Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/27/2019: Desperation

Good morning.

1. Here is why the breast-beating about “doing something” about climate change is dishonest, disingenuous, futile and pointless. Brazil is telling the rest of the world, especially nations that developed their own economies with reckless impunity on the way to wealth and power, to back off its demands that Brazil stop burning its own rain forest. Of course it is taking this stance, and Brazil isn’t the only developing nation that will take that position and has every right to take that position.

Brazil’s defiance is also a definitive rebuttal to the argument that the United States should spend billions—trillions?—in virtue-signaling climate change policies that under the most optimistic scenarios won’t “fix” anything without mass cooperation by nations in Brazil’s position—and that’s not going to happen.

2.  The theory: somebody has to pay. A judge in Oklahoma yesterday ruled that Johnson & Johnson  intentionally hid the risks and hyped the benefits of opioids, ordering the company to pay the state $572 million in damages. This is the first trial of a drug manufacturer for the destruction wrought by prescription painkillers.

I don’t know if the verdict is fair, having not seen the evidence and heard the arguments. I don’t know that the verdict will hold up on appeal. The theory used by the state was questionable: the judge found that Johnson & Johnson perpetuated a “public nuisance” by  contributing to an ongoing public health crisis that could take decades to address successfully. Yet there was no proof offered that doctors who prescribed the drugs were misled, or that Johnson & Johnson violated federal drug regulations.

Public nuisance laws typically apply in cases where something interferes with a right common to the general public and results in danger on roads, parks,and other public areas, and not usually public health, which is what the state argued in this case. Johnson & Johnson’s lawyers contended that the state was contorting public nuisance law to the point of being unrecognizable. Of course, the same argument was made when product liability laws started moving beyond the “buyer beware” stage.

Not reading and hearing all the evidence, I can only wonder if this is case of deep pockets being held responsible for a tragedy that had no single, obvious villain. Doctors prescribed drugs approved by federal regulators, and the drug manufacturers supplied them, legally. Then citizens took the drugs, voluntarily, in a political and social culture that increasingly shrugs off drug use and abuse. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/30/17

1. Traffic here is cratering in the run-up to the 4th, guaranteeing that for one of the few months in Ethics Alarms history, June 2017 will have seen significantly less traffic than its previous year’s equivalent. 2017 and 2016 are now in a dead heat.

I have some theories: by this point last year the campaign was heating up, and I was being sufficiently critical of both parties and candidates to make everyone happy. Ethics Alarms also started getting a lot of those paid Hillary shills commenting; I banned more commenters in 2016 by far than any other year. Also because of the campaign, there were an unusual number of posts shared by hundreds and even thousands of readers, as well as a record number of the anomalous posts that double or even triple the daily average. Those, I have found, are completely unpredictable. What I consider important or especially astute essays almost never attract readership; the runaway posts are usually about something relatively trivial.

On the other hand, the blog has many more followers in 2017, more consistently high-quality comments, and, as my life partner continues to remind me with dagger glances, revenue is holding steady…

2. There was another Ethics Hero tale to tell yesterday, though the only one I had time for was the group in Texas that bought a car for a young fast-food worker.

Major League Baseball umpire John Tumpane, assigned to a Pittsburgh Pirate home series, was walking from his hotel to the ball park across the Roberto Clemente Bridge when he saw woman climb over the railing to the outside of the bridge. He decided to approach her, and in response to his queries, she told Tumpane she just wanted to get a better view of the Allegheny River below.

The look on her face and the tone of her voice told Tumpane otherwise, so he grabbed her and refused to obey her demands that she let her go…and jump. Another  bystander saw what was going on and joined him, grabbing the woman’s free arm. A third grabbed her legs through the railing as Tumpane implored the gathering crowd to call 911. The three men held on  until emergency responders arrived. Continue reading