Tag Archives: corruption

Ethics Alarms Awards Update: Let Us Not Forget “The Most Unethical University Of 2014,” and The Most Unethical Ethicist Who Helped Make It That Way

The unethical ethicist.

The unethical ethicist.

I finally completed the 6th Annual Ethics Alarms Awards for the Worst of Ethics yesterday, longer and more nauseating than its five predecessors, and also, as I realized when I awoke with a jolt at dawn this morning, more incomplete.

Somehow, I managed to omit two important and prominent awards that were in my notes but managed to elude me when I was preparing the final version. Here they are: I’ll be adding both to the official awards posts today:

Most Unethical University and Worst Academic Scandal of the Year:

The University of North Carolina and its incredible fake courses scheme that for 18 years between 1993 and 2011 allowed more than 3,100 students, 47.6 percent of them athletes, to enrolled in and receive credit for  classes that did not exist.

Least Ethical Ethicist

Prof. Jeanette M. Boxill, a philosophy professor and senior lecturer on ethics  who ran the University of North Carolina’s Parr Center for Ethics, and who somehow decided it was ethical to steer U.N.C.  into fake classes to help them maintain their eligibility with the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and actively worked to cover up the scam. Among other aspect of her participation, Boxill  helped players write papers, which the official university report on the conspiracy characterized as stepping across the line of permissible conduct.

Ya think??

The Chronicle of Education article about Boxill’s participation suggests that she rationalized helping the athletes graduate as “the ethics of care,” and a colleague says that she may have “often let her heart guide her.” Her heart guided her to allow students to acquire a degree that misrepresented their academic work to the world, and to perpetuate and further corrupt the already corrupt system of college athletics? Wow. For an ethics professor, she had a remarkably ignorant and unethical heart. She has,blessedly, been fired, and is appealing the decision.

I wonder on what grounds? I don’t think even The Saint’s Excuse (Rationalization #13 on the Ethics Alarms List) applies to her conduct.

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Filed under Character, Education, Sports

The Estefanía Isaías Scandal: See, This Stuff Shows The Ethics Rot In Our Government, And We Don’t Even Notice It

You have no idea who this woman is, do you?

You have no idea who this woman is, do you?

On December 4, the New York Times reported this:

MIAMI — The Obama administration overturned a ban preventing a wealthy, politically connected Ecuadorean woman from entering the United States after her family gave tens of thousands of dollars to Democratic campaigns, according to finance records and government officials.

The woman, Estefanía Isaías, had been barred from coming to the United States after being caught fraudulently obtaining visas for her maids. But the ban was lifted at the request of the State Department under former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton so that Ms. Isaías could work for an Obama fund-raiser with close ties to the administration.

It was one of several favorable decisions the Obama administration made in recent years involving the Isaías family, which the government of Ecuador accuses of buying protection from Washington and living comfortably in Miami off the profits of a looted bank in Ecuador.

The family, which has been investigated by federal law enforcement agencies on suspicion of money laundering and immigration fraud, has made hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to American political campaigns in recent years. During that time, it has repeatedly received favorable treatment from the highest levels of the American government, including from New Jersey’s senior senator and the State Department.

Amidst the swirling controversies over police shootings, grand jury decisions, race-baiting, fake rape allegations, Obama’s unilateral reversal of U.S. Cuba policy, ISIS, the Sony hack, Jonathan Gruber and more, not to mention the holidays, this story received almost no dissemination, yet in its own, slimy way is more important than any of the rest. For it is the quietly growing tumor of government corruption, allowing money to confer special privileges on the wealthy and policy that undermines the rule of law, that saps the nation of its public trust, and that creates the cynicism that eats away at our democracy’s vitality and strength.

Why did this story avoid media and public attention? It was a perfect storm of factors that make a news story unattractive to journalists and unfathomable to the public: Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, U.S. Society

“Say It Ain’t So, Jim!”: Jim Webb’s Unethical Family Stipends

Webb and staff. Well, wife. Well, never mind.

Webb and staff. Well, wife. Well, never mind.

Oh, great. I have personal experience with the character of one national political figure who impresses me with his honesty, courage and integrity; I support his political career and come to his defense when he is unfairly maligned, and now this. 

Time to put an ad in Craig’s List seeking a new hero.

According to a report in the Business Insider, Webb, a potential challenger to Hillary Clinton’s claim on the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination as well as a former U.S. Senator, head of he Veterans Administration, best-selling novelist and decorated Vietnam veteran, has been playing the old, unethical Washington game of shoveling campaign contributions to his family. Let me give you some of the depressing highlights:

  • Webb’s  Born Fighting PAC is dedicated to supporting “candidates and entities” who support economic fairness, “reorienting our national security posture,” and developing greater accountability in government.
  • Federal Election Commission reports show that the committee, which received nearly $1 million in donations, gave a relatively small portion of that money to political candidates and groups. At the same time, nearly 10% of the contributions received by the PAC went to Webb’s family.
  • Records show that Webb’s  Born Fighting PAC has received $961,515.34 in contributions from individuals, politicians, progressive groups, businesses, unions, and Democratic Party organizations since it launched at the end of 2006. Of this money, $91,999.91 went to Webb’s daughter, Amy Webb Hogan, and wife, Hong Le Webb.
  • Since Webb declared his interest in the 2016 race, he has been identified as one of the main potential rivals for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. Webb, who entered the Senate in 2006, announced he wouldn’t run for reelection at the beginning of 2011.
  • The Born Fighting PAC continued to contribute to Webb’s family long after it had stopped giving to funds to candidates and the groups it was established to support. Campaign finance reports show the committee has not given any money to political candidates or groups since the end of 2010.
  • The PAC has continued to take donations. Over $100,000 from the final balance in Webb’s Senate campaign account, now closed, was transferred to the committee after he left office at the start of last year.
  • Most of the money Webb’s wife and daughter received from the committee came after it had stopped giving money to politicians and political groups.
  • Webb Hogan began receiving money from her father’s PAC in 2009, when she earned $2,000 for “website consulting services.” In each year from 2010 through 2012 she received $12,000 for the same purpose. Last year, Webb Hogan was paid $14,500 from the committee. Of the money Webb Hogan was paid last year, the reports said $13,500 was for “administrative consulting services” and $1,000 was for “website services reimbursement.”
  • Based on archived versions of the Born Fighting PAC site, it was not updated at all during this period apart from a two-sentence note thanking donors for their “past support.”
  • Hong Le Webb was first paid by the Born Fighting PAC in 2008 when she received $253.37 for travel expenses. She did not receive any money from the committee again until this year, when, as of last month, she received $14,834.34. Most of the money that the committee paid to Hong Le Webb in 2014 — $13,800 — was listed in the reports as compensation for “website services.”
  • Along with the members of Webb’s family, the committee has hired professional web designers to work on the site. This includes work on the site done in the same period Webb’s PAC paid his family members for their “website services.”
  • Archived versions of the Born Fighting PAC website indicate it was updated just once this year. Hong Le Webb nevertheless received $13,800 for “website services” in addition to the money that was paid to L.A. Design Studio.
  • The latest Federal Election Commission report, which covers the period up to Nov. 24, shows the Born Fighting PAC has only $69,391.84 of the nearly $1 million it received left on hand. The committee spent about $900,000 from 2006 through last month. Of this, the records show that, over the years, just $200,027.04 of the money donated to the PAC went to political candidates and groups.In other words, Webb’s committee used only about 20% of the money it spent to support its stated mission.
  • One Democratic operative who spoke to Business Insider said leadership PACs “generally contribute 40% to 60% of the money they receive” to other candidates and groups. Born Fighting PAC seems to have had relatively high overhead even though the records show the committee did not have office space and barely employed paid staffers apart from Webb’s wife and daughter.

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

Reminder: It’s A Wonderful Ethics Movie!

It's_a_Wonderful_Life

I’m watching “It’s A Wonderful Life,” Frank Capra’s ultimate ethics movie. Don’t forget to review its ethics dilemmas, conflicts and conundrums with the handy

Ethics Alarms Complete “It’s A Wonderful Life” Ethics Guide.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Family, Love, Philanthropy, Popular Culture, Public Service, Romance and Relationships, Workplace

Daily Comics Ethics: When Did Erection Gags Become Appropriate For The Funny Pages?

Grimm cartoon

When did I miss the evolution of the newspaper comics, always regarded as the young tyke’s entry into the newspaper perusal habit, into one more entertainment medium requiring ratings and advance parental review? The comic above appeared in today’s Washington Post and elsewhere. I think it’s funny—for a Playboy cartoon. Maybe it’s not too racy for the New Yorker. But the funny pages? Seriously? This is an erection joke! In a strip with Mother Goose in the title! (The strip is “Mother Goose and Grimm” by Mike  Peters, who is also an award-winning political cartoonist.) It refers to the classic naughty line that had censors screaming when Mae West said it (after writing it.) My Dad read the daily comics to me before I could read, then explained the jokes that I couldn’t understand. Is this the kind of joke toddlers will be having explained to them now? Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Etiquette and manners, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, U.S. Society

Uber Ethics: Emil Michael Has To Go

Uber logo

What a dilemma. You are a 17 billion dollar technology firm, known for developing the technology application that supports the burgeoning car-hiring business, and most recently for expanding into music streaming by partnering with Spotify. Then one of your key executives is recorded, Mitt Romney-style, as he tells a reporter at a business gathering that the company should deal with negative publicity by doing “opposition research” on reporters and exposing their private lives in retaliation. Now what?

This is where hot tech start-up Uber is at the moment. The executive is Uber Vice President Emil Michael, a key figure in the company’s growth and success.  At a private company dinner in New York, he speculated that Uber could spend $1 million to hire a team to do the equivalent of “opposition research” on journalists who were critical of Uber, to dig into their private lives and family secrets. A reporter from BuzzFeed who was a guest at the event made Michael’s off-the-cuff comments public, setting off several rounds of high visibility attacks from various quarters—Sen. Al Franken called for an investigation—and apologies from Uber management, including Michael, whose statement said…

“The remarks attributed to me at a private dinner – borne out of frustration during an informal debate over what I feel is sensationalistic media coverage of the company I am proud to work for – do not reflect my actual views and have no relation to the company’s views or approach. They were wrong no matter the circumstance and I regret them.”

I rate this a category 7 apology on the Ethics Alarms apology scale: Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Journalism & Media, Leadership

“The Cynic”: Mitch McConnell And Political Dysfunction

Let's give credit where credit is due...

Let’s give credit where credit is due…

As we survey the irresponsible, unnecessary but apparently intentional explosion of the political process wreaked by the President’s unilateral action on illegal immigration (not “immigration,” and mark any news organization that uses this deceitful phrase as henceforward untrustworthy), it would be wrong to omit the responsibility of Mitch McConnell and his ilk–any it is a bipartisan ilk— for getting the nation to this dangerous place.

The Republican Senate leader, now Majority Leader, is the epitome of the cynical, power-hungry politician who now dominates our governmental processes, and make them all inefficient, corrupt, and undependable. As chronicled in the e-book soon to be published in hardback, “The Cynic: The Political Education of Mitch McConnell,” in his more than three decades in public service McConnell has perfected the craft of the permanent campaign, careful calibrating positions and policy measures not so much to accomplish any goal in the interests of the public and the nation, but to hold power in the next election. This is the corruption of American democracy, and reporter Alec MacGillis makes a strong case that McConnell has been one of the primary forces making sure the political process only works for politicians. It is all about the game to McConnell, and as McGillis shows, he is as deft at playing it as anybody. MacGillis writes,
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