Category Archives: Family

Ethics Dunce: Israel

"Nothing personal, you understand. It's just your dead son we're angry at."

“Nothing personal, you understand. It’s just your dead son we’re angry at.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had vowed a harsh response to the recent terrorist attack on a synagogue in Israel by two Palestinians wielding meat cleavers and a pistol. Four rabbis and a policeman were killed in the attack. What does he consider “harsh”?

“I have ordered the destruction of the homes of the Palestinians who carried out this massacre and to speed up the demolitions of those who carried out previous attacks,” Netanyahu said.

Oh.

Yeah, I’d call that harsh.

Hours after his announcement, Israeli forces razed the east Jerusalem apartment belonging to the parents of another terrorist youth, Abdelrahman Shaludi, who intentionally rammed his car into a crowd of pedestrians on October 22, killing a young woman and a baby. Shaludi was shot by police at the scene and later died.
There is no indication that Shaludi’s parents were complicit in the attack, except for, I suppose, spawning him.

Israel seems to think that’s justification enough.It had used house demolitions as draconian retaliation for years in the West Bank but ended the policy in 2005 after the army decided that the tactic had no apparent deterrent effect and made violence more likely rather than less. Hmmm…I wonder where the fact that the tactic is just indefensibly wrong figured in that calculation? It obviously isn’t on Israel’s ethical radar now, as the government has reinstituted the indefensible measure.

The Netanyahu government, says commentators, feels that it must show the Israeli public that it is punishing its enemies. But human rights groups are again condemning the practice, arguing that this is unjust collective punishment targeting not the perpetrators but their innocent families…which is exactly what it is. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Family, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

Now THIS Is Abuse Of Police Power

Andy and Opie

No riots are anticipated, fortunately.

Police Lt. Brian Keller, an assistant sheriff,  used his unmarked black Dodge Charger, with emergency lights flashing, to stop a school bus so he could hand his son his lunch, which the boy left home without. The bus was not within Keller’s jurisdiction….not that his actions would be much better it it has been.

There was a complaint,  which Lake County (Illinois) officials are investigating.

This is the kind of thing Sheriff Andy Taylor might have done for Opie in little Mayberry, but such abuse of power is neither cute nor funny outside of TV Land. I don’t care if he’s a single dad (like Andy); it doesn’t even matter if the kid had crucial, life saving prescription drugs in the lunch bag—insulin, maybe. Using official authority for a personal matter like this is the sign of an untrustworthy cop who doesn’t comprehend his job. It is small wonder that police labor under the public presumption that they don’t respect the law or the limitations of their authority.

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Pointer: Mediaite

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Family, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Professions

Michael Brown’s Parents Go Rogue

Why wait for U.S. Justice to work, when we can be dictated to by representatives of Chile, Senegal, Georgia, and Mauritius?

Why wait for U.S. justice to work, when we can be dictated to by representatives of Chile, Senegal, Georgia, and Mauritius?

Wherever the line lies where grief and anger no longer excuse irresponsible, irrational and destructive conduct, the parents of slain police shooting victim Michale Brown have charged over it.

On Veterans Day, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr. addressed the United Nations Committee Against Torture  in Geneva, Switzerland. The Committee supposedly works to address brutality by governments around the world, but based on this stunt, and stunt it is, the panel is just one more U.N. sham entity with an anti-American agenda. Whatever is going through the minds of Brown’s parents, their willingness to be part of this transparent attack on the U.S. is in the spirit of treason.

“We need answers and we need action. And we have to bring it to the U.N. so they can expose it to the rest of the world, what’s going on in small town Ferguson,” McSpadden told CNN. It should be obvious that neither parent has any direct knowledge of what happened to their son, and would not be allowed to testify in any court proceeding held to determine the truth. That the United Nations would behave otherwise is proof positive of bad will and nasty intent, and for McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr. to participate in this despicable effort makes them accessories to a plot devised by their own nation’s enemies. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race

Ethics Dunce: “Girls” Creator/Actress Lena Dunham

Dunham

Lena Dunham, creator and star of the inexplicably critically acclaimed HBO series “Girls,” has written a memoir, “Not That Kind of Girl.” Here are ten inquiries regarding its most controversial passages, like the one above,  and the reaction to them:

1. What does one say about a Hollywood figure who puts a passage like this in her memoirs, writing about her relationship with her sister, who was six years younger…

“As she grew, I took to bribing her for her time and affection: one dollar in quarters if I could do her makeup like a “motorcycle chick.” Three pieces of candy if I could kiss her on the lips for five seconds. Whatever she wanted to watch on TV if she would just “relax on me.” Basically, anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl I was trying.”

2. Or this…

“I shared a bed with my sister, Grace, until I was seventeen years old. She was afraid to sleep alone and would begin asking me around 5:00 P.M. every day whether she could sleep with me. I put on a big show of saying no, taking pleasure in watching her beg and sulk, but eventually I always relented. Her sticky, muscly little body thrashed beside me every night as I read Anne Sexton, watched reruns of SNL, sometimes even as I slipped my hand into my underwear to figure some stuff out.”

3. Or, most famously, this...

“Do we all have uteruses?” I asked my mother when I was seven.

“Yes,” she told me. “We’re born with them, and with all our eggs, but they start out very small. And they aren’t ready to make babies until we’re older.” I look at my sister, now a slim, tough one-year-old, and at her tiny belly. I imagined her eggs inside her, like the sack of spider eggs in Charlotte’s Web, and her uterus, the size of a thimble.

“Does her vagina look like mine?”

“I guess so,” my mother said. “Just smaller.”

One day, as I sat in our driveway in Long Island playing with blocks and buckets, my curiosity got the best of me. Grace was sitting up, babbling and smiling, and I leaned down between her legs and carefully spread open her vagina. She didn’t resist and when I saw what was inside I shrieked.

My mother came running. “Mama, Mama! Grace has something in there!”

My mother didn’t bother asking why I had opened Grace’s vagina. This was within the spectrum of things I did. She just got on her knees and looked for herself. It quickly became apparent that Grace had stuffed six or seven pebbles in there. My mother removed them patiently while Grace cackled, thrilled that her prank had been a success.

?

I say that that the Hollywood darling apparently used her little sister as a sex toy for at least a decade, was never stopped or admonished for doing so by remarkably negligent parents, and has grown to adulthood without recognizing that there is anything wrong with her conduct.

The first passage not only treads on the borders of incest, but also leaves the uncomfortable question of what else she did to her sister that emulated a sexual predator. The second is profoundly creepy, and the third describes what, if true, is abuse of an infant in terms designed to sound erotic. As blogger Ann Althouse points out, does anyone believe that an infant would stuff pebbles in herself “as a prank,”or that a compos mentis parent wouldn’t immediately assume that the older girl had done it to the younger girl? At best, Dunham is lying, and doesn’r realize that her lie puts her and her family in a terrible light.

4. What can we conclude about the character of a celebrity who proposes such conduct as harmless fun, apparently unaware that it violates standards of fairness, respect and caring, to be emulated and embraced by her readers and anyone whom they have influence over, including their own children, as a legitimate cultural norm? I conclude that her values are seriously and perhaps clinically warped. and that the more critics point this out, the safer everyone is, present and future. Lena Dunham is an ethics corrupter. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Dunces, Family, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, U.S. Society

The Free Range Mom, Bias, and the Perils Of Blind Loyalty

About  the blind leading the blind---not only is it dangerous, it looks ridiculous to those who can see.

About the blind leading the blind—not only is it dangerous, it looks ridiculous to those who can see.

One of my favorite bloggers just fell into the blind loyalty trap. I’m sympathetic, but this is something that those who accept the responsibility of  teaching us important lessons and clarifying difficult issues must avoid at all costs. Bias makes us stupid, and blind loyalty breeds bias like carrion breeds maggots. It pains me to see Lenore Skenazy, author of the Free Range Kids blog, undermine her credibility like this.

She titled her post Horrible Editorial Chides Mom for Not Predicting Unpredictable Crime. In it, she takes the side of a mother who left her four-year-old son in an unlocked, running van while she picked up her daughter at a northeast school. Someone was drove her van off with her son in it, and subsequently crashed. The boy was unhurt. Under the circumstances, there is nothing horrible about the editorial, which uses the incident—even Skenazy agrees that the mother’s conduct was “dumb”—to caution parents about leaving children in cars. This is the editorial that aroused Skenazy to defend the indefensible:

“A Calgary mom has no doubt learned her lesson. The woman recently left her four-year-old son in her unlocked, running van while she picked up her daughter at a northeast school. The mother said she was gone about six minutes, and when she came out, someone was stealing her van with her son in it.

Fortunately, the incident ended well, with the child unhurt after the thief crashed the van, and the suspect was taken into custody.…charges of child endangerment need to be pressed to set an example, because no matter how often these types of things occur, other parents continue to leave their kids in similar situations. It takes just a few minutes to get your child out of a vehicle and bring him or her along with you on whatever errand needs running. Sure, it’s more convenient just to leave a child in the car and do the errand, unencumbered. However, child safety should trump inconvenience every time. Better a few extra minutes lost bundling a little one in and out of a vehicle than a lifetime of regret and what-ifs.”

The rationalizations in Skenazy’s defense begin with the title of her post, which is dishonest and in her own words, “dumb.” She is using moral luck as a defense, arguing that the sequence of events as they unfolded were merely unfortunate, and the mother just as easily could have returned to her van and car with nothing amiss. The odds favor nothing bad happening in six minutes; on the other hand, the odds of nothing bad happening are much better if a child isn’t in an unlocked vehicle with the engine running at all. Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Family, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Love

Reader Alert: An Old Post That Lots Of People Are Suddenly Interested In Reading

-judy-lewis

All of a sudden, a post from 2011 is attracting more views in the last four days than it did in the previous four years. Odd are you missed it too, so so to avoid the anomaly of non-Ethics Alarms fans being more attuned to a post here than the loyal throng, I’m going to point the way to the link. The essay is titled “Clark Gable, Loretta Young, and the Betrayal of Judy Lewis,” and told the heart-breaking story of how Clark Gable denied his parenthood of his own daughter (that’s her to his left) to avoid a career-damaging scandal, while the child’s mother, Loretta Young, lied to her as well.  It was and is an interesting and disturbing chapter in Hollywood history, and my commentary  generated some furious defenses from fans of “The King,” who marshal every rationalization imaginable to try to justify a rich and famous father neglecting his only child, even after she became aware of who her father was. That phenomenon is as illuminating as the sad tale itself.  Here, for example, is “Seeker”—see how many rationalizations you can find. I see at least four: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Family, Romance and Relationships

Cruel Activism: The Gay Rights Attack On Cynthia and Robert Gifford

The-Gifford-Barn-in-Schaghticoke-NY

It is said that close cases make bad law, and they often make bad ethics too. Legally, the culpability of Cynthia and Robert Gifford is not at all certain. Ethically, however, as right as they may be on the law, the conduct of their persecutors, same-sex couple Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, has been unnecessary, without compassion, vindictive and cruel.

The Giffords are active Christians who own Liberty Ridge Farm, located in Schaghticoke in upstate New York. They supplement the farm’s revenue with attractions designed for kids and families, including a pumpkin patch, a corn stalk maze and a rustic barn for parties and weddings. That rustic barn has three stories. The Giffords reside on the top floor, with the bottom floor designed for events, and the second floor consisting of rooms for activities relating to their preparation and management.

When Cynthia Gifford received a phone call from Melissa McCarthy inquiring about having her wedding at the farm, Cynthia invited her to visit and assess the venue.In the follow-up phone call, McCarthy revealed for the first time that the affair would be a same-sex wedding. Cynthia explained that the family’s faith held that marriages can only be a union of a man and a woman, so they did not make their farm available for ceremonies. She said, however, that the couple was welcome to hold the wedding reception there.

Apparently expecting this response, Jennifer and Melissa surreptitiously recorded the phone call. Armed with the recording, they contacted the New York Civil Liberties Union who immediately filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Giffords on their behalf.

The Giffords argue that this was not a matter of discrimination, but religious practice. They had hosted events for gay clients before, and employed gays. “The Giffords’ objection was to hosting and participating in the wedding ceremony itself and not to providing service in general to lesbians,” their lawyer said.

They lost. Bronx administrative Law Judge Migdalia Pares rejected Giffords’ claim that the farm, which is also their home, is not a place of public accommodation and is therefore not subject to the anti-discrimination provisions of New York’s Human Rights Law. She ruled that Liberty Ridge qualifies as a public accommodation because it regularly collects fees for space, facilities, services and meals, so it cannot be considered “distinctly private.”  The fact that the Giffords reside at Gifford Barn does not render it private. The Giffords were ordered to pay $13,000 in fines and restitution.

The Giffords are appealing.

The Giffords, according to the judge, “unlawfully discriminated against complainants solely on the basis of their sexual orientation.” Another way of looking at it is that Jennifer and Melissa, now married, discriminated against the Giffords solely on the basis of their religious beliefs. Why couldn’t they agree to respect the Giffords’ religious beliefs, and use the property for the wedding reception only, having the actual ceremony elsewhere? Would that really be such a hardship, or a compromise in principles? Indeed, if the nation and committed progressives really aspire to tolerance, diversity and mutual compassion and understanding, why wouldn’t that be the ethical, desirable, reasonable compromise?

I know the response to that question, of course. This was a matter of principle. This would send a message. Crushing the Giffords was necessary to show that all opposition to same sex marriage would eventually be crushed under the advance of history. Never mind that these were not anti-gay bigots, and that they have as much right to practice their faith as a lesbian couple has a right to wed. This is a zero sum game, apparently. Besides the law—probably–supports McCarthy and Erwin.

I think the actions of Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin violate the Second Niggardly Principle, which is a rule of kindness, compromise and common sense. It holds…

“When an individual or group can accomplish its legitimate objectives without engaging in speech or conduct that will offend individuals whose basis for the supposed offense is emotional, mistaken or ignorant, but is not malicious and is based on well-established impulses of human nature, it is unethical to intentionally engage in such speech or conduct.”

The couple’s legitimate objectives in this case were to get married and celebrate the marriage in an attractive venue. I don’t think setting out to punish a couple for belonging to a religion that doesn’t accept same sex marriage is a legitimate objective, nor is turning their lives upside down, nor forcing them into the maw of litigation to bend them to their will. Does the gay rights movement really feel that all those who have not yet accepted the justice and inevitability of same-sex marriage must be exposed and made to suffer? It seems that this is McCarthy and  Erwin believe, and what this case will come to stand for.

If so, I think the story of the Giffords will do more harm than good, hardening opposition, confirming suspicion, undermining trust and ultimately making acceptance for gay couples harder, however it turns out in the courts. Just because you have the law on your side doesn’t mean you have to use it when doing so involves unnecessary harm to others. Gays want compassion, kindness, tolerance and fairness. It would help if they showed a willingness to give as well as receive.

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Pointer: Steven Mark Pilling

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Charity, Citizenship, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society