Comment Of The Day: “You Didn’t Really Think That It Was Only The Catholic Church That Had This Problem, Did You?”

The post about the Southern Baptist Convention’s decades-long cover-up of child sexual abuse within its ranks provoked several illuminating comments.

Here is repeat Comment of the Day author John Paul on “You Didn’t Really Think That It Was Only The Catholic Church That Had This Problem, Did You?”:

***

I am a minister in a Church of Christ. We are non-denominational, but as a whole we share a common belief system that tends to be the same from church to church. For those of you who aren’t familiar with what that means, it means that our core beliefs are the same, but each church operates under a group of people that are native to that church and meet the biblical requirements of elder.

I started my ministry back in 2004. Though I went to a college almost 500 miles from my hometown, I tried to get an internship at a local church that was associated with the Church of Christ in the town I grew up in. It came down to me and another young gentleman and while the church was kind to me, the reason they gave me for not giving me the job is that they did not want a local. Fair enough: I wished them luck and ended up taking a internship in a different state altogether.

I bring this up because less than 1.5 years later I returned to that church with my new wife for the Christmas holiday. The size was almost 1/2 less than I remembered and the general atmosphere was somber. We figured that many of the members were traveling like we were and we didn’t think much of it except at the very end of the service where worship was hi-jacked by the leadership (without letting the visitors know) to take a survey.

Question one: “What do you think we could have done better?” Continue reading

Bias Makes You Stupid, And Only Bias Can Explain Why A Prosecutor Would Argue That It Is Unethical To Ask a Juror About His Biases

Perhaps you have heard that a juror who joined in the conviction of Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s henchwoman when he was luring young women into his sex-trafficking hobby had thrown her trial into limbo after admitting that he made a teeny, weenie, innocent “mistake” during the crucial jury selection process. The man identified as “Juror 50” told a federal judge in Manhattan that he had read too quickly through a pretrial screening questionnaire that asked potential jurors whether they had ever been sexually abused. This would seem to be a rather important question for jurors about to fairly judge, bias-free, a woman accused of helping to turn young women into virtual sex slaves for a sick billionaire and his pals, wouldn’t you think? Juror 50—his friends call him “Fif”—-checked a box indicating “no.” Here he is in a high profile trial in which justice for dozens of Epstein’s young victims as well as the freedom of the defendant is at stake, and the guy picks this as a good time to start practicing his speed-reading.

“This was one of the biggest mistakes I have ever made in my life,” Fifty told Judge Alison Nathan, during an hour-long hearing. “I didn’t lie in order to get on this jury.” That’s funny: it sure looks like he did. Thanks to 50’s ridiculous breach of responsibility, duty and competence, Maxwell, who was convicted on December 29 last year of sex-trafficking more, might walk free despite helping Epstein recruit, groom and sexually abuse underage girls for at least a decade. In deliberations.

Juror 50 revealed that during deliberations he told other jurors that he was a victim of childhood sexual abuse himself, and after the trial told the news media that he had helped other jurors understand things “from a victim’s point of view.” Now he claims that he made “an honest mistake.” It may have been honest, but it was neither ethical nor excusable. He’s tap-dancing as fast as he can because he falsely signed a document made under oath, and faces fines and imprisonment.

He should get both, just as Epstein’s co-monster deserves a new trial that doesn’t include a hidden sexual abuse activist on the jury.

Continue reading

Oh, Good…A Non-Political Reason To Avoid Saturday Night Live

Sanz and Fallon

It’s a sad truth, at least for me: the more you know about comedians and comics, the harder it is to laugh at them. There are notable exceptions of course (and as always): Martin Short, John Candy, Carol Burnett and a few more apparently are or were genuinely nice and relatively normal human beings. As a rule, however, extraordinary comedy talent is nourished by misery and emotional pain, and misery and emotional pain have a strong tendency to produce broken, sick, untrustworthy people.

For a lot of audience members, this isn’t a problem. For me, it is. I love great comedy, I’ve directed comedies, I’ve written comic scripts, revues, parodies and essays, and I’ve performed comedy. But once I learn that a comedy genius was or is a horrible human being, or acts like one sufficiently frequently not to be trusted, I just don’t enjoy watching and listening to that performer any more. The list of those who have landed on my “Can’t Make Me Laugh List” is too long to compile, and I really don’t care to encourage debates about whether it should matter that Charlie Chaplin was sexually attracted to little girls, or that Danny Kaye was a cruel misanthrope. It matters to me.

There are a few compensating advantages of this mindset, though. I haven’t watched a single minute of Saturday Night Live for so long I don’t even remember exactly when I started finding the show repugnant after years of never missing an episode. The reason I stopped watching was the show’s increasingly smug political bias that began to swallow the satire whole. I know it was somewhere around the George W. Bush presidency. (I had a similar experience then with David Letterman and The Daily Show.) SNL’s conversion into a full-time shill for progressives and Democrats became especially nauseating when it became addicted to using left-wing thug Alec Baldwin as a guest. There is no one on Earth I hate enough to find Alec Baldwin mocking him or her funny, and when it comes to Baldwin’s Trump impression, only the biases of Saturday Night Live directors and audiences can explain its popularity. As a director, I’d consider his amateurish routine unacceptable in a Cub Scout skit.

Fortunately, a recent emerging scandal looks like it will give me a new reason to detest the show that has nothing to do with politics.

Continue reading

Ruby Tuesday Ethics Round-Up, 1/21/2020: The Boy Scouts Are Going Down, Curtis Flowers Is Getting Out, And David Hogg Is Still An Ignorant Yutz

Good morning, everybody!

Good morning, Mick!

It’s disturbing how things get planted in my head: I couldn’t get the Rolling Stones out of it after someone commented, in reaction to an observation that we had another anti-Trump freakout looming when Justice Ginsberg dies, to the effect that she was the Keith Richards of the Supreme Court. Okay, but she has to leave us sometime,  as do we all, and I would bet that she cannot last another four years. I don’t even like to think about how low Democrats, the “resistance” and the news media will go to try to block the confirmation of a conservative replacement, or the hysteria that will follow.

1. The Lesson: organizations tend to act to protect themselves, not the victims of their misconduct. The Boy Scouts of America may face bankruptcy as lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by leaders and volunteers proliferate. The crisis is greatly aggravated by the loosening statutes of limitations across the country. The District of Columbia  eliminated the statute of limitations that restricted  the time for sexual abuse survivors to pursue civil litigation,  and created a two-year window for survivors under the age of 40 to file suit regardless of the date of the incident.  Accordingly,  Abused in Scouting filed suit in Washington, D.C., on behalf of eight men who say they were victimized as boys by Scout leaders and volunteers. The same process is going on in California, where similar suits are underway by 14 plaintiffs. California’s Assembly Bill 218 just kicked in on January 1, like D.C.’s law allowing victims of child sexual assault to file suit until age 40 and opening a three-year window for those abused as children to sue for past incidents.  Many more states have or soon will follow suit.

This appears to be ready to follow the awful path of the Catholic Church’s child molestation scandal, with similar evidence of cover-ups. The BSOA are a lot smaller than the Church, but they also have far less money to pay in multi-million dollar court settlements. It didn’t take a lot of imagination to see this coming, and the Scouts were already in trouble, with a blurring mission, falling membership and gender issues.

The Boy Scouts saved my father’s life, as I’ve related on Ethics Alarms elsewhere. I’m glad he didn’t live to see this. Continue reading

“Forget It, Jake, It’s Canada!”: The Craziest Ethics Ruling Ever!

Pervert!

Alexandru Tanase, a Canadian dental hygienist, has been stripped of his license because he violated an ethics regulation forbidding sexual relations between dental hygienists and their patients even if they are married. Many professionals have such ethics prohibitions, including lawyers. Tanase’s patient in this case, however, was his wife.

The College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario felt that a disciplinary hearing was necessary following a complaint against Tanase made by a jerk of a colleague who had read a Facebook post from Tanase’s wife about the care he had provided her.  It wasn’t the first time: they had become romantically involved after Tanase had learned that she had neglected her teeth for years out of fear, and agreed to provide free in-office treatment as a kindness. This was in 2012; by 2014, the platonic friendship had turned to  love, and they later became man and wife. Because of Ontario’s no-sex-with-dental-hygiene-patients rule, Tanase had stopped cleaning her teeth around this time. Ontario enacted the zero-tolerance policy in 1993 to protect patients from sexual exploitation, and under the (lazy and stupidly written) law, mutual consent creates no exceptions. Continue reading

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

Unethical, Shameless, Gutsy, Creepy Or Thought-Provoking: Kevin Spacey’s Christmas Video

What do we make of this, released by actor Kevin Spacey lastweek almost at the same time as he was being indicted for sexual assault?

Yikes.

The much-acclaimed actor  career collapsed in 2017 as more than 30 people claimed that Spacey had sexually assaulted them. Now he is speaking in the persona—with accent!— of his Netflix series villain, Frank Underwood, the central character of “House of Cards.” Or is he? Much of the speech seems to refer to Spacey’s own plight, and suggests that the actor is being unfairly convicted in the court of public opinion. By using the voice and character of an unequivocal miscreant however, for Frank is a liar, a cheat, a sociopath, indeed a murderer, such protests are automatically incredible.

Or is Spacey making a legitimate argument that an artist’s personal flaws should be irrelevant to the appreciation of his art, especially in a case like “House of Cards,” where the actor’s role can’t possibly be undermined by the actor’s own misdeeds: whatever one says or thinks about Spacey, he can’t  be as bad as Frank Underwood. If you enjoyed watching Underwood destroy lives on his way to power, why should Spacey’s conduct, even if it was criminal, make you give up the pleasure of observing his vivid and diverting fictional creation? This isn’t like Bill Cosby, serially drugging and raping women while playing a wise, moral and funny father-figure. Spacey seems to be arguing that there should be no cognitive dissonance between him and Underwood at all. Who better to play a cur like Frank  than an actor who shares his some of his darkness? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/6/2018: I See Unethical People…

Good morning, everyone!

1. Good, but better if it had happened six months ago. Ethically-challenged EPA chief Scott Pruitt finally “resigned” yesterday.  He was actually fired, and President Trump should have fired him as soon as it became clear that his pal couldn’t break himself of the bad habits he developed as a lawyer and a politician, including taking advantage of his position for personal gain. There were 14 separate investigations of Pruitt’s conduct, and his continued presence with Trump’s leave undermined the President’s pledge to “drain the swamp.” As several wags said with utter accuracy, Pruitt personified the swamp, but Trump does not place ethics or avoiding the appearance of impropriety high on his list of priorities, and never has. Pruitt’s conduct was also as stupid as it was wrong. He was a villain of the environmental Left, and had bullseyes and laser targets metaphorically covering his body. In such a situation, a prudent individual knows that he or she must be otherwise beyond reproach. Not Pruitt!

The National Review neatly summed up his demise:

“EPA administrator Scott Pruitt had enemies who were out to get him because he is a Republican, a conservative, a high-ranking member of the Trump administration, and an environmental deregulator. But it wasn’t liberals, the media, or deep staters who made him get large raises for his top aides, deny that he knew about it, and then admit that he did. It wasn’t they who made him have an aide find him a discount mattress, or run sirens so he could get to a French restaurant on time. The aides who told journalists, or congressional investigators, or both about Pruitt’s misbehavior weren’t all or even mostly liberals or deep staters. Several of them were conservative Trump supporters who were disturbed by Pruitt’s behavior and thought he was serving both the president and taxpayers poorly. Some of them had come with Pruitt from Oklahoma because they believed in him. The more they saw him in action in D.C., the less they did. Today it caught up with him.”

Good riddance.

2. Wait, haven’t we seen this movie before? Many commenters here expressed skepticism at the accusation that GOP Congressman Jim Jordan had turned a blind eye to sexual abuse  of student wrestlers when he was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State almost 40 years ago. Indeed the timing of the story looked like a political hit job, and it may be one whether the allegations are true or not. But now, as I noted in the first post about the controversy, the issue is Jordan’s denials. They rang false to my trained ear, and now there are four former wrestlers who say Jordan knew a team doctor was abusing the students.

It’s still their word against his, but it doesn’t matter. My position, as in the Harvey Weinstein mess, as in cases where fathers are molesting daughters, and in the Penn State scandal and so, so many others, is that those close to the situation either knew or should have known, and often deliberately avoid “knowing.”  Even if Jordan didn’t know, he should have and could have, and if he immediately accepted responsibility when the issue arose, he might have preserved some level of trustworthiness. He didn’t. They never do.

And we know how this movie ends. Continue reading

July Fourth 2018 Post Red Sox Victory Over The Nationals Ethics Warm-Up: Patriotic Births And Deaths, Siri, Affirmative Action, And A GOP Rep. Wants To Forget The Past…

Happy

Fourth of July!

Sorry for the late Warm-Up: I had to root the Red Sox to victory in an 11 AM game, and will soon celebrate Independence Day by seeing “Jurassic World II”…

1. Ethics Dunce: Siri.  A speech by British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson  in the House of Commons  yesterday was interrupted when Apple’s smartphone digital assistant, which heard her master mention terrorists in Syria, blurted out,  “I found something on the web for Syria!”

2. Good. Let it never be said that the Trump administration didn’t accomplish anything positive. Yesterday the Administration withdrew several Obama Administration policy documents designed to push universities toward admissions policies that involved preferences based on race. Affirmative action, which is government sanctioned race discrimination (because the ends justify the means) has always defied the Constitution, and the Supreme Court has consistently warned that the leash was short, and the breach would not be tolerated forever.  With higher education flagship Harvard University being exposed as grossly discrimination against deserving Asian-American applicants in the interest of “diversity,” and an affirmative action-tender majority on the Supreme Court looking like a thing of the past with Justice Kennedy’s retirement, this relic of the Seventies, a policy that exacerbated racial divisions as much as any factor in U.S. society, needs to be rejected completely and finally, and the announcement from the Education Department is an excellent start. In a related statement, as in the earlier withdrawal of the “Dear Colleague letter” that extorted universities into dispensing with due process and a presumption of innocence in student sexual assault cases, Attorney General Jeff Sessions pointedly rejected this method of abusing power that the Obama Administration fine tuned to an art, saying,

The American people deserve to have their voices heard and a government that is accountable to them. When issuing regulations, federal agencies must abide by constitutional principles and follow the rules set forth by Congress and the President. In previous administrations, however, agencies often tried to impose new rules on the American people without any public notice or comment period, simply by sending a letter or posting a guidance document on a website. That’s wrong, and it’s not good government.”

Exactly. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “THAT’S The Concept I Was Looking For—’Cultural Vandalism’!”

Another perspective on the question  of how the personal and professional misconduct of artists should affect our regard for their art comes from Curmie, a drama teacher, director and blogger who has as deep credentials for this topic as anyone.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, THAT’S The Concept I Was Looking For—“Cultural Vandalism”!…

Back in graduate school, I worked as a teaching assistant to a brilliant professor, Ron Willis, in his Introduction to Theatre class. Seitz’s commentary intersects with two of the concepts Ron highlighted in his course. The first of those is what Ron called para-aesthetics: those elements which affect an audience’s reception of an aesthetic event without being the aesthetic event.

These can be entirely coincidental (it’s pouring rain) or created specifically by the production company (the poster). The company many have had some, but not complete, control over the influence (there’s insufficient parking, in part because of another event in the area). The para-aesthetic influence could apply to the entire audience (the leading actor is a big star, the auditorium is freezing) or to an individual (the leading actor is your best friend, the person next to you thinks that showers are for other people, you’ve had a couple glasses of wine before the show).

The fact that a Bill Cosby’s off-camera life has been considerably short of exemplary matters in a para-aesthetic way. But each individual spectator will respond differently to each impulse. That leading actor—my best friend—is someone else’s ex. Facebook tells me that a year and a day ago I saw a play in London with a young movie star in the title role. His presence mattered to me not a bit, but there were dozens if not hundreds of his fans in the house: people who were there specifically to see him. That play was an adaptation of a script I adore and indeed directed a few years ago. The fact that the play as presented bore little if any resemblance to the original bothered me a lot; those who didn’t know the 19th-century version were far more able to accept the 21st-century revision on its own terms. Continue reading