Tag Archives: Robert Kennedy

My JFK Ethics Tale

 Shredded Files

As regular readers here  know, I am not an admirer of the character of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, though he had some notable leadership skills that I respect. His reputation as a great man and President is vastly inflated and, in a strange way, I may share some of the responsibility for that.

Several years ago, I had just completed an ethics seminar for the DC Bar. One of the issues I discussed was the lawyer’s ethical duty to protect  attorney-client confidences in perpetuity, even after the death of the client. An elderly gentleman approached me, and said he had an important question to ask. He was retired, he said, and teased that I would want to hear his story. I don’t generally give out ethics advice on the fly like this, but I was intrigued. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Family, Government & Politics, History, Professions, Research and Scholarship

Consequentialism Alert At Redskins Park!

Washington, D.C. has a grand tradition of nepotism. Sometimes it works; it's wrong all the time.

Washington, D.C. has a grand tradition of nepotism. Sometimes it works; it’s wrong all the time.

A year ago, I wrote about the dilemma faced by Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, who was mired in another terrible season with a failing offense engineered by his son Kyle, the team’s offensive coordinator.  Here we have the ethical problem with nepotism, I wrote…

“There is no way to tell what is happening or what the effect of the nepotism is, which is why all appearance of impropriety situations are toxic to trust; there is no way to tell whether the apparent conflict is causing real harm or not. When everything goes well, the doubts will be muted and there won’t be a crisis in public trust, but that is luck, and nothing more…Not only are the Skins losing, but the leaks have sprung in Nepotsim Central, where Kyle Shanahan is responsible. It was fully predictable, not that this would happen, but that it could very well happen, way back in 2010 when Mike Shanahan had the bright idea of hiring sonny boy. Not foreseeing this is a miserable failure to play ethics chess: when a choice is a good bet to create an ethics problem a few moves from now, don’t make it. Owner Snyder should have forbidden it; Kyle should have turned the job down.”

Ah, but that was then, and this is now. The vicissitudes of moral luck have struck again.  Now Kyle’s offense is working like a charm, thanks to the magic arm, legs and mind of rookie quarterback sensation Robert Griffin III. Now the ‘Skins are the NFL East Champions! Now Kyle is an offensive wizard, not a putz, and Coach Dad a visionary for hiring him. What’s the matter with a little nepotism? Never mind!

This is rank consequentialism in its worst form. Nepotism is an unethical way to run any staff, company, team, business or government, unfair, inherently conflicted, irresponsible, dangerous and corrupting. It should be recognized as such from the beginning, and rejected, not retroactively justified if it “works.”

I’m sure there were and are non-relatives of the Redskins coach who could have devised a successful offense with RG3 taking the hikes. The ethical thing to do was to find them and give one of them the job.

The Redskins coach’s nepotism is just as unethical in 2013 as it was in 2012, 2011, and 2010.

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Filed under Family, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, Sports

The Washington Redskins and the Nepotism Trap

Bobby Kennedy was lucky. Kyle Shanahan isn't.

No leadership error embodies the appearance of impropriety more completely than nepotism, and, for good measure, it also creates an inherent conflict of interest and undermines fairness and integrity. Yet people continue to argue that it is not inherently unethical, and leaders and managers in all fields continue to walk into the nepotism trap. The fact that it doesn’t always snap shut is not an argument in its favor, for this is just moral luck; letting your kid play with matches in bed won’t necessarily burn the house down or kill him, but it’s still irresponsible.

Washington Redskins fans now have a painful lesson in nepotism’s drawbacks to guide their own decisions. As has been a routine event about now in the pro football season since hapless owner Dan Snyder became responsible for the team’s personnel, the Redskins season is imploding, and the head coach is on the griddle. This season that coach is Mike Shanahan, and the problem is his offense. The Skins were shut out Sunday, 23-0, and appear to have no quarterback, no offensive line, and no clue.

The team’s offensive coordinator? Kyle Shanahan, the head coach’s son. Now what? Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Family, Government & Politics, Leadership, Sports, Workplace

Further Ethical Musings on Ko-Ko’s Little List’s “Eliminationist Rhetoric”: the Duty to Fight the Insanity

The more I think about the controversy over the Montana production of “The Mikado,” which I discussed in the previous post, the more it bothers me.

The fact that some conservative Missoulans were disturbed by Sarah Palin’s inclusion on the iconic “little list” carried by the fictional Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner in Gilbert and Sullivan’s classic musical comedy “The Mikado” is disturbing. The fact that the Missoula Community Theater actually caved-in to ignorance and hypersensitivity and removed the lyric is more so.  but the fact that some sensible commentators, like the Wall Street Journal’s usually perceptive and witty James Taranto, have had their brains addled by the current attempt at language, metaphor and humor purging by politically correct hysterics is genuinely terrifying. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Citizenship, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Literature, Popular Culture, U.S. Society

Ethics Progress: America Kicks Its Kennedy Addiction

For more than 60 years, descendants of tycoon/bootlegger/diplomat/influence-peddler Joseph P. Kennedy have held elite elected positions of power in the U.S. Government. The reason for this has not, in most cases, been the remarkable talents of the family members involved, nor their accomplishments, wit or demonstrated expertise on anything related to public affairs. Voters have elected the Kennedys because of their last name, because too many of them were lazy celebrity worshippers rather than responsible citizens. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Family, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, Popular Culture, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity, U.S. Society

Courting Confusion: Unethical Candidates for Unethical Voters

In Chicago, Rep. Jesse L. Jackson will be running for re-election against…Jesse L. Jackson, a political novice. Why is he–that is, Jesse #2—running? Obviously, he hopes to confuse enough voters to steal an election, and I do mean steal. When a candidate intentionally seeks to capitalize on voter apathy and ignorance, that is dishonest, unfair and cynical. The Chicago Congressional election is a blatant example, but not the only one, or even the most egregious. For in Massachusetts, the critical special election for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of Ted Kennedy may well be decided by a block of civic slackers and fools who think that Independent candidate Joseph Kennedy is from the same family that gave us Jack, Bobby, Ted, Abraham, Martin and John…wait a minute, I got carried away there. Just the first three. Continue reading

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