Archive for the ‘Real World Graduation’ Category

Real World Graduation, Question 99: PAC Employees

RealWorldGraduation_Question_99_PAC_Workers   <– PDF

Many members of Congress hire their spouses or other relatives to work on their permanent campaign staff or political action committees [1].   These people are paid by either the campaign funds or from contributions made to the political action committees.  It is not necessary that the relatives, as employees, perform any particular task as part of their employment.  It is legal for members of Congress to put relatives on their payroll for these jobs, but in what ways might it be considered unethical or immoral?

a) If it’s legal, then it cannot be unethical or immoral, so this question is irrelevant.

b) It constitutes nepotism, in which family members get special treatment (good paying jobs) simply for being relatives.

c) It is possible that the relatives are no-shows, simply being paid as a means to enhance the family income without actual work being performed.

d) It is possible that the family member is less qualified than other people to perform these tasks, so the organization is not getting the best talent for the money.

e) Some combination of b), c), and d).

[1]   Dick Morris and Eileen McGann, Outrage, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2007, pp. 111-115

(The answer is on p. 2 of the PDF.)

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Real World Graduation, Question 97: Domestic Spying

RealWorldGraduation_Question_97_Domestic_Spying   <– PDF

Consider the following sequence of events. On 11 Sep 2001, adherents of Osama bin Laden hijacked U. S. airliners and flew them into the World Trade Center Buildings in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC.  All of the following information was taken from newspaper and magazine articles, but, for the sake of argument, assume all of what follows is true.  Once the federal government figured out who was behind the attacks, it engaged in a series of actions to combat terrorism.  One of those actions was that President George W. Bush, in 2002, signed a secret directive authorizing the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct email searches and make recordings of phone calls within the U. S. without a warrant, so long as one end of the party was overseas.  Normally a warrant to conduct this kind of surveillance is required under the 1978 Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).  Some government officials were concerned about the legality of the program (since it was authorized by presidential order instead of by Congress), and secretly provided information about the secret program to reporters working for the New York Times.  Because of the sensitive nature of the program, the New York Times agreed not to disclose its sources.  The administration learned about the disclosure of the program, and asked the New York Times not to publish the story.  The New York Times held off for about a year, but then went public with the information on 16 Dec 2005 [1].  The revelation led to debates in Congress, and a law was subsequently passed in Aug 2007 allowing the NSA to continue to perform this function.  Prior to the passage of the new law, the President withdrew the authorization for it, according to a letter by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, 17 Jan 2007.  It was later learned that Thomas M. Tamm, an employee of the Justice Department, was one of the people who revealed the NSA program to the New York Times reporters in 2004, although he was not directly involved in its execution (he was never “read into” the NSA program) [2].  Apparently he learned about it indirectly while working on unrelated programs in and around the same offices where the NSA surveillance was being conducted.  Mr. Tamm subsequently lost his job at the Justice Department, apparently due to an unrelated issue.  Although his house was searched, Mr. Tamm has not been arrested.  Assuming all of the preceding is true, what is likely to happen next?

a) James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, the reporters for the New York Times, will be arrested and tried for endangering national security.

b) The New York Times will be shut down for publishing a story that endangered national security.

c) Michael Isikoff, the columnist for Newsweek, who revealed the identity of the leaker, will be prosecuted for interfering in an investigation.

d) Thomas M. Tamm, the person who leaked the program to the New York Times, will be prosecuted for revealing the classified methods used by NSA to conduct domestic surveillance.

e) Both a) and d).

[1]        James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Warrants”, The New York Times, 16 Dec 2005.  See

[2]        Michael Isikoff, “The Fed Who Blew the Whistle”; Newsweek, 13 Dec 2008.  See

(The answer is on p. 2 of the PDF.)

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Real World Graduation, Question 96: Setting the Stage

RealWorldGraduation_Question_96_Setting_the_Stage   <– PDF

Consider these two fictional newspaper stories.

Ex-County Executive Gets Jail Time for Multiple Felonies

David S. Ramsey, former Republican County Executive of Hamilton County, Arkansas, received an unusually light sentence of 8 years and 2 months in a federal prison for many sensational crimes, among which are (unsurprisingly) witness intimidation, mail fraud, and bribery.

Ramsey’s defense team presented a bizarre argument for probation, claiming that Ramsey had spent many years as a public official, and was known as “a good husband and father that had made some serious mistakes but was sincerely repentant for his actions”.   Prosecutors had demanded that Ramsey be sentenced to the maximum 30 years as allowed for these three convictions.  But U. S. District Judge Paula Wilson, who willfully ignored the guidelines, sentenced the former Republican politician to a shorter term that is in fact less than one-third of the maximum.   Ramsey will also have to pay a $100,000 fine, less than one years pay from his former $110,000 salary, and will also have to pay a paltry $250,000 in restitution.

Ramsey, 65, had been a state representative for the township of Richmond.  When Democratic County Executive Sheila Watson was killed in a tragic automobile accident, Republican Ramsey seized the opportunity presented by the vacancy, and took over her office in a special election in 1993.  He was accepted by the voters during a few of his early years in office, winning elections in 1994 and 1998 with about two-thirds of the vote.  Due to a curious quirk in the law, even though he will be in jail for multiple felony convictions, Ramsey will continue to receive his $75,000 annual pension throughout his prison term. Wilson was appointed to the bench by Republican President Richard Nixon.


Ex-County Executive Receives Sentence

Former Delaware County Executive George F. Dunaway was sentenced to ninety-eight months in federal prison in a questionable corruption case.

Prosecutors had demanded that Mr. Dunaway be sentenced to 30 years, technically the maximum allowable for convictions of this type. Dunaway’s defense team respectfully petitioned the judge for probation.  U. S. District Court Judge Sandra McMillan rejected the plea for leniency from the public servant’s legal team, ordering Mr. Dunaway to pay a heavy $100,000 fine and imposed an additional harsh requirement to pay a quarter of a million dollars in restitution, in addition to the long prison sentence.

Mr. Dunaway was convicted last year of mail fraud, bribery, and witness intimidation in a trial of questionable legitimacy.   His defense team noted that Dunaway had been a long-time public servant who was “a good husband and father …  who was sincerely repentant for his actions”.  Tragically, Mr. Dunaway will be 73 years old by the time he is released from custody.

Dunaway (D) was a well-known state representative from Marlboro Heights who ran successfully for County Executive in a 1993 special election upon the death of then-Executive Thomas P. Randolph (R) in a car accident.  He became wildly popular public official, winning re-elections in 1994 and 1998 by overwhelming 66% majorities in both races.  As County Executive, Mr. Dunaway’s annual salary was $110,000 per year, and he will justly continue to receive a $75,000 annual pension for his service.  Judge McMillan was appointed to the U. S. District Court by Democratic President Jimmy Carter.

Which of the following is true, based on these two stories:

a)   Judges appointed by Democratic Presidents tend to give higher sentences because they are tough on crime

b)   Republican judges find a way to help other Republicans convicted of crimes

c)   Ramsey should have received the full 30 years because he took advantage of someone’s death

d)   Prosecutors in the Dunaway case attempted to trick Judge McMillan by citing technicalities, which could have resulted in an unfair sentence for Dunaway. Fortunately, McMillan was smart enough not to fall for the tricks.

e)   Dunaway did not have the benefit of an adequate defense

(The answer is on p. 3 of the PDF.)

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Real World Graduation, Question 95: Presidential Debates

RealWorldGraduation_Question_95_Presidential_Debates  <– PDF

Why is it important for the voters to watch the Presidential debates?

a) Because it is one of the few times that the voter gets to hear both candidates explain their policies.

b) Because the candidates receive sufficient time to show how their policies will work, which is more effective than the usual 30 second commercial.

c) Because the debates are sponsored by the League of Women Voters, which ensures that the debate is conducted in a non-partisan way.

d) The debates allow all the candidates equal time.

e) All of the above.

(The answer is on p. 2 of the PDF.)

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