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

This is the first installment of the Worst.  It says something, and not something happy, that this segment of the year-end awards are more than twice as voluminous, and far more competitive, than the “Best” of 2013 ethics. Well, nobody said it would be easy….

Ethics Train Wreck of the Year

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Obamacare, a.k.a Affordable Care Act. This is quite an achievement, as there were at least two other three Ethics Train Wrecks rolling along in 2013 that would have been easy victors in a less horrible year. One of them, The Trayvon Martin- George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck, was last year’s winner, and still wreaked ethics carnage across the culture, thanks to Zimmerman’s trial (which never should hev been brought), the biased media coverage, the incompetent prosecution, the inept judge, and then afterward, the ignorant and/or racially motivated attacks on the jury for doing its job well and fairly against overwhelming odds. Yet as bad as this hangover from 2012 was, the Sandy Hook Ethics Train Wreck was arguably even worse. The news media decided to go Soviet and abandon all pretense of objectivity, essentially becoming an Obama Administration propaganda tool for gun control. Elected officials lied their heads off; so did the aroused NRA. Gun owners talked and behaved like they were about to be Gulaged. Legislators shamelessly used the grief of victims to stampede public opinion; children became props; fake statistics were everywhere; brain-damaged Gabby Gifford was programmed to read child-like messages as if they were the conclusions of research papers. The President’s total lack of political leadership skill again came front and center, then, when he had failed to do what he promised to do, the opposition was vilified by celebrities like Jim Carrey, who called them murderers and worse.

But the Affordable Care Act lapped both of these. It revealed itself to be a five-year long train wreck that just took a break after an earlier stretch where the bill was passed without due diligence by its supporters and using a cynical by-passing of due process. A Presidential lie intentionally devised to deceive the public was repeated for the five-year span, and then exposed when the law began to take affect….but not before the law inspired Republicans to force a reckless and irresponsible shut-down, a mini-train wreck within the train wreck.  The website debacle was initially spun by the news media (not working worth a damn isn’t a “glich”), then the evidence of near criminal ineptitude became impossible not to report. The indisputable evidence that the President of the United States had sold a program under false pretenses came to light, prompting dozens of politicians, bloggers, pundits and reporters to destroy their credibility forever (I hope) by desperately trying to either rationalize the lie ( “the ends justify the means”), call it something other than what it was (The New York Times’ disgraceful “incorrect promise” was one low point), or simply deny that it was a lie at all (Democratic Chair Debby Wasserman Schultz, setting a new low for personal dishonesty, itself an achievement in her case). Then, when the public pressure and political fall-out became unbearable. the President just began amending the provisions of his own law on the fly, except that it was the nation’s law, and it’s unconstitutional to do that—this, after the mantra from Democrats and the news media during the shut-down debate was that the ACA was “settled law.”  HHS Secretary Sibelius misled Congress, the White House denied that her stated goals were goals once it was obvious they wouldn’t be met; and nobody was held responsible for yet another Obama Administration debacle. And there’s a lot more, with the train wreck still moving at top speed.

Fraud of the Year

Iowa State University biomedical sciences assistant professor Dong-Pyou Han, who resigned after admitting he tainted blood samples to get desired outcomes in research animals, allowing him to claim a break-through in the effort to develop an AIDS vaccine. The National Institutes of Health had awarded Han’s research team $19 million in multi-year grants.

Incompetent Elected Officials of the Year

  • Elected Body (National): House Republicans, who staged a wholly useless, expensive and damaging government shut-down on “principle,” without ever articulating what that principle was sufficiently for anyone responsible to agree with them. Runner-Up: The California House Legislature, which passed a law allowing illegal aliens to practice law.
  • National Elected Official:  President Obama.  From being incapable of working with Congress, to refusing to fire incompetents, to not knowing what was going on in his own administration, to drawing red lines he wasn’t willing to defend (and then advocating killing people just to show he was willing to defend them), to undermining the trust and faith in both his office and himself by uttering unequivocal lies, President Obama had one of the worst years of self-inflicted miscalculations, errors, failures and reversals of any U.S. President in history. I’m sorry to have to say it, but it’s true.
  • Local Elected Official: Storey County (Nevada) Assemblyman Jim Wheeler (R). Wheeler told a group that if his constituents demanded it, he would vote (with a heavy heart)  to reinstate slavery, as he felt doing so would be his duty as a representative. Runner-up: Maryland House of Delegates Member Don Dwyer (R), who after a drunk driving and drunk boat piloting episode, the latter injuring several people, blamed his conduct in part of feeling betrayed over his colleagues approval of gay marriage in Maryland.

Sexual Harasser Of The Year Continue reading

Three Case Studies In Ethics Obtuseness: The Sheriff, His Victim, And The Hollywood Loudmouth

Hear-No-Evil-See-No-Evil-Speak-No-Evil

These Ethics Dunces  don’t get it, and probably never will.

There is nothing quite as frustrating as the ethics offender who receives a clarion lesson in response to the wrongful conduct, and completely misses the point:

Case Study #1 : Alec Baldwin

The serial loudmouth actor, who alternates between banal progressive nostrums and outbreaks of public violence, verbal abuse and denigrating slurs, was inexplicably addressing a gathering of ServiceSource International Inc. employees in the aftermath of his suspension by MSNBC for calling a photographer a “cocksucking fag” and getting caught on video in the process (the network was trying to make sure the actor understood that it was harmful to have one of its show hosts denigrate a strong demographic slice of their viewing audience, and that in the future he should confine his outbreaks of vile language to calling for conservatives to be defecated in and upon). ServiceSource CEO Michael Smerklo, having already booked Baldwin, said that Baldwin’s  insult to  gays created  one of the toughest decisions in his career. Hmmm… pay Alec Baldwin lots of money to impart his wisdom to a tech firm’s employees, or spend the money on something more worthwhile, like, say Cheetos. Wow. What a quandary. And why did the CEO think that Baldwin’s wisdom was worth imparting? CBS says: Continue reading

What’s Wrong With The Florida Cyber-Bullying Arrests? Everything.

“Bullying, as they are supposed to teach you in school, is when someone uses their superior power to subordinate and humiliate someone weaker than themselves. This is wrong, and it is always wrong.”

The Sheriff of Polk County...wait, no, that's Tom Cruise, searching for pre-criminals in "Minority Report." Well, close enough.

The Sheriff of Polk County…wait, no, that’s Tom Cruise, searching for pre-criminals in “Minority Report.” Well, close enough.

This is a quote from an Ethics Alarms post earlier this year, about a school that forced students to do embarrassing things in a warped effort to discourage bullying. There is a disturbing societal consensus brewing that opposition to bullying justifies all sorts of extra-legal, unethical, excessive, abusive and unconstitutional measures, and there are a dearth of persuasive voices point out that this consensus is dangerous and wrong. Those potential voices are being stilled by a kind of cultural bullying. How can you defend bullies! Look at the victims! Think of the children! What a horrible, unfeeling person you are!

This is the only explanation I can generate for the fact that none of the commentary and media coverage regarding the Florida arrests of a 14-year-old girl and a 12-year-old girl on trumped-up charges of “stalking” following the suicide of Rebecca Ann Sedwick pointed out that the arrests were a travesty of the justice system, an abuse of power, child abuse, legally and constitutionally offensive, and, yes, bullying of a different kind. Continue reading