Comment Of The Day: “More Ethics Observations On The United Flight 3411 Ethics Train Wreck”

Public discussion and media reports is finally waning regarding United’s cascading botch of a full and fully seated flight in which the airline wanted to get four seats back and had neither the law, nor policy, nor sufficient justification to acquire them. Thus its agents lied, exceeded their authority, mistreated a passenger, called in police, and they further escalated the fiasco, badly injuring the victim in the process. (Their conduct was similar in some ways to that of the police officers who killed Eric Garner.)

Even now, however, many people still believe this arose from an overbooked flight. Some misguided pundits are still blaming Dr. Dao. The news media has not taken responsibility for its terrible reporting on this incident, and still hasn’t done a good job explaining what really happened. Meanwhile, Delta has taken advantage of United’s pain by announcing that it will pay up to $10,000 to bumped passengers in the future. And Southwestern won itself an all time record for audacious cheekiness with the above ad, which United deserves. [UPDATE: Apparently this is a hoax, not a real ad. Too bad.]

Here is brian’s Comment of the Day on this ethics train wreck in the sky:

The I don’t think you’re being overly cynical here. I have seen multiple responses from media, politicians, and the CEO all following the basic pattern, propose solutions that do not address what went wrong. A handful of employees acted incompetently, and United (and probably most airlines) didn’t think through their carriage contract, police were ill trained, and the culture of United is horrible in general. But instead of addressing any of those issues, they all have motivated reasons to misconstrue the issues and offer ‘solutions’ to problems that don’t exist.

Things that could be done:

1) CEO comes out and says we are going to train and empower our staff to deal with more and varied types of situations as they arise. We also recognize that our current customer facing staff do not have the appropriate level of customer service training, which is entirely the fault of management. We are going to fix this starting now. We have pulled together XYZ resources and will be meeting weekly for the next 12 weeks to generate a comprehensive plan to begin changing our culture. You can expect an interim report in 4 weeks.

2) CEO says, we are going to set up a true reverse auction, paying cash, for all situations when we have to either remove or deny a paying customer due to reasons beyond their control. We will train all gate staff and front line managers on how to conduct this easy and straight forward auction. We should have been doing it already, because the value of the additional seats we can sell by overbooking far outweigh the costs we incur from the small portion of riders who we must justly compensate for any inconvenience.

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More Ethics Observations On The United Flight 3411 Ethics Train Wreck

Yes, Ethics Alarms was able to find a photo of an actual plane-train wreck.

Observation 1.

This was all due to moral luck

If  four passengers had taken the United offer to surrender their seats, or if the passenger selected by the agent had complied, grumbling quietly, we would neither know about this horrific episode nor would anyone be talking about it. Yet the United employees would still have lied, and would still have abused United customers. They just didn’t get away with it, that’s all. They were unlucky.

Good.

Observation II

NOW passengers are informed.

Fine print is technical disclosure, but especially in the era of electronic ticketing, not actual or ethical disclosure. Before this episode, most flyers didn’t know what they had agreed to regarding overbooking, nor were they even aware that there was such a thing as “involuntary bumping” A lot more are aware now. From travel site One Mile At A Time:

When an airline knows that a flight is likely to be oversold, they’re required to solicit volunteers. Sometimes airlines will ask at check-in, and other times they’ll ask at the gate. When it comes to a voluntary denied boarding there are no regulations as to what you get….

When airlines can’t find volunteers and still have more passengers than seats, they need to involuntarily deny people boarding. Every airline has a clause in their contract of carriage allowing them to do this. Furthermore, airlines all have procedures they use for determining who gets bumped. Some airlines bump the people who don’t have seat assignments. Other airlines decide based on who checked in last. Others decide based on status and the booking class you have.

Do note that the number of passengers being involuntarily denied boarding was at a 20 year low in 2016. Out of roughly 660 million passengers last year, only 40,000 were involuntarily denied boarding, which is roughly 0.6 involuntary denied boardings per 10,000 seats.

If you’re involuntarily denied boarding, the Department of Transportation regulates what you’re entitled to. Here are the rules, as published by the DOT:

  • If you are bumped involuntarily and the airline arranges substitute transportation that is scheduled to get you to your final destination (including later connections) within one hour of your original scheduled arrival time, there is no compensation.
  • If the airline arranges substitute transportation that is scheduled to arrive at your destination between one and two hours after your original arrival time (between one and four hours on international flights), the airline must pay you an amount equal to 200% of your one-way fare to your final destination that day, with a $675 maximum.
  • If the substitute transportation is scheduled to get you to your destination more than two hours later (four hours internationally), or if the airline does not make any substitute travel arrangements for you, the compensation doubles (400% of your one-way fare, $1350 maximum).
  • If your ticket does not show a fare (for example, a frequent-flyer award ticket or a ticket issued by a consolidator), your denied boarding compensation is based on the lowest cash, check or credit card payment charged for a ticket in the same class of service (e.g., coach, first class) on that flight.
  • You always get to keep your original ticket and use it on another flight. If you choose to make your own arrangements, you can request an “involuntary refund” for the ticket for the flight you were bumped from. The denied boarding compensation is essentially a payment for your inconvenience.
  • If you paid for optional services on your original flight (e.g., seat selection, checked baggage) and you did not receive those services on your substitute flight or were required to pay a second time, the airline that bumped you must refund those payments to you.

As you can see, in many cases you’re entitled to a sizable cash payment, up to $1,350. However, here’s the dirty secret of the airlines. In a vast majority of cases they’ll only offer cash compensation if you specifically ask for it. Otherwise they’ll offer you the same voucher they gave anyone who was voluntarily denied boarding.

Note, however, that none of this involves taking people who have already been seated off of the plane. That’s because bumping doesn’t work that way, and also because the United flight in question wasn’t overbooked, as discussed below. Continue reading

The NBA’s Unethical, Unavoidable, “Bait And Switch”

For a second consecutive Saturday, ABC’s  Saturday prime time NBA game was a pre-rigged dud. The LA Clippers blew out the supposedly star-studded Cavaliers, 108-78, as chants of “We want LeBron” echoed through the arena. The three super-stars that make Cleveland an NBA powerhouse,  LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, were all kept out of the game, not because they were injured,  but because Cleveland coach Ty Lue had decided to rest his “Big 3” in the first of back-to-back games. Sure enough, all three played against the Lakers the next day.

It has become standard practice in the NBA for play-off bound teams to rest stars for “strategic purposes,” meaning that in a league where more than half the teams make the play-offs and the regular season is little more than an exhibition for most of them, it makes no sense to blow out the stars until a championship is on the line.  The NBA, in short, has no integrity. (Neither does the National Hockey League, for the same reason.) The previous Saturday, the San Antonio Spurs blew out the Warriors, 107-85,  as Golden State fielded a  JV team, with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson all on the bench. Yet NBA’s new nine-year, $24 billion media rights deal with ABC, Disney and Turner Broadcasting included Saturday Primetime along with  the TNT Thursday Night NBA game and ESPN’s Wednesday and Friday night broadcasts, to showcase the best of the NBA. (Most of the NBA teams never make it to the Saturday ABC game.)

Shouldn’t that kind of money guarantee that the teams put their best players out on the court? NBA fans also typically shell out three figures for tickets. Doesn’t the league pull what is in essence a bait and switch by allowing a game to be treated as a virtual forfeit? Continue reading

The Daily Beast’s Nico Himes Tricks Gay Olympian Athletes Into Revealing Themselves And Their Sexual Orientation To Him…And His Editor Sees Nothing Wrong With That [UPDATED]

_Sex-in-VillageThis is another one of those stories that makes me wonder it it’s time to switch fields. My current one feels especially futile this week.

The sleazy feature story from the Daily Beast’s Nico Hines was about how Olympic athletes were hooking up for hot, sweaty, muscle sex in Rio. Hines writes…

“Perhaps the question most people have is: How do the rest of us get an invite? Can an Average Joe join the bacchanalia?”

That’s right: that’s what most people think about when they watch the Olympics. Good lord. The creep continues:

After 60 minutes in the Olympic Village on Tuesday evening, I’m surprised to say that the answer is “yes.”Armed with a range of dating and hookup apps—Bumble, Grindr, Jack’d, and Tinder—your distinctly non-Olympian correspondent had scored three dates in the first hour. Athlete profiles on the various apps during my short exploration included a track star, a volleyball player, a record-holder in the pool, a sailor, a diver, and a handball player.

There is one teeny ethics problem. Well, several. The obvious one is that he wasn’t looking for real dates, just trying to see if he could attract some. That’s deception. It is an obvious Golden Rule breach, as well as misconduct in any other ethical system. It is like advertising a job opening to write a story about how many desperate unemployed people apply for job openings. How dead do your ethics alarms have to be not to instantly understand this? Well, as dead as Nico’s and the Daily Beast’s, I suppose.

Here’s the smoking gun quote:

For the record, I didn’t lie to anyone or pretend to be someone I wasn’t—unless you count being on Grindr in the first place—since I’m straight, with a wife and child. I used my own picture (just of my face…) and confessed to being a journalist as soon as anyone asked who I was.

Isn’t that great? Nico didn’t lie, except to suggest that he was looking for sex when he wasn’t, or pretend to be someone he wasn’t, other than pretending to be gay by the very fact of posting on Grindr, a gay social media site that exists so gay men can find other gay men seeking hook-ups.

Continue reading

A Bait-And-Switcher Is Called To Account

Reliant

Our small ethics training and consulting business always has cash flow worries, so when an offer arrived from Reliant Funding promising a quick line of credit, my business partner and COO–also known as my wife—leaped into action. She checked up on the outfit, and all indications were that they were legit. Comments about them on the web lacked any red flags.

Then she called the number listed to apply for the loan, a process promised to take “hours not days,” and activate the loan card, which looked like a credit card with my name on it. Our representative was articulate and informative, and prospects looked rosy. Then my wise COO, herself now crippled by the business curse, ethical thinking, heard  “Steve” say ProEthics could probably get a $10,000 loan. She immediately and curtly said that she would have to call him back.

“This mailer says that a $41, 739 loan was pre-approved. She said. He said the most we could get was $10,000. That mailer is a lie!”

“Correctamundo!” I ventured.

Now Steve was in trouble; you don’t want to cross Grace. Really. She called Steve back, and went on the attack: Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: “The Walking Dead”

Fool me once, shame on you...

Fool me once, shame on you…

The producers and writers of  AMC’s “The Walking Dead” must be all puffed up with pride, squeezing three weeks of artificially-goosed ratings by faking the death of a major character and then bringing him back safe and sound tonight as blithely as they used to do with Pearl White in the old “Perils of Pauline” serials after the previous episode ended with a buzz-saw  inches from bisecting her, or with a speeding locamotive yards away with Pearl lashed to the tracks. (No, damn you, I’m not THAT old!)

Well, they can be proud without me. I don’t appreciated any show treating me like a fool, and that’s exactly what “The Walking Dead” did with this cheapest of cheap stunts. This is drama, not “Die Hard,” not “Days of Our Lives,” and not Gilbert and Sullivan. Silly resolutions of crises are expected in those and other genres, and an audience is forewarned and consents to the absurdities to come; it’s part of the fun. “The Walking Dead,” in contrast, has presented itself as an uncompromising, raw, nihilistic survivalist study of a hopeless and deadly world where death is lurking everywhere, and even heroes (who are barely heroes anyway) aren’t safe. It is the constant threat of a horrible death that give the show its legitimacy and its characters weight.

Take that away, and the the show is pointless gore, just a special effects exhibition with a repetitious plot attached. I know most people don’t demand integrity from their elected leaders or their entertainment, but I do. The producers and writers of “The Walking Dead” think lying is cute and profitable. I supposed its ovine fans will prove them right.

I say its unethical, and I say to hell with them.

Update: Actor Steven Yuen, who plays the now miraculously alive character, said after the show aired:

“I think it proves that this world still can take that story of the good guy winning sometimes. I really like the fact that it’s not this bent of always seeking out something miserable happening on television or something terrible and sulking on that and rather just really accepting the fact that sometimes good guys survive.”

Baloney. What this proves is that this world, which knows that good guys die all the time, can be gulled into caring about the demise of a fictional character as if that character is worth caring about, when it is is in fact just a tool of commerce and emotional manipulation by a creative force that has no interest in any artistic or philosphicaltruths, only a cynical commercial one.

 

The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2014 (Part 4 of 4)

mamoru-samuragochi2

Outrageous Hoax Of The Year

Mamoru Samuragochi, the composer sometimes known as “The Japanese Beethoven” because he composed critically acclaimed works despite being deaf, was exposed as double fraud: he didn’t compose the works that made him Japan’s most popular classical composer, and he isn’t even really deaf!  Samuragochi hired a musical ghostwriter named Takashi Niigaki to compose more than twenty compositions for Samuragochi since 1996.

Funniest Outrageous Hoax

Fake Panda

This.

Unethical Artist Of The Year

Performance artist Maximo Caminero, who  walked into the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, entered a special exhibit of sixteen ancient Chinese vases painted over in bright colors by celebrated Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, picked up one of them, and immediately after a security guard instructed him not to touch the exhibit, allowed the vase to fall from his hands, shattering into bits. Caminero admitted that smashing the pottery, which was valued at a million dollars,  was intentional, and was his protest against in support of local artists like himself whose work is not exhibited at the museum while the art of international artists like Weiwei is.

Unethical Veterinarian Of The Year

Fort Worth, Texas veterinarian Lou Tierce lost his license for five years as a result of, among other transgressions, his telling the owners of a Leonburger (it’s a very big dog) that their pet was terminally ill and had to be euthanized, then secretly keeping the dog alive in a small cage so he could use Sid’s blood for transfusions to Dr. Tierce’s other canine patients. Eventually an assistant at the clinic blew the whistle and alerted Sid’s owners, who rescued their dog and sicced the law on the worst veterinarian since Dean Jones menaced Beethoven.

Unethical Doctor Of The Year

Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s medical expert, endangered the public by defying a voluntary quarantine for possible Ebola exposure,  because she just couldn’t bear to be without her favorite soup.

Scam of the Year

Jonathan-Gruber-1

The Affordable Care Act.

 Unethical Federal Agency Of The Year

The Secret Service. Lots of competition in this category: the Veterans Administration, the I.R.S., the CDC, the Justice Department, NSA…but when you essentially have one job to do and do it badly, sloppily carelessly and dangerously, there’s really not much more to say Continue reading

The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2014 (Part 3)

ellen-selfie

2014 Conflicts of Interest of the Year

  • Conflicted Elected Official: Philadelphia State Senator LeAnna Washington. This is always an entertaining category. Washington was convicted of using her tax-payer financed staff to organize a yearly campaign fundraiser around her birthday party. When one staffer complained that this was illegal, she reportedly replied, according to his grand jury testimony:

“I am the fucking senator, I do what the fuck I want, and ain’t nobody going to change me. I have been doing it like this for 17 years. So stop trying to change me.”

  • Conflicted Journalist: CNN sent Jay Carney, fresh off his assignment as President Obama’s official spokesman, defender and spinmeister, to cover his ex-boss’s speech.
  • Conflicted  “Non-partisan” Watchdog: CREW. The Center For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and its chief, Melanie Sloan, finally came clean (after falsely claiming non-profit status as a non-partisan organization for years) by making David Brock, head of the openly partisan, foaming-at-the-mouth anti-Republican media watchdog Media Matters its Chairman of the Board, essentially merging the two groups.
  • Appearance of Impropriety Award: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La), Republican Whip. It is not certain yet whether Scalise knowingly spoke to a group of white supremacists in 20o2, inadvertently spoke to the group, or just spoke to another group meeting in the same venue before the David Duke-affiliated group of racists started comparing sheets. It isn’t even clear that Scalise knows, but everyone should agree that it looks awful no matter how you categorize it, making the fiasco a classic appearance of impropriety situation. If the Republicans were smart, they would dump him.

Unethical Attire of the Year

Offensive shirt

This.

Unethical Political Candidate of the Year

Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, whose campaign materials were largely plagiarized from the materials other candidates.

Ethically Clueless Voters of the Year

New York’s 11th Congressional District, which contains Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn. These alert and ethical citizens sent back to Washington thuggish and crooked Rep. Michael Grimm (R), then facing a 20-count indictment by federal authorities for fraud, federal tax evasion, and perjury, having earlier distinguished himself by threatening to kill a reporter and being recorded doing so.

  Unethical Advertising of the Year

Lawyer Division:

Public Service Announcement Division:

TV Program Division:

The Discovery Channel’s campaign for “Eaten Alive!” which did not, in fact, feature anyone being “eaten alive,” or at all.

Private Sector Product Division:

Halos. Or perhaps this is the Child Abuse Division:

Political Campaign Division:

Wendy Davis, Democratic candidate for Texas Governor, offered an ad attacking her wheelchair- bound opponent that 1) appealed to bias against the disabled 2) misrepresented the duties of a state attorney general 3) misrepresented the facts of the cases the ad referred to and  4)  deceived the public regarding the ethical duties of lawyers, which Davis, a lawyer, presumably understands. Continue reading

Getting Eaten Alive By A Really Big Snake Ethics: The Rest Of The Story

My guess: Paul tastes like chicken...

My guess: Paul tastes like chicken…

When we left naturalist and filmmaker Paul Rosolie, we were told that he journeyed  to the Amazon, donned a special suit, slathered himself in pigs’ blood, and allowed himself to be swallowed whole by an anaconda on “Eaten Alive,” in a two-hour special produced by  the Discovery Channel that would air December 7.  Rosolie would be removed from the snake by a cord attached to his suit, presumably before he was digested. Animal rights groups and zoologists objected, quite accurately, that this was cruelty to animals for sport.

What did viewers see on December 7? (I’m sorry: my sock drawer desperately needed organizing that day. I’m basing this on published accounts.) Rosolie found an appropriately large and hungry  snake and attracted its attention in the water. The 20-feet long reptile attacked, wrapped around him and then began to constrict. Then the snake started to try to eat the naturalist head first:  Rosolie’s helmet camera provided a lovely shot of  the anaconda’s gaping throat.

At that point, Rosolie did a terrific imitation of Gene Wilder as “Young Frankenstein” after he had himself locked in a room with the Monster with instructions that nobody should let him out no matter how much he begged. (“Let me out! Let me OUT OF HERE!!! GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE!!!….Mommy!” ) Rosalie’s team rushed in and pulled him away, disappointing the snake. Continue reading

Pre-Election Ethics Quiz: The Campaign Fortune Cookie

I have not authored the usual number of unethical campaign tactics indictments this time around. One reason is that their desperation while facing an almost certain GOP wipe-out has led Democratic Party candidates into far more questionable devices than the confident Republicans as the Blues have increasingly defaulted to race-baiting, Koch brothers attacks, scare-mongering on everything from guns to contraception, and the “war on women” chorus. Combine that with the popular integrity breach of  Democratic incumbants virtually pretending that they never heard of the Democratic President in the White House, and I was faced with giving more ammunition to those who accuse me of partisan bias. Looking at the poll projections, it appears that the worst offenders—Wendy Davis, Allison Grimes, Mark Udall, and Mary Landrieu among them—will get their just desserts from voters without additional alarms from me.

Speaking of desserts: this campaign tactic is worthy of note. A loyal Rhode Island reader inquires if I have any ethical problems with the campaign of Allen Fung, the Chinese-American GOP candidate in the closely contested Rhode Island governor’s race, delivering thousands of fortune cookies to Rhode Island Chinese restaurants that look like this when you open them

fortune-cookie-fung

So your Ethics Alarms Pre-Election Ethics Quiz is the question asked of me:

Is there anything unethical about this?

Continue reading