Closing The Book On An Ethics Villain

Lance Armstrong is the worst sports ethics villain of all time, I believe—cycling’s Barry Bonds, but in a sport far more vulnerable to betrayal than baseball. Like Bonds, he cheated, many times and over a long period, taking victories away from more deserving athletes while enriching himself. While Bonds never had his public “I did not have sex with that woman” moment of brazen denial, Armstrong had many, all the while insulting and condemning his accusers. Bonds also never was a revered hero of children—Barry appeared to care about no one but Barry—while Armstrong deliberately made them part of his scam. When Armstrong’s elaborate schemes, lies and cover-ups were revealed, he made lifetime cynics of hundreds of thousands of young fans, and maybe more.

Armstrong, like Bonds, left his sport in disgrace but took with him great wealth, and, like Bonds, has never shown a smidgen of sincere regret or contrition—sociopaths are like that. Yesterday it was announced that Armstrong will pay $5 million to the federal government in settlement of a fraud lawsuit. The U.S. said that he owed $100 million to taxpayers for accepting sponsorship funds for his cycling team from the U.S. Postal Service while he was doping. Armstrong also agreed to pay $1.65 million to cover the legal costs of Floyd Landis, a former Armstrong teammate and the whistleblower in the case.

Eh, whatever. Lance can afford it. Despite various fines and settlements, he managed to escape his exposure with most of his ill-gotten gains safely salted away, spent or invested. Continue reading

Quotation Ethics: Maya Angelou and the Stamp of Incompetence

Angelou stamp

Yesterday the Post Office unveiled its new Maya Angelou stamp. The earlier announcement of the stamp had me sighing; Angelou is proof that affirmative action can be applied to the arts, distorting artistic taste, standards and values in the process. I would rank her talent as a poet near that of the recently deceased Rod Mckuen, but he was not black, a civil rights advocate or female, so his work was judged more or less on its merits. Angelou, in contrast, is called “an icon.” The idea of a stamp honoring the much derided McKuen would have been reflexively mocked; ah, well, fame is fickle.

There is no excuse for the stamp itself, however. Fame may be fickle, but the Postal Service is obligated to be professional, diligent and competent like any other government agen—STOP LAUGHING!!!.

The poet’s “quote” on the Angelou stamp is “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

Maya Angelou didn’t say it or write it, at least, not before another author did. The exact quote appears on Page 15 of “A Cup of Sun,” a book by Joan Walsh Anglund, copyright 1967. Continue reading

When The Incompetent Meet The Corrupt: The U.S. Postal Service vs Lance Armstrong

Left to right: Lance Armstrong's lawyers, the U.S. Postal Service, Lance.

Left to right: Lance Armstrong’s lawyers, the U.S. Postal Service, Lance.

The U.S. Postal Service, virtually insolvent and incapable of doing anything about it, wasted $31 million in 2000 on a four-year contract sponsoring Lance Armstrong and his cycling team. Why? Search me. Still, it was , the Service says, paying to endorse champions, not cheaters, which is what Armstrong and his team were. Now Postal Service is joining a false claims lawsuit, claiming that Armstrong and the team defrauded the government and violated their sponsorship contract by using performance-enhancing drugs. The Postal Service filed the suit shortly after Armstrong finally admitted that what had been alleged for over a decade, what he had denied and sued over and attacked and protested and postured indignantly in pained and defiant terms was, in fact true. He had used illegal and banned substances and methods on the way to his epic success, hero status and world fame.

Armstrong is also a crook, taking millions from the Post Office and other sponsors who believed he was a real champion rather than a phony one. It would be nice, inspiring even, if just one lying, cheating miscreant voluntarily returned the millions he acquired through dishonest means, rather than using those millions to hire super-lawyers to allow him to keep the ill-gotten gains. Lance, however, bottom of the ethics barrel-scum feeder that he is, would not be my most likely candidate for such a noble display. Indeed, he is living up to my low expectations. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Incompetent Elected Official of the Week: Sen. Claire McCaskill”

Karl Penny’s Comment of the Day is further reflection on the futile effort to turn back the tide of new technology, which Senator McCaskill apparently believes can be accomplished with a good marketing campaign, making her a candidate for institutionalization.  A prize for the first reader who identifies what a klepsydra was!

“Jack, sometimes I get a little nostalgic about older technologies, generally ones that figured so prominently in my youth, but have now gone the way of the klepsydra. I get nostalgic enough that, almost, for a moment, ideas like Sen. McCaskill’s seem to make sense, and a gleam comes to me eye, and I begin to think, “Yeah….” Then I remember that it’s daylight out, and however pleasant dreams can be, they’re just dreams.

“I also remember that there are reasons—good reasons—why I and millions of others adopted email, wrote documents on a computer, listened to music through an MP3, read my books on a Kindle, and played games on a computer. Truth to tell, most of us don’t really miss those older technologies, except in brief spurts. I have an old Olympia Portable typewriter in a closet. I must have typed a million documents on that thing, from my freshman year of high school through college. Letters, papers, notes, forms, checks (!) even. It was so indispensable, I took it with me most everywhere. Now, it just sits in that closet, and I hardly ever take it out even to look at. The last time it saw any use was last year, when a local high school was doing a play, and they needed an old manual typewriter as a prop. Now, it’s back in the closet.

“Sen, McCaskill may have successfully deluded herself, but I don’t think she’s going to delude much of anyone else, and thank heaven. But, if this is what passes for progressive thought among our elected leaders, then God help us all.”

Incompetent Elected Official of the Week: Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo)

This box of rocks also has an idea about how to save the Postal Service, and it's probably better than Sen. McCaskill's.

[ I know—I need some Republican IEOTWs. There have been a lot of Democrats lately. The problem is that the things presidential candidates say don’t qualify (Michele Bachmann’s claim that she could lwoer gas prices to $2 would have been a sure winner), and the Democrats have been unusually inept lately.]

From the New York Times, discussing the U.S. Post Office’s impending insolvency:

“An overarching trend that has fueled the Postal Service’s crisis — and reduced annual mail volume by 22 percent since 2006 — is that Americans are e-mailing, paying bills electronically and reading shopping catalogs and news online.

“Noting that some great books have been written based on letters sent by the Founding Fathers and by soldiers, Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, urged the postmaster general to run an advertising campaign urging Americans to send more letters to each other.

““There is something special about receiving a piece of first-class mail, knowing that it comes from someone you care about,” she said. “I really believe that if someone would begin to market the value of sending a written letter to someone you love, you might be surprised what it will do for your Christmas season.”

That’s brilliant, Claire: spend money the Post Office doesn’t have to urge more people to use an archaic method of communication they no longer use since it is slower, less reliable and more expensive than the alternative, because there’s “something special” about it! That’s going to turn everything around. Continue reading

Post Office Ethics: A Nightmare Come True

The Bad news: overworked Connecticut postal workers have been hiding mail

The Worse news: there’s no way of knowing whether this is just happening in Connecticut, or everywhere, but my guess is that it isn’t just Connecticut.

The Worst news: the story says that the head of the postal union got “the assurance it wouldn’t happen again.” This suggests that postal workers who have been hiding the mail still have their jobs.

If hiding the U.S. mail isn’t a firing offense for postal workers, what is? Could there be a greater breach of professional ethics?