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Whatever happened to integrity?

By By Buddy Bynum / editor
June 15, 2003
The meaning of the word "integrity" seems to have vanished from our culture and that's a sad commentary on modern life. Across the board, across social and economic lines, people still have problems with the truth.
Business executives cook the books, and by so doing inflate a company's value, which deceives investors. Some of them, maybe not enough, go to jail. Sweetheart stock deals and insider trading bloat the financial portfolios, at least on paper, of some celebrities. Some of them, maybe too few, are called to account.
Sports heroes cork the bat, politicians won't tell the whole story, journalists make up stories, students don't know the story and couldn't tell it if they did.
Is the world coming to a state where none of us can trust any of us?
Four items from last week's news tend to support the theory, and I won't even mention the ImClone executive who's going to jail, Martha Stewart, the resignations of the top editors at The New York Times, or Sammy Sosa.
No, the problem is more basic than that. Even in Mississippi, a lack of honesty breeds mistrust that breeds cynicism that breeds apathy.
A question of residency
The first item is from McComb, where a woman named Ruby Bates is no longer listed as a candidate for both a southwest Mississippi Senate seat and a justice court post in Pike County. According to the Associated Press, Mississippi Democratic Party officials disqualified Bates from the Senate District 37 race.
Seems that her burglary arrest on April 11 sparked questions about her residency. When she was booked into the Pike County Jail in connection with breaking into the home of her former husband, a county constable, she gave an address on Mississippi 27 North in Tylertown and her name as Ruby Jean Thompson.
With an address in Tylertown, Bates lives outside of the district for both seats, which cover portions of northern Pike County. No court date has been set on the burglary charge, but the Aug. 5 primary election will apparently take place without her.
Item two is a report from AP that Petal High School students involved in such "competitive" extracurricular activities as band, show choir, chorus, forensics and drama teams, will face random drug tests this fall. The Petal School Board has approved the plan and principal Jack Linton said it's something they've wanted to do for several years. They've been testing athletes for the past 10 years
OK, let's see if basing a new policy on a fundamental distrust has the reverse effect of stopping the objectionable behavior. Not to get into it, but the same theory says the death penalty stops murder.
Dog deception
Item three involves a dog trainer in northern Virginia, who stands accused of providing incompetent bomb-sniffing dogs to the federal government in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks. Government prosecutors say he lied about his credentials.
Russell Lee Ebersole, 43, of Hagerstown, Md., is facing 28 counts of wire fraud and making false statements to government agencies. Prosecutors say he was paid more than $700,000 in 2001 and 2002 by five government agencies to provide security for their buildings.
Now, prosecutors charge that Ebersole lied about the certifications of his dogs and handlers, and that his bomb-sniffing dogs failed tests on five separate occasions. On one test, dogs and handlers were unable to detect 50 pounds of dynamite and 15 pounds of C-4 plastic explosive hidden in vehicles that entered a Federal Reserve parking facility in Washington.
I mean, if you can't trust a guy who trains bomb-sniffing dogs for a living, who can you trust?
And, finally, a bonus story from the front page of the June 10 edition of the Christian Science Monitor. It's a report on how illegal marijuana farming has become big business on the nation's most visited public lands, our national and state parks.
The story shows park rangers in camouflage gear and bulletproof vests, toting M-16 assault rifles, as they comb hillsides in the Sequoia, Calif., National Park, searching for large-scale pot farmers.
The situation is described as the biggest threat to national parks since their creation over a century ago, with the problem most pronounced in California, Utah and Arkansas, and in parks with international borders, such as Big Bend in Texas and Glacier in Montana.
Maybe these folks should farm on their own land, not the public's.
Former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma got it just about right. The real test of ethics, he said, and I paraphrase, is what you do when no one's watching.
Doing the right thing … what a concept.

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