The Herschel Walker Fake Credentials Scandal: Beyond The Fact That It’s Lying, Why Do Public Figures Do This?

I don’t understand this kind of thing at all.

CNN did a deep dive into the educational boasts of Trump-backed Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker, the former NFL star and college running back legend, and discovered that he had been inflating his scholarly achievements to a ridiculous degree. He has said for years (and had the claim on his campaign website) that he graduated in the top 1% of his class at the University of Georgia. Nope. He was a B student or worse. He didn’t even graduate, though that’s the norm for pro athletes. Continue reading

In Kansas, A High School Ethics Train Wreck: An Unqualified Principal, Unethical Students, And A False And Dangerous Lesson About Consequentialism

Why are these students smiling sweetly? Because they sent the message to their teachers to be wary; after all, there’s a lot of dirt on the internet…

Ugh.

Seemingly every one is cheering the Pittsburg High School (Kansas) students on the school paper who investigated their newly hired principal, found her credentials to be dubious, and forced her to resigned from her $93,000-a-year job. You can read the story here and here.

For the purposes of Ethics Alarms, I’m not interested in the principal at all. What matters here is that journalists, teachers, TV talking heads and everyone else commenting on the story are proving themselves ignorant of basic ethical principles, like the fact that conduct that happens to result in something desirable doesn’t make the conduct appropriate if it wasn’t ethical at the outset, aka “consequentialism leads to bad lessons and bad ethics,” and “the ends justifies the means.”

From the article:

“Pittsburg journalism adviser Emily Smith said she is “very proud” of her students. “They were not out to get anyone to resign or to get anyone fired. They worked very hard to uncover the truth.”

Emily Smith is too incompetent and ethically confused to advise aspiring student journalists or any other students. The students “wanted be assured that she was qualified and had the proper credentials,” according to the student editor of the paper. That’s not their job, their duty, or their business. They aren’t journalists; they are students learning about journalism. Determining if the new principal was qualified was entirely the responsibility of the the Pittsburg Board of Education, which botched its job and approved hiring the principal at its meeting March 6. That the students did the due diligence the Board failed to do is being used as cover by the Board: Everything worked out because of these great students, who we have educated so well!

Wrong. Unbelievably wrong. Dangerously wrong.

What’s going on here? Continue reading

The Discouraging Mylan Epipen Ethics Breakdown

epipen

My economics professor in college was the late John Kenneth Galbraith, a best-selling author, New Frontier favorite and celebrity, to the extent that an economist can be a celebrity. One of the foundations of his fame was his theory that big corporations were becoming the successors to nations. They were, he said, on the way to becoming more powerful than nations, and the working people of the world would begin being more loyal to them than nations or religions.There were a lot of economic and management consequences of this, but it was the ethical implications that most interested me.

Corporate cultures would increasingly steer individual beliefs and behaviors, and strong forces would push these industrial giants to be less driven by profits and more ethically reponsible, since employees would want to be a “citizens” of a corporate state in which they could take pride. Similarly, stockholders wanted to be able to be proud of their holdings, as well as make money with them. His book explaining this theory, “The New Industrial State,” was a sensation. Part of the motive behind the book, my professor being a big government advocate too, was to lay the foundation of the case that these new “states” had to be carefully guided and regulated lest one go rogue and abuse its power to disastrous effect. Still, the position of the book was optimistic: the new giant corporations were scary, but there were forces at work that would make them want to be good and do good while making all that money.

Well, so much for that college course. The unfolding ethics mess that is the Epipen fiasco shows us an ugly company with an unethical culture run by an unethical CEO and invested in by people who don’t give a damn that the company is despicable, as long as they make money. The regulatory system that could have been built on Galbraith’s fantasy has failed utterly.

To make a long, complicated and depressing story shorter, here is a summary with some links at the end. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Ad Hominem Or Not?

I frequently find myself correcting commenters who accuse me of ad hominem attack when I diagnose their problem, based on their arguments as jerkism or mental deficiency. (I recently found one legal blogger who actually states that if a commenter uses the term incorrectly, the comment will be rejected). Ad hominem is an argument fallacy that holds that if a messenger is flawed, his or her argument can’t be valid. It’s a cheap debate tactic, and unethical. If I conclude, however, that your argument is so idiotic that it could only be devised by an  idiot and thus designate you as one in so many words (because you have a right to know), that’s not ad hominem.

African-American pastor Mark Burns is a rafter-shaking speaker and an unusual and useful advocate for Donald Trump. He has been on cable news segments frequently, and even spoke at the GOP Convention. Being black, he is obviously roundly detested by those who regard Trump as a bigot, indeed by those who just dislike Trump generally. This almost certainly includes journalists on CNN, a Hillary stronghold.

A member of the black fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi alerted CNN that  Burns had claimed to have been a member,  but there was no record to support it. This set CNN on a quest to check all of Burns’ credentials and biography items, and it found that he had other dubious claims. Confronted on the air by (also African-American) CNN reporter Victor Blackwell with these discrepancies, Burns stuttered, humina-huminaed, protested, lied (his web site bio had been “manipulated” in some way, he said—the Weiner Excuse: “I’ve been hacked!”), and finally stormed out of the interview, which is to say, he ran.

Mark Burns is a Trump ally and supporter of note because he is a black pastor. He is still a black pastor. He makes a case for why blacks should support Doonald Trump. That case does not in any way rely on his military record or where he went to school, or, for that matter, how well he responds to having his honesty and integrity challenged on TV.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is...

“Was CNN’s attack on Pastor Burns fair and responsible, or..

Was it an unethical ad hominem attack designed to discredit a Donald Trump ally?”

Continue reading

Now THIS Is An Unethical Candidate…And An Incompetent Liar!

Diploma scam

I love this story, and salute Tim Levier for bringing it to my attention. As Tim suggested, it’s got everything. Dishonesty, incompetence, a window on the utter ineptitude of our educational system, the arrogance of unqualified officials believing that they can lie their way to power while having complete contempt for the public…and more, including a journalist actually doing his job and vetting the legitimacy of a Democrat!  A black Democrat, even!

Behold and prepare to be amazed…

Aurora School Board member and Democrat Eric Nelson is running for State Representative in Aurora’s District 42. Unfortunately for him,  a Denver7 reporter decided to check on his claimed credentials, and the hilarious result has his embarrassed party calling on Nelson to stop running for office,  and urging voter to support his opponent.

Nelson’s campaign website and his Aurora School Board biography states that he earned “a Master of Social Work from Northwest Nazarene University.” So Denver7 contacted the school, which said it had no record of Nelson attending. Nelson responded by sending what he said was a copy of his diploma via text message to two local newspapers, The Aurora Sentinel and The Colorado Statesman.

Denver7 Reporter Marshall Zelinger decided to examine the document (above) , and found several, er, problems: Continue reading

Ethics Musings Sparked By The Passing Of Ken Beatrice, D.C. Sports Talk Legend

kbeatrice2

If you did not live in the D.C. area in the Eighties, you probably never heard of Ken Beatrice, who just died in a hospice at the age of 72. There was a time when Beatrice was the radio sports authority in pro football crazy Washington D.C., and star of the most popular and talked about call-in show of any kind on the local radio. He deserved his popularity, for Beatrice was smart, hard-working, knowledgeable, professional, and nice. His career, its rise and fall, was also a hard ethics lesson, for anyone paying attention, on why it is that good people do unethical things that hurt themselves more than anyone else.

Beatrice’s acclaim arose out of his astounding knowledge of football at all levels, from the pros to high school. I’ve never cared about football, but I listened to Ken’s show just because he was amazing. From his Washington Post obituary:

“His knowledge of pro football players, current and potential, was nonpareil. Call in to ask about the third-string quarterback at a second-tier college, and Mr. Beatrice could tell you the player’s height, weight and 40-yard dash time.He was so attentive to the game, a sportscaster once told The Washington Post, that he was able to recite a team’s depth chart off the top of his head, naming both the starters and the second- and third-stringers who would eventually replace them.”

This doesn’t even do Beatrice justice: you had to hear him. It was like a Las Vegas magic act. A caller would say, “I graduated from Madison High in Rexburg, Idaho, and I hear they have a running back on the football team that may have pro potential…I can’t think of his name..” Continue reading

One Class, 114 Valedictorians….W.S. Gilbert Warned Us About This

Apparently this has been going on at Arlington, Virginia’s Washington and Lee High School, from which my niece graduated, for years.  The school calls about a third of its graduating classes “valedictorians,” so 1) the school can put it on their college applications and deceive those who haven’t connected the dots; 3) make certain the school can claim a female valedictorian, a black valedictorian, an Asian-American valedictorian, a trans valedictorian…you know, because everyone is above average, like in Lake Woebegon, and 3) the official rationalization, to eliminate competitiveness for honors among students, because life isn’t competitive.

Back when I wrote about this in June, 2010, the news was that…

In many high schools around the country, as many as fifty graduating seniors were designated “valedictorians…

Now honor inflation ins some schools is  more than double that, so this atrocious practice is obviously catching on. Integrity is such a chore. Excellence, superiority, achievement…they are all chores too.  As for the genuinely superior students, they are out of luck: this is the high school equivalent of all the gladiators standing up and crying “I’m Spartacus!,” except now it’s “I’m the smartest one in the class!” This Maoist denial of the fact that some of us earn more success than others and that there is nothing wrong with doing so is all the rage, and you can expect to hear more such ideas as the various candidates to lead the nation, one founded on the principle of personal self-determination based on ambition and enterprise, argue about how to deal with “income inequality.” Income inequality is but a subset of talent, industry, risk-taking and ability inequality…and good fortune inequality too. Might high schools sending graduates out into the world with the cuckoo concept that everyone should be regarded as equally accomplished whether they really are or not also contribute to income inequality?

Why yes, I think so. Continue reading

Our Untrustworthy Public Schools, Part I: The Administrator

wolf_in_sheeps_clothing

How could this happen in a trustworthy institution?

It couldn’t.

The Washington Post reported this week that Robin Anthony Toogood II resigned as  principal of Jennie Dean Elementary School, a job he had held since 2009. He also surrendered his Virginia teaching and administrative license. Toogood, who had worked as a teacher and administrator in Washington D.C. area public schools since 2000, had not only falsely claimed to have  a doctorate in education, he also never received an undergraduate bachelor’s degree.

Manassas City officials never checked Toogood’s credentails when he was hired as principal five years ago. The fake degrees were only discovered because he applied to be an elementary school principal in neighboring Prince William County, where to his evident surprise, a proper background check followed. It revealed Toogood’s resume to be Toogood to be true.* He had falsified transcripts from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Trinity Washington University in the District and Regent University in Virginia. The County alerted Manassas schools, which confronted Toogood. He did not deny the findings and resigned.

He is also apparently a pastor. Manassas City discovered that Toogood also claimed to have earned a doctorate from Andover Theological Seminary and had not.

The Post reports that Toogood had previously been a teacher in D.C. public schools and held administrative positions at several D.C. public charter schools. D.C. public school officials confirmed to the Post that Toogood had taught there from 2000 to 2005, after which he was an administrator at Friendship Collegiate Academy from 2006 to 2007 , and principal of the Center City charter school from 2008 to 2009.  The D.C. Public Charter School Board’s spokesperson told the Post “that the schools conduct their own background checks with board guidance.”

Nice job, guys. Continue reading

The Fifth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2013 (Part Two of Three)

Snowden

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)

Jumbo film

“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.”

—–President Obama

2013 Conflicts of Interest of the Year Continue reading

The Authority Trap: Elizabeth O’Bagey’s Three Ethics Strikes

Woman-pulling-off-a-mask

It is not, you see, enough to have a good idea, an original argument, or a brilliant solution.There must be reason for important people, people who make decisions that affect lives, to pay any more attention to you than they do anyone else who claims to have such things, because its is often difficult for even intelligent and experienced individuals to distinguish genius from well-expressed garbage. There must be something that elevates that unique and valuable perspective you bring to a problem above the swirling mess and noise generated by the blabbering and shouting competition, and the thing is, if you really have a valuable perspective to contribute, you owe it to not just yourself, but to your country, even humanity.

There is one asset, if you are otherwise unknown, that will provide that elevation besides the inherent virtues of your brilliant idea, and that is authority...a book, a connection everybody knows and respects, or, perhaps most of all, academic credentials. And there are two things that will make it impossible to raise your special contribution above the throng, and they are a conflict of interest, and a reputation for hiding the truth. These are the murderers of trust.

This brings us to the strange case of Elizabeth O’Bagy, a senior analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, who managed to get the Wall Street Journal to publish her analysis of the civil war in Syria, 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. Continue reading