The 8th Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2016, Part 1

bad-2016

Welcome, if that’s the word, to the 8th Annual Ethics Alarms Awards.

Last year, in a burst of self-pity as I began this annual task, I wrote,

“It is depressing and discouraging: 2015 was much worse than 2014, which was considerably worse than 2013. What am I doing here? What is the point of spending all of this uncompensated time—it is more profitable bagging groceries!—trying to nurture a more ethical culture and a more ethically competent public when all evidence points to utter futility as the result? Well, that way madness lies, I guess. I’m just going to grit my teeth and do my duty. Last year I began by saying that 2014 was the year of the Ethics Train Wreck. There were far more of them in 2015, and they were more serious and damaging. That should give you sufficient warning of the horrors to come…”

Then came 20i6.

To paraphrase  Margo Channing, “Fasten your seatbelts: It’s going to a bumpy post…”

Ethics Train Wreck of the Year

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The Hillary Clinton E-Mail Scandal Ethics Train Wreck

I thought last year was the Year of the Train Wreck. Wrong. In 2016, we had the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck, the Campus Sexual Assault Witch Hunt Ethics Train Wreck, the Freddie Gray Ethics Train Wreck, the old stand-by Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck, the still active Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck, and the Ethics Train Wrecks of both Presidential candidates campaigns. Hillary’s e-mails and their related lies in the long trail of cars called the Hillary Clinton E-Mail Scandal Ethics Train Wreck, was a clear winner though.

Passengers included President Obama, Bernie Sanders, Anthony Weiner, the F.B.I., Loretta Lynch, Bill Clinton, James Comey and more. And, of course, it played a significant and perhaps decisive role in bringing us President Trump.

Runner-Up: 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck. It had less than a month to get up steam, but it caused lots of ethics carnage, and is still going strong.

Fraud of the Year

The Trump Foundation, which revealed itself to be a near total sham. RUNNER-UP: Fake lawyer Kimberly Kitchen, who worked as an estate planning lawyer at BMZ Law in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, and served as president of the county bar, though she never went to law school, and never took the bar exam, but forged documents to fool everyone that she had.

Most Unethical Act By A Major Church

The Catholic Church, which, incredibly, restored a convicted rapist to the priesthood. Father Joseph Jeyapaul,  a Catholic priest from India, while serving in the Crookston, Minnesota diocese from 2004 to 2005 raped at least two adolescent girls.  After being charged with the crimes, including rape and forcing at least one of his victims to perform fellatio on him, Father Joseph  escaped to India, where an Interpol warrant got him extradited back to Minnesota.  There he confessed, and as part of a plea bargain, received an outrageously light sentence of a year and a day for pleading guilty to one count of molestation. Jeyapaul was suspended from the priesthood and served his time in Minnesota. The U.S. deported him back to India, while the Minnesota diocese had to pay millions in a civil lawsuit, during which we learned that the rapist priest had told one of his victims  in the confessional that she was at fault, and had made Jeyapaul “impure” by letting him abuse her. In February, the Vatican lifted Jeyapaul‘s suspension and restored him to the priesthood. It then assigned him to a new parish in India, where he is now the diocesan head of its commission for education. 

Tell me again why that fake news story that the Pope endorsed Trump was supposed to help The Donald.

Incompetent Elected Official of the Year

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Kathleen G. Kane (D), Pennsylvania’s ex-Attorney General.  In October, a judge sentenced her to 10 to 23 months in prison for her conviction on charges of perjury and abuse of her office. You can’t be more incompetent, I’d say, than an elected attorney general who can’t stay out of jail herself. I regret not writing about the Kane saga last year, but her ethical void was fairly apparent back in 2013, the only time I did write about her, after she leaked grand jury testimony, which is illegal. I wrote at the time (I must have been in a bad mood)…

“Leaking grand jury testimony is both illegal and spectacularly unethical for a lawyer, yet Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, Kathleen Kane, appears to have done it for the slimiest of reasons, and is offering the most cynical of defenses in the most offensive of ways. (Incidentally, I don’t understand how this could happen. After all, Kane is a woman, the first Democrat and the first woman to be elected to the post, and since having a vagina alone is supposed to imbue a candidate with trustworthiness, surpassing competence and virtue, this makes no sense at all.)”

Unethical Elected Official of the Year

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More From The “When Ethics Alarms Are Devoured By Hysteria And Partisan Hate” Files: KABOOM!

Thank you and Merry Christmas, Carl Palladino.

Thank you and Merry Christmas, Carl Palladino.

How somebody in the public eye can utter opinions like this for publication is absolutely beyond comprehension.  Hence the inside of my head is now outside my head. The red on the walls and ceiling looks kind of Christmassy, I must say.

A Buffalo weekly called Artvoice asked several prominent local figures what they wanted for 2017, asking several questions.

Carl Paladino, a local developer Republican member of the Erie County school board who was Donald Trump’s campaign’s co-chair in New York answered the first two questions this way:

1. What would you most like to happen in 2017?

Paladino: “Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Herford. He dies before his trial and is buried in a cow pasture next to Valerie Jarret, who died weeks prior, after being convicted of sedition and treason, when a Jihady cell mate mistook her for being a nice person and decapitated her.”

2. What would you like to see go away in 2017?

Paladino: “Michelle Obama. I’d like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.”

What is this? A breakdown? The equivalent of civic suicide? As I would assume the most mentally handicapped of socially-inept morons would expect, these vile comments, which Paladino knew would be published, immediately caused him to be condemned far and wide. Donald Trump’s transition team  called his remarks “absolutely reprehensible.”  Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz called on Paladino to resign immediately. Assemblyman Sean Ryan D-Buffalo said Paladino’s comments were “outrageous, dangerous and disturbing.” New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo described the remarks as “racist, ugly and reprehensible.”  Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown called the comments “terrible.”

By late yesterday, over a thousand people had signed an online petition calling for Paladino’s removal from the school board. Paladino’s response to the uproar?

“Yeah, I’m not politically correct,” he said. “They asked what I want, and I told them.” Continue reading

Joe Scarborough, Sarah Palin, and “No Labels”

Joe Scarborough, the former Florida congressman and as host of “Morning Joe” on MSNBC, the token conservative on MSNBC, is a participant in the launching of “No Labels” on December 13 at Columbia University in New York. He will be joined by such political glitterati as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Sen. Joe Lieberman, (I-Conn.), former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn), Los Angeles’s Democratic Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Sen. Deb Stabenow (D-Mich.) and others.
“No Labels” is a primarily centrist-Democrat call for civility in politics, that according to its “Declaration,” written by Mark McKinnon (a former media advisor to George W. Bush in 2000 and Sen. John McCain in 2008, who appears to be a paid consultant rather than a participant), is dedicated to countering partisan deadlock with reason and cooperation.

“We are not labels, we are people,” the screed says.”We believe hyper-partisanship is destroying our politics and paralyzing our ability to govern… We may disagree on issues, but we do so with civility and mutual respect….We have a crisis of governance – a crisis that compels us to work together to move America forward… We must put our labels aside, and put the issues and what’s best for the nation first.”

In preparation for the “No Labels” debut, Scarborough wrote a column for Politico, in which he warned Republicans to stop Sarah Palin before it was too late. In it, he variously described Palin as “anti-intellectual,” “maniacal,” “a reality star,” and “ignorant.” Would it be fair to label  “Morning Joe” as “a hypocrite”?

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Ethics Alarms and ProEthics Presents “The Untrustworthy 20”: Making Ethics the Priority in Election 2010

The key word, in ethics, in government, in all relationships that matter, is trust. Trust is the connective tissue that holds societies together: it can be strengthened by demonstrations of ethical values like integrity, loyalty, honesty, civility, responsibility, competence, and courage, and weakened by proof of unethical traits like fecklessness, dishonesty, lack of independent judgment, selfishness, lack of diligence, greed and cowardice. For decades, the American public’s trust in its elected representatives and governmental institutions—and other critical institutions like the news media and the legal system—has been in steep decline. This is not because of some inexplicable public fad or the poisoning of public perceptions by an unholy alliance of the pop culture and Fox news. The decline in trust has occurred because a significant proportion of America’s elected leaders have not been trustworthy, and the reason this has been true is that American voters have thus far refused to make proof of ethical values their main priority in electing them. Because politicians know this, they feel empowered to engage in corruption, self-enrichment and deception in the confidence that partisan supporters will vote for them anyway, as long as they mouth the same policy positions and deliver their quota of pork, earmarks, and government contracts.

This, of course, does not benefit of  country in the long run, but weakens it. It also creates an increasingly arrogant and power-obsessed political class to which ethical values are like Halloween costumes, donned at regular intervals to disguise who they really are. The core principles of the democratic process do not matter to many of these people, and they don’t see why they should matter: witness House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s refusal to debate her opponent because she knows she can win easily without giving her constituents a fair chance to compare the competing candidates. For most voters, over all, this approach still works, at least at the polls, so obviously untrustworthy officials continue to be elected, and by their conduct continue to destroy public trust.

I was discussing this issue at recent seminar in regard to the candidacy of Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Attorney General who is running for the state’s U.S. Senate seat. Blumenthal, to be blunt, is a proven liar and fraud on a grand scale. He intentionally misled the public for years about his military record, and assumed the false mantle of a combat veteran. When his deception was uncovered, he refused to be accountable, absurdly casting the repeated lies about his own past as mere slips of the tongue. Yet a Connecticut citizen at my table proclaimed that he “didn’t care;” that Blumenthal’s policies were what mattered, not his ethics. This is an astoundingly illogical mindset, but a common one. Power tends to tempt and corrupt individuals who have scruples and integrity: what is it likely to produce with an elected official that has neither integrity nor scruples to begin with? If we elect representatives who are untrustworthy, we are likely to be betrayed sooner or later, one way or the other. Worse, we send the message to future candidates, both in and out of office, that integrity and honesty don’t matter to voters, like my Connecticut friend. We thus get more untrustworthy candidates, more untrustworthy representatives, and constantly declining public trust in government on all levels.

Public trust cannot keep declining indefinitely, you know. Eventually, a government that cannot be trusted will collapse.

Just as addressing America’s fiscal crisis will take hard measures and sacrifice, addressing its equally dangerous crisis in trust requires sacrifice too. It will require voters to establish the principle that being “effective,” experienced or having the “right” policy positions will not be enough to justify electing or re-electing individuals who are demonstrably trustworthy. Voters must establish  untrustworthiness as absolutely disqualifying a candidate for election to public office. Any ethical, honest candidate with integrity must be seen as per se preferable to a corrupt, dishonest or unethical candidate, regardless of past achievements or policy views.

To this end, Ethics Alarms presents its list of the least trustworthy candidates for national office in the upcoming election. For reasons of space and convenience, it is limited to twenty members, which is obviously and sadly far too few: in the more than 500 races for Congress, the U.S. Senate and governorships nation-wide, the number of untrustworthy candidates undoubtedly numbers in the hundreds. This list is illustrative, not inclusive, but it is my assessment of the worst of the worst.

What makes a candidate so untrustworthy that he or she deserves to be rejected no matter who the opposition may be? This is what I like to call the “Lawn Chair Principle,” when electing a lawn chair is preferable to electing the human alternative. Let’s begin with what doesn’t justify determining that a candidate is necessarily untrustworthy: Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Carl Paladino

Carl Paladino now says he is a big supporter of gay rights, which in his case means that despite the fact that he considers their sexual orientation “invalid,” he still feels that, l ike child molesters and criminals, they deserve basic Constitutional rights…except gay marriage, of course.

The GOP candidate for governor of New York chose a day just barely removed from a series of vicious attacks on gay men, and just a couple of weeks after a gay Rutgers student was humiliated into suicide by a cruel “prank,” to proclaim to a gathering of Hasidic Jews that he does not want children to be “brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option,” and criticized his opponent, Andrew  Cuomo, for marching in the city’s Gay Pride parade, saying,”I didn’t march in the Gay Pride parade this year. My opponent did. And that’s not the example that we should be showing our children and certainly not in our schools.” But Mr. Paladino isn’t homophobic; oh no!  He just thinks  children should be taught that they shouldn’t hang around with gays, like, you know, lepers, winos, and cannibals. Continue reading