Conflict of Ethics (or the lack thereof) (CS)
Polls will show that at least half of Americans think Congress is corrupt. This could perhaps be chalked up to paranoia towards authority figures, common for people who feel like they're in a crappy situation and getting screwed (just look at the widespread notion from blue collar workers that their Unions are corrupt but a necessary evil).
But a simple perusal of headlines shows that American concern over corruption is well founded in fact. Most recently there has been the scandal concerning Rep. Foley and Speaker Hastert. Rep. Bob Ney is just one of many probably connected to Jack Abramoff. Rep. William Jefferson can't seem to properly explain all that money found in his freezer (more reliable than a bank?). And of course there's those pesky issues of lobbyists, pork and the lack of transparency regarding the use of government funds.
Tom DeLay is probably my favorite (in that "Wow, he is a twisted jerk that needs to disappear" sort of way) character of the bunch of Congressmen with questionable (at best) tactics and impending investigations. He's notorious for his gerrymandering schemes to keep him in office and faces money laundering charges and yet keeps that dumbass smile on his face and high hopes of retaining power and status. He absolutely inspired me with this choice soundbite today:
"I haven't had no ethical problems."
In Latin, the use of a double negative was a tricky way to create an emphatic positive. While I don't think Mr. DeLay meant it, I think when taken that way he's gone and betrayed himself. Funny how a self betrayal would be through stating the truth. But that's just the state that our Government is in.
A Peculiar Failure of Our Founding Fathers
It's an awfully strange and sad time when even a portion of the electorate puts more trust in the military, Supreme Court and even the United Nations before the President or Congress.... But what are we to do?
When crafting the particular design of our government, the Founding Fathers kept in mind, in many aspects, the corrupting nature of power. The Constitution and the government it provides is especially beautiful in its various systems of checks and balances. There was a recognition that a balance of power and competing ideas are essential to keep one person or group from gaining too much sway. But for all their foresight into creating a system that checks itself, they could not see or could not find a way to have a proper policing of the Legislative branch itself.
Ethical reform in the Legislative branch runs into a bit of a Catch-22 as any sort of legislation that would regulate the House and Senate needs to be passed by, you guessed it, the House and Senate. It's entirely within their power to go ahead and create a system of accountability and ethical enforcement... Theoretically. But our Senators and Representatives will never feel the need to do just that as long as they have their precious Ethics Committees. Of course, this is where that tricky issue of Conflict of Interest comes in and if their level of self interest can be assumed from their uncanny ability to ALWAYS vote themselves a pay raise, things don't look good. It's all enough to give you some wicked constipation.
I hate to just "cut and run" on an article like this with a hopeless outlook towards the future... So here's a bit of what I think about the direction we should head toward:
If Congress and the United States Government can't police itself, it is up to the people to do so. I do not think our government needs serious, seasoned ethicists outside the apparatus itself to police it if the people themselves can simply be more vigilant as to these issues and there are indications that we can do so. As much as corrupt people and practices within the halls of government are a detriment to the country as a whole, people should be aware of questionable ethical practices by not only their own representatives but by all government members on Capitol Hill, in the White House, or within the Judiciary. Perhaps we need better civics lessons. Perhaps we simply need to not grow complacent during the not-as-lean years. In the end we must punish those who fail and promote those who succeed our governmental ethical standards at the polls.
My one caveat would be to not make mountains out of molehills. Our ethical vigilance should have more to do with the benefit and harm to the functioning of government for the people than personal, moral standards. It does not take too much educated judgment to see why payoffs from military contractors create a Conflict of Interest for someone on the Congressional Armed Services Committee or how payoffs from judges may be a Conflict of Interest to someone who must select and appoint judicial positions. It also does not take much educated judgment to see how someone receiving a consensual blowjob (even an adulterous one) is not creating a situation where his judgment over governmental function is impaired (except maybe WHILE it's happening). If the government can't police itself, WE must police the government. Be more politically aware. Do not roll over.