Monday Morning Ethics Eye-Opener, 5/18/2020: Shopping Carts, Stupid Cabinet Member Tricks, And More [CORRECTED]


Many readers have been sending in suggested post ideas, which is especially appreciated since the news media seems to have decided that only pandemic-related matters, Democratic Party-boosting  and Trump-bashing are worthy of prominent coverage. Let’s look at today’s Times front page—one, two—out of six stories, only one, at the bottom of the page, isn’t in one of these three categories.

I’ve also been receiving much appreciated help fixing typos. Thanks. Sometimes I find my own mistake, like noticing this morning that Glenn Logan’s excellent Comment of the Day from the weekend somehow got posted without a headline or a tag mentioning that it was the Comment of the Day.

1. Is State Secretary Mike Pompeo  really as irresponsible, reckless and arrogant as it appears?  The firing of Inspector General Steve Linick is causing “firestorm” #81,753 of the Trump administration because he was reportedly investigating the Secretary of State’ss alleged misuse of taxpayer-funded assets for personal rather than professional purposes. Last summer, members of Congress looked at a whistle-blower complaint accusing Pompeo of asking diplomatic security agents to run errands like picking up restaurant takeout meals and retrieving the family dog from a groomer. In October, a Democratic senator called for a special counsel to investigate his use of State Department aircraft and funds for frequent visits to Kansas, his home.

More than one Trump Cabinet official has had to leave because of this stuff. Anyone working for President Trump has to know that they are under special scrutiny because a whole political party and the news media is searching for any means possible to weaken Trump’s Presidency, throw monkey wrenches into its work, and further undermine public trust. What Pompeo is accused of is petty abuse of power and position, but it is still abuse, and also arrogant rich guy-entitled, “Mad Men” style  self-indulgence. Pompeo knows it’s wrong, and also knows he’s a target. If the allegations are true, it is really stupid for him to do this, and also stupid for the President not to have announced a no-tolerance policy about this kind of conduct months, heck, years, ago.

2. An ethics analysis I had never heard of before: “The Shopping Cart Theory.” [Pointer: valkygrrl]

Are you a bad member of society if you leave your cart in the parking lot where a shopper can easily grab it to enter the store? Presumably not, though right now grocery stores have employees sanitizing the cart handles, so one that is not properly returned also poses a health risk.

The Shopping Cart Theory is an excellent example of applied signature significance.

3. Chuck Todd’s apology. Jutgory reminded me that I hadn’t mentioned Chuck Todd’s apology for this fiasco. A week ago, Todd added his apology to NBC’s laughable ‘Oops! Silly us!’ acknowledgement on Meet the Press Daily, saying,

“I wanted to talk for a moment about something that occurred on Sunday’s edition of ‘Meet the Press.’ During the program, we aired a soundbite from a CBS News interview with Attorney General Bill Barr. In the bite that we aired and commented on, Mr. Barr was asked how he thinks the history of his decision to end the prosecution of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn will be written. Mr. Barr answered, quote: ‘History is written by the winner, so it largely depends on who’s writing the history.’ In the full version of the interview and transcript, he went on to say, ‘But I think a fair history would say that it was a good decision because it upheld the rule of law.’ Now, we did not edit that out. That was not our edit. We didn’t include it because we only saw the shorter of two clips that CBS did air. We should have looked at both and checked for a full transcript. A mistake that I wish we hadn’t made and one I wish I hadn’t made. The second part of the Attorney General’s answer would have put it in the proper context. Had we seen that part of the CBS interview, I would not have framed the conversation the way I did, and I obviously am very sorry for that mistake. We strive to do better going forward.”


  • What Todd is admitting is unethically sloppy preparation and research, and being governed by confirmation bias, if you believe him. I don’t know why anyone should.
  • I doubt that Todd is capable of “doing better.”
  • CBS Evening News did air the edited clip, though correspondent Catherine Herridge did not add any analysis afterward. That was still unethical and deceptive on the part of CBS and Herridge.
  • Did Todd apologize personally to Barr? He should.

4. Speaking of Catherine Herridge: The CBS reporter entered a purely factual story on the Michael Flynn  “unmasking” list that acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell gave Congress this week. In addition to showing that Joe Biden had lied about his degree of participation in the Flynn matter, she also was defying an apparent mainstream media agreement to embargo the emerging details of so-called “Obamagate.” Andrew Bates, a spokesperson for Joe Biden’s campaign,  attacked Herridge, tweeting,

“SCOOP: Catherine Herridge is a partisan, rightwing hack who is a regular conduit for conservative media manipulation ploys because she agrees to publicize things before contacting the target to ask for comment,.”

Boy, can you believe that Trump? What an autocrat! He actually attacks journalists any time they publish…oh. Right.

Bates took down the tweet. One thing you have to give credit to Trump for, he almost never takes down his actual stupid and offensive tweets.

5. And speaking of thatThis much maligned tweet—which several of my Deranged friends rushed to post on Facebook, apparently was a hoax:

There is a searchable archive of all of President Trump’s tweets  called Trump Twitter Archive. It can be searched by keywords as well as by date, and the tweets are compiled in order down to the minute and second. The Trump Twitter Archive (here) has no record of a tweet from President Trump at the time matching the tweet’s timestamp, (10:35 AM 11 May 2020).

Not that the tweet doesn’t seem like something he would tweet….[Pointer: Steve Witherspoon]


23 thoughts on “Monday Morning Ethics Eye-Opener, 5/18/2020: Shopping Carts, Stupid Cabinet Member Tricks, And More [CORRECTED]

  1. Shopping carts…. at Aldi here in So Cal (as the procedure in most EU countries), you have to pay a quarter to release a shopping cart from the corral… you get the quarter back when you return it to the corral… Of course, it led (pre-Chinese virus) to local kids offering to return the cart for you in exchange for the quarter…
    Cheers, Mike (why is it raining in So Cal the week after I had my windows done and my cars detailed?)

    • Where I live, people purposely leave the quarter behind so that the next person doesn’t have to go digging for one. I’ve also arrived at Aldi’s to find that some kind soul filled $1/$2 worth of quarters into the carts; just to be nice.

    • That’s the European model. Took me a while to figure it out when I first encountered it in Germany. By the way, the deposit required in Europe is one Euro.

      • I find it interesting that a European grocery store would have the balls to import such a system and impose it upon Americans. I find it really obnoxious and police state-like. Another example of why we shouldn’t be in any hurry to be like European countries.

        • It’s a very efficient system, and it actually does help keep the store’s costs down (they don’t have to pay employees to go round up carts), and in Aldi’s case, they do seem to actually pass those savings on in the form of lower prices. They have a number of other innovations that enable them to run an entire grocery store with only a fraction of the employees at most other stores (usually only 4-5 people at any one time). One particularly clever one is to put bar codes on at least three sides of most packages. The cashier doesn’t have to twist and turn the box (or even look at it) to get it to scan, and the rate at which Aldi cashiers can ring up a full cart of groceries is often astounding compared to the pokey pace one finds at a Kroger or Albertson’s…

          A side benefit of Aldi’s cart system is I’ve never had my car scratched by an Aldi shopping cart rolling loose in the parking lot, unlike the free-for-all at, for example, Wal-Mart.

  2. 2. And then there are the people who live in apartments within walking distance of grocery stores who use the carts to take their groceries all the way home because, I guess, they don’t have cars. Then they abandon the carts in the vicinity of their apartment. I guess they justify this because they are poor and the grocery stores are rich.

    This phenomenon does however have the benefit of giving rise to one of my favorite job titles. Guys who go around in their trucks and pick up the stray carts and return them to the appropriate store on some sort of bounty system or contract basis, I’m not sure which, are called “shopping cart wranglers.” At least out here in the great southwest.

  3. Apologies—I just fixed a bunch of typos. I was about to do the final proof when I felt sick, and just got a chance to do what was supposed to be done several hours ago.

    Incredibly, I have the flu, which I almost never get. Count on me, a true contrarian, to get THAT while I’m supposed to be watching out for Wuhan. This is why the cool kids avoided me in high school…

  4. I share the sentiment about returning shopping carts (although I characterize returning shopping carts to the designated place “good” behavior rather than “right” behavior). The failure of returning carts is an example of what I call negligent inconsideration. I believe there are few of us that have not been frustrated looking for a parking space, and upon finding an empty space, also find that someone has left a shopping cart in the space. This requires one to get out of his vehicle to move the cart or continue searching for an empty space – a waste of time and effort. It takes very little empathy and forethought to apply the Golden Rule and simply return carts to their designated place. However, the person that fails to do so is not only guilty of a Golden Rule breach but has implicitly decreed that his time is more valuable than the time of the next person wanting to use the parking space; and this is something he cannot possibly know. The behavior is selfish, arrogant, rude, and disrespectful.

  5. #5 An old friend (doesn’t like President Trump) of mine posted that false tweet and when I read it I immediately though about President Trump’s unethical loose cannon mouth and then something struck me as being a bit off, even for Trump. I started digging around and found that this one was so blatantly false that even Snopes flagged the tweet as being false saying in part, “No such tweet exists on the timeline of the @RealDonaldTrump Twitter account, and neither the Factbase or Politiwoops databases, which archive tweets by public officials (including deleted tweets), has captured any such matching tweet.”. I let my old friend know on his post that the tweet was false, provided him the link to Snopes and he immediately deleted the post and privately thanked me letting him know.

    Side Note: I’ve had (past tense) other Facebook friends that have posted anti-Trump things that were blatantly false and after I told them that their post was false and provided something to support my opinion, the vast majority of those anti-Trumpers argue with me, ask me not to reply to their posts, deleted my reply, ignore me, unfriend me, and block me; in the end the others always left the false posts up there for everyone to read and continue to perpetuate the lies – they’re ethically bankrupt. This particular friend is different, he may have got sucked into posting that particular false tweet because his bias told him it was true but in the end his conscience wouldn’t allow him to leave that false post on his Facebook profile.

    The moral of the story is that even though we can disagree, even strongly disagree, with what some people do and say, not all of them are so utterly consumed with their hate that they’re ethically bankrupt.

    It’s little things like this recent interaction that positively build on my waning hope for the future.

  6. Re: No. 2: The Shopping Cart Scold.

    Methinks the drafter of that shopping cart rule is a bit too invested in shopping carts. Leaving a shopping cart in the parking lot may be lazy, rude, or inconsiderate, but I hardly think it is a determining factor whether the person is a good or bad member of society. “No better than an animal, an absolute savage . . . “? That’s harsh. I mean, I hate my car getting banged by a runaway cart as much as the next person but rarely have I made a value judgment against the person or persons responsible for leaving the cart to its own devices.

    Here in Houston, many of the big store grocers have designated corrals for carts lest one escape and join in general mischief. It certainly makes the employees’ jobs easier. Otherwise, they have to run around the entire parking lot to lasso some miscreant cart who refuses to be “broke in” like some weak-willed stallion.


  7. The shopping cart theory is fine, if revised to make sense.

    I would say it’s valid if “returning” the shopping cart meant:

    1. Returning it safely to a designated cart holding area that is not full to overflowing;

    2. Returning it to the store if 1. is either impossible or further away, being careful to place it in the appropriate areas for returned carts (all the stores in our area have employees collecting the ones customers returned);

    3. Not returning it in an emergency, but trying to place it in an area where it does not a) block a parking space or b) represent a hazard to those parking, entering or leaving the store.

    The non-emergency morons are those who leave their cart in the tiny space between their car and the next one, then carefully back out, making use of the space almost impossible, and creating the opportunity for it to damage the car next to them.

    Equally evil is the asshole that leaves the cart in an adjacent space, blocking it for others and opening the possibility it will roll into other cars, damaging them, or into other people, injuring them.

    The worst are those who decide they need a shopping cart and abscond with it. It happens.

    There is some validity to the shopping cart test if simple guardrails are put in. Areas for returning carts are intended to be used, and also provide employment opportunities for the young and/or unskilled. There is also nothing wrong with returning the cart yourself if it makes sense and is more convenient than using a return area, as long as you do it safely and in a way that doesn’t risk others.

    This is simple, Golden Rule-type stuff.

  8. #5 doesn’t sound like Trump, although there is a parody-type form.

    Correction: #5 does sound like a Trump tweet — to the TDS afflicted.

  9. You said: Did Todd apologize personally to Barr? He should.

    Four words: Not on your life. I think he loathes Barr almost as much as Trump, and can you imagine him apologizing to the President?

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