Tag Archives: ethics rot

Mid-Day Ethics Refreshment, 6/12/2018: “Ethics Isn’t A Horse Race, It’s A Marathon” Edition

Good afternoon…

1. Culture rot symptoms. Once upon a time it would have been unthinkable and shameful for the owner of a losing horse in a Triple Crown race to claim that dirty tactics have affected the outcome. That, however, was before the loser of the 2016 Presidential election did the equivalent sour grapes act, loudly and continuously. This is how important cultural ethics norms fall off in chunks.

Justify becoming the only undefeated Triple Crown champion after Seattle Slew as he won the Belmont Stakes was immediately smeared  by Mike Repole, co-owner of fourth-place Vino Rosso and last-place Noble Indy. He didn’t claim Russian collusion, just equine collusion.

“Justify is a super horse. He is a Triple Crown winner and he’s undefeated,” said Repole “But I can see the stewards looking into this over the next couple of days. I probably expect them to look into reckless riding by Florent and bring him in to question him about what he was thinking and what his tactics were.”  He accused jockey Florent Geroux of riding Restoring Hope, Justify’s stablemate, to clear the way for Justify to win the race.

“It definitely seemed to me [Restoring Hope] was more of an offensive lineman than a racehorse trying to win the Belmont,” Repole told reporters, “and Justify was a running back trying to run for a touchdown.” Nice. the complaint instantly became the main story of the race, before Justify’s jockey and owners were able to bask in the rare accomplishment for a day or two. Ironically, Repole’s own Vino Rosso was assisted by similar “lineman” tactics by another horse, Noble Indy, like Vino Rosso trained by Todd Pletcher. Concludes racing expert Pat Forde,  “It’s almost certainly why Noble Indy was entered. Basically, Pletcher’s two-horse racing tactic simply ran up against a better two-horse racing tactic.”

And the tactic is legal. Never mind. Graceful losing is on the way out, thanks to our politicians.

2. He gets it, and he doesn’t even read Ethics Alarms! The Ethiopian cabbie who drove me home from the morning mandatory legal ethics seminar that I teach every month for newly-minted D.C. lawyers spent that first half of the trip complaining about President Trump. Then he said, “Now, I didn’t vote for him, but I respect him. I respect him because he is the President of my country, and my fellow citizens elected him. I can complain about him to you, because you are an American too. If a foreigner gets in my cab, however, and starts insulting the President, I pull over and order him out.” Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Environment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

5 Signs That Your Organization Has An Unethical Culture Brewing…

The Harvard Business Review has published an article describing what it learned from a survey of experts asked to describe the conditions they have observed in organizations later revealed to have serious ethics problems—the symptoms of an unethical organization ethics culture. Here are the five top signs, with the corresponding rationalizations from the Ethics Alarms list where appropriate, as well as related unethical patterns of thinking and relevant organizational ethics principles that are repeated constantly in training sessions by people like me, yet routinely ignored. The news media, meanwhile, often covers the incidents as if journalist have never heard of those principles.

I. Urgency and fear: Following corruption scandals, leaders tend to describe events in terms of pressure, necessity, and what the company needed to do to ”survive.” This perception of existential competitive threats can be used to justify the creation and maintenance of toxic incentives, and it will undermine any efforts to raise concerns.

Rationalization 28. The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times.”

An argument for those who embrace “the ends justify the means”—but only temporarily, mind you!—the Revolutionary’s excuse has as long and frightening a pedigree as any of the rationalizations here. Of course, there is no such thing as “ordinary times.” This rationalization suggests that standards of right and wrong can and should be suspended under “special” circumstances, always defined, naturally, by those who defy laws, rules, and societal values. Their circular logic results in their adversaries feeling justified in being equally unethical, since times in which the other side engages in dishonesty, cheating, cruelty, and more is, by definition, extraordinary.

The inevitable result is a downward spiral of conduct, until unethical behavior is the norm. Ironically, the rationalization that “these are not ordinary times” no longer is necessary at that point. Unethical conduct has become ordinary, the new normal. This is, it is fair to say, the current state of American politics.

and…

Rationalization 31. The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now”

Ethics is never “a luxury.” It is slyly effective to describe it as such, however, and those who do so usually believe it—which means you should sleep with one eye open when they are around, watch your wallet, and never turn your back. Saying ethics is a luxury simply means that the speaker believes that one should be good and fair when it is easy and benefits him or her, but when problems loom and crises have to be faced, ethics are optional. This attitude is another calling card of Oliver Wendell Holmes’ “Bad Man,” the law abiding citizen who will cut your throat for his own benefit if he finds a legal loophole. In a true crisis, ethical values are often the only thing standing between us and catastrophic misconduct in the throes of desperation and panic; they aren’t luxuries, they are life-lines. When you hear yourself saying, “I’ll do anything to fix this! Anything!” it is a warning, and the ethics alarm needs to start ringing hard. Grab those ethical values, and hold on to them. They are the last thing you can afford to be without at such times.

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II. Isolation: Groups and teams that are far from headquarters—either in geography, access to information, or both—are vulnerable. When a team that is isolated (by accident or design) comes under the direction of an authoritarian, competitive leader, an enterprise has created the baseline conditions for corruption. People are far more influenced by their immediate surroundings than by a code of conduct set at the top.

This is group-think, ignoring the tenets of Professor Zimbardo’s rules that he recommends to avoid the phenomenon:

“Avoid situations where you lose contact with your social support and informational networks, for the most powerful forces of social influence thrive then. You do not want all your reinforces to come from these new sources….Never allow yourself to be cut off emotionally from your familiar and trusted reference groups of family, friends, neighbors, co-workers…

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Continue reading

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Comment of the Day: “The Destruction Of Doug Adler : Guerillas, Gorillas, ESPN And The First Niggardly Principle”

 

I am not in the business of jeremiads, being an optimistic sort, but now and then a post here triggers an articulate and persuasive allegation of existential ethics rot. Such is the latest Comment of the Day, courtesy of reader slickwilly, his first. It was prompted by another commenter’s rueful observations on slickwilly’s earlier musings (sparked by the ESPN reporter whose use of the term “guerilla” was mistakenly attacked as a racial slur, losing him his job) on the public school system, in which he wrote in part,

I pity the teachers (and I live with one) who are afraid to offend a parent by reporting the “perfect little angel’s” latest misdeed, upon pain of possible job and pension loss. (I know of a school district that does not allow a student to flunk… writing a name on an assignment guarantees a passing grade. Butts in seats are how districts are paid, here) I agree with the ‘confronted and taught’ idea in principle, but how do you put that into practice, when doing so can destroy your ability to put food on the table for your family?

To which Zoltar Speaks! replied:

“Have we become a society of wimps unwilling to stand up for our convictions? At some point responsible adults must unite and take a stand regardless of the possibility of negative consequences. Even ignorant people know that there is power in numbers; so choose your battle, gain numerical support, focus on right and wrong, be on the side of right, and stand up for your convictions.”

Here is slickwilly’s Comment of the Day in response, on the post, The Destruction Of Doug Adler : Guerillas, Gorillas, ESPN And The First Niggardly Principle:

Have we become a society of wimps unwilling to stand up for our convictions?

Short answer: yes.

In many cases, there are no convictions to stand up for.

We are seeing the Republic die of apathy. There was some awakening when Trump was elected, but the majority of ‘normal’ folks I interact with each day (work and socially) just cannot be bothered to understand the issues, much less get engaged enough to have an opinion at all. If they DO have an opinion, it was usually delivered to them via meme or the MSM, and they cannot defend it.

Americans as a society have had things good for too many generations now for people to believe in an existential threat unless and until it directly impacts their lives. We live atop a thin veneer of civil behavior and mistakenly believe this crust is miles deep and the natural order of things. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Comment of the Day, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, U.S. Society

How Much Have The Clintons Corrupted Democrats And American Society? This Much…

U-u-ncle S-sam? Is Th-that you?

U-u-ncle S-sam? Is Th-that you?

A  Rasmussen poll released this week found that 71 percent of Democratic voters believe Hillary Clinton should still run for President even if she’s indicted.

The President of the United States is charged with preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution of the United States, which means making certain that the rule of law is respected and executed. Obviously, a Chief Executive who is herself a  felon cannot be trusted to perform these duties, and a candidate facing an indictment degrades the democratic process by forcing voters to even consider the prospect of voting for one.

It isn’t just Democrats.The poll shows that over-all, 50% of voters believe that it is acceptable for an accused felon to be elected President of the United States of America.

The Clintons (plural: Bill should have resigned after obstructing justice and lying under oath, and would have if he respected his office as much as he craved power) are not the only ones responsible for this tragic dive in American standards for leadership. It has been a long, slow, painful erosion, accelerated by criminal values being exhibited or extolled by several Presidents since Eisenhower, as well as Vice-Presidents Gore and Cheney; the news media’s willingness to accept or minimize unquestioned misconduct and skirting of laws when the “right” side engages in it; populist criminal heroes in the black community, like Al Sharpton, Marion Barry, Kwami Kilpatrick and others; the precipitous decline of trust in all institutions, from the Catholic Church to professional and college sports to the military; the accumulated ethics ignorance seeded by an incompetent and corrupt teaching profession; the defining down of deviancy from legal and ethical norms deliberately encouraged by the drug culture; ongoing efforts by the Obama Administration to reduce the stigma of law-breaking; the celebration of criminal anti-heroes in pop culture, and more. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, U.S. Society

The Last Of Deflategate, And What It Means

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady speaks at Salem State University in Salem, Massachusetts, May 7, 2015. REUTERS/Charles Krupa/Pool ORG XMIT: BKS06

I have received a lot of mail seeking my reaction to a judge reinstating Tom Brady and vetoing Roger Goodell’s harsh punishment decree. My reaction is that this is bad for football, the NFL, and the culture, and one more step toward validating cheating as an accepted cultural norm, not just in sports, but in the nation itself. Once upon a time, sports were supposed to model good sportsmanship, integrity and fairness. This episode demonstrates how far from that we have come. It is a serious and troubling development.

From a legal standpoint, I get it. I assumed that Goodell knew the limits on his own power: silly me. Apparently the NFL’s labor deal neutered the absolute power of a Commissioner to do what he felt was necessary to protect the integrity of pro football. Unions seldom care about the integrity of their game, at least not when their members’ money is involved. The original sports league commissioner, baseball’s Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis—Damn! Why didn’t we name our son “Mount McKinley Marshall”?—banned Shoeless Joe Jackson and his team mates from baseball forever after a jury had acquitted them of throwing the World series for bribes. His drastic action probably saved baseball, and has influenced the sport to this day. Goodell’s failure, in contrast, promises to do lasting harm.

Remember, the judge didn’t exonerate Brady; he just ruled that Goodell didn’t have the power to punish him. There is no doubt in my mind that Brady cheated, just as there was no doubt in the NFL’s investigator’s mind. There is also no doubt that you could not prove Brady’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The idea behind absolute power in a sports commissioner is that sports contests must be viewed as being fair or people will stop watching, and any hint of cheating and corruption must be banished. I agree with that idea. Baseball flunked its most crucial recent test when Bud Selig didn’t have the guts to pull Barry Bonds off the field when he was breaking records on steroids (and everyone knew it); pro football has been flunking one test after another. Society is becoming more cynical and more tolerant of cheating, and I think professional sports are as much a cause as a symptom.

Why am I convinced Brady cheated? Many factors, none of which individually are conclusive:

  • The conditions under which the cheating took place: bad weather, a play-off game, the team behind.
  • The Patriots’ well-established contempt for the rules.
  • The fact that a quarterback knows the feel of his tool, footballs, and that an experienced one like Brady could not possibly have been unaware that the balls he was throwing were even a little bit underinflated.
  • Brady’s evasive, smug, wink-wink ha-ha demeanor in multiple venues regarding the incident, like a high school jerk who knows he’s getting away with something and thinks its hilarious.
  • The immediate “everybody does it” defense from Brady’s fellow quarterbacks. (That’s not a defense. That’s an admission.)
  • The “it didn’t matter, they would have won anyway” defense from the same quarters. This is also an admission of cheating. Cheating is wrong whether it works or not, and whether it is necessary or not. NFL fans don’t even know what’s wrong with cheating any more….because the players don’t.
  • Some of the absurd defenses raised by Brady’s defenders, including his team, like the argument that one of the equipment guys involved in the incident was only called “the Deflator” in a contemporaneous text message because he was on a diet.
  • The fact that Brady destroyed his cell phone to avoid its contents being searched. This is spoliation, the destruction of potentially incriminating evidence, and suggests, but doesn’t prove, guilt. If he had done it in a criminal investigation, it would have been itself a crime. Ethically, the act is just as wrong whether it is a crime or not. (See: Clinton, Hillary)

I believe most Patriots fans know he cheated too. They just don’t care: he’s their star, and the team won the Super Bowl. The ends  justify the means. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Sports

Ten Ethics Questions For Unshakable Hillary Voters

casual woman - no evil

Jamelle Bouie, Slate regular, can’t imagine Democrats voting for a Republican over Hillary just because she jeopardized national security, flouted her own department’s policies, destroyed evidence, and has lied about both her conduct and its significance continually. “Morning Joe” host Mika Brzezinski said yesterday that she is offended at Clinton’s lies about her e-mail, and is insulted that Hillary thinks that the American public is “that stupid.” She then said “If Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, I would vote for her,” thus proving that she, at least, is exactly as stupid as Hillary thinks she is. Then, of course, we have Paul Begala, who memorably said, “Voters do not give a shit. They do not even give a fart… Find me one persuadable voter who agrees with HRC on the issues but will vote against her because she has a non-archival-compliant email system and I’ll kiss your ass in Macy’s window and say it smells like roses.” (I keep quoting this because it perfectly embodies the level of ethical character (that is, 0)  of political operatives and the contempt in which they hold their prey, American citizens.). Then, on the recent post about ethics corruption and Clinton, regular commenter Beth wrote, speaking for informed, intelligent Democrats,

“..we’ll still vote for her in the main election over a Republican who will push for policy positions that we are against.”

I am not picking on Beth, whom I respect and consider a friend, but this is fascinating and alarming to me. She is a mother, and thus committed to teacher her children ethical values;  she is a lawyer, and she understands, for example, that destroying material you know is likely to be subpoenaed is unethical and often criminal. She does not approve of lying. Yet she expects none of this to deter her and other  intelligent Democrats from voting for Hillary Clinton.

The Democratic Party obviously is counting on this kind of reasoning, or they would not be offering such a corrupt, damaged, untrustworthy candidate. Indeed, I sense that the Beth Block doesn’t want to hear or read about Hillary’s slimy activities, because it makes them feel ashamed about what they think they will do two Novembers from now.

It should make them feel ashamed.

I wonder, though: how far will they go with this unethical and irresponsible logic? Thus I have these ten questions for them… Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Leadership, U.S. Society

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Slate Writer Jamelle Bouie

hillary-clinton-winking“Barring an indictment for criminal behavior, Hillary Clinton, if she’s the Democratic nominee, will not lose the 2016 presidential election because of her emails. To think so, or to think they’ll change the race, is to say that scandal will override partisanship; that an otherwise liberal voter will walk into the ballot booth and mark the box for Jeb Bush or Gov. Scott Walker or Sen. Marco Rubio because of digital mismanagement. I liked what Clinton said about early childcare, thinks our hypothetical voter, but sending government email on a private server makes her unfit for the White House.”

—–Slate’s resident racial-distrust monger, Jamelle Bouie, writing about how Hillary Clinton’s still unfolding e-mail scandal will affect her candidacy.

What a cynical and frightening attitude to  express  about one’s own ideological kith!

Could he be right? The typical progressive/liberal/Democrat sees the blatant lies of Hillary Clinton exposed, that she deliberately risked national security, deliberately breached her own department’s and the Obama administration’s policy, falsely denied that any laws or regulations were involved, disingenuously said her conduct was no different from other officials, destroyed e-mails knowing they were about to be subpoenaed in a Congressional investigation, placed national secrets at risk, described the process of unraveling her deceptions and incompetence as “fun,” sent out one surrogate after another to obfuscate and deny the facts and the truth, and repeatedly lied about the matter herself, following a well-established pattern that already causes most of the nation to regard her as untrustworthy, and still that typical progressive/liberal/Democrat will say, “Hey, I like what she said about early child care, so what difference does it make that she’s devious, dishonest, incompetent,  possibly criminal, reckless and thinks the public is made up of dupes?”

Really? Really? REALLY???

Who are these creatures, and how did they get this way? Are all Democrats this completely unconcerned about character and ethics, or is Bouie, who obviously is, just projecting his own crippling ethics rot on others?

That does it.

I’m heading for the bridge…

 Update: A rather more rational and less depressing analysis from Ron Fournier, who, unlike Jamelle, doesn’t try to spin Clinton’s conduct as “digital mismanagement.”

 

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