Category Archives: Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/13/17

1.  The controversy over the Central Park “Julius Caesar” casting Donald Trump–his stage clone, really—as Caesar continues to be ignorantly argued. What’s worse, Fox News constantly calling the Shakespearean classic an “assassination play” (it’s not, not even close), or people who really would love to see Trump assassinated arguing that there’s a double standard because some professional productions of  “Julius Caesar” in recent years cast a black actor as the targeted emperor? Does anyone for a second believe that if a high-profile theatrical production depicted a character as clearly intended to symbolize Obama as the New York City production styles its Caesar as Trump being assassinated in a scene like the one below, there would not have been equivalent, indeed greater outrage?

The most cited production with a black, modern business-suited Caesar had an actor with a shaved head playing the role, clearly signalling that this was NOT Barack Obama. This, however, is “Donald Trump”:

My question is: Does the audience cheer? I bet they do, and I bet that’s exactly what the director wanted. I support the production, and reject efforts to pressure donors into pulling support. Theater is often political, and outrageous, and should be. But the play’s defenders who cite versions that evoked a black leader as equivalent are arguing that people are more upset at a faux Trump assassination than they would have been if “Obama” were slaughtered in Central Park, and that is absurd.

2. Another looming boycott is the effort to punish NBC’s Megyn Kelly for interviewing InfoWars’ Alex Jones, the professional conspiracy theorist and right-wing liar. Because he famously suggested that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax—an instant IQ test for anyone deciding to ever pay attention to this jerk again—Sandy Hook parents and their allies are condemning NBC and Kelly for “giving him a platform,” and have succeeded in getting one sponsor, JP Morgan, to drop its ads. How long before both ends of the political spectrum start routinely pushing boycotts of any journalists who “give a platform” to someone their “side” has pronounced as evil?  The Sandy Hook victims’ families continue to abuse the sympathy their tragedy evoked by using it to attack core rights using appeals to emotion and little else. Some quotes from the Washington Post story: Continue reading

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A “Saint’s Excuse” Classic: Athletes Forced To Endorse Positions They May Not Support

The United States Soccer Federation (USSF), aka U.S. Soccer, announced last week that the U.S. Men’s National Team and the U.S. Women’s National Team will wear rainbow-colored numbers during June, LGBT pride month, saying in part,

“In recognition of LGBTQ Pride month in June, U.S. Soccer will activate a number of initiatives in partnership with the You Can Play Project”…As the highlight, the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams will wear pride-inspired rainbow numbers during the June friendlies. The MNT will debut the look for the World Cup Qualifying tune-up against Venezuela on June 3 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. The WNT will wear the kits in away friendlies against Sweden on June 8, and Norway three days later.”

The league, in short, is forcing players to make a political statement and support a cause they may, in fact, not support. Ethics foul. This is an abuse of the players’ autonomy and freedom of though.and speech. It is also unfair, and disrespectful of them as individuals. Other professional sports are equally abusive. Over Memorial Day weekend, for example, all Major League Baseball teams are wearing military-themed uniforms, caps and equipment, with stars symbolizing the five branches of the armed services on the sleeves. The uniforms will be auctioned off with the proceeds donated to veterans’ charities. It is a lovely gesture by MLB, but what if a player doesn’t want to support the military? What if he’s a pacifist? What if he objects to American militarism or the defense budget? Apparently none of this  matters to the teams or their sport.

This abuse of power, which is exactly what it is, is fueled by The Saint’s Excuse, #13 on the Rationalizations List, also known as “It’s for a good cause.”
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Finding His Country In The Jaws Of A Values Crisis, It’s Richard Dreyfuss To The Rescue! or, “This Was No Boating Accident!” [UPDATED]

Several episodes in the news this week had me pondering a post about whether the hysteria of “the resistance” has caused a critical mass of Democrats and progressives to lose their grip on basic ethical values, like decency, tolerance, respect, proportion, democracy and citizenship competence. These were all ethics alarms, perhaps especially for liberal Americans with integrity, warnings that their side of the ideological divide is not merely spinning off its axis, but spinning into insanity.

Ethics Alarm #1, and the worst by far, was this astounding scenario out of Newton Massachusetts.

Newton District Court Judge Mary Beth Heffernan freed a previously deported Uber driver accused of three charges of rape on minimal  bail even after a prosecutor insisted that federal immigration agents were drafting a detainer and asked for higher bond to hold him. Tapes of this week’s hearing revealed the judge cutting  arguments short, and before a defense attorney could even counter the prosecution’s $100,000 bail and GPS-monitoring demand, declalred, “Twenty-five hundred dollars cash.” She then set a follow-on court date  and asked, “Is he going to make the bail today?”

On the tape, someone in the courtroom is heard calling out, “Yes.” Heffernan then asked a court employee, “Can you take bail downstairs? Sometimes they won’t, they make them go back out to the House of Correction at 4 o’clock.” The defendant, Luis Baez, promptly disappeared, which was the evident goal of the judge. She was more concerned with allowing an illegal, already once deported immigrant avoid ICE arrest than  protecting the citizens of Massachusetts.

Baez was accused of raping a drunken Boston College student who had hailed his Uber car. Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Raquel Frisardi told the judge that Baez took the young woman to a parking lot and other sites, and raped her three times.. He then dropped his victim  at Boston College, where she reported she had been raped. Baez was introduced to the judge as “somebody known to the Boston police gang unit as having previous involvement in the Mozart Street Gang, someone who had been previously prosecuted and in fact previously deported.”

She didn’t care about any of that. Judge Heffernan, a judicial appointment of Obama pal, former Governor Deval Patrick, was a former public safety secretary in his administration who had resigned in the midst of a scandal. True to her party’s obsession, she was determined to help Baez avoid immigration enforcement.

Ethics Alarm #2 illustrates how warped some even previously warped hyper-partisans have become in their hatred of the President.

Talking on  MSNBC with Chris Hayes about the dangerous situation with North Korea, Hayes, a card-carrying Trump-basher if there ever was one, made the rather obvious statement that he’s “genuinely rooting for” Trump to “handle the North Korea situation well.” Good for Chris Hayes: he’s an American, and partisan hate hasn’t completely eaten his brain. Not Moore though.

“I don’t know if I agree with that,” Moore responded. Moore went on to explain that it is more important to him that Trump fail and thus lose power than for the United States to successfully defuse the rogue nuclear nation and its threat to the world.  “It’s like rooting for a 6-year-old who suddenly swiped dad’s car and figured out how to take it down the road,” the fool stated. “I’m not rooting for the 6-year-old to get on the highway and drive that car. I want the 6-year-old off the highway.”

This accurately expresses the message being broadcast by much of the anti-Trump forces, including the Democratic Party, since the election. They are willing to facilitate almost any damage —in Moore’s case, nuclear destruction—to the nation, its institutions, its stability and the public if it will somehow undo the election, and get Donald Trump “off the highway.” Moore is obviously an extreme case, but when you find yourself in the same camp as someone who thinks like he does, the ethics alarms should be deafening.

Ethics Alarm #3 came in the context of climate change, along with open borders the most intensely and irrationally held tenet of current progressive cant. Continue reading

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From The “Saint’s Excuse” Files:The Catholic Church, Penn State, and Now Choate…What Have We Learned?

Protect the hive. Always protect the hive…

The renowned private boarding school school Choate Rosemary Hall, alma mater of such luminaries as John Dos Passos, Edward Albee, Glenn Close, multiple Kennedys and dozens more of the rich, famous and powerful, , just revealed that at least twelve former teachers had sexually molested, and in one case, raped, students without the crimes being reported to police. The pattern continued over decades. In some cases, teachers were allowed to resign after being confronted with evidence of abuse, and administrators wrote still letters of recommendations for them after they were fired. The predators then went to other schools, sometimes in positions of power and authority.

After the similar institutional conduct revealed by the Catholic Church and Penn State, does anyone believe that this is a rare occurrence in institution, including the most prestigious—and virtuous!—ones? The lesson is that established, powerful, iconic institutions are programmed to protect themselves above others, and regard their own missions and continued vitality more precious than any single individual, even a child.

Revisiting one of the most important of the Ethics Alarms’ 92 rationalizations:

13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”

This rationalization has probably caused more death and human suffering than any other. The words “it’s for a good cause” have been used to justify all sorts of lies, scams and mayhem. It is the downfall of the zealot, the true believer, and the passionate advocate that almost any action that supports “the Cause,’ whether it be liberty, religion, charity, or curing a plague, is seen as being justified by the inherent rightness of the ultimate goal. Thus Catholic Bishops protected child-molesting priests to protect the Church, and the American Red Cross used deceptive promotions to swell its blood supplies after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The Saint’s Excuse  allows charities to strong-arm contributors, and advocacy groups to use lies and innuendo to savage ideological opponents. The Saint’s Excuse is that the ends justify the means, because the “saint” has decided that the ends are worth any price—especially when that price will have to be paid by someone else.

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Ethics Hero Emeritus: Eugene M. Lang

A kind, courageous Ethics Hero died last week. To my shame, I had never heard of him. In 1996, President Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but that award has been so degraded and politicized that I no longer pay much attention to it. My mistake: in this case, the award was well-earned.

Eugene M. Lang was born poor and became  a successful and wealthy  investor. In 1981, he was invited to deliver a commencement address to 61 New Your City sixth graders at Public School 121, his alma mater.  “I looked out at that audience of almost entirely black and Hispanic students, wondering what to say to them,” he recalled years later. “It dawned on me that the commencement banalities I planned were completely irrelevant…So I began by telling them that one of my most memorable experiences was Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, and that everyone should have a dream.”

Then, in a flash of inspiration, he decided on the spot to tell them that he would give a scholarship to every student in the class who was admitted to a four-year college.

That impulsive promise led to his establishment of the I Have a Dream Foundation, with an office in Manhattan. Lang hired a project coordinator and established a year-round program of academic support including mentoring and tutoring as well as sponsored cultural and recreational outings. In the meantime, he virtually adopted that 6th grade class, taking them on trips and restaurants, and personally counseling them through personal travails as well as school problems, often intervening with school officials on their behalf. By the time Eugene Lang died at age 98,  his dedication had changed the lives of more than 16,000 at-risk children nationwide.

Lang said the he knew, when he made his pledge to those 11 and 12-year olds, that giving poor and  troubled children money for an education would not ensure their success. He knew many would succumb to the cycle of poverty,  drugs, jail and irresponsible parenthood.  “When I made the original promise, the principal told me that maybe one or two students would take advantage of my offer,” he told  one interviewer. That’s why he dedicated himself to doing more.

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Ethics Jump-Ball At The 7-11

Boy, you better be quick if you want to be “pay it forward” in Alexandria, Virginia.

Today I dropped by the local 7-11 for a quick purchase and was third in a line of four. Being served was a very tall—basketball player tall—, very striking young African American man, late 20s, early 30s,  in a three- piece suit and tie. He had his items on the counter for checkout, and excused himself briefly to go out to his car where he said he had left his wallet. A few seconds later he stepped back into the store and said, “Never mind. I’m sorry, I left my wallet at home,” and started to leave. I hesitated maybe two seconds and started to speak, as did the man ahead of me. I was about to say that I would pay for his items, but the guy behind me, short, stocky, white, about 50, and noticeably missing a few teeth in front, stepped out and said, “Hey, man, I’ve got it.”

The young man looked surprised and said, “Are you sure?” “Of course. Is that it?” replied the older man, pointing to the counter.

“Just pay it forward, friend,” said the man in front of me.

“Thank you,” said the Kareem Abdul Jabbar look-alike.  I really did think he looked like Kareem, early 70’s vintage, but handsomer. He also appeared a lot more affluent than his shorter benefactor. “Here’s my contact information…” and he reached into his pocket.

“No, no, come on, that’s not necessary,” said his new friend,, flashing his missing teeth in a big smile. “I’ve got it. We’re all in this together.” And he paid the clerk.

The tall black man shook his hand, and they both held the clasp for a few second. “Thanks so much,” he said.

After he left, both I and the man in front of me congratulated the winner of this ethics jump ball, saying that we both were about to do the same thing, but he had been quicker.

“Oh no!” he said suddenly, eyes twinkling. “I just spent my last dollar! Now I can’t pay for MY stuff!”

“See? I’d really have you both then, wouldn’t I?”

And we all laughed.

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From The Ethics Alarms “Do The Ends Justify The Means?” Files: The Breast Cancer Survivor’s Inspiring Scam

At one point, profiling the double-mastectomied Paulette Leaphart’s 1,000-mile walk from  Mississippi to Washington, D.C….topless…CNN reporter Jessica Ravitz writes,

“If even one woman’s life was saved thanks to a conversation Paulette started, wasn’t that enough? So what if our hero was flawed?”

Oh, no: the “just one child/just one life” rationalization again! (Which, I now notice, isn’t on the Rationalizations List, and it should be.)

Ravitz writes this to begin a long, detailed, infuriating narrative about the well-publicized and much-hyped crusade of Leaphart, whose journey, displaying her scarred chest,  was to ostensibly demand more funds for cancer research cure and  better and more affordable health care. She said she was a champion for women without breasts “to believe in their beauty and be proud of their strength.”

“By showcasing and embracing her scars, she hoped to inspire others to do the same,” Ravitz writes. “Her journey was bold, visual, moving. It offered a hero to admire and, given Paulette’s audacious decision to walk shirtless in the face of strangers, a rich spectacle to witness. It spoke to African-American women, who face the highest breast cancer mortality rate. It inspired legions of survivors. And it spoke to many who’d lost someone to the disease.”

Ravitz is conflicted, clearly, as she tells the complicated story of the woman whose official cause is admirable, but whose motives are murky, and whose credibility is non-existent. While explaining the mounds of evidence she uncovered that the woman has a record of deception, venality and financial flim-flam, that she sees the long walk as a ticket to fame and cash, and that she has lied and fabricated aspects of her ‘inspirational story” repeatedly while the efforts of journalists to pin her down. Yet Ravitz still ends up by  being wishy-washy and equivocal:

“There’s no way to measure how much of a difference Paulette Leaphart made in shaping the conversation about cancer in this country. She touched many minds and hearts, but whether she did so in the most honest and transparent way remains questionable.”

What? There is nothing questionable about whether Leaphart has been honest and transparent—she hasn’t. Ravitz documents her deceptions impressively. She lied about her cancer treatment. She lied about her eligibility for Medicaid and financial resources. She lied to a documentary team that had arranged to follow her, leading them to end the relationship. She lied on her Facebook page, representing her health travails by using the experiences of a friend. Her unguarded comments suggest that she began the walk as a way to make money for herself as well as research. She accepted contributions under false pretenses.  Yet the journalist still seems to want to say that all of this doesn’t matter,  if some good resulted from it: Continue reading

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