Tag Archives: mothers

The Unlikely Ethics Dunce, And Why Nobody Pays Attention To Ethicists And I Don’t Blame Them

Wait, how can the nation's most famous ethicist be an Ethics Dunce? It's not easy...

Wait, how can the nation’s most famous ethicist be an Ethics Dunce? It’s not easy…

Ethicists have managed to make ethics nearly invisible in our cultural debates, and nearly useless as a decision-making tool, when it ought to be the most useful tool of all. They accomplished this over centuries of work, making the discipline of ethics abstruse, elitist, abstract, and worse of all, boring. Nobody should be bored with ethics, hence my statement, “Ethics isn’t boring, ethicists are.” Once ethics was pigeon-holed in the realm of philosophy, however (it belongs with “crucial life skills” and “critical thinking”) and philosophy became associated with scholarship, advanced degrees and academia, the jig was up.

The problem is that academic ethicists teach and write about abstract ethics, and life is not abstract. Their quest is for one formula to determine right from wrong, and life and human beings are more complicated than any one formula can encompass. When I started this blog, I got a lot of grad students writing me who demanded to know whether I was a Utilitarian,  Kantian Deontologist, a follower of Natural Law Ethics,  a Virtue Ethicist or a devotee of Stakeholder theory. My answer was “all of the above and none of them.” All of these and more are useful tools of analysis, but none work all the time, and the amount of words loaded into jargon to explain and debate the nuances of any of them render them all useless except for  writing scholarly papers.

The ethics that the public learns, as a result, are what pop culture and society teach them, and most of that isn’t ethics at all. For example, in the cable series “The Affair,” a well-educated older man was advising a young woman, the mistress in the affair, about how to think about the illicit relationship that broke up he lover’s marriage. Wise and thoughtful, he described his own adulterous affair, and then said, “What you did wasn’t wrong. You didn’t kill anybody. You didn’t break any laws.  Don’t be so hard on yourself.”  There is no ethics in that statement. Itis just employs two popular and facile rationalizations (#4. Marion Barry’s Misdirection, or “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical,” and #22, the worst of all, #22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”) with another lurking but unspoken one, the Cheater’s Special, #23. Woody’s Excuse: “The heart wants what the heart wants,’ underlying the whole scene.

That’s ethics, I would guess, to about 90% of the population. Scary. This is, however, where ethicists have taken us. They could be so important to the culture, if they would get their heads out of their asinine models and explain ethical principles that are relevant to real lives in a manner that doesn’t make normal people become hostile to the subject.

This brings us to Peter Singer, Princeton’s acclaimed professor of bioethics who has been called the most influential ethicist alive. It is admittedly faint praise, but probably correct. Continue reading


Filed under Bioethics, Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Health and Medicine, Professions

“Why Does Hillary Think Her E-mail Scandal Is So Funny?” And Other Brief Ethics Notes To Get The Week Off To A Depressing Start…

W dead guns

Most Unethical Grieving Mother Of The Year

A caring  friend of Chanelle Chavis created a GoFundMe account asking for donations to Chavis’ 3-year-old daughter’s Camber’s funeral after the grieving mom told the friend that her daughter had died in an accident.  Later, moved by the plea, a woman gave  Chavis a $5,000 personal check to pay for Camber’s funeral expenses after Channelle exchanged text messages with her.

Nearly a month later, investigators found that the body of Camber Chavis was still in deep freeze at the funeral home, and no arrangements for burial had been made. Oh—this was no boating accident. The little girl had been murdered by her father.

On October 16, Chanelle Chavis pleaded guilty to obtaining money by false pretenses, a misdemeanor, and received a six month suspended sentence.

These cases of conning people into donating money are basically  all the same, but bit by bit, they make our society less kind, less generous, and less trusting. The law may see this is a minor crime, but there is nothing minor about the damage it does to our society.

Sure, We Don’t Need Guns… Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, Popular Culture, U.S. Society

Audience Ethics And Ethics Dunce Kelvin Moon Loh

"I hear child screaming in audience, so audience cannot hear King. Is a puzzlement! But brave..."

“I hear child screaming in audience, so audience cannot hear King. Is a puzzlement! But brave…”

I don’t want to be harsh, because Mr. Loh is obviously a sensitive and compassionate young man who means well. However, he is also receiving plaudits on Facebook and in the media for taking a position that is not ethical, and is in fact just more political correctness guilt-mongering and double standard-peddling. It is also likely to provoke disrespectful and arrogant parents to believe that they have a right to impose their problems on unsuspecting theater audiences.

At  Broadway’s Vivian Beaumont Theater, a screaming child disrupted a matinee performance of “The King and I.”  Some members of the audience agitated for the child to be removed, and the woman with the child indeed left.

One of the understudies in the production, Kelvin Moon Loh, defended the woman who brought the child to the performance in a post on his Facebook page, in which he assumed the kid was autistic and used the incident to argue for compassion and “inclusiveness” in the theater, and compassion.  Loh actually praised the woman as “brave.” Brave she may be; she also was selfish, irresponsible, disrespectful and absolutely wrong.

This is not an issue of tolerance. This is not an issue of compassion. The ethical issue is whether one person has a right, and can be right, to ruin a theatrical performance for the rest of the audience, or to unreasonably risk doing so. It’s an easy call: noNever. It is no more “brave” to take a child who cannot behave properly to a Broadway show (or any show) than it is to take a cranky infant to a movie. This is not like the airplane situation, where the mother has no choice, and the child’s noise doesn’t interfere with the flight’s main purpose, which is to get to the destination. The mother doesn’t have to see “The King and I,” nor does she have to bring her child to potentially disrupt it. Doing so is inconsiderate; defending her conduct, as Loh does, stands for a kind of etiquette affirmative action, in which being the mother of an autistic child relieves one of any obligation to care about anyone else. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Family

From The”On The Other Hand” Files: Before You Are Too Hard On Feminists Who Arrive At College Resenting Men, Read This…

Street harassment sign There is are good reasons why many women come to think of all men as potential predators.

Valerie Steighner authored a powerful essay titled “My 11-Year-Old Daughter Just Got Catcalled for the First Time and I Don’t Know How To Teach Her to Protect Herself From Predators.” Please read it. Here’s an excerpt:

She is 11 years old. She just graduated from elementary school and still plays with small plastic animals. And now along with vocab words, I have to teach her how to protect herself from disgusting men.

I told her that what that man did is called catcalling and catcalling is aggressive behavior and the best action is to ignore it. Usually, men that are willing to yell slurs about you and your body, if provoked, can be unpredictable and dangerous; it’s best to keep walking; don’t make eye contact and stand tall. 

I felt so defeated as the words came out of my mouth. Basically, there is nothing we can do, but pretend it’s not happening….Obviously, I was sexually active all through my twenties, but there is a difference from being what others want and finding what you need…The predator lives everywhere. He lives on our streets, in our grocery stores, on our billboards and in our malls. He constantly reminds us what our value is and where we belong. How do I teach her to catch him, see him and to protect herself from him?  How do I teach her that her body is not a source of shame but a source of power and strength? How do I teach her to hear the predator’s words to know what they mean and still stand tall and confident? How do I teach her to protect herself and still be open?

It sucks. It sucks that this has to happen to my daughter in 6th grade. It sucks that it’s only the beginning. It sucks that she has to learn about her body in the context of men noticing it. 

What also sucks is that the problem is a failure of ethics and civilization to move fast enough. Men are programmed to want sex and to procreate, and once upon a time in America the kind of conduct a disgusting 50-year old focused on the writer’s barely pubescent daughter was a cultural norm. In some places, it still is. Women had no other function but to find a man, have his children and make the home run smoothly, and not finding a man was, in some settings, a catastrophe. In the American West, a woman in her thirties who was uneducated and unmarried was very likely to end up a prostitute: it was the single largest occupation for unmarried women. When so many women are whores, men get in the habit of treating women as whores, and women who don’t want that fate will provide positive reinforcement to flirtations that are really harassment and disrespect. [You can find the many Ethics Alarms posts related to this topic here]

Old habits supported by hormones, traditions and bad role models—like, say, Jack Kennedy, Joe Biden and Donald Trump–will die hard or not die at all. In many ways, the culture still supports the ugly behavior Steighner’s daughter experienced. Many ways.  For example, in a current Geico commercial, the Gecko shows his trophy accompanied by that briefly popular song “Whoomp! There it is!,”  which is essentially street harassment in song form. You will also hear it in sporst stadiums. Continue reading


Filed under Childhood and children, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Love, Popular Culture, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

NPR Was Going On Today About The Terrible Scourge Of Sex-Selection Abortion In India, And How Girls In India, “Have To Fight For Their Rights Before They’re Even Born”…Wait, WHAT???

You're exaggerating: they were just potential baby girls...

You’re exaggerating: they were just potential baby girls…

Driving from Boston to Providence, I had an opportunity to listen to a Public Radio International report (via Boston’s NPR station, WGBH) about the shortage of women in India as a result of sex-selection abortion. I heard an  interview with an activist in Mumbai who was fighting to get more laws passed to prevent the process as a violation of women’s rights. “The most basic right of all,” intoned a female reporter. “The right to exist.”

Waiiit a minute. As the Robot used to say on “Lost in Space,” “That does not compute.”

This same network routinely features angry, self-righteous and mocking feminists who condemn as the paleolithic enemies of women any one who dares to question the ethics of abortion on demand. The unborn have no right to exist, says NOW, NARAL, Nancy Pelosi, the casual harvesters of little livers at Planned Parenthood, and when they are talking about the U.S., NPR.

In India, however, there is a right to exist, and feminists are fighting for it.

Sorry to be obtuse, and I realize I may be missing something, but what is the outrageous distinction here that makes an Indian mother’s abortion of a healthy, gestating girl because dowries are too expensive and boys are more lucrative a human rights violation, worthy of that special tone of sadness and superiority NPR announcers get, but Laura from Nebraska’s abortion of her healthy, gestating boy because she doesn’t want to interrupt graduate school and isn’t wild about the father a noble expression of modern female power? Continue reading


Filed under Around the World, Bioethics, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

Law vs. Ethics: A Snatched Bar Mitzvah Gift, A Leaky AG, An Embarrassing Scoreboard, and”OINK”


I try to keep my legal ethics seminars up-to-the-minute, so while preparing for yesterday’s session with the Appellate Section of the Indiana Bar, I came across a bunch of entertaining stories in which the ethics were a lot clearer than the law, or vice-versa. All of them could and perhaps should sustain separate posts; indeed, I could probably devote the blog entirely to such cases.

Here are my four favorites from the past week’s legal news, involving a mother-son lawsuit, a brazenly unethical attorney general, a college scoreboard named after a crook, and police officer’s sense of humor: Continue reading


Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Family, Finance, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Professions, Rights, Sports, U.S. Society

Update: More Abortion Advocate Struggles With Ethics In The Midst Of The Planned Parenthood Videos Revelations


As the pro-abortion lobby has rushed to defuse the ticking time bomb of comprehension that might make lazy and inattentive American think. “Wait, that’s what happens in an abortion?,” its dishonest, desperate, and unethical arguments have been as revealing as the videos themselves, and as damning.

Frankly, I’ve been surprised: they really don’t have much that makes ethical sense, just “it’s legal!” and “It’s Our Bodies And We’ll Kill If We Want To!” (a little known B-side flop by the recently departed Leslie Gore.)  I recently wrote about their defenses in the posts Planned Parenthood Videos Surprise: Forced To Defend Abortion Ethics Acknowledging The Existence Of A Second Human Life In The Equation, Advocates Run Out Of Arguments (Part One) and Part Two: Bad Analogies. As I wrote in the latter: “If an advocate has persuasive, honest, strong arguments not based on fallacies and rationalizations, I assume that those would be the ones he or she would use.”

More evidence that they don’t possess them and also don’t care to have an honest debate recently came to light.

The most bizarre was an article in the Washington Post ostensibly about the ongoing drama at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. The female panda there gave birth to twins (“Awwwww!”) then abandoned and neglected the smaller one (“OH NO!!!”) which soon died. Before the little panda’s demise, those clever abortion advocates of the Post saw an opportunity, and had a female reporter, Sarah Kaplan, author an article which the Post titled “The perfectly sensible reason why panda mothers and other creatures selectively abandon babies.”

If you want to think it’s a coincidence, go ahead. I don’t. To Kaplan’s credit, she avoided any overt analogies to human beings, and played it straight, as she always does. (She’s a terrific reporter.) Still, there is that headline. It’s sensible to “abandon” babies that will be too difficult for the mother to care for, “abandon” in the wild being the equivalent of “kill.” This points to  Rationalization #51—the latest on the Ethics Alarms list-–as a defense for abortion: “It’s natural.” Continue reading


Filed under Animals, Bioethics, Childhood and children, Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Religion and Philosophy