The Pope’s Letter On Sexual Abuse

Today Pope Francis released a letter responding to the horrific report on sexual assault involving 1,000 victims and 300 priests in the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania, where I just happen to be speaking today.

I know we are talking about a religious organization, but it is still an organization, a large, wealthy, international one, and any CEO (or, if you like, Chairman of the Board) would have to issue a formal response to a scandal of this magnitude and these damning realities. There is no mystery about what such a statement has to include, if it is going to be ethical rather than defensive, sincere rather than deceitful:

1. This is unacceptable for our organization, or any organization, but especially for an organization like this one.

2. We apologize unequivocally and without qualification to the victims and their families, as well as all members and supporters of our organization who trust us and rely on us to do the right thing. We did not do the right thing. We are responsible for terrible things, things no organization should ever allow.

3. Our organization and its leadership are accountable for these acts.

4. I am personally and professionally accountable for every crime and betrayal of trust in this scandal that occurred on my watch, and there were many.

5. Therefore, I resign [OPTIONAL BUT RECOMMENDED.]

6. It is undeniable that this scandal, which is a continuation of an ongoing scandal reaching back decades if not centuries, is a byproduct of a corrupt and pathological culture within this organization. This culture must change.

7. Here are the steps the organization will take, immediately and going forward, to change it.

The entire letter is below. My ethics verdict: it is the Papal version of  Authentic Frontier Gibberish, a tsunami of words designed to blur the issues and accountability. Prayer and fasting? Gee, why didn’t we think of that before! The Boston scandal that blew the top off of the Church’s world-wide coverup was 17 years ago: I’m pretty sure there has been a lot or praying and fasting since then. Obviously, it doesn’t work, not on this, and it is insulting and demeaning for the Pope to fall back on such reflex nostrums. Some lowlights: Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up: Algorithms, The Beatles, Baseball, Football, And Omarosa

Good morning.

1.  More Scorpion-Frog Ethics. I refuse to do a full post on Omarosa, the latest slimy opportunist the mainstream media is suddenly treating as a trsutworthy source because she claims to have dirt to spill on President Trump. To ist credit, NPR is at least flagging her sliminess, in a post titled “Omarosa Tells NPR She Heard Trump ‘N-Word Tape,’ Contradicting Her Own Tell-All Book.”

As I wrote regarding Manigault Newman previously (and the same applies to Michael Cohen), one can be nauseated by the disloyalty, dishonesty and venality of such scum and still have little sympathy for their victim, Trump, who was a fool to trust such obviously untrustworthy individuals, give them influences, notoriety and power they are unfit to have, and still claim to be hiring and appointing “the best people.”

The same sentiment applies to the biased, obsessed and incompetent news media. If journalists keep presenting present the likes of Omarosa, Cohen, Stormy Daniels, Michael Wolff, and, yes, James Comey, as credible first-hand Trump accusers, how can they expect the public to take any legitimate future accusers seriously, should any appear? Their predecessors will have all been obvious publicity-seekers, shake-down artists, motivated by personal agendas or greed, and obviously so. The news media, meanwhile, undermines its own credibility—what little remains–by so eagerly treating these tarnished sources as if they were not what they so obviously are.

2. They’re baaaack!. The NFL’s pre-season games are underway, and what do you know? The players are kneeling again, protesting during the National Anthem in what they deny is a protest of the National Anthem in what the news media regularly calls the “National Anthem protests.”  Wait, what’s that protest about, exactly? The New York Times has settled on “social inequality and police brutality.” And what do they mean? Here’s the latest interpretation by one of the most prominent Kneelers, Malcolm Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles:

“Before we enjoy this game lets take some time to ponder that more than 60% of the prison population are people of color. The NFL is made up of 70% African Americans. What you witness on the field does not represent the reality of everyday America. We are the anomalies…”

Anomalies because they aren’t in jail? That sounds rather racist to me. Anomalies because they make millions of dollars? Are the Kneelers saying that all African Americans should be making a lot of money? That prison populations should be representative of the same demographic percentages as the public as a whole? Is he calling for affirmative action in the courts (social justice, I guess) or claiming that the large black prison population is caused by police brutality?  That’s funny: I assume that it is because a disproportionate number of blacks are committing crimes. Is that their fault, or the fault of NFL ticket-holders? This remains the most incoherent, self-indulgent protest ever, and one that prompted one of the President’s more accurate tweets–-two, in fact:

The NFL players are at it again – taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem. Numerous players, from different teams, wanted to show their “outrage” at something that most of them are unable to define. They make a fortune doing what they love………..Be happy, be cool! A football game, that fans are paying soooo much money to watch and enjoy, is no place to protest. Most of that money goes to the players anyway. Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be Suspended Without Pay!

That last part relates to the also incoherent NFL policy on kneeling during the anthem. On this, Jenkins told Philly.com, “Quite frankly, guys in our league don’t like being told what to do, what they can and can’t do. We don’t have this type of policies for the other causes we support, whether it be our ‘Salute to Service,’ or breast cancer awareness, or anything else. It’s just when you start talking about black folks, quite frankly. It’s disheartening, but we’ll continue to be creative.”

Huh? Employers in all professions and occupations tell employees what to do, and on-the-job protests disrupting the workplace are universally forbidden. (I know you guys are “anomalies,” Malcolm, but you still collect a paycheck…) Do these players really not see the distinction between engaging in a league-approved promotion like ‘Salute to Service,’ or breast cancer awareness, and a wildcat protest that annoys and insults paying customers? Is anyone going to fact-check that misleading statement,  as someone like Snopes undoubtedly will, regarding the President’s mistaken claim that “most of that money goes to the players”?

Then, “quite frankly,” we get the race card. Of course! “When all else fails…”

Does anyone seriously believe that if only white football players were protesting during the National Anthem, nobody would object? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/15/18: Spin Wars (Continued)

Hello again…

3. Spin of the Year: James Comey’s op ed in the New York Times.

Notes:

  • Comey writes,

“First, the inspector general’s team went through the F.B.I.’s work with a microscope and found no evidence that bias or improper motivation affected the investigation, which I know was done competently, honestly and independently.”

How lawyerly. This is deceit: a factual statement devised to deceive. Most will read this to mean that the investigation found no evidence of bias or improper motivation..\  That is untrue. In fact, as I have already pointed out in earlier posts, there is a great deal of evidence of bias. There is no  evidence that the bias affected the investigation, except the circumstantial evidence that the results of the investigation were consistent with the bias.

  • He writes of the IG department’s report,

“Its detailed report should serve to both protect and build the reservoir of trust and credibility necessary for the Department of Justice and the F.B.I. to remain strong and independent and to continue their good work for our country.”

What is this, confirmation bias run amuck? Rose-colored glasses? In one of its most consequential and high-profile cases, the report shows that the FBI was mismanaged, leaked to the news media, had unprofessional agents deeply involved with the matter, and did not follow its own procedures. This report will undermine trust in the agency, and should,

4. This is, broadly speaking, a pack of rationalizations…Lawfare, a Brookings ally, published an analysis called Nine Takeaways From the Inspector General’s Report on the Clinton Email Investigation.

I could use it in a seminar on rationalizations and equivocation. Behold the Nine: Continue reading

How Does Any Administration Or Federal Agency Allow Someone This Incompetent To Represent It In Public?

I am both puzzled and aghast, if not necessarily surprised.

From the moment candidate Trump pledged that his theoretical administration would employ “the best people,”  he has periodically shown that he or his subordinates mistake “the best people” with “mouth-breathing idiots,  fools, and irredeemable slime-balls” with disturbing regularity. There was Omarosa. There was Anthony Scaramucci. There was Steve Bannon, and pathetic Reince Priebus. There was, of course, Michael Flynn, and is Scott Pruitt. And that is before we even start thinking about Michael Cohen.

I really don’t understand this. For all his flaws…and as Lorenz Hart said in “Pal Joey”…

…one would assume that a successful businessman whose hit reality show was about hiring “the best people” would have some acumen in at least not hiring the worst people. And yet we still get examples like this…. Continue reading

The Epitome Of Organizational Incompetence: The Miss America Pageant Decides Not To Be The Miss America Pageant

The ever-popular Miss America talent competition!

Now, don’t get me wrong: I believe the Miss America Pageant should have been euthanized decades ago. An  anachronism from the heyday of the Atlantic City Boardwalk, the beauty pageant seemed clunky, demeaning and embarrassing when I was a kid, when we had to watch the smarmy Bert Parks sing “There she is, Miss America!” while the winner’s tears washed her make-up down her cheeks. The talent competition was ridiculous; the answers to the judges’ questions were beyond parody. The women, however, did look smashing in their gowns and swimsuits. At least that was something.

But it was essentially a meat show, as my college roommate indelicately put it. The Miss USA and Miss World contestants were hotter, if dumber, and I always felt embarrassed for those women too. And don’t get me started on the Miss Teenage America pageant.

If you are going to have a Miss America Pageant, however, then you have it, and accept the fact that it’s wince-producing. If you don’t want to have such an event any more, then you kill it, that’s it. You don’t suddenly announce, “From today on, the Miss America Pageant is a trout fishing contest!” Isn’t that obvious?

Apparently not. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/6/ 2018: “Remember the Alamo” Edition” (#2: “The Option”))

Commenter Zanshin returned to expand on his answer to the hypothetical I offered a Boy Scout troop based on one of my late, lamented professional theater company’s many dilemmas over the years. Here is the situation again…

The Option

Your professional theater company has limited funds, so it offers its actors an option. They may choose a flat fee for their roles, or get a percentage of the show’s profits, if there are any, on top of a much smaller base fee.

The company just completed an extremely profitable production, the biggest hit your theater has ever had. Nine of the show’s ten cast members chose the percentage of profits option, a gamble, because most of the shows lose money. One, the star, who you know could not afford to gamble, took the flat fee for the role. After the accounting for the production is complete, you realize that every member of the cast will make $1000 more than the star, because of the show’s profits.

Question 1: What do you do?

  1. Give him the extra $1000. It’s only fair.
  2. Pay him the flat fee. A deal’s a deal.

Question 2: You remount the production, and the exact same thing happens. The actor chooses the flat fee, the show is again a huge money-maker,,and the rest of the cast will make much more than him because they chose the percentage. Do you give him the extra amount again?

  1. No. Now he’s taking advantage of me.
  2. Yes. Nothing has changed.

You can read the initial responses here, and check the poll results.

And here is Zanshin’s Comment of the Day, on the post Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/6/ 2018: “Remember the Alamo” Edition:

Here are my reflections on this ethical (hypothetical) issue.

Question 1: Some personal background influencing my thinking: In the early years of my career I worked at a small company (about 40 employees). After having worked there for 2 years the owners sold the company, probably for a very good price, because they decided to give every employee about $ 200 for each year that he had worked with the company. Some of my colleagues worked with them for 15 years and more.

For me it would be a nice $ 400 but to my surprise I received $ 1.000 with a handwritten note which stated something like, “We’ll give you $600 extra because we are very pleased with your performance with us. Please do not discuss this with your colleagues.”

Back to the question.

I would go for a third option. First, Pay him the flat fee. A deal’s a deal.

But at the same time, give him in some personalized way, about $500 extra.With personalized I mean, fitting the situation. Why couldn’t he gamble with his reward? For instance, his car is broke, he needs it very bad for whatever reason. Offer to pay a part of the bill, etc.

Question 2: In my opinion the set-up of the first situation (question 1) was already tainted. Just as we expect of journalists that they don’t “interview people who are drunk, drugged, impaired, or not in a mentally or emotionally stable state.” one should also not ask an employee who you know could not afford to gamble to just do that, gamble with his income. Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Cool-Down, 2/28/18: Honors, Bribes, Blackmail, And “Ugh!”

Good Afternoon.

Actually, that’s dishonest: it’s been a terrible day, morn to now.. A catalogue retailer took an email address my wife sent them a year ago and  bombarded her account with hundreds of promotional messages yesterday, crashing her email. Then her efforts to fix the problem resulted in a Proethics system email crash that I have been trying to address for the past five hours. I finally decided to get something productive done, so I’m getting up this post while talking to my tech people. UPDATE: They just gave up.

1 Trump Tweets. Ugh. The President criticizing his own Cabinet member, in this case Jeff Sessions, in public via tweet, is horrific leadership and management practice. If I were Sessions, I would resign, It is disrespectful, disloyal, undermines morale on the President’s team, and is just plain stupid. I don’t understand how Trump had any success at all treating employees and subordinates like this. While we’re on this perpetual subject. the fact that the President would say out loud that he would have rushed the Parkland shooter without a weapon is just more evidence of a) a flat learning curve b) the lack of the usual filters from brain to mouth and c) the unethical tendency of third parties to critique the actions of others in rescue situations. No question: the resource officer who was required by policy, assignment and duty to try to intervene in the shooting deserves all the criticism he has been getting, and is accountable. But the President of the United States announcing that he is Batman is something else entirely.

My objections to the non-stop personal ridicule of our elected leader stands, but he also has a duty, as the steward of the Office, not to make himself look ridiculous.

2. An unethical boycott tactic, but I repeat myself.  The anti-gun zealots have decided to attack a free and constitutionally protected Bill of Rights advocacy group as part of the news media-assisted effort to demonize the NRA as being somehow responsible for a school shooting that none of the proposed “common sense gun reforms” would have prevented. Now the Second Amendment-gutting crowd  is using the boycott, a particularly odious weapon favored by progressives, which depends on the venality and spinelessness of corporate executives to constrict free speech. Delta Airlines announced it was ending a promotional discount with the National Rifle Association after threats and a social media campaign, then tried the weaselly explanation that its decision to stop offering discounted fares to the N.R.A. “reflects the airline’s neutral status in the current national debate over gun control amid recent school shootings.”
Continue reading

Your Boss Asks If You Have Prayed About A Work-Related Matter…What Is The Ethical Response?

This question was asked of the New York Times’ “Workologist” (It’s stuff like this that keeps me subscribed despite the paper’s disgraceful partisan bias and unocnscionable manipulation of the news):

I recently had a manager ask me if I have “prayed about” a particular situation at the office… this statement crossed a personal line with me. I am very private about my religious life. Do you have any recommendations on how I could handle this?

The question immediately reminded me of “Breach,” the film about the capture of spy Robert Hannsen (Chris Cooper), who was always urging his clerk (actually the undercover FBO agent recruited to unmask him) to pray. The “Workologist” (Rob Walker) begins by pointing out the obvious: a boss can’t demand that you pray, or fire you for refusing to. Then he adds,

Your manager can’t discriminate against you on the basis of religion, but your company can’t discriminate against him, either — by, say, forbidding him to ever mention prayer. In general, companies are supposed to make an effort to accommodate the religious practices of employees, although this can be weighed against the potential burden on the employer…Faith-related workplace conflicts and litigation have become more common in recent years. So it might be better to think about this incident in the broader context of personal expression and identity…

your best move is to make your own boundaries clear — yet also try to avoid an outright conflict. The fact that you already consider him your “worst manager” might make that difficult. But simply declaring his question inappropriate or offensive won’t help.

Instead, try something like “Well, I’ve thought about it,” and either leave it there or, if that doesn’t seem to connect, add something like “But I’m not comfortable talking about what I do or don’t pray about.” This should be delivered in a friendly-to-neutral tone. You’re not making any judgments — and neither should he.

I find that approach cowardly and dishonest. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/16/17: Amazon Purges Reviews For Hillary, Equifax Must Die, Making Literature More Diverse, And The Red Sox Get Away With It…

GOOD MORNING!

1 “It would be wonderful, wouldn’t it?”

This is the response that the widow of writer Roald Dahl to a reporter’s suggestion that Charlie, the hero of Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (aka “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory:) should be made black in a future “reworking” of the book. Recently Mrs. Dahl has claimed that Charlie was originally supposed to be black, but that her husband changed the character before the book was published. She blames his agent, who was, she says (none of this is more than hearsay) afraid that the book wouldn’t sell as well in American with a black hero. She blames “American sensibility.”

No, it wouldn’t be wonderful to start changing the races (and inevitably, genders and sexual orientations) in “reworkings” of literary classics. It would be unethical and irresponsible, as well as a defilement of the author’s visions and creations. Whatever the reason was, and we cannot know it regardless of what Mrs. Dahl now claims, Charlie was white in Dahl’s book. If he had wanted his book to be about a black child, or a little girl, or a Muslim transsexual, the author would have made it so. If someone obsessed with tribal identity politics wants to write a new adaptation under their own name so we can jeer and mock him or her, swell. But it isn’t any more “wonderful” to “rework” Dahl’s own story this way than it is to make Bob Cratchit black, or Captain Ahab black, or Bigger Thomas in “Native Son” Asian-American.

Of course, a stage or film adaptation of the book can cast it any way it chooses.

2 The major business ethics story this past week has been that data security breach by credit giant Equifax. An estimated 143 million Americans now face identity theft for the rest of their lives because the company wasn’t competent to be in the business it was in. It’s that simple. The ways in which Equifax blundered into allowing all this data to be hacked are legion, with more revelations almost daily. My personal favorite is that it neglected to install a patch that would have made its files more secure, delaying for months for no good reason.

Business analysts point out that despite this massive demonstration of ineptitude, the company is not likely to suffer more than the cost and inconvenience of a class action lawsuit or five. The companies that pay Equifax weren’t harmed by the breach, just the lives of the credit-seekers who they use Equifax to check. Nobody seems to think that even this massive misconduct will put Equifax out of business.

The company has dumped some executives, and will probably dump some more, reorganize, and padlock that barn door securely now that the horse has fled. TooLate. The company is untrustworthy, and more than that, companies like Equifax that gather personal information about innocent citizens need to be scared sick about what will happen to them if they can’t keep the information from falling into malign hands. Equifax needs to be put out of business. Its leaders and management need to be imprisoned, fined so severely that they are reduced to eating cat food, or blacklisted so their future employment is limited to bait shops and traveling carnivals. Continue reading

Ethics Alarms Baseball Ethics Special Report: The Boston Red Sox, Sign Stealing, Technology, And Cheating [UPDATED]

[I got the news about Major League Baseball’s announcement that the Boston Red Sox had admitted that some of the team’s employers and players had engaged in illegal sign-stealing about an hour before the Sox-Blue Jays game was scheduled. My intent was to write the post about it last night after the game. The game, however, went 19 innings and lasted 6 hours. (The Sox won, and absent this scandal, it would have been a big news story itself, one of the most important victories of the year and one that set several team records.) So the post didn’t get written, and believe it or not, I have occasional priorities and commitments that take precedent over my profit and income free ethics blog. Thus I consider the multiple e-mails and Facebook messages I have received accusing me of ducking the issue less than amusing, an unwarranted attack on my integrity. To all of those individuals, most of whom barely read the news reports, I say, “Bite me.”]

Yesterday afternoon the New York Times broke the following story, which reads in part:

Investigators for Major League Baseball have determined that the Red Sox, who are in first place in the American League East and very likely headed to the playoffs, executed a scheme to illicitly steal hand signals from opponents’ catchers in games against the second-place Yankees and other teams, according to several people briefed on the matter.

The baseball inquiry began about two weeks ago, after the Yankees’ general manager, Brian Cashman, filed a detailed complaint with the commissioner’s office that included video the Yankees shot of the Red Sox dugout during a three-game series between the two teams in Boston last month.

The Yankees, who had long been suspicious of the Red Sox’ stealing catchers’ signs in Fenway Park, contended the video showed a member of the Red Sox training staff looking at his Apple Watch in the dugout. The trainer then relayed a message to other players in the dugout, who, in turn, would signal teammates on the field about the type of pitch that was about to be thrown, according to the people familiar with the case.

Baseball investigators corroborated the Yankees’ claims based on video the commissioner’s office uses for instant replay and broadcasts, the people said. The commissioner’s office then confronted the Red Sox, who admitted that their trainers had received signals from video replay personnel and then relayed that information to Red Sox players — an operation that had been in place for at least several weeks.

As reported by ESPN, Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement,

“We actually do not have a rule against sign-stealing. It has been a part of the game for a very, very long time. To the extent that there was a violation of the rule here, it was a violation by one or the other [team] that involved the use of electronic equipment. It’s the electronic equipment that creates the violation. I think the rule against electronic equipment has a number of policy reasons behind it, but one of them is we don’t want to escalate attempts to figure out what a pitcher is going to throw by introducing electronics into that mix.To the extent there was a violation on either side, we are 100 percent comfortable that it’s not an ongoing issue, that if it happened, it is no longer. I think that’s important from an integrity perspective going forward.”

This is a complicated story, and part of not one complicated ethics category, but several: technology ethics, baseball ethics, cheating, and general ethics. In the interests of clarity, I’m going to cover the story in a series of short observations, each with a heading. At the end of this post, I have posted a long published essay I authored about baseball ethics within the culture of the game. Those who are not familiar with these issues, which are fascinating, might want to read that first. it is helpful background information.

Points and Observations:

  • Traditional sign-stealing in baseball is not regarded as cheating. This seems counter intuitive because of the word “stealing.” Sign-stealing refers to teams decoding the signals given by the catcher to the pitcher (regarding what kind of pitches to throw and where ), and the coach or the dugout to a batter or baserunner (in bunt and hit-and run plays). Theoretically, knowing the other team’s signals provides an advantage, as to a batter who knows that the next pitch will be a curve rather than a fastball. Usually, signs from the catcher to the pitcher are in jeopardy when there is a runner on second base. He can see the catcher’s signs as well as the pitcher can. Catchers use finger-signs in various combinations to ask for various pitches, and position their gloves to indicate where they want the balls thrown. If the runner at second can signal to the batter what the catcher has told the pitcher to throw, the batter may have an advantage.

This is why catchers often go to the pitching mound when a runner is on second base. They change the signs. The second baseman will often join them, because it is his job to know what pitch is being thrown so he can signal (usually behind his back, using his hand) to his team’s outfielders. An outside fastball makes it unlikely that the batter will pull the ball, for example.

Sign-stealing on the field, using just eyesight and hands, is what players call “the game within the game.” Joe Girardi, the Yankee manager, said in an interview yesterday that he just assumes every team is trying to steal signs, whether they are or not. Continue reading