When “Oopsie!” Isn’t Acceptible: It’s “Spring Forward,” You Idiots!


From Ron Sarro, a friend, former D.C. journalist, once president of the Washington Press Club, and a reliable source:

“The ABC National weather woman just advised viewers “Don’t forget to turn your clocks back” on Sunday, then demonstrated how to use a machine to mix a booze drink. Its ‘Spring forward, Fall back,”  ABC, which made no effort to correct the error.”

Oh, nice. Now people who rely on ABC will be two hours off on Sunday. Imagine what kind of carnage this reporter’s gaffe will cause, and there is absolutely no way ABC can fix the problem. Sure, the correct information is out there in many places, but thousands, perhaps thousands of viewers will suffer because an inept and unprofessional reporter wasn’t thinking or taking appropriate care.

Sure, mistakes will happen…and this one should have been flagged immediately in the studio, and fixed on the spot. Moreover, there are certain kinds of information that cannot be excusably miscommunicated—the addresses of 911 call emergencies, for example.  Explaining to a patient over the phone how much medicine to take. Even conveying recipes in cooking shows. Such information flags itself; anyone should know that when one is telling millions of people to do something that might completely disrupt their lives if done incorrectly, you must be accurate, and you must be certain that you have the correct information and are accurately transmitting it.

We should be able to rely on professionals to understand this. There is very little professional and therefore very little trustworthy either about the broadcast networks any more, however….so we can’t.

A lot of people are going to learn this the hard way on Sunday.


Graphics: ABC News

No, It’s Actually Allison Benedikt Who’s A Bad Person

Hang in there--the schools will be better in a few generations...

Hang in there–the schools will be better in a few generations…

There may be some persuasive arguments to be made for sending your child to a public school system you don’t trust. The obvious one is that you have no choice, which is true for many Americans. There are also some good reasons to write a “manifesto” called “If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person,” the best of which is to cause people to focus on the problem of the failing and unacceptable public school system, and what should be done about it. However, Allison Benedikt, who actually wrote an article with this title and presumably this intent, failed so miserably at making a coherent and persuasive argument of any kind that her provocative title amounts to an unethical assertion itself: if you are going to make a blanket indictment of the character of millions of people, you had better be able to produce an ethical argument or two, or at least demonstrate that you comprehend a little bit about ethics. Allison doesn’t. Based on this piece, I not only wouldn’t trust her (oh, by the way, Allison, the core objective of ethical conduct in your profession—any profession, actually—is trust) to provide advice about how to educate my child, I wouldn’t trust her to walk my dog. Continue reading

Hate Thy Neighbor: the Cranston Ethics Train Wreck

Cranston, Rhode Island resident Edward Jimmis, it is fair to say, is an idiot.

That’s okay. There are a lot of idiots, and they do very well. Many of them, perhaps a majority, are even in Congress. Now, when the constituents of a Congressional districts represented by an idiot get tired of the idiocy, they have a very effective remedy. They can vote the idiot out of office, and this is fair, ethical, and effective, though not exercised nearly as often as it should be. What is the ethical response, however, when you discover that your neighbor is not only an idiot, but an especially hateful and uncivil idiot? This is the challenge facing the neighbors of Edward Jimmis. They may not have the right answer. Continue reading

Oh, Shut Up! There Is Nothing Wrong With “Go the F*** to Sleep”

If they think "Go the F*** to Sleep" is bad....

The guilt-mongers and Child Over-Protection Patrol have set their sites on “Go the F*** to Sleep,” Adam Mansbach’s children’s book parody, a cranky, profanity and obscenity-laced release for frustrated and sleep-deprived parents of small children everywhere.

“Imagine if this were written about Jews, blacks, Muslims or Latinos,” intones Dr. David Arredondo, quoted by CNN. He is an expert on child development and founder of The Children’s Program, in the San Francisco metropolitan area, which provides consultation and training for those working with troubled youths. Yes, Dr, imagine. Then it wouldn’t be a humorous satire for the amusement of perfectly loving parents.

“Nobody is suggesting that there’s a connection between Adam Mansbach’s book and child abuse or child neglect,” writes Karen Spears Zacharias, whose essay suggests that there is a connection between Adam Mansbach’s book and child abuse or child neglect. “Still, there’s no denying the reason “Go the F*** to Sleep” should be kept out of reach of children is because of its violent language and because of the way it demeans children.”

OK, there’s a book that is an inside joke for parents that relieves their guilt over the occasional horrible thoughts they have about their children, and children shouldn’t read it, because they wouldn’t understand. So what? Since when was there something inappropriate about enjoying books that shouldn’t be shared with children? I wouldn’t let my child read Dr. Spock, either. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce or Hero? The Paradox of “The Amex Angel”

You probably heard the story. About three weeks ago in Manhattan,  ad executive Merrie Harris was approached by a homeless man who asked her for some spare change. Harris told the man, Jay Valentine, that she had no change, but offered to lend him her American Express Platinum Card if he would promise to return it. Valentine assured her he was trustworthy, and, incredibly, Harris gave him the card. He returned the card a short time later after a modest shipping spree that added twenty-five dollars to her bill. The New York media sang the praises of both Harris and Valentine, dubbing Harris “the Amex Angel” and calling the episode “a shining act of generosity, trust and honesty.”

I almost designated Wilson an Ethics Hero at the time, but something stopped me. I have been considering the implications of the strange story ever since. It may have been that shining act, but I’m not convinced it was even ethical. Is that possible? How can an act of generosity, trust, and kindness not be ethical?  Continue reading

BREAKING NEWS! Blago’s An Unethical Lawyer, Too!

A librarian at Northwestern University found confidential attorney-client files in eighteen boxes of files belonging to Rod Blagojevich. The librarian purchased them at in an auction held by a moving and storage company that sold Blagojevich’s stored possessions after he stiffed the company on his storage bills. The files date from the ex-Illinois governor and current criminal defendant’s days as a prosecutor. Even though Blago no longer practices law (his bar status is inactive), his duty to protect prior client confidences is sacred and perpetual. The relevant Illinois Rule, 1.6, says:

(a) Except when required under Rule 1.6(b) or permitted under Rule 1.6(c), a lawyer shall not, during or after termination of the professional relationship with the client, use or reveal a confidence or secret of the client known to the lawyer unless the client consents after disclosure.

That means that leaving boxes of former client secrets statements, records and confidences in boxes stored in a facility where you’re not paying your bills is recklessly risking the privacy of those documents, and making it possible for them to fall into untrustworthy hands—not that Rod Blagojevich meets the minimal level of trustworthiness either.

Blago told the AP that he had no idea what was in the boxes. Wrong answer: he has a duty to know where his client files are and that they are secure. He also said that he didn’t know he was in arrears at the storage facility. Also wrong: staying current with the bills was his responsibility as part of his duty to protect his clients’ confidences.

That a man who ignored his duty to the public, and tried to use his power to appoint a U.S. Senator for personal gain, was also cavalier with his ethical duties to former clients should come as no surprise.  People who are unethical in one job are likely to be unethical in others.  And Rod…well, I think it’s fair to say that Rod Blagojevich is likely to be unethical no matter what he does, including eating and sleeping.

Ethics Hero: East Haven Mayor April Capone Almon

I know what you are going to say.  There has to be an angle, right?

“Come on: fool me once, shame on you, fool me 67,896,432 times, shame on me. A mayor donates her kidney to a citizen of her city just because it’s a nice thing to do?  Who is gullible enough to believe that?

East Haven Mayor April Capone Almon, like many politicians, uses her Facebook page less for social networking than for political public relations, and to built those fundraising mailing lists, of course.  Almon was perusing the status updates of her more than 1,600 “friends” last year when she happened to read the status update of Carlos Sanchez, whom knew slightly. It said his friends and relatives had all been tested and couldn’t donate a kidney, which he needed desperately.

So  Almon, 35, got tested, was a match, and gave him her kidney. Continue reading

Web Ethics, Due Diligence, and the Happy Maxi-Pad

There is no denying it any more. It is per se unethical to pass along information discovered on the web to anyone, much less to put it on a blog or in an e-mail, until you have performed due diligence and determined with reasonable certainty that it is accurate and true.

All the more reason, then, to praise the Snopes “urban legends” website, which does a superb job tracking down and clarifying web hoaxes, rumors and other misinformation. A lot of the latter isn’t even intentional, but the consequences of not checking the facts can still be significant and harmful,

I thought about this after encountering an amusing bit of web lore that many of you may have already seen, on aan old blog post that introduced the piece like this: Continue reading