Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/17/ 2018: For Whom The Rex Tolls…

Good morning!

1. Another “growing crisis” to fear: Rorschach innuendo that people can interpret to confirm their own biases... Deposed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told graduates in his commencement address at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, that American democracy was threatened by a growing “crisis of ethics and integrity”:

“If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom. When we as people, a free people, go wobbly on the truth even on what may seem the most trivial matters, we go wobbly on America.”

Verdict: True.

The New York Times, without hesitation, calls Tillerson’s remarks a “veiled rebuke” of President Trump, and “veiled” doesn’t even make it into the headline.

Why isn’t this just as much of a “veiled rebuke” of Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama (“If you like your plan…”), James Comey, Andrew Cuomo, Elizabeth Warren (I’d say her continuing Native American lie is a perfect example of a trivial matter that matters), Chris Christie, Senator Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid, Rep. Nancy Pelosi ( The U.S. Supreme Court is “five guys who start determining what contraceptions are legal.”, “I don’t know who (Jonathan Gruber) is,”  “In the first year of the Obama administration, more jobs were created in the private sector than in the eight years of the Bush administration.”…and so on, and on…), Newt Gingrich, Senator Richard Blumenthal, new head of the NRA Oliver North, and many, many others in both parties?

You know why: the media’s agenda is focused only on denigrating Trump. As for Tillerson, his statement is consistent with what The Ethics Scoreboard and Ethics Alarms have been trying to explain for nearly two decades now, with one major, ethical difference: I don’t use weasel words and innuendo, and Tillerson did. If the ex-Secretary of State has a whistle to blow, let him blow it, and not litter the scene with whistles so anyone can blow them to their own ends. Statements like his are worthless without specifics, and merely arm partisans, hacks and character assassins.

I also don’t accept ethics lectures from oil company executives. I’m funny that way.

2. And speaking of a crisis of ethics and integrity…and trustworthiness…Here is the New York Times correction yesterday on a story attacking a piece on Foundation for Defense of Democracies chief executive Mark Dubowitz:

I don’t know what the maximum number of errors in a single story is that can be corrected before a responsible reader has to say, “The hell with this rag; I’m going back to the Weekly Reader!”, but whatever the limit is, this easily exceeds it. The New Yorker used to publish such corrections  as humor, except the excerpt would be from The Hooterville Register, not the New York Times. Don’t you love the equivocal “referred inaccurately” weasel words? Saying that a salary that is actually in line with similar salaries in the field is twice such salaries isn’t “inaccurate,” it is a gross and inexcusable mistake.

Gee, I wonder if Rex was rebuking the leading news media…. Continue reading

PetSmart’s Unethical And Harmful Breedism, And Why I’m Through With The Company

smiling-pit-bull-dog

For breedism read racism, for the illogic, bias and cruelty is the same. PetSmart, the nation’s predominant retailer of animal companion products, and one that has built its image, brand and success on being dog-friendly (customers can bring their furry pals on leashes into the stores), engages in the ignorant and deadly practice of anti-pit bull prejudice. Their customers should make it very clear to the company that its unethical and irresponsible stance will not be tolerated.

I’m not going to tolerate it, not because it will make a difference to PetSmart, but because I couldn’t look my dog in the eye again if I didn’t. Continue reading

The Fake Pilots Caper: No Excuse For Professional Cluelessness

Fake Names

I was unable to post on this story in a timely fashion, but better late than never.

Everyone was laughing at the punking of WKTU TV in the Bay area on July 6, when it reported fake names of the alleged pilots in the Asiana Airlines crash that killed  three and injured many more. It was funny, in the same way Bart Simpson’s multitude of fake names he uses to embarrass Mo at Mo’s tavern is funny. (“Amanda Huggenkiss? I’ll see if she’s here.”(shouting) “I need Amanda Hugginkiss! Can someone find me Amanda Huggnkiss?”) But Mo is an idiot who runs a cartoon bar, and not a professional journalist charged with informing the public. Continue reading

“Beyond the Myth”: Disturbing and Revealing Lessons About More Than Pit Bulls

Beyond the Myth

“Beyond the Myth” is a 2012 documentary that provides a vivid, troubling and often moving account of “breed specific legislation” in the U.S., which primarily involves states and municipalities banning “pit bull-like dogs,’ a.k.a. “vicious dogs,” though the dogs such legislation targets are usually not vicious and often are not even pit bulls.  If you are one of the misinformed who have been convinced by biased reports and public hysteria that pit bulls are any more dangerous or vicious than any other breed, you owe it to yourself, your children, and the dog owners in your community to watch this film, which is available on Netflix.

Long-time readers of Ethics Alarms know that the site has visited the issue of anti-pit bull cruelty and bigotry frequently, most recently here. For those who have read and absorbed what I have written and the references I provided, there will be much that is familiar in “Beyond the Myth,”; nevertheless, I found the documentary shocking. I had no idea how pit bull bans worked in cities like San Francisco and Miami, with Gestapo-like raids on private homes culminating in harmless and beloved family pets being confiscated and slated for death if a police officer concluded that they have “5 out of 8” physical traits identified with pit bulls. Nor was I aware of how many of these dogs were being euthanized—tens of thousands every year—for being born with a broad  head or a deep chest that meant they were legally branded as “vicious.”

The stories of the individual dog owners who have organized, lobbied, sued, and in some cases had to move out of their homes to protect a loving canine companion are also inspiring, if astounding. Wounded veterans have even had their service dogs taken from them. The most illuminating aspects of the documentary, however, are: Continue reading

Those Military Baggage Fees: Bad Journalism and Bad PR, Not Bad Ethics

The 24 hour news cycle and blogger feeding frenzy often produce snap ethical judgments that defy the facts, logic, and fairness. Today’s example: the supposed “outrage” of Delta Air Lines making Army reservists returning from combat in Afghanistan pay excess-bag fees. A Colorado soldier posted a YouTube video complaining that their unit had to pay $2,800 for extra checked bags, and you would have thought the airlines made the soldiers fly while strapped to the wing. “You’re not going to believe this!” said “Fox and Friends” goof Steve Doocy, introdoocying the story as if it was an act of domestic terrorism. There were similar expressions of horror on CNN’s Headline News and on the local news in Wilmington, Delaware, where I was staying yesterday while doing a musical ethics program for the Wilmington Bar. And yet…

Delta did nothing wrong or inappropriate.

The staff followed policy. What were they supposed to do, spontaneously waive thousands of dollars in luggage fees out of respect for our soldiers…and have to make it up out of their own pay? The military already gets a substantial break on checked baggage; the soldiers were complaining about having to pay for bags that exceeded Delta’s limit for waiving the fees on soldiers’ bags. But if the flights are related to the soldiers’ duties, why are the domestic airlines responsible for paying their expenses? (By the way, what the soldiers don’t pay for gets passed in costs to the non-military passengers.) Simple answer: the domestic airlines are not responsible, and should not be.

When I travel on business dictated by a client or employer, the client or employer pays my costs…just like the U.S. Government pays the travel expenses of soldiers flying to and from deployments. That’s right: soldiers get reimbursements from the military for additional costs if their orders require the expense and they submit receipts. Why, then, was it Delta’s responsibility to pick up the tab for these soldiers’ extra bags, and proof of evil corporate America’s unpatriotic greed that they asked the soldiers for the already-discounted fees for excess luggage instead?

I repeat: It wasn’t. A couple of soldiers didn’t know their own expense reimbursement procedures, used YouTube to make a misrepresentation go viral, and the media indulges its reflex reaction to fault businesses and fall worshiping at the boots of our young warriors. Nobody bothered to think, much less check facts, before condemning the Delta. Terrified, as ever, of any negative publicity, deserved or not, Delta abjectly apologized (for doing nothing wrong), and was followed by other carriers in eliminating bag fees to avoid getting the stink-eye from Bill O’Reilly. Delta said it would allow four bags for free. United said it had increased the number of free military checked bags from three to four. American said it will allow five free bags instead of three for military personnel. This is nice enough, of course, but it is pure public relations nonsense.

These airlines will charge seniors traveling by necessity to an assisted living complex for every bag they check, and the military isn’t going to pay their expenses once they gut the receipts. Do the airlines let military veterans check their bags for free?  Priests and nuns, who have taken vows of poverty? Handicapped travelers, who are unable to carry on heavy bags? The disabled only get two free bags, at best, before they are charged 50 bucks per additional piece. How about pregnant women? The unemployed, relocating to a new city to look for jobs…any breaks for ? Ethically, there are much more compelling arguments for giving breaks to any of these flyers than active duty soldiers, who are going to be reimbursed by the military anyway, and should be.

I am not sure even that would be appropriate, however. I don’t think that the airlines should be in the business of charging different fees to travelers in different circumstances; it requires value judgments that I do not trust the airlines to make fairly or rationally. Next we’ll be seeing waived bag fees for registered Republicans, attractive blondes and vegans, or whoever screams the loudest or has the most vocal lobby. The proper, ethical and fair way to do business is to have the same rules for everyone.

Except Steve Doocy and the rest of the media. Charge them double.

The Fireman, the Cheater, and Media Muddling

Come on, Robert! It's less embarrssing than Joey's gonorrrhea poster!

One of the reasons I launched The Ethics Scoreboard and later Ethics Alarms was that I felt  the media did not recognize ethics stories and failed to cover them. Well, more ethics stories are finding their way into the news, but true to the warning “Be careful what you wish for,” the reports usually botch them, and get the ethics lessons wrong. The saga of Enzo and the “Barefoot Contessa” was a particularly nauseating example, but there have been others recently. For example… Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: Time Magazine

“(CLARIFICATION: Palin did not, in fact, say this. It was a tongue-in-cheek link to an article that was intended as a joke.)”

Time Magazine, dishonestly claiming one act of unethical journalistic conduct to cover for a worse one.

Maybe I owe blogger TBogg an apology. I thought only left-wing Palin-haters could be so disoriented by ideological fervor that they could  believe the satirical story claiming that the former Alaska governor had told Sean Hannity that Christina Aguilera should be banished for botching the lyrics of the National Anthem. But no: Us Weekly, the celebrity gossip magazine, and Time Magazine (!!!) both fell for the same spoof. Us, at least, had the integrity to admit that it had made a mistake and to apologize. Time, disgracefully, issued the above dodge, claiming that a fabled news magazine suddenly decided to start printing “tongue-in-cheek” fake stories that portray national political figures as fools. Continue reading