The Ethics Alarms review of a truly disheartening year in ethics continues with fallen heroes, ficks, fools and follies with Part Two of the 2013 Worst of Ethics awards….and there’s one last section to come. Be afraid..be very afraid:
Fallen Hero of the Year
Edward Snowden, whose claim to civil disobedience was marred by his unwillingness to accept the consequences of his actions, whose pose as a whistle-blower was ruined by the disclosure that he took his job with the intention of exposing national secrets, and whose status as a freedom-defending patriot lies in ruins as he seeks harbor with not only America’s enemy, but a human rights-crushing enemy at that. The NSA’s over-reach and mismanagement is a scandal, but Snowden proved that he is no hero.
Unmitigated Gall of The Year
Minnesota divorce lawyer Thomas P. Lowes not only violated the bar’s ethics rules by having sex with his female client…he also billed her his hourly fee for the time they spent having sex , a breach of the legal profession’s rule against “unreasonable fees.” Yes, he was suspended. But for not long enough…
Jumbo Of The Year
(Awarded To The Most Futile And Obvious Lie)
“Now, if you had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law and you really liked that plan, what we said was you can keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed.”
2013 Conflicts of Interest of the Year
- Conflicted Elected Official: Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. McDonnell and his family accepted about $145,000 in “gifts” from wealthy businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr, chief executive of dietary supplement manufacturer Star Scientific Inc., including allowing the executive to pay for one of the McDonnell daughter’s wedding reception, the Governor without reporting any of it. The Governor swore there was no quid pro quo. Interviewed, Williams said he sure as hell thought there was a quid pro quo, and indeed, Virginia has been kind to Star Scientific Inc.
- Conflicted Expert : Elizabeth O’Bagy. A senior analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, O’Bagy became a key figure in the Syria debate when the Wall Street Journal published her analysis of the civil war there, and her conclusions, based, we were to assume, on her study, analysis and time in the country, regarding the benefits of U.S. employment of military force in the region. The Journal, its readers, Senator John McCain and Secretary of State John Kerry gave her analysis credence based on her authority as a PhD as well as the absence of any reason to believe that her analysis wasn’t objective,and cited her opinion in their statements regarding the proper U.S. response to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government. But it was soon revealed that she wasn’t objective, but had an undisclosed conflict of interest. She was affiliated with the Syrian Emergency Task Force, a nonprofit operating as a 501(c)(3) pending IRS approval that subcontracts with the U.S. and British governments to provide aid to the Syrian opposition. The conflict prompted more investigation into her credentials, and it turned out that she wasn’t a PhD, either, though she was credited as being one on the Institute’s website, and had not even been admitted to an advanced degree program. She was fired. (Fun Fact: Senator McCain then hired her as an analyst anyway, since members of Congress don’t comprehend the seriousness of either conflicts or dishonesty.)
- Conflicted Government Employee: Juliet Ellis. The assistant for external affairs at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission at a salary of $195,000 annually, Ellis awarded a $200,000 no-bid contract to Green for All, an Oakland-based nonprofit, which trains disadvantaged minorities in energy-related work. Ellis is also the salaried chair of Green for All.
- Appearance of Impropriety Award: The White House-TV News Connection. CBS, like NBC and the New York Times, appeared for months to be doing all it could to minimize negative conclusions about the Obama administration’s handling of the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. outpost in Benghazi, as well as disingenuous communications about it to the public. CBS News executives impeded their award-winning reporter Sharyl Atkisson’s aggressive efforts to get to the bottom of the sequence of events, in which President Obama’s deputy national security advisor, Ben Rhodes, was deeply involved. The president of CBS, David Rhodes, is Ben Rhodes’ brother. ABC President Ben Sherwood’s sister, Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, also works in the White House as Special Assistant to Barack Obama on national security affairs. This unprecedented incestuousness between the White House and the news networks supposed to be objectively covering its job performance may have no effect at all—-but it looks terrible.
The Rob Ford Award
(Awarded to the Most Unethical City Mayor Who Isn’t Rob Ford)
San Diego’s sexual predator Mayor Bob Filner, (a former Democratic Congressman) who despite alist of women claiming that he had groped, kissed, attacked or molested that seemed to grow longer by the week, refused to resign and held his city hostage, making it promise to pay the damages from all the law suits sure to come, in exchange for him not embarrassing the city daily by his continued disgrace of his office.
Unethical Political Candidate of the Year
Anthony Weiner. Runner-Up: Eliot Spitzer
Ethically Clueless Voters of the Year
South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District (Mostly Republican), which inexcusably voted to return Mark Sanford to elected office as their representative in Congress, despite his ridiculous abdication of his duties while Governor of the state, when he betrayed his wife, lied to the public and ran off to South American to have an affair.
Private Sector Product: Nike.In a tightly contested field, Nike’s message that no matter how big a jerk you are, who you lie to or who you cheat on, everything is forgotten as long as you win qualifies as pure ethics poison. Special Mention, Unbelievably Stupid Division: This.
Government Program: ProgressNow Colorado and Colorado Consumer Health’s campaign for Obamacare, aimed at 20-something drunken, promiscuous idiots.
The Niggardly Award
(Bestowed on the employer/supervisor that displays outrageous political correctness by punishing an employee/subordinate for an imaginary racial or ethnic insult)
Maizie Bryant, student editor of the University of Alabama’s student newspaper, “The Crimson White,” who profusely apologized for a satirical cartoon that had no racial content whatsoever, because it had “been perceived by many readers as having racist intentions,” though it had none and the perception was based on ignorance. Nonetheless, Bryant expressed her “regret,” and apologized “to anyone who was offended by it,”” though anyone being offended by the satirical cartoon was 100% at fault. Finally, she declared that her paper “has made huge strides in attempting to correct the racist attitudes on this campus” (though nothing in the cartoon expressed racist attitudes or could be reasonably interpreted as doing so) and pledged that the paper’s staff was making “every effort possible to make sure this does not happen again,“ “this” apparently meaning “fools taking offense at something inoffensive and then exerting the power of imaginary victims to make the world bow at their feet,” which would require that the paper never publish anything more nuanced than the label on a box of cough drops. Runner-Up: Facebook. Citing community standards, it censored a comment about political correctness that read, “I think we can be bigger than the niggardly diggers looking for reasons to be offended. Post with vigor about chiggers and riggers and giggers”
Most Unethical Church
Chattanooga, Tennessee’s Ridgedale Church of Christ., which gave long-time member Linda Cooper the ultimatum of standing before the congregation and condemning her daughter’s same-sex union, or leaving the church. (Cooper quit the church.)
Fick of the Year
(For the years most deplorable ethical equivalent of the despicable Leroy Fick)
Conservative Republican Dave Wilson, who won a seat on Houston Community College Board of Trustees by pretending to be black, and is proud of it.
Worst Parents Of The Year
The horrible Adletas. Parents don’t get any worse, and let’s not ever mention them again.
The Kitty Genovese Award
(Bestowed on the most outrageous example of a potential rescuer who refused to help someone in peril)
The leaders of United States of America, ignoring their words and betraying our values as Syrians starve.
Ethics Dunces of the Year
33% of the U.S. public, which, according to polls, said they approved of the disastrous roll-out of the Affordable Care Act, which included millions of people losing their health insurance, millions more discovering that they would have to pay more, endless and usually fruitless waits for a website that we now know was designed in haste and great cost by a contractor with a record of massive screw-ups, and the discovery that the President engaged in mass consumer. This position, whether you happen to like the objectives of Obamacare or not, is just inexplicable, ethically or logically.
Unethical Quote of the Year
- Martin Luther King III. The son of the martyred civil rights leader and humanist, speaking in front of the Lincoln memorial before thousands gathered on the National Mall to commemorate the upcoming 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington, and his iconic “I have a dream” speech, said:
“The vision preached by my father a half-century ago was that his four little children would no longer live in a nation where they would judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. However, sadly, the tears of Trayvon Martin’s mother and father remind us that, far too frequently, the color of one’s skin remains a license to profile, to arrest and to even murder with no regard for the content of one’s character.”
In one foolish, hateful statement, he sowed racial hate and distrust, intentionally ignored and impugned the results of a fair trial, and diminished his father’s accomplishment and life’s work by misrepresenting the progress of race relations in the U.S.
- TV News Legend Division: Barbara Walters, now soon-to-be-retiring-saints-be-praised hostess of “The View,” who reprimanded author/former child star Corey Feldman for disclosing his child sexual abuse at the hands of Hollywood bigwigs and warning that some of the same child predators he encountered were still in lying in wait for unsuspecting kid actors. “You’re damaging an entire industry!” she admonished him. Heaven forbid that the child exploitation industry in Hollywood is undermined by a warning from one of its victims. Retire, Barbara.
Worst Friend, Relative, and Mother
(Fake Cancer Scam Division)
Susan Stillwagon, who in order to get friends and relatives to giver her money, not only falsely told them that her young son had cancer—she also told him that he had cancer. Yes, she really did.
Most Unethical Advice
Chuck Klosterman, a.k.a. “The Ethicist,” who told an inquirer that it was perfectly all right to take cuttings from plants on sale without paying for them. This is also known as “stealing.” Chuck believes it is just technically stealing.