Sunday, July 15, 2012

Penn State Scandal is Horrendous and Points to the Very Deep Corruption of Our Leaders

The truth is if you stand up for principles against the power structure you will most often be made to pay for trying to get in their way.  And most often you won't succeed.

In Penn State the few who tried to stand up against injustice are now seen in a positive light.  But the full Penn State power structure was able to undermine decency, even when that extended all the way to what is the most indecent act possible.  Only that most intolerable abuse finally brought enough weight (thought it took more than a decade) for the immoral actions of those in power to stop being accepted.

All the lessor abuses by those in power were not enough.  They were not remotely close to enough.  Those protesting those abuses are seen as pariahs.  Winning football (or basketball) games is much more important to those in leadership positions than behaving honorably.  Even today the Board of Penn State sees retaining the statue of Joe Paterno as the right thing to do (my guess is they will realize the big mistake this is soon and reverse course - but I figured the abuses of the TSA couldn't stand for long and I was completely wrong about that).  They are more fearful of powerful alumni that might still object then they are concerned about doing the incredibly too little too late of at least stopping honoring a man that disgraced their University.

Even once the scope of wrongdoing was obviously far far worse than should ever be tolerated and the board fired Joe Patero, there were riots protesting this action.  How shameful that behavior was.  How completely had the leaders of those that engaged in that behavior failed to create honorable people.

The complete failure of leadership evidenced by decades of utter failure at Penn State is the example.  But the system that allowed it is pervasive at nearly all our Universities.  They are lead by people that subvert integrity to pleasing the powerful.

I think they need to have these "leaders" sit in the undergraduate seminars where ethics and morality are discussed and talk about the real issues.  University leaders seem to think that morality and ethics are meant for the ancient greeks only, not them.  They obviously believe (as shown in their actions) that might makes right is the primary moral measuring stick.  I think that it would help to take that message into the educational system so we can address the real issues to where the boundaries are for that style of leadership.  Because pretending that what is taught about right and wrong in their schools relates to the real world when in practice political expediency takes such a huge precedence over what is right for the "leaders" in our society is not helping.

That we finally have people saying what the facts show, is a good sign: Joe Paterno was a coward. Rick Reilly admits that he was fooled by Joe Paterno
What a stooge I was.
I talked about Paterno's "true legacy" in all of this. Here's his true legacy: Paterno let a child molester go when he could've stopped him. He let him go and then lied to cover his sinister tracks. He let a rapist go to save his own recruiting successes and fundraising pitches and big-fish-small-pond hide.
Here's a legacy for you. Paterno's cowardice and ego and fears allowed Sandusky to molest at least eight more boys in the years after that 1998 incident
Penn State leaders can't hide their guilt after damning Freeh Report
"Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State," Freeh wrote in his summary of his report. "The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized. Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky's victims until after Sandusky's arrest."

My guess on what impact this will have on other University leaders acting ethically and morally instead of caving into power: very minimal. They will continue to cave into power to make their lives as easy as possible. Decades of behavior just doesn't change overnight. As long as the "leaders" are put in those positions mainly because they make things easy for those with power that is the main thing that will drive their actions.

If we want that to change we have to change the character of those placed in leadership positions. And we need to change what influences carry the most weight. As long as it is the football coach, boosters, large donors... then we will have the situation we have had. The worst abuses at Penn State with covering up child abuse would not have been tolerated at many other places. But the system that results in such cover ups being possible is firmly in place at most and is used to continue much more mundane abuse of power.

Penn State should be congratulated for hiring Louis Freeh. They finally stopped trying to protect those doing the abuse and those covering up for those doing so. Good for them.

I am sure Joe Paterno did plenty of good things. As a leader, critical failures that persist for over a decade can, and should, overshadow the good when it comes to our opinion of their character. They can still have done plenty of good things. But leaders failing to protect the innocent and powerless and allowing them to be abused deserve to have their reputations destroyed.

Related: The Moral Consequences of Your Actions - Don't Excuse Immoral Looters - Action Is More Important Than Sympathy - They Will Know We are Christians By Our Love

Friday, July 13, 2012

If You Create a System That Includes The Perfect Conditions for Scandals, Expect Scandals to Happen

Massively overpay people for taking huge gambles with other people's money and they will do so (ethical people won't, but you only need a few unethical people and their is an oversupply - county on running out of unethical people is an extremely foolish "strategy").   Make it even worse by creating a culture where everyone sees lots of people getting massively overpaid for the times when the roulette wheel lands in the right spot and you create a culture ripe for claiming good results (no matter what the truth is).  Add in a very smart strategy (for those seeking to siphon off billions from the productive economy) of creating massively complicated schemes that allow for all sorts of false claims and you have what the leaders of our country (and a few other countries leaders) have created.

Other leaders abolished child labor, created universal education, sent us to the moon.  Ours are busy justifying massively unjust payments to a few at the cost of the well being of the country and the citizens of the world.

The too big to fail welfare banks have been practicing this behavior for a couple of decades.  And, like clockwork, huge scandals occur.  It seems like we have a huge spike in scandals in the last couple of years.  The scandals are entirely predictable given the systems created to try and justify paying unjustifiable payments to executives and gamblers.

The reason for the spike in scandals being discovered now is probably 2 fold.  First the unjustified pay has increased massively and thus increased the irresponsible behavior and rewards for being irresponsible.  Also, fraud often remains hidden in boom times and becomes uncovered when the ability to hide that the roulette wheel hasn't actually been providing the returns used to claim the unjustifiable payments taken by the executives and gamblers.

The quote of the latest massively overpaid CEO overseeing yet another scandal is just the same as all the other mindless "explanations": 

'But he stressed that it was an “isolated” incident and that JPMorgan had already cleaned house'

They then pay those we elect enough to have those we elect continue to grant them massive favors and continue to allow the undermining of our economy by the continued scandalous practices.  The process will continue, as it has for decades, until we refuse to elect those that sell out the country to pay back those giving the politicians lots of cash (or for the politicians that can't understand what is happening).

Eventually the delaying game of those operating these phony systems to extract big payoffs for themselves will no longer be tolerated.  But so far we seem happy to continue to support leaders doing all they can to support this system.

It doesn't appear, even now, we are going to demand change.  And it is completely obvious the too big to fail welfare banks are just increasing the scandalous behavior and the politicians are just increasing their support for these institutions.  Oh the politicians will say silly things to claim they don't like the bad things being done to the country and then run right back and do the bidding of those at the too big to fail welfare banks that give them cash.  Those giving cash know it doesn't matter what politicians say only what they do.  And the too big too fail banks couldn't ask for any better lackeys.

It will change when we throw out the politicians that are (and have been for decades) making this possible.  Until we do it won't change.  The executives and politicians have shown no amount of suffering is enough for them to behaving honorably.  As long as they get their cash they don't care what it does to the country or the economy of the world.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Action Is More Important Than Sympathy

A Long Walk Home is a story about the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott in the USA.  The discrimination and immoral actions in the USA at that time was horrible.  The tide was turned by many many small actions by many people (along with some great actions by a few).  It is very easy for society to allow a few misguided people to mislead us.

I think it is important to remember that it looks easy to see horrendous immorality in others.  It is very easy to miss the chances for you to act to make the world a better place, a more just place, a more moral place, a place you can not just accept but be proud of.  The actions you take matter much more than your ability to sit back and judge others you can't influence.

I find it helpful to watch movies like this and think about what I can do today to make a difference.  The battles are not the same.  The winners haven't been named, and often those we will look back with disgust on later had the power to make their immoral actions seem to be acceptable.

Paperclips is another inspirational movie. It is a documentary about a consciousness-raising project at a rural Tennessee school. The principal of Whitwell Middle School sought a program that would teach diversity to a predominantly white, Protestant student body, the notion of focusing on the Holocaust.

People that have helped us overthrow those leaders promoting racial discrimination, House Committee on Un-American Activities (McCarthyism witch-hunts), war crimes... took difficult stands (and substantial personal risks) to make society better.  We have opportunities to make a difference and we don't have to risk nearly as much.  We should do so.

Waiting until leadership has amassed the power of something like the House Committee on Un-American Activities is very dangerous.  Once that happens much more spectacular heroic action is required to save us than is required in stopping the dramatic, Orwellian (just look at the name of that committee, and the name of some of the recent acts of Congress), anti-liberty actions of government.

Sometimes inaction doesn't make future action harder.  But inaction can still be enormously costly.  The extreme poverty we have in the world (even after 70 years of fantastic wealth in the USA and elsewhere) means millions of people die every year for want of a few dollars (for food, safe water or basic medicine).  We can make a difference if we want.  It is as easy as writing a check, or with other, more direct action to help.  Or by writing (filming, sharing...) a story about the actions of those that were willing to make an effort to create a better world have done for us already.

Related:  The Moral Consequences of Your Decisions - Society is being shaped for us while we are busy getting through another day - Giving More Than Money to Charity - You Can Help Reduce Extreme Poverty - Bad Behavior