Unethical Photograph Of The Year


Mary Kay Letourneau Fualaau and Vili Fualaau are seen here with their two teenage daughters, Audrey and Georgia. Both are older now than when mom raped dad, who was a student in her 6th grade class. She was 34 and married with four kids. They have been married for 10 years now, and 20/20 will be doing a story on the couple.

I won’t be watching.

Here’s the Rationalization List. How many will be applied to this cheery photo?

I count 13.

Pointer: Rhonda Hill

Discrimination and Hypocrisy in Kansas

Something is seriously amiss in Kansas.

1. Using Taxpayer Funds To Clone The Cleavers

Beve, June, Wally, Ward...I'm so sorry you got pulled into this...

Beve, June, Wally, Ward…I’m so sorry you got pulled into this…

Are there conservatives who can’t see how hypocritical, presumptuous and wrong this is?

I know one who doesn’t, at least: Kansas State Sen. Forrest Knox ( R-Altoona), who has introduced  Senate Bill 158 . It will use the power of money to persuade  foster parents to live like a “Leave it to Beaver” family. That’s Knox’s description, not mine.

Senate Bill 158 creates a “special category” known as licensed CARE families, who can receive “substantially higher” pay from the state than foster families who don’t qualify.

According to the language of SB 158, a CARE family is…

  • A husband and wife team married for at least seven years,
  • …in a faithful, loving and caring relationship and
  • …with no sexual relations outside of the marriage
  • …no current use of tobacco by anyone in the family’s home
  • …no alcoholic liquor or cereal malt beverages in the family’s home
  • …either the husband or wife, or both, does not work outside the home; and
  • …the family is involved in a social group larger than the family that meets regularly, preferably at least weekly.

In other words, if I really have to spell it out, “church.” The law can’t say church, because that would violate the Bill of Rights. I suppose they could all join a cult. Continue reading

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

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

“When Will They Ever Learn?” Department: “Baby Emma” Déjà Vu

Preston and Baby Wyatt

Preston and Baby Wyatt

Once again, an unmarried father is trying to get the courts to award him custody of his child after the mother handed the child off to adoptive parents. This issue was recently examined by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, and on Ethics Alarms two years ago in its examination of the “Baby Emma” drama. Now it is in the news again, as Preston King, the 19-year-old father of “Baby Wyatt” fights for his child in the California courts

The details of these cases vary, as do the state laws governing them. In the Baby Emma case, for example, among the complexities were the fact that the state of the couple’s residence, Virginia, recognizes an unmarried father’s right to custody, while the state where the adoption took place, Utah, does not. All the cases have  in common a conflict between rights, law and ethics. Continue reading

Six Questions Raised By A Horror Story I Wish I Had Never Read

I don't ant to live in a culture than could produce these people. Unfortunately, I have no choice.

I don’t want to live in a culture than could produce these monsters. Unfortunately, I have no choice.

Occasionally I read a news item that makes me question my illusions, my optimism, my aspirations, and the rationality of hope. The saga of Jonathan and Sarah Adleta, a couple whose match was made in Hell and whose crimes sound like the rejected plot submission of a Law and Order SVU script writer whose mind has snapped, is just such a story, perhaps the most disturbing I have ever encountered.

If you continue reading, consider yourself warned.

After college student Sarah Adleta became pregnant with Jonathan Adleta’s child and tests showed that the fetus was female, Jonathan told her of his long-held fantasy about having incestuous sexual intercourse with a daughter. A deal was struck: he would marry Sarah, if she agreed to allow him to have sex with their daughter as soon as it was possible. Continue reading

Funny! But Unethical: The “Fuck You!” Spite Statue

 FU statue

Lea Tuohy is suing her ex-husband, a wealthy Detroit strip club entrepreneur named Alan Markovitz, to force him to remove his idea of “karma.” This would be his 12-foot bronze statue of a hand with its middle finger extended, which he bought specifically so it could be positioned on his backyard balcony  to face the neighboring mansion where Tuohy lives with the man who (according to Markovitz) broke up their marriage.

Markovitz seems to have deftly avoided the specifics of Michigan’s public nuisance law, which  law professor Jonathan Turley discusses here. The artwork is carefully positioned so that nobody else in the neighborhood has to see it, just his hated next door neighbors, when they look out their window. It is quiet art, not obtrusive noise, or even a giant sign that says “Fuck you, Lea, and the guy you moved in with!” But in all honesty, there really is no question that this is the message he intends to convey, and is conveying, in a clever, under-stated, expensive and fanatical way. This, in itself, makes the message–which could also be translated as “I really, really hate you people!”—even more intense. Imagine buying a lakefront mansion and a $7000 bronze middle-digit just to make someone else miserable. Now that’s a grudge.* Continue reading

Annals Of The Ethics Incompleteness Theorem: The Snuggle House And “The Dress Code Effect”

Awww! Who could object to a little snuggle?

Awww! Who could object to a little snuggle?

Almost any rule, low or ethical principle can be deconstructed using what I call border anomalies. The first time I was aware of it was as a Harvard freshman in the late Sixties, when all assumptions, good and bad, useful and not, were considered inherently suspect. The college required all students to wear jackets and ties to meals at the student union, and up until my first year, nobody objected. But that fall, my classmates set out to crack the dress code, so they showed up for meals with ties, jackets, and no pants, or wearing belts as ties, or barefoot. (Yes, there were a lot of future lawyers in that class.) Pretty soon Harvard gave up, because litigating what constitutes ties, jackets and “proper dress” became ridiculously time-consuming and made the administration look petty and stupid. Of course, there are good reasons for dress codes—they are called respect, dignity, community and civility—-but never mind: the dress code couldn’t stand against those determined to destroy them by sending them down the slippery slope.

If any rules are to survive to assist society in maintaining important behavioral standards, we have to determine how we want to handle the  effects described by  the Ethics Incompleteness Theory, which holds that even the best rules and laws will be inevitably subjected to anomalous situations on their borders, regarding which strict enforcement will result in absurd or unjust results. The conservative approach to this dilemma is to strictly apply the law, rule or principle anyway, and accept the resulting bad result as a price for having consistent standards. The liberal approach is no better: it demands amending  rules to deal with the anomalies, leading to vague rules with no integrity—and even more anomalies. The best solution, in my view, is to regard the anomalies as exceptions, and to handle them fairly, reasonably and justly using basic principles of ethics, not strictly applying  the rule or law alone while leaving it intact. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Hero: David Blankenhorn, Former Same-Sex Marriage Opponent”


In many ways, I love this post. I love it because it is passionate and serious, and from the heart, and because I am certain that it reflects what many Americans, especially those of a certain age, feel with frustration and a little fear and anger.  I also agree with much of what it concerns, the lack of respect for accumulated wisdom in many aspects of the culture, and the rush to discard old standards not because they have failed us, but just because they are old. The comment comes from a regular commentator, Eeyoure (not his real name, you’ll be relieved to learn, and yes, we both know how to spell the A.A. Milne character he honors) who is educated, decent, smart and articulate.

But regarding his lament’s  applicability to the controversy at issue, gay marriage, he is absolutely, utterly, tragically wrong. The conventional wisdom is that we should just try to ignore Americans who feel similarly to Eeyoure, because demographics are relentlessly removing them from the scene. As the politically active public becomes younger, the support for equal rights for gays, trangendered and bi-sexual citizens will grow into an overwhelming majority.  I think that’s a lazy and obnoxious way to win an argument, even when you are right. Smart but misguided people, like Eeyoure in this matter, should be able to evolve, learn, and realize when what they once thought was right, isn’t.  Realizing that one aspect of entrenched belief was, upon knowledge and reflection, wrong does not mean the whole foundation of civilized society has to crumble—this is the classic, irrational, self-defeating fallacy of conservatism. Change in the presence of enlightenment and experience is the essence of ethics, which constantly evolves. We should be able to explain what is wrong with this post so that even the poster agrees.

Here is Eeyoure’s Comment of the Day, on the post (and comment thread t0) Ethics Hero: David Blankenhorn, Former Same-Sex Marriage Opponent: Continue reading

Ethics Hero: David Blankenhorn, Former Same-Sex Marriage Opponent

Same sex

In a well-reasoned and sharply written op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, former gay marriage opponent David Blankenship writes eloquently and persuasively about why he has reversed his position. He writes in part:

“In the end, I didn’t change my mind on gay marriage because I stopped believing in the importance of intact biological families. Nor was it because of new studies or additional facts. (Gay marriage still strains biological family bonds, although research also points to the potential stability of gay marriage and family structures.) And I didn’t change my mind because I got tired of being criticized. I changed my opposition to gay marriage because of personal relationships. In my case, it began with the writer Jonathan Rauch, who I’d been publicly debating on the gay marriage issue. But at some point we stopped debating and started talking about our lives, including about my wife, Raina, and his husband, Michael. Did Jonathan’s marriage threaten the idea of marriage? Perhaps in theory. But in real life, was I able to see it? No. In fact, quite the opposite. It may sound trite, but for me the key was the gradual breakthrough of empathy. I found that as friendships develop, empathy becomes at least possible, no longer kept at bay by a wall of fixed belief. Put simply, becoming friends with gay people who were married or wanted to get married led me to realize that I couldn’t in good conscience continue to oppose it.”



Pointer: Advice Goddess

Sources: LA Times