Ethics Quote Of The Week, Government Shut-Down Ethics Train Wreck Division: Unidentified Park Ranger

“We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.”

An unidentified U.S. Park Ranger, quoted by the Washington Times, in connection with a story about the Park Service shutting down the parking lot at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home, which is not run by the Park service.

My Dad would have been in this picture. Having his own nation that he risked his life for intentionally target him as a pawn would have hurt and angered him deeply. For the first time since Dec. 1, 2009, I'm thankful that he's dead.

My Dad would have been in this picture. Having his own nation that he risked his life for intentionally target him as a pawn would have hurt and angered him deeply. For the first time since Dec. 1, 2009, I’m thankful that he’s dead.

My late father, a decorated World War II veteran, loved the World War II Memorial. He was an invited guest at its dedication, and I accompanied him. Up until a few days before Dad died, he would wear a vest covered with his patches, insignias and medals, including the Silver Star, and just hang out there, often signing autographs for young visitors who treated the real life World War Two relic as both part of the Memorial and as a celebrity. Sometimes I accompanied him. It is a large, wide open space, without a discernible entrance. No government employees were ever in evidence while I was there. Beyond routine maintenance and cleaning, there is no need for any. Security? Just try vandalizing that space with the veterans there, old as they are. I dare you.

So why has the Park Service expended extra funds to block access to that memorial, where visitors just wander in and out, as well as non-government attractions like Mount Vernon, and even private operations that serve visitors to government attractions, like the Pisgah Inn, a private hotel that holds a concession on the Blue Ridge Parkway? Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week, Sequester Ethics Train Wreck Division: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Officials

“We have gone on record with a notification to Congress and whoever else that ‘APHIS would eliminate assistance to producers in 24 states in managing wildlife damage to the aquaculture industry, unless they provide funding to cover the costs.’ So it is our opinion that however you manage that reduction, you need to make sure you are not contradicting what we said the impact would be.”

—- U.S. Agriculture officials, responding to Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service official Charles Brown after he asked “if he could try to spread out the sequester cuts in his region to minimize the impact.” Brown quoted the response in an internal e-mail obtained by the Washington Times.

Why isn't the news media screaming?

Why isn’t the news media screaming?

Assuming that Brown’s account is accurate, the e-mail appears to show, in the interpretation most favorable to the Obama Administration, that at least one federal department believes that its job is to ensure that the across-the-board sequester cuts do as much tangible harm as possible, even where it is possible to mitigate that harm through effective management. The interpretation least favorable would conclude that President Obama has issued internal orders to the effect that any effort to lessen the cataclysmic results he and his Cabinet members predicted prior to the sequester deadline is forbidden, since it would undermine the political strategy of creating public anger against Republicans.

I don’t know where the truth lies. I can say that here in Washington, D.C., both Democrats and Republicans, without the benefit of the e-mail, seem to have adopted the worst case interpretation, which is shocking. Even more shocking is that the sick culture here is largely shrugging this off as “hardball politics” on behalf of the President and his Democratic allies. I cannot fathom this, just as I cannot fathom why all news media, left and right, are not screaming like the Donald Sutherland pod duplicate at the end of the remake of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” if they also believe this is true. Continue reading

Cindy McCain Shows Us What the Absence of Integrity Looks Like

What sense can we make out of the conduct of Cindy McCain, Senator John McCain’s wife?

In a celebrity video ad, posted online by a gay rights group called NOH8, Cindy McCain has properly linked the bullying of gay teens (and the recent spate of gay teen suicides) with the second-class citizen, undesirable human being status attached to gays by politicians who support the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Then, as the media began speculating about the policy rift in the McCain household, since Sen. McCain still supports the archaic, unconstitutional and unjust policy that forces gays to hide their sexual orientation or be deemed unfit for military service, Cindy McCain sent out a Twitter message that read:

“I fully support the NOH8 campaign and all it stands for and am proud to be a part of it. But I stand by my husband’s stance on DADT.” Continue reading

No-Integrity Government: The U.S.D.A.’s Two-Faced Cheese Policy

A question: How can Americans trust a government that preaches at them to eat healthily, avoid fat and lose weight, all while promoting the consumption of a food that is infamous for its saturated fat content?

Dairy Management, a cheese and dairy promoting entity under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, works with American companies to help them promote products, like Domino’s pizza, which are slathered in cheese and thus help raise the profits of U.S. dairy farmers. At the same time, the U.S.D.A. is spearheading an anti-obesity drive that cautions against eating high-calorie foods…like cheese. The New York Times has published a thorough report that tells of confidential agreements under the Bush and Obama Administration in which the U.S.D.A. pledged to push cheese consumption on the public. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Shirley Sherrod, Striking a Blow for Accountability

The Department of Agriculture, in a desperate effort at damage control (and to make amends for its unprofessional and unfair treatment of her), offered Shirley Sherrod another job. She has turned it down, saying, “I know [DOA Secretary Tom Vilsack] apologized, and I accept that. And a new process is in place, and I hope that it works. I don’t want to be the one that tests it.”

Excellent.  Brava! Continue reading

More Lessons from the Sherrod Ethics Train Wreck

Gordon Peterson, venerable host of “Inside Washington” and long-time Washington D.C. news anchor, began the show’s segment on Shirley Sherrod this way:

“Some of you may remember the good old days of newspapering and TV and radio news when you had hours to work on your story, and your editors and producers had plenty of time to sift through your stuff for accuracy. If you remember that, you’re a dinosaur. Welcome to the blogosphere, the burnout pace of online news and the 24 hour instant deadline. Which brings me to the story of ousted Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod who was let go on the basis of a single piece of internet video that was edited out of context, posted on a conservative website, picked up on Fox News, and bought lock, stock and barrel by the Obama administration.”

That’s right, Gordon. And, as Charles Krauthammer immediately pointed out on the show, you have succumbed to the blogosphere’s unethical standards, because you didn’t check the accuracy of that statement. Continue reading

Race, Politics and Cowardice: the Unethical Victimization of Shirley Sherrod

The forced resignation of Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod, an African-American, is far more significant than it appears. By itself, it is a deplorable example of an innocent citizen being victimized by a convergence of unethical conduct by the media, the Obama Administration, and the N.A.A.C.P. Sherrod’s fate, however, is also a warning, a frightening sign that racial and political tensions are rapidly spinning out of control in America, and that the very institutions we should be able to trust to apply reason, competence, courage and fairness to the issue of race are displaying cowardice, dishonesty and opportunism instead. I hope this is an isolated incident. Everything tells me it is not.

This sudden ethics train wreck developed when Andrew Breitbart, proprietor of the provocative, entertaining and thoroughly Right-leaning website, posted a grainy video that he said showed Shirley Sherrod, U.S.D.A.’s state director of rural development for Georgia, speaking at a March 27 NAACP Freedom Fund banquet. Continue reading