Tag Archives: nepotism

The T-Rex Escapes: Lessons Of The Washington Redskins’ Nepotism

I can’t exactly say, like Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malacolm in “Jurassic Park,” that I hate being right all the time…in part because I’m not. It sure is frustrating, however, to see an ethics crisis looming, write about it once, then twice, and still see so many people surprised when it arrives like an angry T-Rex. Thus today, I began the morning by pounding my head against the wall to read in the Washington Post sports section a column by Jason Reid with the headline, “Mike Shanahan, by hiring his son Kyle, has created an untenable situation.” Wait, what year is this? Shanahan, the coach of the Washington Redskins, that team with the name that we’re not supposed to say, hired his son Kyle as the team’s offensive coordinator many moons ago, in 2010. It was a terrible idea at the time, an example of classic nepotism that created an immediate risk of exactly what is occurring now, and perhaps the certainty of it, if the situation endured long enough.

Last season, when the Redskins swept to the NFC East Championship behind thrilling rookie QB Robert Griffin III, the ethics-challenged sports fandom here (Washington, D.C., remember) cited the success as proof that nepotism is an ethics boogie man, nothing more. This was pure consequentialism. As I concluded my post on the topic last January,

“This is rank consequentialism in its worst form. Nepotism is an unethical way to run any staff, company, team, business or government, unfair, inherently conflicted, irresponsible, dangerous and corrupting. It should be recognized as such from the beginning, and rejected, not retroactively justified if it “works.”I’m sure there were and are non-relatives of the Redskins coach who could have devised a successful offense with RG3 taking the hikes. The ethical thing to do was to find them and give one of them the job. The Redskins coach’s nepotism is just as unethical in 2013 as it was in 2012, 2011, and 2010.”

In “Jurassic Park,” the same day that chaotician Malcolm warns that the dinosaur park is so complex that a fatal loss of control is inevitable, the systems break down and he gets nearly gets eaten. The same year I wrote those words, ten months later, it’s Mike Shanahan on the menu as Jason Reid wrote these: Continue reading


Filed under Business & Commercial, Family, Leadership, Love, Sports

Too Late For That Legacy, Sen. Baucus: Why Not Just Resign?

Sen. Baucus and, uh, staff...

Sen. Baucus and, uh, staff…

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana) has announced that he won’t be seeking re-election in 2014, and the alert national media has spun this into many themed stories: how it further endangers the Democratic Party’s chances of holding the Senate; how it will remove one of the purported experts on the tax code from possible tax reform efforts; how, as Washington Post columnist Stephen Stromberg put it, Baucus has a chance to leave “an admirable tax-reform legacy” by negotiating a deal on a carbon tax. All of this misses the Tyrannosaurus in the room, and worse than that, leaves the impression that it doesn’t matter. Baucus is one of the most corrupt and untrustworthy members of the Senate, which is no small accomplishment, if not exactly an admirable legacy. He should resign now, as he should have resigned years ago. The fact that his colleagues didn’t force him to resign (like his former, similarly corrupt Republican colleague, Sen. Ensign) shows just how unworthy of the American public that body is.

Since he was last elected by the good people of Montana, Baucus…

  • Carried on an inter-office, and adulterous, affair with staffer Melodee Hanes
  • Blatantly favored her in the course of business, giving her an excessive raise and taking her along with him on costly junkets
  • Nominated Hanes to be a U.S. attorney, a plum job Hanes withdrew herself from consideration for after their clandestine affair was revealed
  • Probably pulled strings to get her a high-ranking job in the Justice Department, after the couple divorced their respective spouses and got married in 2011… Continue reading


Filed under Character, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Leadership

Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Our Sick Democracy

Exactly what we deserve.

Exactly what we deserve.

In the end, the fact that Jesse Jackson, Jr. is going to jail in disgrace is less significant than what his disgraceful career represents. Jackson is only one man, and many men have failed their responsibilities to society while showing dire deficits of character in the process. Jackson’s career, however, is smoking gun evidence of the travesty we have allowed America’s democratic system of government to become. If there are any who still wonder why the nation seems incapable of addressing its problems and challenges responsibly,  look no further. This is a democracy whose citizenry has become too complacent, lazy, apathetic and ignorant for the privilege of self-government. The implications of this are terrifying.

Reading the various articles about Jackson’s imminent guilty plea to conspiracy charges, I was struck by the realization that this one-time rising political star is a child. He misappropriated over $750,000 in campaign funds to buy, among other gewgaws like a Rolex watch, such indefensible treasures as Bruce Lee memorabilia ($10,105), Michael Jackson mementos ($14,200), a “Michael Jackson and Eddie Van Halen” guitar for $4,000, and a Michael Jackson fedora, a bargain at $4,600…all with money donated to his political campaign. This is the caliber of mind and the considered priorities of the man entrusted by an Illinois congressional district to participate on their behalf in crucial decisions affecting jobs, the economy, and the course of the nation, while being consistently endorsed by our toadying news media. Continue reading


Filed under Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, U.S. Society

Consequentialism Alert At Redskins Park!

Washington, D.C. has a grand tradition of nepotism. Sometimes it works; it's wrong all the time.

Washington, D.C. has a grand tradition of nepotism. Sometimes it works; it’s wrong all the time.

A year ago, I wrote about the dilemma faced by Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, who was mired in another terrible season with a failing offense engineered by his son Kyle, the team’s offensive coordinator.  Here we have the ethical problem with nepotism, I wrote…

“There is no way to tell what is happening or what the effect of the nepotism is, which is why all appearance of impropriety situations are toxic to trust; there is no way to tell whether the apparent conflict is causing real harm or not. When everything goes well, the doubts will be muted and there won’t be a crisis in public trust, but that is luck, and nothing more…Not only are the Skins losing, but the leaks have sprung in Nepotsim Central, where Kyle Shanahan is responsible. It was fully predictable, not that this would happen, but that it could very well happen, way back in 2010 when Mike Shanahan had the bright idea of hiring sonny boy. Not foreseeing this is a miserable failure to play ethics chess: when a choice is a good bet to create an ethics problem a few moves from now, don’t make it. Owner Snyder should have forbidden it; Kyle should have turned the job down.”

Ah, but that was then, and this is now. The vicissitudes of moral luck have struck again.  Now Kyle’s offense is working like a charm, thanks to the magic arm, legs and mind of rookie quarterback sensation Robert Griffin III. Now the ‘Skins are the NFL East Champions! Now Kyle is an offensive wizard, not a putz, and Coach Dad a visionary for hiring him. What’s the matter with a little nepotism? Never mind!

This is rank consequentialism in its worst form. Nepotism is an unethical way to run any staff, company, team, business or government, unfair, inherently conflicted, irresponsible, dangerous and corrupting. It should be recognized as such from the beginning, and rejected, not retroactively justified if it “works.”

I’m sure there were and are non-relatives of the Redskins coach who could have devised a successful offense with RG3 taking the hikes. The ethical thing to do was to find them and give one of them the job.

The Redskins coach’s nepotism is just as unethical in 2013 as it was in 2012, 2011, and 2010.


Filed under Family, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, Sports

Cognitive Dissonance, Corruption, and Patrick Moran

This video creates a major cognitive dissonance problem for me.

James O’Keefe, of ACORN take-down infamy, who engages in unethical journalistic practices to catch conservative foes in incriminating or otherwise damning statements, once again succeeded in exposing serious corruption, this time in the Virginia Democratic Party and more specifically on the staff of Northern Virginia Congressman Jim Moran. O’Keefe and his “Project Veritas” are the epitome of “the ends justify the means” philosophy of political warfare, and they are neither trustworthy nor admirable. Nonetheless, the video his dishonest methods produced provides important information to the public, and its message should not be ignored or minimized because it is the product of lies and a hidden camera.

Jim Moran is my Congressman, and has been for decades. There is no question that Moran is untrustworthy; there is substantial evidence that he is corrupt and has the values of a thug. We can add to this evidence that fact that his son Patrick, as the O’Keefe video shows, was happy to volunteer information to a starnger he thought was an aspiring voter fraud conspirator just how to cast Democratic votes for a hundred or so Virginians who weren’t going to visit the voting booth. Patrick Moran was the Congressman’s campaign field director at the time; he is also the nephew of Jim’s brother, who heads the Virginia Democratic Party. Patrick has since resigned, saying, naturally, that he made “a mistake.” In his exit statement to the media, Moran said:

“In reference to the ‘O’Keefe’ video, at no point have I, or will I ever endorse any sort of illegal or unethical behavior. At no point did I take this person seriously. He struck me as being unstable and joking, and for only that reason did I humor him. In hindsight, I should have immediately walked away, making it clear that there is no place in the electoral process for even the suggestion of illegal behavior: joking or not. In regards to my position on the campaign, I have stepped down because I do not want to be a distraction during this year’s critical election.”

Watching the video, his characterization of the incident is risible, but you can decide for yourself. In my view, Moran endorses illegal and unethical behavior by having the conversation, and not immediately responding to the initial inquiry by saying, “Neither this campaign, nor this party, tolerates what you are suggesting, which is an illegal attempt to subvert the Democratic process. What’s your name? I’m calling the police right now.” Continue reading


Filed under Character, Family, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, The Internet

The Curse of Marion Barry

Uday isn't available, but Christopher is

Marion Barry, the former corrupt mayor of Washington, D.C., a convicted crack-user  who was caught a few days after while lecturing D.C. kids on the evils of drugs, a tax-evader, scofflaw and general embarrassment who still serves on the dysfunctional D.C. City Council, is now in his 70’s and thinking about his legacy. Oh, he’s running again in Ward 8, all right, but his long-term plan, not surprisingly, is to turn over his seat to a worthy successor with a record of being arrested for assaulting a police officer and possessing PCP with the intent to distribute.

You know. His son. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Citizenship, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

The Washington Redskins and the Nepotism Trap

Bobby Kennedy was lucky. Kyle Shanahan isn't.

No leadership error embodies the appearance of impropriety more completely than nepotism, and, for good measure, it also creates an inherent conflict of interest and undermines fairness and integrity. Yet people continue to argue that it is not inherently unethical, and leaders and managers in all fields continue to walk into the nepotism trap. The fact that it doesn’t always snap shut is not an argument in its favor, for this is just moral luck; letting your kid play with matches in bed won’t necessarily burn the house down or kill him, but it’s still irresponsible.

Washington Redskins fans now have a painful lesson in nepotism’s drawbacks to guide their own decisions. As has been a routine event about now in the pro football season since hapless owner Dan Snyder became responsible for the team’s personnel, the Redskins season is imploding, and the head coach is on the griddle. This season that coach is Mike Shanahan, and the problem is his offense. The Skins were shut out Sunday, 23-0, and appear to have no quarterback, no offensive line, and no clue.

The team’s offensive coordinator? Kyle Shanahan, the head coach’s son. Now what? Continue reading


Filed under Business & Commercial, Family, Government & Politics, Leadership, Sports, Workplace

NBC and the Death of Professional Broadcast News

The flap over NBC’s unilateral decision to excise “God” from the Pledge of Allegiance (currently the catalyst for a somewhat off-topic debate in the comments to the Ethics Alarms post on the issue about the propriety of having God in the Pledge at all) points to the related problem of NBC’s gradual but persistent degradation on its news reporting and journalistic integrity over the last several years.  Happily, there is a blog devoted to just that, one of the many excellent ethics-related sites linked on the blogroll that nobody seems to use. It is called Nightly-Daily, where a fanatic Brian Williams foe named Norman Charles meticulously dissects NBC’s nightly news broadcasts to report on journalistic outrages. He finds them almost every night.

Regarding NBC’s U.S. Open coverage, the scene of NBC’s Pledge distortion, Charles wrote, Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Professions, The Internet, U.S. Society

Ethics Progress: America Kicks Its Kennedy Addiction

For more than 60 years, descendants of tycoon/bootlegger/diplomat/influence-peddler Joseph P. Kennedy have held elite elected positions of power in the U.S. Government. The reason for this has not, in most cases, been the remarkable talents of the family members involved, nor their accomplishments, wit or demonstrated expertise on anything related to public affairs. Voters have elected the Kennedys because of their last name, because too many of them were lazy celebrity worshippers rather than responsible citizens. Continue reading


Filed under Citizenship, Family, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, Popular Culture, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity, U.S. Society

Five Ethics Questions and Answers: Bristol Palin’s Undeserved Survival On “Dancing With the Stars”

This week, once again, the clunky Bristol Palin, Sarah’s daughter, survived elimination from “Dancing With the Stars,” and now is in the Final Three. A far better amateur dancer, pop singer Brandy, who had one of the week’s best scores, was sent home instead. The entertainment media is howling with indignation. What does it all mean?

Question 1. Is Bristol Palin Sanjaya? Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Family, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Popular Culture, Professions, U.S. Society