Category Archives: Quotes

The Perfect # 22: Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo

jogger-arrestedI’ll grant you that Ted Nugent’s asinine efforts to minimize the unethical nature  of his uncivil words about President Obama by tweeting his views on 44 “more offensive” forms of conduct were a pretty good example of my least favorite rationalization in action. That rationalization is #22, the Comparative Virtue Excuse, or “There are worse things.” (There are always worse things, of course.) Never mind: Ted is playing in the minor leagues. Art Acevedo, Austin’s excuse-master  police chief, really knows how to swing a #22.

A bystander took a video of Austin police detaining and ultimately arresting jogger Amanda Jo Stephen after she crossed an intersection at a red light and failed to obey orders from an officer after he saw her jaywalking, because she was wearing headphones and couldn’t hear him. My view: the police over-reacted and used excessive force (she pulled her arm away when the officer stopped her, and he treated is as resisting arrest), but wearing head phones that make it impossible for you to hear what is around you is 1) dangerous, 2) stupid and 3) obnoxious. Continue reading


Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, Quotes, The Internet

Life Imitates Hoax: The Cruel Back Tattoo Revisited

THIS was a hoax, but...

THIS was a hoax, but…

Since we are on the topic of web hoaxes—an Ethics Alarms hot button—I thought it appropriate to mention that one such hoax that effectively tricked me back in 2011—the story about the jilted lover who supposedly tattooed a huge steaming pile of poo on his ex’s back as revenge—apparently came to life for real in Australia.

Christopher William Lord, 23, has been sentenced to a year in prison for inspiring a tattoo artist to trick his “friend” by inking a large tattoo including a penis, testicles and an obscene phrase on the unsuspecting victim’s back, while assuring him that the design the unsuspecting young man had chosen was coming along beautifully. The tattoo artist is serving time for the incident, properly charged as an assault.

Yes, alcohol was involved. As a special nice touch, the man whose back was so defaced is disabled.

The only thing that approaches the obnoxiousness of web hoaxes is the superior sneering of those who, after the hoax, mock anyone so trusting as to believe such  “ridiculous” stories. This is hindsight bias at its most annoying, and this is part of the despicable objective of hoaxers. It is their own, warped IQ test, designed to allow them to feel superior to their victims, while amusing others so toxically cynical that they refuse to believe or trust anyone or anything, and deride the rest of us for promoting and encouraging trust the only way possible—by doing it. Web hoaxers and their enablers,in contrast, make life a little bit crummier, nastier and dangerous, because it amuses them.

“If you let them, they will crochet the world the color of goose shit.”

– Jacques Brel.


Pointer: Fark

Source: Metro


Filed under Around the World, Character, Humor and Satire, Law & Law Enforcement, Quotes, The Internet

The Ethics Of Rush Limbaugh’s Fillibuster-Rape Analogy, And Why You Should Read Ann Althouse’s Blog

wolves-and-sheep…and also never, ever underestimate Rush Limbaugh.

Law prof-blogger Ann Althouse perfectly analyzes Rush Limbaugh’s virtuoso attack on the U.S. Senate Democratic majority’s much-criticized curtailing of the filibuster this week, to pave the way for President Obama’s stalled judicial nominations. Feminists and other knee-jerk Rush-bashers are furious, and, of course, knowing exactly what to say and how to say it to annoy the hell out of them is part of his mission in life, and one which he does very, very well. If you missed it, here’s what Rush said in response to a caller (though if he hadn’t planned on this, I will be shocked, as well as very impressed)… Continue reading


Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Quotes, U.S. Society

Grassy Knoll Ethics: How Deception Breeds Distrust


We once again must squarely face the hoary  quote from Walter Scott’s epic poem Marmion: “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” It is hoary because it is true, and this month’s Smithsonian Magazine reminds us of how true it is, recounting how well-intentioned deceptions by the news media regarding evidence in the assassination of President Kennedy helped create a conspiracy theory that will not die, and that may have begun the slow, relentless deterioration of America’s trust in its own government that has reached dangerous proportions today.

Frame 313 of Abraham Zapruder’s accidental record of one of the pivotal moments in U.S. history gave him nightmares, and when he sold the rights to his amateur movie to Life Magazine, he insisted that frame be withheld from the public, and not published. “We like to feel that the world is safe,” documentary maker Errol Morris explains in the article.“Safe at least in the sense that we can know about it. The Kennedy assassination is very much an essay on the unsafety of the world. If a man that powerful, that young, that rich, that successful, can just be wiped off the face of the earth in an instant, what does it say about the rest of us?” I understand, but withholding the truth is not the way to make the world seem safer. As the story of the conspiracy shows, it is how we end up trusting no one. Continue reading


Filed under Daily Life, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Quotes, U.S. Society

Update: “Ethics Quiz: Photojournalism And The President’s Meaningful, Meaningless Bowed Head”


Putin and obama2

Last weekend’s Ethics Quiz involving the photojournalism ethics of publishing a photo appearing to show President Obama in a submissive or shamed posture as Vladmir Putin passed was handicapped by the mysterious unavailability of the photo in question, which the Washington Post published at least twice but has not made available on-line, even to accompany letters criticizing it. Well, the Post published the photo, in its print edition, yet again today and still I cannot track it down on the Post website. One reason appears to be that it comes from a Russian news agency.

I have found the version above, however, taken by the same photographer a split second after the one in question. In this one, Putin has just passed the President; in the photo the Post used, he was just about to pass him. The expression and postures of everyone in the two photos are the same.

You may want to reconsider the post “Ethics Quiz: Photojournalism And The President’s Meaningful, Meaningless Bowed Head”with it, rather than what I used last week, in mind.

(And why didn’t anyone tell me that the “a” and the “l” in “photojournalism” were transposed in the headline?)



Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Quotes, The Internet

Addendum: James Taranto And The Consequences Of Unethical Presidential Leadership

red line

Today, at his press conference in Stockholm, President Obama raised many a hackle by saying,

“First of all, I didn’t set a red line,” Barack Obama said today at a press conference in Stockholm. “The world set a red line. The world set a red line when governments representing 98% of the world’s population said the use of chemical weapons are [sic] abhorrent and passed a treaty forbidding their use, even when countries are engaged in war.”

The President’s critics take this as yet another of his habitual accountability dodges, even though, for once, he didn’t blame George W. Bush. I will give the President the benefit of the doubt here, as he was speaking extemporaneously and is infamously imprecise when he is not delivering a prepared speech. He is saying that the bright line prohibition on chemical and germ warfare was not devised by him, that it is a matter of international law of long-standing, and that his red-line statement only re-affirmed the United States’ pre-existing obligation, in his view, to take action when such a line is crossed. I have no problem with that; the problem is, as this episode has shown, that President Obama did not and does not mean what he said, and the consequences he has devised for the crossing of that red line by the Assad government manage to be weak, insignificant, inadequate, cynical, cruel, dangerous, misdirected, ill-timed and illegal (under international law) all at the same time. That’s quite an accomplishment, but not one I’d want my mother to hand on the fridge.

The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto, who, at his best, delivers a clarity of ethical analysis and a precision of language that are unsurpassed in U.S. punditry, moved on from mocking the latest red line clarification to an excellent discussion of why the credibility of the American President, and leaders generally, is so important. Credibility is the practical result of integrity: that is the ethical virtue President Obama’s handling of this matter betrayed.

You should read his whole commentary here. This is the key passage: Continue reading


Filed under Around the World, Character, Health and Medicine, Leadership, Quotes, U.S. Society, War and the Military

Hypocritical Comment Of The Century

Today I received this:

“Hi there, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and i was just curious if you get a lot of spam responses? If so how do you prevent it, any plugin or anything you can advise? I get so much lately it’s driving me insane so any support is very much appreciated.”

The commenter gave his name as “Ecig” and that “similar” blog is an e-cigarette advertising website. His comment about how irritating spam is is spam itself, one of the nearly 536,000 such comments that I have had to review individually since launching Ethics Alarms.|

A dishonest fake comment, purporting to complain about spam while constituting spam, sent to a blog about ethics.



Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Quotes, The Internet

Reminder: August 1 Is “Quote Justin Carter On Social Media Day”


This is  sad.

We last heard anything about Justin Carter two weeks ago, when he finally was released from prison after an anonymous donor covered his absurd $500,000 bail amount. Since then, nothing has changed. He’s still charged with making terrorist threats based on an obvious joke he put on Facebook. He still represents the apotheosis of the fanatic fear of guns and violence against schools in the wake of the post-Sandy Hook hysteria, cynically fed by Democrats, anti-gun zealots and the media. Carter’s plight still shows the continuing erosion of First Amendment rights in the fearful and paranoid culture nurtured by the Obama administration and turned into an offense to liberty by its natural partner, the abuse of government power. It’s just that nobody is paying attention.

The news media, which should have an interest in protecting the same amendment that (theoretically, these days) protects them, gave some fleeting coverage to the story but quickly dropped it in favor of gushing over infant foreign monarchs, finding ways to vilify George Zimmerman and making bad Weiner puns. The blogosohere has been pretty silent too, with some notable exceptions.

I am generally opposed to pointless demonstrations. My pathetic gesture to try to generate some fight in this somnolent nation as its common sense, ethical priorities and sense of justice drains away was never a threat to catch on, and didn’t. Essentially, few understand what is so wrong about what Texas is doing to Carter, and fewer still care enough to protest it. That is sad, and it also is frightening.

Nonetheless, those of us who do care should try to show it, and this was the best that I (or anyone else) could come up with. So challenge the fearful, the bullies,  the Constitutionally ignorant, the arrogant abusers of power “if it will save just one child,” and post the harmless, facetious and sarcastic statement that young Justin Carter posted for a friend, never realizing that America, or at least the part of it where he, and quite possibly you, live, doesn’t really believe in free speech anymore. Post it on your blog, on Facebook, on Twitter. Let’s see if they come for all of us, however many it is. And let’s see how many people care anymore.

August 1 Is “Quote Justin Carter On Social Media Day.”

And Justin’s words, which got him arrested, imprisoned, and soon will have him being tried for his freedom, were these:

“Oh yeah, I’m real messed up in the head. I think Ima shoot up a kindergarten and watch the blood of the innocent rain down and eat the beating heart of one of them.” lol. jk.”




Filed under Citizenship, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Quotes, Rights, The Internet, U.S. Society

Now THAT’S An Ad Hominem Attack

"How do I rebut your argument? Here's how, you, brain-damaged Hell-spawn!"

“How do I rebut your argument? Here’s how, you, brain-damaged Hell-spawn!”

David Plouffe at least has done something useful, if not ethical.

We get a lot of accusations here—aimed at me and also between warring commenters—of using ad hominem attacks. Ad hominem attacks are indeed unethical, not because of the negative descriptions of the target they involve, which may well be accurate and fair, but because they are a dishonest and unfair debate tactic. The motive behind a true ad hominem attack is to avoid dealing with the substance of what an adversary claims, argues or asserts by attacking the person, character or background of the adversary.  The intention is to avoid the implications of a fact or illuminating opinion by asserting: “This person is bad, so don’t listen to what he has to say.”  It is a logical fallacy, of course. Whether an individual is bad or not doesn’t change the facts; a bad person may have performed a brilliant analysis, uncovered the wisdom of the ages, or uncovered the key perception that solves enduring mysteries. It is unethical for one seeking to rebut the argument to attack the arguer as if it’s the same thing. When successful, ad hominem attacks deflect the real debate and turn it into a debate about something else, focusing on the original speaker, now feeling the need to defend his honor rather than his position. Continue reading


Filed under Citizenship, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Quotes, The Internet

Ethics Quote of the Week: CNN’s Jake Tapper

“Even if you side with this president over those of us in the media who challenge him in his administration, it is important to remember the precedent these actions set going forward, perhaps when it’s not your guy in the White House.”

-Jake Tapper, former ABC reporter turned CNN headliner, warning knee-jerk Obama defenders that there are rather significant risks in supporting leaders and their governments when they obstruct basic rights, just because you like their policies and don’t like the citizens who are being mistreated.

Martin Niemöller said it better, but some people need the reminder...

Martin Niemöller said it better, but some people need the reminder…

I’m not especially enamored of  Tapper’s quote, and the fact that such a statement is noteworthy coming from a major news media figure is depressing. Tapper introduced his warning by admitting that he was biased himself, “but.”  I suppose admitting a presumably leftward bias is worthy of praise for transparency’s sake—and Tapper has copped to being biased before—yet it also reminds us how truly untrustworthy our supposed bulwark against tyranny (that is, the news media)  is, siding as it does with the party currently in charge with such consistency.

His is also not truly an ethical statement, as it relies on a non-ethical argument, the equivalent of “Hey, we probably shouldn’t kill that guy, because then his gang will be coming after us.” There’s no ethics at all in Tapper’s argument, except that the conduct he’s attempting to encourage, responsible citizenship and the refusal to tolerate the abuse of power, is more ethical than the alternative, which is what we’ve been seeing for almost five years. The Golden Rule, in other words, in not “Do unto others because if you don’t it’s very possible that the soon the others may be doing the same thing to you.” Continue reading


Filed under Around the World, Character, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Quotes, U.S. Society