Tag Archives: rationalizations

The United Ethics Train/Plane Wreck Sails On: A New, Worthless Apology, Ann Althouse Buys A Ticket, And More!

[ And yes, it is worth the attention it’s getting on an ethics blog. Greater ethical lessons and enlightenment can arise out of a transaction at a lemonade stand than in nuclear disarmament talks; this basic, establishing principle of Ethics Alarms still is elusive to many readers, and I don’t know what else I can say to explain it for them. Of course other things are going on: Bulletin: this isn’t a news site. No, the fact that Sean Spicer said that “Even Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons” and the news media, knowing full well what he meant (and that what he meant was technically correct, though still a jaw-droppingly cretinous thing to say) still turned it into a big deal —because he works for Donald Trump, and there for is evil—and Nancy Pelosi even said the it mandated his removal (no, the fact that Spicer is incompetent mandates his removal—“Best people,” Mr President? Remember “Best people”?—but we knew that) is not a more important ethics story.

I am seriously considering just banning every commenter who makes one of those “Why are you writing about this when children are dying in the Congo and Flint still has bad water?” complaints. Write your own damn blog. I have clients, a full time job and many other responsibilities, taught for four hours yesterday, and most of all, had a Red Sox game to watch. Istill posted about 2000 well-considered words. I am not your Ethics Monkey.]

Reports from the still accumulating United Flight 3411 ethics carnage:

Look! A new apology! United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz performed a backflip and issued a brand new apology for the fiasco on United Express Flight 3411, and said in a statement;

The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment.  I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened. Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard.   No one should ever be mistreated this way.  

I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right.    

It’s never too late to do the right thing. I have committed to our customers and our employees that we are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again. This will include a thorough review of crew movement, our policies for incentivizing volunteers in these situations, how we handle oversold situations and an examination of how we partner with airport authorities and local law enforcement. We’ll communicate the results of our review by April 30th.  

I promise you we will do better.  

Sincerely, 

Oscar

Quick reactions:

….Well, I hope you will do better, because it would be almost impossible to do worse.

…Wait, I thought the United agents were following procedures and that this was all the fault of the “disruptive” passenger? Didn’t you say that? I’m sure I read that you said that…

…”Outrage, anger, disappointment”? When did Munoz express any of those? The word he used before was “upsetting.” In his previous “apology,” which extended to the passengers who were “re-accommodated,” a weasel word if there ever was one, since they were “un-accommodated’…

…Yes it is too late to do the right thing sometimes, and this apology is a perfect example.

If the soon-to-be-forcibly retired United CEO had issued this apology immediately, contemporaneously with  placing every involved employee in Chicago on leave until the matter was fully investigated, it would have been a #1 apology on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale, the best of the best, the top of the line….

1. An apology motivated by the realization that one’s past conduct was unjust, unfair, and wrong, constituting an unequivocal admission of wrongdoing as well as regret, remorse and contrition, as part of a sincere effort to make amends and seek forgiveness.

However, when such an apology follows a previous apology that expressed none of this, but instead a reflex insistence that no wrong had been committed and that the victim of the wrong was at fault, the second apology becomes a #7 apology on the scale, one that is insincere and not a true apology at all:

7. A forced or compelled [apology], in which the individual (or organization) apologizing may not sincerely believe that an apology is appropriate, but chooses to show the victim or victims of the act inspiring it that the individual responsible is humbling himself and being forced to admit wrongdoing by the society, the culture, legal authority, or an organization or group that the individual’s actions reflect upon or represent .

Munoz’s second apology also insults the intelligence of everyone following the incident. We know what United’s attitude was: the United CEO expressed it:

“Be still peasants, and don’t scream like little girls when you get your comeuppance! We decide what your rights are! Next time, try walking to Louisville! I bet our surly representatives, cramped seats and stale pretzels will start looking pretty damn good before you get though Indiana.”

Now he’s suddenly horrified and contrite. Sure he is: he’s horrified because United stock is falling, and contrite because a public relations crisis management specialist told him to be.

Too late. We know what you really think, and we don’t forget that easily. Continue reading

84 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks

A New Rationalization For A Slow Sunday: #57A The Utilitarian Cheat, or “If It Saves Just One Life”

On another thread, a reader attacked the Rationalization List <GASP!>,, the beating heart of Ethics Alarms, arguing that many of what are labelled rationalizations are valid justifications and cited as such on this very site. A vile canard! Of course many rationalizations can also be valid arguments for or against conduct. Take #59. The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do.” We do the right things because they are right, but we also have calculated why they are right, which means dealing with and rebutting the counter-arguments that might suggest those decisions are not right.  However, #59 addresses the frequent use of the “It’s the right thing to do” as a argument-ender, employing it as evidence when it really has to be a conclusion based on other evidence and analysis.

The latest addition to the Ethics Alarms Rationalization List does not have this problem. It is almost always a cheap rhetorical device, slyly edging what needs to be a clear-eyed, rational analysis of proposed conduct into the confounding realm of emotion. #57 A, The Utilitarian Cheat or “If its saves just one life” is a sub-rationalization under #57, 57. The Universal Trump, or “Think of the children!”  (It could easily be the other way around.)

#57 A. The Utilitarian Cheat or “If it saves just one life”

Invoking Rationalization #57A is as good a test as there is for identifying an untrustworthy demagogue. The claim that something is worth enacting, eliminating, establishing or doing is ethically and morally validates “if it saves juts one life” is aimed directly at the mushy minds of sentimentalists  and the dangerously compassionate. If the argument is made in good faith, the speaker is an incompetent dolt; usually it is the desperate last resort of a someone who has found that their real arguments are inadequate or unpersuasive.

The insidious trick inherent in the device is that we agree that human life is precious, and that we can not and will not place a dollar sign on a human being. The next step, however, in which a single life, or even many, is deemed justification for any expense or other draconian societal trade-offs, is impractical and irrational. It would save many lives if automobiles were built like tanks and could never exceed five miles an hour. Locking up ever angry husband that threatened the life of an estranged spouse with a menacing phone call would save many lives. So would forcing women to carry their babies to term, eliminating the right to have an abortion. Torture used without restrictions probably would save one life or more. Prohibition was sold using #57A.

All of these policy conundrums and many others are too complex by far to use simple-minded absolutism as their ethical guideline, and about 30 seconds of logical clarity will usually make that clear.  Those who employ The Utilitarian Cheat, however, don’t want clarity. It is an appeal to embrace acts that can do wide-ranging harm to society, civilization, human aspirations and liberty, because un-named lives can be saved. Though it is opposite of the exploitation of human life for other goals that Kantian ethics forbids, it is equally invalid.

___________________________

Graphic: gunssavelives.net

11 Comments

Filed under Government & Politics, U.S. Society

Comment Of The Day: “From The Ethics Alarms ‘Do The Ends Justify The Means?’ Files: The Breast Cancer Survivor’s Inspiring Scam”

Glenn Logan took off from the post about Paulette Leaphart’s self-promoting breast cancer awareness 1,000-mile walk and CNN reporter Jessica Ravitz’s strangely equivocal exposé to muse on the toxic influence of social media. It’s a great post, as usual for Glenn, and I’m especially grateful because I’m behind on posts today but I have an ethical obligation to watch the Red Sox Opening Day game. (Pirates-Red Sox tied 0-0 in the 5th.)

Here is Glenn Logan’s Comment of the Day on the post “From The Ethics Alarms “Do The Ends Justify The Means?” Files: The Breast Cancer Survivor’s Inspiring Scam”:

This is yet another social media-driven disaster. We have proven ourselves unable to handle the medium, either as consumers or producers of content. In the grand scheme of things, social media has probably been the vehicle for more scams, dissociation from the real world, submersion into self-congratulatory alternate reality, fake news, and general mayhem than any innovation in my memory.

I have occasionally referred to Twitter as “the Devil,” and my loathing for Facebook knows no bounds. I still use it once a week or so just to check on friends and family (for which it is at least useful), but 99% of my input to Facebook consists of “Happy birthday, (first name here). Many happy returns” or to message Jack a link. No Luddite I, as I have been using the Internet since the early 1990’s Usenet days, and Linux as my primary operating system since 1997, so technology and I are old, old friends.

But the temptation of social media to generate attention in the name of good causes is, to me, the lesson here besides the obvious ethical wreckage caused by “the ends justify the means.” Many of us see the apparent benefits of fame, and want our 15 minutes of it very badly, usually for entirely selfish reasons. When we can achieve that in the name of a good cause, it becomes all the more insidious as a rationalization for otherwise self-serving and dishonest behavior. Continue reading

9 Comments

Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Social Media, U.S. Society

From The Ethics Alarms “Do The Ends Justify The Means?” Files: The Breast Cancer Survivor’s Inspiring Scam

At one point, profiling the double-mastectomied Paulette Leaphart’s 1,000-mile walk from  Mississippi to Washington, D.C….topless…CNN reporter Jessica Ravitz writes,

“If even one woman’s life was saved thanks to a conversation Paulette started, wasn’t that enough? So what if our hero was flawed?”

Oh, no: the “just one child/just one life” rationalization again! (Which, I now notice, isn’t on the Rationalizations List, and it should be.)

Ravitz writes this to begin a long, detailed, infuriating narrative about the well-publicized and much-hyped crusade of Leaphart, whose journey, displaying her scarred chest,  was to ostensibly demand more funds for cancer research cure and  better and more affordable health care. She said she was a champion for women without breasts “to believe in their beauty and be proud of their strength.”

“By showcasing and embracing her scars, she hoped to inspire others to do the same,” Ravitz writes. “Her journey was bold, visual, moving. It offered a hero to admire and, given Paulette’s audacious decision to walk shirtless in the face of strangers, a rich spectacle to witness. It spoke to African-American women, who face the highest breast cancer mortality rate. It inspired legions of survivors. And it spoke to many who’d lost someone to the disease.”

Ravitz is conflicted, clearly, as she tells the complicated story of the woman whose official cause is admirable, but whose motives are murky, and whose credibility is non-existent. While explaining the mounds of evidence she uncovered that the woman has a record of deception, venality and financial flim-flam, that she sees the long walk as a ticket to fame and cash, and that she has lied and fabricated aspects of her ‘inspirational story” repeatedly while the efforts of journalists to pin her down. Yet Ravitz still ends up by  being wishy-washy and equivocal:

“There’s no way to measure how much of a difference Paulette Leaphart made in shaping the conversation about cancer in this country. She touched many minds and hearts, but whether she did so in the most honest and transparent way remains questionable.”

What? There is nothing questionable about whether Leaphart has been honest and transparent—she hasn’t. Ravitz documents her deceptions impressively. She lied about her cancer treatment. She lied about her eligibility for Medicaid and financial resources. She lied to a documentary team that had arranged to follow her, leading them to end the relationship. She lied on her Facebook page, representing her health travails by using the experiences of a friend. Her unguarded comments suggest that she began the walk as a way to make money for herself as well as research. She accepted contributions under false pretenses.  Yet the journalist still seems to want to say that all of this doesn’t matter,  if some good resulted from it: Continue reading

14 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

Incident At Big Bowl

Am I the only one who has weird  encounters  every single time I travel? That can’t be. (Can it?)

This week, I had a quick trip to Boston (where my heart resides, so I have to visit it) to present a legal ethics program to recently minted lawyers. On the way, I tried to grab a meal at Reagan airport. The flight was at 6:30, and I wanted to eat before I had to get on the plane. I chose an allegedly fast food outpost near my gate, Big Bowl. It was not busy: maybe two people ahead of me, one behind. The order was simple: a “big bowl” of kung pao chicken with white rice, no drink. I paid, and got my slip with the number 555.

When they called 555, it wasn’t my order. They called 549 before that, and it wasn’t right either. All the numbers on all the orders were wrong, and the confusion added about 10 minutes to everyone’s wait, notably mine. Finally, they skipped the numbers entirely, and shouted out the contents of each order. My big bowl had been mislabeled 550, and for a while I had to argue with the customer who had the 550 ticket, until she realized she had ordered fried rice, not white rice.

Meanwhile the employees were just shrugging, giggling and smiling away. “You had the wrong number,” one said to me. “No, you had the wrong number on my order. Why?” She shrugged and smiled.

“That’s no answer, ” I said. “Do you have a system, or not?  Can’t you tell me what happened? I was inconvenienced. Part of what I’m paying for is service. Why did this happen?”

Another shrug. No acceptance of responsibility. No apology or anything remotely sounding like one.  At this point, a superannuated hippy who looked like she was ready to do a Joan Baez set intervened with a condescending, “They made a mistake. Mistakes happen.” Continue reading

27 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Daily Life, Etiquette and manners, U.S. Society, Workplace

Comment Of The Day I: “The “Transitioning” Female Wrestler: A Failure Of Ethics And Common Sense”

toaster

Jeff H, along with Tim LeVier and Glenn Logan, represents the longest commenting ethics observers on this site, their participation going back to the old Ethics Scoreboard. It is always a special pleasure to welcome one of them to a Comment of the Day honor, for, like all who venture into the comment wars, they have done a great deal to provide lively, perceptive and useful content here, and I am more grateful than I can express. (Jeff, a cartoonist, also contributed the drawing of Muhammad as cute Teddy Bear you will periodically see in the side header.

Here is Jeff H’s Comment of the Day on the post, “The “Transitioning” Female Wrestler: A Failure Of Ethics And Common Sense”:

OK. Here’s what I think:

I am the sort of person who thinks a person is whatever they feel they are inside. People like to talk about, ‘well, a transperson will never really be a woman” or whatever. I’ve not got much time for that. I ain’t got it in me to judge people for something like that. As I said to someone who was talking about the ‘perverts’ who dress like women, “Far as I care, I ain’t going to say you’re wrong. You are whatever you say you are. You say you’re a toaster, I’ll give you two pieces of bread.”

That also means that I think that a transperson should use the bathrooms they’re comfortable with. The notion that there are creeps purposely crossdressing to get into the ladies’ room seems basically fictitious. Even if it was true, unless it was to a gigantic density, I don’t see that as a legitimate reason to force them to use a bathroom they’re not comfortable with.

(It’s been going around, but there have been three Republican congressmen arrested for inappropriate conduct in men’s rooms, and they say no transpeople have been arrested for the same. I hope it doesn’t turn out that is HAS happened, but if it had… I think someone would have brought it up by now.)

So this is where I stand on the issue of the transgendered. I try to be as permissive and accepting as possible without being dismissively so. I’m not likely to budge on this, since most of the arguments against it seem similar to the anti-homosexual arguments most of us reject on sight.

Having said this… if Mack is really, in his heart of hearts, a male… then I don’t understand what possible pride he can take beating a bunch of girls at a sport when he’s ALSO taking performance-enhancing drugs. (Aside from everything else, I don’t really care if you have a legitimate reason to take steroids; I think you shouldn’t play competitive sports if you have to take them because they self-evidently give an unfair advantage.) Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Sports

The “Transitioning” Female Wrestler: A Failure Of Ethics And Common Sense

The girls wrestling champion, Matt Beggs.

The girls wrestling champion, Mack Beggs.

Mack Beggs is a competitive wrestler at Euless Trinity High School, and also is a biological female more than a year into the process of “transitioning” to male.  Beggs just won his third consecutive girls’ wrestling tournament victory in the 110-pound weight class. I’ll call him “he” because that is what the student wants to be called, and he, in great part due to the male steroid treatment he has been undergoing,  is now 55-0 on the season. All of his opponents have been high school girls who are not taking steroids, and unlike Mack, do not intend to become, for all intents and purposes, male.

While Beggs says he wants to wrestle in the boy’s competitions,  the University Interscholastic League rules use an athlete’s birth certificate to determine gender, a measure that makes sense in most cases, just not this one. (See: The Ethics Incompleteness Principle) The rules prohibit girls from wrestling in the boys division and vice versa, and rules are rules. If you are a rigid, non-ethically astute bureaucrat, you follow rules even when you know that they will lead to unjust, absurd results, like Mack’s 55-0 record in matches.

The  rules also say that taking performance enhancing drugs like the testosterone that has given Beggs greater muscle mass and strength than his female competitors is forbidden, but  UIL provides an exception for drugs prescribed by a doctor for a valid medical purpose. After a review of Beggs’ medical records, the body granted him permission to compete while  taking male steroids—compete as a girl, that is.  Rules are rules!

One athletic director, after watching Beggs crush a weaker female competitor who left the ring in tears,  asked for his name not to be used as he commented to reporters, and opined that “there is cause for concern because of the testosterone,” and added, “I think there is a benefit.”

Really going out on a limb there, sport, aren’t you?

Here, let me help.

This is an unfair, foolish, completely avoidable fiasco brought about by every party involved not merely failing to follow ethical principles and common sense, but refusing to. Continue reading

36 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Rights, Sports