Tag Archives: blogs

Saturday Afternoon (Because I Was Up At 5 AM Writing About CNN’s Unethical “Town Hall”) Ethics Warm-Up, 2/24/18: Generic Packaging Scams, Goodbye Molly, Polls, And Welcome Student Commenters!

Good Afternoon!

1 The kids are all right! Ethics Alarms has recently been graced with comments by some intrepid and articulate high school students on the guns and schools issue. I salute all of them, as well as the teachers who sent them our way. Some of the students also encountered the tough debate style and sharp rhetoric that our regulars also engage in. One of the students who found himself in a particularly spirited exchange, mostly with me, just sent me a long, self-flagellating and abject apology. My response in part..

Relax. Apology accepted, and I am grateful for it, and admire you for writing it. But you impressed me in many ways. I wish I could meet you.

When I was growing up, there was no internet. I just managed to earn as reputation as a clown, a master of sarcasm and insults, and someone who would never back down from an argument the old-fashioned way—by talking. I made a million gaffes along the way. I made an ass of myself. I hurt people. I also scared some people, but eventually I learned some boundaries. Meanwhile, the skills I acquired being a jerk sometimes have served me well, in college, in law school, in management, in theater, in ethics. (I’m still a jerk sometimes. You have to keep that edge.)

You are welcome to comment on Ethics Alarms any time, my friend. Just remember we’re all human beings, nobody hates anyone, and no mistake is final.

I do hope that any time young readers who identify themselves as such come here to argue, Ethics Alarms commenters will keep in mind that the best result, no matter what they might say while testing the waters here, is to keep them coming back.

2. Packaging designed to make you feel stupid…I’d do a whole essay on this again, but there have been a lot of “yelling at clouds” posts lately. The common practice of generics intentionally imitating the packaging of the original product they derive from is per se unethical. (I’m sure I have written about this before, but cannot find it. I know I criticized the practice of cheap kids animated videos of  stories like “Beauty and the Beast” copying the artwork and color scheme of the corresponding Disney version to fool inattentive purchasers.) My wife just got caught by a CVS scam—the company is a long-time offender—that fooled her into buying for my use an inferior knock-off of Pepcid A-C which I need because the Parkland shooting deception and agitprop is giving me ulcers. It is intentionally packaged with a red fez-shaped cap to look sufficiently like the good stuff to deceive consumers.


Of course, as with the video, it isn’t exactly like the original: the shade of red is different, the cap shape isn’t quite the same, giving them plausible deniability.

There should be some kind of law or regulation to discourage this. I’m going to go into the store and complain to some nice clerk or manager, who will shrug and say she’s sorry, which is to say that, once more,  I will be yelling at clouds . Continue reading


Filed under Animals, Around the World, Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Education, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, language, Leadership, Marketing and Advertising, Race, The Internet, U.S. Society

A Trigger Warning About A Trigger Warning: Audiences Should Walk Out Of The Movie Theater When This Appears

This is not a joke. This is not The Onion. This is real. And frightening.

At the beginning of “Darkest Hour,” the new film about the wartime heroism and brilliance of  Winston Churchill, this warning appears on the screen:

“The depictions of tobacco smoking contained in this film are based solely on artistic consideration and are not intended to promote tobacco consumption. The surgeon general has determined that there are serious health risks associated with smoking and with secondhand smoke.”

Winston Churchill, you see, smoked cigars. Actually he chain-smoked them, and inhaled. They were among his trademarks. Any adult who doesn’t know that should not have graduated from high school. Interestingly, shooting and bombing people are also serious health risks, so I don’t know why it wasn’t noted that the depictions of warfare contained in this film are based solely on artistic consideration.”

Whatever “based solely on artistic consideration” is supposed to mean…

Of course, showing Churchill smoking cigars is not an “artistic consideration,” but one of historical accuracy and integrity. Does this mean that there was really a debate in the studio about whether or not Churchill should be shown smoking, so as not to trigger good little progressive totalitarians, who believe in changing the past for the greater good of the present? I wonder if they considered making Winston, who was fat, appear slim and ripped, since the surgeon general has determined that there are serious health risks associated with obesity and over-eating. I don’t see why they wouldn’t, if they felt that showing people smoking in the 1930s, when almost everyone smoked,  might be interpreted as promoting smoking today.  Churchill also drank like Bluto in “Animal House.” Why no warning about that? Uh-oh—does this mean that the film, for artistic considerations, only shows Winston sipping soda water and prune juice? Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Health and Medicine, History, U.S. Society

Unethical Political Cartoon Of The Month: Barry Deutsch


To be fair, the Justice wasn’t much of a cartoonist…

In today’s warm-up, I briefly discussed the acquittal earlier this moth of NYPD officer Wayne Isaacs in the shooting an unarmed black motorist.  It was a weird case. Isaacs was off duty, and prompted a driver to apparent road rage by cutting him off in traffic. The motorist, according to Isaacs, walked up to his car and  struck him, and fearing that his assailant was armed, the officer drew his pistol and fired.

I don’t know if it was a coincidence or by design, but on the day of the acquittal progressive cartoonist Barry Deutsch, who once did battle (and well) at Ethics Alarms, posted this cartoon at his blog:

In the same post, he also called the late Justice Rehnquist a racist, which he was not, and made the demonstrably false statement that most police shootings involve blacks, but never mind that.

You have to really detest police and the principle of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to regard such a cartoon as fair or enlightening. (Ethics Alarms is on record as declaring political cartoons an inherently unethical form of punditry.) No cop has been acquitted of shooting an unarmed  9-year-old kid in self-defense, and the cartoon is factually wrong that such a claim by a police officer would get him acquitted. Moreover, the case Barry is apparently referring to, Graham v. Connor, does not involve a shooting, and Rehnquist’s opinion for the majority doesn’t say what the cartoon says it does. In addition, the opinion in the case primarily relied upon by the majority in Graham, Tennessee v. Garner,  wasn’t written by the Rehnquist, but by Justice Byron White. It also specifically involved police shooting at fleeing suspects.

Thus the cartoonist a) doesn’t know what he’s talking about b) misleads his readers ( the blog is an echo chamber if there ever was one), and c) smears Justice Rehnquist. Continue reading


Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Rights, The Internet

Contrarian Ethics And Ann Althouse

Ann Althouse, the now retired law professor and increasingly active bloggress, is a habitual contrarian. That’s why she is such an interesting and politically unpredictable commentator, and why, though generally left of center by instinct, she so often ends up on the opposite side from the news media. Being a contrarian can be a useful tactic for ethicists too: it provides a bias filter. Since lawyers like Ann are trained to be able to argue both sides of any argument with equal fervor and persuasiveness, picking a position you disagree with and arguing for it anyway is a wonderful way to change your own mind, or to find lines of reasoning that might never have appeared otherwise.

It can be a trap, too, especially in the blogging biz. Having an opinion that isn’t already everywhere on the web makes a blog interesting, attracts comments, and leads to increased traffic and links. Especially in areas where one doesn’t have strong opinions, the tendency to disagree with the obvious or popular opinion becomes its own bias, and undermines trust and integrity. I have my own contrarian streak (I inherited it from my father), and I have to watch it carefully. It is not ethical (it’s unkind) to say or write things primarily because you mostly want to make people’s heads explode. I’ve done it a few times on Ethics Alarms.

This is where I have seen Althouse trending, and here is a recent example. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics

The Lesson Of Berkeley’s “Free Speech Week” Fiasco: Jerks Make Terrible Champions And Martyrs

Conservative agitator/ campus troll Milo Yiannopoulos’s Free Speech Week in Berkeley, California was advertised as a major event, bringing some of the most Left-reviled  conservative speakers and rabble-rousers together for four straight days of speeches and events on a campus that has repeatedly disgraced itself by being hostile to speech its primarily progressive denizens consider “hate speech.”

The University of California was taking elaborate measures to avoid the violence that protesters there and at other campuses have brought to appearances by many of the featured speakers. It was rumored that as much as $600,000 would be spent on security. The prospect of the rhetoric of such professional provocateurs as Yiannopoulosas, Steve Bannon and Ann Coulter, to name the best known, echoing around the school where it was least welcome promised an instant cultural touch-point, like a right-wing Woodstock, while challenging leftists and ideological censors to reveal their ugly, totalitarian sides.

But by the end of the week, many were predicting that the event was a mirage. Speakers whose names had been promoted on preliminary schedules either pulled out, denied they had been contacted  or said they were never planning to go. The campus publication sponsoring Yiannopoulos’s circus, The Berkeley Patriot, never reserved indoor school venues. Yiannopoulos kept up the pretense, announcing on Instagram a planned march through campus tomorrow in protest of Berkeley’s hostility to free speech. “It’s time to reclaim free speech at UC Berkeley and send shockwaves through the American education system to every other college under liberal tyranny,” Yiannopoulos wrote.

Today, the day before the “Week” was to begin, UC Berkeley announced  that ‘Free Speech Week’ was officially cancelled, saying,

“Representatives of the Berkeley Patriot student organization have informed UC Berkeley’s administration that all of the events scheduled for the coming week have been canceled. It is extremely unfortunate that this announcement was made at the last minute, even as the university was in the process of spending significant sums of money and preparing for substantial disruption of campus life in order to provide the needed security for these events.”

Now there is mass confusion, with strong indications that the event was a sham from the start. Lucian Wintrich, one of the planned speakers, e-mailed Cal spokesman Dan Mogulof this morning,  to say that the event had been a set-up from the start. “It was known that they didn’t intend to actually go through with it last week, and completely decided on Wednesday,” Wintrich wrote.

“Wait, whoah, hold on a second,” replied Mogulof. “What, exactly, are you saying? What were you told by MILO Inc? Was it a set-up from the get-go?”


Wintrich replied, “Yes.”

An account of the chaos and miscommunications surrounding the event published by The Atlantic yesterday certainly made this development seem probable. Milo, as late as this afternoon, insisted that the intention was always to hold a real week of speeches. He has as much credibility as someone who makes his living creating controversies and infuriating his ideological foes deserves to have: none.

What’s going on here? Continue reading


Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Rights

Ethics Dunce: University Of California at Berkeley

“Free speech” at Berkeley…

Ethics Dunce, Unethical Quote of the Month, Incompetent and Indoctrinating College Administrators of the Day (there are so many during the week)…all of these would have been fair, in light of Berkeley’s sad offer to counsel students whose delicate psyches feel bruised because a young conservative loudmouth is speaking somewhere on campus. This is presented on a web page offering solace in response to a visit by Ben Shapiro, a pretty much standard issue hard-right polemicist, less right than Bernie Sanders is left, and about as dangerous to any student’s “safety” as Peewee Herman in his prime. (Actually, I think Peewee could take him.) Yet this:

Support and counseling services for students, staff and faculty

We are deeply concerned about the impact some speakers may have on individuals’ sense of safety and belonging. No one should be made to feel threatened or harassed simply because of who they are or for what they believe. For that reason, the following support services are being offered and encouraged:

In his response to this embarrassing example of universities attempting to stifle diversity of thought, Professor Turley is being a weenie again:

Notably, the counseling is not for the violence at such speeches or disturbing messages on both sides. Rather it is the presence of speakers like Shapiro that might threaten a student’s fear for their “sense of safety and belonging.” The school insists that “No one should be made to feel threatened or harassed simply because of who they are or for what they believe.” No mention of the past protesters with signs like “F**k Free Speech” or beating those who do not share their views.

It is the sole inclusion of the speaker and not the counter-protesters or campus disruptions that concern me. It appears to reinforce the view that conservative speakers are a foreseeable threat to the sense of safety and belonging of students.

It appears to reinforce that view, professor? It does reinforce that view, and is intended to reinforce that view. As such, it is an attack on freedom of thought, speech and expression, as well as an attempt to demonize any student who would choose to hear what Shapiro has to say. The statement embodies the current anti-speech, anti-First Amendment, anti-American position spreading through academia that hate speech isn’t protected speech, and any speech that opposes progressive cant is by definition hate speech.

What Berkeley should be offering is counseling for students who justly fear that the Berkeley administration’s alliance with the repressive Left threatens the safety of democracy itself. Continue reading


Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Rights

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/25/17

Good Morning, everyone!

[I thought I had posted this two hours ago! I’m sorry!]

1. Re President Trump’s latest anti-news media rant: American journalism’s abandonment of partisan neutrality, competence and professionalism has become the single greatest threat to the nation’s functioning democracy, along with the erosion of public trust that this has caused. I have previously endorsed President Trump’s earlier statement that the news media has become an enemy of the people it is supposed to serve. However, saying, as he did this week, that journalists don’t “love America” is incompetent and irresponsible.

But what else is new. Journalists just over-overwhelmingly hate him, and cannot muster the professionalism to do their duties fairly as a result. (Norah O’ Donnell actually interrupted Trump’s anti-journalism rant to call him a liar—nice.  A network news operation with professional standards would suspend her for that. ) To be fair to the President, his use of language and comprehension of it is devoid of nuance. I presume that to him, saying that the news media hates America, hates him, and is the enemy of the people all mean the same thing.

2. Let’s keep track of which journalists and politicians relate Hurricane Harvey to climate change, or cite the dangerous storm as more evidence that the “consensus” is correct. This is the first major hurricane in 12 years, in defiance of virtually all predictions and climate change models, which told us that the warming earth would lead to more frequent violent storms, not fewer. Of course, the sudden and unexpected dearth of hurricanes during the entire Obama administration (no, Super Storm Sandy was not a hurricane) also doesn’t prove that climate change is a crock. But every single individual, activist, meteorologist, reporter, talking head, Democrat and Al Gore Fan Club member that points to Harney and says, “See???” is proving that he or she isn’t interested in the truth, just in furthering an agenda.

3. We shouldn’t allow California to secede, but it will be tempting, if it ever comes to that. Continue reading


Filed under Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Professions, U.S. Society