Category Archives: Ethics Heroes

Ethics Hero: Columnist George Will

George WillI just watched George Will stun the Fox News Sunday panel by arguing against virtually all conservative pundits by insisting that the U.S. should welcome the hoard of children being apprehended at the border as they accept the current Administration’s open invitation to illegal immigrants.

“We ought to say to these children, ‘Welcome to America, you’re going to go to school and get a job and become Americans,’” Will said. “We have 3,141 counties in this country. That would be 20 per county. The idea that we can’t assimilate these eight-year-old criminals with their teddy bears is preposterous.”

I think the policy that Will is advocating is foolish, wrong, and will continue to incentivize illegal immigration.Nonetheless, in giving his contrarian opinion Will demonstrated personal integrity, courage, and showed those who accuse him of being a knee-jerk mouthpiece for Republicans and conservatives that they are wrong. His independence from the right-wing echo chamber also encourages viewers to start thinking for themselves.

I pledge to give a matching Ethics Hero designation to the first liberal pundit who argues that the human weapons in this unethical “think of the children!” assault on our laws and sovereignty should be shipped home, thus demonstrating similar integrity and independence from progressive talking points.

I’m waiting.

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Graphic: Mediaite

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

The Gay Marriage Acceptance Reverse-Foxhole Conversion Problem

Atheists in trenchesThe New York Times sported a front page story extolling the actions and familial love of Rev. Frank Schaefer, a United Methodist minister, whose son Tim, now 30, had been raised  in his father’s conservative church in West Germany, Pennsylvania, where sermons, policy and the congregation embodied the belief that homosexuality was a sin, and gay marriage a monstrosity.  Then, after he had contemplated suicide, Tim told his father he was gay, and later that he wanted to wed his same-sex partner. The loving father accepted his son and presided over the wedding, causing him to become a target of criticism in his church, and the defendant in a church trial. To the Times reporter, Michael Paulson, he is an unequivocal hero.

He did the right thing, no question, just as Dick Cheney and Republican Senator Rob Portman did the right thing by changing their position on gay marriage when their children showed them the human side of the issue. I also agree that it takes courage to admit you are wrong, and that being able to change one’s ethical analysis is an essential ability for all of us. Indeed, in this post, I designated as an Ethics Hero an outspoken gay marriage opponent for changing his position after he became friends with gay men and women, leading him to realize, as he put it, that Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Heroes, Family, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

Ethics Hero Emeritus (Independence Day Division): John Dickinson (1732-1808)

Villainous, singing version on the left; heroic, real life version on the right.

Villainous, singing version on the left; heroic, real life version on the right.

It is the American patriot John Dickinson’s curse that the very strength of character that caused him to stand out among the other Founders and that led them to respect him as much or more than any other also made him the black sheep in the inspiring tale of American independence. This led to relative obscurity. Although Dickinson is honored (along with his wife) by Dickinson College, Dickinson School of Law of the Pennsylvania State University, and University of Delaware’s Dickinson Complex, he is largely unknown to most Americans. He would be even less known, had Peter Stone not chosen to make him the villain of his 1969Tony-winning musical “1776,” where he was portrayed as a conservative loyalist who almost single-handedly foils the efforts of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin to declare independence from Great Britain. Whatever that choice’s dramatic virtues, it was unfair to Dickinson in every way.

Raised a Quaker, educated as a lawyer and a farmer by trade, Dickinson began public life in 1760 when he was elected to the Delaware legislature. During the next fifteen years he served both in that body and in the Pennsylvania legislature, a rare dual service made possible because he owned property in both colonies.

When the British Parliament instituted measures in the Colonies to raise revenue and provide for the quartering of British troops, Dickinson was one of the most eloquent and persuasive critics of the Crown, always with the intention of finding a satisfactory negotiated accord that did not involve the threat of armed rebellion. He urged Americans to rely primarily on economic pressure to oppose the hated Stamp Act, and he enlisted the influence of British merchants on the colonists’ behalf. His diplomatic orientation seemed like a prudent antidote to the firebrands calling for revolution in Boston, so the Pennsylvania legislature appointed him to represent that colony at the Stamp Act Congress of 1765. There he advocated the proposition that reconciliation was possible if the King and Parliament would only realize that colonial opposition was in the grand tradition English principles of political liberty. Dickinson set his reasoning to paper in his “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania,” a series of deft essays that brought Dickinson international fame as a man of reason and principle. Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: “Good Day New York” Co-anchor Rosanna Scotto

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Rosanna Scotto had the professionalism, decency and the courage to step in and reprimand (and embarrass) partner Greg Kelly who engaged in on-air sexual harassment of a young colleague during today’s morning broadcast on the Fox affiliate.

Reporter Anna Gilligan was assigned to New Jersey’s Action Park to try out the new Tarzan rope swing. This required putting on a bathing suit, in Gilligan’s case a relatively conservative two-piece.

. When she completed the water ride,  wet and probably self-conscious (no fair TV exec should make a young woman expose herself like that on TV), Kelly leered, “Nice bathing suit.” He then began teasing her with questions about her temporary breathlessness, tilting into innuendo  Scotto reminded him him to “stay appropriate,”  but to no avail: Kelly was in full frat boy mode. When Gilligan ended her segment by saying she was going to put some clothes on, Kelly protested playfully, saying, “hold on a second, not so fast, Anna!”

When they  cut back to the news desk,  Scotto gave Kelly a disgusted look and asked, “What is wrong with you?”

I wish she had said more, but she was probably right: any more pointed criticism would be airing dirty linen in public. To answer her question though, here is what’s the matter with Kelly:

  • He’s unprofessional, a fool and a pig.
  • He clearly didn’t get the memo, and it came from the culture many years ago, that you don’t treat a female employee, colleague or subordinate like a sex object, a piece of meat or eye candy in the work place. The conduct is rude, it denigrates her as a professional and a human being, it gives a green light to other harassers in the workplace and creates a hostile environment not only for her but for every female employee who sees or learns of the incident. It is also illegal.
  • He is such a boor and a fool that he not only did this, but did it on live TV.

Greg Kelly owes Gilligan, Scotto and every other woman at at the station and in the audience an apology.

Then he should be fired.

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Filed under Character, Ethics Heroes, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, Workplace

Ethics Hero Emeritus: Senator Howard Baker (1925-2014)

Howard_Baker

Howard H. Baker Jr., a three-term Tennessee Senator whose trademarks were integrity, honesty, and a refusal to allow partisanship get in the way of what he believed was the right thing to do, died today.  The Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky,  called him “one of the Senate’s most towering figures.” How ironic, or perhaps just insincere. If McConnell understood and admired the qualities that made Baker “towering” he couldn’t possibly be the divisive, petty, ultra-partisan hack that he is. Then again, comparing Baker’s career and character to the scrimy, petty, self-centered and ethics-challenged dwarves that make up all of McConnell’s colleagues  in both Houses and on both sides of the aisle reveals such an obvious disparity that even the sorry likes of McConnell couldn’t deny it.

Howard Baker stands especially tall in my memory as I watch the disgraceful conduct of House Democrats, doing all they could to derail the I.R.S scandal hearings and to prevent the uncovering of facts surrounding the executive branch’s abuse of power, because they have chosen political loyalty and expediency over transparency, fairness, duty to country, and trust. Contrast this horror show with the principled stance of Baker during Watergate, seeking uncomfortable truths rather than throwing obstacles in the way of efforts to uncover them, treating abuse of power and attempted cover-ups from his own party’s President as he would the same from a Democrat, asking the famous question, “What did the President know, and when did he know it?” Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, U.S. Society

Sorry, Chris Cuomo: You’d Be An Ethics Hero If It Wasn’t For Your Blatant Conflict Of Interest

CNN’s  co-host on “New Day,” Chris Cuomo,  is about as pro-active a news anchor as one can imagine, often hijacking interviews and advocating his own positions as his guests listen. All of CNN’s morning hosts do this; though Cuomo wears his progressive pedigree on his sleeve, he is less annoying in the practice than colleagues like Carol Costello, in part because he is smarter, fairer, and less predictable. Sometimes he bucks the liberal line, and an Ethics Hero-worthy example occurred this week, when he repeatedly mocked the media’s ongoing coronation of Hillary Clinton, and the Malaysian airliner-level coverage she has been getting on CNN, and elsewhere.   CNN, after a segment on Hillary Clinton’s interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer as part of the former Secretary of State’s book promotion, Cuomo made such comments as these:

  • “Coming up on New Day, the Hillary Clinton book tour: Is it really the kickoff to her presidential campaign? Because, otherwise, why are we talking about it so much?”
  • “It’s a problem because what she’s doing is what they call in politics “freezing pockets” because the donors are giving her money thinking she’s going to run. That means they’re not going to have available money for other candidates…if she doesn’t. And I don’t think she’s going to give it to them.
  • “We couldn’t help her any more than we have, you know. I mean, she’s got just a free ride so far from the media. We’re the biggest ones promoting her campaign, so it better happen.”
  • “Coming up on New Day, the endless reading of the Hillary tea leaves continues. She’s now speaking out about her decision on whether to decide, and we’re covering this as if she has decided.”

Bravo! Except that there’s one little problem that throws the legitimacy of Cuomo’s refreshingly candid (and accurate) exposition of the news media’s functioning as part of the Clinton campaign PR apparatus. Continue reading

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D-Day Ethics: Honoring The Strange And Courageous Duty Of Bill Millin, “The Mad Piper of D-Day”

Millin statue

If you watch “The Longest Day” this weekend, as I am sure to do, you will see a portrayal of Bill Millin, though only fleetingly and without his character being identified. Although I have seen the film countless times over many decades, it was only recently, this morning, in fact, that I focused on this remarkable warrior and the unusual brand of courage he showed the world on D-Day.

Bill Millin is the apparently daft bagpiper you can see leading the troops of Lord Lovat (played by Peter Lawford) ashore on Sword Beach, and later blowing his infernal instrument as the 1st Special Service Brigade relieved the troops holding the crucial strategic crossing known as the Pegasus Bridge. Lovat, who, like Millin, was Scottish, defied the British War Office orders banning pipers in battle (too many of them had been killed in World War I), and directed his friend to play traditional tunes, including marches and bawdy drinking songs (including one with a chorus that ended with the shout,“Up your arse!”) , as the rest of his comrades were engaged in battle and under fire. His only weapon was a ceremonial dagger, and except for an incident when the men were in the sites of a sniper’s rifle and forced to take cover, he never stopped playing.

It will not surprise you to know that he was the only one who did this on June 6, 1944. Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: NBA Clippers Owner Donald Sterling (And Yes, I Mean It)

When you think about it, the champion in this fight would almost have to be repulsive for a victory to mean anything.

When you think about it, the champion in this fight would almost have to be repulsive for a victory to mean anything.

The other shoe dropped, and however it may be intended, it’s an ethical shoe. Donald Sterling now says that he’ll refuse to pay the 2.5 million dollar fine levied on him by NBA Commissioner Silver and his fellow owners for what he said in his own bedroom.

Good. I was waiting for this, and hoping that would be his course of action. Ironically, a good, compliant, progressive billionaire, and one who was not, unlike Sterling, a repulsive asshole, who was nationally embarrassed as Sterling has been, would crawl quietly into a hole, periodically send out big checks and mea culpas to Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and the NAACP, and in the process, take  big, bloody chunks out of our freedom to think and speak freely, and our personal privacy. Sterling is doing the right thing, although it is going to cause him to be even more vilified by the media and even more assailed as the personification of racism than he has been already—and that has already been disproportionate to his “crime.”

Fighting is also going to be expensive. Never mind. It is revolting to write it, or even think it, but he is fighting for all of us. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity, Race, Rights, Sports, U.S. Society

Ethical Feline Of The Year: Tara the Cat

The rescuer and  the rescued (photo from KERO, Bakersfield)

The rescuer and the rescued (photo from KERO, Bakersfield)

You may have seen this video already, but as I may never again have the opportunity to honor a member of one of nature’s least ethical creatures for exemplary ethical conduct, here is the amazing tale of Tara the Cat.

In Bakersfield, California, four-year-old Jeremy Triantafilo, who is mildly autistic, sat on his bicycle outside his family’s home when the neighbor’s chow-labrador mix, who “doesn’t like children or bicycles” according to his owners, escaped the yard through an open gate , saw the boy, and attacked him. Surveillance footage shows the dog grabbing the boy’s leg and pulling him to the ground, and beginning to shake him. The Triantafilo family cat, Tara, saw the attack and charged to the rescue, leaping on the dog and chasing him off.

The boy’s father posted the video of the jaw-dropping episode to YouTube, and you can see it below.

I have had cats and lived with cats, and one cat in particular, my wife’s Siamese, broke my heart when he died. Nonetheless, cats are nature’s sociopaths, charming but ultimately self-centered,  cruel and lacking in empathy. They are not pack animals or group oriented, and “loyalty” is not one of the characteristics that anyone would say distinguishes the species. There is a reason why the film “Cats and Dogs,” which posited that the two rival creatures were really alien races of superior intelligence secretly battling for dominance on Earth, cast the cats as the villains. Cats can’t be trusted, and there is no such thing as an ethical cat.

Or so we have always been told.

Tara (the video is not a hoax) is either an outlier, or this is just one more example of how scientists don’t understand animals as much as they think they do. She clearly places herself in danger to rescue the most vulnerable member of her family. The cat assessed what was happening, set out to rescue the child, and did it efficiently and well.

I have never heard of such a thing. There are other YouTube videos that show cats engaging in ambiguous conduct that is termed a rescue, but such episodes always involve the cat protecting itself or its general vicinity from an intruder. At first, I thought Tara’s video was staged, like “The Incredible Journey.” So far, it doesn’t appear to be.

Thus we have to conclude that, contrary to lore, conventional wisdom and propaganda from the Ministry of Dogs, cats—some cats, one cat, this cat—are capable of  conduct that in a human we would regard as altruistic, ethical and courageous acts. Tara not only rescued a little boy from serious harm, she also elevated the status and reputation of cats everywhere.

Now that’s an Ethics Hero.

And here’s the astonishing video:

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Facts: Daily Mirror, ABC

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Filed under Animals, Childhood and children, Ethics Heroes, Family

Ethics Hero, Mother’s Day Division: NBA MVP Kevin Durant

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Just in time to temporarily relieve the National Basketball Association from public exposure of its expediency, hypocrisy and criminalization of thought, and also just in time for Mother’s Day, Oklahoma Thunder forward Kevin Durant delivered an ethics slam-dunk of an acceptance speech when he was honored with the league’s Most Valuable Player Award.

‘Tis not always thus. Another NBA great, Michael Jordan, revealed the bleakness of his character in his nauseating speech upon being admitted to pro basketball’s Hall of Fame, settling old grudges and celebrating himself. Durant, in glorious contrast, was graceful, humble, sincere, gracious, and filled with gratitude, particularly toward his mother, who was in the audience. It takes a sense of fairness, respect and perspective, as well as confidence,  to use the spotlight at an event that honors you to shift attention to others, and that is what Durant did. His speech itself is proof that his mother raised him well, and his words drove the message home:

“One my best memories I have is when we moved into our first apartment. No bed, no furniture, we all just sat in the living room and just hugged each other. We thought we made it. … You wake me up in the middle of the night in the summertime, making me run up a hill, making me do push-ups. Screaming at me from the sidelines of my games at eight or nine years old … When you didn’t eat, you made sure we ate. You went to sleep hungry. You sacrificed for us. You’re the real MVP.”

Here is his entire speech, displaying an ethical character that can’t be faked.

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Heroes, Family, Love, Sports, U.S. Society