Center for Ethics and Leadership

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Wise Limit to Capital Punishment

In a very close decision, 5-4, the Supreme Court has ruled Louisiana's law providing capital punishment for child rape unconstitutional. It is a decision both courageous and wise. As the court pointed out, there is a distinction between homicidal and non-homicidal crimes. Both presidential candidates disagreed with the decision, as did Louisiana's governor, Bobby Jindal. The four dissenting judges, Justices Alito, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas, are all Catholic, as is Governor Jindal. The American Catholic bishops issued a document rejecting capital punishment in 1983.

Shut up, Don, we all know what you meant

Don Imus opened his big mouth again. This time he tried to explain himself by saying that he meant that Pacman Jones was being picked on because he was black. No, you didn't. You made a racial joke that didn't work, and it is not the first time. Amazingly, Jimi Izrael of The Root told us all to lay off, that neither this remark nor the remarks about the Rutgers women's basketball team were all that much out of line. Ethnic humor and insult humor have been around for decades and predate even Don Rickles -- if that's possible. There are still limits. They can be hard to define, but there are ways to see the line and deliberately cross it as George Carlin did (RIP, buddy) and classless ways to do it. We all know what you meant, Imus.

The War Comes Home

Those of you in the Philadelphia metropolitan area may have seen the reports of the two South Jersey soldiers killed in action early this week. We knew one of them, Greg Dalessio, who was a friend of our children. Greg was from a wonderful family, a half-brother in a family of eight children and the oldest.

We can only imagine his parents' grief. We all have lost a young man, 30, of excellent character. Greg had a Bachelor's degree from Seton Hall University as well as a Master's from the same school in international relations.

New Jersey also lost a fine state trooper in Dwayne Kelley, 48, of Willingboro. He was fluent in Arabic and worked with the trooper's antiterrorist unit.

Vaya con Dios, Gentlemen.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Professor Kmiec and Father Pfleger

Catholic politics is getting interesting. A few weeks ago, Douglas Kmiec, a law professor with impeccable Catholic and conservative credentials, was denied communion by a priest who claimed the former member of the Reagan and senior Bush teams had stepped outside the lines with his surprising columns supporting Barack Obama. The issue was abortion, and this rendered the priest's remarks all the more surprising since Kmiec is outspokenly opposed to abortion. Nearly a month ago, Fr. Michael Pfleger, an activist Chicago priest was told by Cardinal George to apologize for remarks about Sen. Clinton that focused on white privilege.

I must have a higher tolerance level than most. Perhaps it is the academic in me. I watched the YouTube of Fr. Pfleger, and it did not seem to me that he was endorsing any particular candidate from his guest pulpit at Trinity United Church of Christ. And I made a point of reading some of Kmiec's columns and liked his argument. He speaks of politics as the art of the possible when discussing abortion and refuses to make it a candidate's litmus test. He also has a few wise things to say about using the Supreme Court as a political football in the controversy. I liked even better his remark that we cannot use religion as a political weapon.

It is a cliche, but moral leadership requires more conversation, not less. There are few issues more volatile in the public forum than white privilege and abortion. Fuller discussion is warranted.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Make Levees, Not War

By now most of you know that Louisiana has a special place in my heart. My daughter went to Tulane, and I fell in love with the culture. So I was devastated by Katrina, and my daughter spent the first semester of her senior year at the University of Tennessee. Shortly thereafter she had a tee shirt with the slogan "Make Levees, Not War."

I don't know how many of you realize that although Katrina was a category 5 hurricane in the gulf, it may have hit New Orleans only at category 3. In other words, had we not overdeveloped the swamps, which slow hurricanes down (see my previous post on Environmental Ethics and Entrepreneurial Leadership), and maintained the levees, we might have had a much different story.

Today the news is about the flooding in the Midwest. In Wisconsin the levees broke. Let's wait to see if there is another story of the Army Corps of Engineers not being budgeted enough to maintain them.

The disrepair of the country's infrastructure should be an issue in the upcoming campaign.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Bo Diddley

Bo Diddley died today. The very polite report on msn.com did not mention the other thing Bo was famous for. Not only did he create a guitar rhythm that has fueled generations of rockers, most notably The Rolling Stones, he had a way of playing that guitar that inspired the King. When Bo played, he shook his hips -- provocatively. It is said that Col. Tom Parker saw Bo perform and remarked, "If I could get a white boy to play like that, I'd make a million dollars." Parker found his white boy in the form of a very good-looking and uniquely talented kid from Tupelo, Mississippi. Elvis.

Chuck Berry had his way of playing, too, the famous Duck Walk, and Little Richard was as much performance as he was the music.

They called Bo Diddley The Black Gladiator.

Rest in Peace, Black Gladiator. Along with Chuck and Little Richard, you invented Rock and Roll.