Saturday Leftover Ethics Candy, 11/2/19: The Spy In My Hotel Room, And Other Scary Tales

Yum.

1. OK, I want to see all of the Facebook trolls who mock every single careless or foolish thing President Trump has ever said to be fair and consistent, and make an appropriately big deal over this astounding quote from the Governor of New York:

“[A]nyone who questions extreme weather and climate change is just delusional at this point. We have seen in the State of New York and we have seen — it is something we never had before. We didn’t have hurricanes or super storms or tornadoes,.”

Now, I’m relatively certain Cuomo doesn’t really mean that New York never had  big storms before the climate started warming, but the President’s critics in social media and the mainstream media never give him the benefit of the doubt, because they just know he’s an idiot…or lying.

In related news of the media double standard and its bash-Trump obsession, this article was given a three-column spread on the New York Times front page: “The ‘Whimpering’ Terrorist Only Trump Seems to Have Heard.” It is a breathless report of the results of a Times investigation into whether ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi really was wimpering, crying and screaming before he was killed by U.S. forces, as President Trump colorfully told the nation.

Let me be blunt: I..Don’t…Care.

Do you? This is like a fish story; it’s a non-material, unimportant fib at worst. Putting such a story on the front page is an exposé all right: it exposes the Times’ complete loss of all perspective regarding the President.

2. AI ethics. As my wife and I were checking out of our New Jersey shore hotel this week, I noticed an Alexa on the desk. Does that mean that our wild midnight orgy with the Mariachi band, the transexual synchronized swimming team and the goats was recorded and relayed to the Dark Web. I don’t know.  A hotel has an obligation to inform guests that these potential spies and future SkyNet participants are  in their rooms, and guest should have the option to say, as I would have, “Get that thing out of there!” Continue reading

Saturday Night Ethics Fever, 9/21/2019: Crazy Stuff

1. A simple, factual, ethical rebuttal to Beto O’Rourke, who panders to the anti-gun Democratic base by saying that he’ll confiscate the weapons he thinks we don’t “need.” Lauren Boebert, who with her husband owns local restaurant Shooters Grill, where she and a lot of the staff  open carry a loaded firearm,  confronted  O’Rourke at a town hall in Aurora Colorado. “I was one of the gun-owning Americans who heard you speak regarding your ‘Hell yes, I’m going to take your AR-15s and AK-47s.’ Well, I’m here to say, ‘Hell no, you’re not!”

She was, of course, correct, just as Beto was grandstanding to the ignorant and fearful, in deliberate defiance of the Constitution.

To his credit, Beto tried to control the rabid anti-Second Amendment fanatics in his crowd  who tried to shout Boebert down, as she continued,  “We all have these stories. We all have the experiences. I was living in Aurora during Columbine. I had just recently moved when the Aurora shootings happened. Yet I have very close ties here. Yet all of those people were there defenseless.”

“They had no way to defend themselves against a crazed shooter, so I want to know how you intend to legislate the hearts of men and leave American citizens like myself, American mothers,” Boebert said. above the  abuse from the crowd. “I have four children. I’m 5 foot zero, one hundred pounds, and cannot really defend myself with a fist.”

Then she told a heckler near her that  she didn’t have her AR-15 with her, but  was carrying her Glock. “Well, you shouldn’t have that,” the man said.

Wrong again. It’s not his call, nor his business, whether she has a pistol or not.

2. From the wasteful and pointless protests files: “Hundreds of thousands” of 20-somethings and kids took part in a global protest against “inaction on climate change.” What do they know about climate change? Only what they have been told by agenda- driven activists, teachers and politicians, almost all of them without genuine scientific comprehension of the complexities, vagaries and uncertainty of the topic themselves. Are hundreds of thousands of people who don’t really know what they are talking about more persuasive than, say, one? Should they be?

No. Leading these innocents to believe otherwise is a cruel joke. Margot Guillen of Harvest Collegiate High School, told Yahoo News she was there to send a message, saying, “By protesting peacefully, it shows how committed our generation is to making a change and showing that we know what’s happening and we need to stop it.” They don’t know what’s happening, though, and they don’t know how to stop “it,” in part because they don’t know what “it” is, when “it” will occur, what the extent of “it” will be, and even whether “it,” whatever “it” is, will occur at all.

Good protest.

Typical. Continue reading

What I Do For Ethics, Or Misadventures In Travel Hell

Am I imagining this, or was air travel once efficient, comfortable, and enjoyable? I can’t be sure now; it seems impossible. Of course, as bad as it is, things would be a lot better if basic standards of competence and professionalism were observed, or even attempted.

I just arrived at my hotel in Providence approximately 2 and a half hours after I was supposed to. The delay isn’t the issue; I’m used to that, and if there’s weather, there’s weather. (There was weather.) This trip, however was special.

  • My flight took off from infamous Gate 35X, which is portal gate from which passengers board buses that take them to smallish jets scattered around the tarmac. It is always crowded, and you are tasked with listening for the announcement telling you to go down the stairs to the sub-gates and line up for your bus. That is more tricky than it sounds, because the area is pure cacophony: people talking,  announcements from nearby gates, a recorded announcement on a loop telling you not to go down the stairs until you’re told, and as a special bonus, not one but three American gate employees making announcements in various heavily accented forms of pseudo-English, spoken at auctioneer  speed. All three were intermittently incomprehensible; people were constantly turning to companions and asking, “What did she say?”

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/17/18: Travel Hell Edition

Good Morning from Virginia Beach, VA…

…where I am giving a legal ethics seminar to a law firm this morning!

1. Count the ethics issues in Travel Hell…This story is true, and I’m not changing any names, because nobody is innocent.

Last night I had to drive to Virginia Beach after another seminar in D.C., and after yet another road trip on family business. It turned out to be a three and a half hour drive in a pouring rain. Arriving at 2:20 am at the Virginia Beach Westin, where I was supposed to have a room, I was immediately informed by the graveyard shift desk clerk that we could not stay there…because the previous occupants of the room reserved for us (my wife and business partner also made the trip) had “left fecal matter” all over the room, creating a HAZMAT situation. Not to worry, though! The beachfront Hilton would put us up, at the Westin’s expense!

Since I wasn’t paying for the room, this was small consolation.

Of course, we had unloaded the car, and the Hilton was 20 minutes away, and the desk clerk had neither an address nor a phone number, which I pointed out to her was essential. (The point of staying at the Westin was that it was convenient to the location of the law firm.) So we loaded up the car and set out to the new destination, arriving just before 3 am. There, the Hilton desk clerk told us that the hotel had just begun an audit, and we could not be put in a room for at least 20 minutes. I was literally afraid to tell my wife this, as she was in the car alternately fuming and wincing in pain because the endless trip had revived her sciatica.

I was not nice to the Hilton desk clerk, who swore that she told the Westin about the problem, and that they should have told us. I said that I didn’t care whose fault it was, they were now responsible for two weary travelers, and that it was her responsibility to fix the problem. She found a very nice man who got a big tip from me for taking charge of our vehicle and taking our stuff up to our room when the “audit” was over.

Once in the room, we discovered that two of the lamps didn’t work, the desk lamp was missing, and the clock was blinking. I told the clerk to send someone up and have the room in the shape I expect hotel rooms to be in before I walk in the door—including having the clock set and functioning.

On the plus side, no fecal matter was in evidence….

2. Why people hate lawyers…Branson Duck Vehicles and Ripley Entertainment are facing multiple lawsuits in the horrific duck boat accident that killed 17 people in Missouri , including nine members of a single family. In court papers filed this week, the companies’ lawyer cited an 1851 maritime law to limit or eliminate liability for the July tragedy.

In a filing in federal court in Missouri, the defendants denied negligence in the sinking of the boat, and argues that if a court does find negligence, they have no liability because, under that law, “the Vessel was a total loss and has no current value. No freight was pending on the Vessel.”

The reaction was predictable. Human beings have no value? This was a Hail Mary defense tactic to be sure, but if that’s the clients’ best option, it is the lawyers’ duty to argue it, IF they first inform their clients that it is a likely public relations disaster that as a cure could be worse than the disease, and seems unlikely to do anything but inflame a jury.

Last Minute Sunday Ethics Smorgasbord, 9/23/18

Good night.

1. Hotel ethics. My hotel in Boston happily offered a bargain rate, but didn’t explain why they had a bargain rate: it is under remodeling and construction. No restaurant. “Hinky” cell phone service (translation; cell phone calls cut off mid call. Also, the remodeled rooms have some bugs to work out. I thought I was going crazy because I couldn’t find an outlet for my computer by the desk. Oops! It’s across the room, in a dark corner. The desk clerk had to hunt for it. “I guess we have to fix that,” he said, abashed. I guess.

Hotels under construction never tell you they are under construction, but they have nice “pardon our dust!’ signs, and others that say, “We are making a better hotel experience!”  Maybe for the guests next month, but I’m here now.

2. “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in!”  [ Is this the most famous and useful quote from a really bad movie?] I really thought, stupid me, that the conduct of Democrats and “the resistance” in the Brett Kavanaugh Ethics Train Wreck couldn’t get any more unethical or revolting after my long update post this morning. After all, it’s a Sunday! Don’t the Unethical rest? Obviously not:

  • Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Ha) wrapped up an Incompetent Elected Official of the Month award on Sunday by telling a stunned Jake Tapper that she didn’t believe conservatives deserved a presumption of innocence, or, apparently, due process. But these are the un-American totalitarian values that progressives are promoting today. Does the public understand what this will mean for the country?

Asked by Tapper if she would concede that Kavanaugh deserves to be proven guilty before he is presumed guilty, Hirono said that a conservative judicial philosophy reduces his credibility. “I put his denial in the context of everything that I know about him in terms of how he approaches his cases,” Hirono said.”His credibility is already very questionable in my mind. …  When I say that he’s very outcome-driven, he has an ideological agenda, and I can sit here and talk to you about some of the cases that exemplify his, in my view, inability to be fair.”

Would that Jake, who is one of the fairer broadcast journalists, had the guts and integrity to ask, “Wait—your party ran Hillary Clinton, who helped get her husband elected by intimidating his sexual assault victims, your party lionized Senator Kennedy, who left a young woman to drown rather than deal with questions regarding why he was with her late at night on a remote road, your party’s deputy chairman has been credibly accused of domestic abuse, Harvey Weinstein was one of Hillary’s major contributors in 2016, and you’re saying that Judge Kavanaugh’s credibility is questionable? And you’re arguing that a judge with no blemishes on his record should be presumed guilty because he’s not fair? Do you not see the irony in that?” [Pointer: Zoltar Speaks!] Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/5/2018: “Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” Edition

Good Morning!

(I’m happy to report that my Clarence Darrow ethics program for a lawyer group yesterday in Annapolis was received wonderfully, in no small part due to actor Paul Morella’s moving and powerful recreations of Darrow’s courtroom oratory. As is often the case, attendees said that they didn’t realize a legal ethics presentation could be so interesting. If fact, there is no excuse for any kind of ethics NOT being interesting…)

1. I call this “cultural defacing.” At 10:30 last night, I watched the end of “The Princess Bride,” and was thrilled to arrive just as the final showdown between Ingo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and Count Rugen (Christopher Guest). Here is the scene, a classic one, which begins with the Count apparently fatally wounding Inigo with a dagger:

Inigo Montoya: Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

[Inigo advances on Rugen, but stumbles into the table with sudden pain. Rugen attacks, but Inigo parries and rises to his feet again]

Inigo Montoya: Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

[Rugen attacks again, Inigo parries more fiercely, gaining strength]

Inigo Montoya: Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father! Prepare to die!

Count Rugen: Stop saying that!

[Rugen attacks, twice. Inigo avoids and wounds Rugen in both shoulders. Inigo attacks, bellowing:]

Inigo Montoya: HELLO! MY NAME IS INIGO MONTOYA! YOU KILLED MY FATHER! PREPARE TO DIE!

[Inigo corners Count Rugen, knocks his sword aside, and slashes his cheek, giving him a scar just like Inigo’s]

Inigo Montoya: Offer me money.

Count Rugen: Yes!

Inigo Montoya: Power, too, promise me that.

[He slashes his other cheek]

Count Rugen: All that I have and more. Please…

Inigo Montoya: Offer me anything I ask for.

Count Rugen: Anything you want…

[Rugen knocks Inigo’s sword aside and lunges. But Inigo traps his arm and aims his sword at Rugen’s stomach]

Inigo Montoya: I want my father back, you son of a bitch!

[He runs Count Rugen through and shoves him back against the table. Rugen falls to the floor, dead]

Except “you son of a bitch” was cut!

We settled this when the TV showing of “Gone With The Wind” let Clark Gable’s iconic exit line, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” remain uncensored, and later,when John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn uttered the words, “Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!” before charging Ned Pepper and his gang. It is unfair and disrespectful to wreck the best work of writers and actors for the few remaining people on earth who take to their fainting couches when rude language meets their ears. You don’t edit Rhett, or Rooster, or Inigo, or even John McLane when he says, “Yippee ki yay, mother fucker!” Show the movie, or don’t show the movie, but don’t ruin the movie for the most easily offended in the audience. Continue reading

Halsey’s Lament And The Great Hotel Shampoo Ethics Challenge

When pop star Halsey took to Twitter to complain that the shampoo and conditioner typically made available to guests in hotel bathrooms are useful, if at all, only to women with “white people hair,” the immediate reaction in many quarters was that the race-victimization industry must be running out of outrages. “I’ve been traveling for years now and it’s been so frustrating that the hotel toiletry industry entirely alienates people of color,” she tweeted. (No, I never heard of her before either.) “I can’t use this perfumed watered down white people shampoo. Neither can 50% of ur customers. Annoying.” First she was accused of being white—she isn’t, believe it or not—

—then she was mocked for being ridiculous: surely the rich celebrity can afford to travel with her own hair products! But when one ponders a bit, Halsey has raised an interesting ethics dilemma.

After the commentary got rolling on social media, black women and women who were of mixed race genetic make-up spoke up to say that the singer was right: unless a woman had generic Caucasian hair, those little bottles make a mess of her coiffure.  “We’re not all millionaires, yet we all do stay at hotels and would appreciate if the shampoo didn’t turn our hair into Brillo pads,” wrote a Twitter user.

“Who knew me acknowledging that white hair care products are the national standard (while POC are confined to a tiny aisle) would piss so many people off. Not sorry,”Halsey persisted.  “If white ppl can enjoy the luxury/convenience, there should be an option for everyone to. It’s an ‘insignificant’ example of a bigger problem. That’s all!”

 Another fan wrote: “You need to remember this is one of the many small things that POC go through that makes them feel like we don’t matter enough to be catered to. It’s a microaggression.”

Is it really a microaggression? Or is it it just one of those realities of not being the majority that minorities have decided they should protest to bend society to their will? Is the fact that so many tools, appliances and other daily necessities are made for right-handed people a sign of hostility, or just a rational business decision? Hotel shampoo isn’t great (being bald, I find it makes good bubble bath, however), but it’s provided for those who want to use it. The “we’re not all millionaires” argument for the average person staying in a luxury hotel like the ones Halsey stays in is a stretch, but nonetheless, is it fair that hotels cater to the needs of the majority of women while ignoring the special needs of a minority? On the other hand, is it reasonable to expect hotels to spend the extra money to make multiple varieties of conditioners and shampoos available so no one feels discriminated against? Should I have to pay extra so Halsey isn’t offended?

Coincidentally, this week also brought the news that many hotels, as a cost saving initiative, were eliminating the small bottled entirely in favor of wall dispensers. I could easily see enough social justice warrior indignation being raised over racist shampoo that hotels decide, “Oh the hell with it. Let’s just stop stocking the stuff.” Would minority activists consider this a victory? Jack can’t enjoy his bubble bath any more because hotels had to choose between providing a tiny amenity to the vast majority of its guests and getting accused of “microaggression,” or spending a fortune to stock their bathrooms with sufficient varieties of hair products that nobody could complain of discrimination?

The controversy is really a smaller and more trivial version of the wheelchair-accessible transportation problem that I last wrote about here. I concluded then,

There are now 655 wheelchair accessible taxis in the New York city area.  I’d love to see statistics on how often they are used by the passengers they are designed to serve.  My guess: not that often. As much as anything else, this is an interest group power-play. It is discrimination, they insist,  if handicapped passengers have to wait longer than non-handicapped. New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has proposed broad new requirements for wheelchair-accessible service for the entire for-hire industry including Uber and the other ride-hail companies. Naturally: they want to put ride-sharing companies out of business, and this could do it.

Government has a legitimate interest in making basic public accommodations reasonably and sufficiently accessible to citizens with handicaps, to the extent this is possible and financially feasible without reducing reasonable access for the non-handicapped majority, or putting companies out of business that can’t reasonably be expected to make expensive mandated adjustments. The government does not have an obligation to spend taxpayer dollars and to bully businesses so the handicapped can avoid all of  the inconveniences attendant to their misfortune. Nor is it the government’s function to ensure that handicapped citizens don’t have to plan their days.

Or that people with frizzy hair don’t have to carry their own shampoo and conditioner when they travel.

I can’t see without my glasses, and can’t wear contacts. If I go to a 3-D movie, I am very uncomfortable wearing the 3-D specs over my own glasses.  Isn’t that unfair? Isn’t that a microaggression against my handicap? Shouldn’t the theaters be forced to provide 3-D glasses that I can use as comfortably as anyone else? How is that argument any different from the protests of the Frizzy Hair Activists?

Halsey put her Twitter-finger on an ancient questions that divides nations, religions and ideologies. Is fairness possible, when everyone’s needs and expectations are different?

TO THE POLL!!!