New Role for a MMBE (newsletter excerpt from a local hospital)

By now you may have noticed our new addition to the Chaplain team. I am grateful to introduce you to Chaplain Albert Chan. Chaplain Albert will be volunteering at PLH on Mondays and Fridays, and I asked Albert if he would tell you a little about himself. Would you welcome Chaplain Albert and show him the kindness and love that you give all who come to PLH?

Chaplain Fred

“You may have noticed that this new chaplain cannot make his rounds as quick as everyone else. That’s because of my major hemorrhagic brain bleed on National Stroke Day nearly a decade ago while teaching business ethics and philosophy courses in the Midwest.

Ironically, if the timing had been any sooner, and I had been lecturing during my stints at Cal State Northridge or Biola, it would have been a quick ride to virtually any major medical center in Southern California for the craniotomy. However, the nearest hospital, of which I was an Ethics Board member, needed to transfer me to the University of Iowa (80 miles away by helicopter) for the procedure.

Neurosurgeons gave me a 15% chance of surviving the surgery, so roll a die, and it comes up “6,” I’m six feet under. But by Providential grace, medical expertise, and the many prayers / kind thoughts / support of family and friends, I’m limping around our hospital nearly six feet over.

I unfortunately lost my teaching job shortly after my stroke, but my RN wife received a call from a previous supervisor offering her former day rehabilitation nurse position back where I could also attend for a nominal fee. It was a no- brainer to return to sunny Southern California, especially as I only had ‘half a brain left.’

So why a chaplain?

I’ve found, like many of you, that nothing beats helping people. It’s why I adored teaching, and why I’ve found a comfortable fit with this role. I can relate to being a patient, having undergone extended hospital stays with epilepsy and Guillian-Barre Syndrome, use my educational background (seminary training in ethics at Biola University plus advanced and undergraduate degrees at USC and UW), and resonate with people in our community as a current husband to a wonderful wife and father to two adult children, plus past work for non- profits and campus ministry, and the private sector in sales and management.

In the brief time I’ve been around PLH, I’ve gleaned from Chaplain Fred that we’re not only here for patients, but also for staff / medical practitioners, and vice-versa. Please feel free to stop by the meditation room, in the hallways, waiting rooms, and/or cafeteria to say “ Hello,” and share any concerns & needs with us.

And if you forget my name, Albert “JOONG- Yen” Chan, don’t hesitate to interrupt me to introduce yourself (as many of you have kindly done), or observe me shift like an inchworm from room-to-room.

Remember: Three inches forward; two & a half inches back. Looking forward to meeting you. Inch Onward!

The new chaplain at your service, Albertpage1image65819520page1image48783008page1image65820144

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Family Ranch Morality

In Untouchables, Kevin Costner’s inaugural blockbuster of an illustrious and storied career, he takes on the role of Elliot Ness, leading an intrepid group to take down Chicago mafia mob don Al Capone during the 1930 Prohibition era.

Yellowstone represents Costner turning his end-of-acting career arc inside out as he takes his contemporary turn as an aging patriarch of the nation’s largest family ranch in Montana. In this popular mini series, the widower not only oversees his progeny, but the entire Dutton family empire —comprising a growing cadre of ranch hands/ rustlers, and land expansion keeping away natural predators, Native American competing claims on property, political bureaucracy, and commercial development.

As a business ethicist generally, and a family business morality specialist in academic literature, classroom, and the field, what remains particularly personally fascinating is the role of the corporate ranch and how everything comprises not only business, but familial dynamics.


“And that’s why we don’t talk about business at the dinner table.”

Kevin Costner as John Dutton


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Character of a Country

Prior to this post, this site (up until recently) often had politically neutral entries penned by the Monday Morning Business Ethicist [MMBE] regarding moral/ethical challenges in business and society.

However, today’s entry will explore the topic of leadership and character with two proponents instead of only yours truly. While the topic initially appears to be a narrow one specifically addressed to evangelical Christians, I believe the principles can easily broadly be applied to anyone interested in business, corporate ethos, CEO leadership, and/or character at large.

Dr. David Miller [DDM] is a family physician who is also the Idaho director of the American Academy of Medical Ethics. We share a slight conservative bent politically, but he leaned toward the incumbent in the last election while I tilted toward the challenger.

Please follow our conversation and feel free to add your personal feedback [having first perused the comment guidelines above], plus including whether you enjoy our dialectic and would like to see more conversation, not only on business ethics, but covering the burgeoning field of biomedical ethics. Dr. Miller and I both agree it is essential in our society to see examples of healthy disagreement and heavy discourse amid deep respect/admiration among disputants.

I begin the exchange verbatim from our Facebook conversation on a mutual friend’s timeline … starting off with a misunderstanding of “who the actual combatants are in question,” and “a compare/contrast of personal character and individual properties.”


MMBE: It seems that both sides share the same principle of desiring to glorify God.

However, one side prioritizes Godly character, while the other side prioritizes a Godly platform. We shouldn’t condemn each other for we all are brothers and sisters aiming at the same principle of pleasing the Lord.

DDM: I have to respectfully disagree my friend. To suggest that Joe Biden is more godly than Donald Trump is a stretch. To suggest Kamala Harris is more godly than Mike Pence is an absurdity.

Moreover, as a pro-life physician, I have been grateful that under President Trump I cannot be required to participate in or refer for abortion services. Under Biden/Harris there is a very real possibility that this will change. If Harris replaces Biden (remember Nancy Pelosi admitting she wasn’t referring to Trump when she talked about the 25th Ammendment?) then it’s almost assured.

MMBE: Apologies for my lack of clarity: I believe you and I do actually agree on these pro-life issues, in the character of, [qua] abortion.

The two sides to which I am referring are neither the Democratic and Republican parties nor their respective candidates, BUT the intra-warring factions of conservative Christianity — my directly addressing the discussion between the three persons in the timeline aboveon character.

Plus, even if we were comparing/contrasting godliness between the two candidates, wouldn’t we need to set forth and then prioritize specific criteria?

It would be like asking which candidate is physically healthier.

Would better health be based on a specific combination of factors such as lower blood pressure / lower cholesterol / low resting heartbeat / or higher cardiovascular frequency?

I contend for a more expansive, holistic, pro-life perspective (as argued by Mike Austin, a fellow Biola University Alumnus and current professor at Eastern Kentucky University), but I can understand why, as a family physician surrounded by patients actually going through these particular situations, you would be especially concerned about each candidate’s position regarding abortion services.

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A Speedy Confession

It’s not only business ethics, but a personal matter. I’ve never held such animus against an individual nor a president. If Black Lives Matter, Talibans for hire, Bibles as props, private parts for grabbing, Covid-19 bungling, etc., wasn’t enough, this intermittent stirring of the pot against my people represents the straw that breaks the proverbial back. Sir, You say you care about our great Asian-American citizenry. Well, your actions again prove the veracity of your verbiage. 45 makes me want to say and act in ways I’ve never before. But I hold back my nausea as a man of faith, and a person of principle. I will certainly vote against you come November in order to remove you from office, but as a professional Christian ethicist, I wish I could do more. As a professor, you don’t know how many transgressions you as our “leader” have participated in and led to lure me into becoming such a biased actor against the Republican Party of my youth. Usually, I would opt to take a neutral political stance in my writings and oratory on whomever holds your position; but I find that to do so now is immoral; so I confess I cannot. I will still argue the strongest case from both sides of the aisle, which is philosophical protocol; but to support you, Mr. President, would represent a violation of personal conscience.

I welcome any of my reader’s thoughts and feedback.

No apologies in advance …

The Monday Morning Business Ethicist


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Chain of Command

USS Theodore Roosevelt

Captain Brett Crozier was recently relieved of his naval duties. Why? In military service, the role of the chain of command is analagous to that of law in the relationship between ethics and morality. In the words of a navy commander, the chain of command is …

Ingrained in us from the moment (we) set foot in boot camp … the only proper channel for conducting legitimate operations …

To break the chain of command would require a situation of such gravity and/or breakdown in leadership and communication that it is the only remaining option!

Commander Aaron Carlton
United States Naval Chaplain Corps

Captain Brett Crozier inferred that if he were in actual combat, he would have muddled through the COVID-19 chaos, but since these operations were conducted during peacetime conditions, there was no reason for sailors to perish unnecessarily.

The President of the United States is the Commander in Chief of our armed forces. In the last few months, Donald J. Trump has had the misfortune of being at the crossroads of a worldwide pandemic, the consequent worst unemployment rate since the Great Depression, and massive race riots in response to police brutality in several cities across the country. 45 has not helped himself with his own militant rhetoric, in contrast to the position of Mark Esper, his current Secretary of Defense.

As mentioned before in previous posts of how the CEO sets the corporate ethos of the company, the President analogously has a major influence on the tone and tenor of the country. Like a master chef, the President creates the broth and adds key ingredients for either a healthy or heinous aroma in the kitchen. Each day, American citizens are forced to eat from the United States Cafeteria.

Is our country in a place of such societal gravity that intervention is needed? Previous secretary of Defense James Mattis seems to think so. For so long, he has not wanted to interfere with this current administration, in order to allow them maximum freedom to do their job. But like Captain Brett Crozier, he has finally felt the only option is to speak out against the chain of command / his superior officer, “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not … even pretend to try to unite the American people.”

His parting rejoinder to the master chef’s claim (per FOX News) that he believes he’s (been) treated worse than Abraham Lincoln, who was assassinated.

We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Park. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln’s “better angels,” and listen to them, as we work to unite.

Only by adoptng a new path–which means, in truth, returning to the original path of our founding ideals–will we again be a country admired and respected at home and abroad.

Former National Security Advisor James Mattis
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Naming Rites

In the middle of a worldwide pandemic, this debate has emerged on what to call the virus. Some may currently consider racial epithets a trivial issue in light of presumed growing morbidity/mortality rates; but words matter, especially edicts coming from our leaders contributing to a particular environment and producing lasting consequences, especially during a worldwide crisis.

The President has repeatedly used the term “Chinese Virus,” citing his insistence on emphasizing the truthful origin of the pestilence from Wuhan wet markets. While that assertion is correct, critics, including Trump’s own epidemiologist and director of the National Instititute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, follow World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines and insist on using the term, COVID-19, so at best not to stigmatize a particular region or ethnic group, and at worst, not be racist. 

As a business ethicist, I am constantly called upon to determine whether a given action is moral. Some actions are obviously not, and we don’t need a Ph.D. in ethics to render it so. Calling a person a chink or jap or denying African-American individuals a job or house because of race is definitely wrong. Other actions fall in a gray area, and we must investigate various components of the action to judge moral character. To adjudicate a controversial moral act, we must take a look at 1) the action itself; 2) its intent; and 3) the consequences.

The term, “Chinese Virus,” and issues like financial incentives and affirmative action fall in this debatable grey area and demand further analysis. Since using this label is precisely what is at question, and discovering an individual’s motivation is difficult, we must turn to the consequences of the act to shed further light on moral character.

Upon reflection during these political times and crises moments, we must give extra grace and “benefit of the doubt” to those on the other side of the aisle. I must admit not caring much for 45; however, I must give him credit for apparently changing his mind/behavior about giving the virus an ethnicity, but finally being up front about its nefarious impact on morbidity and mortality … regardless of motivation. A worldwide pandemic is not a normal situation, but it neither gives pretext for the blame game nor the opportunity to needle one another. Nationwide stress levels and impatience run high, and everyone is on edge. I don’t envy our nation’s leadership; it’s far easier to criticize than assume their role/position. I thank them for governing during this difficult time. In clicking on Internet links, I have noticed that outside observers, including myself, tend to prejudge an actor’s motivations based on their own respective political persuasion, and then form judgments presuming the actor’s intent. This confirmation bias needs a steady reprimand and counterequilibrium.

However, leaders must also acknowledge they are persons of influence, who in turn, affect larger ripples. There is a good reason the WHO has set parameters on how to label emerging illnesses. These terms set, reinforce, redefine, and have the capacity to harm neighboring countries and fail to love and respect fellow citizens. These consequences automatically make associating any virus with any region or race immoral and unethical. It is indeed appropriate to call a nation (e.g. China) accountable for being transparent in their reporting, and for their sanitary practices in the Wuhan Wet Markets. Just because illnesses (e.g., West Nile or Ebola Viruses) were associated in the past with its origins does not mean it is currently the rght thing to do. It is not kosher to engender a hostile environment for those not culpable for this malpractice (i.e., Chinese or Asian-American denizens).

May this scourge end quickly! Grace and peace to you and yours in the meantime.

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Opportunity Cost and the Price of Normalcy

A college friend of mine challenged me to consider integrating my past scholarly pursuits in philosophy and business ethics with my current experience dealing with a long-term illness, and guest lecturing in disability studies. So on that note, this blog post represents the first of many musings outlining the field of economic morality within a life-altering, adjusted lens.

Let us first consider some key terms, definitions, and operational lingo, which will facilitate our conversation in this discipline. The economist, Paul Krugman, asserts that business ethics is NOT primarily a study of money, but of human persons. In the disability community, it is oft mentioned that “It takes a lot of energy to be normal!”

Before digressing on a gratuitous excursion toward defining normal, and whether a handicapped person qualifies, the Opportunity Cost of a given state of affairs are the benefits lost in pursuing mutually exclusive courses of action. For instance, the opportunity cost of my suffering a stroke in October 2012 are all the benefits lost (financial, and/or otherwise in not having the hemorrhagic bleed; likewise, one could also estimate the opportunity cost of NOT having a stroke. These benefits include lessons learned, friendships gained, and the traumatic brain injury’s literal/figurative heartache.

Kudos to Mark Heinzig for the gentle push …

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Crazy Rich Stereotypes

Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy (3 Book Series)In early fall 2018, a film based on the New York Times Bestseller, Crazy Rich Asians, will debut with an exclusive all-Asian cast. Similar to responses to the model minority myth, feedback from fellow Asians has varied. A question needing a response is whether ethnic exposure, however stereotypical or blatantly false, is ethical, or pragmatically superior to exhibiting nothing at all.

See the FaceBook conversation over this topic started under the group, “Progressive Asian-American Christians”

Wakanda is no bull$&@/ country

The Black Panther [2018] is Marvel Universe’s latest comic adaptation , and has garnered much public fanfare / revenue along with high acclaim from cinematic pundits . The film tells the tale of the native, fictional country of Wakanda . . . And, like any decent superhero screenplay, a good narrative should include [ORKA] an Origin / Creation Story, an account of the Royal Kingdom / Lineage, and an epic-concluding Armageddon, or the world’s final battle.

Elements of a Good Narrative

O – Origin / Creation Story

RK – Royal Kingdom

A – Armageddon/ Final Battle

There exists disagreement among surveyors of art regarding interpretation: An Intentionalist View of whether art is to be interpreted by the lens of the creator(s) versus a Subjectivist perspective upon whether art lies in the eye of the beholder.  The strengths of the former position lie in the authority of the creator to determine his/her perspective, and the inherent authority of the driving, creative force(s). The inherent motivations behind the latter view rest in the actual evidence of changing interpretations of artwork over time; the corresponding drawback of the intentionalist position involves the consequence that it makes the meaning of a work quite rigid and static.

Ruth Tallman advances a compromise: A view she labels Multiplism, which acknowledges authorial intentions among equal possibilities of other interpretations.

Saquon Barkley and the Pragmatic ‘Ought’

To Declare or Not to Declare

In college football circles the last few weeks, the primary question surrounding Saquon Barkley’s future had been whether the 21-year-old ought to forgo his senior season at Penn State, and go pro.  With all the hype, you would think that his decision would encompass one of moral/ethical scope. It certainly takes on that tone, when pundits assert that he OUGHT or ought NOT head to the professional ranks.

But it is a mistake to view this athletic ‘ought’ as an ethical or moral act. Rather, the decision, while difficult, is  strictly pragmatic. Barkley has to decide whether to experience and enjoy the Fiesta Bowl with his teammates, while risking injury along with the concomitant reward of millions of dollars due him for five years of work in the NFL (the average running back does not last past his 29th birthday). It represents a pure risk/reward proposition rather than a moral decision.  However private the choice is for Barkley, he does also need to balance  this personal decision with the fact that he is a public figure, and has a duty/obligation to family, teammates, and the Penn State community who has supported him.  As Saquon reiterates, “This decision is not easy nor straightforward.”





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