Tag Archives: nepotism

Ethics Lessons of The Peter Chang “Plad Asshole” Affair…And No, One Of Them Isn’t “Always Serve Rice In Individual Bowls”

Peter Chang: Chef, ethical restaurant owner, tough father...

Peter Chang: Chef, ethical restaurant owner, tough father...

In my metaphorical back yard, a kerfuffle over whether Chinese restaurants should serve rice  in individual bowls or family style resulted in bad publicity for a burgeoning restaurant chain, a family rift, some lost jobs, and an internet controversy.

I almost missed the last part. Luckily, my issue scout Fred misses nothing.

It unfolded thusly:

A group of four diners at the Peter Chang restaurant in Arlington, Virginia included a man who had lived in Beijing, and he expressed  surprise when the obligatory steamed rice arrived at their table in one large bowl.  He asked, “‘Oh, you guys don’t serve them in individual rice bowls?'” The server told the group that when rice is served to three or more diners at Peter Chang, it comes in a large bowl.

After the former Beijing resident (later termed “the know-it-all” in the ensuing social media debates) noted that it was an odd choice, considering that personalized bowls  were the norm in China, the server then offered to bring individual rice bowls instead. The group declined.

Oh…for some reason, three of the four men were in plaid jackets. Believe it or not, this detail is relevant.

When the diners received their bill, they saw that it had insulting typed commentary on it as well:  “im a plad asshole” and “i have a small penis”:


When they complained to the manager, he apologized and brought out the two servers responsible for the typed insults on the point-of-sale slip. One of the diners told the Washington Post that the manager and the server appeared embarrassed but not contrite. “It was just a joke” and “You weren’t supposed to see it” described their attitude, he said. Continue reading


Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Family, Humor and Satire, Social Media, U.S. Society, Workplace

Why Don’t People Understand What’s Unethical About Nepotism?

Bing and family

I suppose it is part of the larger problem that people don’t understand what’s wrong with conflicts of interest, and thus fall into them too easily. At its core, nepotism always, always, creates a conflict of interest for the supervisor, boss or manager, or leaves a strong suspicion of one, which is just as bad, the epitome of “the appearance of impropriety.” Nepotism simultaneously destroys the organization’s members’ trust in leadership—Was he or she objective? Was love and loyalty to a child rather than merit and the best interests of the organization behind the decision? Were there objectively better candidates? Will this bias harm me? —and the hired, no matter how good or qualified the son or daughter may be. If the organization declines and heads have to roll, the suspicion will always be that favoritism protects the offspring. If the organization is successful, there will still be a widespread belief that Sonny Boy or Darling Daughter is whispering in the parents’ ear, a mole, on the side of the parent rather than subordinates. Nepotism almost always destroys any organization’s morale, trust, and cohesion.

Why is this so difficult? It is spectacularly obvious, and the only defenses that are ever offered are… Continue reading


Filed under Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Family, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Sports

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