Tag Archives: corruption

Hope Lives! D.C. Votes For Ethics

Time for a new fish head in the District of Columbia.

Time for a new fish head in the District of Columbia.

A continuing battle on Ethics Alarms, one that bursts into flame when elections loom, is whether it is responsible to vote for an unethical candidate for office because he or she supports policies the voter favors. I resolutely vote “no” on that proposition, believing that in the long run, government and society are better served by plodding but trustworthy public servants than wily and corrupt ones. The ideal, of course, is to find candidates who are competent, trustworthy, dedicated and who pursue effective policies. Good luck.

Few cities have embraced the opposite of the Ethics Alarms approach more consistently than the District of Columbia. The nation’s most liberal region has traditionally chosen to ignore corrupt city officials, and has paid a high price. A culture of corruption has been festering in the District for decades, spear-headed by the smug, machine-politics reign of Marion Barry, elected both before and after a prison sentence for possessing crack (in the midst of an anti-drug campaign for schoolchildren, naturally). Barry still pollutes D.C. government as a city councilman, but his legacy is complete: the whole government is an ethics sewer.

In 2013, more than thirty D.C. employees were arrested, indicted, pleaded guilty or were sent to jail from  such diverse cesspools as the D.C. Department of Employment Services, the Department of Human Services, the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp., a city-owned hospital, the Office of Campaign Finance, D.C. Medicaid, the Corrections Department, a charter school and Medicare. The tally of money embezzled, accepted in bribes, defrauded or spent on illegal political campaign contributions was about $19 million. Former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. pleaded guilty to stealing $350,000 in taxpayer money meant to benefit children. Former council chairman Kwame Brown pleaded guilty to a felony bank fraud charge; and former council member Michael A. Brown confessed to an illegal bribery scheme. Colbert King, the Washington Post’s city beat columnist who tirelessly urges the city to clean up its act cataloged the extent of D.C.’s corruption last year. He pointed out:

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, U.S. Society

Ethics Rant: Here Is The Smoking Gun Proof That The Government Doesn’t Care How Much Money It Wastes, Or, In The Alternative, That It Isn’t Run By Sufficiently Competent People To Be Trusted To Spend What It Does

Oh, I almost forgot….

Kaboom!*

If this can save millions, what other measures are out there> Never mind---if they couldn't find this, they won't find them, either.

If this can save millions, what other measures are out there? Never mind—if they couldn’t find this, they won’t find them, either.

Here is the news story that justifies the title, and also that made my dome blow, as I’m sure yours will.

A 14-year old sixth grade student from Pittsburgh named Suvir Mirchandani devised, as his science fair entry at Dorseyville Middle School, a computer project that examined printing costs. He analyzed a random sample of school printouts and measured how much ink various fonts use. Noting studies that found ink remarkably expensive (I thought it was just my printer), Mirchandani calculated  that by simply switching from the Times New Roman font to a thinner, more ink-thrifty font like Garamond, his school district alone could reduce its annual ink costs by 24%,  saving up to $21,000 annually.

His  teacher encouraged him to submit his work to the Harvard-based Journal for Emerging Investigators, who were moved to inquire, “How much money could the  government save if it switched to Garamond?”

Plugging in the Government Services Administration’s estimated annual cost of ink, Suvir concluded that if the federal government used Garamond exclusively it could save nearly 30%  of the total $467 million, or $136 million per year. Placing state governments on a font diet would save an additional $234 million, he reported.

They checked his figures, and he was right. The simple act of changing a typeface would save taxpayers $400,000,000 a year. Kaboom.

Now permit me a brief rant…

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OK, OK, He Steals Our Money Too. But I Still Hear Eric Holder’s One Hell Of A Guy….

But what really matters is whether he's better than Alberto Gonzalez, right?

But what really matters is whether he’s better than Alberto Gonzalez, right?

From the Washington Post:

The agency that tracks federal travel did not report hundreds of personal and other “nonmission” trips aboard government planes for senior Justice Department officials including Attorney General Eric Holder and former FBI Director Robert Mueller, according to a watchdog report.

Congress’s nonpartisan Government Accountability Office determined that the 395 flights cost taxpayers $7.8 million. But the General Services Administration, which oversees trips aboard federal jets, did not require documentation because of a GSA reporting exemption that covers intelligence agencies, even in cases of unclassified personal travel.

The GSA exemption contradicts decades-old executive-branch requirements, specifically guidelines established by President Bill Clinton and the Office of Management and Budget, according to the report. The report said GSA “has not provided a basis for deviating from executive branch requirements.”

The findings, released Thursday, came out nearly 19 months after Republican lawmakers began questioning Holder’s use of an FBI jet for travel unrelated to Justice Department work. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked the GAO to look into the matter.

In its report, the non-partisan Congressional GAO reprimands the GSA, noting that “GSA regulations that allow intelligence agencies not to report unclassified data on senior federal official travel for non-mission purposes are not consistent with executive branch requirements, and GSA has not provided a basis for deviating from these requirements.” Now the GSA is promising to rectify the non-mission exemption.

But never mind all that. The gravamen of the report is that Attorney General Holder and former FBI Director Robert Mueller spent $7.8 million dollars of taxpayer money for personal travel, and haven’t reimbursed it. What does this tell us? Nothing we shouldn’t have been able to figure out before:

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Workplace

Now THIS Is An Unethical Public Employee

That's Campatelli on the right,

That’s Campatelli on the right,

This is the beginning of the Boston Globe’s front page story about an investigator’s report on the conduct of Patricia Campatelli, the Suffolk County (in Boston, Mass.) Register of Probate, an elected position:

“Patricia Campatelli often worked only 15 hours a week at her $122,500-a-year job as Suffolk County register of probate, and she spent much of that time taking “numerous smoking breaks, scratching lottery tickets, looking at East Boston real estate on the Internet, and filling out puzzles,” according to employees quoted in a confidential report obtained by the Globe.

Even before the embattled Campatelli was accused of punching an employee in the face…”

The rest of the story didn’t make coffee come out my nose like the last part, but it was pretty jaw-dropping nonetheless. Campatelli, who is clearly a piece of work, is currently on administrative leave and denies everything in the report, despite the statements of virtually everyone who works with her that were provided to the court-appointed investigator Ronald P. Corbett, Jr. Corbett’s report has been forwarded to a committee of the Supreme Judicial Court for possible disciplinary action. Continue reading

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Ethics Blindness: The Pro-Abortion Ethical Disconnect

To anyone who is capable of compassion and objectivity, the abortion controversy represents a classic ethics conflict: two ethically defensible positions based upon undeniable ethical principles that are in opposition. Both factions have their absolutist wings which would deny the other side’s interests, holding that either the life of the unborn ( abortion opponents) or a woman’s autonomy (abortion advocates)  is such a societal priority  that nothing should be permitted to compromise its primacy in any way. Yet the best solution to most ethics conflicts, if possible, is balancing, resulting in acceptance of a  reasonable middle position that acknowledges the validity of both interests.

Recent comments from prominent pro-abortion advocates are ethically troubling, because they suggest a complete denial that any valid interests on the other side exist at all. This signals a retreat from reason and fairness into zealotry and fanaticism, and it makes balancing not merely more difficult, but unimaginable.
In an interview on the cable station Fusion, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards had this revealing exchange (video above): Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Character, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Religion and Philosophy, Science & Technology

“Killer Karaoke” And Cultural Corruption

In “Ricky’s Hawaii Vacation.” a famous episode of “I Love Lucy,” the Riotous Redhead was so desperate to win tickets for her neighbors (Fred and Ethel, or course) to accompany her and husband Ricky to Hawaii that she agreed to appear on a sadistic radio quiz show, in which the host, Freddie Freeman—played by the immortal Frank Nelson of Jack Benny skit fame (“Yyyyeeeeeeessssssss???”)—tortured his contestants with various indignities before awarding prizes. This was funny at the time, because it was a wild exaggeration of current TV quiz show programming. It was also funny, as with all slapstick, because the mayhem being inflicted was, the audience knew, part of a comedy skit and not real. A real Freddie using a contestant’s desperation for a prize as an excuse to degrade and humiliate her would have been unacceptably cruel…in the 1950′s.

Now, however, we have True TV’s new reality/game show, “Killer Karaoke.” It is a reality/game/ comedy show of shocking sadistic glee, the result of more than a half century of incremental slippage in standards of decency and public tolerance for cruelty. Take that episode of “I Love Lucy” and take it through a journey that includes stops at “Beat the Clock,” “Truth or Consequences,” “Let’s Make a Deal,” “Scare Tactics,” “Wipe Out,” “Fear Factor,” “Survivor,” the worst of the “let’s watch a human train wreck as desperate ex-celebrities beg for exposure and pay-checks” reality shows, and nightmare futuristic sci-fi movies like “The Hunger Games” and “The Running Man,” and “Killer Karaoke” is what you get.  The show has been hailed by TV critics as “brilliant.” I admit: it is difficult to watch it without laughing. So why are those ethics alarms going off in my head? Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Humor and Satire, Popular Culture, U.S. Society

A Good Reason To Question Chris Christie’s Ethics

Thank you for that completely voluntary and generous contribution to the new ethics center at  my alma mater! You can leave your cell now."

Thank you for that completely voluntary and generous contribution to the new ethics center at my alma mater! You can leave your cell now.”

In a long report published in the Washington Post a week ago, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s conduct as a federal prosecutor was examined, under the headline, “Chris Christie’s long record of pushing boundaries, sparking controversy.” This is euphemistic, to say the least. What the report describes is clear-cut, undeniably unethical practices by Christie. They were arguably legal and technically permitted at the time (though no longer), but never mind: they were unethical, and would quickly set off the ethics alarms of any ethical lawyer or politician. For Christie, they did not.

I’ll focus only on the main practice in question. The Post’s Carol Morello and Carol D. Leonnig write,

“As the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey, Chris Christie struck an unusual deal with Bristol- Myers Squibb. In exchange for not charging the drugmaking giant with securities fraud, Christie’s office would require it to fund a professorship at Seton Hall University’s law school — Christie’s alma mater.The $5 million gift, one component of a larger agreement between the company and prosecutors, was hailed by the school, in South Orange, N.J., as a cornerstone of its new center on business ethics.”

Now there’s irony for you: a center on business ethics funded with an unethical gift from security fraudsters. For the passage above just as easily, and more accurately, might have read: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

Governor Cuomo’s Selective Anti-Gun Fervor: And This Is Why So Many Americans Have No Respect for Laws Or Lawmakers

Guns are a public menace! We must not permit lawless, reckless gun possession! Unless its a member of my staff, of course, in which case, meh, no biggie.

“Guns are a public menace! We must not permit lawless, reckless gun possession! Unless it’s a member of my staff, of course, in which case, meh, no biggie.”

[UPDATE: Jerome Hauer disputes some of the reported facts in this post. I have yet to find any sources that have different facts, but I will revisit both the story and my conclusions, and make appropriate revisions, retractions, or clarifications if and when warranted. You will find Mr. Hauer's comment, and my reply to him, below.]

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been the source of some of the most excessive anti-gun rants making up the sorry legacy of the Post Sandy Hook Ethics Train Wreck. It was a year ago that a unveiled a package of strict gun restrictions, saying that with “the senseless massacre in Newtown, Connecticut… New York must say enough is enough to gun violence.” Oh, Gov. Cuomo hates guns, believe you me.

So what do you think happened when it was revealed that Jerome Hauer, Cuomo’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner appointed in 2011, had not only been carrying a handgun to work ever since, but also, incredibly, took out the gun and used the laser sighting device attached to the barrel as a pointer in a presentation to a Swedish delegation on Oct. 24? Hauer was not only breaking the Cuomo-backed law barring state employees from packing a weapon at their workplace, but also was modeling the kind of ignorant and dangerous firearm misuse that undermines any claim that he was a safe, responsible, well-trained gun owner.

What happened appears to be this: as soon as the Governor got word that Hauer’s illegal and reckless conduct was about to be revealed in the press, the Homeland Security chief received a quick waiver from New York’s Office of General Services Commissioner RoAnn Destito. The waiver, of course, could not make his prior conduct legal. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

KABOOM! Bloomberg: “Well, I Hear These Guys Do A Good Job, So Let’s Give The Contract To Them!”

head_explodes

From an exclusive in the New York Daily News:

“In one of its final acts, the Bloomberg administration pushed through a costly contract to modernize the city’s 311 call system — hiring the same company fired by the feds for the botched rollout of the Obamacare website. The city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, known as DoITT, awarded the contract to the Montreal-based company CGI on Dec. 31, hours before Bill de Blasio was sworn in as mayor.”

This isn’t even an incompetent U.S. company. It’s based in Montreal. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Incompetent Elected Officials, Kaboom!

Virginia’s McDonnells, Masters Of Rationalization

Former_Governor_Indicted

The only question regarding the multiple count federal corruption indictment of Virginia’s most recent ex-Governor Bob McDonnell (R) and his wife is whether or not the relevant laws are so porous that they can’t be convicted on the evidence. Did they use McDonnell’s high office for personal enrichment? Yes. Did they go to great lengths to disguise the fact? Yes. Did the Governor betray the public trust? Yes. Were the gifts, loans and cash, totaling at least $165,000, received from a dietary supplements company CEO essentially bribes? Of course they were. This is another excellent example of why the admonition that the accused are innocent until proven guilty is often technical rather than true. Based on irrefutable facts, the Virginia’s former First Couple is guilty as hell—of dishonesty, greed, corruption, obstruction of justice, bribery, betrayal of trust, the appearance of impropriety and outrageously unethical conduct. They just may not have broken any of the laws regulating those actions.

The legal case will ultimately rest on whether there was a specific, provable quid pro quo, which is to say, were the gifts and loans from Jonnie Williams Sr., former CEO of Star Scientific, expressly made in exchange for the governor’s assistance in helping his company in the state? Williams, who has made a deal, will testify that this was his understanding; why else would he allow himself to be used as a piggy bank by McDonnell and his wife? But in politics, as we all know, the myth is otherwise. Big companies give lawmakers big campaign contributions out of the goodness of their hearts and patriotic fervor, and it’s just a coincidence that those same lawmakers subsequently support laws that make those same companies millions, or block laws that would get in their way. It’s a coincidence! The Feds are going to have to show that what McDonnell did was significantly more sleazy than what virtually the entire population of Congress does by reflex, and also a clear violation of law. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Dunces, Family, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership