The Ethical Take

Published: May 30, 2014

By Jim Lichtman
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From Donald Sterling to May Angelou (what a stretch), The Take looks at the top ethics stories (and one memorial) of May.

Rochelle, Rochelle –

First Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling signals (May 23) that he may empower his wife, Rochelle, to handle the sale of his NBA team, then… Whamo!

Less than a week later, ESPN reports (May 28) that, “Donald Sterling’s lawyer, Max Blecher, told ESPN on Tuesday that his client ‘is going to fight to the bloody end’ and has effectively ‘disavowed’ the agreement he reached with his wife last week that would allow her to negotiate a sale of the team.

” ‘I don’t know what agreement she has with him, but I’m saying to you today, he disavows anything she’s doing to sell the team,’ Blecher said. ‘He says, “It’s my team, and I’ll sell it when and if I get around to it.” ‘ ”

When asked why he changed after his on-air “apology” to CNN’s Anderson Cooper conceding that he would abide by the wishes other 29 owners, “Blecher said, ‘He was in a state of shock at first. Now he’s recovering and he’s much more feisty.’

The Ethical Take: So much for phony sincerity. Clearly, Sterling has the money to fight this, but he will lose in the end. “Ultimate insult, Donald: try getting a table at Spagos!”

Breaking News: According to Sports Illustrated, Donald Sterling has been ruled “mentally incapacitated” by two prominent neurologists.

Breaking News, Part II: Attorney Blecher says Sterling NOT mentally incapcitated; Sterling sues NBA for $1 billion.

Do-Nothing Congress? –

Oh, they do plenty: plenty of investigations, plenty of TV interviews, they even have time to squeeze in a few negative political ads for the upcoming election cycle. But when it comes to actual legislation, “The House is on track to produce the lowest number of legislative proposals since the Clinton Administration,” writes The New York Times (May 29).

“Through mid-May, representatives introduced 18 percent fewer bills compared with the same point in the previous Congress. That’s the largest drop between Congresses in the period beginning in 1995, when Republicans overturned decades of Democratic rule in the House.”

The E.T. says: Once again, politics trumps the people. From 2014 – 2016, voters need to take a serious inventory on whatyour representative and senator is really doing to support the majority of Americans.

Snowden Speaks! –

Wednesday night, NBC’s Brian Williams interviewed the most secretive man in America. It’s ironic when you realize that NSA leaker Snowden a) lives in secretive country; b) hasn’t done an extensive interview with a notable journalist since his story broke over a year ago; and c) is seeking transparency for NSA programs while he, himself, has remained the least transparent to a majority of Americans as well as Congress.

Nonetheless, The New York Times reports (May 29), that “Snowden said that he still considered himself to be an American patriot even after leaking thousands of classified documents, and that he was frustrated to be ‘stuck in a place’ — Russia — that did so little to protect individual rights when he was trying to help protect American freedoms.

In response to the question as to what harm he may have caused American intelligence abroad, Snowden said, “A good gauge of what information was provided to journalists is a representation of what you see in the press. I did not want to take information that would be thrown in the press that would cause harm.”

That’s not how the intelligence community sees it. However, Mr. Snowden just might have something a little more pressing to worry about when he said “he was alarmed that the Russian government was cracking down on freedom of the press, calling it ‘deeply unfair.’ ”

The E.T.: Watch it, Ed! Vlad is a little sensitive to criticism. Your next asylum location just may be a lot chillier.

The VA Scandal –

Shocking doesn’t even begin to cover the inspector general’s interim report on the scandal at Veterans’ Hospitals around the country.

The Times reports (May 29) that, “…administrators manipulated medical waiting lists at one and possibly more hospitals, the department’s inspector general reported on Wednesday that 1,700 patients at the veterans medical center in Phoenix were not placed on the official waiting list for doctors’ appointments and may never have received care.

“The scathing report by Richard J. Griffin, the acting inspector general, validates allegations raised by whistle-blowers and others that Veterans Affairs officials in Phoenix employed artifices to cloak long waiting times for veterans seeking medical care. Mr. Griffin said the average waiting time in Phoenix for initial primary care appointments, 115 days, was nearly five times as long as what the hospital’s administrators had reported.

“Mr. Griffin said that similar kinds of manipulation to hide long and possibly growing waiting times were “systemic throughout” the sprawling Veterans Affairs health care system, with its 150 medical centers serving eight million veterans each year. The inspector general’s office is reviewing practices at 42 Veterans Affairs medical facilities.”

The Take: While accountability is a must for lower level subordinates involved in the VA mess, especially in Arizona, perhaps House Speaker John Boehner said it best, “Is firing General Shinseki going to get to the bottom of this mess? And the answer,” Boehner said, “is no.” However, if Congress continues its laser-like focus on Shinseki, we may not get the clarity and focus necessary to expedite change.

UPDATE: As of 10:00 am (ET) VA Secretary Eric Shinsekiresigned is position. In a statement, Shinseki said that he did not want to become a distraction and wanted the focus to remain on fixing a system that had, to say the least, become very difunctional.

Good steps: Let’s see the House Committee on Veterans Affairs follow through on oversight.

America’s Poet –

Word came Wednesday of the passing of Maya Angelou, an extraordinary literary voice and spirit.

“She was a poet who wrote to be both read and recited, in the old-fashioned sense of recitation in black churches and schools and around kitchen tables,” Elizabeth Alexander said in a New York Times obituary. “Poems were meant to be spoken aloud; it was understood that poetry emerged from the body and needed to make sense in the open mouth, as song.”

But Angelou’s own words are how I wish to remember this literary force:

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”

“While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.”

“We can learn to see each other and see ourselves in each other and recognize that human beings are more alike than we are unalike.”

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”

“I’m convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they’re stones that don’t matter. As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to do some good.”


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