Ethics Hero, I Guess: High School Runner Zach Hougland

cross country

Today got an e-mail from an Ethics Alarms participant who hasn’t been by in a while. He commented that he was finding the blog too depressing. Almost immediately after that, another reader sent me this story.

In Iowa, Davis County High School runner Zach Hougland had already won his race, thereby becoming district cross country champion, his school’s first. As he was taking congratulations from his coach and track team mates, he saw another school’s runner stumble and fall, then remain motionless. Hougland rushed back on the track, scooped him up and tried to help him to the finish line.  He said, “It was about 15 meters from the finish line.  I did it for seven meters, so he had about eight left.  I knew I couldn’t help him finish so I just gave him a push and told him ‘You can do it!'” Continue reading

Two and a Half More Rationalizations: “The Hillary Inoculation,” “The Unethical Tree in the Forest,” and a Sub-Category of “The King’s Pass”


“There are more rationalizations in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

It certainly seems so, Hamlet.

And stop calling me “Horatio”!

While writing about the McDonnells, I found myself citing some obvious and common rationalizations that I discovered (to me shame and embarrassment)  had never been added to the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations List, which two days ago stood at an even 40. I wrote them up and added then, placing “The Unethical Tree in the Forest” at #10, since it is so common, and designating the other, “I deserve this,” as a sub-category under “The King’s Pass,”at #11 (a). Then, in today’s comments to yesterday’s post about the perfect Naked Teacher (if only all those who clicked on that post were just slightly interested in ethics!), came a ridiculous argument that I immediately recognized as particularly infuriating rationalization I had heard before, too often, in the days when Democrats were churning out rationalizations like the chocolates on Lucy’s conveyor belt. I have dubbed it “The Hillary Inoculation.” These put the current count of rationalizations at forty-two, and a half. Here are the new additions.

Learn to recognize them, but don’t use them.

10. The Unethical Tree in the Forest, or “What they don’t know won’t hurt them.” Continue reading

Ten Useful Ethics Alarms

It occurred to me, after more than a year, that I’ve never actually posted the basic ethics alarms we all should have installed and in working order, ready to sound when we are in, or about to be placed in, situations that are rife with ethics peril. Here are ten basic ones; there are lots of other useful ethics alarms to have, but these will serve you well. When one starts buzzing, it’s time to step back, thinks, and perhaps most useful of all, talk to someone whose ethical standards and reasoning you trust: Continue reading

CREW’s Depressing “Worst Governors” List

The Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington released its list of “America’s Worst Governors” this week, and as with most things CREW does, it is well-researched, informative, and depressing. Also just a teeny bit biased.

Mostly it is depressing. That so many of the leaders of our states engage in such egregiously unethical conduct–and CREW’s list is far from complete—shows how deeply corrupt the nation’s political culture remains, and what a herculean job lies ahead if we ever hope to change it. It is also depressing when one reflects on how frequently our presidents are recruited from the ranks of governors. Continue reading