The Ohio State Sexual Abuse Scandal: I Might Have Some Trenchant Ethics Observations On This Horrible Story If I Could Figure Out How The Heck It Could Happen.

I don’t understand this story at all.

Richard Strauss, a now-deceased doctor who worked at Ohio State University, sexually abused at least 177 male student athletes and probably more during his two decades at the institution. Yet the worst consequences he suffered  was a short suspension. When he retired, Ohio State gave him  an honorary title.

Many, many administrators, coaches and students  knew about the ongoing abuse, which included fondling athletes’ genitals, performing sex acts on them and making lewd comments during exams. According to an investigative report released last week, none of them took decisive action. Of the 177 victims, 153 were student athletes or students affiliated with athletic programs at Ohio State, including 48 members of the wrestling program, 16 from gymnastics, 15 from swimming and diving, 13 from soccer, 10 from lacrosse and seven each from hockey, track and field and baseball.

Some students told officials about Strauss, who killed himself in 2005 (GOOD), but the complaints were ignored. The  report on the  investigation,conducted by the Perkins Coie law firm  concludes that Strauss’s abuse was an “open secret” on campus and athletes came to accept it as a form of “hazing.”

I repeat: I do not understand this at all. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/24/2019: Big Brotherism At The Ballet, And How Hillary Sicced Mueller On Trump

Good morning…

Depressed and discouraged today, about many things…time for Jimmy…

1. Another angle on the the topics here...arrives courtesy of Michael West, who pointed me to this article. about the psychology of unethical behavior. Mostly, it frames in slightly different packages familiar themes on Ethics Alarms, beginning with who people often don’t speak up and actively oppose unethical conduct that they witness or are a part of. Ethics Alarms has examined this phenomenon (and will continue to) many ways. One example was a two part post in 2015 on the duty to confront. (Part II is here) Other posts can be found by clicking on the tags below, such as the duty to lead, the duty to oppose evil, the duty to warn, and the duty to fix the problem.

The wonderfully named author Merete Wedell-Wedellsborg identifies several concepts in her essay, including omnipotence, cultural numbness, justified neglect, and looking out for signs of moral capture.

Ethics Alarms uses different approaches: omnipotence is essentially “The King’s Pass” and “The Saint’s Excuse” in the rationalizations list. Cultural numbness describes how “the Big Yellow Circle’s” gravitational pull influences the Green Circle, encompassing personal values and conscience. Justified neglect isn’t really justified: she is talking about how non-ethical consideration freeze ethics alarms. “Looking out for signs of moral capture” is the topic of Philip Zimbardo’s “rules” to avoid being corrupted by peer groups and organizations. I would assume that the author has studied these, since “Dr. Z” is one of the leading writers and researchers in the area.

Inevitably, the article delves into leadership, concluding,

“The reality is that, for many leaders, there is no true straight-and-narrow path to follow. You beat the path as you go. Therefore, ethical leadership relies a lot on your personal judgment. Because of this, the moral or ethical dilemmas you experience may feel solitary or taboo — struggles you don’t want to let your peers know about. It can sometimes feel shameful to admit that you feel torn or unsure about how to proceed. But you have to recognize that this is part of work life and should be addressed in a direct and open way.”

I disagree with that description of leadership technique, and I’m tempted to say that its the claim as someone who has not done much leading. It does seem typical of so-called “female leadership models,” which emphasize consensus and transparency. Traditional leadership theories hold that a leader’s followers don’t want to know how conflicted a leaders, and learning that a leader is “unsure” is the last thing they want to know. Effective leaders learn to keep their doubts and insecurities to themselves—one more reason leadership isn’t for everyone. Continue reading

More 7-11 Ethics (What IS It With That Store?)

 

Once again (I think this makes three times) a visit to the local Alexandria 7-11 on Quaker Lane yielded a spontaneous ethics drama.

As I was about to get in line to buy a bag of Bugles and some vile tobacco products, two men began shouting at each other. A father with two young boys became upset that the other man was taking too long at the Slurpee machine, and when he protested that he was going as fast as he could, the father told him to “fuck off.”

“Hey, why do you think you can talk to me like that in public?” the man shot back. “You have kids…that’s a great way to raise them. Really? You really think that’s appropriate?”

“How I raise my kids is none of your business,” the vulgar dad replied.

“You have no class at all, buddy,” the second man said. “And now your kids will have no class too, and we all will have to live with them.”

I thought there was going to be a fist fight, but after some more back and forth, they went to their respective corners. I was behind the Slurpee neophyte, and I just had to salute him.

“Good for you,” I said. “That kind of public behavior has to be flagged and condemned whenever it happens, or we end up in a downward spiral of rudeness, and living in a nation of assholes.”

The man turned to me and thanked me. “I really appreciate that,” he said. “It means a lot to have some support.”

The duty to confront, and to enforce cultural norms of conduct. He got it. Everyone needs to, and now more than ever.

Nine Critical Questions About The Independence Hall Social Justice Warrior Park Ranger Tour Guide

Philadephia-Independence_Hall_Panorama

Conservative columnist and former Justice Department attorney J. Christian Adams reported that Holly Holst, a federal employee of the National Park Service, took visitors on a guided tour of Independence Hall, during which she informed them that the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were the product of “class elites who were just out to protect their privileged status.”

[UPDATE: Adams corrected his original report, which misidentified the ranger involved as Mary A. Hogan. Ethics Alarms has corrected it s original post accordingly. I apologize to Hogan and my readers.]

Adams writes that several attendees of her tour group on Monday told him that Holst repeatedly denigrated the Founders.  She claimed that  “the Founders knew that when they left this room, what they had written wouldn’t matter very much, ” and also told them that the “most important part of the Constitution written at Independence Hall was the ability to change it.”

Exemplifying her historical expertise was Holst’s alleged statement that King George III paid more attention to Parliament than the colonists “because they were right there and could remove him from office.”

Assuming that this is accurate information about Holst and her tour–remember that Adams is a passionate and often angry anti-Obama conservative—I have the following questions.

By the way, if the story above is accurate, my head has asked permission to do its best imitation of Krakatoa.

Questions: Continue reading

Advice Column Ethics: The Case Of The Anxious Godmother

"look, I'll take your 8 kids if anything happens to you, but I really think you should stop juggling chainsaws..."

“Look, I’ll take your 8 kids if anything happens to you, but I really think you should stop juggling chainsaws…”

The best of all advice columnists, Carolyn Hax, found herself confronted with a tough question this weekend, and uncharacteristically flailed at an answer.

I’m going to try to help her out.

The question came from husband who was trying to decide how to deal with the anxiety of his wife, godmother to two teenagers being raised alone by her brother. The brother, it seems, has decided to take up race car driving as a new hobby, and sister, the wife of Hax’s correspondent, is terrified that this risky pursuit might eventually place the teens in her care. “The kids have been raised in a way that neither of us agrees with, and if they were to come under our care, it would be very difficult for everyone involved,” he writes. What should he do?

Maybe Hax’s reply helps the potential adoptive parent, but I sure found it stuttering, overly equivocal and confusing. It’s not surprising: the issues are difficult, full of ethical conflicts.

Here is my analysis:

1. If one agrees to be the designated guardian of a child or children, one is ethically obligated to be ready to accept the duties of the job. “I’ll take care of your kids happily as long as it’s not your fault that you can’t” just isn’t good enough. Too many people, perhaps most, accept this crucial responsibility as an honor rather than as a very serious commitment, and first and foremost, it is a commitment to the children. If a godmother (or, in a non-religious setting, a guardian) is terrified of the reality of fulfilling the duties of the job, she should give them up, so they can be accepted by someone who is not so reluctant. It shouldn’t matter if the parent is an amateur snake handler or a couch potato.

2. It is reckless, selfish and irresponsible for the sole parent of children to not take this fact into consideration regarding his lifestyle and other choices. Two children depend on him: he is duty bound to do what he can to stay alive, healthy, and capable of supporting them. Taking on unquestionably risky hobby like race car driving, or storm chasing, or being a volunteer human subject for the ebola vaccine, is irrational and wrong. It is right for the potential successor guadians to make this point to him, for the children, for a family intervention, for his friends, for anyone. And they should. He is not free to act as if he has complete autonomy, not with two children who depend on him.

3. If his thinking is “it’s OK to risk my life, because I have two foster parents on the hook,” that is similarly unethical, and he needs to be told that, too. But he should be told it by  guardians/godparents who are still committed to being loving parents should the worst occur, not by a couple that accepted the responsibility assuming they would never actually have to deliver.

The bottom line:

  • The inquirer and his wife should withdraw as guardians.
  • The father should grow up.
  • The next guardian couple should be informed of the father’s irresponsible proclivities, and make his promise to take reasonable efforts to remains capable of raising the children as a condition of their accepting the role.

And, of course, if the worst happens and the father ends up a victim of Dead Man’s Curve without having found a suitable guardian, the sister and her husband may be obligated to raise the orphaned teens anyway.

Because that’s what families are for.

Is that what Carolyn says? I’m not sure. If it is, it wasn’t clear enough.

Indocrinating Our Students With Apathy, Cowardice and Selfishness: No Wonder We Won’t Help The Ukraine…

THIS, however, is perfectly acceptable, because it's perfectly ineffective.

THIS, however, is perfectly acceptable, because it’s perfectly ineffective.

Day by day, moment by moment, our ethically incompetent schools inculcate the wrong values in our young, undoing centuries of American traditions and unraveling the unique character that made the United States the hope of the world.

When he witnessed another student at Chicago’s Elmwood Park High School beginning to bully a smaller, weaker colleague, high school athlete Mark Rivera pulled the aggressor aside and said something in the manner of “Do that again, and you’ll have to deal with me, got it?” As a result, he was suspended.

The principal told reporters, “You can say stop it or leave him alone but if that doesn’t work, get an adult involved.”  Ah. Object without intending to do anything to back up the objection. Do nothing, and, say, go play golf. Or leave it to someone else.

Sounds familiar.

Mark Rivera is an Ethics Hero, even though, if the cultural polluters in chrage of our institutions aren’t stopped and replaced, future generations of the wan, timid, self-absorbed nation that was once the United States won’t think so.

 

 

Why The Winooski Bacon Controversy Matters

bacon signLast week, Sneakers Bistro and Cafe in Winooski, Vermont removed a sign reading “Yield for Sneakers Bacon” from a garden at the Winooski Rotary after a woman who described herself as “a vegan and a member of a Muslim household” called the sign offensive in an online post.

“Given the large number of Muslim families in Winooski, as well as many others who do not eat pork for a variety of reasons, it seems unnecessary for this insensitive business sign to be at the city’s main crosswalk,” she wrote. Sneakers, obeying the growing U.S. cultural mandate that any individual has a veto over words and conduct that he or she finds offensive regardless of 1) whether it is offensive to anyone else and 2) whether the alleged offense is certifiably bats, apologized, and took the sign down.

I am happy to support that this decision did not play well, even in ultra-liberal Vermont, and under a barrage of criticism on the web and elsewhere, the Sneakers’ management posted the following message on its Facebook page, thus making their situation worse:

“We are here to serve people BREAKFAST, not politics. We removed the sign that was located on public property as a gesture of respect for our diverse community. There were also concerns raised about safety. Removing it was not a difficult decision. We still love bacon. We still love eggs. Please have the political conversation elsewhere.”

That idiotic statement was the disaster anyone conscious should have been able to predict it would be. And let’s be thankful this is still true. Tomorrow, Sneakers’ response may be standard operation procedure, even if ISIS doesn’t take over the country while the President is breaking par. Continue reading

“The Strain” Ethics: Feminism, Sophie’s Choices and Moral Cowardice

The-Strain-Vampires

The FX cable networks ultra-creepy, disturbing and often disgusting series “The Strain” has begun raising ethics issues, as good science fiction (this is a horror-science fiction hybrid) is wont to do. The last episode, “It’s Not For Everyone” provided its characters with one ethical dilemma after another. [SPOILER ALERT!!] Arguably, all of them were botched. Continue reading

KABOOM! Homophone-phobia In Utah

headexplode

I thought this had to be a hoax.

I prayed it was a hoax.

It’s not a hoax.

Now I’m washing my brains off the ceiling using a rag on a stick.

Behold…from the Salt Lake Tribune:

“…the social-media specialist for a private Provo-based English language learning center wrote a blog explaining homophones, he was let go for creating the perception that the school promoted a gay agenda. Tim Torkildson says after he wrote the blog on the website of his employer, Nomen Global Language Center, his boss and Nomen owner Clarke Woodger, called him into his office and told him he was fired. As Torkildson tells it, Woodger said he could not trust him and that the blog about homophones was the last straw. “Now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality,” Woodger complained, according to Torkildson, who posted the exchange on his Facebook page….”

Continue reading

Ethics Lessons From An Ethical Life: James Garner, 1928-2014

Brett_Maverick_-_James_Garner

To me, James Garner will always be Bret Maverick, his black hat worn girlishly on the back of his head, or “The Scrounger” in “The Great Escape,” a role modeled after Garner’s real-life exploits in the military. For some reason Garner’s aging through the years—his health issues ranged from a heart by-pass to knee replacements and several strokes—bothered me more than that of most stars from my youth. His death bothers me more. James Garner always struck me as a someone who should be perpetually young. Of course, I feel the same way about myself.

By all accounts from contemporaries, fans and colleagues, he was a decent, fair and usually amiable man who never let stardom turn him into a monster, as so many do. He had a single, long-lasting marriage and a stable family; he was not fodder for tabloids with affairs, illegitimate children, drug abuse or DUI arrests. He did apparently have a penchant for punching people in the nose who insulted him to his face, a habit about which he was unapologetic. Continue reading