwyer just can’t stand the stresses that go along with his position. He explained his boating accident to the Maryland  Gazette by saying that the incident was caused by his escalation in drinking frequency after he separated from his wife, and as a result of feeling “betrayed’ when colleagues voted to sanction gay marriage.“I felt a tremendous amount of pressure in my family,” he said. “You take those personal issues (and) add betrayal on the professional side, and it really gets to be overwhelming.”

Mostly, call him unaccountable, which isn’t in the song lyrics, but fits this loser to a fare-thee-well.  He’s driven dangerous vehicles twice under the influence, risking lives, and his response is to blame the gay marriage vote rather than his own failure to acknowledge and treat a serious alcohol problem. Law makers cannot be law breakers, especially the laws against operating vehicles drunk, which only require the sense and responsibility it takes to avoid getting behind the wheel.

Too many state legislators are inept when sober; we certainly don’t need drunk ones too.

______________________________

Pointer: Rick Jones

Sources: Maryland Gazette, Huffington Post

Announcing: The Incompetent Elected Official of the Month

"What, me legislate?"

With this post, Ethics Alarms announces a new continuing category for ethics infamy: Incompetent Elected Officials.

We tend to focus on corruption, dishonesty, conflicts of interest and lies when identifying unethical public officials, but it is the wildly incompetent of the breed who might carry the most ethics baggage of all. An incompetent elected official not only is irresponsible for taking on leadership that he or she is unable to deliver due to a lack of brains, skill, experience or judgment, but also keeps a more deserving and able individual from a distinguished position that needs him, jeopardizes the public, and undermines trust in the government generally. The public’s ethics are also implicated by the incompetent official’s ascension to power, as the truly inept can usually be identified with a modicum of diligence and care. Incompetent and irresponsible officials require the assistance of incompetent and irresponsible voters.

Thus incompetent elected officials warrant special attention. And the first incompetent elected official to be honored as the Ethics Alarms Incompetent Elected Official of the Month is….Alabama Republican State Senator Gerald Allen! Continue reading

Halloween Ethics! Facebook Ethics! Political Ethics! Blackface Ethics! It’s Tennessee’s Aunt Jemima Affair, the Ethics Controversy That Has Everything!

It’s just after Halloween, and followers of the ethics wars know what that means: somewhere, somebody is in trouble for their choice of costume.

Actually, in this case it’s someone in trouble for her choice of someone in costume to pose with: Tennessee Republican state Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver posted a picture on the Internet of her standing with her pastor, who had dressed up as Aunt Jemima—of syrup fame and black stereotype infamy— for some Halloween festivities. Her caption to the photo:

“Aunt Jemima, you is so sweet.”

Weaver has apologized, swearing that when she posed for the picture with her pastor, she did not know the photo would upset anybody. “It was fun, done in innocence. My friend is dressed up as syrup. He wife was going to be a pancake,” said Weaver. “I never intended to offend anyone. I took the picture off my Facebook. I apologize if it ever meant to offend anyone.”  Weaver,who apparently has lived in a cave since 1957,  also said she was not aware that Aunt Jemima represented black stereotypes to many people, and was unaware that wearing blackface was also considered offensive to the vast majority of Americans. Yes, she really did. (Note: I know Aunt Jemima as a brand of pancake mix; I did not think the logo  gracee any syrup containers. I assumed Weaver confused confused the good Aunt with her white rival. Mrs. Butterworth, who is a syrup brand. Aunt Jemima obviously hangs out with pancakes, so the pastor’s wife was on firm ground, no matter what. But thanks to a syrup-minded reader, I have been set straight: there is Aunt Jemima syrup, too)

State Sen. Thelma Harper, an African-American, said she and members of the Black Caucus want to put Harper before the House Ethics Committee.“This is what we have had to live with, making a mockery of being black and copying the language that Aunt Jemima used,” said Harper.

This controversy has everything! Halloween ethics! Blackface ethics! Facebook ethics! Political ethics! Syrup ethics!

Let’s go through them, shall we? Continue reading

Pennsylvania’s and Delaware’s Disgrace: Risking the Poor to Balance the Budgets

Delaware and Pennsylvania, facing state budget deficits that would require political courage and citizen sacrifice to address, has taken the craven route of other states (with more sure to follow) by legalizing casino gambling.

In Pennsylvania, State Republicans, the majority party in the state senate, had opposed the expansion of gambling , but capitulated when faced with the reality of having to choose between cutting jobs and services or raising taxes. Instead, the Republicans joined with Democrats, those champions of the weak and powerless,  to victimize the poorest people in the state for profit. Continue reading