Category Archives: Romance and Relationships

Remembering Another False “Memory”: The Rosenblats, Oprah, and the Holocaust Love Story

Herman and Roma

Herman and Roma

Somehow I missed this story, because if I had noticed it, I know I would have written about it. Maybe you missed it too.

Herman Rosenblat died on Feb. 5, and his death was noted in several publications, not for his life, which included surviving the Holocaust, but because of a charming story he told that turned out to false. He had written in a memoir about a mysterious young girl on the other side of the barbed wire fence who help kept him alive as a starving teenage inmate at Buchenwald. As recounted in another book:

“He saw her pull something from her pocket. An apple? She squinted, gauging the distance between them, swung her arm in a few practice throws, then hurled the apple with a force that surprised him. The fruit flew across most of the distance between them before it dropped to the ground, rolled under the fence and landed just inches beyond the wire on Herman’s side.”

Day after day, the same mysterious “angel,” as he thought of her, risked her life by throwing apples to him over the fence.

Twelve years after the war, he had a blind date in Coney Island. His date told him about her experiences in Europe during the war, and how she wondered what had become of a young boy she remembered throwing apples to in a German death camp.  Stunned, Herman said that he asked, “Did he wear rags on his feet instead of shoes?”  When she answered that he did, Herman exclaimed, ‘That boy was me!” They were married, and it was a loving union that lasted 56 years. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, History, Love, Romance and Relationships

Note To Dr. Vesna Roi: Homophobes Can’t Be Doctors….Ethical Ones, Anyway

First, do no harm. Second, don't be a gratuitously cruel asshole.

First, do no harm. Second, don’t be a gratuitously cruel asshole.

Jami and Krista Contreras waited in the exam room for their newborn child’s first checkup. Then they were informed that the doctor they had asked to see had decided, after “much prayer,” that she could not treat the baby because its parents are lesbians.

Presumably the doctor,Vesna Roi, does not habitually require her patients’ parents to fill out a questionnaire to prove the are sufficiently morally worthy to have their infant receive medical care. Nonetheless, so vile does she consider this couple that she feels it is the Lord’s will that she withhold her services from the innocent child they have undertaken to love and raise.

I probably do not need to tell you, and I certainly should not have to remind “Dr”–and I use the title advisedly–Roi that this cruel and hateful conduct is a flaming breach of medical ethics, though no rules should be necessary to persuade a medical professional to have a heart and a soul. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Family, Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, Professions, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

The President’s Irresponsible And Untrue “One in Five Women Are Raped” Claim

In a video that aired during the Grammy Awards on Feb. 8, President Obama stated, as President of the United States and a certifiable hero to the kind of citizens who watch the Grammy Awards, this:

“Right now, nearly one in five women in America has been a victim of rape or attempted rape.”

Let’s begin with the fact that this is false, or at least, there is no reason to believe it is true, or even close to true. (More about this in a minute.) Was the President’s statement a lie? We can’t tell. If the President believes that rape is so common that 20% of all women are raped, then what he said is not a lie (a false statement knowingly made by the speaker in order to deceive), which leads to some uncomplimentary conclusions:

a. He has a remarkably low opinion of his own nation and culture…but then we knew that, didn’t we?

b. He believes what he is told without challenging it or examining an assertions’ origin, methodology and assumptions. Really? This guy is supposed to be brilliant. I would think such a jaw-dropping and frightening statistic would mandate some examination, but see a.

c.  Why hasn’t this been a major focus of his administration? Isn’t the President alarmed about this? Why is the Attorney General running around the country holding the hands of parents of dead kids who attack police officers and fighting attempts to make voters prove who they are at the polls if women are being raped like The U.S. is the Congo? Why is the Presidentusing his time to make faces on videos to sell Obamacare? Isn’t this clearly a reason to make one of his “I will not rest” speeches, in this case not resting until the rape frequency in the Land of the Free is lower than that of a Columbia ghetto? He believes 20% of the women in the country under his stewardship  being raped in their lifetimes doesn’t rate mentioning in his “if wishes were horses” State of the Union, and relegates this horrendous health and crime emergency to…the Grammys?

If Obama doesn’t know if the stat is true, but said it anyway, then he was irresponsible. He’s President of the United States; people believe him, even after the shattered pledge of transparency and “If you like  your health care plan…” and the “red line” and all the rest. He can not fairly, honestly, ethically state that something is true when he doesn’t know whether it is true or not. That is a lie, then: not the statistic itself, but the implication that he believes it.

Or he knows the statement is false, and made it to deceive, because the ends justifies the means.

In the discussion following last week’s post about the persistence of the false narrative that Bush’s 2000 electoral vote victory was “stolen,” I briefly referenced the now mostly abandoned fake “1 in five” statistic  on campus rape, the one that prompted the 2014 Unethical Quote of the Year from Senator Claire McCaskill when it was debunked. This prompted blog warrior Liberal Dan to re-state the President’s proposition, since he is one of those people who continue to believe the President despite all evidence to the contrary. “One in 5 women are raped,” he wrote, unequivocally, linking to a 2011 New York Times study.

I wish I had the time and space to muse about what it says about an intelligent American when a stat like that one, whether it is used by the Times, the President, or Lena Dunham, doesn’t set off his or her ethics alarms, Fake-Stat-O-Meter and bullshit buzzer. This is what happens, though, when the President makes a factual assertion. I knew the stat was crap; I just don’t have the time to prove it’s crap to people who want to believe it. I assumed someone would pretty quickly, and sure enough, the Washington Post’s hard-working, liberal-biased but diligently trying to compensate Fact-checker Glenn Kessler came through.

In his Washington Post column today, Kessler gives us the results of his research into Obama’s lazy/irresponsible/dishonest claim. His findings? Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

Instant Ethics Train Wreck: The Alabama Gay Marriage Stand-off

What does Dred Scott have to do with the Alabama gay marriage mess? Absolutely nothing.

What does Dred Scott have to do with the Alabama gay marriage mess? Absolutely nothing.

This summer, the Supreme Court will again take up the issue of the Constitutionality of state gay marriage bans, having left the question open (why, I don’t know) after striking down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013. Since that ruling, the states have been busy little bees, some passing laws banning same-sex marriage, some doing the opposite, then fighting out multiple appeals at various levels of the judicial system. Three things are certain: the cultural and legal acceptance of same-sex marriage looks unstoppable; all states need to agree on what a legal marriage is; and some faith-based same-sex marriage opponents will not give in until the last dog dies.

Beginning at the end of last week, a messy situation in Alabama involving all of these factors burst into a full-fledged ethics train wreck. The links in this post will let you immerse yourself in the mess if you choose: I’m going to try to be clear. Here is what has transpired so far:

1) A federal judge, District Court Judge Callie V. Granade,  struck down the state’s ban  on same-sex marriages in January and said that Alabama could start issuing licenses last week unless the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in and stayed her order. A stay was immediately requested by the Alabama Attorney General, who properly defended the state’s law.

2.) The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to step in and stop her order from going into effect.

3) The U.S. Supreme Court also refused the stay request, allowing marriages to proceed in Alabama.

4) Roy Moore, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, reminded everyone that probate judges report to him, not the federal judge and not the Attorney General, and do not have to issue marriage licenses to gay couples until he tells them to. He told them not to.

5) Some Alabama probate judges followed Moore, and some went ahead and issued the licenses. Mass confusion reigned.

6) Meanwhile, the refusal of the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a stay pending its ruling on state same-sex marriage laws later this year was widely interpreted as tantamount to SCOTUS deciding the case before it was even argued.

7) Justice Clarence Thomas, in a dissent from the  majority’s rejection of the stay (we don’t know what the vote break was), argued that “This acquiescence may well be seen as a signal of the Court’s intended resolution of that question. This is not the proper way to discharge our . . . responsibilities.”

8) Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, meanwhile, appeared to endorse gay marriage in an interview.

9) Attempting to break the impasse, U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade ordered Mobile County, Alabama to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, paving the way for resistant officials across the state to follow suit, in a decision stating that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage had been struck down and that ­Mobile County’s probate judge had to adhere to that decision.

10) Chief Justice Moore remains unmoved, but now most of the probate judges are following the federal order.

Got that?

Good, now you can explain it to me.

What a mess.

Here are the ethics verdicts on the participants so far: Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

Advice Malpractice: Good Advice Columnist, Bad Advice Columnist

"Go jump in a lake!"

“Go jump in a lake!”

I cannot imagine being so bereft of wisdom, friends and mentors that I would ever be moved to ask a stranger to advise me regarding an important decision based solely on a letter describing my problem. Nevertheless, a lot of poor souls apparently do, and because they do, many of them probably act on the advice they get from Beth, Abby, The Ethicist and the rest. This means that anyone with the ego and chutzpah to hold themselves out as qualified to give such advice is ethically obligated to be able to do a competent job at it, and at very least to “do no harm.” Yes, unlike the law, advice columnist is one of the professions where the traditional ethical mission of medicine is not just appropriate, but essential.

Most advice columnists in the media are not competent, and some are dangerously reckless. The worst thing an advice columnist can do is to use the trusting and needy stranger as a potential recruit to steer toward the columnist’s ideologically-driven goals. The question being asked by desperate advice seekers, after all, is not “What would you do?” but rather “What should I do?” If the columnist answers the question presuming that the advice-seeker does or should see the world as the advice columnist does, then doing harm is the likely result.

Carolyn Hax ( Washington Post) is a wonderful advice columnist, and Emily Yoffe (“Dear Prudence”) is the other kind. Two recent responses by them illustrate the distinction between competent, skilled and ethical advice, and advice column malpractice. Continue reading

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Case Study In “When Ethics Fail, Law Takes Over”: Harvard’s Prof-Student Romance Ban

Harvard_yard_winter_2009j

Harvard used to just say “it’s wrong,” but left it up to the faculty’s ethics in the school’s infinite faith in its own superior virtue. My Freshman Humanities professor, poet William Alfred, was married to a former student. As is usually the case in this matter, ethics alone often wasn’t enough to restrain the lust of  many aging, prestigious, powerful professors facing a veritable cornucopia of luscious, young, ambitious co-eds they could court using brains, worldly wiles, charm and the promise of good grades. Now the profs have more to bolster their self-control…from the New York Times:

Harvard University has adopted a ban on professors having sexual or romantic relationships with undergraduate students, joining a small but growing number of universities prohibiting such relationships. The move comes as the Obama administration investigates the handling of accusations of sexual assault at dozens of colleges, including Harvard.

The ban clarifies an earlier policy that labeled sexual and romantic relationships between professors and the students they teach as inappropriate, but did not explicitly prohibit professors from having relationships with students they did not teach.

Harvard said in a statement released Thursday that the change was made after a panel reviewing the institution’s policy on Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education, determined that the university’s existing policy language on “relationships of unequal status did not explicitly reflect the faculty’s expectations of what constituted an appropriate relationship between undergraduate students and faculty members.” It said the committee revised the policy “to include a clear prohibition to better accord with these expectations…Besides banning sexual and romantic relationships between professors and all undergraduates, the policy also bans such relationships between teaching staff, such as graduate students, and the students who fall under their supervision or evaluation.

Good. Long overdue.

This is also an excellent use of Harvard’s status and leadership, as the oldest and most famous institution of higher learning. Other universities will now suddenly be responsible as well.

Gee, do you think Harvard took my advice?

Nahhh.

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Filed under Education, Gender and Sex, Professions, Romance and Relationships, Workplace

Unethical Ex Of The Month, Paige Dunham: Hell Hath No Fury Like A Ventriloquist’s Wife Spurned…

The ventriloquist and his spouses. Can you guess which is the ex?

The ventriloquist and his spouses, past and present. Can you guess which is the ex?

I suspect there’s a sad story behind this one that many a betrayed spouse can identify with. Did Paige Dunham stand shoulder to shoulder with her husband, Jeff Dunham in the lean years when he was struggling ventriloquist (and really, what could be worse, struggling accordion virtuoso?) only to have him toss her away like an old shoe once he hit the jackpot and became a rich and famous celebrity, as he sought and won a flashier spouse to match his flashier lifestyle? It sure looks like it.

Nevertheless, what Paige Dunham did to her ex-spouse’s Shiny New Model Audrey Dunham can’t be justified ethically. It is also apparently illegal. Continue reading

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