Tag Archives: ethics alarms

Ethics Quiz: Al Roker’s Unethical Selfie And Malfunctioning Ethics Alarm


The question here is a simple one.

On the scene of the devastating flooding in South Carolina, Today Show weather man Al Roker tweeted a selfie of him and  NBC colleagues beaming happily in front of a collapsed highway and a trapped car, with the caption “My crew and I getting ready to report on East Coast flooding from S. Carolina on @NBCNightlyNews with Kate Snow.”

Yes, after many complained on social media about the discordant juxtaposition of cheerful self-promotion and tragedy, Roker apologized, but not before.  The basic question is “What the hell is the matter with these people?“, or as today’s Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz asks,

Is Roker’s insensitivity signature significance of a malfunctioning ethics alarm, or just an excusable one-time mistake?

Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Journalism & Media, Marketing and Advertising, The Internet, Unethical Tweet

At Target, One Of Life’s Little Ethics Tests



We were just shopping at Target, buying everything from dog food to throw pillows to laundry detergent. The lines were long, I was feeling crappy, and the bill was $142.78. The stuff was all loaded into the trunk of our car, a long walk from the entrance, when my wife noticed a tiny 25 watt light bulb—price: $2. 27— that had slipped into a crevice in the cart. “Ooooh, I bet they didn’t charge us for that,” she said.

Immediately, I was hit with a furious rationalization assault trying to kill my ethics alarms like Santa Anna’s men climbing over the Alamo’s walls:

  • “Who cares? They won’t care. Let’s just go!”
  • “It wouldn’t have been missed if the line didn’t make us late! Target deserves to lose the bulb!”
  • “We can tell them about it next time!”
  • “Nobody would go back and return this!”
  • “The walk and the inconvenience are more trouble than the lousy bulb is worth!”
  • “You think it’s stealing? Fine, leave it in the cart. Then we don’t get it either.”
  • “This wasn’t my fault!”

We went back and gave the unpaid for bulb to the customer service clerk. She raised an eyebrow and said, “Really?” Not “Wow, you people are so ethical. I’m going to tell my children about you” really, but “Wow, you people are idiots. Nobody does this. It’s a lousy $2.27! I’m going to tell my friends about this, and they will laugh long and hard” really.

This is anti-ethics bias micro-aggression, and in its own, incremental, crummy way, it makes society more unethical and untrusting because it treats ethical conduct as aberrational. If I had been feeling better and my usual annoying, feisty self, I may well have said,

“Oh, is a customer being honest ridiculous to you? So from that I assume that you approve of minor theft, is that accurate? Does that mean you are lifting low priced items from the store, and allowing your friends and family to do so? Let me talk with your manager, please. I want to ask him if you reflect Target policy. I’d like it clarified myself. What priced items are considered so disposable that theft of them is expected to be shrugged off as trivial? Under five bucks? Ten? Twenty? Why stop at twenty? Fifty? A hundred?”

“Before I explain your reaction to your supervisor and ask if that accurately reflects the store’s attitude toward not paying for inexpensive merchandise, let me convey this for future reference. The proper response to a customer who returns an unchecked item rather than just leaving with it is ‘Thank-you!’ and a smile. Not “Really?” and a smirk. Got that?”

Dirty Harry would have added, “Well, do ya…punk?”


Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, U.S. Society

For Your Labor Day Ethics Edification: “The Science of Persuasion”


Making better decisions is essential to making ethical decisions, and a lot of what we discuss here relates to overcoming impediments to unethical thinking and decision-making. This 2012 video is germane to Ethics Alarms; it also includes some of the ideas in Dr. Z’s Rules, which I presented here.

This animated video describes Dr. Robert Cialdini ‘s “six universal principles of persuasion” that people and organizations tend to use to influence the thinking, values and opinions of those of us who are not willing or able to reason in an orderly and unbiased fashion. (Dr. Zimbardo las a somewhat different six). It reflects the research in Dr. Cialdini’s book, “Influence” The Science of Persuasion.”

As those who come here often know, I like to use a variety of approaches and tools. Cialdini’s framework is just one of them, but one worth understanding.

The video is a bit over 11 minutes.



Filed under Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology

“When The Ethics Alarms Don’t Sound” Files: Auschwitz


From The Jerusalem Post:

Israeli tourists who arrived at the Auschwitz death camp in Poland on Sunday expressed shock and outrage over what appeared to be the placement of showers near the entrance to the site. Asked about the outcry, a spokesman for the Auschwitz memorial told The Jerusalem Post that “no showers were placed at the parking lot of the museum.” “Because of the heat wave in Poland, sprinklers which cool the air were placed near the entrance to the museum. They are located near the area where – in the open sun and without any possibility of hiding in the shade – a queue of people who collect the entry cards to the memorial site is formed. “Among visitors there are many people who come from countries where such high temperatures as we have this summer in Poland do not occur. We have noticed cases of fainting among people. Therefore we must do everything possible to minimize the risks connected with the heat and high temperatures and take care of the safety of health of our visitors. The sprinklers are installed on the days of highest temperatures and removed with the temperature drops.”

“As a Jew who has lost so many relatives in the Holocaust, they looked like the showers that the Jews were forced to take before entering the gas chambers,” Meir Bulka, 48, told the Post . According to Bulka, he was not the only one deeply disturbed by this unusual scene. “All the Israelis felt this was very distasteful,” he said. “Someone called it a ‘Holocaust gimmick.’” Bulka decided to do something proactive about the situation rather than let it go. He went to the main office and asked the management for an explanation to the strange scene.

“The management decided that it was a good way to cool people off on a very hot day,” Bulka said.

There is something very wrong when those in charge of the Auschwitz historical site decide to erect nozzles misting water downwards at visitors outside the notorious death camp and nobody in involved in the decision detects the obvious problem. Whether the problem is with the administrators, the post-WWII generations, non-Jews, or something else, like Europe and the world, I am not sure. I do know that ethics alarms should have been ringing loudly. Did they malfunction? Or are they not installed?

Clues to what is wrong are suggested by the comments made by Ann Althouse’s readers to this story. I’m still trying to figure them out. Her audience is, I presume, ideologically-mixed, tilting to the left, and on the young side, since she is a law professor and many students read her posts. Is the utter insensitivity bordering on hostility to Jewish sensitivity on the little, insignificant matter of the Holocaust displayed here  attributable to ignorance (an excuse the Polish curators of the museum cannot claim), callousness, distance from the events memorialized, antipathy to Israel or anti-Semitism?

Here are 17 out of the 20 comments so far: Continue reading


Filed under Around the World, Environment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, History

Unethical Quote Of The Month AND Comment Of The Day: Ethics Dunce: “Cecil The Lion Killer Walter Palmer…Or Any Big Game Hunter, Really”

“Feel free to pay this murdering asshole a visit at his home at XXXXXXXXX.. Don’t forget to bring your hunting gear. Can’t make it then send some mail to him and his wife XXXXXX. She loves animal killers! His wife is one of the owners of XXXXXXXXX, a customs broker in North Dakota. His daughter is XXXXXX (Palmer) and she can be reached at her company XXXXXXXXX. He also has vacation home at XXXXXXXXX.”

—– “Is,” an attempted, but immediately banned, Ethics Alarms commenter to the post about Walter Palmer, the big game-hunting dentist who inadvertently ended up shooting a popular and well-known lion rather than a random, everyday, mount-his-head-on-the-wall lion, as if it makes any real difference at all. The X’s cover up personal information about the Palmers, as this vicious and anonymous creep attempted to use this blog to facilitate organized harassment and possibly violence.

Dr. Palmer's office front...

Dr. Palmer’s office front…

It has been pointed out, fairly and accurately, that while people like Mia Farrow are trying to get Palmer killed—she tweeted out the same information I deleted above– because he was unlucky enough to be tricked into killing a lion-icon, the media is barely covering serial videos showing the dead-eyed callousness of the Planned Parenthood officials who facilitate and encourage the abortion, for any reason, of unborn human beings.  The same sensitive, compassionate progressives who are trying to get Palmer murdered (PETA has stated that he should be hanged) are shrugging off human carnage that is exactly as legal as the activity that Walter Palmer thought he was engaging in. One old lion versus a million nascent human beings, trying to live. Thus does selective outrage approach madness. Continue reading


Filed under Character, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Social Media, The Internet, U.S. Society

A Brief Statement Regarding Hillary Clinton And Ethics Alarms

An ethics professor just wrote to announce that he was ceasing to follow the blog because

“you have become a one note Hillary basher and compromised your disinterest.”

1. I do not bash Hillary Clinton. I accurately point out her serial unethical conduct and statements. I am an expert in non-profit ethics, and her foundation is unethical. I an an expert in government ethics, and her conduct in relation to both her foundation and her State Department e-mails was unethical. I am an ethicist, and she could not get through her first substantial interview without multiple deceits, misrepresentations and lies. Pointing these out, especially when the news media is not doing its job, is my duty and mission. Apparently a lot of people don’t know this woman is unethical. I am obligated to enlighten them if I can.

2. My main area of scholarship and my personal passion, is leadership and the American Presidency. The Democratic Party, to its shame, is trying to make this unqualified and corrupt woman President of the United States. Naturally this is of deep concern to me, as it ought to be for every American.

3. Even considering this, the blog has hardly been all-Hillary. I just checked: there have been exactly  three Hillary-themed posts in the last 50. FIFTY. Five-O. Gee, sorry, Professor, that the ethical corruption of the presumptive President of the United States occupies my ethics blog’s attention 6% of the time.

4. The Clintons’ master strategy for escaping all of their schemes and deceptions is to deny, obfuscate and throw up smokescreens until the public gets sick of the controversy, and tunes out. It’s a good, if cynical strategy, but it won’t work with me.

5. I will cease writing timely blogs about Hillary’s Clinton’s unethical conduct when

  • She stops lying.
  • The new scandals, schemes, and cover-ups stop materializing.
  • The news media starts doing its job.
  • The public shows sufficient comprehension of how corrupt she is.
  • She is no longer running for President.

And not before.



Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership

The Embarrassed Management Apologizes—Again.

man_with_his_head_in_his_handsI just cleaned up about ten typos, some of them truly horrible, in the latest Sweet Briar post, which was up on the site including them for three days. The Sweet Briar grads must really think I’m illiterate. I made a note of the repaired carnage on the post, and have nominated it for a year end award, in the category of “Most Typo-Riddled Post.” Boy, I hope it wins.

Still, that’s not enough. I am thoroughly discouraged and chagrined. Thanks to diligent efforts by Ethics Alarms reader Penn and others, I have been catching typos faster of late and even refining my own, miserable proofing skills. The number of errors had been decreasing…and now this. Thus I am reprinting the following post from December of 2010 on this same topic. Back then, Ethics Alarms was averaging 600 views a day. Now the average is close to 4000 a day, meaning that the number of those literate readers inconvenienced by my incompetence every day is almost seven times greater. I’m reprinting it in part because I deserve the humiliation of knowing that I have to make the exact same apology five years later, and in part because I know there are no typos in it.

I apologize profusely for the sloppiness. I am the world’s worst proof-reader, and when I am rushing to get a post finished under a deadline, I am even worse than that. Nonetheless, this is no excuse, and readers who are kind enough to come here shouldn’t have to endure extra or missing words and illiterate spellings, most of which, by the way, are because I can’t type, though my rotten spelling doesn’t help any.

I am so grateful to those of you who continue to flag the more egregious typos for me. Finding out that an article has been hanging out there with these errors is exactly like learning that you’ve been smiling at people with a piece of spinach on your front teeth all day. So I mean it: it isn’t because I don’t care. I’m trying. Obviously I have to try harder.


Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Journalism & Media, Professions, Workplace