Category Archives: Family

Ethics Lessons From An Ethical Life: James Garner, 1928-2014

Brett_Maverick_-_James_Garner

To me, James Garner will always be Bret Maverick, his black hat worn girlishly on the back of his head, or “The Scrounger” in “The Great Escape,” a role modeled after Garner’s real-life exploits in the military. For some reason Garner’s aging through the years—his health issues ranged from a heart by-pass to knee replacements and several strokes—bothered me more than that of most stars from my youth. His death bothers me more. James Garner always struck me as a someone who should be perpetually young. Of course, I feel the same way about myself.

By all accounts from contemporaries, fans and colleagues, he was a decent, fair and usually amiable man who never let stardom turn him into a monster, as so many do. He had a single, long-lasting marriage and a stable family; he was not fodder for tabloids with affairs, illegitimate children, drug abuse or DUI arrests. He did apparently have a penchant for punching people in the nose who insulted him to his face, a habit about which he was unapologetic. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Family, Popular Culture, Professions, Workplace

Ethics Trainwreck At The Border

border-warehousing-children-bbtx

Eight ethics observations on the army of child illegals clogging the Mexican border:

1. I predicted this would happen four years ago, and anyone who was paying attention should have been able to as well. Both the actions of President Obama, in essentially enacting the unethical “Dream Act” by fiat, and the rhetoric surrounding the “Dream Act” itself, constituted a national invitation to parents to send their children to the border. A nation cannot provide incentives to break the law, celebrate those who break it, and then credibly tell us that they are dismayed when a flood of law-breakers appear.

2. Even more influential in attracting desperate children to the border has been the loud, reckless and irresponsible messages coming from all quarters that the U.S. doesn’t regard law-breaking as anything but admirable and forgivable when children are involved. California, to the applause of lawyers and most of my colleagues in the legal ethics establishment, has allowed an illegal immigrant, brought here as a child, to practice law. Jeb Bush, proving himself to be muddle-headed, a rank sentimentalist, or a coward, pronounced illegal immigration with children as “an act of love.” Come on—the United States of America isn’t going to make love illegal, is it? Didn’t we just go through this with gay marriage? Democrats and illegal immigration advocates use the term “comprehensive immigration reform” as a code for “open borders,” and the code has been cracked in South America. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, U.S. Society

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

Comment of The Day (Public Service Message Division): “Wanetta Gibson Is Even Worse Than We Thought”

Wait a second...I'm getting my rifle...

Wait a second…I’m getting my rifle…

We haven’t had one of these in a while, and I’m feeling like having a good fish-shoot in the ol’ barrel, so here we go….

Apparently there has been another development in the Wanetta Gibson saga—I know this because the last post about this horrible woman is suddenly getting traffic again—and this has moved one Terrance Skerrette—I sure hope there’s just one— to enter one of those periodic comments I receive here that serves as a public service announcement for the ethically-challenged. You know the kind—Saturday Night Live parodies of such spots used to be a staple:

“Hello. I’m Jack Marshall, and this is Terrance. Terrance was raised in an environment that left him with an inability to understand ethics. That’s right–he will go through life justifying horrendous conduct by using rationalizations, hideous logic, and warped values. Will you help Terrance? No, he can’t be helped by treatment, but perhaps, if you give generously, we can provide him with a comfortable shack in the forest and plenty of food, so he can live comfortably without infecting anyone else with his hopeless ethical ignorance and dangerous excuses for terrible conduct. Please send your generous contributions to “Help Terrance,” care of Ethics Alarms. Thank you. Terrance would thank you too, but he probably thinks you are evil.”

Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

Ethics Quiz: Virginia’s Forced Vasectomy

"Well, they can't all be "shouting fire in a crowded theater," Oliver. So you had an off day....it happens.

“Well, they can’t all be “shouting fire in a crowded theater,” Oliver. So you had an off day….it happens.

One of the skeletons in the Old Dominion State’s closet is the 1924 “Virginia Eugenical Sterilization Act,” a  law allowing the sterilization of citizens adjudged to be in a long line of mentally deficient idiots. The law was upheld in the infamous  1927 Supreme Court opinion in Buck v. Bell, in which the great Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, to his undying shame, wrote,

“It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind…Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

So approved, Virginia’s eugenics law lasted into the 1970s, allowing the state to sterilize more than 7,000 people in mental institutions. The law was repealed in 1979, and victims are seeking reparations. Now the ghost of that law is hovering over the resolution of a current case.

The only thing Virginian Jessie Lee Herald has done on his 27 years more than get in trouble with the law is have children: so far he has had seven (with six mothers) and his current wife says she wants more. He recently fled the scene of a car crash with his injured 3-year-old son. Herald pleaded guilty to felony child endangerment, felony hit-and-run, and misdemeanor driving on a suspended license. Investigators who went to his home found his child to have been neglected, with, among other things, shards of glass in his diapers.

A Shenandoah County prosecutor, Illona White, proposed a plea deal that would reduce Herald’s prison sentence to just four years: he would have to agree to a vasectomy. He took the deal, which also requires him to pay for the operation.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

 Is it ethical for a state to make a convicted felon choose between prison time and sterilization?

Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Citizenship, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, History, Law & Law Enforcement

Grand Master Of Deceit

"May the spin be with you..."

“May the spin be with you…”

I thought about adding his name to the title, but really: who else could I be referring to?

I think it’s good to know, comforting even, that Bill Clinton is still shameless, still at the top of his game, still adept at manipulating language for the deception of gullible listeners. So much changes! The Tunnel Tree lies on the forest floor among the great Sequoias, the Great Stone Face has fallen off the mountain, and Jennifer Connelly no longer looks like a Vargas Girl. Yet Bill Clinton goes on, spinning, parsing, obfuscating, lying like the master he is. It’s almost inspiring.

Almost.

Bill recently showed he was still in playing trim by offering a deceitful defense of his wife’s absurd claim that Hill and Bill were “dead broke” when they left the White House, telling NBC’s David Gregory that “It is factually true that we were several million dollars in debt.” Yup, and here are several other things that are factually true: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Family, Finance, Government & Politics

Betrayal of Trust: The Turncoat Virginia State Senator

Senator Puckett and daughter: 'Anything for little girl...even screwing over my constituents...'

Senator Puckett and daughter: ‘Anything for my little girl…even screwing over my constituents…’

Virginia Republicans are preparing for a show-down with Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe over the state budget and the expansion of Medicare to handle uninsured Virginians under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Unfortunately for them, Democrats hold the majority in the state Senate, or did, until some smoke-filled room maneuvering persuaded a conflicted Democratic state senator to resign, giving the GOP control of the chamber, at least for a while. Democratic Sen. Phillip P. Puckett ’s unexpected departure gives Republicans a 20-to-19 majority.

The Washington Post reported that Puckett (D-Russell) will announce his resignation from the Virginia Senate, effective immediately, paving the way for his daughter to continue as a district judge and for Puckett to take the job of deputy director of the state tobacco commission. Rationalizations for the move are flying, particularly as it affects Puckett’s daughter. Martha Puckett Ketron is already a Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court judge. Circuit Court judges in Southwestern Virginia gave her a temporary appointment last year while the General Assembly, which approves judicial appointments for the state, was in recess. The Virginia House of Delegates approved her appointment to a six-year term when it reconvened earlier this year, but the Senate rejected the appointment because of its standing policy against appointing the relatives of active legislators to the bench. (It’s a good policy.) Thus, you see, Daddy’s resignation directly benefits his little girl, though it stabs his party and his constituents right in their backs.

This is known as a conflict of interest. The soon-to-be ex-senator needs to bone up on the concept and its ramifications.The ethical way to handle this conflict would be for Puckett to refuse to do anything to influence the resolution of his daughter’s appointment whatsoever.

“It [that is, the resignation] should pave the way for his daughter,” said Republican Delegate Terry Kilgore, who sure looks like the architect of this smelly deal.  “She’s a good judge. . . . I would say that he wanted to make sure his daughter kept her judgeship. A father’s going do that.”

Not if he’s ethical, he won’t. The spin Republicans are putting on this is that Puckett is resigning for his daughter, and after that decision was made, Kilgore, who serves as the chairman of the state tobacco commission, offered him the post of deputy director. Not as a quid pro quo, mind you. Because he was qualified for the job.

Right.

Even if this was the actual sequence, and I doubt it, it has the appearance of impropriety and undermines public trust. That makes it the kind of transaction legislators are bound to avoid. The Huffington Post’s headline on the story is “GOP Straight Up Bribes Democratic Senator In Effort To Block Obamacare,” which is stating one interpretation of an ambiguous sequence of events as fact….lousy and unethical journalism, but as I said, this is the Huffington Post.

It could be that Puckett, on his own or even at the behest of his daughter, resigned so he could stay a judge, and then, realizing that Republicans would benefit and that he would be a pariah in his own party, negotiated the deal that got him his new job. It could also be that the Republicans, seeking a Senate majority, cooked this up, offered Puckett a package he couldn’t refuse (because he’s a corrupt and disloyal public servant), and thus it really was a quid pro quo deal. Note that Huffpo, biased as it is, frames this so the GOP is the villain.

This is not technically bribery, which is a crime. This is slimy, nauseating politics, but classic sausage-making: the Affordable Care Act owes its very existence to these kind of deals and worse. The question isn’t whether these maneuvers are ethical–they are not— but whether politics can exist without them, and whether one can have a functioning adversary party system without them. My guess is no. If you like the results of such old-fashioned hard-ball politics, then this is utilitarian: “Lincoln” showed how the 13th Amendment was passed by Lincoln’s operatives and lobbyists picking off weak and conflicted legislators like lions targeting wounded water buffalo. If you object to the results, well then, it’s dirty politics, and an unethical display of “the ends justify the means” at its worst.

But one man, had he integrity and proper respect for the job he had been entrusted by his constituents to do, could have made the whole matter academic by just performing the job he had been elected for, and subordinating his daughter’s career aspirations to his duty. Instead, Phillip P. Puckett betrayed his party, his post, his constituency and his state.

And one more thing: if his daughter were ethical, as judges are supposed to be, she would refuse to keep her judgeship this way.

__________________________

Sources: Washington Post, Huffington Post

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Filed under Character, Family, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

June 6, 1944

D-Day-facts-Landing-on-Beach

If a Terminator wanted to get rid of me and Ethics Alarms, all he would have had to do, perhaps, would be to go back to June 2, 1944, and throw himself on the hand grenade that exploded and blew a hole in Jack Marshall, Sr.’s foot that day. The wound kept my dad in an Army hospital when he was scheduled to hit the beaches at Normandy, 7o years ago today. (He recuperated sufficiently to request a return to active duty, and ended up in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge.)

Thus it is that I have special appreciation and reverence for the American, Canadian* and British soldiers who risked, and in many cases lost, their lives winning a crucial battle in a war about freedom and human rights on June 6, 1944, and empathize with all the sons and daughters, and grandsons and grand-daughters, whose chances at existence were ended that day, while mine, by the sheerest luck, was not.

And I find myself wondering, as America retreats from its traditional ideal as the nation that stands up to evil, chaos, persecution and tyranny in the world, and as our government devalues “hero” and “service with honor” to the status of gratuitous application to a soldier who voluntarily abandoned his comrades on the field of battle, if our culture, our young, and our increasingly self-absorbed society would support the equivalent of a Normandy invasion today.  If not, the world is in greater peril than it knows.

I’m an optimist, and a firm, though shaken, believer in the unique cultural values of the United States of America. I believe that we are one admirable, wise, courageous leader of character away from getting back on the ennobling course charted by Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy and Reagan.

I just wish that I could see, even faintly, such a leader coming over the horizon. I wish he…or she…would hurry the hell up.

* I stupidly omitted mentioning our Canadian allies when I first posted this, and was properly corrected. No slight intended. My apologies.

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Filed under Character, Family, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, U.S. Society, War and the Military

Kids On Leashes: Final Hypotheticals

kids on leashes2

Not to beat a dead dog, but while conversing about this surprisingly contentious issue (here, and here) on Facebook with the ever-thoughtful and provocative Lianne Best (Ethics Alarms congratulations go to Lianne for being honored by NARAL as an Outstanding Advocate For Choice), I realized that I should have posed one more hypothetical for the enthusiastic child-leashers to chew on, to wit:

“Have you ever seen anyone in public with both a kid and a dog on leashes simultaneously?”

Would you do that? And if you wouldn’t, why would having a child on a leash without the dog be any better?

To which Lianne countered with an even better hypothetical:

“How about a parent walking in public with the child on a leash but the dog walking along without one?”

____________________

Spark: Lianne Best

Graphic: Baby Cottage Gifts

 

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Filed under Animals, Childhood and children, Family, Quizzes, U.S. Society

A Futile Ethics Request To Anti-Gun Activists: Don’t Exploit Richard Martinez

Richard Martinez

Richard Martinez

I am certain that plans are already in the works to trot out Richard Martinez, the grieving father of one of the victims of killer Elliot Rodger in his murderous rampage at the University of California in Santa Barbara, for service in hearings, at rallies, for fund-raisers, at protests and in anti-gun ads. The emotionally distraught father provided a ready-made media sound chomp in his CNN rant against anyone and anything that have, in his mind, prevented radical restrictions on guns, those who, in his view, contributed to the death of his son.

“What has changed? Have we learned nothing? These things are going to continue until somebody does something, so where the hell is the leadership? Where the hell are these people we elect to Congress that we spend so much money on? These people are getting rich sitting in Congress, what do they do? They don’t take care of our kids.My kid died because nobody responded to what happened at Sandy Hook. Those parents lost little kids. It’s bad enough that I lost my 20-year-old, but I had 20 years with my son, that’s all I’ll have. But those people lost their children at six and seven years old. How do you think they feel? And who’s talking to them now? Who is doing anything for them now? Who is standing up for those kids that died back then in an elementary school? Why wasn’t something done? It’s outrageous!”

I don’t blame Martinez for how he feels, but I will blame those who exploit him, and I know there is no chance that they won’t.

In 2013, we all saw how every Sandy Hook parent who was sufficiently enraged and camera-worthy fueled the shameless drive to use fear-mongering and exaggeration in the push to finally gut the Second Amendment, as anti-gun activists have so long wanted to do. Martinez is perfect, just as Cindy Sheehan, destroyed because her soldier son died in a war, was custom-fit for pacifists and anti-war advocates, just as a brain-damaged Gabby Giffords was ideal to have recite child-like generalities against firearms in Congress. Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Citizenship, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, U.S. Society