Tag Archives: ethics alarms

From The Ethics Alarms Mailbag: Is The Current Photo Of Trump In The Site Background Unfair?

trump-1A reader asks,

“Earlier you admonished yourself for using unattractive photos of Hillary Clinton to illustrate various posts and in the blog wallpaper, and pledged to stop the practice, Now you have a serene photo of Mrs. Clinton, but a shot of Trump that looks like he’s in the middle of uttering an obscenity. Isn’t this a double standard?”

Answer: Nope. Not in my view. At this point, that photo fairly and accurately portrays Trump’s conduct in the campaign, which is ugly, assaultive, and a direct reflection on his character. Hillary Clinton’s public demeanor has always been dignified and appropriate for a Presidential candidate, so photographs that captured her in millisecond-long poses with her eyes crossed or looking demonic were both unkind and misleading. The photo you refer to is an accurate depiction of Trump’s demeanor and temperament, especially of late. That is Donald Trump.


Filed under Character, Government & Politics, The Internet

Coulrophobia Ethics: The Irresponsible Clown Dad

There has been an outbreak of coulrophobia (fear of clowns) for some reason, heightened by pranksters and web satirists taking advantage of one of our periodic societal freakouts as Halloween approaches:

  • Hundreds of students at Penn State set out to hunt clowns this week after rumors that clowns were loose on campus, chanting”Fuck the clowns!”
  • A dorm was evacuated at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, after the “Clown Watch” Twitter feed reported a sighting of a scary clown with a rifle. It was a hoax. 
  • In Portland, Oregon, police arrested David Dahlman, 55, for wearing a clown mask and boxing gloves and threatening middle schoolers. This clown charged an assistant principal who intervened.
  • A 13-year-old girl was arrested in Hampton, Virginia., for trying to get a person posing as a clown online to kill one of her teachers. 
  • A 14-year-old boy in Houston was charged with making terrorist threats toward his school using an online clown image.
  • Also this week, several hundred University of Connecticut students  gathered in a cemetery near midnight, ready to do battle with the evil clowns they had heard were hiding among the headstones. Police had to respond, and were not amused.
  • Police in  Lancaster, California warned that men wearing “ugly-looking clown masks” were using kitchen knives to frighten people and then videotaping their reactions.
  • Menacing clowns sightings were also reported in Modesto,  prompting police there to issue a warning to residents saying, “If you see anything or anyone suspicious, including individuals dressed as clowns, to avoid contact and report the circumstances to us immediately.”

Fear of clowns has been a cultural joke for decades. “Seinfeld” had whole storylines based on Kramer’s coulrophobia.Why is this happening now? I have no idea, and neither does anyone else, though CNN came up with five equally unsatisfying theories. Why? Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near? Why do fools fall in love? Why isn’t Hillary ahead by 50 points?

As long as the fad and its manifestations are in good fun and don’t endanger anyone, there’s nothing to be concerned about, though Stephen King felt compelled to try to calm the madness:

king-tweet(This is rich coming from King, who created the creepiest clown in literature as the villain of his novel “It.”)

Unfortunately, there are always those whose ethics alarms don’t ring. In Auburn, Massachusetts,  a father who followed his child’s school bus from the bus stop, wearing a scary clown mask. The middle school students in the bus were reportedly terrified. He was charged with disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace. Continue reading


Filed under Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Humor and Satire, Law & Law Enforcement

From The “When Ethics Alarms Don’t Work” Files: The 9-11 Mattress Sale Ad

How many people were involved with this ad for Miracle Mattress?? How did it get on the air without someone with a brain cell twitching pointing out that it was so offensive that it would spark significant, indeed company-threatening backlash on social media? The company owner has apologized abjectly, but this is a serious management botch. Unless he is lying in his apology and didn’t know about the ad or see it before it was launched, he has hired a bunch of incompetent who are given far too much power.

The woman who starred in the commercial is the San Antonio store’s manager. She, at very least, has proven herself to be an incompetent fool. It might help business recover if in addition to her being fired, her head was placed on a pike outside the store…but that would be wrong.

On the bright side, maybe Colin Kaepernick  will buy a mattress there.


Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, History, Humor and Satire, Marketing and Advertising

Monday Ethics Revelations…

Taking stock of ethics from a long and eventful Monday…

1. As of yesterday, Ethics Alarms is about to complete its most successful month ever in terms of traffic and new followers, beating last August by almost 2000 visitors a day. Thanks to everyone who participated. Thanks especially to the untrustworthy folks at Snopes, whose partisan manipulations and the Ethics Alarms exposure of them fueled the single most read Ethics Alarms post in any month, unseating the previous champion, this, which was a trivial post that the Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds, deemed the only Ethics Alarms story worth linking to.

2. Yesterday, I was a guest at a large and combative gathering of personal injury lawyers to work out a dispute involving lots of money, and when the time came for me to speak, I was hooted down and had it made quite clear to me that the majority of participants had no interest in legal ethics whatsoever.

3. They  made it clear that they didn’t know much about ethics either. For example, at one point a lawyer threatened to sue another lawyer for representations made on behalf of a client that the first lawyer felt impugned his character. Lawyers are immune from such suits. To the extent that the lawyer was trying to use a bogus threat to intimidate the other lawyer into representing his client with less zeal, that tactic is unethical, but still not forbidden by the legal ethics rules….because lawyers use the threat to sue all the time.

Just like Donald Trump. Continue reading


Filed under Character, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Comment of the Day: “The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit”

There is an Ethics Alarms post “going viral” right now, at least as viral as any post on an ethics blog is likely to go. For two weeks now, my post at the end of July about how the “urban legends” site Snopes had descended into  dishonest, spinning, fact-distorting partisan/ left “factchecking” hackery has lapped all others here, and been shared to record levels on Facebook (nearing 11,000 shares) and Reddit.

This is nice, of course. It has brought a few (though not many) new commenters to the blog, and presumably more readers who stayed to peruse other topics. It has made August 2016, usually a fairly dead month, the most heavily trafficked month in Ethics Alarms annals. The post alerted some people to why Snopes is untrustworthy, though not, apparently, the Washington Post, which cited it as authority just a few days ago. It also prompted, on Reddit and Facebook, several thousand smug “this is not news, I’ve known this for years” comments. Where were your blog post, jerks?

The post’s wide circulation through the web also made me aware that a conspiracy theory holding that Democrats and the Hillary Corrupted maintain a team of attack commenters who go to blogs and attempt to muddy the waters when the truth about Clinton threatens to break through the denial dam might be accurate. I have received four or five almost identical comments on that post attempting to deny my dissection of Snopes’ pathetic attempt to prove that Hillary didn’t defend a child rapist, didn’t discredit his young victim in the process, didn’t know he was guilty when she did it, and didn’t laugh about the case in a recorded interview. None of the four commenters  read all of my post, which echoed a previous one in pointing out, as I always do, that a lawyer defending a criminal is not unethical, that the attacks on Hillary for doing so were ignorant and unfair, and that Hillary Clinton has nothing to apologize for in this case. Never mind: all four of these commenters ( and some others which never made it onto the blog) shifted into similar boilerplate language claiming I was attacking her too,  and preceded to repeat Snopes’ dishonest “factchecking” as if the documentation of its falsity I presented in the post didn’t exist.

Nonetheless, the Snopes revelation was not the Ethics Alarms post I would have chosen to “go viral.” There have been many essay in the last six year that I was, and am, especially proud of and believe were original, perceptive and important, and that have been barely read by anyone, never linked to or shared, and that have had all the impact of a shell thrown into the surf. How I wish my warning to the Republican Party , for example, urging it not to permit Donald Trump to participate in the primaries, had received similar attention. Not a single editorial board or pundit saw the peril looming, or at least  they didn’t write or talk about it if they did, because having The Donald spouting his inanities would be good copy and “fun.”

One such post dates back to the first full year of Ethics Alarms: The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit, from August 2010. In six years, it has amassed about the same number of views that the Snopes piece amassed in half a month. Yet the topic, how mouthwash manufacturers profit significantly by hiding the widespread use of their product by alcoholics who use mouthwash to conceal their destructive disease from family members and co-workers, is barely mentioned  on the web—a few places, and almost all of them since the post. Still, Congress hasn’t held hearings, regulatory agencies haven’t noticed, and the products still carry warnings that fool non-alcoholics into believing that the stuff is poison, so nobody drinks it. Lives could be saved, marriages rescued, and endangered businesses might survive, if what I wrote was generally known

I’ve done the original research and put the problem out there. At least I’ve tried, and I will continue to write about the problem, which I have learned about first hand.

My efforts  haven’t been completely futile. I have received some gratifying comments and off-site e-mails from family members who read the article, discovered that a loved one was secret drinker, and got them help. I have also received a few responses that confirmed my work, though none quite like this one from new reader Dave, an alcoholic himself.

Here is his remarkable and  cryptic  Comment of the Day on the post, The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit. Is it intentional irony? Is it sarcasm? Is it support, in the form of criticism? You decide:

Halfway through your article I decided it would be a good idea to go to shoppers and grab myself a bottle. I’d been so triggered today, only being a week sober prior. It’s great, you know, the mouthwash deception as you call it. I spend roughly $3.50 on a bottle of Life brand yellow mouthwash and it gets me radically twisted, with zero hangover. So not only does it make it easier for me to be a functioning alcoholic based on its inexpensiveness and zero hangover qualities, it is also amazingly convenient in that within 10 minutes I have three different 24 hour grocery stores I can go to in order to get a bottle.

Alcoholism is a shitty disease, believe me, I have lost much at the expense of it.

Continue reading


Filed under Business & Commercial, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Marketing and Advertising, The Internet

KABOOM! The Wrigley Field DJ Really Thought This Would Be OK! (And The Cubs Get A Jumbo…)


Talk about malfunctioning ethics alarms! This story made my head explode, once I confirmed that it was not a hoax, as I desperately hoped. It apparently made the heads of a lot of Cubs fans and Cubs executive blow craniums too.

If you don’t follow baseball closely, and by the way, what’s the matter with you?, you probably don’t know two crucial facts about the Chicago Cubs closer (that’s the pitcher who comes in to pitch the ninth when his team is ahead in a close game) Aroldis Chapman:

1. He throws the baseball over 100 mph. on almost every pitch, and has hit 105 mph. on the radar gun this season. Traditionally 90 mph on a pitcher;s fastball is considered good. 95 mph is considered very good. 100 mph is outrageous. Last year, Chapman threw more pitches over 100 mph than the rest of his league’s pitchers combined.

2. Chapman was suspended for much of this season for domestic abuse, under baseball’s new policies.

The Cubs recently acquired Chapman (from the Yankees) to be the team’s closer, in this, a season that bids fair to be the one that finally ends the team’s epic string of seasons without a World Series title. The Cubs last won the Series in 1908, over a century ago. The team hasn’t even made it to the Series since 1945.

Now here’s the punch-line.

Hold on to your head. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Family, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, Jumbo, Kaboom!, Sports

When The Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring: The Serial Killer Cocktail


Rebecca Brass, who who works with victims of sexual assault, was stunned to see an alcoholic beverage called “The Willie Pickton” on the drink menu of a British Columbia restaurant called “Surrey Wings.” It wasn’t the drink itself, which contains  blue curacao, blackberry, melon, orange juice and cranberry and sounds yummy, that troubled her, but the fact that the name honored local serial killer Robert “Willie” Pickton, currently serving a life sentence at Kent Institution in the Fraser Valley.

Though Willie was convicted of killing only six women,  the remains and DNA of 33 more were found on his farm. He also confessed  that he had murdered 49 women total, many of them Vancouver prostitutes. Brass, in her role as a sexual assault counselor with Women Against Violence Against Women, personally knows people with family members murdered by Pickton. Continue reading


Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, Workplace