making local government more ethical
According to an article in Town Talk, an allegation against the mayor of Alexandria (LA) of ignoring a conflict of interest has led to some all too typical denial, squabbling, and inappropriate city attorney activity.

Quote after Quote in Paris
Earlier this month the French president's son supplied me with a quote of the day. Now he has announced he will not pursue a job his father used to have, and he has supplied me with another quote of the day:
    If the question you are asking me is, ‘Did you talk to the president about [the government job]?’ No. Did I talk about that with my father? Yes.
Global Ethics, an organization run by Rushworth Kidder, author of Moral Courage and other books, has a good Ethics Newsline, which you can subscribe to. His lead article this week is about government ethics awards, inspired by what happened in Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa.

David Brooks' column in the New York Times today is about two views of character, the philosophers' and psychologists' views. He too simply portrays the philosophers' view as involving ingrained character traits, which is sadly how most people seem to view character. I would call this the mythological view of character.

The psychologists' view of character involves a "multiplicity of tendencies ... activated by this or that context." This is the realistic view of character. It's easy to say that someone is "nice" or "a good person," but people act different with different people, and they act different in different situations, as well.

“Unless you out-and-out stick it in your pocket and walk away, everything’s legal.”
--Spokesman for the New York State Board of Elections

One problem in government ethics is that when conflict situations are dealt with responsibly, there is rarely a record of them. They pass quietly, failing to end up in the newspaper, at an ethics commission, or in court. So generally we're stuck learning from the times when conflict situations are dealt with irresponsibly. One of these situations, in Wausau, Wisconsin, made it to court, and a decision this week by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin sets the facts out clearly (the decision is attached; see below).