Category Archives: Animals

Animal Ethics: The East African Topi


The Topi is an African antelope. It’s hard to even google this animal, because Google keeps changing the word to “topic.”

Topi (that’s the singular and plural)  are strange. Their females are fecund only one day a year, which obviously makes that day a little frantic for the males. The males have to corner the females to mate, which is not always easy. Some of the males cheat by lying—there’s no other word for it.

All year long, male Topi warn the herd  of approaching predators by making a special, loud grunting sound that is immediately heard by all as “Watch out! A lion (or facsimile) is nearby!” When Topi hear the sound, they freeze and look  for the potential attacker.

Researchers have found that some male Topi win the mating sweepstakes by unfairly using the sound that 364 days a year means, no kidding, “We’re in trouble!” It has to be believed, for the safety and survival of the herd, and is. One day a year, however, on mating day, there are male Topi who falsely use the warning grunt to freeze shy females in their tracks, and while the girls are searching the area for something with sharp teeth, they get a big surprise from behind. These deceptive males sneak up on them, and it’s wham, bam, thank you, Miss Topi!

Topi males that use this subterfuge, researchers find, mate three times as often as those who play by the rules. Males who don’t cheat, and who don’t risk the effectiveness of a vital species defense device by playing “The Horny Topi Who Cried ‘Lion,” are less likely to pass along their genetic material.

The Topi are encouraging an unethical culture. It works for a few Topi now, but if each generation has more cheaters, will the Topi warning grunt become ineffective the rest of the year? I doubt that Topi have calendars.

If Topi were human beings, would the fake grunt tactic be unethical? Immoral?



Spark: Nature (PBS)


Filed under Animals, Around the World, Gender and Sex

Is There An Ethical Obligation Not To Allow Idiots To Have Decision-Making Power In State Governments? The Case Of Flipper’s Privacy…


A dolphin died in New Jersey’s South River last year, so a blogger sought to discover what killed it. She duly filed a public record request to the NJ Department of Agriculture for the results of the dolphin’s autopsy.The Department turned down her request, on the grounds that it violated the amended Public Records Act, which includes an exception for HIPAA information, including diagnosis and autopsies:

Dolphin privacydolphin privacy 2That’s right: New Jersey wants to protect the dolphin’s privacy. No, there is no dolphin autopsy exception to New Jersey’s law, and no cetacean privacy inclusion in HIPAA. On the off-chance that it isn’t obvious, Louis Bruni is an idiot.

This should be funny, I guess, but my patience with fools and dolts making life more difficult, expensive, inefficient and frustrating has about run out. My rapidly developing theory on crazy people starting to shoot other, thus-far less crazy people is that constant contact with the Louis Brunis of the world drive them to it, when combined with hopelessly bewildering technology and outrageously complicated rules, laws, regulations and procedures and the brazen dishonesty and corruption of so many of the “public servants” who are pledged to care about our welfare.

One day a delicate soul, their sanity on the ragged edge, makes a simple request, not even in an important matter, and are foiled by someone who thinks Dead Flipper has privacy rights, and who nonetheless has his salary paid by taxpayers. Out of the millions and millions of Americans who cope with this crap every day, day after day, an infinitesimal percentage of the public can’t handle that one extra insult to logic and common sense. and snaps like a dry twig in the wind. Like Sweeney Todd, their now damaged mind concludes that there are two groups of human beings, those who make everyone else miserable because they are evil, stupid, or both, and those who are the first group’s helpless victims. “Kill them all!” the now deranged victims of our Brunis conclude: killing the miscreants is just, and killing their suffering victims is merciful.

And off they go.

Now imagine layer and layer of Brunis, up and down all levels of government, sometimes reaching executive levels with access to real power. You know, like Joe Biden. John Kerry. Michele Bachmann. No, don’t. We have enough crazy people all ready.

Here…this will calm you:

UPDATE: Here we discover that Mr. Bruni previously was fined for lying about attending….required ethics classes! [Pointer: Phil Alperson]


Pointer: Fred, one of his best.



Filed under Animals, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement

The Seventh Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Best of Ethics 2015, Part I

Sweet Briar montage

Welcome to the Seventh Annual Ethics Alarms Awards, our blog’s retrospective of the best and worst in ethics over the past year, 2015.

It was a rotten year in ethics again, it’s fair to say, and Ethics Alarms, which by its nature and mission must concentrate on episodes that have lessons to convey and cautionary tales to consider probably made it seem even more rotten that it was. Even with that admission, I didn’t come close to covering the field. My scouts, who I will honor anon, sent me many more wonderfully disturbing news stories than I could post on, and there were many more beyond them. I did not write about the drug company CEO, for example, who suddenly raised the price of an anti-AIDS drug to obscene levels, in part, it seems, to keep an investment fraud scheme afloat. (He’ll get his prize anyway.)

What was really best about 2o15 on Ethics Alarms was the commentary. I always envisioned the site as a cyber-symposium where interested, articulate and analytical readers could discuss current events and issues in an ethics context. Every year since the blog was launched has brought us closer to that goal. Commenters come and go, unfortunately (I take it personally when they go, which is silly), but the quality of commentary continues to be outstanding. It is also gratifying to check posts from 2010 and see such stalwarts who check in still, like Tim Levier, Neil Dorr, Julian Hung, Michael R, and King Kool.  There are a few blogs that have as consistently substantive, passionate and informative commenters as Ethics Alarms, but not many. Very frequently the comments materially enhance and expand on the original post. That was my hope and objective. Thank you.

The Best of Ethics 2015 is going to be a bit more self-congratulatory this year, beginning with the very first category. Among other virtues, this approach has the advantage of closing the gap in volume between the Best and the Worst, which last year was depressing. I’m also going to post the awards in more installments, to help me get them out faster. With that said….

Here are the 2015 Ethics Alarms Awards

For the Best in Ethics:

Most Encouraging Sign That Enough People Pay Attention For Ethics Alarms To Occasionally Have Some Impact…

The Sweet Briar College Rescue. In March, I read the shocking story of how Sweet Briar College, a remarkable and storied all-women’s college in Virginia, had been closed by a craven and duplicitous board that never informed alums or students that such action was imminent. I responded with a tough post titled “The Sweet Briar Betrayal,” and some passionate alumnae determined to fight for the school’s survival used it to inform others about the issues involved and to build support. Through the ensuing months before the school’s ultimate reversal of the closing and the triumph of its supporters, I was honored to exchange many e-mails with Sweet Briar grads, and gratified by their insistence that Ethics Alarms played a significant role in turning the tide. You can follow the saga in my posts, here.

Ethics Heroes Of The Year

Dog Train

Eugene and Corky Bostick, Dog Train Proprietors. OK, maybe this is just my favorite Ethics Hero story of the year, about two retired seniors who decided to adopt old  dogs abandoned on their property to die, and came up with the wacky idea of giving them regular rides on a ‘dog train” of their own design.

Ethical Mayor Of The Year

Thomas F. Williams. When the Ferguson-driven attacks on police as racist killers was at its peak (though it’s not far from that peak now) the mayor of Norwood, Ohio, Thomas F. Williams, did exactly the opposite of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in response to activist attacks on the integrity of his police department. He released a letter supporting his police department without qualification. At the time, I criticized him for his simultaneously attacking activists as “race-baiters.” In the perspective of the year past, I hereby withdraw that criticism.

Most Ethical Celebrity

Actor Tom Selleck. In a terrible year for this category, Selleck wins for bravely pushing his TV show “Blue Bloods” into politically incorrect territory, examining issues like racial profiling and police shootings with surprising even-handedness. The show also has maintained its openly Catholic, pro-religion perspective. Yes, this is a redundant award, as “Blue Bloods” is also a winner, but the alternative in this horrific year when an unethical celebrity is threatening to be a major party’s nominee for the presidency is not to give the award at all.

Most Ethical Talk Show Host

Stephen Colbert, who, while maintaining most of his progressive bias from his previous Comedy Central show as the successor to David Letterman, set a high standard of fairness and civility, notably when he admonished his knee-jerk liberal audience for booing  Senator Ted Cruz

Sportsman of the Year

CC Sabathia

New York Yankee pitcher C.C. Sabathia, who courageously checked himself into rehab for alcohol abuse just as baseball’s play-offs were beginning, saying in part,

“Being an adult means being accountable. Being a baseball player means that others look up to you. I want my kids — and others who may have become fans of mine over the years — to know that I am not too big of a man to ask for help. I want to hold my head up high, have a full heart and be the type of person again that I can be proud of. And that’s exactly what I am going to do.”

Runner-up: MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who dismissed the ethically-addled arguments of Pete Rose fans to reject his appeal to be have his lifetime ban for gambling lifted.  For those who wonder why football never seems to figure in this category: You’ve got to be kidding.

Ethics Movie of the Year



Runner-up: “Concussion”

Most Ethical Corporation

Tesla Motors, the anti-GM, which recalled all of its models with a particular seatbelt because one belt had failed and they couldn’t determine why. Continue reading


Filed under Animals, Arts & Entertainment, Bioethics, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Heroes, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, History, Journalism & Media, Love, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, Popular Culture, Rights, Sports, U.S. Society, War and the Military

First Fick Of The New Year: Stephen Roseman


Web hoaxer Stephen Roseman posted a picture of a dog with a piece of ham on its face on Facebook, and counting on the power of suggestion, managed to horrify a lot of dog lovers while garnishing internet “prayers.” Here’s what he wrote along with the photo above…

This poor dog was badly burned and disfigured trying to save his family from a house fire
One like = one prayer One share = ten prayers

Lots of people liked and shared; I was previously unaware of the growing practice of equating “likes” on Facebook with prayers. Others, not so susceptible, and not so tender-hearted, perhaps, realized that the dog was a ham, and mocked everyone who fell for the scam. The hoax also set up religious Facebook users to be mocked by the likes of the Huffington Post and Ann Althouse, because equating Facebook likes and sharing with praying is so much more ridiculous than, say, Buddhist prayer wheels (one spin = thousands of prayers ), or, for that matter, folding your hands, closing your eyes, and moving your lips.

Once his hoax was discovered, Roseman posted the following admission on his Facebook page: Continue reading


Filed under Animals, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Facebook, Humor and Satire, Religion and Philosophy

It’s Settled Then: Ben Carson Is An Idiot

ben-carsonNot that there was all that much doubt, after hearing about his theories that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain, and recognizing that any intelligent man would realize that giving a popular prayer breakfast speech and being a neurosurgeon no more qualifies someone to run for President of the United States than being a crossword puzzle champion or an airplane pilot. Nonetheless, his statement today ends any benefit of the doubt Carson had due to him. There is no doubt. He’s a dolt, and its obvious enough that we must assume anyone supporting him must also be a dolt.

Today, talking about the Syrian refugees in Alabama, Gentle Ben said...he really did…

“If there’s a rabid dog running around in your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog. And you’re probably going to put your children out of the way. That doesn’t mean that you hate all dogs.”

Continue reading


Filed under Animals, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Religion and Philosophy

Comment of the Day: “Unethical Website of the Month: Dogsbite.Org”


Ethics Alarms is about ethics. It is about what is right, wrong and how to decide which. Here, we go where the facts, ethical systems, valuable and logic take us, as convoluted as the process may be. There is no other cause, here. occasionally I have pointed out a developing case of ethics perverted, and  by dint of timing or good fortune, it has had some tangible effect. The Sweet Brier College rescue was such an example, I am told. There have been others.

The cruel and ignorant persecution of dog breeds grouped under the category of “pit bulls’ and the “dangerous breed” litigation that has been passed by hysterics bullying craven legislators is another ethics issue that Ethics Alarms has tried to alert the public about for years. I am not an activist however; the idea of labeling something as wrong is meant as education. If it also engages activism, that is a bonus. Activism in pursuit of a more ethical society is an unequivocal good, much to be desired by us all. In addition to spur much needed activism, the dog breed bias story is also unusually relevant to other issues: racism, genocide, ignorance, government over-reach, gun control, profiling, fear-mongering, misinformation, cowardice among elected officials…it’s a long list. There will be more about this issue in coming months.

New commenter sadingo advances the issue with a discussion of pit bull banning in Great Britain. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post Unethical Website Of The Month: Continue reading


Filed under Animals, Around the World, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement

Unethical Website of the Month: Dogsbite.Org

group shot

This despicable website, created by phobics, liars, fools and bigots to promote dog breed prejudice and persecution of responsible dog owners, is discredited by the vast, vast  majority of dog experts, breeders, and people with any knowledge of dogs. It is useful in a way, in that its rhetoric mirrors that of the anti-Jewish, final solution advocates of the Nazi regime, and the most virulent American racists, like the KKK. (A dog breed is exactly like a human race.) It also apes the logical fallacies of those who want to ban guns or engage in racial profiling.

Although a mass of data and history proves that pit bull-related breeds are no more inherently dangerous than any powerful breed and arguably less, Dogsbite.Org is leading a vendetta against both the breeds and lawful, loving owners, reasoning that dogfighting uses pit bull-type breeds, and pit bulls used for fighting are more likely to be dangerous (as any dog so abused  may be), so to kill two birds with one stone, it makes sense to wipe out not just any individual dangerous dog of the type but any dog that is a hybrid of the a “pit bull breed” and any dog that looks like what people think is a “pit bull”, in part because there is no such breed as “pit bull.”

Thus because some “pit bulls” are abused, all should be exterminated.This is essentially the argument of the unethical people at PETA, which announced that it is supporting DogsBite.Org with the batty, but no more so than many of  their positions, argument that we need to destroy the dogs in order to save them.  Continue reading


Filed under Animals, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Race, U.S. Society, Unethical Websites