Tag Archives: lawsuits

Ethics Quiz: The Ferguson Settlement

News Item:

The parents of black teenager Michael Brown and the city of Ferguson, Missouri, have settled a lawsuit over his fatal shooting by a white city police officer in 2014, according to a court document filed on Monday. …Terms of the wrongful death settlement between Ferguson and Brown’s parents, Michael Brown Sr. and Lesley McSpadden, were not disclosed. U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber approved the settlement and ordered it sealed.

“The gross settlement amount is fair and reasonable compensation for this wrongful death claim and is in the best interests of each plaintiff,” Webber wrote. Both James Knowles, the mayor of the blue-collar, largely black St. Louis suburb, and Anthony Gray, the lead attorney for Brown’s parents, declined to comment.

Wait, what?

A thorough investigation found Officer Wilson guilty of no crime, nor did the shooting appear to be the result of officer malfeasance or negligence. Brown’s parents, Michael Brown Sr. and Lesley McSpadden, meanwhile, took extraordinary measures to stir up racial hatred and anti-police sentiment, not just locally but nationally, sparking deadly riots in Ferguson and elsewhere, and leading to attacks on police. They even made a human rights complaint to the United Nations, based substantially on a lie (“Hands up! Don’t shoot!”) concocted by their son’s friend and credulously reported as fact by the news media. By what theory are Brown’s parents deserving of damages from Ferguson? By agreeing to this settlement, is not Ferguson setting the precedent that any time a black suspect is shot by a white police officer, it is a wrongful death mandating damages?

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Was this settlement, whatever the amount, ethical?

I’ll launch the debate by saying that the city probably had no choice but to settle, as the sooner this whole catastrophe can get in the rear view mirror the better off the city will be. In the narrow sense, then, the settlement was in the city’s best interest and the responsible course.

Long term, however, I see nothing but bad results flowing from this result. If Wilson was not wrong, then Brown was at fault. If Brown was at fault, his family should not benefit. If Ferguson paid out a significant amount when its police officer behaved reasonably, then Ferguson just set a precedent that Black Lives Matter could have authored in its dreams.

If a black victim is shot by the police, it is  racism and a wrongful death per se, whatever the facts are.

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Case Study In How When Ethics Fail And The Law Steps In, The Law Will Screw Things Up Beyond Repair

Like Title IX, like Obamacare, like so many well-intentioned laws and regulations designed to assist and protect vulnerable citizens or traditionally oppressed groups, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) opened the door for abuse, absurd taxpayer costs, and unanticipated consequences. The ADA was rammed into law by activists compassion bullies who proclaimed that any attention to proportion and cost-benefit analysis was mean and heartless. Here is an example of what else came in that open door:

From the LA Times::

ADA lawsuits are now as common as sex-discrimination lawsuits, with more than 26,000 new claims filed against employers each year. The latest litigants have their sights on the most innovative segment of our domestic economy: e-commerce.In this trend, people sue businesses because their websites aren’t sufficiently accessible to the disabled — because the websites lack assistive technologies for the blind or hearing-impaired, say. It began in 2000, when Bank of America became the first entity to settle a web-accessibility lawsuit. Safeway and Charles Schwab soon followed suit. In 2008, Target paid $6 million to settle a class-action suit brought by the National Federation of the Blind, and nearly $4 million more to cover the plaintiffs’ attorney fees and other costs. More than 240 businesses across the country have been sued in federal court over website accessibility since the beginning of 2015. Similar litigation has been brought against universities on the grounds that the free online courses they offer aren’t captioned for deaf users, and against ride-sharing services because their smartphone apps lack text-to-speech capability for blind users.

…According to the demands of disabled users, in order for a website to be accessible, it must use fewer pictures, present text in a format that is compatible with text-reading software and employ design that allows for easy navigation. But the features that make a website more accessible for one disabled group are bound to be objectionable to another.

They may also conflict with other needs. Consider bank websites, which often employ timers that will shut down an online session for security reasons after a particular time period is exceeded. Such “timeouts” could present problems for some disabled users, but eliminating them in the interest of accessibility could impair security for all.

In the process of making a website accessible, questions invariably proliferate. Do certain color combinations violate the ADA because they confound the colorblind? Are certain layouts inaccessible if they’re confusing to users with a limited field of vision? Do the accessibility requirements apply only to the websites themselves, or do they also apply to Web content, such as advertising on a third party’s website? Will website hosts be responsible for the compliance of third-party sites? Must archived Web content be revised to comply? What about mobile apps? Do temporary technical bugs in an otherwise compliant website constitute a violation? What physical and mental conditions will require accommodation? So far, Web accessibility lawsuits have concerned the vision- and hearing-impaired, but future cases could be brought on behalf of plaintiffs diagnosed with dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, narcolepsy, cognitive impairments, paralysis and many other conditions.

The game is to sue deep pockets website owners and extort settlement pay-offs. That’s fine for the Bank of America, but not for, say, Ethics Alarms. This blog could be put out of business by such a lawsuit, and so could hundreds of thousands of others. Continue reading

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Another Religious Freedom vs. Gay Rights Ethics Clash: The Country Mill Farms Farms Affair

Steve Tennes (above) and his devout Catholic family own  Country Mill Farms, Winery, Orchard and Cider Mill. in Charlotte, Michigan. The picturesque locale makes additional income by renting out the venue for weddings and events.

Last August, a visitor to Country Mill’s Facebook page asked if they hosted gay weddings at the farm. Tennes answered in the negative, explaining that his Catholic family believes marriage should be between a man and woman. The Tennes family sells its products at an East Lansing  farmers market, and that city’s officials were notified of their “no gay weddings” policy. A city ordinance  requires that participants in the market, even those not located within East Lansing city limits, have to agree with its non-discrimination ordinance.  “I think it’s a very strong principle that you should not be discriminating against somebody elsewhere and then come here and want to participate in our market,” East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas told the news media.

Lansing  officials urged (threatened?)  Tennes to comply with its ordinance, so the farm stopped hosting weddings of any kind for a while. Then Tennes decided to defy the order and announced on Facebook that the farm would resume hosting weddings, but only those involving a man and a women. In turn, the city told Tennes that his farm would not be welcome at the farmer’s market for the 2017 season.

“It was brought to our attention that The Country Mill’s general business practices do not comply with East Lansing’s Civil Rights ordinances and public policy against discrimination as set forth in Chapter 22 of the City Code and outlined in the 2017 Market Vendor Guidelines, as such, The Country Mill’s presence as a vendor is prohibited by the City’s Farmer’s Market Vendor Guidelines,” the city said in a letter to the family. Just coincidentally I’m sure,  East Lansing recently updated its civil rights ordinance to include discrimination at “all business practices” for participants the city’s farmers market. City Mayor Mark Meadows said the farm’s exclusion is based on the Tennes family’s “business decision” to exclude same-sex weddings. (Since the limitations on the weddings performed undoubtedly forfeits business, I have my doubts about whether the city can win the claim that it is a business decision and not a religious one.)

Now the farm is suing East Lansing. “Our faith and beliefs on marriage and hosting weddings at our home and in our backyard of our farm have nothing to do with the city of East Lansing,” Tennes said at a press conference last week “Nor does it have anything to do with the produce that we sell to the people that attend the farmers markets who are from all backgrounds and all beliefs.”

The suit asks the court to restore Country Mill Farms’ freedoms, stop East Lansing’s “discriminatory policy,” and award damages. The city claims its policy is in line with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling eliminating a ban on same-sex marriage.

My first comment: Yechhh. I’ll sure be clad when society is accustomed enough to same-sex couples that people stop treating them like they are viruses and other people stop bullying those who are slow to accept the cultural shift into submission.

I think East Lansing loses this lawsuit, or at least should.

At first it reminded me of this case, from 2014, where a family-run chapel was initially told by Coeur d’Alene, Idaho that it had to hold same-sex weddings. The city backed down, but the decisive issue in that case was that the chapel’s minister would be forced to do a ceremony that his religious beliefs didn’t permit. Forced speech is as unconstitutional as restricted speech, so the city eventually said, “Never mind!”

I wrote in part,

What’s next, legally requiring citizens to accept invitations to gay weddings? Make sure they get a nice gift? …It appears not to even occur to dedicated gay marriage rights activists that Americans can’t be forced to say what the good people think they should say, or support what the right people insist they should support. I happen to believe that same-sex marriages are good, and that legalizing them is right. Nonetheless, if you tell me I have to officiate at one of them or be fined, we have a problem. This kind of fascism from the left—and that’s what it is— forfeits the support of the fair, the moderate and the sane…Any advance in ethics can become a slippery slope to the unethical, and this is a good example. Personal autonomy still matters; freedom of belief is still an important right to respect and protect. Slippery slopes need sand, and this is an excellent example of why.

The ethics issue here is related, but different. This one reminds me more of the Chic-Fil-A controversy, when various mayors were announcing that because the company’s owner was a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, his business wasn’t welcome in their cities. I wrote (in part) about that ethics train wreck: Continue reading

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Bulletin To The Government And Its Indoctrination Centers: Children Have a Right To Like Whatever They Choose

In California, that land of the not-so-free and home of the submissive, four high school students were suspended for  “liking” Instagram posts that the school administrators deemed racist. Now they have sued the school.

Good.

This has to stop.

The students, three of them Asian, were suspended after school officials were informed that they had “liked” or briefly commented on Instagram posts that included an image of a black doll juxtaposed with a KKK member, a torch and a noose, and photographs of other students at the school with jokes about their weight and appearance. Let us settle this right now: it doesn’t matter if the images and posts “liked’ advocated incest, cannibalism or Republicans. It is not the school’s role to punish students for thought crimes. This was not a school website, and the posts did not take place on school grounds. This is Big Brotherism, and the fact that the students involved need to be guided and taught does not mean crushing them under the iron boot of the state was appropriate or responsible.

Albany High School explained it was merely trying to provide “an inclusive and respectful learning environment for all of our students.” Translation: We want all our students to absorb our politically correct,  mandated beliefs, and there is no escaping our power.

Students have a right to express their own views, however misguided, in their private lives. Students have a right to hold views San Francisco progressives find offensive. If the school can punish students for “liking” a racist image, it can, and I assume will, eventually punish students who like President Trump. Or Ethics Alarms. Or Ayn Rand. Or veal. Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Citizenship, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Facebook, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, Social Media

Professor Who Most Needs To Get Over Himself Of The Month

Gilbert Kalonde, a Montana State University assistant professor of technology education, says an employee at the Bozeman, Montana Wal-Mart wrongly listed his occupation on a fishing license as “toilet cleaner” rather than “pompous assistant professor.” This, the toilet cl…er, professor says, constitutes libel, and he is suing for damages because the license has held him up to “hatred, contempt, ridicule.”

Boy, you can say that again. I know I always judge people by what it says on their fishing licenses. Come to think of it, I just judge people harshly if they have a fishing license. Actually, I’m not sure I wouldn’t regard a toilet cleaner as more admirable than a college professor. True, he doesn’t teach at Wellesley….

Why would anyone get upset over something like this? I would be hauling out that license at parties. Yes, that’s not exactly sterling service he got, but it’s Wal-Mart. Besides, based on the law suit, I bet the prof was so insufferable–“See here, my good man, make sure you place the correct occupation on that document, lest my credentials are obscured!”—that the Wal-Mart clerk decided to teach him a lesson in humility. I guess it didn’t work.

The ethical values involved here are proportion, compassion, humility, and kindness, none of which Gilbert Kalonde appears to possess.

At least he has a sense of humor.

______________________

Pointer: Fark

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Yale’s Core Values Betrayal: The Case Of The Student’s Unnecessarily Provocative Philosophy Essay

It certainly appears as if U.S. higher education is sailing toward the shoals of ethics bankruptcy, full speed ahead. It also appears that Yale, although it’s part of a tightly bunched armada, is leading the way.

A law suit called Doe v. Yale tells a jaw-dropping tale that once would have been unbelievable, “once” meaning “before a large segment of the culture accepted the proposition that free expression and thought were undesirable unless they met certain lockstep requirements that will ease the way to a progressive utopia.” The plaintiff, a male student, claims that Yale punished him for the offense of writing a class essay that offended a female teaching assistant.

According to his lawsuit, in late 2013 a philosophy teaching assistant filed a complaint with the university’s Title IX office, complaining about a short paper “Doe” had written in the class she was helping to teach.  The essay discussed Socrates’ discussion, recounted in Plato’s “Republic,” of the three divisions of the soul and their relationship to justice. It applied the Greek philosopher’s ideas to rape, arguing that the crime was also an irrational act in which  the soul’s appetites and spirited components overwhelm its reason, which must have primacy for mankind to be moral and just.

The Title IX coordinator, an associate dean in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences named Pamela Schirmeister, told Doe that his essay was “unnecessarily provocative.” By daring to discuss rape, he had committed an offense against the teaching assistant. He was told to have no contact with the teaching assistant, and ordered to attend sensitivity training at the university’s mental-health center—re-education and indoctrination, in other words. “Doe” was now, he was told, a “person of interest” to Yale, meaning that that the college was now going to be watching him with a grounded suspicion that he was a potential danger to the campus.

What followed, a few months later, were two dubious accusations of sexual assault by female students, both handled with the slanted, pro-accuser, due process-avoiding  approach that has become epidemic on campuses since President Obama’s Dept of Education issued its infamous “Dear Colleague” letter in April of 2011.  Ethics Alarms has discussed some of these cases and the letter, but that is not the topic before us today.

Today the topic is the suppression of free speech, thought, and expression on college campuses.  Continue reading

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Infowars’ Alex Jones, Purveyor Of The Most Untrustworhy Political Website North Of “The News Nerd,” Provides One Of The Most Disingenuous Apologies Imaginable

A few stipulations:

1. Anyone who for a second thought it was anything more than a bad spoof that John Podesta and Hillary Clinton were engaged in a child sex ring operating out of a D.C. pizza joint has gone waaaay beyond “Bias Makes You Stupid” to “Bias Makes People Who Are Stupid Already Too Dangerous For Human Companionship.”

2. Anyone who believes anything that appears on the conspiracy blog “Infowars” is a sitting duck for the next Ponzi scheme.

3. My theory is that Breibart pays Jones to make it look reliable and objective by comparison. And it gets its money’s worth..

The so called Pizzagate conspiracy theory held that top Democratic officials were involved with a satanic child pornography ring centered around Comet Ping Pong, a pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C. There was never any evidence to support it, and more importantly, was ridiculous on its face. It did not originate with Alex Jones, the proprietor of far right Infowars, but since it was uncomplimentary to Democrats, Jones was supporting Donald Trump, and he has also claimed on Infowars that the 9/11 attacks were  carried out by the United States government and that the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown  was a hoax concocted by anti-Second Amendment fanatics, the Pizzagate theory fit right in to the rest of the BS. Thanks in great part to Jones,  the hoax circulated on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, flourished in online forums frequented by idiots, and produced more static interfering with a rational approach to a crucial election.

This hoax, unlike, say, the claim that the Pope had endorsed Donald Trump, had measurable consequences. The pizzeria, its owner and his employees received death threats. Their business has suffered. Nearby businesses have also been adversely affected, and the hoax even spread to several other pizzerias around the country for some reason.The restaurant was closed for two days in December after Edgar M. Welch, one of the above referenced idiots,  showed up at Comet Ping Pong to “investigate,” and fired a semiautomatic rifle  inside the pizzeria. Welch pleaded guilty on Friday to assault with a dangerous weapon and interstate transportation of a firearm. Good. One idiot down.

Now Jones has issued an apology. It was obviously crafted by lawyers: Comet Pizza had demanded one in February, and by law Jones had one month to retract his libel (arguably liable) to avoid being sued. The month would have been up this weekend. Here is that apology, with key sections bolded and numbered to make commenting here easier: Continue reading

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