Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

America’s shame: our treatment of sex offenders who have served their sentences

September 16, 2011

America’s criminal justice system consists of arrest, indictment, trial, and sentence. After serving out the sentence, the offender goes back to society with another chance. Unless that is, he was convicted of a sex offense, anything from violent rape to “sexting” a nude photo.

Sex offenders can never finish paying their debt to society, in spite of the fact that recidivism rates for sex offenders, especially for child molesters, are far lower than for other convicted felons. After serving their sentence they face crushing restrictions on where they may live–as of 2007, some 27 states and hundreds of municipalities had enacted laws that bar sex offenders from residing within up to a half mile of schools, parks, playgrounds and day care centers. Their homes are listed on the internet, and some even are subjected to humiliating signs like the one shown here. This even though the vast majority of sex offences are against relatives or friends, not strangers.

Besides the residency restrictions, sex offenders find it all but impossible to ever find gainful employment. It’s impossible to get a job with any employer that’s  big enough to have a human relations department, because once they have—easily—checked the national registry of sex offenders the answer is no.

Jack Marshall’s EthicsAlarms.com treats this issue, along with the larger issue of treatment of prisoners in general, in his blog entitled America’s Untouchables. I recommend it.

Two ethicists consider Gov. Rick Perry, the audience at the Republican debate, and the death penalty

September 13, 2011


Jack Marshall raises an interesting ethics issue here, as he does so often in his Ethics Alarms. This time it’s the conflict between empathy and justice. He explains how the Golden Rule can get us into some uncomfortable ethical conflicts. He writes,

‘Empathy is considered an ethical virtue for good reason: it is at the core of the Golden Rule. A person without empathy is less likely to put himself or herself in the other person’s place. The criminal justice process, however, is not a good fit for the Golden Rule. In the place of a guilty criminal, I would still probably want to be pardoned, set free, and given a second—or third, or fourth—chance to be law-abiding.”

Marshall defends Gov. Rick Perry’s answer at last Wednesday’s Republican debate to moderator Brian Williams’s question whether Perry was troubled by the idea that there might have been some innocents among the 234 people executed while Perry was Governor. After the audience cheered the grisly tally, Perry answered:

“No, sir. I’ve never struggled with that at all. The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process in place of which — when someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing, (more…)

The poor pay plenty in taxes, don’t believe anybody who says they don’t

September 1, 2011

You’ve no doubt heard that half of federal tax filers pay no income tax. That’s part of the argument that we shouldn’t raise taxes on the rich. It’s also part of a despise-the-poor argument, like the one made by Curtis Dubay, senior tax policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

“We have 50 percent of people who are getting something for nothing.”

It’s true that the poor pay no federal income tax. But it’s also a lie—a big one.


The truth is the poor pay taxes at a rate nearly that of the rich—the reverse of the way we usually think of our tax system as “progressive.” They don’t pay federal income tax, it’s true. But they pay state and local taxes at a higher rate than the rich. (more…)

Tripoli falls, Americans and free people everywhere rejoice

August 21, 2011

Government ethics 101:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

These words of Thomas Jefferson are the core principle of government. Perhaps nothing defines being American so much as a belief in these three sentences. So every American must be joyful at the fall of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

The bloodbath that the evil dictator promised hasn’t occurred. His troops defending his capital seem to have melted away as the rebel army drove, almost anti-climactically, into Tripoli.

What comes next no one can say. The people who united to oppose the dictator soon will have nothing so powerful to unite them. Qaddafi claimed—like Mubarak before him—that he (more…)

Civil discourse? Responsiveness to Muslim constituents? Belief in religious freedom? Not from Congressman Allen West (R-FL)

August 18, 2011

When the Council on American-Islamic Relations recently wrote Congressman Allen West (R-FL), urging him to cut ties with “anti-Islamic extremists, they explained,

“Muslims protect and serve our great country and are afforded equal protection under law. We shouldn’t have to defend our rights to worship freely or participate in the governing of our society.”

Congressman West responded with one word, in what the Miami New Times reporter wrote “might be the dumbest thing ever written on congressional stationery.”

Thanks to the Facebook page, “Americans Against Islamophobia,” for spotlighting this ugliness.

Warren Buffett calls for fair—that is, higher—taxes on the super-rich

August 15, 2011

The battle in Congress over America’s budget problem is both practical and ideological. People on the left argue that the budget can never be brought under control without a blend of tax hikes on the rich and spending cuts. On the right tea-party-fueled passions oppose any tax increase on the grounds that the rich are already paying more than their fair share and, moreover, that raising their taxes will stifle job creation.

Into this battle rides Warren Buffett, the world’s third richest person with assets of $50 billion. In an op-ed in today’s New York Times, headlined “Stop Coddling the Super-Rich,” Buffett demolishes both arguments against higher taxes for the super-rich.

First he explains how under-taxed the wealthy are: his tax rate of 17.4 % of taxable income is the lowest of the twenty people in his office, including his secretary. And that’s not uncommon for the super-rich. His summary:

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks.

And as far as the argument that higher taxes will slow down investment by the super-rich in new jobs, America’s most successful investor puts it this way:

People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. (more…)

Three cheers for Bret Baier, Chris Wallace, and Byron York of Fox News, and for Rachel Maddow of MSNBC

August 13, 2011

Who would have thought that Fox News and MSNBC could raise us out of our funk over the hyper-partisan media and their destructive influence on political discourse in America?

First, Fox:  As hosts of the Republican Presidential debate Thursday Fox might have been expected to throw fat pitches to the favored candidates. But reporters Bret Baier, Chris Wallace, and Byron York* would have made the legendary Martha Rountree—creator of Meet the Press and no gentle tosser of fat pitches—proud.

Chris Wallace asked Gingrich about his entire campaign staff resigning, then asked Herman Cain about his claim that “communities have the right to ban Muslims from building mosques.” Byron York asked Bachmann to explain her statement that she was following biblical guidance to “Be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands.”

And Baier may have settled the 2012 Presidential contest when he asked the candidates to raise their hands if they would walk away from a deal to balance the budget with a ten-to-one ratio of spending cuts to tax increases. I haven’t seen hands shoot up so fast since I asked in a staff meeting who could use my tickets to Sunday’s Redskins game. Every single candidate claimed absolute dedication to not raise ANY taxes, not even on the super rich, not even on Big Oil, not even on tax-exempt GE. And we know it because of Brett Baier.

And MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow turned away from hyper-partisanship to recognize the courage of four prominent Republicans who defied (more…)

I love Amazon, and my state is hurting: any connection?

August 6, 2011

I love Amazon.com. I buy all my books (electronic, of course) from them to read on my Amazon Kindle. I buy excellent coffee, all presents for grandchildren, electronic gadgets, and just about anything else. And thanks to Amazon Prime, after a yearly charge I get everything shipped for free.

Their customer service is amazing, too. Easy returns, and if you click on a link on their customer service page you’ll get a phone call from a person in seconds. Their prices are great. They don’t charge California sales tax, but California residents are liable anyway, so I estimate my on-line purchases and send the state a check.

But most people don’t. California estimates that it will lose $83 million this year in unpaid taxes on Amazon purchases, and $200 million from all on-line purchases. And the loss will grow as on-line sales continue their dramatic growth, crowding out traditional brick-and-mortar retailers.

I also love the University of California. Three of our four kids got low-cost, top-quality educations there. But today’s California kids don’t have it as good—the university is (more…)

Obama won the debt-ceiling battle, so Dems, quit whining and smile

August 4, 2011

The only people happy about the battle over the debt ceiling are the pundits, because it gives them an audience and an opportunity to display their insights. Oh, and people close to the President, because they know he won.

Months ago, when John Boehner and Mitch McConnell were assuring everybody that whatever happened they wouldn’t allow the nation to default, President Obama stated his position: he wanted a clean extension that would carry the country past the 2012 election. He didn’t ask for a tax increase on zillionaires, or a deficit reduction—these should be tackled aside from the debt ceiling increase, which after all is only needed to allow the United States to pay its obligations, every dollar of which had been authorized by the Congress.

But Boehner and McConnell couldn’t control their members, especially the Tea Party members who wanted to use the debt ceiling as a bludgeon to smash government. The ceiling had been raised without controversy dozens of times before under Presidents and Congresses of both parties. The Republican threat was a repudiation of ethics, duty, and the Constitution. Still, the threat came.

In the end, and just in the nick of time, the President got what he had asked for: a clean bill that simply raised the limit enough to carry the country past the 2012 election.

You could be confused by the words about a super-committee to identify trillions in savings, or about triggers to force cuts. Here are the facts: (more…)

Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) defends Muslim judge Sohail Mohammed, calls opponents “crazies.” Hooray for an ethics hero

August 4, 2011

Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) has been criticized for appointing Sohail Mohammed, an American Muslim, to a New Jersey superior court. Yesterday he defended Mohammed, using words like ignorant, crap, baloney, and crazy to describe Mohammed’s critics. His statement was strong and inspiring for its passion and plain English.

Defending Muslims as patriotic Americans, and ridiculing the notion that Sharia law is a threat to America, is sadly rare in today’s Republican Party. Christie is an up-and-coming Republican politician, and his spirited defense of an American Muslim appointee will cost him many friends on the Republican right. America badly needs leaders who will stand up—like Christie—to the extremists in their parties.

Thanks to Jack Marshall and his Ethics Alarms blog for anointing Christie an ethics hero.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 62 other followers