Category Archives: Ethics Heroes

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Hero Emeritus: Edna Gladney (1888-1961)”


I love when a well-considered comment is entered on an older post. It draws my attention back to topics I may have forgotten about, and as in the case of this Comment of the Day, it reminds me of people and things I really shouldn’t forget.

Rebecca, in her first visit to the comments wars, entered this reaction to the post about Edna Gladney (that’s her on the right above, with Greer Garson, her screen avatar, on the left), an amazing woman who should be better known than she is for her  pioneering work on behalf of orphans and unwed mothers. I suggest that you read the post about Edna first, and then read Rebecca’s Comment of the Day. Here it is:

I just recently saw the TCM movie and was instantly taken by her courage and perseverance, especially since I, too, consider myself a child and family advocate. However, once I read about the historical Gladney, I am saddened that Hollywood thought it necessary to change the storyline to “soften” the blow of Edna’s own illegitimacy. Just goes to show how much was (and still is) wrong with the media. Also goes to show how media perpetuates certain attitudes about our societal issues. For example, even though the movie was retrospect, and even though Gladney may have been successful in removing illegitimate designations on birth certificates, society itself was still hell bent on being judgmental….couldn’t even tell the story like it was for fear it wouldn’t be accepted.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Bioethics, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Ethics Heroes, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History

Ethics Heroes: North Carolina Democrats


Someone firebombed a Republican Party office in North Carolina over the weekend, and added some graffiti telling “Nazi Republicans” to leave town. Police are investigating; I don’t know why, since Donald Trump, responsible and fair as ever, already announced that the Clinton campaign did it.

trump-tweet-ncInspired by a tweet from University of North Carolina’s School of Information Science’s Zeynep Tufekci, David Weinberger of Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Technology launched a campaign on GoFundMe to rebuild the ruined office. He wrote on the fund’s page,
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Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, The Internet, U.S. Society, Unethical Tweet

Half Ethics Hero: Wisconsin Talk Radio Host John Murphy


Longtime Eau Claire, Wisconsin radio talk show John Murphy walked out of of his WAYY studio midway through his morning show this week.

He had just finished telling his listeners that he would not be chased out of the industry he loves but that, “I’m through doing this show as it is.” The sports talk show scheduled to follow Murphy started early to cover for his absence after a commercial break. The frustrated talk show host had been on Eau Claire radio for 34 years, for the past 14 years as a host of the “WAYY Morning Show,” a typical local call-in program where the  callers discussed and debated local, state and national news. Murphy quit, he said, because the discourse this year gradually stopped being civil, and had degenerated into a partisan and ugly exchange of nastiness and hate.

“It started with a lot of Trump and Clinton stuff, but now that same kind of vitriol is starting to permeate our local races and local issues,” Murphy explained.  “After a while, day after day and week after week, that starts to wear on you.”  Murphy said he knows that many of the callers hurling insults “are educated, wonderful people who have become caught up in this hurricane of hate.” He says the frustration had been building up inside him for months, and that he was beginning to engage in some of the same behavior he deplored. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, language, U.S. Society, Workplace

Ethics Heroes: The California State Legislature And Gov. Jerry Brown


Usually, when Ethics Alarms headlines California’s lawmakers, it is because they have done something irresponsible, like in this postthis one,  and my personal favorite, this one, in which Governor Jerry Brown signed a minimum wage law that he admitted might not make economic sense, because it was consistent with partisan fantasies.

But a blind pig might find a truffle, every dog has its day, and even a stopped clock is right occasionally. California just passed a desperately needed law that no other state has had the courage to pass. Its purpose: take serious measures to stop prosecutorial misconduct that sends innocent people to jail, a problem that is rampant everywhere in the U.S., but particularly bad in the Golden State.

Brown just signed into law a new statute making it a felony for prosecutors to alter or intentionally withhold evidence that could be used to exonerate defendants. Violators could be sentenced to up to three years in prison. That’s not nearly enough punishment when the crime often robs innocent citizens of decades of their lives, but it sends an important, and one hopes an effective, warning…with teeth. Continue reading


Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Rights

Ethics Hero: “Mama Betty”


In Los Angeles, six thousands of LA County prisoners are housed in Pitchess Detention Center, which is 50 miles from the inner city neighborhoods where most of the prisoners there live. Using public transportation, which is what most friends and family members must use to reach Pitchess, the journey can take up to five hours to visit an inmate for 30 minutes, through a glass window, with no physical contact. The closest bus stop is a mile away from the jail, and at the bottom of a steep hill.

For five years, a woman named Betty Peters, now 76, has picked up visitors at that bus stop and driven them to the prison. She also waits for the women (mostly) to finish their visits, and drives them back to the bus stop. The grateful visitors know her as “Mama Betty.”

This is an act of pure compassion and kindness, and not without its risks. If a visitor tries to smuggle in contraband, drugs or a weapon,Betty could be prosecuted as an accomplice. Nor does she know the character of those whom she ferries from the jail to the bus and back. Might she be at risk of harm herself? I would assume so. Those with criminals as friends and associates are more likely to be criminals themselves.

I hope this story has a happy ending, because every time kindness like this is returned with cruelty and exploitation, the number of Mama Bettys among us is diminished, and our society becomes a little more meaner, more callous, and less ethical.

Ethics Alarms salutes Betty Peters as an Ethics Hero…and worries.

You can hear a podcast about Mama Betty here.


Pointer: Fred.


Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Law & Law Enforcement

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Ann Althouse


I’ve been aware as I watch the election unfold that I am rooting for Donald Trump. I don’t intellectually embrace him or much of what he is saying, but I know — it’s so clear — that I’m rooting for him. That’s an observable phenomenon, and it’s undeniable.

—-Law prof. Ann Althouse, in a post that compares Hillaty vs Trump to Nurse Ratched vs. McMurphy, or the “Goody 2 Shoes” sister, “getting away with stuff on the sly” vs. the brother who “thinks it’s all bullshit” and who is “not going to be your good little boy.”

And the truth shall make us free.

This admission is very brave of Althouse, a professor in a liberal stronghold, Madison, Wisconsin, and a member of an increasingly politically monolithic profession in which favoring a Republican, much less a villainous fool  like Donald Trump, is the equivalent of dire heresy. Her confession is perceptive and illuminating. It explains why this election is so perplexing and conflicting despite Trump’s crippling character deficits. It explains why Hillary “isn’t 50 points ahead.” It is also perhaps the single aspect of the widespread Trump support that taps into something undeniably positive about the United States of America…unlike, for example, the fact that so many voters are ignorant.

I too find myself rooting for Trump while reviling him. It disturbs me, but the response is emotional. People like Hillary Clinton in our lives deserve to face rebellion, and need to be both opposed and exposed. I have spent much of my own life fighting a lot of Hillary Clintons (of both genders).* Seeing their smug, sneaky, cynical and self-satisfied faces covered with pie is one of the great thrills of existence, especially when you have had a hand in steering the course of the pie. Continue reading


Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, Literature, Popular Culture

“The Magnificent Seven” Ethics (Spoiler Warning!)

I have noted more than once what an excellent ethics movie the original 1960 Western classic “The Magnificent Seven” is. Occasional  Ethics Alarms contributor and apparently retired ethics blogger Bob Stone made an excellent case for what he calls his favorite ethics movie here, but the screenplay makes its own case with exchanges like this one:

Harry (Brad Dexter): “There comes a time to turn mother’s picture to the wall and get out. The village will be no worse off than it was before we came.”

Chris (Yul Brenner): “You forget one thing — we took a contract.”

Vin (Steve McQueen): “It’s not the kind any court would enforce.”

Chris: “That’s just the kind you’ve got to keep.”

or the very first scene, where gunslinger Chris volunteers to drive a horse-drawn hearse to Boot Hill where a group of armed bigots are threatening to shoot anyone who tries to bury a recently deceased Indian, who lived in the town, in the town’s cemetery along with “decent white folks.”  Steve McQueen (Vin) goes along as Chris’s wing-man, and the first two of the seven team up for an act of pure altruism.

The remake of the film opened over the weekend, and in part because I’m doing a program for the Smithsonian about the lore surrounding the movie, I saw it. And took notes.

It’s not bad. I enjoyed it. It is yet another example of how Hollywood no longer trusts the Western genre or its traditional trappings: the heroes in this and the heroes in most modern Westerns are now portrayed as super-heroes, ridiculously fast on the draw, absurdly accurate with every shot, and able to ride like circus performers. At a certain point, this silliness leads to a damaging loss of suspension of disbelief. The intrusion of gratuitous diversity was also annoying: the end features three heroes riding into the sunset, and they consist of an African-American, a Native American, and a Mexican. How they missed including a handicapped gay woman is mystifying, and somebody should organize a protest. Well, at least all the whites and the Asian guy were killed. That’s something. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Humor and Satire, Leadership, Popular Culture