Category Archives: Family

Memorial Day Ethics Hero Emeritus: Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., 1887–1944

Teddy Jr

The latest inductee into the Ethics Alarms Heroes Hall of Honor has a familiar name that burdened him with exorbitant expectations his entire life. Yet against all odds, he managed to add to its prestige.

With some notable exceptions that you can probably name, being the son of a President of the United States has proven to be a burden and often a curse. Being the oldest son of our most flamboyant President was particularly hard on Teddy Roosevelt’s boy who shared his name, and through young adulthood, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.  experienced migraine headaches and other symptoms of anxiety and stress. The President was even cautioned by a family friend and physician that his constant badgering was ruining his son’s health.

Young Ted still followed his father’s path to fame by enrolling at Harvard, then became a partner in a Philadelphia investment banking firm. With the U.S. entry into the Great War, Roosevelt enlisted in the army, fought in Europe, rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, and was gassed and shot in the kneecap in 1918.  Roosevelt received the Distinguished Service Cross. He was renowned for his courage under fire as well as his unusual concern for the men under his command: at one point, he personally purchased new boots for his entire battalion. After the war, Roosevelt was instrumental in the founding the American Legion in 1919. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Heroes, Family, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity, War and the Military

Seven Ethics Observations On The Josh Duggar Child Molestation Revelations

19 kids

Yes, this is an Ethics Train Wreck.

First, some background:

“19 Kids and Counting” is another reality show featuring the exploitation of children for their parents fame and profit broadcast by the  cable channel TLC, the same shameless bunch that bought us “Jon and Kate Plus 8″ and the trashy Honey Boo-Boo Bunch.It began as “17 Kids and Counting,” became “18 Kids and Counting,” and but for this emerging fiasco, might have kept adding numbers, and little unpaid performers,  ad infinitum.  The show featured the godly, conservative, fertile Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and their nine girls and ten boys, all of whose names begin with the letter “J.” Since the show began, three of the children have been married and several grandchildren have been born. The series began on September 29, 2008.  February 17, 2015 marked Season 10.

In response to emerging reports that oldest son Dugger son Josh, now 27, was once accused of molesting five underage girls as a teen, Josh Duggar, his wife Anna, and his parents Jim Bob and Michelle jointly explained the circumstances, which had not been revealed outside the family until now. “Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends,” Josh said  in a statement. “I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.”

Josh then resigned from his position at the Family Research Council.

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar had this to say about their son:

“Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives. When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes, and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before. Even though we would never choose to go through something so terrible, each one of our family members drew closer to God. We pray that as people watch our lives they see that we are not a perfect family. We have challenges and struggles every day. It is one of the reasons we treasure our faith so much because God’s kindness and goodness and forgiveness are extended to us – even though we are so undeserving. We hope somehow the story of our journey – the good times and the difficult times – cause you to see the kindness of God and learn that He can bring you through anything.”

TLC cancelled the show. It said, on its Facebook page,

“Effective immediately, TLC has pulled all episodes of 19 Kids and Counting currently from the air. We are deeply saddened and troubled by this heartbreaking situation, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and victims at this difficult time”

Then GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee issued his own Facebook statement in support of Josh and the family:

“Janet and I want to affirm our support for the Duggar family. Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, ‘inexcusable,’ but that doesn’t mean ‘unforgivable.’ He and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities. No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story. Good people make mistakes and do regrettable and even disgusting things. The reason that the law protects disclosure of many actions on the part of a minor is that the society has traditionally understood something that today’s blood-thirsty media does not understand—that being a minor means that one’s judgement is not mature. No one needs to defend Josh’s actions as a teenager, but the fact that he confessed his sins to those he harmed, sought help, and has gone forward to live a responsible and circumspect life as an adult is testament to his family’s authenticity and humility. Those who have enjoyed revealing this long ago sins in order to discredit the Duggar family have actually revealed their own insensitive bloodthirst, for there was no consideration of the fact that the victims wanted this to be left in the past and ultimately a judge had the information on file destroyed—not to protect Josh, but the innocent victims. Janet and I love Jim Bob and Michelle and their entire family. They are no more perfect a family than any family, but their Christian witness is not marred in our eyes because following Christ is not a declaration of our perfection, but of HIS perfection. It is precisely because we are all sinners that we need His grace and His forgiveness. We have been blessed to receive God’s love and we would do no less than to extend our love and support for our friends. In fact, it is such times as this, when real friends show up and stand up. Today, Janet and I want to show up and stand up for our friends. Let others run from them. We will run to them with our support.”

Observations: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Religion and Philosophy

Southwest Airlines And The Suicide Threat

Not exactly "friendly skies"

Not exactly “friendly skies”

We tend to assume someone was at fault when a terrible event results from the execution of a standard policy that was not appropriate to the crisis at hand. Who’s to blame in this nightmarish scenario?

Karen Momsen-Evers was on a Southwest Airlines plane about to take off from New Orleans to Milwaukee, where she lived. Then her husband Andy sent her a text asking her for forgiveness for his imminent suicide. “I go to sleep at night thinking what could I have done, what should I have done,” Evers said. She texted back “No,” but the text arrived as flight attendants were doing their final cabin checks. She wanted to call him. The flight attendant ordered her to turn her phone off, and when she insisted, was told that the FAA regulations prohibited any further use of her cellphone. “The steward slapped the phone down and said you need to go on airplane mode now,” Momsen-Evers told reporters.

Once the flight reached cruising altitude, the desperate woman explained the situation to another attendant. She begged her to have someone make an emergency phone call, but the attendant insisted there was nothing she could do.

So Karen Momsen-Evers sat in her seat, looking at the text and sobbing, all the way to Milwaukee. When she arrived home she was met by police officers, who told her Andy had killed himself. Continue reading

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Unethical Mothers Day Quote Of The Year: Joanne Samuel Goldblum

diapers

“On Mother’s Day, many moms do not get taken out to brunch or presented with potted plants. For them, Mother’s Day is just like any other day – a struggle to get by. There is one gift we can collectively give them, though: We can stop judging. We can throw away the good mother/bad mother distinction. We can recognize that most mothers genuinely want to do what is best for their children. It is simply much easier for some of us than for others.”

—-, a social worker and the executive director of the National Diaper Bank Network, in Washington Post column titled “Stop judging poor moms. Bad policies hurt their kids — not bad parenting”—also a strong candidate for “Sweeping Generalization of the Decade.”

There’s an old Chinese proverb that goes, “When the only tool you have is a diaper, every problem looks like a baby’s butt.”

Or something like that. runs a laudable and necessary social service that provides diapers for families that can’t afford them. That’s a wonderful service and a wonderful charity, and she and her colleagues are doing a service for humanity. Unfortunately, her unique perspective on the problem of negligent and irresponsible parenting has produced her column in the Post, which uses a stream of rationalizations, logical fallacies and rhetorical deceits to reach an absurd and societally dangerous conclusion.

The fact that public policy may not do enough to help stressed mothers or minimize the damage caused by the irresponsible, negligent, dangerous or self-destructive—or just plain stupid—decisions by women that made them mothers in the first place, cannot mean that society should stop “judging mothers.” intentionally uses “judging” as a pejorative term (evoking the Biblical rationalizations), and with that tactic sides with the ethical relativists. Without critical judgment, there can be no standards. Without public conclusions regarding ethical behavior and unethical behavior, what conduct we encourage and what conduct we condemn, there can be no culture, no shared values, and no internal or external controls to limit destructive behavior. Everyone has a societal obligation to judge their own conduct, and that of everyone else. Judging conduct does inherently reflect on the purveyors of that conduct, but pointing out destructive conduct by mothers does not and must not preclude compassion, fairness, respect and charity.

Goldblum’s initial attack on anyone who dares to suggest that women should not have children they can’t afford to care for and that will permanently cripple their chances at success, proceeds by paring such critics with those who oppose the work of her organization.

“One man called me screaming that impoverished moms should “just use newspaper!” to diaper their infants. In letters and phone calls, others have accused us of encouraging mothers to keep “breeding.” (Barnyard animals breed, mind you. Women have babies.) Our critics believe the women who come to us are bad mothers who should not have had children in the first place. (We rarely get criticism of fathers, as if women become pregnant all by themselves)”

Breathtaking. She begins with the fallacy I call “The Bad Lawyer,”concluding from the fact that a proposition has some foolish advocates that the proposition itself is incorrect. Yes, anyone who advocates endangering a baby’s health by using newspaper as diapers is too mean and dumb to be in civilized society, but using that position to characterize critics or irresponsible mothers is dishonest debating. The suggestion that women decide to have babies they can’t afford because they are confident that they can get free diapers is similarly idiotic,but the position that it’s irresponsible to have children when you should know you can’t care for them is not only not idiotic, it’s blazingly obvious. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Quotes, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Public Service, U.S. Society

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Bill Clinton

"A pool table, don't you understand?"

“A pool table, don’t you understand?”

“There is no doubt in my mind that we have never done anything knowingly inappropriate in terms of taking money to influence any kind of American government policy. That just hasn’t happened.”

–Former President Bill Clinton in an interview  on NBC’s “Today” show, discussing the foreign money that poured into the Clinton Foundation from parties seeking State Department support for their financial, business or political interests while Hilary was Secretary of State, much of it undisclosed and all of it in violation of Mrs. Clinton’s representations to Congress and her signed agreement with the Obama Administration.

You know, it will almost be worth enduring the horrible Hillary Clinton presidential campaign awaiting us to be able to enjoy Bill showing that he’s still got it. This statement is a classic Clintonism, one of his best since he argued that he and Monica were never “alone” together. It is a genuine masterpiece of deceit and obfuscation. At first hearing, it sounds like an assertion of no wrongdoing, but only if you are not paying close attention, or if you are blinded by confirmation bias—if, for example, you are a Hillary supporter determined to “vote with your vagina,” as one of them nauseatingly put it over the weekend, and can not accept or process the truth about her, which is that she’s incompetent, dishonest and corrupt—will Bill’s careful convoluted denial sound sincere and convincing.

But why would anyone ever not listen to what Bill Clinton says carefully? Continue reading

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The AWOL Walter Fauntroy, Flawed Black Martyrs And The Duty Of Outrage

Walter Fauntroy, D.C. icon, civil rights hero, fugitive, coward, crook...but still a hero. Somehow.

Walter Fauntroy, D.C. icon, civil rights hero, fugitive, coward, crook…but still a hero. Somehow.

As I was composing this post in my head, I stumbled upon—and I mean that, because I normally avoid her columns like cheap Chinese food—Kathleen Parker’s latest column. Parker is the sort-of conservative, sort-of op-ed pundit who has mastered the art of compassionate equivocation, meaning that her opinions on public affairs usually consist of one long sigh. She was at it again here, except that the topic she was sighing about confounds me, he who does not shrink from assigning blame, almost as much as it does she who usually spreads blame so evenly that its ethical impact is nil.

Parker wrote…

At the same time that people avoid too-sensitive subjects, they seem to fear stating the obvious lest their thoughts be interpreted as an act of betrayal to “the group.” Politicians are the most risk-averse of all. Few are the Democratic women who will find (or express) fault with Clinton. It is the rare African American who finds fault with Obama. When Rawlings-Blake also said that she “gave those who wished to destroy space to do that,” her Democratic colleagues spoke only of her “poor choice of words.” Not poor thinking? Not lousy leadership? Republicans don’t get a pass. Heaven forbid they should call out someone who wants to inject biblical end-times into political debate.”

Ah, how it makes my chest fill with pride that I have flagged all three of the ethical breaches Parker mentions within the few daysHillary Clinton’s brazenly suspicious conduct and the disgraceful refusal of her cheering section to either acknowledge or question it…Rawlings-Blake’s “lousy leadership”… and Republicans who use religiosity as a prop. Parker being Parker, she had earlier used an example of missing outrage that sets my teeth on edge because, while correct, it calls to mind another area of missing outrage and societally-damaging martyrdom that I can’t quite figure out how to talk about.

Where is the outrage beyond the African American community about police brutality and the deaths of young black males? Where are members of Congress other than those belonging to the black caucus? My God, the list of those killed is staggering,” she writes, “yet this is not a new phenomenon. Baltimore’s Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old who suffered spinal injuries while in police custody and died, is but the most recent. Yet you see only the usual black activists speaking up.”

True. The missing paragraph, however,  is this: “Where are the African-American activists asking why so many young black men are constantly in positions that place them in conflict with the police? When protesters chant the names and carry photos of police victims like Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, yes, and Mike Brown, they are presenting in honored terms African-Americans who weren’t credits to their communities or examples for the next generation to emulate. Indeed this ritual sanctifies lives and backgrounds that are part of the same urban pathology as the police attitudes that killed them.”

Freddie Gray was only 25-years-old, and yet he already had a staggering 18 previous arrests since he turned 18-years-old. His mother was a heroin addict; he had no father in his life. Why was someone like this even out of jail, in a position to become yet another victim of police anger and contempt against the endless wave of young, irresponsible, law-defying young men who undermine the vitality of their own communities and the nation?

The fact that Gray’s death was undeniably the greater outrage shouldn’t allow the outrage of lives like his to be ignored. Black crime and police dysfunction are part of the same pathology. If only the Bill O’Reillys are going to ask the hard questions about black communities policing their young and changing their deadly culture—and are they really hard for O’Reilly, whose audience is inclined to look for ways to side with the police even when they commit murder?—then those questions and their equally hard answers, involving, among other things, avoidance of responsibility and accountability, can be and will be largely ignored.

This is part of the loyalty to “the group” phenomenon that cripples the African-American community and warps its values. It is especially powerful when prominent leaders, those African-Americans who should be leading the way away from self-destructive conduct and who have the power, visibility, and credibility to do so, demonstrate an atrocious lack of ethics themselves. Where are the black voices—those not belonging to black women he sexually assaulted, that is—condemning Bill Cosby? Or Al Sharpton? Charles Rangel?

Washington, D.C.’s overwhelmingly black population was conditioned to accept black leadership outrages by the late Marion Barry. I was not quite aware of the extent of this cultural purging of the ability to hold prominent African-Americans to ethical standards until I read a jaw-dropping Washington Post feature about the wife of local civil rights legend Walter E. Fauntroy, who helped Martin Luther King plan the 1963 March on Washington, and who served as the District’s congressional delegate for two decades. The tone of the article is enough to make a reader think he or she is going mad. The loving 80-year-old wife, Dorothy Fauntroy, speaks about her husband in glowing terms that nothing in the article suggests is inappropriate. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race

Ethics Hero: Toya Graham, The Baltimore Riot’s “Mom of the Year”

It is odd that the now-anointed “mom of the year” is a woman videotaped beating her son, and rather violently at that. That’s the Ethics Incompleteness Principle for you: even conduct that is “always” unethical may be made ethical by unusual circumstances. Seeing your grown son participating in looting and rioting that are destroying your neighborhood changes the rules, or perhaps makes them inapplicable.

Here is what the unidentified woman (UPDATE: Her name is Toya Graham) was doing that is an ethical duty: she was fixing the problem to the extent she could. Utilitarian? Yup. Would Kant approve? Well, if every mother of those rioters intervened, they would have had more success than the Baltimore police did.

As for the Golden Rule, her conduct passes that test as well. If I were getting pulled into violent, mindless mob violence like that kid, I would want my caring parents to stop me by any means short of shooting me. If it were my son wearing that hood, I’d be tackling him.

I don’t know if she’s really “Mom of the Year”—I’d like to think that a really exemplary mother won’t raise a rioter.  She’s an Ethics Hero, though, beyond question.

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