Egil Krogh died this week. By the time of his death he was all but forgotten, but during the fevered days of the Watergate scandal’s unraveling, he was the Nixon henchman whose name nobody could pronounce. (It’s Ed-gel Crow-G) He was an original member of the infamous group known as “The Plumbers,” the secret White House unit that broke into the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, and later into the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate complex. By the time of the latter operation, Krogh had withdrawn from the Plumbers because he decided its mission—make sure Nixon won the election by any means necessary–was improper, but it was too late. He became the first member of the Nixon team to go to jail, then was disbarred. His fall was a lesson to all lawyers, indeed all human beings, about the insidious ways and unethical culture can corrupt the best of us. Continue reading
“Would You Rather” is an odd 2012 film that sets up a film-long set of unlikely ethical dilemmas for its characters to solve. Desperate to save her dying brother with expensive medical treatment she can’t afford, the heroine (played by Brittany Snow) finds herself at a dinner party with seven other desperate strangers, hosted by a wacko family of millionaires who will help one of them after the others have been “eliminated” during the course of the evening. As what is described as a game progresses, each contestant is put through escalating rounds of risk, pain and torture in which they must make various Sophie’s Choices, such as…
- Would you rather administer a painful shock to yourself with high-voltage electricity, or the person next to you? What if that person has been weakened by a previous shock? What if she is in a wheelchair?
- What if she hurt you in a previous round? Continue reading
In no particular order:
- In a tack that is being duplicated by other commentators on the left, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow essentially pronounced the scandal as much ado about nothing (Columnist E.J. Dionne dismissively referred to Petraeus’s affair as his “little secret”). See, as long as an incident involves sex, the Left’s default position is that it can’t be that bad. Maddow mocked the actions of Jill Kelley, the woman who Broadwell threatened and who alerted the FBI, saying, “Who contacts the FBI because of threatening e-mails? If I did that, they would have to set up a special division just for me.” Ha ha. How many of your threatening e-mails credibly suggested that the head of an intelligence agency was having an illicit affair with an unstable wacko, Rachel? Kelley did the responsible, intelligent thing given the possible national security implications. But it’s certainly good to know that you wouldn’t…because it’s only sex, of course.
- Other pundits are complaining that the FBI became involved when what Petraeus did “wasn’t a crime.” Yes, it’s the “It’s legal” rationalization. Why people who can’t comprehend that dangerous, destructive, serious misconduct can occur without breaking any laws are allowed to write newspaper columns, I’ll never understand. Petraeus’s affair was a violation of the ethics rules, in an intelligence agency with major responsibilities in national security. That is serious, inherently dangerous, and easily could have led to security breaches that were illegal. If a leader materially, knowingly and publicly violates an ethics rule, he cannot lead. This is why Petraeus, who understands this, resigned, despite the certainty that the Rachel Maddows of the media would have been happy to shrug off his actions as “no big deal.” …because it’s only sex, and “it’s legal.”
- Kelley still boarded the ethics train wreck, not because of her actions in response to Broadwell’s threat, but in light of the revelation that she was maintaining a hot e-mail relationship with Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. The FBI has uncovered between 20,000 and 30,000 pages of primarily e-mails containing “potentially inappropriate” communication between Allen and Kelley. Wait, what? Between 20,000 and 30,000 pages? What the hell is going on with our generals? This is obsessive, unhealthy behavior, even if he’s just writing her limericks and recipes. Something is serious amiss in the ethical culture of the U.S. military leadership Continue reading
The Penn State disease is not restricted to colleges. Now there comes a lawsuit showing how ugly it is when the contagion hits a high school.
The Southern Columbia Tigers are a real high school football power in Pennsylvania, and naturally the Southern Columbia Area School District and Southern Columbia Area High School Principal James A. Becker wouldn’t do anything to change that…like, for example, barring two rapists from playing on the team when they were so good at scoring the legal way, as well as…well, you know.
A law suit filed by “C.S.” in Federal Court alleges that the school district and high school principal protected two star student athletes after it had been proven in court that they had sexually assaulted the girl, a student at the school as well. From the complaint: Continue reading
The news that The Angry Man of the Self-Righteous Left, Keith Olbermann, was fired by Al Gore’s Current TV was hardly news at all, since most of us had entered a pool on when Olbermann would get jettisoned from his latest gig. The predictable episode does have an ethics lesson for all of us, however, that involves the virtues of accountability, humility, honesty and contrition.
Olbermann, true to form, attacked his former employers and blamed them for his exit, writing via Twitter…
“…I’d like to apologize to my viewers and my staff for the failure of Current TV. Editorially, Countdown had never been better. But for more than a year I have been imploring Al Gore and Joel Hyatt to resolve our issues internally, while I’ve been not publicizing my complaints, and keeping the show alive for the sake of its loyal viewers and even more loyal staff. Nevertheless, Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt, instead of abiding by their promises and obligations and investing in a quality news program, finally thought it was more economical to try to get out of my contract. It goes almost without saying that the claims against me in Current’s statement are untrue and will be proved so in the legal actions I will be filing against them presently. To understand Mr. Hyatt’s “values of respect, openness, collegiality and loyalty,” I encourage you to read of a previous occasion Mr. Hyatt found himself in court for having unjustly fired an employee. That employee’s name was Clarence B. Cain. In due course, the truth of the ethics of Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt will come out. For now, it is important only to again acknowledge that joining them was a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one. That lack of judgment is mine and mine alone, and I apologize again for it.”
This, of course, is not really an apology. It’s not an apology when your message is, “I’m sorry my employers are unethical slobs who didn’t appreciate the excellent job I was doing.
Keith Olbermann has either been fired or quit under acrimonious circumstances in engagements with, count them, five broadcast organizations: ESPN, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and now Current TV. This, despite being obviously talented and often getting excellent ratings. Olbermann is a smart guy, and yet even now, his reaction seems to be, “Why, oh, why, do people keep treating me so badly?”
It’s you, Keith! Continue reading
Today I’m teaching two ethics seminars for The Washington Non-Profit Tax Conference in D.C. One is on accounting ethics, the other is for lawyers. One segment in the accountants’ program involves the sub-conscious and genetically programmed human tendencies that can interfere with our better judgment and perceptions, warping our ethics, and causing our ethics alarms to sound faintly, if at all. There are a lot of them: I have a list of more than thirty, and it’s growing. Here are my current Top Ten to be especially alert to, in your own thinking, and for understanding the behavior of others: Continue reading