Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/19: Fake News, Twin Ethics, Bonnie And Clyde, And A Deadly Date

Good morning!

I would give you all a big hug, a squeeze, and maybe a sniff, but that’s not me...

1. This is fake news, you know. Today’s headline on the Times front page: “Barr Understated Mueller Findings, Some on Team Say.” Naturally, “some” are never identified. All this headline means is that some involved with the Mueller investigation wouldn’t have summarized the report as the AG did,  and some had a different opinion, and, presumably, some disagreed with them. Who didn’t assume this? This isn’t news. This is just pot-stirring and innuendo in service of a political agenda. Now if the Times’ sources went on the record and explained what findings they are referring to and why, that would be news. This isn’t.

2. Maybe just Ick, not ethics, but still, ICK! Kendall Jenner, who is famous exclusively because her half-sister sister bared all in a sex video that launched the Kardashian reality show empire, made $26.5 million for just 53 sponsored Instagram posts, according to Captiv8, a marketing firm that connects brands to “social media influencers.” Let’s see: is there anything wrong with Jenner letting companies pay her to send out social media hype? As long as she isn’t lying in her posts, I guess not...but if she becomes part of a fraud without doing her due diligence,  its not just unethical, it’s illegal. Is there anything unethical about paying a narcissistic waste of space who would lose a game of Scrabble to a sea sponge millions to promote a company’s product or event? No, if it works. Is there anything unethical about trusting a barely-educated celebrity because of her looks? Unethical, no…stupid, but not unethical.

3. On the suspension of ethics during wartime. Freddie Oversteegen, who died September in her native Netherlands, was just 14 when she joined the Dutch resistanceTogether with her older sister Truus and their friend Hannie Schaft, she murdered as many Nazis as she could, using a firearm hidden in the basket of her bike. The women had a  method: first approach a Naz in bars, seduce them, ask if they wanted to “go for a stroll” in the forest (wink-wink, nudge-nudge) and then, shoot the bastards, or as Freddie  put it, “liquidate” them.

 “It was a necessary evil, killing those who betrayed the good people,” she told one interviewer. When she was asked how many people she had killed or helped kill, she demurred: “One should not ask a soldier any of that.”

Freddie also blew up bridges and smuggled Jews out of concentration camps, so she was more than a black widow assassin. Is she justly regarded as a hero?

4. “The Highwaymen” My wife and I watched this new Netflix release starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson as the real life aging Texas Rangers who were handed the assignment of “stopping” Bonnie and Clyde’s deadly rampage through Texas in 1934. We liked it a lot, but then it’s an ethics movie, raising and debating the question—see #3 above—of how far one can ethically go to fight evil. Bonnie  and Clyde were evil despite their folk hero status at the time, and despite the sick glamorizing they received in the 1967 film starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, which made them the romantic rebels fighting a corrupt establishment—you know, like the arrogant creeps who shut down my college a year later.

The Highwaymen barely shows the two psychotic love-birds until they are being riddled with bullets, focusing on the real heroes of the saga, the law enforcement officials who hunted them down.

The two ex-Rangers break quite a few laws in the pursuit of the greater good, and it is odd that there seems to be a resurgence in sympathy in the entertainment media for brutal police methods. In Dick Wolf’s “Chicago PD,” for example, Sergeant Hank Voigt (Jason Beghe) regularly threatens, extorts and beats people up to solve crimes–and he’s the moral center of the show. Is law enforcement more like war than we like to admit, where the ethical rules can be, are, and maybe need to be suspended?

Best line in “The Highwaymen”: Kathy Bates, as Texas Governor “Ma” Ferguson—I’ll tell her weird ethics story tomorrow—tells reporters that she is making sure that Bonny and Clyde are hunted down, and one of them references their image as Robin Hood figures. “Did Robin Hood ever shoot a gas station attendant in the head for four dollars and a tank of gas?” she asks.

5. Now THIS is weird…Twin ethics! In Brazil, when identical male twins  refused to say which one of them had fathered the child (DNA test proved inconclusive because they their were identical twins)  assuming they would then be able to escape having to pay, a judge ordered that they both had to pay child support. Each twin was ordered to pay 230 reais; ($60; £45) a month, or 30% of the minimum salary in Brazil. Judge Filipe Luís Perucaalso ruled that the names of both men would be on the girl’s birth certificate.

The twins had used their resemblance to impersonate each other and date as many women as possible, and then defend themselves from allegations they were cheating on girlfriends. Ah, memories! I see a reboot coming!

But they’re irresponsible illegitimate fathers!

Identical illegitimate fathers, and you’ll find

The look alike, deny alike, they go in court and lie alike!

You could lose your mind

When irresponsible illegitimate fathers

Are two of a kind!

Terry Turnage, Serial Father and Utter Fick

"So? Not my problem."

“So? Not my problem.”

Terry Turnage  has fathered 26 children by 15-20 different women, the precise number being difficult to establish. And that’s not all:  he apparently has failed to pay child support to any of the women who bore his offspring, all while driving expensive cars,  throwing elaborate parties, and spending money on everything but his bastard progeny.

He is a co-owner, with one of his many sons, Terry Jr. (and maybe one of many Terry, Jr’s), of Club Envy, an Arkansas nightclub. Recently Terry Sr. threw a two-day party for his birthday. He threw another party for 700 guests.

Of course, that could just be his relatives.

What does society do with someone like this, so irresponsible and shameless? It you lock them up, they can’t support any of the kids. We can’t castrate him (cruel and unusual, that) and courts can’t order citizens not to procreate, or ensure that they they don’t. That’s Nazi stuff, though the U.S. did a bit of it until relatively recently. Continue reading

A Judicial Jumbo!

Jumbo

To remind not-so-regular visitors here: a Jumbo is a special Ethics Alarms award for conduct that emulates the gag from the Broadway musical and film “Jumbo,” in which Jimmy Durante, as a circus clown trying to steal an elephant, is caught red-handed by a sheriff, and asked, “Where are you going with that elephant?” “Elephant?  What elephant?,” Jimmy replied.

Carl Knochelmann Jr is candidate for Kenton County Family Court Judge court judge in Kentucky. He also owes $2,886.54 in unpaid child support to the mother of his teenage son. He has been delinquent before: at various times a court has ordered him to pay overdue child support, including $9,632 in 2003. The current $2,886 amount dates back to 2008.

His opponent, seven-year incumbent Kenton County Family Court Judge Chris Mehling, said the back child support shows Knochelmann is unfit for a judgeship responsible for enforcing child support payments, among other things.

Ya think? Although I would imagine that he will wrap up the deadbeat dad vote. Continue reading

Portrait Of The Deadbeat As A Young Fick

christopher_robinson

We haven’t had a flaming fick for a while, but Christopher Robinson certainly qualifies for the term, denoting someone who proudly flaunts his anti-social, self-centered and unethical ways.

The man who took a photo of himself rolling in dough and then proudly posted it to Facebook, you see, is a deadbeat dad, owing three years of child support. His self-accusing photo brought him to the attention of authorities, and now he’s facing up to eleven years in prison if he’s convicted of willful non-payment.

Being a fick isn’t a jailable offense, but interestingly, most ficks find themselves in trouble with the law sooner or later.

Go figure.

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Facts and Graphic: ABC

Ethics Mess In Kansas: The Lesbians and the Sperm Donor

The parents in happier days

The parents in happier days

Auto mechanic William Marotta must rue the day he responded to a Craigslist ad placed by Angela Bauer and her life partner Jennifer Schreiner. They were seeking a sperm donor, for the obvious reasons, and he had sperm to donate. The trio then signed a contract in which all agreed that Marotta would have no rights to any child his sperm spawned, nor future responsibilities regarding the child’s care. Schreiner was artificially inseminated and conceived, making her the child’s mother, as Bauer stepped into the role of the child’s father. Exit Marotta forever, with thanks.

Or so he thought. Continue reading

Fick* of the Month: Tea Party Congressman Joe Walsh

 

Rep. Walsh says that President Obama has no shame. He should know: having no shame is something of a specialty of Walsh's.

Freshman U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill) is a vocal Tea Party champion dedicated to fiscal responsibility, meeting obligations, protecting the future for our children, and living within our means. How does he reconcile these values with the fact that he owes $117,437 in child support to his ex-wife and three children?

He can’t. It’s impossible. Walsh is the epitome of a political hypocrite, and because he is shameless about his despicable failure to meet his family obligations, he is also a fick. In fact, he is the Ethics Alarms Fick of the Month.

To be fair, Walsh disputes the amount that his wife claims he owes her in the suit she recently filed. You know what? It doesn’t matter how much he owes. Ethically, he is just as much of a fraud and a fick whether he owes $100,000, $25,000, or $500. For this is the self-righteous freshman Congressman who says,  in a video speech lecturing President Obama on fiscal responsibility, “I won’t place one more dollar of debt upon the backs of my kids and grandkids unless we structurally reform the way this town spends money!” ”Have you no shame, sir?” he asks. Continue reading

Trapped in “The Ethics Zone”

Rod Serling is your guest host for this episode.

We are traveling in a realm beyond time and space, to a dimension where right and wrong are vague and indistinguishable. Witness the strange case of Roy Thomas, a Houston man trapped in a hostile maelstrom of illogical laws and imaginary daughters. He is a victim of an ethics deficit, nourished by greed and desperation, the kind that sometimes lurks in the dark corners of….

The Ethics Zone!

Submitted for your consideration, the saga of Roy Thomas, who has been forced to pay child support for a daughter he supposedly fathered  more than two decades ago, though he always maintained that the child wasn’t his. Continue reading

In Search of Accountability, Fairness, Justice and a Champion: the Unending Persecution of Anthony Graves

Job would pity Anthony Graves

Governments and other bureaucracies are capable of unimaginable callousness, stupidity, and wrongful conduct, allowing individual fools to multiply their power to harm exponentially, and then to see an inhuman computer-driven monstrosity run amuck as everyone denies responsibility. You could not devise a better example of this process than what Texas is doing to Anthony Graves.

He is an innocent man convicted of murder in 1994 who was released last October after spending 18 years in prison, condemned to death. He had been convicted with fabricated evidence and coached testimony employed against him by former Burleson County District Attorney Charles Siberia, and a state investigation got a Texas judge to set Graves free. But the maw of Texas bureaucracy wasn’t through ruining his life. Continue reading

The “Baby Emma” Saga Revisited: The Core Issue

Didnt King Solomon have a case like this once?

When the mother of the child an unmarried father co-created with her decides that she doesn’t want to/ can’t raise the child and doesn’t trust the father to raise her, is it ethical to put said child up for adoption without notifying or consulting the father?

That is the ethical issue the “Baby Emma” incident, first discussed here in an earlier post, ultimately raises. It is a question that I did not discuss in that post, focusing instead on the father’s conduct and his current plight, as self-described on his “Baby Emma” website. I made three ethical assessments, each of which are self-evident:

1. The whole situation would have probably not occurred if John Wyatt and Baby Emma’s mother had been married before conceiving a child.

2. Both of them were irresponsible to plan on having a child together without formalizing a mutual commitment to form a family and raise the child together…that apparently archaic institution known as “marriage.”

3. The mother betrayed John’s trust, deceived him, and treated him unfairly.

I also suggested that, absent a marriage, it is fair and reasonable that the mother of a newborn be able to put the child up for adoption if she deems that course better for the child than being raised by the child’s father. I did not say that was the law, or even that I would vigorously oppose a law that directed otherwise, as Virginia’s law does. I only stated that my own belief is that incentives for irresponsible parenthood are unwise. I have been asked why I focused on the issue I did, rather than the other ethical issues raised by the controversy. It was because the issue was brought to me with the presumption that John Wyatt, the father, was a blameless and unequivocal victim in the matter. My ethics alarms sounded: he has significant ethical accountability for the mess, and I explained why.

As to the answer to question above, I can only say this: it depends. The conduct of Baby Emma’s mother is mysterious and extreme. Did she panic? Did she have a mental break? Why would a lifetime friend and partner of a man conceive a child, pretend to plan to raise her with him, and then secretly negotiate to have the baby adopted and taken out of state?

I see many scenarios that could be behind her decision, which fall into three distinct categories: ethical, unethical, and too close to call: Continue reading

Love Isn’t Enough: the “Baby Emma” Saga

Too bad Baby Emma's father didn't see "Juno" first...

This, from the birth father’s perspective, is the strange story of “Baby Emma,” a newborn whisked out of Virginia by her mother to be adopted by a couple in Utah, which has unusual laws that seem to circumvent fathers’ rights in others states:

“My name is John Wyatt,  the birth father of Baby Emma Wyatt,  born February 10, 2009 in Woodbridge, Virginia.  I have never held my daughter in my arms or even been allowed to see her in person.  My daughter has never had her Daddy hold her and say “I love you” to her, or hug her and kiss her.  Baby Emma and I have been denied those precious moments together.

“Imagine this happening to you: as a 20 year old, you have been friends with the mother since second grade and you have dated since middle school. You anxiously make preparations with the mother of your child, your childhood sweetheart,  for the arrival of your new baby.  You go to the doctor’s appointments, you rub the mother’s belly and feel your baby moving and kicking in the womb.  Both of you pick out the name.  It’s so exciting, you can hardly wait for the arrival of your new baby!! You look forward to what you expect to be the happiest moment of your life, to be with the mother and baby at birth…Both of you make plans on raising the baby together.  Continue reading