Category Archives: Quizzes

Ethics Quiz: Four Young Children Locked In A Hot Car

kid-in-hot-car

Mom and mom advocate Lenore Skenazy writes the Free Range Kids blog, which I have to remember to check out regularly. She is the source of today’s Ethics Quiz, which she obviously believes has an easy answer. We shall see.

Charnae Mosley, 27, was arrested by Atlanta police and charged with four counts of reckless conduct after leaving her four children, aged 6, 4, 2, and 1, inside of her SUV with the windows rolled up and the car locked.  It was 90 degrees in Atlanta that day. The children had been baking there for least 16 minutes while their mother did some shopping. A citizen noticed the children alone in the vehicle and reported the children abandoned.

Skenazy believes that the arrest is excessive—that the mother made a mistake, but that compassion is called for, not prosecution:

“[T]he mom needs to be told that cars heat up quickly and on a hot summer day this can, indeed, be dangerous. She does not need to be hauled off to jail and informed that even if she makes bail, she will not be allowed to have contact with her children…No one is suggesting that it is a good idea to keep kids in a hot, locked car with no a.c. and the windows up. But if that is what the mom did, how about showing some compassion for how hard it is to shop with four young kids, rather than making her life infinitely more difficult and despairing?The kids were fine. They look adorable and well cared for. Rather than criminalizing a bad parenting decision (if that’s what this was), how about telling the mom not to do it again?”

Do you agree with her? Here is your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the day:

Was it cruel, unfair, unsympathetic or unkind for Atlanta police to arrest Mosely for leaving her four young children locked in a hot car?

I am an admirer of Lenore Skenazy, but her pro-mother bias led her seriously astray this time. I think she is applying rationalizations, consequentialism and dubious, indeed dangerous reasoning to let this mother off a hook that she deserves to stay on. In her post, she even suggests that the car’s air conditioning was on, though there is no reason to believe that it was based on the reports. If the A-C was on, that changes the situation: I very much doubt that a mother would be charged with leaving four children in a locked, hot car if the car was not, in fact, hot. (One report states that the SUV windows were open, but that wouldn’t support the charges. If the windows were open, then Mosely left her children alone in public, which is a different form of child endangerment, but still dangerous. For the purpose of the quiz, I am assuming that the windows were shut, and that the air conditioning was not on. So does Skenazy.)

Let’s look at Lenore’s analysis errors:

  • She notes that the children were “fine.” What if they hadn’t been fine? That wouldn’t change what Mosely had done in any way, and what she did was irresponsible, dangerous and potentially deadly. Sixteen minutes, scientists tell us, is more than enough time for temperatures in a closed car to rise sufficiently high to cause heat stroke. Mosely, and obviously her children, were lucky—this is classic moral luck—and that shouldn’t be allowed to diminish the seriousness of what she did. (Aside: I just realized that to find that link, I made the same Google search that Justin Ross Harris made before leaving his infant son to die in his own hot vehicle, which has added to the circumstantial evidence causing him to be charged with murder.)
  •  The rationalizations peeking through Slenazy’s excuses for the mother’s conduct are quite a crowd. Along with #3. Consequentialism, or  “It Worked Out for the Best,” there is #19. The Perfection Diversion: “Nobody’s Perfect!” or “Everybody makes mistakes,” it’s twin, #20, The “Just one mistake!” Fantasy, #22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things,” #25. The Coercion Myth: “I have no choice,”  #27. The Victim’s Distortion, #30. The Prospective Repeal: “It’s a bad law/stupid rule,” and #33. The Management Shrug: “Don’t sweat the small stuff!” There are probably some more, but that’s plenty.
  • If Skenazy believes that the “it was just a mistake” explanation should protect the mother from prosecution here, presumably she would make the same argument if all four kids (or just one) died. A lot of prosecutors feel the same way. I don’t.
  • If Mosley did this once, she may well have done it before, and is a risk to do it again. The best way to teach her not to do it again is, at very least, to scare her, inconvenience her, publicly embarrass her, and use the legal system to show how serious her wrongful conduct was, and how seriously society regards it. There is no guarantee that a lecture from a cop wouldn’t have just produced just an eye-rolling “Whatever…my kids were just fine, and I know how to take care of them” reaction, a repeat of the conduct, and eventually, a tragedy….followed, of course, by public accusations that the police were negligent and abandoned four children to the care of a dangerously reckless and incompetent mother.
  • I’m sorry, Lenore, but this-“How about showing some compassion for how hard it is to shop with four young kids, rather than making her life infinitely more difficult and despairing?” —makes me want to scream. How about not having more children that you can take care of safely? How about recognizing that your children’s safety comes first, with no exceptions, ever? How about meeting the minimum level of parenting competence, and not remaining ignorant about conduct that has been well publicized as cruel and potentially fatal to dogs, not to mention young children? In this case, compassion is a zero-sum game: compassion for the mother means showing none for her children.

When ethics fails, the law steps in. Too many children die every year from this tragic mistake that arises from distracted parenting, ignorance, and poorly aligned priorities. Prosecuting parents like this one for non-fatal incidents is exactly how the law serves as a societal tool to increase public awareness and encourage better conduct. It is in the best interests of Mosely’s four children as well as the children of every parent who reads about or hears her story to prosecute her to the full extent of the law.

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Pointer and Source: Free Range Kids

Facts: Yahoo!, WSB

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Filed under Childhood and children, Family, Law & Law Enforcement, Quizzes, The Internet, U.S. Society

Kids On Leashes: Final Hypotheticals

kids on leashes2

Not to beat a dead dog, but while conversing about this surprisingly contentious issue (here, and here) on Facebook with the ever-thoughtful and provocative Lianne Best (Ethics Alarms congratulations go to Lianne for being honored by NARAL as an Outstanding Advocate For Choice), I realized that I should have posed one more hypothetical for the enthusiastic child-leashers to chew on, to wit:

“Have you ever seen anyone in public with both a kid and a dog on leashes simultaneously?”

Would you do that? And if you wouldn’t, why would having a child on a leash without the dog be any better?

To which Lianne countered with an even better hypothetical:

“How about a parent walking in public with the child on a leash but the dog walking along without one?”

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Spark: Lianne Best

Graphic: Baby Cottage Gifts

 

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Filed under Animals, Childhood and children, Family, Quizzes, U.S. Society

Ethics Quiz: The Sensitive Cop’s Facebook Confession

sensitive cop“If there was any time I despised wearing a police uniform, it was yesterday at the Capitol during the water rally. A girl I know who frequents the Capitol for environmental concerns looked at me and wanted me to participate with her in the event. I told her I have to remain unbiased while on duty at these events. She responded by saying, ‘You’re a person, aren’t you?’ That comment went straight through my heart!”

Thus did Douglas Day, a police officer at the West Virginia Capitol in Charleston, confess to Facebook friends his mixed emotions while doing his duty.

For this he was fired.

The day Day wrote his Facebook post, Capitol Police Lt. T.M. Johnson told him  that the post “shows no respect to the department, the uniform or the law enforcement community which he represents.”  About a week later, Sgt. A.E. Lanham Jr. wrote to Day that he “found the entire [Facebook] posting to be extremely offensive and shocking … This is just another episode of many incidents which show his bad attitude and lack of enthusiasm toward police work in general and toward our department in particular.”

Day was thunderstruck. “If they believed there was some sort of a violation I made, then why wasn’t it addressed? They never brought me in and never said anything to me,” Day said. “In 2½ years working there, I had no disciplinary action taken against me at any time. Nothing was ever written up and I received no reprimands.” So much for the “many incidents.” Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity, Quizzes, Rights, The Internet

Ethics Quiz: Peeps Ethics

peeps winner

I collect sentences that can safely be said to have never been uttered before in the history of mankind, and encountered one this morning in a letter of complaint to the Washington Post. It read…

“To take a sacred and historic event in our nation’s history and depict it using marshmallow candy is highly insulting and offensive to the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and to all those who worked, and continue to work, for racial justice in this country.”

Like all of the sentences in my collection, my favorite being my sister’s immortal, “That fish looks so good, from now on I think I’ll wear my bra on my head,” this one requires some context. The Post holds an annual contest for its readers around Easter, challenging them to submit the best diorama of a scene, using marshmallow peeps. This year’s winner was created by Matthew McFeeley, Mary Clare Peate, and Alex Baker, and involved meticulously painting the colorful bunny stand-ins for King and his throng  at the 1963 March on Washingtonian eight shades of gray to evoke the black-and-white photographs of the event.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz, in the sadly neglected field of peeps ethics, is…

Is it unethical to use marshmallow candy as a medium to portray serious, solemn, or other events that many feel deserve respect and reverence?

I know my answer, but this time, I’ll hold my fire until I hear from readers. I’d also be interested in whether any events—Gettysburg…JFK’s assassination…the Lindbergh baby kidnapping…the Crucifixion…Pearl Harbor…9-11…  are ethically off-limits for peeps creativity as inherently offensive, or if this is just  an unappetizing mixture of “ick,” art, humor, and candy.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, History, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Quizzes, Race

Update: “The Kidneys of Orlac”

He will die, not with his boots on, but with his kidneys in...

He will die, not with his boots on, but with his kidneys in…

One of the best threads Ethics Alarms has ever hosted occurred in response to the November 2013 post, “The Kidneys of Orlac,” which discussed the strange case of the Ohio death row resident who wanted to donate his organs to ill relatives. The issue generated an Ethics Quiz, a follow-up poll (“The Amityville Kidney”) involving the related issue of whether the recipient of a murderer’s organs had a right to know their creepy origin, and a terrific Comment of the Day, which was just one of the COTD-worthy submissions.

I had forgotten about the story until Mark Draughn raised it again at Windy Pundit in the context of criticizing bioethicists, one of whom had what Mark considered a particularly misbegotten argument against the transplants (I agree with Mark about that argument, but I also oppose giving condemned prisoners the privilege of donating organs to loved ones, or anyone at all.) This led me to review original post, which led me to re-read the comments.

I also discovered the resolution of the dilemma, which occurred at the end of last month. Ronald Phillips will not be allowed to donate his organs, because he wouldn’t have enough time to recover from the operation before his execution.  Ah, yes, the old “You have to be in tip-top shape before we can kill you, or it isn’t really punishment”  Catch 22! Ethics, you see, had nothing to do with the bureaucratic resolution here, just the letter of the law, rules, and bureacrats refusing to look for the best solution in an anomalous situation, rather than the one they could reach on auto-pilot. As a result, nobody made a reasoned determination about what is right, or what capital punishment really signifies, or apparently even tried. That is how so many government decisions are made, and that, my friends, is far scarier than having the kidneys of a killer.

 

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Filed under Bioethics, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Quizzes

Almost An Ethics Quiz: The Comment In The Queue

temptation

I awoke this morning to a polite, well-written, credible comment—to an older post—that immediately sparked an ethical dilemma. Maybe you can help me out.

The comment reveals unpleasant personal details about the commenter’s past encounters with a blogger who has prompted some controversy on Ethics Alarms, episodes that mark the blogger as a jerk of the highest order. Indeed, I had already diagnosed Blogger X as a jerk, and written about it. This is difficult to explain without revealing the identity of the blogger—let’s just say that his writings that attracted my attention complained about a phenomenon that was far better explained, at least in his case, by his character than the causes his many posts attributed to it.

Normally, this would be an easy call. I have frequently removed similar ad hominem attacks on some of you (you didn’t know that, I bet!). Settling old scores is not what this site is for, and the comment in question would usually fail for being off-topic. There are two reasons I am considering approving the comment.

Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Quizzes, The Internet

Legal Ethics Quiz: The Bean Bag Tossing Defense Lawyer

" I swear, you can do this in court. I saw it on "Ally McBeal"...

” I swear, you can do this in court. I saw it on “Ally McBeal”…

Holy crap! Here is a courtroom stunt you don’t see everyday…or ever.

The dramatic bribery trial of Rhode Island defense lawyer Donna Uhlmann and co-defendant Jamaal Dublin took a hard left turn into “Boston Legal” territory and beyond with the, well, creative closing argument of Dublin’s lawyer, Christopher T. Millea. It was so creative, he was nearly held in contempt of court.

“You see, all of this has to do with the throwing of feces,” said Millea, cleverly reminding the jury of the bizarre conduct of a key state witness who once threw his own excrement at a prison guard.  “The state wants to throw as much against the wall to see what sticks, just like Michael Drepaul throwing his feces …”

With that introduction, Millea took two bean bags out of a box he had placed in front of the jury, and threw them at the courtroom door. Then he retrieved the turd stand-ins and placed them in another box near the door, and placed that box next to the one in front of the jury, which, it was later discovered, read “Reasonable doubt,” though only the jury could see the words. The first box was labelled, “State’s case.” Continue reading

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Filed under Etiquette and manners, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Quizzes