Conversations About Diversity from the Bench

The Charlie Rose Show from last night aired an October 2016 conversation he had with Justices Ginsberg and Sotomayor. The essential element of their conversation was diversity. As the conversation progressed, they considered the different types of diversity as they have come before the court over time.

getting direction

Getting direction

They looked at how long we have struggled for the acceptance of women and for women to be considered essential to the human social fabric rather than coincidental. Have you ever wondered why women could so easily be excused from jury duty? Think about what that means. Think about how that attitude impacted women’s ability to climb out of subservient roles.

The conversation also looked at the matter of inclusion of LGBT in the diversity formula. It was brief but it was necessary. That part of our current discussions impact so many who now have the right to speak of their choice and not live in the shadows of society. But those who desire to serve their country must still be three times as good in order to prove their half worth, as was true during World War II and even before.

Charlie asked them to consider their roles as contrasted and compared to Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas. Their responses were striking, to say the least.

The matter of which type of experience is better for a justice also came up – appellate level, trial court, or state supreme court. It became apparent that being able to see the picture from the trial court level is essential. One important, although subtle, aspect of hearing a case at the Supreme Court level is the fact that the many amicai who are affected by the case at bar and its outcome are allowed to present their voices to the justices. Those voices, as well as the arguments of plaintiff’s and defendant’s counsel, contribute toward the ultimate decision.

And we all had a chuckle when they shared the anecdote about being introduced as the sisters who came to the function.

It’s been a long struggle. No, it’s been a long battle. Notably, they said the difference between the ones who graduate from Ivy League schools and the ones who sit in the button factory is merely one generation. Yet so many stories, so many essays are written about those struggles and that one-generation difference.

And then there are groups that *still* have not achieved that leap past that first generation. They continue to be buried in the past and, as was noted during the conversation, kept in a cage where they are not free to do anything except restrained.

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Preserving a Right

A request to sign a petition from Brigade + Causes hit my mailbox yesterday that raised my eyebrows. “Sign the petition to #fireColbert” read the subject line. The opening of the petition says: “Stephen Colbert finally took it too far with a disgustingly lewd anti-Trump rant on The Late Show on CBS.”

The author of the petition was sufficiently offended by Colbert’s monologue from last week that the author initiated the movement. In fact, he closed his appeal by saying, “This is certainly within Colbert’s right to free speech, but the networks should strive for a higher level of decency. This isn’t comedy. It’s just disgusting and offensive.” Apparently the FCC was also alarmed at the language used in the monologue.

However, we need to ask ourselves in what way did the Colbert monologue in question substantially differ from the many antics of #45 during his campaign. We also need to recognize that Colbert is in the entertainment business and relies on [Nielsen] ratings in order to keep his show on the air. Similarly, during the campaign, #45 was in several industries (including entertainment) and heavily relies (even now) on outlandish behavior for the sake of garnering ratings and attention. So where’s the difference? We also need to take into consideration that #45 was never called to task for any of his campaign behavior and was never penalized in any way. In fact, he was applauded. It’s difficult to understand why, in a post-Carlin’s “7 dirty words” environment that Colbert (or CBS for that matter) should suffer even a penalty.

Now, to be sure, it’s no secret that Colbert is not a fan of the 45th President. It’s safe to say there’s little evidence that he has ever had favorable feelings about #45.

It says a lot about what still remains of American freedoms that Colbert can express his political opinions during his monologue without being censored or have his way of life threatened. It’s called freedom of speech. True, there were objectionable words used in the body of the monologue but the blue language was bleeped from the speech. Even Colbert’s mouth was blurred when he pronounced certain words so that they could not be discerned and cause offense. Those were the instances when it went into territory not covered by Carlin’s “7 dirty words” but at least the freedom to express those feelings was in place.

Other TV hosts have also lampooned the First Family in this last week. It doesn’t appear any of those hosts are being called to task for doing their jobs while simultaneously pushing their audiences to engage in critical thinking or else express what their audiences fear to say aloud.

Likewise, the petition’s author has the freedom to express his distaste for the language – the language, mind you, not the thoughts and feelings owned by the speaker.

So, rather than endorse a return to Woodrow Wilson standards and suppression of one of our precious foundation rights, free speech, I will not sign that petition. Let us, without resorting to expletives and bullying, discuss and debate the policies of #45 and come up with solutions.

It appears both Colbert and the petition author have come up with a very meaningful topic for discussion as well as some meaningful tangents.

Initial Talk with Congress

Many are talking about the new President’s address to Congress on February 28. No, it didn’t mark the completion of 100 days. No, it wasn’t a State of the Nation (per se). It was just the newly-elected President talking to Congress.

Perhaps the event was in remembrance of Washington when he went over to Congress to ask his friends about how to do something and they ran him out because, with a great deal of effort and redrafting of the organizing documents, there are three separate and distinct parts of our government. Each acts separately in order to keep checks and balances and so that the government doesn’t become a dictatorship – each part echoing what the other says and sometimes in unison.

Which identity

Which identity

Nevertheless, the President went to Congress to talk with them. It wasn’t in order to get their advice about anything. It was a new, toned down campaign speech that reiterated what’s been said over the last two years. But this speech added a little more to the campaign rhetoric.

Although the tone was drastically different from what we’ve been hearing during the combative and corrosive campaign there was something different. Yes, there was the signature blaming and faulting to indicate and rally more supporters because things are such a mess. But the rambling, train of thought diatribe that is typical of this President wasn’t presented.

Actually, the speech was a bit unsettling. It wasn’t because of the rhetoric. It was because it seemed to be a repeat of another address to Congress from the past. It was as though it was written from a template. The language (except for the blaming) was not the typical content from this President. The tone, ah yes, the tone and the organization (yes, there was organization) of the thoughts and message were a different voice. Someone wrote this speech for the President. That isn’t surprising given the fact that his attention needs to be on many issues and he desperately needs to focus, keenly focus, on the matters of State. So having a speech writer create this message would not be a surprise.

Still, the message followed a distinct pattern. It was as though the template had little boxes that prompted the writer to “insert issue here” and then flow on to flush out some details. Then another box prompted “insert issue here” in a new section.

It was very formulaic, all the way down to pointing out selected examples of day-to-day citizens who were sprinkled into the audience in order to create a positive charisma and build the supporter base. Wasn’t that the tactic Obama used in many (if not all) of his speeches?

On a positive note, the President appears to finally be listening to someone on his staff about the image he’s presenting to the public. He’s getting coaching from someone about staying on point. He’s being urged to use a script more often so that the logic of what he’s saying is more obvious. The meandering trains of thought that go off point just aren’t winning any credibility for him. Unfortunately, he still doesn’t seem to be listening to his advisers too often. He still does things without a script and he’s very fast with that Executive Order ink pen.

The content of the speech is what most are hashing out in these days that followed the template presentation. Many of the matters that are the subject of the Executive Orders were included in the speech. There were (to be expected) claims of vast improvements over the last administration (which buried the country into the worst situation in history, we were told). Government contracts will be closely scrutinized and only approved when the fees are as bare-bone low as things can possibly be cut. (I’m not certain what that means in terms of quality of end product.) Government contracts for defense spending will be increased while government jobs hiring will be frozen. In fact, he seemed to indicate that there are superfluous government jobs and those will be cut. (You know, perhaps that‘s the reason why the Department of Labor Jobs Update alerts (OPA) stopped arriving after January 25.)

Back to the content of the speech and what people are saying about it. Traditional news coverage noted that the President sounded much more “presedential” in this speech. Another media source made mention that he is learning fast [about not rambling].

The staffers were quite pleased with the performance. That’s the other hallmark of this President. Everything seems to be targeted at getting TV ratings and reality show headlines. Although the speech was nearly a 180 change in tone and style, those who have been alienated by the man’s demeanor, attitude, and rantings are not so easily swayed and brought into the fold. Congressional GOP members are still uneasy. DNC members are still unimpressed. And late night talk show comedians are still having a field day. Why not? They’re essentially being spoon fed new nettles and needles every hour of the day. Maybe that’s why Jimmy Kimmel said enough of Donald Trump for tonight and hosted a Trump-free show. To that, I can only say, Amen.

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Teachable Moments: Mother’s Letter to Ivanka

What are the ethical considerations here

What are the ethical considerations here

Ahem. We learned that Ivanka Trump (daughter of billionaire President-elect) flew on a JetBlue plane in Coach class with her husband and children on December 22, 2016. Apparently her mother never had a talk with her about protocol or etiquette. This is definitely a (overdue) teachable moment and a time for some words from Mother. This is a time when an overwrought mother with too much on her plate will be challenged to be tactful and soft spoken so that the bottom line message can be heard. Here we go.

~~~~~

Ivanka, we need to have a conversation. No, you don’t need to do an inventory of the jewelry to be sold on your website. You definitely don’t need anyone else in the room with us. This is a private conversation. You need to listen carefully. You should ask questions. Don’t be like your father and ask questions that will twist things into making it allowable for you to do something similar at a later date. We need to help you grasp some concepts.

First, although your father gained an amazing number of states in order to win the Electoral College vote, he did not win the popular vote. Do you understand what that means, my love? No, it does not mean his message was what the people of the United States believe and want. It means (just as he kept shouting during his campaign) that there was something fishy with the election.

Bless his heart, he hates to be undone. He has to be top dog. He will never admit that there was tomfoolery when it came to affirming him as the choice of the people. My dear, the popular vote shows he was not.

But he has chosen to put himself in the spotlight through his years. He has chosen to be (in fact, he has insisted on being) center stage and refuses to allow anyone else to occupy that space. He has chosen to be a public figure; he insists on it – until it goes against him. Now that he’s been elected, now that he’s been confirmed by the Electoral College, he is more than a public figure. You, and your siblings, need to conduct yourselves as progeny of the incoming President of the United States.

Not only that, my dear, your father is a billionaire. All of us know that. Your salary is far above that of the average person. You are different.

What the hell were you thinking when you and Jared booked that flight from D.C. to New York on a commercial airline IN COACH with the children?

[deep breath]

You have never been one who is part of the general population. You are different, my love. You can afford much more than the mere average American (even though you occasionally try to appeal to them by walking through the crowds with your security team). This should not be a news flash, Ivanka. Your father is not adored by the population. You do not have an esteemed position in the country. You are, at best, tolerated by necessity, nothing more.

Just as that poor man was yelling, you should have taken a private plane. The you and Jared can afford that. It wasn’t a trans-Atlantic flight so there was no major expense. Even that is affordable with your income and allowance. What the hell were you two thinking?

It’s good that you bring up that meeting with the diplomats from Japan. That was quite a stir the two of you raised. No, your father hadn’t been elected. He was still on the campaign trail. Still, it may have been better if Melania (even with her broken English) had been there instead of you. Your being there made it appear that you were assuming the role of First Lady. It made it appear that you were part of diplomatic, confidential negotiations. You don’t even have security clearance!

And then to show off your line of jewelry! I thought you were intelligent! Do you realize the types of ethical concerns that were raised during that flight of fancy? Let me put this in commoner’s vernacular. There were subtle messages of bribery and coercion laced throughout that meeting. There are already rumors (not to mention outright statements) that diplomats and political emissaries feel they must stay at a Trump property when they visit. (Thus, they feel they must line the pockets of the new President. Argh!) The jewelry thing gave the impression that they must purchase your goods. You should have saved the marketing ploy for another place and another venue – or just left it to your marketing team. (Not to mention they’d have been much better at it.)

You haven’t learned about your father’s shouting tirades – yet. Kellyanne has been shielding you from them. She’ll be integral in doing that after the inauguration but one day. One day you’ll do the unacceptable and even those lurid comments about his beautiful, hot daughter will not protect you from the real man that we three wives know.

Use common sense, Ivanka. Being a woman of the people doesn’t mean flying on commercial airlines in coach. Being a woman of the people means doing things that bring you popularity among them because of your benevolence, because of your charisma. And those attributes will flow to you because you are promoting things that are reachable and desired by the average person aiming to reach a better status, not being able to purchase a several thousand-dollar bit of jewelry that only millionaires and billionaires can afford.

Use common sense, Ivanka. And if there is a God in Heaven, encourage your father to do likewise. It’s becoming an embarrassment to acknowledge that I was married to him.

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Truth and the Freedom Series

Both “Meet the Press” and “Face the Nation” considered the proposition that Russia was involved in hacking in the American election and also involved in rigging the election in order to make Trump the winner of the election.

During the last third of his campaign, Trump repeatedly and publicly alleged that the election was rigged. If he lost the election, Trump trumpeted, it would be proof that the election was rigged.

We reacted when the election results came in. A recount of the votes in three states was endeavored. Trump objected to the recount efforts. It’s been said in other places that his objections to the recounts make no sense. Having the votes recounted would confirm his victory in those states. So why is he objecting to the recounts?

The issue of a rigged election, interference by Russians in the American election process, was also part of the discussion. Trump’s persistent bellowing of interference and rigging continued all the way up to election day. But now his campaign team objects to being called on those allegations. They scream foul and claim the allegations are sour grapes.

candleflame - In search of the truth

In search of the truth

Actually, we’re now looking more closely at the claims and accusations that were pronounced by the candidate for President, Donald Trump. How can it be unfair to ask (again) for proof of the claims of election tampering?

On “Face the Nation,” Kellyanne Conway was asked a question about these campaign allegations. Instead of answering the question, she deflected it by turning to another aspect of the campaign and how unfair some of the DNC tactics were.

Some questions that need to be answered are whether there was in fact election tampering, whether there was hacking of the political parties (DNC as well as RNC), the veracity of the election results, and whether our President-elect can be trusted to help those who are in this country realize the Roosevelt promises of freedom of speech and worship as well as freedom from hunger and fear.

Observation: Time after time and with each passing day, we seem to be gifted with real, public scrutiny examples of the tools of an abuser.

Restriction from

Restriction from

In various times of allowing a dictatorship to overtake a country, things took hold because there were those who chose to do nothing for various reasons. Some chose inaction because they felt they did not have the power nor the tools nor the importance to resist or be an effective member of a resistance. Some remained inert because of fear based on many things that were relevant to their healthy existence. (It’s ironic that a dictatorship and tyranny lead to a very unhealthy existence.)

There were those who chose to act. Their numbers were small in regard to public presence. But there were also those who chose to act while staying in the background.

At some point in the near future, the many proofs of the campaign accusations and inflammatory rhetoric will emerge. Then we will be an informed public.

Meanwhile, we continue to create a new national culture that is no longer based on trust but fear. One of the healthy outcomes of this 2016 election is the motivation to become more educated about many aspects of our nation and the systems that caused it to be part of the Rockwell vision of “Freedom From.”

Sign and share the petition Evaluate Trump for Fitness to Serve

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Lessons in History – Conflicts of Interest

Recent headlines, similar to one from today’s Guardian, keep making me reflect on 20th Century events in politics and business. The make me wonder how things will actually play out (if allowed) in comparison to the Teapot Dome and Watergate situations.

Symbols of Government Ethics

Symbols of Government Ethics

The recent appointees in the developing Trump Administration have interesting, interwoven and strategic situations and alliances. They’re quite similar to the ones of the Teapot Dome flavor.

The Teapot Dome story is also documented on Wikipedia. The Brookings Institute provided more chronicling of the incident.

Enter Watergate

And then there’s Watergate and the lessons it taught us about being neglectful and too trusting in decisions made by government leaders. Reference.com summarizes that point in history while also available is the Front Line documentary history of the administration that gave rise to Watergate.

A Look at Bribery as Causation

A recent article that appeared in Corporate Counsel considered the impact of bribery on fraudulent practices in government and its influence on conflicts of interest. Some of the statistics are broken out for the reader. One of particular note is:

The United States ranked 20th. It still falls within the top 20 countries that TRACE considers “low risk.” The riskiest area for bribery in the U.S. is “business interactions with government.”

Also earning breakout attention:

• Syria suffered a considerable setback in its bribery environment, followed by Belize, with their overall risk scores rising. Syria is now one of the eight riskiest countries in the world for bribery.
• The seven other riskiest countries in order are Nigeria (199th out of 199 countries), Angola, Yemen, Guinea, Cambodia, Myanmar and South Sudan.

With regard to graft driving contracts approvals in foreign governments, one reader noted that in “. . . Italy, it’s simply accepted that many dealings with businesses or government bodies require a little grease on the wheels. So much so, that base salaries for some civil servants are less relevant than what can be made on top.” That reader recommends the book The Dark Heart of Italy for more edification. It should be noted that similar practices are heavily used in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) as revealed in a recent study conducted through Fuller Seminary. According to that study, the non-Muslim population was/is being subjected to extreme conditions of discrimination that keeps them in conditions of economic distress unless they agree to act as government-sponsored spies against family members.

Ethics Lessons

Should we be learning from history or is it our fate to close our ears and minds and simply allow ourselves to be repeatedly crushed under the Wheel of Time as it rotates? Perhaps it’s time to not only remember the lessons of the past but also become proactive about not reliving them.

When it comes to “conflicts of interest“, the layman can look to Wikipedia for its various definitions and examples or to other books that provide guidance.

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Consider signing and sharing a petition to evaluate the fitness to serve before confirmation of the President-elect.

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