The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ethics Matter

Voters do the right thing.

It's hard to know which is the more surprising, the unexpected outcome or that it's considered a surprise. Louisiana Representative William Jefferson was caught with $90,000 dollars in his freezer that he couldn't explain. Yet, it was universally thought that he would handily win re-election. From Politico:

Indicted Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) has lost his New Orleans-based Congressional seat to a little-known Republican attorney, Anh “Joseph” Cao.

With all precincts reporting, Cao has defeated Jefferson 50 to 47 percent. The AP has called the race for Cao.

Even with Jefferson’s ethical woes, his ouster comes as a huge shock. His New Orleans district is one of the most Democratic in the country, giving President Bush only 24 percent of the vote in 2004. And he hadn’t suffered at all politically since indicted for bribery in June 2007, comfortably defeating another Democrat in the Election Day primary.

The results are a welcome repudiation of a sad trend, the tendency of dishonest politicians from minority groups, particularly blacks, to be re-elected despite their ethical challenges. For example here in Massachusetts, State Senator Dianne Wilkerson was repeatedly re-elected despite numerous ethics scandals, and finally left office not because she was voted out, but because she was videotaped taking a bribe. Another example is Alcee Hastings of Florida, a judge who was impeached after being caught taking bribes, but who was elected a member of Congress anyway.

It's hard to explain this phenomenon. Some say a history of discrimination causes black voters not to take seriously ethics charges, dismissing them as manifestations of white racism. A more plausible explanation is that turn out is often low in areas with a high black population, allowing corrupt political machines to keep their puppets in power.

In any case, the dumping of Jefferson by his mostly black constituents is a welcome development, perhaps showing that in the Obama era where blacks have proven they can rise to any level of power, there is no longer any need for the black community to endure corrupt second-rate representation from an incumbent just because they have black skin. In fact what is also interesting about Jefferson's defeat is that he lost to an Asian, refuting the racist assumption that blacks will only allow themselves to be represented by other blacks. In fact black people, like all voters, know that good government comes in all colors.

Springfield's Theodore's is not the only place reputed to be haunted. The New York City apartment where Heath Ledger was found dead of a drug overdose is supposedly spooking prospective tenants. Star magazine reports:

Potential renters are wary of moving into Heath Ledger's home.
The New York Post reports that the three-bedroom, 4,400-square-foot Manhattan apartment, where the Aussie actor died of an accidental drug overdose, has been taken off the market. It's been on the market since July — after Heath died there in January — and nobody has been willing to spring for the $26,000-a-month rent.

The paper claims that the reason the place is vacant most likely is because of "its spooky provenance" as well as the slowed rental market.

Heath moved into the apartment in September 2007 when he moved out of the Brooklyn brownstone he shared with Michelle Williams and their daughter Matilda.

Is it a ghost that's scaring away customers, or the outrageous fucking rent?

I recently came across this unused ticket someone gave me in the year 2000 to a local Republican event that had on it's front a picture of Bill Clinton, an example of what a unifying figure he was to the Republicans who hated him. The phenomenon in reverse of course is the way Democrats were united in their hatred of George W. Bush.

Will Obama be as polarizing a figure as Clinton and Bush were? I don't think so. Obama seems to me to be the first president since Ronald Reagan to have a personal appeal that crosses ideological and party lines. People like Obama whether or not they agree with his policies. Of course those policies have been only sketchily laid out thus far and Obama hasn't even been sworn in yet, so it remains to be seen whether that popularity will last.

Speaking of tickets, here's one from a yearly picnic me and the late great Jay Libardi used to put on every year in the 80's. Note the William Blake line about the road of excess leading to the palace of wisdom.

Blake was right of course, but as Jay and I discovered the hard way, it can lead to learning things you never wanted to know.

In Amherst College's Frost Library is this electronic sign that shows poems by Valley poets. Here's an appropriate one.

We never know how high we are
by Emily Dickinson

We never know how high we are
Till we are called to rise;
And then, if we are true to plan,
Our statures touch the skies—

The Heroism we recite
Would be a daily thing,
Did not ourselves the Cubits warp
For fear to be a King—

Did you know that Amherst writer Augusten Burroughs (above) has a blog (or "blob" as he prefers to call it?) Check it out here.

I looked out my window this morning and lo and behold while I slept it had snowed!

Not much of a snowfall, just enough to cover the ground. I love the way snow has the power to transform drab dead brown lawns like this one in Amherst into scenes of beauty.

Seasons change, meteorologically and politically, but the Amherst Sunday Peace Vigil never ends.

Finally, here is the local band Animental performing in a living room in Haydenville, Masachusetts.


fan said...

Heath Ledger would be a fun ghost!

Don said...

Augusten Burroughs and his brother have been making a lot of money via character assassination of their late father, someone who most people who knew him in contexts outside an emotionally chaotic household would probably agree was unfailingly pleasant and even-tempered.

Anonymous said...

culture is the ultimate enslavement. it requires mindless obedience, like many religions do. black people need to stop ostracizing each other when they think independently