Posts Tagged Ethics

A Bad Man or a Man Who Did Bad Things?

Hugo Schwyzer has found himself at the center of another internet controversy.  This time, an interview of him appeared on Feministe.  It and he were promptly blasted, the usual charges were brought against him and the expected fracas ensued.  To give you an idea of how far it’s spread, even PZ Myer has weighed in.  At Feministe, the authors posted am apology and re-opened discussion; it’s at almost 700 comments as I post this morning.

At issue is the usual charge against Hugo – he slept with his students.  In the eyes of some of some of his critics that actions makes him a sexual predator.  At a minimum, it’s ethically unacceptable for a professor to sleep with his/her students while they are their students (it’s not a problem if it’s an ex-student or a student at the same institution so long as the individuals are not in the same department and classes).  There is also “spermgate”  – Hugo and a woman had been sleeping together but she was also dating someone else; she got pregnant and since Hugo wasn’t father material at the time, told the other man the baby was his.  It may well have been Hugo’s baby and they’ve never told the man raising the baby it may be Hugo’s baby, not his.

There is a new charge against him.  At the nadir of his addiction, he tried to kill himself and an ex-girlfriend (he turned on the gas in the apartment and closed the doors and windows).  Though he doesn’t remember it, he apparently called another friend who alerted the police who arrived before anything permanent happened.

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Tom Daschle must withdraw from HHS nomination

daschleTom Daschle should remove himself from the nomination for secretary of health and human services. Not just because of his tax issues, although those are bad enough. But also this (MSNBC):

The disclosure of Daschle’s tax problems coincided with the release of the financial statement he submitted to the Office of Government Ethics, which details for the first time exactly how, without becoming a registered lobbyist, he made millions of dollars giving public speeches and private counsel to insurers, hospitals, realtors, farmers, energy firms and telecommunications companies with complex regulatory and legislative interests in Washington.

Daschle’s expertise and insights, gleaned over 26 years in Congress, earned him more than $5 million over the past two years, including $220,000 from the health-care industry, and perks such as a chauffeured Cadillac, according to the documents. [emphasis mine]

To me, this is no different, no better, than the Wall Street fat cats giving themselves bonuses. I am well aware politicians parlay their political careers into lucrative speaking and advisory roles – to the tune of millions of dollars. But if they do so, they should not expect to return to public office. They are tainted by the money – they can’t tell us those business connections will not matter in the conduct of their official duties.

“Daschle is the quintessential Washington story. You leave a powerful position, and you leverage it to make a fortune,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit government watchdog group. “He is not alone . . . [and] it would be hard for Obama to fill his administration without ever turning to someone like that. That said, these are the kind of Washington insiders that Obama campaigned against.”

The Obama team is “learning that it’s easier to campaign on that than govern under it,” Sloan added. The problem is that “it looks disingenuous.”

Tom Daschle may have been a good candidate for the HHS role, but I say these revelations disqualify him and Obama needs to find someone else.

As my friend commented, those guys back there are all feeding from the same trough.

On Tuesday, former senator Tom Daschle withdrew his nomination for Health and Human Services Secretary.

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Ethics and food. The ethical treatment of animals. Is cruelty to animals a sin?

H/t to Tapped for the link to Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace.

A detail so obvious that most recipes don’t even bother to mention it is that each lobster is supposed to be alive when you put it in the kettle. This is part of lobster’s modern appeal: It’s the freshest food there is. There’s no decomposition between harvesting and eating. And not only do lobsters require no cleaning or dressing or plucking (though the mechanics of actually eating them are a different matter), but they’re relatively easy for vendors to keep alive. They come up alive in the traps, are placed in containers of seawater, and can, so long as the water’s aerated and the animals’ claws are pegged or banded to keep them from tearing one another up under the stresses of captivity,8 survive right up until they’re boiled. Most of us have been in supermarkets or restaurants that feature tanks of live lobster, from which you can pick out your supper while it watches you point. And part of the overall spectacle of the Maine Lobster Festival is that you can see actual lobstermen’s vessels docking at the wharves along the northeast grounds and unloading freshly caught product, which is transferred by hand or cart 100 yards to the great clear tanks stacked up around the Festival’s cooker—which is, as mentioned, billed as the World’s Largest Lobster Cooker and can process over 100 lobsters at a time for the Main Eating Tent.

So then here is a question that’s all but unavoidable at the World’s Largest Lobster Cooker, and may arise in kitchens across the U.S.: Is it all right to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure? A related set of concerns: Is the previous question irksomely PC or sentimental? What does “all right” even mean in this context? Is it all just a matter of individual choice?

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The Utah Legislature Desperately Seeking Ethics

Why would ethics be a problem among Utah politicians? By far, the majority of those in the legislature, and government leadership positions espouse personal commitment to their religious beliefs. This would seem to imply a devotion to moral and ethical conduct. Indeed, they often seem overeager to legislate morality for Utah’s citizens. But this year, it appears our legislators have turned introspective and are now showing concern about their own morality.

SL Trib tells us that up to 14 different ethics-related bills are currently being prepared for introduction in the upcoming January session.

On the heels of a campaign season rocked by allegations of bribery and influence-peddling, Utah lawmakers are crafting a bevy of bills to address campaign-finance reform, lobbyist gifts and the Legislature’s rarely used ethics investigations.

We only have to go back as far as October to be reminded of the ethics investigation into Republican Representative Greg Hughes’ alleged bribery of a fellow legislator. With procedural biases that favored the legislator, the ethics committee was unable to do more than find Hughes guilty of conduct unbecoming a legislator and an admonishment for him to apologize for his wrongdoing.

As to the ethics charges themselves, the committee gave Hughes a pass, not because it found him innocent, but because, in the Committee’s view, the legislature’s current ethics standards were too vague to be applied.

And just this week State Senator Howard Stephenson is being accused of using his senate position to threaten and intimidate employees of the Utah Office of Education for “shabby treatment of ProCert Labs, an Orem-based company whose services Stephenson had been advocating for years.”

In a series of heated e-mails and phone calls, Stephenson, who heads the committee that sets the public education budget, threatened to withhold support from the Utah Office of Education, suggested it be downsized and have work outsourced and that the malcontents mistreating ProCert could be fired. [snip]

[State Superintendent Patti] Harrington said Stephenson is the “singular example” of a legislator who has weighed in with the education office and, as the senator who controls the education budget, his wishes are hard to ignore.

Also this week, the state Lieutenant Governor’s office is looking into the possible misuse of the State seal on a letter of endorsement by Attorney General Mark Shurtleff for DigitalBridge of Orem, just days before receiving a campaign contribution of $10,000 from the company. This just adds to the AG’s previous admitted misuse of official stationery for political purposes, as well as personally beneficial relationships with Ameriquest, payday lenders, and others.

And then there is state representative Aaron Tilton whose company Transition Power Development LLC, wants to build a 1,500-megawatt nuclear power plant, and representative Michael Noel, executive director of the Kane County Water Conservancy District, who wants to provide the water needed for the project. These two men are vice chairman and chairman, respectively, of the legislature’s Public Utilities and Technology Committee. Yet both claim no conflict of interest.

Certainly the laws are not designed to keep our public servants honest. We sort of leave it up to them to walk that line. And they know exactly where the line is, and they’ll walk right up and kiss it without stepping over. Seemingly moral and ethical individuals don’t always ‘choose the right’.

Let’s see if the next legislative session produces meaningful ethics laws or simply more fluff.

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AG Shurtleff, another ethically-challenged Utah official?

From January 2008 regarding perks Utah’s top cop received from Ameriquest and payday lenders (more about those debacles at the end of this post):

“In order for me to buy into this, the whole nature of your investigation, I have to accept your proposition that campaign contributions buy things for people. And until you can show me the case where that’s happened with me, we’re done talking.”

A few years ago Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff admitted to using his official stationery and the state seal for political purposes. “My bad,” he said at the time, and promised to be more careful in the future.

Oops, he did it again. Adding to the spate of questionable activities among Utah officials this year, Shurtleff used his official stationery and the state seal for a letter to attorneys general all across the U.S. praising Orem-based DigitalBridge’s digital technology for crime data sharing. The letter was coincidentally timed within days of receiving a $10,000 campaign contribution from DigitalBridge.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

“It’s not an endorsement , not an advertisement. It’s far from that,” Shurtleff said Thursday. “So it does not violate the code.”

“When a company comes up with technology that will save lives or help solve an identity theft problem, I let my fellow attorney generals know about it,” said Shurtleff.

The letter to attorneys general around the country was dated Sept. 29, within days of his receipt of a $10,000 campaign contribution from the company. Shurtleff and DigitalBridge say the timing was a simple coincidence and that the attorney general had offered to write the letter nearly a year ago. [emphasis mine]

Not an endorsement? You be the judge. Here are a couple of excerpts from the letter (which was still up on the web site as of this posting).

In light of the enormity of the information sharing problem and the lack of genuine solutions, I would encourage your attention to the technology presented at CWAG by Digital Bridge. In fundamental ways, Digital Bridge has conceived an approach to protected information sharing that, in my experience, is truly extraordinary. [snip]

Digital Bridge has developed a truly groundbreaking technology called Digital Packet Technology which enables sharing of processes, policies and information across organizational boundaries while maintaining context, security, privacy and control of the information as it is shared. For the first time, you can maintain control of your information as you share it with others in the justice and homeland security ecosystems.

Rather than try to describe the technology in any detail here, I would recommend that you see for yourselves its capabilities. . .[all emphasis mine]

When I was in marketing, we called this a testimonial letter—a highly desirable endorsement by one of your customers’ peers. And we particularly liked letters that actually included a sales pitch and a call to action.

Not quite a year ago I blogged on RedStateBlues about other, shall we say, lapses of judgment on the part of Utah’s top cop as reported on

in 2005 Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff accepted Rolling Stones concert tickets from Ameriquest — a company that was being sued by states all over the country “accused of deceiving customers, inadequate loan disclosures, and inflated appraisals.” But Shurtleff said it was okay since he and his daughter left the concert after the third song because his daughter didn’t “like” it. He joined the litigation against Ameriquest a month later.

Shurtleff also took a trip to the Bahamas, wherein “a national association representing payday lending companies paid for his plane ticket. Shurtleff accepted an invitation to give a speech at the group’s conference at a luxury resort in the Bahamas.” Shurtleff justified the trip by saying that he ended up taking his whole family on the trip and it cost him a lot of money.

At the time state records showed that Utahns had filed 120 complaints against payday lenders in the previous three years, but that Shurtleff said, ‘There have never been any criminal complaints or allegations filed against a group like that — and why not let them pay my trip?'”

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