The Banjo/Damien Patton Affair: Can You Ever Escape A Disgraceful Past? Should You Be Able To?

Damien Patton is the the 47-year-old co-founder and CEO of the rising data gathering startup Banjo. The combination of the company’s success and its founders’ inspiring life story has made him the subject of many tech media and business publication profiles, for it is the kind of gutter to boardroom story on individual bootstrapping America has always celebrated.  He has described an abusive childhood that caused him to run away from home at age 15. He joined the U.S. Navy, then worked as a NASCAR mechanic before learning the craft of crime-scene investigation.  He  learned to code, and then became a co-founder of Banjo as he raised  nearly $223 million in venture capital for the Utah-based company.

However, Americans don’t like their rags-to-riches stories to begin too deep in the gutter. The tech news outlet OneZero uncovered transcripts of courtroom testimony, sworn statements, and more than 1,000 pages of federal records revealing that before he turned to coding, Patton was a member of the Dixie Knights, a Ku Klux Klan group active in the Nashville area in the late 1980s and early 1990s,  and not a passive one. He was was involved in shooting up a synagogue, for example. Understandably, this detail was something Patton did not highlight in his inspirational speeches before aspiring entrepreneurs.

The question is, now what? What does this mean today? What should it mean? Continue reading

More Amazing Tales Of “The King’s Pass”: The Megan Barry Saga

You can’t make this stuff up. Well, you could, but nobody would believe you. That’s not quite right: I would believe you, but then I’ve seen this story.

Maybe you’ve seen some of it. There are interesting posts on Nashville’s disgraced and jettisoned mayor here, here, and here. 

Surely you read them. No? I forgive you—after all, Facebook deems the output of this blog not fit for human eyes, so why should anyone bother reading, especially when Ethics Alarms persists in pointing out the astounding double standards being fought for in the media and by progressive warriors? Here, let be provide some quick bullet points as a review, kind of like those Netflix shows do in their second seasons to recap the previous season…

  • “Nashville’s first term mayor Megan Barry admitted yesterday that she had an extramarital affair with the police officer in charge of her security detail. She apologized “for the harm I’ve done to the people I love and the people who counted on me” but said she won’t be resigning. In a news conference, she said nothing illegal happened and no policies were violated.” The Nashville Mayor’s Affair, 2/1/18
  • (Same source as above): “This is sexual harassment. The officer was a subordinate, and she was his boss, with the power to fire him or worse. There can be no genuine consent in such situations….the conservative media constantly points out that when Republicans are involved in scandals, the news media always places their party affiliation in the first paragraph, but when the miscreant is a Democrat, it is buried or not mentioned at all. Let’s use this story as a test:1. NOLA (local), below: No mention of the Mayor’s party at all.2. The Tennessean (local), below: Third paragraph.3. USA Today: 22nd paragraph!

    4. NPR: Nope!

    5. NBC: Nope!

    6. ABC: Nope!”

  • And this just in! Nashville’s main newspaper, the Tenneseean, reports that Rob Forrest, the Mayor’s married lover, earned substantially more overtime than the other bodyguards on Barry’s secuirty detail, $173,843.13  between July 2015 and January 2017, which was nearly $53,000 more than the other four bodyguards received combined. But, as several internet wags have noted, let’s be fair: Rob was doing more for the mayor than those other bodyguards..How Many Rationalizations Can You Spot In This Op-Ed? (2/20/18)
  • “The statement is a whitewash, a delusion, and a lie. It is the upbeat farewell of a successful leader, not what it should be, the humble request for forgiveness from a terrible one, acknowledging wrongdoing and promising to be better. The statement shows no contrition, no remorse, no accountability, no courage, and no conscience. Based on these words, I think Megan Barry is a sociopath.” Unethical Quote Of The Week: Nashville Mayor Megan Barry’s Resignation Statement, 3/7/18
  • Same source: “… after various revelations that suggested illicit and excessive compensation somehow made their way to her huggy-bug, both Barry and paramour Robert Forrest had to plead guilty to theft of property over $10,000 — a Class C Felony. She will pay $11,000 to the city in restitution and serve three years’ probation, as will Forest, though he will have to pay back $45,000 to the city.”

Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Nashville Mayor Megan Barry’s Resignation Statement

Nice whitewashing job!

“While my time as your mayor concludes today, my unwavering love and sincere affection for this wonderful city and its great people shall never come to an end. No one is as excited about this city, and its bright and limitless future, than I am. Nashville, with its boundless energy, its infectious optimism, its never- encountered-an-obstacle-it-couldn’t-overcome attitude, will, in the years ahead, continue its steady march toward the very top of the list of great American cities. It’s a continued climb that I will watch, but I will watch as a private citizen, and I will be tremendously proud nonetheless.

While today is primarily about the smooth transition from my administration to that of Vice Mayor Briley, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge and thank the thousands and thousands of people who have reached out to me, written me, encouraged me, comforted me, worried endlessly about me, and most importantly prayed for me during these many difficult and trying months.In two and a half short years, we have made great strides and progress on affordable housing, transit, public education, youth opportunity, quality of life, and our economy.

None of this would have been possible without my incredible staff, our talented department heads, and all of the dedicated men and women of the Metropolitan Government who have worked hard to make the lives of Nashvillians a little better each day.They got up yesterday, they got up today, and they will get up again tomorrow devoted to making sure our city sings.

And I sincerely hope and believe that my own actions will not tarnish or otherwise detract from all of their great work. It has been the honor and it has been the privilege of my entire professional life to have had the blessing of this opportunity to be your mayor.Thank you in advance for the support that I am sure you will give to Mayor Briley in the days and weeks ahead.

God bless this wonderful city.

I love you, Nashville.”

Megan Barry, now ex-Mayor of Nashville, following her resignation after pleading guilty to theft of public funds.

Ethics Alarms has previously covered the exploits of Barry, who had a romantic relationship with the chief of her security detail, a married man, and who refused to resign when it came to light, saying that God would forgive her. Finally, after various revelations that suggested illicit and excessive compensation somehow made their way to her huggy-bug, both Barry and paramour Robert Forrest had to plead guilty to theft of property over $10,000 — a Class C Felony. She will pay $11,000 to the city in restitution and serve three years’ probation, as will Forest, though he will have to pay back $45,000 to the city. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/14/18: Comfort Women…”

Sam Halverson’s 6th comment to Ethics Alarms is a Comment of the Day, and a fascinating one. It comes in response to Item #2 in the 1/14/18 Warm-up, which involved the seemingly endless argument between South Korea and Japan over the Korean women forced be sex slaves by their Japanese captors during World War II. One of the pleasure of operating this blog is that its readers teach me so much. This is a prime example.

Here is the Comment of the Day by Sam Halverson on the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/14/18: Comfort Women, Presidential Health Lies, Pit Bulls And No “Goodbye Columbus”…Yet

Let start this comment by saying; this is not what it looks like.

My dog (a mutt, maybe a little bull terrier, who knows?) is not in this fight between Japan and the Republic of Korea. To categorize it as a fight probably isn’t correct either as the facts have been settled and there has obviously been a huge evil committed by Japan against the people of Korea, one I am not writing this to convince anyone of anything but rather to inform people of something they may not of known before hand. Whataboutism this is not, anger, disgust and a bit of shame it is.

Everyone loves a hypocrite; watching someone fall always delight the side of us that craves spectacle and someone who betrays themselves only raises the precipice higher. Which is why I want to talk about the massive human trafficking problem that goes on in The Republic of Korea.

The Korean people are polite. They do not talk about scandalous things in public, not with strangers and definitely not with foreigners. They would rather ignore a problem in their polite society than admit it exists. Getting an average South Korean to self criticize the culture is like pulling teeth and just as likely to end in blood loss.

For example, it is a blatantly open secret that while prostitution is illegal (as well as pornography) in Korea, it is rampant. There are literal whorehouses that display their wares in the open on the street behind pink curtains and glass walls, police walk by without comment. These are known as “glass houses” and the implied metaphor for the country is apt.

While the Korean government is chastising the Japanese for refusing to apologize for atrocities committed over half a century ago, they are practicing the very same evils today.

Every year an unknown number of women are forced into prostitution and domestic servitude on a country that is rated as a TIER I nation on the U.S. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, TIER I being reserved that nation’s that comply with international laws on human trafficking.

I wonder if South Korea is afforded leniency because of it’s strategic position in advancing US interests in the region, a reclassification would bring sanctions and weaken US Korean relations. I can personally tell you that that status is crap, unlike the US where human trafficking is hidden behind closed doors there it is as mentioned visible from the street.

How do I know? I was stationed at Camp Hovey, South Korea for a period of one year while serving in the army as an 11B. It’s a smaller camp connected to Camp Casey which is one of the largest and furthest north of the primary American installations. I was stationed there in 2010 and witnessed this with my own eyes. Comfort women still exist, but they are being sold willingly by the Korean public to friends not Invaders. Continue reading

It’s Too Late Now, But Here Is The Apology Senator Franken Should Have Made…

The hypocritical Left is discrediting itself for the foreseeable future by contriving ways to pretend that what Al Franken was credibly accused of doing to a fellow performer during a 2006 USO tour wasn’t so bad, and what about Roy Moore and Donald Trump? As Ed Driscoll wrote today,

The media’s ability to pivot on a dime in the same week from throwing a dissipated Bill Clinton overboard and attacking Roy Moore to granting Franken a very ‘90s-era one free grope rule is amazing to watch. Decades of these sort of power politics by the left (see also: supporters of Kennedy, Ted) explain why many continue to circle the wagons around Moore. Or as Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics tweeted on Tuesday, “I don’t think you can underestimate the degree to which many conservatives have this attitude: (a) we fought a battle over whether character counts, and got our asses handed to us and (b) liberal leaders always circle the wagons around their guys, and ours always cave.”

Franken was in a position to make such embarrassments unnecessary, and to show how responsible elected officials expected to be role models should conduct themselves when accountability knocks. Instead, he made not one but two unethical apologies, the second worse than the first. The fact that his enablers in his party and the media rushed to accept them doesn’t make either less awful. As I explained, in his ultimate apology he 1) never specifically apologized to Ms Tweeden, lumping her into a mass apology to thousands 2) simultaneously said that women should be believed when they accuse men of sexual misconduct, and undermined Tweeden’s account by saying that he didn’t recall it as she described, and 3) said there was no excuse for his conduct while excusing it as just another joke that misfired, an occupational hazard of being a comedian—remember folks, I was a comedian then!

At the risk of repeating myself, I designated Franken Apology Take Two as a #10 on the Apology Scale, and I am convinced that was fair. (The final straw? Asking for a Senate ethics investigation that could only prove Tweeden’s account unsupported, or simply confirm what we were already told. Why couldn’t Franken just accept the account of his accuser? The reason is that he wants to discredit her without appearing “not to believe the victim of sexual misconduct.” Yechhh.) This is the description of a #10, the bottom of the barrel:

10. An insincere and dishonest apology designed to allow the wrongdoer to escape accountability cheaply, and to deceive his or her victims into forgiveness and trust, so they are vulnerable to future wrongdoing.

It didn’t have to be this way. Senator Franken could and should have delivered a Level 1 apology, and would have been better served by it, as would our culture, political system and all of us:

1. An apology motivated by the realization that one’s past conduct was unjust, unfair, and wrong, constituting an unequivocal admission of wrongdoing as well as regret, remorse and contrition, as part of a sincere effort to make amends and seek forgiveness.

Here is the statement he should have issued. Continue reading

Apology Not Acceptable: The Pastor, The Cake, And The Whole Foods Scam

This guy takes the cake...

This guy takes the cake…

Jordan Brown is the openly and presumably obviously  gay pastor at Austin’s Church of Open Doors. You will remember him if you saw his video last month explaining how an employee at the local Whole Foods, in an inexplicable burst of baker suicidal tendencies, had written in icing the legend “Love Wins Fag”—whatever that means—on a cake he had ordered there.

“When I got into my vehicle, I looked inside and saw they had wrote ‘Love Wins F–‘ on it,” Brown says in the video, in apparent emotional anguish. “You can see it nice and clear. Also, it is still in a sealed box. As you see, I have not opened up this box yet.” He also held a press conference, describing his feelings of humiliation when he finally got home with his cake and read the icing attack.

Then he sued the groceries giant, claiming that Whole Foods knew or should have known that cakes prepared by mad homophobic bakers in its employ might have “slurs or harassing messages” written on them and then be “presented to a customer without any oversight or prior warning.” Ah, if only Whole Food had said, to Brown, “We have to warn you, sir, we’ve written a homophobic slur on your cake. Have a nice day!”

Naturally, as with so many recent examples of members of frequently harassed and victimized groups, especially on campuses, creating their own racist, sexist or homophobic “hate crimes” and inventing  entire incidents, like Rolling Stone’s “Jackie,” the initial reaction of the news media was gullible acceptance, and the immediate response of social justice warriors was fury. Whole Foods was a cultural villain, and facing significant, business-threatening consequences.

Whole Foods did not turn the other cheek, however. It denied the allegations and countersued, stating that Brown “intentionally, knowingly and falsely accused Whole Foods and its employees of writing the homophobic slur … on a custom made cake that he ordered from WFM’s Lamar Store in Austin.” Whole Foods, ominously for Brown, said that it had video evidence proving that Brown had tampered with the cake.

Suddenly contrite in the face of resistance, the good pastor said, in effect, “Ooopsie!” He issued an e-mail, withdrawing his lawsuit and his story: Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Japan’s Official Apology To The Korean “Comfort Women”

comfort-women

Before and during World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army forced an estimated 400,000 women and girls from occupied territories, primarily Korea, China, and the Philippines, into sexual slavery for the convenience and “comfort” of Japanese soldiers. That the women were kidnapped, raped, and in many cases murdered is not in dispute, but for cultural and political reasons the Japanese government has never accepted full responsibility for the nation’s mass crime, or acknowledged its true nature. To the contrary, Japan has protested memorials to the Comfort women in various locales, including the United States. Japan officially maintains that the women were ordinary prostitutes, and that no crimes were committed toward them. This is a long, bitter controversy between South Korea and Japan particularly.

Pressure from the United States on both Japan and South Korea to resolve the issue had been building, and on December 29, 2015, the two nations reached an agreement by which the Comfort Women issue was considered “finally and irreversibly” resolved. Under the agreement, the Japanese government issued this negotiated statement:

The issue of comfort women, with an involvement of the Japanese military authorities at that time, was a grave affront to the honor and dignity of large numbers of women, and the Government of Japan is painfully aware of responsibilities from this perspective. 

As Prime Minister of Japan, Prime Minister Abe expresses anew his most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women who underwent immeasurable and painful experiences and suffered incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.

As part of the resolution, the Japanese government pledged to contribute one billion yen (about $8.3 million), out of the Japanese government’s budget to a foundation established by the Korean government dedicated to assisting the surviving Korean Comfort Women. Forty six survive. They had no part in the agreement discussions.

The deal is unpopular in South Korea. Critics immediately complained that the agreement is inadequate. Of course it is. $8.3 million would be moderate damages in the U.S. for a single woman who was kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery. Japan is not going to accept full responsibility for the war crimes, and that should be obvious after so many decades and such stubborn denial.

The ethics question that is a bit more challenging is whether the apology is worth the paper it is printed on, or even a true apology. After the agreement, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe  stated: “there will be no future reference at all to this issue [the Comfort Women issue]. We will not raise it in the next Japan-Korea summit meeting. This is the end. There will be no more apology.” Many Koreans feel that an official apology followed immediately by a statement that says, in essence, “There, that should shut them up!” is cynical and worthless. As a Korean issues website put it, “If an apology is not followed by contrition and self-reflection, but instead by gloating—-does that apology mean anything?”

Good question! Let me rephrase that as the Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is the official Japanese apology for the crimes against the Korean Comfort Women ethical?

Continue reading

How Should We Judge Second Apologies?

Sure, who wouldn't think this was funny coming from a member of your school board?

Sure, who wouldn’t think this was funny coming from a member of your school board?

The most important feature of apologies is that they express sincere and honest regret for the real harm done. If the first apology for misconduct fails that test, how much credence should a second attempt have? Does it negate the first apology completely? Ought it to be read and understood in light of the initial, unsatisfactory apology? Or should it be ignored completely as a public relations document crafted to achieve a result, rather than to express genuine contrition?

The case of Chris Harris, a board member for the Hooks Independent School District in the town of Hooks, Texas, provides a fascinating test.

Lat week, Harris posted an image of a Klu Klux Klan member with the caption, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas”  to his Facebook page. The reaction to this was what almost anyone with a fully functioning cerebrum would expect, a category that Harris does not belong to, or at least did not when he posted it. Perhaps after shouting, “Doh!” or perhaps not, Harris rushed to repair the damage, publishing this apology:

Harris apology 1

Terrible apology! Continue reading

Henry Rollins Shows Us How To Apologize

MeaCulpaWriter, thinker, and philosopher  Henry Rollins wrote one of those columns that you should put aside for a weekend and think about for a while for the L.A. Weekly, essentially condemning Robin Williams for taking his own life. Reading it, I knew that he would regret it pretty quickly. It was obviously fueled by emotion and anger, and I’m familiar with that feeling. It was how I felt when John Belushi died, and it was how I felt when Philip Seymour Hoffman died—so much so that I had written one of those be-sure-to-think-about-it-over-the-weekend-posts when that great actor died, and fortunately trashed it. But I’ve had exactly the same thoughts that Rollins expressed so powerfully—he expresses everything powerfully—and I know I’ll have them again. He wrote:

“Almost 40,000 people a year kill themselves in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In my opinion, that is 40,000 people who blew it. Fuck suicide. Life isn’t anything but what you make it. For all the people who walked from the grocery store back to their house, only to be met by a robber who shot them in the head for nothing — you gotta hang in there. I have life by the neck and drag it along. Rarely does it move fast enough. Raw Power forever.”

Continue reading

The Fifth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Best of Ethics 2013

Ethics Story 2013

I decided to start with the Best in Ethics this year, in contrast to other years, on the theory that it would get things off to a positive start in 2014. What it did, instead, was make me realize how negative Ethics Alarms was in 2013. Either there wasn’t much positive going on in ethics, or I wasn’t seeing it. My thanks to those of you who send me nominations for Ethics Heroes (and other stories); even when I don’t write about them, they are valuable. Please keep them coming. In the meantime, I pledge to try to keep the jaundice out of my eye in 2014. Things just can’t be as dire as they seemed last year.

Could they?

Here are the 2013 Ethics Alarms Awards for the Best in Ethics:

Most Important Ethical Act of the Year:

The U.S. Supreme Court declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, paving the way for the universal legalization of gay marriage. Yes, it was a legal decision, but it was also based, as all such culturally important decisions are, on a societal recognition that what was once thought to be wrong and immoral was, in fact, not. This is ethics, an ongoing process of enlightenment and wisdom about what is right and wrong, and the U.S. Supreme Court did its part. Continue reading