Category Archives: Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity

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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Filed under Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Education, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, Religion and Philosophy

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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Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Heroes, Leadership, Love, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, Race, U.S. Society

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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Filed under Character, Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, U.S. Society

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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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

Update: Generalissimo Franco* Is Still Dead, And Snopes Is Still An Unethical Website

Snopes.com's favorite in "The Wizard of Oz," and I don't mean Ray Bolger...

Snopes.com’s favorite in “The Wizard of Oz,” and I don’t mean Ray Bolger…

The July 31 Ethics Alarms post detailing how snopes.com, usually referred to as the “fact and rumor check website,” has quietly morphed into just another progressive Democrat online spin-merchant nailed these frauds based on their tortured spin to protect Hillary Clinton and her election prospects from legitimate criticism and, in the case of Clinton’s decade-old defense of a child rapist, illegitimate criticism based on genuine facts that Snopes denied anyway.

That is…don’t ask me why…the most read, linked and shared Ethics Alarms post ever. It even was the target of some of Hillary’s paid online trolls, whom I recognized when I realized they were writing from the same (false) talking points memo. Just to be clear, there is no longer any legitimate dispute that Snopes can’t be trusted, is subject to partisan bias, and is thus 100% useless as a “fact and rumor check website,” since their writers warp facts and debunk the truth when they feel like it.

I ended the July pots on this depressing note for me, because I once used and recommended the site with confidence:

That’s the end for Snopes. Even one example of bias-fed misrepresentation ends any justifiable trust readers can have that the site is fair, objective and trustworthy. Snopes has proven that it has a political and partisan agenda, and that it is willing to mislead and deceive its readers to advance it.

Can it recover? Maybe, but not without…

…Getting out of the political fact-checking business.

…Firing Dan Evon, who used the misleading flag photos, as well as Kim LaCapria.

…Confessing its betrayal of trust and capitulation to partisan bias, apologizing, and taking remedial measures.

With all the misinformation on the web, a trustworthy web site like Snopes used to be is essential. Unfortunately, a site that is the purveyor of falsity cannot also be the antidote for it.

I’ll miss Snopes, but until it acknowledges its ethics breach and convinces me that the site’s days of spinning and lying were a short-lived aberration, I won’t be using it again.

Two developments since this was written are worth noting. The weird one is that the site has been prominently cited as an authority more often since that post than before it. NBC’s FBI action drama “Blind Spot” had a character settle an argument by referring to Snopes, a first, and increasing numbers of news reports and op-eds have cited Snopes as well. Obviously the scriptwriters, reporters and pundits don’t read “Ethics Alarms,” but this is pure negligence. Snopes can’t be trusted. It’s as simple as that.

I have received from readers more examples of Snopes Spinning For Democrats, but this one, flagged by the Daily Caller, is worthy of this brief return to the issue. Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, The Internet, Unethical Websites

From The “When Ethics Alarms Ring” Files: The Saga Of The Kind Repo Man

car-paid-off

Jim Ford is a repo man, the co-owner of Illini Recovery Inc., a company in Southern Illinois. Pat and Stanford Kipping were in arrears in the monthly payments for their car, a 1998 Buick, and he was engaged to repossess it.

The past due amount  was about $350, and the payment amount was $95 a month. The Kippings are elderly retirees, and when he met with them in their home, his task became more and more unpalatable. “I had to get the hell out of there,” he recalled. He was feeling more guilty by the second, and was especially bothered by their explanation that health care costs, especially rising prescription drug expenses, caused them to fall behind on their payments. Ford could see himself in that same dilemma some day.

The Golden Rule can be a bitch.

He felt so badly about taking the car that he stopped to phone a bank official only a block  or so after seizing the car, and asked if he could just pay off the whole loan on the couple’s behalf. That, he learned, would be a red tape nightmare. Instead, Ford followed a friend’s advice and  launched an online fundraising effort in his own name. That attracted support from Ford’s friends and business associates, and in about 24 hours, the appeal had raised the necessary amount, and more.

The Kippings got their car returned and completely paid for, along with an oil change, detailing, and repairs. They also received an extra $1,000, and the week of Thanksgiving, the gift of a turkey from Jim Ford and his friends. When Ford arrived to deliver the car, family members,neighbors and a reporter from a local paper were waiting to be part of the moment.

“They were really really happy,” Ford said. “I don’t know. I was just glad I could help somebody out.”

When ethics alarms ring, good things  happen.

 

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity

Ethics Hero: Bill Lee, “The Spaceman,” An Integrity Exemplar…And I Really Need One About Now

bill-lee

If you weren’t a baseball fan in Boston during the Sixties and Seventies you may never have heard of Bill Lee, but if you were, he was an unforgettable and unique source of pleasure. Lee joined the Red Sox in 1969 as a junk-balling left-hander with a hippie streak not previously seen in the sport.  He was prone to say things like, “I think about the cosmic snowball theory. A few million years from now the sun will burn out and lose its gravitational pull. The earth will turn into a giant snowball and be hurled through space. When that happens it won’t matter if I get this guy out.”  The college students around Boston loved him, the old school baseball management types not so much. But he was good, and in major league baseball, good will always trump weird.

Lee was an excellent a reliever for four years before becoming a Sox starter in 1973, then won 17 games that season and the next two as well. The success was secondary for his often-stoned fans than his non-conformist attitude and determination to be himself at all costs. He was well-read, well-educated, opinionated and funny, and at various points in his Red Sox career, wore a gas mask, a coonskin cap and a propeller-topped beanie onto the field. Once, when the umpires refused to halt play in a downpour, Lee came out of the dugout wearing rain gear and carried an umbrella to the mound. This and other exploits caused him to be nicknamed “The Spaceman.”

Twice, once with the Red Sox and later with the Montreal Expos, Lee went on strike, refusing to play to protest the elimination of one of his friends from his team’s roster. The last time he did it, it ended his career.

Lee made up his own rules and principles, so he’s a different kind of Ethics Hero.  Above all else, however, the Spaceman has integrity down to a life-style. When he was at his zenith with the Red Sox, he often said that baseball was a still just a game to him, that it was what he loved to do, and that he didn’t care about the money. He would play baseball for whatever was available, he said, or just for the love of it. My father, who didn’t get Bill Lee, thought he was grandstanding.

He wasn’t. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Heroes, Health and Medicine, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, Professions