Tag Archives: honesty

Ethics Hypothetical: Rules, Compassion, Integrity, Fairness, And A Looming Race Card

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[The hypothetical is inspired by two recent events I witnessed in the past week.]

Preface: The state requires new bar admittees to take a one-day course covering the basics of practicing law in the jurisdiction—how the courts work, special procedural rules, unique aspects of local practice, horror stories, the works. They must complete the course or they can’t be certified, and the court-ordered series of lectures and presentations is held only once a month.

A company runs the mandatory curriculum under contract to the state, and is required to confirm in writing to the courts that its requirement have been fulfilled. One key requirement is that every attendee must be present for every minute of the presentations, except for brief emergencies, like using the rest rooms. The course administrators carefully monitor attendance. The published description of the course directs that once the course begins, theoretically at 9 am sharp, no late-comers will be admitted.

As you might imagine, missing the session can be quite a hardship, as participants often live and work in other jurisdictions.

The Event: It is 9:08 am on the day of the program, and the introductory video that begins the orientation is almost finished. It consists of interviews with members of the bar about the benefits of practicing in the state, the importance of ethical practice, etc: to say it is not substantive is an understatement. Literally nothing that is said and shown in the video is anything but boilerplate.

A young man, sweating profusely, bursts in the door, looking unhappy and desperate. “I’m sorry I’m sorry!” he babbles. He says that he had to drive up from a neighboring state and had an accident. “Can I still get in?” he pleads.

The male staffer responsible for the session chats briefly with an associate. The program was late starting, and this late arrival will miss nothing if he goes in now. “All right,” the honcho says as the young man heaves a sigh of relief. “I shouldn’t do this, but you haven’t missed anything.” As he goes into the auditorium, one can here the opening remarks of the first speaker, a judge. It is now 9:12 am, and another young man bursts through the door on a dead run. “My crazy cabbie’s been driving me all over the city for an hour!” he shouts. “I flew in last night from Arizona! Please, please, don’t make me do this again…I barely was able to afford this trip.” The administrator is wondering if he had seen the previous guy go into the auditorium. He’s heard this judge’s spiel many times: all that has been missed, to be honest, are a few (lame) jokes. “All right, all right, get in there quick!” he tells the new supplicant. “I’ll finish your paperwork during the break!” The kid looks like he’s going to cry, he’s so relieved.

I’m there, watching this (I’m on the program) and say to the administrator, “I bet this happens every time.” He says, “It does. I know that nobody misses anything that isn’t in the printed materials until 9:15, so it’s a hard stop after that.”

And another late arrival bursts through the door. It’s a bit after 9:14. The staffer has just told me that the final final deadline is 9:15, and it’s not that yet. This poor guy is bleeding through his pants,  has a big bruise on his face, and is saying something about a bicycle accident. By the time he gets himself settled—he is told that there is no time to clean up—it’s past 9:16. He starts toward the auditorium door as the other staffer says, “OK, that’s IT,” and starts to take the registration materials and lists away….just a very stressed young African-American woman enters, in plenty of time to see the bicycle rider, who is white, enter the auditorium. I can hear the judge through the open door. He’s still telling jokes, longer this time than usual.

Issues and Observations

1. The young woman was not admitted, and told that she had to come back another month. She too was from out of state. She also had a legitimate-sounding excuse.

  • Was that fair to her?
  • Should it have mattered that the program had not yet reached a serious stage?
  • She was told that 15 minutes was the absolute, unwaivable deadline. That was true, but it was not the deadline the company was contracted and pledged to enforce. That deadline was 9:00 am.

2. Should the explanations used by the latecomers play any part in the decision to allow them in? Why? Continue reading

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Filed under Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

The Ethical Dilemma Of The Successful, Failing, Local Small Business

Now THIS is a gyros sandwich!

Now THIS is a gyros sandwich!

The little restaurant opened the same year my wife and I moved into the neighborhood. It specialized in yummy Greek fare like gyros, souvlaki, and Greek salads, but also made terrific hamburgers, subs and pizzas, and quickly became our reflex fall-back when we were too tired to make dinner or wanted a treat for lunch. The place was a family operation: the tiny, spunky middle aged woman who seemed to run the place—taking the orders, filling bags, taking the payment—had a Greek accent that reminded me of my grandmother and all of my relatives from her generation; her husband, silent, imposing, who was the chef; and over time, the two children, both of whom worked there when they weren’t in school.

The food was consistently delicious, fresh and authentic, but it was also satisfying to see an old-fashioned family business growing and thriving. A restaurant consultant would probably have said it was too old-fashioned, for the menu never changed, the faded prints of the Parthenon and the Aegean coast were the only decorations in the place, and it dealt only in cash. Still, the little Greek lady greeted you with a knowing smile when you walked in the door, and you knew you were going to be treated like a neighbor.

Then suddenly, the family was gone. The couple decided to sell the place and retire, and a long-time employee who had worked in various jobs over the years took the restaurant over. I knew him, of course, and we talked often. He’s a nice guy, determined, ambitious, hard working. He threw himself into the job of making the business boom. Now the restaurant accepts credit cards and delivers, is open on Sundays, has daily specials, and sports a newly-painted and (somewhat) less austere decor. He also jacked up the price on everything.

The new owner’s formula for success worked almost immediately. The restaurant, he told me, has almost doubled its business. The problem is, as my family gradually discovered, is that the entirely non-Greek staff, including the owner,  has no idea what their food is supposed to taste like. You know you’re in trouble when the entire staff mispronounces everything on the menu, (It’s GIR -Os, hard G, not, ugh, “JY-row,” like the name of the goose inventor in Donald Duck comics), but it’s worse than that. The feta cheese in the Greek salads, which are suddenly mostly iceberg lettuce, is scant and low quality. The once-marvelous cheese steak subs are bland; the onion rings are charred, and every now and then a carry-out order includes something inedible, like the freezer-burned veal parmigiana I had a few months ago. The owner was apologetic, but his candid “I thought that meat looked funny when I microwaved it” didn’t inspire confidence. Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: Ad Hominem Or Not?

I frequently find myself correcting commenters who accuse me of ad hominem attack when I diagnose their problem, based on their arguments as jerkism or mental deficiency. (I recently found one legal blogger who actually states that if a commenter uses the term incorrectly, the comment will be rejected). Ad hominem is an argument fallacy that holds that if a messenger is flawed, his or her argument can’t be valid. It’s a cheap debate tactic, and unethical. If I conclude, however, that your argument is so idiotic that it could only be devised by an  idiot and thus designate you as one in so many words (because you have a right to know), that’s not ad hominem.

African-American pastor Mark Burns is a rafter-shaking speaker and an unusual and useful advocate for Donald Trump. He has been on cable news segments frequently, and even spoke at the GOP Convention. Being black, he is obviously roundly detested by those who regard Trump as a bigot, indeed by those who just dislike Trump generally. This almost certainly includes journalists on CNN, a Hillary stronghold.

A member of the black fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi alerted CNN that  Burns had claimed to have been a member,  but there was no record to support it. This set CNN on a quest to check all of Burns’ credentials and biography items, and it found that he had other dubious claims. Confronted on the air by (also African-American) CNN reporter Victor Blackwell with these discrepancies, Burns stuttered, humina-huminaed, protested, lied (his web site bio had been “manipulated” in some way, he said—the Weiner Excuse: “I’ve been hacked!”), and finally stormed out of the interview, which is to say, he ran.

Mark Burns is a Trump ally and supporter of note because he is a black pastor. He is still a black pastor. He makes a case for why blacks should support Doonald Trump. That case does not in any way rely on his military record or where he went to school, or, for that matter, how well he responds to having his honesty and integrity challenged on TV.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is...

“Was CNN’s attack on Pastor Burns fair and responsible, or..

Was it an unethical ad hominem attack designed to discredit a Donald Trump ally?”

Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Professions, Race, Religion and Philosophy, Workplace

A Plague Of Misleading Headlines

Fake headline

The mad quest for clicks appears to be leading websites that should know better to sink to misleading or outright dishonest headlines on the web. For someone like me, who has to scan these looking for possible ethics issues, it is an increasingly annoying phenomenon. Readers need to speak up. The practice is unethical, and moreover, suggests that the source itself isn’t trustworthy.

Here are three current examples;

1. The Daily Beast: “Idiocracy’ Director Mike Judge: Fox Killed Our Anti-Trump Camacho Ads”

Boy, isn’t it just like that conservative, Trump-promoting Faux News to help The Donald by using its power, influence, lawyers, something to stop the makers of “Idiocracy,” that comic classic, from being used to save the country from American Hitler?

That’s sure how the Daily Beast wanted its largely Democratic readership to react to its headline over the story about a fizzled effort to use the the film’s character  of ex-porn star future U.S. President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Drew Herbert Camacho, played by Terry Crews, in a series of comic spots ridiculing Trump’s candidacy. The story, however, never quotes Judge as saying Fox—that would be the movie side of Twentieth Century Fox, not Fox News, which had no say in the matter: the company produced the film and owns the right to it and all of its characters—killed the project.  All Judge says is that the idea of doing a series of such ads didn’t come to fruition, for a whole list of reasons which might have included Fox’s distaste for the project.. Of  Fox, he says this..

“I think also Fox… yeah, they… even though they’ve probably forgotten they still own it…”

The writer then suggests that company owner Rupert Murdoch might not like the idea, and thus prompted, Judge replies,

“Yeah. That’s the other thing. I think there was a roadblock there, too…I just heard that [the proposed ads] were put on the shelf, so it looks like they’re not going to happen.”

Based on this, the author, typical Daily Beast hack Marlow Stern, writes, “It looks like Fox refused—and the ads are now dead.” Stern never says that Fox refused; it is the “reporter” who says it. Meanwhile, when the Daily Beast writes about “Fox,” it is referring to Fox News 99.9% of the time, and knows that’s what its readers will think when they read “Fox.”

The headline is intentionally misleading, and a lie.

(Incidentally, the movie is a great concept that under-delivers on its premise and potential, and should be a lot funnier than it is) Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, language, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, The Internet

Ethics Heroes: The Nixon Foundation And The Richard Nixon Presidential Library

Pop Quiz: Who is missing from this picture from the dedication of the Nixon Library in 1990, and why?

Pop Quiz: Who is missing from this picture from the dedication of the Nixon Library in 1990, and why?

I can’t stand the Kennedy Library in Boston, with all its triumphal, sentimental hagiography of both Jack and Bobby. A presidential library will naturally try to put the best spin on the accomplishments, failures, and character deficits of its subject, but it has an obligation to history too. I once was determined to visit all of the libraries, but after the first few I decided that these structures were more like the pyramids than fair and enlightening representations of the men they honored.

The worst in this respect, as you might guess, was the infamous Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California, which opened 26 years ago.The Watergate exhibit, approved by Nixon himself, painted Nixon as an innocent and heroic victim brought down by the media  and his sinister foes. This was certainly Nixon’s view, but it has no relationship to reality. So convinced was Congress that the Richard Nixon Presidential Library would display the same lack of ethics as its namesake that it passed a law in 1974 requiring his presidential records to be stored with the National Archives and out of the library’s control, where they might be altered or “lost.”

Nixon’s library entered the official presidential library system under the auspices of the National Archives in 2007, and to finally make it more than the presidential library equivalent of  Fantasyland, the Nixon Foundation ordered the old Watergate exhibit to be overhauled. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, History, Leadership

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Patrick Smith, Father Of Sylville Smith

“What are we gonna do now? Everyone playing their part in this city, blaming the white guy or whatever, and we know what they’re doing. Like, already I feel like they should have never OK’d guns in Wisconsin. They already know what our black youth was doing anyway. These young kids gotta realize this is all a game with them. Like they’re playing Monopoly. You young kids falling into their world, what they want you to do. Everything you do is programmed. I had to blame myself for a lot of things too because your hero is your dad and I played a very big part in my family’s role model for them. Being on the street, doing things of the street life: Entertaining, drug dealing and pimping and they’re looking at their dad like ‘he’s doing all these things.’ I got out of jail two months ago, but I’ve been going back and forth in jail and they see those things so I’d like to apologize to my kids because this is the role model they look up to. When they see the wrong role model, this is what you get. They got us killing each other and when they even OK’d them pistols and they OK’d a reason to kill us too. Now somebody got killed reaching for his wallet, but now they can say he got a gun on him and they reached for it. And that’s justifiable. When we allowed them to say guns is good and it’s legal, we can bear arms. This is not the wild, wild west y’all. But when you go down to 25th and center, you see guys with guns hanging out this long, that’s ridiculous, and they’re allowing them to do this and the police know half of them don’t have a license to carry a gun. I don’t know when we’re gonna start moving. I’ve gotta start with my kids and we gotta change our ways, to be better role models. And we gotta change ourselves. We’ve gotta talk to them, put some sense into them. They targeting us, but we know about it so there’s no reason to keep saying it’s their fault. You play a part in it. If you know there’s a reason, don’t give in to the hand, don’t be going around with big guns, don’t be going around shooting each other and letting them shoot y’all cause that’s just what they’re doing and they’re out to destroy us and we’re falling for it.”

—–Patrick Smith, father of the late Sylville Smith, the 23-year-old man shot after an arrest by a black police officer, igniting horrific riots in Milwaukee. The body camera video allegedly confirmed that Smith’s son had a gun in his hand when he was killed.

Smith’s last sentence makes no sense, but accurately reflects the false and divisive narrative African Americans have been indoctrinated to believe. Other than that and the Constitution-ignorant suggestion that guns should have been banned in Milwaukee, this is as balanced, sincere, passionate and perceptive a statement regarding police shootings in the black community as any I have read or heard.

Mr. Smith understands the principles of responsibility and accountability, and possesses the courage to accept the hard truths they compel. He deserves our attention, compassion and respect.

I hope his community is listening.

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Filed under Character, Ethics Quotes, Family, Race, U.S. Society

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

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