The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2014 (Part 1)


2014 was the year of the Ethics Train Wreck. They were coming so fast that they were getting tangled up with each other, and old wrecks from past years started rolling again, or the damage that was triggered a year ago or more started kicking in. I don’t know if every year really is more ethics free than the year before, or that it just feels that way because I’m getting better at sniffing it out. By any standards, it was a wretched year, with epic ethical misconduct across the culture. But I can’t stall any more: let’s wade into it. There will be more installments this year, so the misery is coming in smaller bites. You’re welcome.

Ethics Train Wreck of the Year


It’s a tie!

The Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck and The Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck

The obvious winner is the Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck, which has managed to hook up with the 2012 winner, The Trayvon Martin- George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck, as well as a the sub-EthicsTrain Wreck attached to the death of Eric Garner, to further degrade U.S. race relations, undermine the stability of numerous cities, get several people, including the recently assassinated NYC police officers killed, revive race riots, give vile demagogue Al Sharpton unprecedented power and influence, and pick up such distinguished riders as President Obama,  Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, New York Mayor de Blasio. It is also still barreling along at top speed after many months, and is a good bet to continue its carnage well into 2015. 

Yet, it became clear to me this summer with this post that the entire Obama Administration has become an Ethics Train Wreck, and one that is neck-and-neck with the one spawned in Ferguson in threatening short and long-term damage. Incompetence, dishonestly, lack of transparency and arrogance have hardened cynicism in the public, corrupted the ethical values of defenders, let journalists to disgrace themselves, and fertilized festering potential disasters internationally and domestically. This is also, I now see, a wreck of long duration that started in 2009, and had gathered momentum with every year. It also has sparked other wrecks, including the one that now keeps it from being the sole 2014 winner. How much damage will The Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck do in 2015? Which agency or department will prove itself to be corrupt, incompetent and mismanaged, which official will continue in a post after proving himself unfit to serve, which inept pronouncement or abuse of power will further degrade American trust and freedom?

I’m not looking forward to learning the answers.

Fraud of the Year

The U.S. Justice Department, which allegedly participated in a plot to force  Sierra Pacific Industries and other defendants  to pay $55 million to the United States over a period of five years and transfer 22,500 acres of land as settlement of charges brought against the company by DOJ for causing a 2007 wildfire that destroyed 65,000 acres of land in California. Naturally, the national news media has barely covered this scandal, which is still in litigation. Runner Up: The Victoria Wilcher scam, which made KFC pay for plastic surgery for a little girl when there was no evidence that the company was in any way involved with her injuries. After the fraud was discovered, it didn’t dare ask for its money back. Well played, fraudsters! Continue reading

KABOOM! Now I’m Satisfied That The U.S. Will Never Solve Its Debt Problem, Since It Takes This Long For Congress To STOP PAYING ENTITLEMENTS To NAZIS


I’m on the way to Cleveland. I guess I might as well leave my brains on the ceiling, where this story deposited them:

“The House on Tuesday passed legislation to terminate Social Security benefits for suspected Nazi war criminals. Passed 420-0, the bill was approved after an October Associated Press report found that dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals forced to leave the U.S. collected millions of dollars in federal benefits.”

On the plus side, See? We can have bi-partisan agreement in Congress!

On the other side: why do we need the Associated Press to point out to Congress that we’re giving millions of dollars to former Nazis to keep them supplied with fresh Zykon B? Why wasn’t this bill passed six years ago? Sixteen years ago? As long as President Obama thinks he can rule by fiat, where was the executive order directing the Treasury to stop paying non-resident Nazis Social Security?

You can read the original AP story here, which I was going to post on until it got lost in the shuffle.

File this one under “Incompetent Elected Officials,” or perhaps simply, “We’re doomed.”

Case Study: Governments That Waste Money And The Consulting Firms That Help Them Do It, As D.C. Hands Out $90,000 For….WHAT????

Great. Thanks a lot, D.C. government.

Great. Thanks a lot, D.C. government.

There is so much to be outraged about regarding the Washington, D.C. “Parent and Family Engagement Summit”  hosted by the city’ s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (D.C. likes to think of itself as a state; it’s cute) in September, it’s hard to know where to start. I  also find it hard to type when I’m trying to stop my head from exploding.

1. Let’s begin with the fact that the city paid nearly $90,000 to a Chicago consulting firm to help it hold the conference, which was only one day, which is to say, about 6 hours, long. This is what having the federal government in your back yard will do to a municipal government’s sense of responsible stewardship. For perspective, think about this: the payment to Chicago-based SPC Consulting exceeds by $12,000 what the average D.C. Public Schools teacher earns in a year for actually doing something. I don’t know what a “parent and family engagement summit” is, but I have a pretty good idea what this one was: an Office of the State Superintendent of Education show-and-tell, so parents could learn what the city is allegedly doing about educating its kids. And I must say, the parents learned, if they were paying attention, what it’s doing, which is wasting their money. Continue reading

Rush Limbaugh’s “Obamaphone” Smear

No, this isn’t what Rush Limbaugh was talking about (these phones are from Kenya). Or rather, this isn’t what Rush was lying about…

When you listen to Rush Limbaugh (something his most vociferous critics almost never do), you usually get one of five things: 1) reliably ideological and sardonically phrased criticisms of progressive and Democrat positions, statements and acts, many of them richly deserving of it, 2) welcome and cheeky tweaking of  favorite targets like the “drive-by media” and Hollywood, 3) over-the-top and pointedly politically-incorrect ridicule of progressive icons and illusions, specifically crafted to make people’s heads explode, 4) off-topic self-indulgent (and boring) discourse about football, cigars and 5) feigned egomania mixed with genuine egomania in such a way that it is almost impossible to guess when Rush’s tongue is in his cheek and when he really is in the midst of delusions of grandeur. All of these are delivered with relentless cheeriness, and with the skill of a marvelously gifted improvisational radio professional—and anyone who denies that really hasn’t listened to him, or hates him so much that objectivity is impossible.

Every now and then, however, Rush is brutally unfair to the point of deception, and when he is, it does terrible damage. He is by far the most listened-to human being on the dial, and when he passes on bad information to so many people who trust him, it triggers millions of e-mails, thousands of blog posts and mass indignation and anger over falsehood. Limbaugh’s negligence, in short, is more harmful than other media figures’ negligence, and he therefore has a special obligation to be careful. Yesterday he was reckless, and dishonest to his listeners. Continue reading

An Ethics Muffin Wreck

Tim Matheson in “Animal House,” as “Justice Department Inspector General”

In the end, it was Ethics Bob who saw the light first. Responding to last month’s Ethics Alarms post about the Justice Department’s inspector general flagging extravagant costs for conferences, Bob Stone, a business ethics expert and blogger who comes from a long career with the Defense Department, wrote this:

“As a sometimes victim of smear-by-IG, I’d recommend turning down the outrage. Just as there never was a $400 hammer, there probably wasn’t a $16 muffin. I’ve been involved with a lot of government conferences—I’ve sponsored a few—and my experience is that the people are as diligent with expenses an informed taxpayers would like them to be. IG’s records are built on how many outrages they turn up, and they often manufacture them.”

Continue reading

Why Doesn’t This Government Ethics Alarm Go Off…Or Does It Even Exist?

"Let's see...cheese on a Ritz, or Beef Wellington...Hell, let's spring for the Wellington--everyone OK with that?"

I just don’t understand it. I never have.

In a report released today, the Justice Department’s inspector general revealed that U.S. Justice Department agencies spent absurd amounts for lavish food at conferences, in one case serving $16 muffins, in another dishing out beef Wellington appetizers that cost $7.32 per serving, and in yet another, a March 2009 conference of the Office on Violence Against Women, serving Cracker Jacks, popcorn and candy bars at a single break to the tune of $32 per person. Yum!

The abuse isn’t unique to the Obama Administration, but it has gotten worse. The inspector general reviewed a sample of ten Justice Department conferences held between October 2007 and September 2009 at a cost of $4.4 million, a period that included the administrations of Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama. The Justice Department spent $73.3 million on conferences in fiscal 2009, compared with $47.8 million a year earlier, according to the report. Continue reading