Tag Archives: cynicism

Ethics Dunce: Liberty University

That's McCaw on the left, Starr on the right, with the Baylor women's basketball team.

That’s McCaw on the left, Starr on the right, with the Baylor women’s basketball team.

Football is a sport, but in American culture its primary impact is as an ethics corrupter. The latest revolting example of this is occurring at Lynchburg, Virginia’s Liberty University, a prominent Christian fundamentalist institution founded by Jerry Falwell, the late TV evangelist and Religious Right icon. The school  is supposedly dedicated to imbuing its students with moral values, but if it comes to choosing between the Ten Commandments and pigskin glory, guess what comes out on top?

Last week, with great fanfare, Liberty hired Ian McCaw as its new athletic director. “My vision for Liberty is to position it as a pre-eminent Christian athletic program in America,” McCaw said during a news conference.

This is his first paying assignment since May, when he left his job as the athletic director at Baylor, also a Christian university. His departure was made essential after a thorough investigation that found that those overseeing Baylor’s  football team as well as the management of  the athletic department—that is, McCaw— had been informed of multiple gang rapes and sexual assault by team members and had ignored it, as any good football-loving Christian would….especially when a star was involved.

Baylor’s summary of its confidential investigation, overseen by the law firm of Pepper Hamilton, found that athletic program administrators and football coaches learned of accusations of gang and date rape over many years and did not report them or take appropriate action. This, the report found, “reinforces the perception that rules applicable to other students are not applicable to football players.”

Ethics Alarms calls this “The King’s Pass,” or “The Star Syndrome.” It is antithetical to moral and ethical principles, and, in theory, religion.

The report concluded that the “the choices made by football staff and athletics leadership, in some instances, posed a risk to campus safety and the integrity of the University.” Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy, Sports

Holiday Ethics Assigment: Quick! Watch These 25 Great Old Ethics Movies Again Before You Go Bonkers Too!

movie-theater

I am compiling a new list of great ethics movies to help those troubled by the recently completed Presidential campaign, the election and its aftermath. I haven’t decided whether to reveal it piecemeal, or collectively as I have before, but I do need to begin by presenting the previous list of 25, actually the combination of several previous posts. Ethics films I have covered individually since those lists debuted, like Spotlight and Bridge of Spies, will eventually be added.

For now, here’s the top 25. Don’t pay attention to the order.

1Spartacus (196o)

The raw history is inspiring enough: an escaped gladiator led an army of slaves to multiple victories over the Roman legions in one of the greatest underdog triumphs ever recorded. Stanley Kubrick’s sword-and-sandal classic has many inspiring sequences, none more so than the moment when Spartacus’s defeated army chooses death rather than to allow him to identify himself to their Roman captors (“I am Spartacus!”)

Ethical issues highlighted: Liberty, slavery, sacrifice, trust, politics, courage, determination, the duty to resist abusive power, revolution, love, loyalty.

Favorite quote: “When a free man dies, he loses the pleasure of life. A slave loses his pain. Death is the only freedom a slave knows. That’s why he’s not afraid of it. That’s why we’ll win.” [Spartacus (Kirk Douglas)]

2.  Hoosiers (1986)

“Hoosiers” is loosely based on true story, but its strength is the way it combines classic sports movie clichés—the win-at-all-costs coach down on his luck, the remote superstar, over-achieving team—into a powerful lesson: it isn’t the final victory that matters most, but the journey to achieving it.

Ethical issues highlighted: Forgiveness, generosity, leadership, kindness, courage, loyalty, diligence, redemption.

Favorite quote: “If you put your effort and concentration into playing to your potential, to be the best that you can be, I don’t care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, in my book we’re gonna be winners.” [ Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman)]

3. Babe (1995)

A wonderful movie about the virtues of being nice, the greatest civility film of all time. Second place: “Harvey.”

Ethical issues highlighted: Civility, kindness, reciprocity, loyalty, courage, love, friendship, bigotry, bias.

Favorite quote: “Fly decided to speak very slowly, for it was a cold fact of nature that sheep were stupid, and there was nothing that could convince her otherwise…The sheep decided to speak very slowly, for it was a cold fact of nature that wolves were ignorant, and there was nothing that could convince them otherwise”  The Narrator (Roscoe Lee Browne) Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Popular Culture, Professions, U.S. Society, War and the Military

James Comey’s Ethical Conflict

twopaths2

We now know that James Comey’s decision to inform Congress that the Clinton e-mail investigation had been re-opened (If I hear one more Clinton spinner  tells me that no case is ever “closed,” even one that is “completed,” I am going to run naked through the Safeway, screaming dirty limericks in pig latin. Be warned.) was “against Justice Department policy,” specifically the policy of “not acting in such a way as could influence an upcoming election.” Comey understood he was violating these guidelines, sources tell us,but felt he was obligated to do so because he had promised members of Congress he would inform them of any further developments related to Clinton’s email server misuse. Thus he sent a letter to F.B.I. employees after alerting Congress of the (possible) new evidence that necessitated re-opening the investigation. In the letter,  Comey acknowledged that his actions were unprecedented, but explained that…

I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record. At the same time, however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression. In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season, there is significant risk of being misunderstood, but I wanted you to hear directly from me about it.

According to the Washington Post,  Comey was also concerned that the discovery of the emails would be leaked to the media after he briefed a team of investigators about them, causing the  F.B.I. to be accused of a coverup to benefit Clinton.

Some ethics conclusions:

1. Comey’s actions are consistent with an understanding of the Ethics Incompleteness Principle, which is often discussed on Ethics Alarms:

The human language is not sufficiently precise to define a rule that will work in every instance. There are always anomalies on the periphery of every normative system, no matter how sound or well articulated. If one responds to an anomaly by trying to amend the rule or system to accommodate it, the integrity of the rule or system is disturbed, and perhaps ruined. Yet if one stubbornly applies the rule or system without amendment to the anomaly anyway, one may reach an absurd conclusion or an unjust result. The Ethics Incompleteness Principle suggests that when a system or rule doesn’t seem to work well when applied to an unexpected or unusual situation, the wise response is to abandon the system or rule—in that one anomalous case only— and use  basic ethics principles and analysis to find the best solution. Then return to the system and rules as they were, without altering them to make the treatment of the anomalous situation “consistent.”

Assuming that the “policy” is a sensible and ethical one to begin with (though it isn’t), this was an anomalous case. The FBI, and Comey personally, were rightly under intense criticism for their handling of the investigation. Among other puzzling decisions, Clinton’s aides were given immunity for no apparent reason; Clinton’s interview was neither videoed nor under oath; and Cheryl Mills, who was directly involved in the private server fiasco, was allowed to serve as Clinton’s lawyer when she was questioned. The policy was designed to protect the Justice Department and its component from suspicions of bias and partisan complicity, and the inept handling of the investigation  had already created those suspicions. When such a policy appears likely to have the opposite effect that it was established for, the rational and ethical approach is to make an exception, which is what Comey did.

2. This was courageous. Continue reading

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The Darryl Glenn Affair: The Republican Candidate For U.S. Senator In Colorado Lied, Is Lying, And Thus Cannot Be Trusted Not To Lie In The Future

Darryl  Glenn is lawyer who is the Republican Party candidate for a United States Senate seat in Colorado in the 2016 election.  He is also getting, too late, a lesson in why public servants who try to lie their way out of embarrassing situations usually make things worse, and forfeit the public trust.

Glenn, who was largely unknown when he triumphed in the GOP state caucus, was asked about whether he had ever been arrested, and specifically about a rumored incident in which he attacked his father as a teen but was never charged. In May, Glenn told reporters he had never been interviewed by police for any reason. He said the incident being reported  might have involved another man named Darryl Glenn and that he sometimes gets phone calls about that person.

Then this month, Glenn told the Colorado Springs Independent that the rumored incident may have involved his half-brother, Cedric, who was 8 years older than Glenn and died in 1992.  Cedric, Glenn said, had a “criminal past.” The candidate pointed that he is an Air Force Academy graduate and that he would not have been accepted as a cadet if he had any kind of police record.

Now a recently uncovered  police report and other documents obtained by The Denver Post show that in November, 1983, Colorado Springs police answered a call from a father who said he had been struck in the face by his son, an 18-year-old high school senior  named Darryl Glenn. The documents include Glenn’s signature, which matches his signature on other documents.

This is Glenn’s latest explanation, fresh off his Facebook page. I’ll comment on it as we go along… Continue reading

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The Democratic National Convention Presents The Most Unethical Use Of Mothers Yet

Mothers

The Republicans exploiting the grief of Patricia Smith, the mother of a young man slain in the 2012 Benghazi attack, by putting her on the party’s convention program was irresponsible and ethically revolting, especially from a party that (correctly) labelled Cindy Sheehan a grief-addled nuisance when she was protesting the Iraq War. Smith’s emotional rant against Hillary Clinton was pure grief porn, and expanded the sensationalist  trend in the news media (and legislative hearings) to use the most conflicted and biased figures imaginable—the loved ones of victims of tragedy—to frame a controversial issue in complex events.

Naturally, the Democratic Party’s allies in the media returned the hypocrisy many-fold. Maureen Dowd of the Times, who had pronounced Sheehan as someone with “absolute moral authority”—because having one’s son killed instantly makes you an authority on foreign affairs, at least when a Republican President is in office—was silent about Smith’s moral authority as she was attacked by critics, including the Washington Post, Chris Matthews, and a GQ writer who wrote that he wanted to “beat her to death.”

Foolishly, I took these attacks as  a hopeful sign that the Democrats and progressives were maturing ethically, and had rendered the proper ethics judgment that by prioritizing emotion over reason, it was unfair, misleading, exploitive and irresponsible to use grieving mothers this way. No, it wasn’t hypocrisy. It was ethical growth. Democrats, unlike Republicans, now knew this was a cheap and tawdry tactic, and they would no longer stoop so low.

Boy, am I gullible.

It was hypocrisy, and the Democrats wouldn’t stoop as low as Republicans, they would stoop much, much, much lower.

Among those who appeared on the Hillary Clinton coronation stage last night were members of Mothers of the Movement, an offshoot of Black Lives Matter. Though the message spoken by these women appeared to be about police brutality, unjustly killed black men and the need to ban guns, their commonality was only this: all of them were mothers of African Americans who died violently, and all of them blame whites, police, guns, the justice system or the United States of America, regardless of evidence, the findings of juries, and investigations. That is a fair description.

Let’s look at the women who appeared on stage: Continue reading

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UPDATE: The DNC “Apology” Is Even Worse Than I Thought! NOW You Get The Kaboom. KABOOM!

Kaboom Red

 Well, she got me!

The utter dishonesty of the Hillary Clinton-dominated Democratic National Committee finally made my head explode, earning the Ethics Alarms KABOOM designation, and also gratitude from the makers of Scott Paper Towels.

I posted  on the deceitful DNC non-apology apology reported last night as the party’s  response to the Wikileaks revelation that the Debbie Wasserman Schultz-led, Hillary Clinton-supporting staff of the Democratic National Committee was actively assisting Clinton’s campaign and colluding to undermine that of her sole challenger for the nomination, Bernie Sanders. My conclusion was that by apologizing for “the e-mails” and “remarks” instead of acknowledging and apologizing for what those e-mails and remarks signified, the DNC was cynically pretending to be sorry while actually deflecting attention away from its real betrayal.

It was worse than that.

When I wrote this, I was not aware of the recent discovery of anti-gay and homophobic comments in the DNC e-mails, though the DNC surely was. For example, there were exchanges like this (from The Daily Caller): Continue reading

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The Final Insult: The DNC Issues A Cynical, Evasive And Dishonest “Apology”

The DNC is offering one for free!

The DNC is offering one for free!

I have been asked why none of the various ethical horrors emerging from the Democratic Party ( as in rigging its nomination process), the Democratic National Committee (as in claiming, in spite of smoking-gun evidence, that Hillary Clinton won the nomination “fair and square”) and Hillary Clinton ( as in immediately hiring the ex-chair of the DNC after she had been dumped for overseeing the unethical nomination process manipulation) rated a KABOOM! label, which is reserved for unethical conduct so stunning that it causes my head to explode. The reason is simple.  Being well-acquainted with the depth of Hillary Clinton’s corruption and her documented ability to corrupt others, I am immune to such episodes, which no longer can bring my brain to the necessary boil.

I must admit, however, that the DNC’s outrageous apology  to “Senator Sanders, his supporters, and the entire Democratic Party” issued tonight (it’s Monday evening, the first night of the Democratic National Convention) nearly did it. My skull almost blew.

I’m sure there have been more deceitful, evasive, too-cute-by-half and insulting apologies by major institutions. Well maybe not. Anyone who accepts this slap in the face of accountability as anything better than a sham is either a fool, or complicit in the Democratic Party’s machinations.

Here is the “apology”:

DNC apology

According to the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale, this is both a Level 9 and a Level 10 apology, which is to say a stinking, steaming pile of excrement, and about as unethical as an apology can be. Continue reading

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