Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A new death squad: the whole Republican party

Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL) has managed—against all odds—to lower the quality and integrity of the health care debate even further by announcing in a speech on the House floor that the Republican health care plan was “Don’t get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.”

When Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouted “You lie” at President Obama, the Republican leaders called on him to apologize to the President, which he promptly did. As yet we haven’t heard any Democratic leaders call on Grayson to do likewise. Keith Olbermann said, “I’m applauding him,” and Arianna Huffington chimed in, “He has the truth on his side.”

Three cheers for the first Dem to chastise Grayson. Maybe when you get back from Copenhagen, President Obama?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Second Chance for Roman Polanski?

Everybody deserves a second chance, even Michael Vick. But Vick pled guilty, was sentenced, served his prison term, and now has earned his second chance.

Polanski has a way to go. He pled guilty in 1977, when he was in his 40s. to drugging, raping, and sodomizing a 13-yr old girl. Then he fled the country before sentencing, claiming that the judge was going to throw out his plea bargain.

Sorry, no sympathy here. He took the law into his own hands by fleeing the country. He needs to face the U.S. judicial system to earn his second chance. “Gifted artist” doesn’t earn him a pass for his crime. Nor does getting away with it for 32 years.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Extra credit when it's extra hard

Extra credit for being ethical when it's extra hard. Hooray for 40-year old Carolyn Savage of Toledo, Ohio. Carolyn was told by an erring fertility doctor that he had implanted someone else’s embryo. She carried the baby to term and gave it to the biological parents. And hooray for the fertility doc who owned up to his mistake and allowed good things to happen to other people.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ethical worsts of the week

Jimmy Carter told NBC News, "I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African-American." When people are saying hateful things (Obama’s Hitler-like, communist, destroying our America) condemn them. But calling them racist is unjustified, forfeits the moral high ground, leads otherwise reasonable people to come to their defense, and stirs up racial animosity.

Lane Kiffin, football coach of the University of Tennessee, wins this week’s bad sportsmanship prize. After the Florida Gators beat his UT Volunteers, the Florida coach said that several of his players had been suffering with the flu. Kiffen told the press, "I guess we'll wait and after we're not excited about a performance, we'll tell you everybody was sick."

Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona says that “Republicans believe all Americans should have access to quality health care and that we must find ways to reduce health care costs.” His first example: root out Medicare and Medicaid fraud. The Senate plan calls for doing just that, to the tune of $500 billion. But when Democrats go after Medicare fraud, Kyl demagogues seniors, saying “This would ultimately lead to shortages, rationing and the elimination of private-plan choices—something our seniors rightly fear.”

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) wants to weasel out of the White House deal with PhRMA, the pharmaceutical lobbyist. The Administration cut the deal, which gave some concessions to the industry in exchange for their agreement to cut drug prices and support health care reform. Now Nelson and other Dems on the Finance committee are saying, we’ll take what you offered but we’ll take back what you were offered in exchange. Backing away from the deal is very popular: Nelson was quickly joined by Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Schumer (D-NY), and Stabenow (D-MI).

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) joined up with two other Republicans and three Democratic senators to work out a health care bill. When the political temperature rose he decided to appease his base by “discovering” that the bill he had been collaborating on provided for death panels. Moreover it contained a mandate for individuals to buy insurance, which he could not support, even though he had long campaigned for just such a mandate.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ethical bests of the week

Here are my "bests of the week":

Barney Frank blasted ACORN for its casual and irresponsible response to a series of scandals, the latest provoked by conservative activists who posed as prostitute and pimp and recorded a video of an ACORN worker recommend they lie to the IRS. There’s extra ethics credit when a liberal condemns bad behavior by other liberals, or when a conservative condemns bad behavior by other conservatives.

Pacific Gas and Electric quit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over the Chamber’s approach to global warming: “We find it dismaying that the chamber neglects the indisputable fact that a decisive majority of experts have said the data on global warming are compelling and point to a threat that cannot be ignored.”

ETV Motors, an Israeli player in the electric vehicle business, proposed an honest mileage standard for plug-in cars: how far they can go on a single charge and how many miles per gallon they get when running on gasoline. This would end the outrageous lying about mileage for the Chevy Volt(230 mpg) and for the Nissan Leaf (367 mpg).

Ford published straightforward ads for its Fusion Hybrid: 41 city mpg, top speed of 47 mph in all-electric mode, and 700 miles on a tank of gas.

Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase ended their practice of charging $35 for overdrawing your account by as little as $1 with a debit card. Another debit, say for a cappuccino, costs another thirty-five bucks. No more. Nice going, BofA and Chase. It would have been even nicer had you made this announcement before Congress moved to outlaw your predatory behavior.

Monday, September 14, 2009

You Lie. I'm sorry

Joe Wilson (R-SC) interrupted the President's speech on health care to a joint session of Congress with a shout of, "You lie," when the President said that illegal immigrants wouldn't be covered by his proposed health care reform.

Wilson's outburst was shocking, ill-mannered, and way out of order. After the speech he promptly apologized--not one of those "I'm-sorry-if-you-misinterpreted-my-remarks" type of pseudo-apologies, but a real one.

"This evening I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the President's remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill," he said. "While I disagree with the President's statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the President for this lack of civility." Wilson also called the White House to apologize.

Game over? An emotional outburst followed by an apology and a statement by the President accepting the apology as sincere?

Not so fast. The House Democrats (and some of the liberal commentariat are demanding a second apology on the floor of the House, thereby demonstrating that they can behave worse than Wilson. They're also restoring Wilson's reputation, making him a hero to the right for his outburst.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Who loves racism? The LA Times!

I was saddened this morning to see this headline on the front page of my morning paper, the LA Times:

Obama is fast losing white voters' support

My sadness turned to disgust when I read Nate Silver's blog on (great site) explaining and demonstrating with the Times' own story that Obama's support among whites had fallen at just the same rate as his support among other voters.

The Times is stirring up the fumes of racism--why? To sell papers? This is yet another example of the media crying wolf when the wolves are far away. Like CNN interviewing an Oklahoma state senator who thinks Obama is trying to communize our schoolchildren. Why is it of national interest what one Oklahoma state senator thinks? Because it stirs the pot of controversy and partisanship. CNN and the LA Times aspire to better. They need to try harder.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

How Oregon Plays the Game

It’s rare in big-time college sports that sportsmanship is valued over winning. So rare that we can’t help admiring Oregon football coach Chip Kelly.

This was to be the year that the Oregon Ducks finally dethroned the mighty USC Trojans, who have won or shared the Pacific 10 championship for eight consecutive years. The Ducks were to do this largely on the legs of top running back LeGarrette Blount, who set a school record last year by scoring 17 touchdowns.

But at the end of Oregon’s 19-8 loss to Boise State last Thursday, a frustrated Blount sucker punched Boise player Byron Hout, who had been taunting Blount over his poor game.

Coach Kelly wasted no time suspending Blount for the rest of the season, his last year of eligibility to play college ball. (Boise coach Chris Peterson won’t suspend Hout for his poor sportsmanship.) Oregon’s president, Richard Lariviere, supported Kelly, saying “We do not and will not tolerate the actions that were taken by our player. Oregon’s loyal fans expect and deserve better.”

Suspending Oregon’s star player may cost the Ducks a shot at the Pac 10 championship and a profitable Rose Bowl appearance, but they’ve already won the Pac 10 sportsmanship championship. That counts for a lot more.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Investigate Cheney?

Some readers strongly believe that someone—either Congress or a special prosecutor—should investigate whether the people responsible for torturing detainees should themselves be held to account.

The argument goes that the American people deserve the truth. And ethically that would be a good thing, but, alas, this is one of those times when ethics demands a difficult choice, not between good and bad, but between good and good.

It was good to punish the soldiers who tortured and killed prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Baghram Air Base, and Guantanamo. It would be good to punish the higher-ups who set them on that path or at least tolerated their evil. But there’s another good at issue here: the social harmony of the American people.

Our American community has deteriorated to the point that large numbers of Democrats believe that George W. Bush was complicit in the attack of 9/11, and large numbers of Republicans believe that Barack Hussein Obama is a Kenya-born fascist who is plotting to murder grandma. And worse, far worse, “adults” in both parties are standing by in silent acquiescence.

The greater good is the restoration of American comity. My political mentor, former congressman James Leach (R-IA), explained,

“I’ve always believed in the philosophy of [Christian theologian] Reinhold Niebuhr, ‘The temper of and integrity with which the political fight is waged is more important for the health of our society than the outcome of any issue or campaign.’”

It’s time to restore the temper and integrity of the political fight. The best way to start is to follow the direction that President Obama has pointed: forward.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

(Re-) Investigating Torture

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is endorsing current AG Eric Holder’s decision to investigate whether US interrogators committed criminal offenses when they interrogated detainees.

Gonzales is actually bringing some clarity to the matter. During the Bush Administration the AG’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) issued a careful evaluation of interrogation techniques for the CIA, in which it ruled that waterboarding and several other “enhanced interrogation” methods were not torture. That ruling had the force of law: waterboarding was legal: even though John McCain and many others considered it torture, by law it was not.

Obama said months ago that his administration would not go after operatives who worked within the guidelines of the OLC. Holder is complying with Obama’s statement (although Obama has made clear that the decision is Holder’s alone to make). If interrogators operated within the law they won’t be prosecuted; if they went beyond the methods ruled legal by the OLC they will.

Criticizing Obama or Holder for second-guessing intelligence agents who operated in good faith is nonsense. Intelligence agents, like all other civil servants, military people, and Presidents, for that matter, have always been required to uphold the law. They took an oath to do so.