Tag Archives: corruption

Musings On The Clarence Thomas Affair and Insideous, Unavoidable, Rationalization Eleven

If you are good enough and valuable enough, do you deserve one of these?

If you are good enough and valuable enough, do you deserve one of these?

A recent—and off-topic—comment caused me to begin thinking about “The King’s Pass,” #11 on the Ethics Alarms Rationalization hit parade,and perhaps the most perplexing of them all. The commenter referenced the 2010 discovery that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas had inexplicably neglected to mention his activist wife’s annual income on his annual financial disclosure filings, meaning that he had filed a false affidavit and violated the law. Thomas claimed that he had made a careless mistake—for five years—and the matter was allowed to drop except for the angry agitating of the Anti-Clarence Thomas Furies, who are constantly searching for any way to get a conservative black justice off the Supreme Court short of assassination.

The episode had left a bad taste in my mouth, and I was happy to be reminded of it, bad mouth tastes being essential to triggering ethics alarms. I went back to read my post on the matter, and sure enough, I had followed the principle of rejecting The King’s Pass, and asserted that Thomas should be punished appropriately and formally…but that really ducked the question. Lawyers have lost their licenses to practice for single episodes of swearing to false information when it was far more obvious that a mistake had been made than in Thomas’s case, as when a hapless Maryland lawyer carelessly signed a legal document that had misrecorded  his address. The logic of this no-tolerance ruling was that a lawyer, above all people, should never swear to a falsehood, and that doing so, even once, was a serious breach of duty calling into question his fitness to practice law. I think the penalty for this particular act was excessive—it is cited locally as a cautionary tale—but I agree with its underlying principle, which should apply with even more vigor when the lawyer in question is a judge, and not merely a judge, but a Supreme Court Justice.
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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, U.S. Society

Dear Discovery Channel: Fire Paul Lewis, Or You Will Regret It. Trust Me On This.

The Discovery Channel’s president, Paul Lewis, approved a promotional campaign for the rapidly rotting cable channel’s “Shark Week” that included a fake video, shown above,  intended to “go viral” and convince people that there are sharks in Lake Ontario. After the video prompted the Ontario Minister of Natural Resources  to warn swimmers and anxiety over the shark sighting was expressed in social media, the channel’s ad agency admitted that it was hoax. Some people still don’t believe it’s a hoax, however, because they’ve seen “Jaws.” After all, claiming a real sighting is a hoax to save the tourist season is just the sort of thing Amity Mayor Larry Vaughn would do, right?

Or that equally slimy Paul Lewis would do. Here is his despicable, ethics-free “apology”:

“We didn’t want it to be something that would negatively impact people’s summer…It’s unfortunate that some people took what we did so serious. If we upset anybody, of course I apologize for that. It would be totally counterproductive for us to go out there and upset and disturb our audience.”

First of all, how does someone become president of a communications company who uses “serious” like that? Continue reading

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Judges At Work

Supreme Court protests

In the threads here stemming from Judge Kopf’s impolite and unprofessional verbiage directed at the Supreme Court, some members of the Nebraska federal jurist’s fan club have sought to justify his incivility by asserting that the judicial system itself is “broken,” and that, more specifically, judges ought to just concern themselves with judicial errors of their lower court colleagues and eschew political controversies, such as, I must presume based on the context of the judge’s compliant, when the other branches of the government break laws and violate constitutional principles.

To say that I’m cynical about this argument understates the case.What it means, I believe, is that members of one partisan orientation believe that the system is broken as long as judges who do not share their progressive biases are in a position to rule on various controversies where judicial intervention is necessary and appropriate, but will no longer be considered “broken” once progressive-minded jurists are in a position to do the intervening, whereupon the critics like Judge Kopf will drop their objections.

The fact that the system is not “broken” and that judges are doing their jobs when called upon to protect the public from abuse of power was illustrated by two events this week: Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Kiefer Sutherland

“I’ve been mystified by this. You have to understand that we’re not writing foreign policy. This is a dramatic television show, and Jack threatening to blow someone’s knees off because he wants information is a dramatic device to show how urgent or desperate a situation is. It should not be taken as this is what we think the CIA should be doing.”

—–“24″ star, as “Jack Bauer,” Kiefer Sutherland, expressing his bewilderment at criticism of his show for depicting a hero who resorts to torture repeatedly, in an interview with United’s in-flight magazine, “Hemispheres.”

jack_bauer_tortureWe shouldn’t criticize actors for not being rocket scientists, or even ethicists. Nonetheless, this comment shows a remarkable ignorance of how a society passes on values and virtues, and the role played by literature, legends and pop culture.

Sutherland is the hero of his show, one of the good guys. What our society depicts the good guys as doing, the values they hold, the virtues they display, the goals they seek and the methods they use to achieve them, both reflects the values of our culture and sends the message that these are the kinds of conduct that the culture wants to encourage. Celebrating as heroes individuals who routinely kill when they are not protecting themselves or the innocent, engage in cruelty, theft, or the abuse of others, or unapologetic law-breaking encourages our younger generations to regard such anti-social conduct as defensible, or even the norm. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Ethics Quotes, Journalism & Media, Literature, Popular Culture, U.S. Society

Is It Possible That The Democratic Party Is As Corrupt As Its Conduct In The I.R.S. Investigation Suggests?

Corleone testifiesThis began as an Ethics Dunce post, but designating Congressional Democrats as ethics dunces for their current, apparently agreed upon and coordinated response to the disgraceful I.R.S. scandal—and it is a scandal—appears far more sinister than that. This appears to be a cover-up, and a particularly blatant, clumsy and desperate one, as well as a sickening display of a major political party abandoning its principals and constituency—meaning the American people and not donors, sycophants or “the base”—to impede an effort to get to the truth.

Here’s Post columnist Michael Gerson’s fair summary of the I.R.S. affair to date:

“To review: After President Obama blamed “two Dilberts in Cincinnati,” an inspector general’s report found that high-level IRS officials in Washington were involved in directing additional scrutiny toward tea party groups seeking tax exemptions. [I.R.S. official Lois]Lerner admitted as much, before taking the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying before the House oversight committee. The House of Representatives held her in contempt. And now the evidence of possible communications between Lerner and other agencies (including the White House) has gone missing under suspicious circumstances. It could be a regrettable series of rogue operations, IRS management failures and technical glitches. Or they could be taking us for fools. If there was any political motivation for this abuse of power, it is a form of corruption — the kind of thing Americans like to criticize in countries they regard as less developed. And the circumstantial evidence is strong. This wave of heightened IRS scrutiny came after Democratic senators, warning of possible abuses spawned by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, demanded additional IRS scrutiny of nonprofit political groups. Because evidence of political influence is both plausible and circumstantial, a special counsel is needed to sort out the truth.”

The summary, in an accurate article titled “An arrogant and lawless I.R.S..” doesn’t include the fact that nobody has been disciplined or held accountable in any way for what occurred, including any of the imaginary scapegoats in the Cincinnati office. It doesn’t note that I.R.S. Commissioner Koskinen delayed informing Congress of the lost e-mails for months, after assuring members, under oath, that they would be provided. Yesterday, Koskinen stooped to Bill Clinton levels of deceitful parsing, arguing that when he swore to Congress that he would deliver all e-mails, he meant only all the e-mails that existed, since he couldn’t deliver those that no longer existed. Why didn’t he mention that those key Lerner e-mails had vanished? He wasn’t asked! Meanwhile, a government archivist testified yesterday that not informing Congress that the e-mails had been lost indeed violated a federal statute. Also yesterday, the I.R.S. admitted that it illegally played politics in 2012, leaking confidential tax information from an anti-gay marriage group to the pro-marriage Human Rights Campaign. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, The Internet

KABOOM! A Judge Bends Over Backward To Make Sure A Crooked Cop Keeps His Pension

head_explodes

I don’t see how a justice system that allows this nonsense can maintain any credibility whatsoever. Thus my brains and skull fragments are scattered all over my office. Read on at the peril of a blown cranium.

James Romano is the police chief of Scott Township and a part-time police officer in Dickson City in  Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania. Last year, he was investigating sexual misconduct charges against a local high school teacher that he had filed himself. Romano began a romantic relationship with a woman whom he was interviewing as part of that investigation. In the process, he revealed confidential investigative information about the case ( he told her she was “his favorite victim”), and when he learned that she was going to be interviewed by authorities, Romano texted her a message saying “just remember nothing about me,” and later told her not to tell the truth to investigators. Roman was charged with two counts of intimidation of a witness or victim, and one count of obstructing administration of law or other governmental function.

Are you ready? Romano pleaded guilty and agreed to resign his post, but his lawyer persuaded Lackawanna County President Judge Thomas Munley to defer Romano’s sentencing until the state confirms that the former chief will receive his pension, a determination that may not be made until Mr. Romano turns 50, seven years from now.

KABOOM!

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Filed under Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Workplace

Wait…WHAT? Something Is Missing From This Ethics Story….

please-move-along-theres-nothing-to-see-here-1

From the Washington Post:

“Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson put the agency’s former inspector general on administrative leave late Thursday, the same day The Washington Post revealed a congressional investigation’s finding that the former watchdog had tailored reports to the liking of senior Obama administration officials. A Senate investigative report concluded that Charles K. Edwards, who served as acting inspector general at the agency from 2011 until this past December, had directed altering and delaying critical investigative reports and audits at the request of top political appointees in the department”

In that story, we learned that  Edwards, who served as acting DHS inspector general from 2011 through 2013, routinely socialized with department leaders and gave them inside information about the timing and findings of investigations.  The objective, which staff members said that Edwards was confident he had in the bag, was White House support for his position to be made permanent. A year-long bipartisan investigation also concluded that Edwards improperly consulted with top political advisers to then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and acquiesced to their suggestions about the wording and timing of his supposedly objective reports. Whistleblowers told the panel that Edwards ordered them to remove derogatory information about the Secret Service in the findings regarding the Service’s prostitution scandal, and also evidence implicating a White House staff member. Other whistleblowers alleged deletions and alterations in other reports by Edwards. Investigators told the Post they were able to confirm the improper deletions and delays in several reports, but did not reach a conclusion on the Secret Service-related allegations because the DHS, which is, as we all know, part of the most transparent administration ever. declined to provide Edwards’s e-mails about the Secret Service incident. Continue reading

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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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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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