Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/23/2021: Shots

This morning served as a perfect example of how the news is now automatically politicized and prioritized for partisan ends. On CNN, a panel was discussing the mass shooting in Boulder. Colorado, and instantly transforming the segment into gun-control mass rant. On Fox, the crisis of the day was the chaos at the border, where the virtual open-borders policies everyone—including those planning to be illegal immigrants—knew would come in along with the Biden administration is having the predictable effects. That segment was a diatribe against the wink-wink, nudge-nudge Democratic enabling of uncontrolled immigration.

CNN wins in the closely contested dubious ethics category by having “contributor” Andrew McCabe on the panel. McCabe epitomized the FBI’s corrupt and partisan efforts to injure the Trump Administration from within; he leaked information to the media and lied about it; he was fired, and deserved to be. McCabe’s high-profile anti-Trump conduct was sufficient to get him a gig on CNN, where being part of “the resistance” is all one needs to endear oneself to the Trump Deranged.

McCabe should have lost his law license, as any attorney who leaks confidential information should, and personally, I wouldn’t trust him to walk my dog.

1. You want to be paid $15 an hour for doing a job this poorly? This morning, having been forced to get up and move my car at 7 am, I decided to drive to the local McDoanld’s for my favorite guilty morning pleasure, a sausage biscuit and some hash browns. For once I could understand the heavily accented woman on the intercom, and I made a clear and distinct order. But given false security by this unusual development, for the first time in a long while I didn’t check the bag—this McDonald’s bats about .500 in getting orders right—and sure enough, when I arrived home, I found an Egg McMuffin instead of a sausage biscuit. I hate Egg McMuffins.

This isn’t brain surgery. I know it’s a crummy job, but it is what they are being paid for. Don’t tell me someone who is that inattentive deserves “a living wage.” Pay them for not working, if you foolishly want to treat them as charity cases; at least then they aren’t getting rewarded for doing a job badly.

2. Why can’t McDonald’s work this efficiently? My experience getting my first Wuhan virus vaccination (in Alexandria, Virginia) was excellent. The elaborate process, staged at a middle school about five minutes from my home, was well-planned, cheerful, and quick, even on a Saturday with long lines. I must have personally thanked ten volunteers.

3. Oh, shut up! (1) Ex-Trump election lawyer Sidney Powell, facing more than $1.3 billion in damages over her post-election accusations, told a judge through her attorneys that the defamation lawsuit Dominion Voting Systems has filed against her should be dismissed because “no reasonable person” would believe that her well-publicized comments suggesting a coordinated plot against former President Donald Trump were “statements of fact.” Even Dominion characterized her statements as “wild accusations” and “outlandish claims,” her lawyers noted. “Such characterizations of the allegedly defamatory statements further support defendants’ position that reasonable people would not accept such statements as fact but view them only as claims that await testing by the courts through the adversary process.”

I think she wins on that point, but I have ethical problems with this:

“Reasonable people understand that the ‘language of the political arena, like the language used in labor disputes … is often vituperative, abusive and inexact,’” her motion to dismiss argues. “It is likewise a ‘well recognized principle that political statements are inherently prone to exaggeration and hyperbole.’” “It would make no sense, and serve no public purpose, to give immunity for statements made during the course of litigation – which are themselves public – but burden lawyers with the threat of billion-dollar defamation verdicts when the same allegations are made at press conferences and news releases announcing and discussing the case,” she argues.

Here is the ethics problem: lawyers are required by their ethics rules to not engage in dishonesty, misrepresentation, fraud or deceit. Advocating a client’s claim, making it clear that the position being put forward is the client’s and not the lawyer’s, does have “immunity.” But cases should not be tried in the media, and lawyers should not be seen by the public as hucksters and propagandists. Or liars.

4. Oh, shut up! (2) Maya Phillips, a New York Times “critic at large,” writes this in her review last week of a new 4-hour cut of the Justice League of America film first released in 2017:

“So here comes Superman, our hero ex machina: a white male Übermensch as the default image of hope and salvation, literally raised from the dead.”

Yes, a Times reviewer has to inject accusations of white supremacy into the review of a comic book movie, complete with Nazi jargon. This is, you know, knee-jerk anti-white racism, but Phillips, as a “critic of color” assumes she can get away with it.

Well, not with me, she can’t. Rush Limbaugh was tarred as a racist for adopting a satirical reference to Barack Obama as a “magic Negro,” and that was nowhere near as directly offensive as Phillips’ rhetoric. I could be wrong, but I think the reason Superman is the Big Enchilada in super-hero movies is because he’s the most powerful by far, and his skin color has nothing to do with it.

Phillips then adds, “Despite the other powerful, charismatic heroes on the roster (Gadot and Momoa are still intriguing to watch, even in the least flattering sequences), “Justice League” can’t see past the man with an S on his chest.” Yes, Maya, that’s because Superman is more powerful than Wonder Woman (Gadot) and Aquaman (Momoa) put together and multiplied by ten. (And Aquaman is pretty useless out of water.) I know, I know: Wonder Woman is a woman, and Aquaman isn’t white, so that that’s what really matters. At least to you.

Have they found a vaccine for The Great Stupid yet?

5. Answer: Clearly not. According to a letter from Tufts University President Tony Monaco, the Massachusetts school will spend $25 million to “advance equity, inclusion, healing, and justice” in its community and alumni networks. Student and faculty contributors crafted five final reports with recommendations to address institutional racism at the university. One part of the initiative will be to jettison the portraits of the individuals who have led Tufts over its history. Until September 2020, eleven portraits of Tufts’ former presidents hung in the Coolidge Room, often described as “Tufts’ oldest and most ceremonial space.” They were taken down literally because they were all white. The  report recommends “that the space reflect the work happening on campus and that new installations must center marginalized voices from the university’s past and present.” The portraits are now in limbo, but are likely to end up on an  an online database with all university portraits.

Such complete disrespect for those who have made a major contribution to an institution’s existence and reputation is indefensible and self-destructive. It does echo the logic of the statue toppling and honor-erasing now in vogue nationwide, however. Think about it: a well-earned honor—having a portrait hanging in a hallowed place in the institution an educator once lead–is eliminated because of that individual’s skin shade. That’s called an “anti-racism” measure.

Paging Inigo Montoya!

12 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/23/2021: Shots

  1. After the House gun control legislation passed last week, lots of people predicted a few high-profile mass shootings to push it through. Why does that always seem to happen like clockwork? It is almost like that time the FBI encouraged 2 wannabe jiahdis to attack a cartoon-drawing contest in Texas and then supplied them with weapons from the ‘Fast and Furious’ program.

  2. (1) Why is McDonald’s messed up? I can tell you why, because I lived through it.. McDonald’s used to be pretty fast and efficient. McDonald’s stores were a mix of franchisees and Corporate-owned stores. The McDonald’s Corporation provided training and support for franchisees and their key staff, but franchisees ran their own stores and had some latitude in how that was done.

    In the early 1990’s, the Corporation found that their most profitable stores were ALL owned by franchisees. They couldn’t understand it. The Corporation was staffed by highly-trained experts and professionals. The franchisees were just Joe-blow off the street hiring their relatives for managers. How could average people out-perform the EXPERTS? They decided that the franchisees must have lucked into ALL the good locations. So, they proceeded to buy up all the best-performing McDonald’s in the country. These were ‘fast stores’, averaging over $20,000 in sales/day at the time. After a year of corporate ownership, however, these stores had all become ‘slow’ stores, with well under $10,000/day in sales. The McDonald’s Corporation even sued several of the former franchisees, claiming that their sales figures must have been faked, because the ‘experts’ couldn’t replicate the success.

    Now that there were no more ‘fast’ stores, the ‘efficiency experts’ moved in. They added warmers, so the food could be held longer before being discarded. This reduced waste, and also made the stores EVEN SLOWER. Owners with a financial stake in their stores were replaced by hired managers who receive no performance bonuses and have little flexibility in the wages they paid the workers. Apathy sets in. Bad workers aren’t fired, good ones leave. This is McDonald’s of today.

    What did the franchisees do differently?

    •As a trainer, I only approved about 1/2 the trainees for hiring. After their 3 training shifts, I recommended that 1/2 the people be fired. This was fully supported by management. Employees who didn’t show up for shifts were fired.

    •Employees were reviewed quarterly with performance measurements. For example, if a counter person couldn’t fill orders in an average of 1 minute, 45 seconds over 2 hours, they were removed from working the counter or fired. Employees who passed were given between a $0.10-$0.50 raise each review.

    •Employees in good standing were given $1/hour raises on the anniversary of their hire. This was good up to a total of $5/hour (when the minimum wage was $3.75/hr).

    *Managers were given a 100% bonus at the end of the year if the store made quota. Managers did not tolerate bad managers because their pay would get halved if the store didn’t make quota. Bad employees were fired. Bad managers were fired or reassigned.

    •Long-term crew members (over 3 years) were given the owner’s phone number to report problems at the store anonymously. One such call resulted in the owner’s daughter-in-law being reassigned from store manager to accounting.

    •We ‘bent’ McDonald’s protocols to increase efficiency. Grill leaders were given drive-though headsets so they could hear special orders as soon as they happened to reduce the number of parked orders, for example. Counter workers also called special orders to the grill area directly, bypassing management. Grill workers would ‘modify’ food being cooked to fill special orders (throw away a bun to make a double). Food was almost always being cooked so special orders would not wait.

    •Employees were cross-trained in almost all areas. I was a college kid, but I could work the grill, counter, or drive through. I knew how to clean, disassemble, and reassemble all the machines. So did all the long-term employees. So did EVERY SINGLE MANAGER. In 5 years, I saw an shake or ice cream machine down for 1 afternoon total (because it actually broke). Now, it seems the ice cream or shake machines are ‘down’ half the time and it is because no one knows how to take them apart or put them back together. I was at a store and their machine was ‘broken’ because no one, including the store manager, knew how to put it back together. I asked them if they wanted me to put it together right (blades were going the wrong way, part inserted backwards) and they said ‘No’. This was noon on a Saturday. My franchise owner would have fired EVERYONE.

    •Managers were given leeway to keep things running. I was once given a $20 bill to work one more hour when 5 buses pulled in just as my shift ended. The tomatoes we were supplied by McDonald’s were overripe once, so the manager gave me $30 and sent me to the grocery store to buy good tomatoes.

    •The owner had no delusions about what McDonald’s was. He said “This ain’t haute cuisine. People want it clean, courteous, fast, and most of all, they want it to taste like every other McDonald’s meal they have ever had in their life. If you can give them that, they will keep coming back. That is your job.”

    The current state of McDonald’s is yet another warning about the dangers of ‘experts’ running things.

    • Corporate always tries to implement a one-size fits all policy for all locations. They take it to extremes of ridiculousness. I worked for a big box retail store once, where corporate turned the heat on in 90 degree weather because it was cold where they were located. The store manager called and told them to turn it off because the customers were all leaving and the employees were getting heat stroke. Corporate refused because “it was policy to keep all the stores the same temperature”. The maintenance guy ended up taking a digital thermometer around the store taking pictures of the actual temperature to prove they had jacked the temperature up to 100 degrees in our location. He also went outside and took pictures of the temperature outside to prove that the temperature in whatever northern city they were in was unrelated to the temperature in other parts of the country. Once corporate was emailed the photos, they turned the heat off and turned the air conditioning back on.

      One-size fits all leaves no room for adjustments that work in specific locations.

    • And therein lies the Comment of the Day.
      Some might see it as a McDonald’s-specific comment, but in reality it is a life-specific issue.

  3. I mean, at the risk of absolutely flogging a dead horse:

    Kamala Harris on the Atlanta shooting:

    “Whatever the killer’s motive, these facts are clear,” she said. “Six out of the eight people killed on Tuesday night were of Asian descent. Seven were women. The shootings took place in business owned by Asian-Americans. The shootings took place as violent hate crimes and discrimination against Asian-Americans has risen dramatically over the last year or more.”

    Kamala Harris on the Boulder shooting:

    “Vice President Kamala Harris said on Tuesday morning that the shooting was “absolutely baffling.”

    “It’s 10 people going about their day, living their lives, not bothering anybody,” she said according to a pool report. “A police officer who is performing his duties, and with great courage and heroism.””

    The differences?

    Right! All 10 people who died in Denver were white, and the shooter was named Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, which we all recognize as a good Polish name if ever we’ve heard one. I neither know nor really care if the Boulder shooter (as I will refer to him from now on, these clowns don’t deserve names) was a Muslim extremist, but by golly…. It sure is neat how all the arthritis-inducing knee-jerk rushes to judgement on the motivations and larger societal issues go straight into hibernation the moment someone with a good Polish name shoots up a whole lot of white people.

    And the gun control debate rages in 3….2….1….

    • The question is… were they killed DUE TO being Asian or did they happen to work at a place that was targeted and they ARE ASIAN. That’s a very important distinction. Even George Floyd. Did he happen to be black and was treated poorly or was it due to being black? Here for people that are struggling with the concept. You rent a car with 95,000 miles on it and it breaks down 100 miles from the rental facility. It’s the fuel pump. Did you break the car, or did you happen to be driving when the car broke? If people can’t distinguish between the two I think society is in serious trouble.

    • “Right! All 10 people who died in Denver were white, and the shooter was named Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, which we all recognize as a good Polish name if ever we’ve heard one. ”

      So it’s official. When they didn’t show a photo of the shooter, I had a feeling he wasn’t white. When they didn’t give his name, I knew why.

  4. Any update on the Pandemic Creates a Classic and Difficult Ethics Conflict?

    It is not surprising that gun control is the only advertised solution to gang violence, given it has been that way since I was in high school.

    Of course, their proposed gun control laws will be enforced by the very people who were decried as racist and lawless just last year, in a criminal justice that was called racist last year.

    They would demand that Derek Chauvin be pardoned if only he would pledge to disarm the gangbangers in the ghetto!

    • “It is not surprising that gun control is the only advertised solution to gang violence…”
      Yes, but I’d say control proposals are rarely put forward with that specific problem noted, nor do they usually contain provisions that would actually affect that criminal behavior. Gang gun violence, especially minority use with illegally acquired and possessed firearms, is rarely widely noted except as part of the raw numbers pumping up general anti-firearms statistics, like including 17 year old bangers as murdered “children”.

      The death toll from a weekend or two in Chicago will generally outstrip a years worth of highly publicized “mass murders”, but don’t advance the narrative: white people with scary black guns.

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