“Why Do I Bother?” Department

Oh, the hell with it…

The publication “The Week” quoted and linked to my post about the Joe Paterno statue controversy, presumably because I was among the few to make an argument that Jo Pa’s statue should stand without doing so on the basis that the coach “made only one mistake” or that the football program he built and his coaching career are severable from the little matter of him allowing his former colleague to keep raping little boys for over a decade.

My mistake was reading some of the comments on Yahoo!, which is chock full of commenters who mocked my conclusion without either reading the post or comprehending it. For example, Dave, a non-reader from Texas, responds, “Leave it up as…what? A monument to pederasty in sports?” to applause from 17 sheep. I believe I answer that question, Dave, and the link is right in front of your damn face. Continue reading

The Ethical Fate For Joe Paterno’s Statue

In the wake of the Freeh Report’s revelations regarding the extent of the late Joe Paterno’s involvement in allowing Jerry Sandusky’s child molesting appetites to be sated with Penn State’s  assistance, many are calling for the campus statue honoring the now-disgraced coach to be removed.

I am generally opposed to removing memorials and honors to historical figures according to the popular verdicts of the day, for several reasons. The main one is that every individual who ever achieved something worthy of such honor also was guilty of misconduct that someone could convincingly argue outweighs it on moral or ethical grounds. New facts are uncovered, cultural values shift, and over time, no revered figure is safe from deconstruction. The reverse is also inevitable: if a life can be judged unworthy of honor, subsequent generations may well disagree. The verdict of a community, a culture and an era should be given due weight and respect;  a statue, memorial or monument not only recognizes an individual but also represents the judgment of our predecessors. Leave their judgments alone, and if we disagree with them, try to make ours better. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week: Joe Paterno

“This is not a football scandal and should not be treated as one.”

The late Joe Paterno, legendary Penn State football coach, in a previously unreleased and unpublished column he wrote in the wake of the  Joe Sandusky child abuse scandal, in which he played a major role. The internal Penn State investigation into the university’s handling of the episode was released today.


In denial to the end, Paterno never understood how he, and football, contributed to the culture that allowed Sandusky to prey on young boys with the passive assistance of Joe and the school he loved.

Of course the scandal was about football. It was about how reliance on football to the exclusion of all other priorities and values warped an academic culture. It was about the danger of elevating a football coach to such status and power that his tunnel-vision could infect an entire college campus. It was about how the grotesquely exaggerated importance, popularity, visibility, and financial profitability of a football program can elevate those responsible for its success to a degree where they become unaccountable, and able to exploit their power for private and possibly criminal motives. Continue reading

The Penn State-Sandusky Disgrace: Time For Paterno Worshippers To Face Facts

Amity’s Mayor Larry Vaughn, a.k.a Joe Paterno

Yesterday CNN revealed that e-mails uncovered in Penn State’s internal investigation of the Jerry Sandusky scandal show that beloved, ever-so-ethical Jo Pa appears to have stopped the university from reporting the child-molesting ex-coach to authorities. The e-mail trail seems to show, the New York Times reported, that the university’s president, Graham B. Spanier; the athletic director, Tim Curley, and the official in charge of the campus police, Gary Schultz, were ready to report Sandusky in the wake of assistant football coach Mike McQueery’s eye-witness account of seeing Sandusky molesting a child in the showers.  Curley then wrote the group that talks with Paterno had persuaded him that it would be more “humane” to confront Sandusky, bar him from bringing his young victims on campus, and  urge him to get professional help. This, of course, freed Sandusky for a decade more of  child sexual predation, with the kids foundation he had founded serving as his hunting grounds.

Humane indeed. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: Ethics Blindness at Joe Pa’s Memorial Service

Paterno's inaction: bliviousness...or willful blindness?

In the ongoing debate among Joe Paterno sympathizers (and I don’t mean that pejoratively) and those who believe the late Penn State icon failed his ethical obligations miserably and deserved all the criticism he received, several interesting themes have arisen, including whether “obliviousness” is an excuse, whether critics are engaging in “wahlberging”–that is, claiming that they would have handled a difficult situation better when it costs them nothing to make the claim—and whether the Sandusky incident should be permitted to cloud Paterno’s legacy at Penn State, or should be over-shadowed by it. In this Comment of the Day, Proam covers these topics in response to a commenter who wrote, “Other posters who have tried to in any way justify Paterno’s actions/lack of action – GET REAL!”  Here is his comment, to the post, “Ethics Blindness at Joe Pa’s Memorial Service.” I’ll have some reactions at the end. Continue reading

Ethics Blindness at Joe Pa’s Memorial Service

At least Albert Speer didn't have a clear conscience.

I did not expect the speakers at Joe Paterno’s emotional memorial service to avoid stepping on  some of the myriad ethical landmines that lay before them. It was a time to say good things about the late Penn State coach, and there is plenty to say. Still, two speakers did cross deep into unethical territory. Even at a memorial service, when the lessons of the Jerry Sandusky affair are so important for all to learn and accept, it was poor judgment and irresponsible for those honoring Paterno to try to minimize or deny his accountability in the tragedy.

Unethical Statement #1: Nike Co-Founder and Chairman Phil Knight. “Whatever the details of the investigation are, this much is clear to me: There was a villain in this tragedy. It lies in the investigation, not in Joe Paterno’s response to it.”

This got a standing ovation, a reaction every bit as offensive as the Penn State student riots after Paterno’s firing, indeed more so. Knight’s rationalization excuses every Enron executive who knew that the leadership was defrauding investors; every Bernie Madoff family member and enriched investor who knew something was wrong but waited for the SEC to act; every member of the Nixon White House who saw the rule of law being trampled but reasoned that since he wasn’t directly involved, there was no reason to speak up; every member of Congress who knew that Rep. Mark Foley was sexually harassing House pages and kept quiet; and every priest who knew that a colleague was sexually molesting boys and did nothing, because the Church leadership was doing nothing. Knight’s defense of Joe Paterno is a defense of all of these, and indeed a defense of evil. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: Jerry Sandusky

“Joe preached toughness, hard word and clean competition. Most of all, he had the courage to practice what he preached. Nobody will be able to take away the memories we all shared of a great man…”

My advice, Jerry? Skip the funeral.

Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on the passing of Joe Paterno, whose failure to take the necessary steps to prevent Sandusky from sexually molesting young boys (<cough!> allegedly) on and off the Penn State campus scarred the iconic coach’s legacy, not to mention setting up children for a (<cough!> allegedly!) sexual predator’s smorgasbord.

This might be the creepiest tribute in the history of mankind. Why did any reporter ask Sandusky for a statement in the wake of his former boss’s sad end? Who cares what Sandusky thinks about Paterno’s legacy, which Sandusky played a pivotal role in ruining? Continue reading

The Ethical Firing That Never Happened: Penn State’s Blindness Continues

...and you still don't get it.

Penn State didn’t think that allowing a probable sexual predator to continue to abuse kids was a firing offense, and still doesn’t.

Incredibly, Joe Paterno is still receiving his full salary. He was not fired, as all newsmedia reported, and the University, having released a deceitful and carefully worded misleading announcement in November, allowed that falsehood to be circulated and believed, even as students were rioting on campus against Joe Pa’s “dismissal.”

“The Board of Trustees and Graham Spanier have decided that, effective immediately, Dr. Spanier is no longer president of the University,” the announcement had stated. “Additionally, the board determined that it is in the best interest of the University for Joe Paterno to no longer serve as head football coach, effective immediately.

But it never said that Paterno was fired. Now, finally, the University’s sick subterfuge is coming to light. Continue reading

The Third Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2011 (Part 1)

Yes, it was Joe Paterno's year, all right.

Welcome to the Third  Annual Ethics Alarms Awards, recognizing the Best and Worst of ethics in 2011!

This is the first installment of the Worst; Part 2 is here. And the Best is here. 

2011 prompted more than 1000 posts, and even then I barely scratched the surface of all the ethical dilemmas and unethical conduct swirling around us. If you have other choices for the various distinctions here and in the subsequent Awards posts, please make them known.

Here are my selections:

Unethical Community of the Year:  Huachuca City, Arizona. Leading the way among American communities that believe, in their hysteria, that former sex offenders who have served their sentences are nonetheless fair game for persecution and the denial of basic rights as citizens and human beings, Huachuca County passed an ordinance that bans registered sex offenders from the use of all public facilities, including parks, school and libraries.  Runner-up: Obion County, Tennessee. Last year, Ethics Alarms gave the county runner-up status as “Unethical Community of the Year” for sending its volunteer fire department to watch a man’s house burn down because he had failed to pay a $75.00 fee. In 2011, it did it again. I swear: if Obion County hasn’t come up with a better system and this happens again in 2012, Obion County will get the title no matter what some other unethical community does.

Most Warped Ethical Values: The Penn State students who protested the firing of football coach Joe Paterno, because, you know, he was such a great football coach that a little thing like allowing a predatory child molester to run amuck on campus shouldn’t be blown all out of proportion. Runner-up: Ron Paul supporters.

Unethical Website of the Year: Lovely-Faces, the anti-Facebook stunt pulled by Paolo Cirio, a media artist, and Alessandro Ludovico, media critic and editor-in- chief of Neural magazine, to show how inadequate Facebook’s privacy controls were. To do it, they stole 250,000 Facebook member profiles and organized them into a new dating site—without the members’ permission. The site embodied “the worst of ethical thinking: taking the identities of others for their own purposes (a Golden Rule breach), using other human beings to advance their own agenda (a Kantian no-no) and asserting that their ends justify abusing 250,000 Facebook users, which is irresponsible utilitarianism.” Continue reading

Ethics Dunce:The Baseball Writers Association of America

"Well, yes, there was THAT, but what really matters is that he was one hell of an assistant coach!"

The high-profile Sandusky/Paterno/Penn State child molestation scandal has shaken the foundation of the sports world, and in the process, given resolve to past victims of child abuse to identify their molesters. The most recent example is veteran Philadelphia sportswriter Bill Conlin, who abruptly resigned from his job as a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News when he learned that four adults had come forward to accuse him of molesting them when they were children in the 1970s. This created am immediate crisis for the Baseball Writers Association of America, who had this year bestowed its highest honor on Conlin, the J.G. Spink Award. It never looks good when the person you have declared to represent the best of your profession is revealed as drug-dealer, a serial killer, a foreign agent, or a child molester.

Here’s how the BBWAA dealt with the matter on its website, in this “official statement”: Continue reading