Ford’s Hypothetical Ethical Dilemma

"Oh-oh...Lindsay's behind the wheel again..."

“Oh-oh…Lindsay’s behind the wheel again…”

Ford’s Global VP/Marketing and Sales, Jim Farley, was waxing on about data privacy as a participant in a panel discussion at an electronics trade show in Las Vegas. He was making a point regrading how much data Ford has on its customers, and its possible uses, and stunned audience members when he said, “We know everyone who breaks the law, we know when you’re doing it. We have GPS in your car, so we know what you’re doing. By the way, we don’t supply that data to anyone.” Ford knows when drivers of its automobiles break the law? That raises all kinds of concerns, and obviously Ford’s PR folks and lawyers didn’t care to deal with them. The next day, after a lot of publicity, Farley “clarified” his statements, saying, “I absolutely left the wrong impression about how Ford operates. We do not track our customers in their cars without their approval or their consent. The statement I made in my eyes was hypothetical and I want to clear this up.”

Well, you know how much I like hypotheticals. Besides, how will we be sure that Ford, if it can monitor our driving, won’t monitor our driving, or at least someone’s driving? Constitutional law specialist and blogger Eugene Volokh has an interesting post about the legal and liability implication’s of Ford’s peculiar spying ability. Introducing his analysis, he writes, Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Attorney Lee J. Danforth

“If this trial prevents one little girl or one mother or father from reporting suspected abuse then this is profoundly sad for our society.”

 —-Lee J. Danforth, attorney,making a lightly veiled argument that his clients should suffer no penalties for ruining a teacher’s career and reputation with a false accusation of “inappropriate touching,” because such penalties would discourage future legitimate accusations.

"Oh, you all were lying when you got John Proctor hung as a witch? Well, that's okay---we wouldn't want to punish you, because it might discourage a real victim, in case there really IS a witch one of these days...

“Oh, you all were lying when you got John Proctor hung as a witch? Well, that’s okay—we wouldn’t want to punish you, because it might discourage a real victim, in case there really IS a witch one of these days…

Mr. Danforth was defending a San Jose, California family in a defamation suit by a former Catholic school physical education teacher, John Fischler,  who claimed that they methodically destroyed his reputation with a campaign of rumors and lies, led by his main accuser, an 11-year-old girl right out of “The  Children’s Hour” or “The Crucible.” Danforth is a lawyer (Danforth was also the name of the judge in the Salem witch trials, speaking of “The Crucible” and false accusations) , and it is sometimes necessary, and thus ethical, for lawyers to make otherwise unethical arguments in the zealous representation of their despicable clients. Remember, legal ethics does not allow Danforth to temper his advocacy out of concern for future, genuine victims, unlike his clients. They are not his concern, and even bad people have a right to vigorous legal representation. Nonetheless, his statement embodies an unethical rationalization for letting diabolical and vicious false accusers escape the just consequences for their actions. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Deadly Rock Festival

Looks like fun! Little do these unsuspecting rock music-lovers realize that a deadly culture lurks at the festival, eager to kill them...

Looks like fun! Little do these unsuspecting rock music-lovers realize that a deadly culture lurks at the festival, eager to kill them…

The final day of New York City’s Electric Zoo Festival, held over Labor Day weekend since 2009, was canceled due to “serious health risks,” according to a release from NYC government.

The reason?  Two fans died and at least four became “critically ill” during the first two days of the festival on  Randall’s Island. The statement from Fortress Bloomberg  explained that the reason for the cancellation was “serious health risks.”  Jeffrey Russ, 24 and Olivia Rotondo, 20,  both died after ingesting the drug ecstasy.

The organizers posted, “The founders of Electric Zoo send our deepest condolences to the families of the two people who passed away this weekend. Because there is nothing more important to us than our patrons, we have decided in consultation with the New York City Parks Department that there will be no show today.” Thousands of non-illegal drug-users who planned their holiday around the festival have been sent home.

Your Ethics Alarms Labor Day Ethics Quiz is this…

Is cancelling the music festival an ethical response to two drug-related deaths? Continue reading

Texting Ethics: The Lawyer’s Duty To Propose A Ridiculous Theory And The Judge’s Duty To Reject It

"You almost had me, Miss. Your plan was clever---you knew your boyfriend would answer that text message you sent, and timed your call so he would be driving on Dead Man's Curve. It was almost a perfect crime!"

“You almost had me, Miss. Your plan was clever—you knew your boyfriend would answer that text message you sent, and timed your call so he would be driving on Dead Man’s Curve. It was almost a perfect crime!”

Last year, a Superior Court judge in Morristown, New Jersey ruled that Shannon Colonna should not and could not be made to pay damages to David and Linda Kubert, who both lost a leg after her boyfriend, Kyle Best, driving his car, read Colonna’s text message and crashed into the motorcycle the Kuberts were riding.

The Kuberts are appealing the ruling, with their attorney, Stephen “Skippy” Weinstein, arguing before a three-judge panel that texters should have “a duty of care” imposed on them, making them potentially liable when they send a message knowing that the intended recipient is driving, as Best was. It’s a novel theory and a genuinely terrible one, an insidious concept that would allow plaintiffs to drag completely innocent parties into crushing personal injury litigation, and that over time would be certain to ooze into other areas. Good for lawyer Weinstein, though; he’s doing his job, which is zealous representation. The future mischief such a duty would wreak isn’t his concern, only getting the best result for his clients is. Continue reading

The Glenwood Gardens Incident: A Duty To Rescue, Policy Or Not

"Here at Glenwood Gardens, our residents understand that our crack staff will allow them to die on the floor without lifting a finger."

“Here at Glenwood Gardens, our residents understand that our crack staff will allow them to die on the floor without us lifting a finger.”

Once again, we consider the ethical duties of someone placed by fate and circumstance in a position to give life-saving service…and who refuses to do so.

Lorraine Bayless,  87 year-old resident of Glenwood Gardens, a Bakersfield, California senior living facility, collapsed on the dining room floor, not breathing, her life obviously in danger.  A Glenwood Gardens staff member who identified herself as a nurse called 911, and this exchange ensued…

911 Dispatcher: “This woman’s not breathing enough. She’s gonna die if we don’t get this started. Do you understand?”

Nurse: “I understand. I am a nurse. But I cannot have our other citizens, who don’t know CPR, do it … ”

Dispatcher: “Is there anyone that works there that’s willing to do it?”

Nurse: “We can’t do that.”

Dispatcher: “Are we just gonna let this lady die?”

Nurse: “Well that’s why we’re calling 911.”

Dispatcher: “Is there anyone that’s willing to help this lady and not let her die?”

Nurse: “Um, not at this time.”

The 87-year-old was declared dead at the hospital. Continue reading

As Dean Wormer* Would Say To Bryan Craig: “Sex-Obsessed, Promiscuous and Stupid Is No Way To Be A High School Guidance Counselor, Son…”

The Rich Central High principal suspected something was amiss with the girls’ basketball coach when the team members began to act strangely…

A provocative variation on the “naked teacher” scenario has surfaced in Chicago suburb Olympia Fields. Bryan Craig was a guidance counselor and girls’ basketball coach at Rich Central High School until his self-published book “It’s Her Fault” came to the attention of parents and school administrators. Then he was placed on administrative leave, and finally, fired.  The book is for mature audiences only, and based on reports (I haven’t read it and have no intention of doing so) includes pick-up advice, analysis of female body types (including a discussion of the varying colors and temperature levels of the vaginas of various races, apparently the book’s highlight) and Craig’s insight into how women think, a perspective that appears to be muddled at best and sexist at worst. Here is a passage from the book (in an Amazon reader’s review—a favorable one, and from a teenage stripper):

“In some cases, strippers and dancers show the overall dominance a woman can have over a man. Not to say that stripping is what has to be done to truly establish dominance, but these women’s mind-set is in the right place in order to meet the true potential of the point of this book.” Continue reading

When Late Is As Bad As Never: The Thalidomide Apology

Such a nice apology to the Thalidomide victims! Why no applause?

Harald Stock, Chief Executive of the Gruenenthal Group, has issued the company’s first apology and acknowledgment of responsibility for its role in manufacturing Thalidomide, the drug taken by pregnant women for nausea in the ’50’s and ’60’s. The women who took the drug, primarily in Europe, gave birth to children with deformed limbs or no limbs at all.  Stock  apologized to the surviving mothers and to their children, saying,

“We ask for forgiveness that for nearly 50 years we didn’t find a way of reaching out to you from human being to human being. We ask that you regard our long silence as a sign of the shock that your fate caused in us.”

Wow, that’s some case of shock—50 years! And the shock affected not just the executives of the company that were around when the drug was distributed without adequate testing and so-called “flipper babies” were being born in the thousands, but two generations of subsequent Gruenenthal management too. Let’s translate this apology, shall we? Continue reading

Ethics Hero: The American Bar Association


This week, the American Bar Association House of Delegates passed Resolution 100.

The measure reads:

RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges all state, territorial, and local legislative bodies and governmental agencies to adopt comprehensive breed-neutral dangerous dog/reckless owner laws that ensure due process protections for owners, encourage responsible pet ownership and focus on the behavior of both dog owners and dogs, and to repeal any breed discriminatory or breed specific provisions.

Translation: stop discriminating against pit bulls and all the dogs that look like pit bulls, might be pit bulls, or that people who don’t know anything about dogs might think are pit bulls, as well as the dogs’ owners. It’s not fair, it’s unethical, and it’s un-American. Or, as Elise Van Kavage, chair of the Animal Law Committee of the Tort, Trial & Insurance Practice Section, put it, “People love their pets, no matter what their appearance,” she said. “This is America. Responsible pet owners should be allowed to own whatever breed they want.” Continue reading

How Parents Are Playing Russian Roulette With Their Children

Whenever I discuss an incident of astounding incompetence and idiocy by school administrators, I receive indignant protests that such incidents tell us nothing about the trustworthiness of the schools generally, and that any system, even the very best, have anomalous examples of misconduct and poor judgment. Admittedly I am somewhat conditioned by the experiences of my son, which convinced my wife and I to home school him, not for religious reasons, but because we were horrified by the inflexible, often cruel conduct of his teachers, the deceit and cowardice of various school administrators, and the accumulated impact of the inept teaching and oversight on our son’s attitude toward education, authority, institutions, and life in general. Yet even that was before I began recording the steady drumbeat of teachers seducing their students, teachers indoctrinating their students in their own ideological beliefs, schools punishing students for technical violations of badly written and overly broad rules and harshly disciplining children for their communications and activities outside school grounds, in their private lives.

I now believe that any parent who entrusts the welfare and upbringing of their children to today’s schools is playing the equivalent of Russian Roulette, allowing people who have inadequate standards, inadequate training, inadequate judgment and inadequate values to have an opportunity to warp, debase, confuse or otherwise harm the young. I believe this because I am convinced that the public and media are aware of only a small percentage of the misconduct schools and their employees engage in daily.

Take, for example, the experience of photographer Jess Michener. Two of his children were going on a school field trip. It was a sunny day, and his children are fair-skinned and prone to sunburn—one especially, because she has a mild form of albinism. When they came home, the two were so painfully sunburned that he had to take them to the hospital. He writes: Continue reading

Is Elizabeth Warren A Pit Bull?

You never know.

Lucky for her, she doesn’t look like one. Then again, she doesn’t look like a Cherokee, either…

After all, it is even easier to be designated a “pit bull” than a Cherokee, believe it or not. As a result, hysterics in the public and on the Maryland Court of Appeals have decided it is prudent to engage in the kind of bias and fear-driven racism regarding pets that would be condemned as brutally unjust if applied to humans.

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that “pit bulls” are “inherently dangerous” and will be subject to higher levels of liability, meaning, among other things, that there will be no “one bite rule” for these dogs, the usual trigger for determining whether a canine is a risk to humans, and that landlords will be forcing tenants to either get rid of their “inherently dangerous” dogs or move out. The ruling is  the result of bad reasoning, bad information, bad statistics and bad law, not to mention bias. What kind of legal standard depends on a term that has no definition and no way to determine what fits it? Yet that is what the Maryland pit bull ruling does.

As I have noted here in other posts, “pit bull” is a generic term applied to several bull dog and terrier-mix breeds, and mistakenly to up to 25 other breeds as well. This renders the deceptively used statistics of anti-pit bull zealot organizations like Dogs Bite.org completely worthless. I would say completely useless, but there are useful…for getting  perfectly gentle and trustworthy dogs killed. In its compiled statistics of deadly dog attacks, the organization states that “pit bull-type dogs” are responsible for 59% of fatal attacks on humans, contrasted with specific breeds like Rottweilers. The category of “pit bull-type dogs,” however, includes at least five distinct breeds that are often called “pit bulls”—  the American Bulldog, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier, and the Mini Bull Terrier. Anti-pit bull breed-specific legislation also includes absolutely non-pit bull breeds in its definition of “pit bull types” in many jurisdictions, breeds like the Boxer, Bull Mastiff, Boston terrier and French Bulldog, the last two especially deadly threats to lick you into submission. Such laws are, in truth, dog legislation created by people who know nothing about dogs, but who are perfectly willing to take responsible people’s loving pets away and kill them if it will mollify some phobic voters.

Then there are the dog breeds that may be called “pit bulls” by dog attack victims who can barely tell a dachshund from a Great Dane. Among those “pit bull-type breeds” are the Alpha Blue Blood Bull Dog, American Bulldog,  American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Banter Bull Dogge, Black Mouth Cur, Boston Terrier, Boxer, Bull Terrier, Bulldog, Bull Mastiff, Cane Corso, Dogo Aregentino,  Dogo Canario, Dogue De Bordeaux, English Bulldog, English Mastiff, Fila Brasileiro, Fila Mastiff, French Bulldog, Italian Mastiff, Mastiff, Mini Bull Terrier, Neapolitan Mastiff. Old English Bull Dogge, Patterdale Terrier,  Presa de Canario, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Spanish Mastiff, and the Valley Bulldog.

So what does the predominance of “pit bull type dogs” in the dog bite statistics tell us? It tells us that a lot of fearful, ignorant people—and judges— don’t know what pit bulls are, but they are afraid of them and want to wipe them off the face of the earth anyway.

For the record, there is only one true pit bull, the American Pit Bull Terrier, which looks like this:

Continue reading