We The People: Say it ain’t so, Joe

The NYC Department of Investigation released a scathing report that alleged former Kings County District Attorney Charles “Joe” Hynes paid a political consultant, whose main responsibility was to get him reelected to office, with public funds.

Mr. Hynes had a long record of exemplary public service but the DOI report indicates that he misused public funds and conferred throughout the campaign with State Supreme Court Justice Barry Kamins about political strategy.

Justice Kamins, the deputy chief administrative judge for planning and policy, is a brilliant attorney who is well respected. According to the report, he sent more than 300 e-mails with political advice for Hynes. The report reflects unprofessional and unethical conduct by two respected public servants and a possible criminal prosecution for larceny for Mr. Hynes and removal from office for Justice Kamins, who was relieved of his duties.

Can no one resist the intoxication of power from political office? Vincent Tabone, vice-chairperson of the Queens GOP, is accused of accepting a $20,000 bribe from former State Senator Malcolm Smith to place the Democrat on the ballot as the Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2010.

Mr. Tabone says he consumed six vodka tonic cocktails at the restaurant where he met Smith and an FBI undercover agent to accept the money. He claims his intoxication is a defense to bribery. Another bribery conspirator, former City Councilmember Dan Halloran, tried an insanity defense to his charges. Halloran claimed treatment for a brain lesion made it difficult for him to distinguish right and wrong. A judge denied that defense.

Are we moving toward a society where no one is guilty of anything? Perhaps it is too difficult to tell right from wrong when we are bombarded by messages that greed is good, grab what you can when you can, and all that matters is 15 minutes of fame.

There have been seven convicted felons released from prison this year although they were convicted by a jury after trial. Each one will file a claim against the city or the state or someone with pockets to collect millions in damages. The trial lawyers who earn professional fees don’t mind the situation and neither do our elected officials.

However, if there is something wrong with our justice system, then we should correct it. A system that rewards exonerated defendants and trial lawyers is doing a disservice to the people wrongfully convicted and to society in general.

If our education system could instruct students about morality and the difference between right and wrong, then we might not be in this situation. Teachers cannot approach the subject of right and wrong in a world obsessed with moral relativism and political correctness. A conversation about moral or ethical behavior quickly moves in the direction of religion or the “R” word. Recent Supreme Court decisions may allow public institutions to touch upon the “R” word in school. That may be a very right thing for all citizens.

The free people of the world owe a huge debt to a small group of veterans of D-Day (June 6, 1944). The 70th anniversary of the invasion of Europe started on the beaches of Normandy.

It prompted the government of France to invite veterans including Charles Wilson, an 88-year-old veteran, to come back and visit the beaches and be honored for his service. He met the grandchildren of the people he helped liberate. A group of French high school students were moved by the real drama of that day which he described to them through an interpreter. These young men and women were free because 18-year-old soldiers, like him, and thousands of other American, English and Canadian soldiers, were willing to fight and die that day for the right reasons.

These students did not try to turn the experience into a debate about President Roosevelt’s internment of Japanese Americans or the decision to pursue the Manhattan project. No. Those real issues were better saved for a different discussion on another day. These young people understood it was time to listen and time to express gratitude to a senior citizen from America who risked everything to do the right thing when he was their age.

Mr. Wilson knew what to do on June 6, 1944, and the French government and the students knew how to treat a hero. We know the right thing to do most of the time and so do our leaders. Let’s find ways to inculcate good values and good decision-making in our young people so they will do the right thing at the right time.

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