Ethics Alarms Encore: “The Unethical Fine Print Game”

The following  post from 2017 became relevant today when I prepared to comment on  a story last week on Politico: 

Passengers and their survivors won a $265 million court settlement with Amtrak after a 2015 derailment in Philadelphia killed eight people and injured hundreds more. But if such a crash happened today, the victims would not be able to sue. That’s because of a clause the passenger rail line quietly added to its ticket purchases in January, which forces disputes into arbitration with no right to go before a judge or jury.

The change is bringing objections from consumer advocates, who note that it covers scenarios ranging from ordinary ticketing complaints up to wrongful death, and even includes minors who had the tickets purchased for them. And it could soon get Congress’ attention. The language has flown under the radar so far, but may burst into view when the House Transportation Committee holds a hearing on Amtrak next week.

“It is one of the most anti-consumer and passenger clauses I’ve ever seen,” said Julia Duncan, senior director for government affairs at the American Association for Justice, which represents trial lawyers.

I realized that the post I was preparing to write was already written. Here it is, with a addition. [Some other posts on the topic of fine print—yes, it’s a perpetual source of annoyance for me— can be found here.] Continue reading

Friday Night Ethics Lights, 10/25/2019: Signs Of The Coming Apocalypse?

Good Evening!

1. More evidence of ethics rot and educational malpractice at Harvard. The Harvard Crimson covered an “Abolish ICE” protest on its campus last month. The fact that the supposedly most prestigious college in the nation would have something as idiotic as an anti-ICE protest attended by more than a few unfortunates with closed head injuries is troubling enough, but behold:   student activists attacked  the daily student-run paper  for “cultural insensitivity” and of “blatantly endangering undocumented students on campus.” because it contacted the immigration enforcement agency for comment after the protest had ended.

The Horror.

Now hundreds of America’s alleged best and brightest have signed a petition demanding that the newspaper operate as if ICE didn’t exist.

 Crimson editors Angela N. Fu and Kristine E. Guillaume defended its practices  in the paper this week, protesting that asking for comment is a standard journalism device, arguing in part, “We seek to follow a commonly accepted set of journalistic standards, similar to those followed by professional news organizations big and small. Foremost among those standards is the belief that every party named in a story has a right to comment or contest criticism leveled against them.”

Forget it, Angela and Kristine. You’re supposed to be partisan activists, like the mainstream media.

Ethics experts from the Student Press Law Center and the Society of Professional Journalists supported the Crimson, citing the  SPJ’s Code of Ethics. That’s nice, although I would call the gesture “lip service.”

2. SkyNet is listening. Because of loopholes in their security software, hackers can use  Amazon Alexa and Google Home virtual assistants to eavesdrop on user conversations without their knowledge, and even trick users into handing over sensitive information.

Gee-what-a-surprise….

For once, the American Bar Association got comparatively ahead of looming legal ethics risks created by developing technology by issuing a resolution in August urging bar associations and the legal profession to develop guidelines addressing the risks posed by attorney use of artificial intelligence. It’s a long document, undoubtedly missing many issues on the horizon, and regarding those personal assistants, it lacks an essential sentence: “Don’t let those things get within ten miles of your legal work.” Continue reading

Mitt Romney’s Secret Twitter Account Is Unethical

It’s…..Mitt!

For some reason Ann Althouse is defending Mitt Romney’s fake Twitter feed identity. She’s wrong.

This week it was revealed that Senator Romney has been maintaining an undercover Twitter account as “Pierre Delicto,” a funny choice for a Mormon, since it sounds like a porn star name that George Costanza might have used if he discarded his first choice, “Buck Naked.” Mitt confessed that he used to account to “lurk” on Twitter and read what others were writing. If that was all he was doing, I would have no problem with the ethics of being “Pierre.”

However, those perusing his account, notably Georgetown professor Don Moynihan, who revealed his discoveries on Twitter, found  that Mitt also used his Twitter account to signal approval of post critical to other Republicans, like Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Lindsay Graham, and Marco Rubio, whose critic got a “like” from Pierre for this tweet…

Nice.

Continue reading

Is There A “Naked State Legislator Principle”? [Updated]

 

I guess we may find out.

In a profile of Virginia’s new House of Delegates member Lee Carter, one of the Ocasio-Cortez school socialists that snuck into the Virginia’s House under the Democratic Party banner, the New York Times quotes him as tweeting this as part of his (smart) efforts to get all of his dirty career and personal laundry out and in public before the next election:

“Just like everyone else under 35, I’m sure explicit images or video of me exists out there somewhere. That’s just a reality of dating in the smartphone era.”

I could concentrate on the statement itself, which does not bode well for Carter’s ethical decision-making in the future. It is, after all, an appeal to the biggest rationalization of them  all, #1 on the list, “Everybody does it,” as he is suggesting that if “everyone else” exposes their naughty bits inline, it’s a responsible thing to do. Carter also evokes #41 (I HATE #41),  The Evasive Tautology, or “It is what it is” as well as 1A, Ethics Surrender, or “We can’t stop it,” claiming that there is no choice other than to go full-Weiner to court the opposite sex.  In fact, there are other choices, like being modest and responsible, and not sending your crotch into cyber-space where it can get into all sorts of mischief.

While we are here, I also have to ask what “explicit images or video” means. Explicit how? Is Carter really saying that it doesn’t matter whether an explicit video shows him flexing in the mirror of going full Louis C.K.?

The statement itself suggest to me that Carter is neither especially ethical, trustworthy or bright, but then I don’t consider socialists ethical, trustworthy or bright. They want to constrain personal liberty and autonomy, and advocate increased government  incursions on our freedom based on their presumed superior priorities and values. They also are either unaware of how routinely socialism has failed, or dishonestly choose to pretend otherwise.

But I digress. The issue at hand is whether in this “smartphone era” an elected official should be able to maintain that his (or her) explicit photos or videos in no way reflect on fitness to serve. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/9/18: The Speech! The Slur! The Secret Laws! The Shameful Dance!

Good Morning!

1 What a shock: A standard, typical, Oval Office speech. The monster! Ann Althouse has nicely covered the expected biased media reaction to President Trump’s speech last night, noting in part…

I’m reading Washington Post columns this morning, drawn or repelled by headlines. I was repelled by “Trump’s nothingburger speech.” That’s Jennifer Rubin, who I guess, was expecting Trump to do something drastic and planning to rage about it, then stuck with normal, and much less to chomp on… “Trump tried to play a normal president on television. The result was very strange.” … also, obviously, aims to make something of normal… It’s Alyssa Rosenberg:

“Given the hype, it was disconcerting to hear a speech that, at least for the opening minutes, could have been delivered by any normal politician….Those very gestures of presidential normalcy revealed how futile it was for anyone to wish that Trump would start talking like that all the time. Trump may have told more blatant falsehoods about immigrants and crime over the course of his speech, but to watch him mouth these platitudes is to witness a more insidious and disorienting kind of lying….Watching Trump’s flat delivery of sentiments that he can’t possibly believe was the inverse of comforting. Instead, the address had the queasy effect of a serial killer’s mask in a horror movie: It was a failed attempt to look normal that concealed something even more terrifying underneath….”

But the WaPo readers probably love this sort of thing…

I’m sure they do. Isn’t that great journalism? “We know he doesn’t believe what he’s saying.” The presumption of dishonesty and racism.

More Althouse:

I’ve now watched the Pelosi/Schumer response. I observed my emotional reaction, and I can tell you for sure that the line that reached me was “The fact is: the women and children at the border are not a security threat, they are a humanitarian challenge – a challenge that President Trump’s own cruel and counterproductive policies have only deepened” (spoken by Pelosi).

The word with emotional resonance for me was “humanitarian.” So I went back to the text of Trump’s speech, and I see that he used the word in his first sentence:

“My fellow Americans: Tonight, I am speaking to you because there is a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border.”

And, to skip ahead to the 6th paragraph:

“This is a humanitarian crisis — a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul….”

It is not the job, obligation or responsibility of the United States to solve the humanitarian problems caused by citizens of other nations trying to enter our country illegally while imperiling children in the process. It does have an obligation to make it crystal clear that trying to make the problem ours will be futile.

Pelosi’s argument boils down to “Think of the Children!”

2.  And speaking of rationalizations: This dumb blog attempted to defend US congresswoman Rashida Tlaib uncivil and unprofessional vulgarity (“We’re gonna go in there and we’re going to impeach the motherfucker!”) by listing celebrities who have used the same insult: rappers, comedians, non-Americans, incorrigible left-wing Hollywood jerks like Spike Lee, and actors like Robert De Niro and Samuel L. Jackson, who in his movies calls everyone and everything a motherfucker, so he really shouldn’t count. this doesn’t even work as an “Everybody Does It” excuse. The issue isn’t the vulgarity, it’s the speaker, a member of Congress, and the ethical standards one accepts when entering that institution. Continue reading

Welcome The 2019’s First New Rationalizations: 1C. It Happens To Everybody, And 19 B. Murkowski’s Lament

These have been on the drawing board waiting for induction into the Ethics Alarms list of Unethical Rationalizations and Misconceptions far too long.  It’s also a good time to re-read the list, which was recently brought up to date. I wrote the damn thing, and it it still reminded me of some things.

Rationalization 1C. It Happens To Everybody, or “You’re not alone!’

This is yet another variation on the Golden Rationalization, “Everybody Does It,” but the transitive version. The theory is the same, that somehow the ethical nature of an act is changed by its frequency, or, in the case of #1C, how many victims the unethical conduct has claimed. This one is so frequently employed that it doesn’t register as a rationalization, perhaps because the one who wield’s it is often a third party. “Don’t feel too bad,” the nice person patting your head says, “You’re not the only one.” The swift answer to this should be, “So what?” Should I feel less raped because others have been raped? Should I feel less lied to because others have been deceived? Should I feel richer because others have been robbed?” Even if it is offered in kindness, this is a rationalization that aides the wrongdoer. Arguing that as long as the misery inflicted has company, what was done isn’t as bad as it was.

Rationalization 9 B. Murkowski’s Lament, or “It was a difficult decision”

Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Glenn Greenwald

I’m not exactly a fan of lawyer/muckraker/journalist Glenn Greenwald, but I’m getting there. Greenwald certainly has an ideological agenda, and it informs both his choice of topics and the slant of his reporting. However, in an age where the mainstream journalism establishment has made the tragic decision to be largely  a propaganda organization for its one favored political party, and has willfully misinformed the American public in pursuit of that party’s interests, primarily power, Greenwald stands out for his non-partisan approach, his consistent standards, his integrity, and most of all of late, his refusal to participate in counter-factual condemnations of President Trump for conduct that the news media has either shrugged away or tolerated in the past from other Presidents.

Greewald’s latest broadside against the hypocrisy comes in gloriously unrestrained The Intercept piece about the attacks on President Trump for his attitude toward the , Trump’s Amoral Saudi Statement Is a Pure Expression of Decades-Old “U.S. Values” and Foreign Policy Orthodoxies.

The title is true beyond question; I pointed out the same fact here, writing in part regarding the Khashoggi murder and the New York Times editorial calling the Trump administration’s policy response “a guide to how they might increase their standing in the eyes of the American president as well as how far they can go in crushing domestic critics without raising American ire”:

The question of how far the U.S. should go in pursuing its own interests while excusing unethical or immoral acts by foreign governments is an enduring one the stretches at least back to the United States alliance with Stalin in World War II. Outside of the fact that [ the Khashoggi murder] involves a journalist, however, the Trump “guide,” even stated in deliberately pejorative terms, seems to me to vary not one bit from the standards used by previous administrations, including the Obama Administration. China…Cuba…Iran…and yes, the Saudis, who have overseen state-sanctioned brutality and human rights outrages affecting whole classes of people, not just one journalist, for a long as anyone can remember.

Trump’s “new blueprint,” it seems to me, varies from the old blueprint not one bit. Whether the old blue-print is necessary or defensive is another issue.

Well, that was comparatively nothin’ from me as an ethics rebuke, a pea-shooter compared to Greenwald’s  tour-de force. His conclusion is uncompromising and irrefutable: Continue reading