Tag Archives: Uber

Ethics Salvage, 8/9/018: Here’s Why There Were No Ethics Alarms Posts Yesterday, And More

Good morning? What’s good about it?

My plan, as it is most days I travel, was to arrive at my destination (New Providence, NJ), check into the hotel, and spend the evening catching up on ethics posts, then get up early, compose an ethics warm-up. maybe another post r two before I lose control of the day in the onslaught of seminar-leading and more travel. It’s a good plan. Unfortunately, nothing went right. My original flight, into Newark airport, was cancelled after an hour’s delay: Newark had stopped all air traffic. I switched airlines and bought ticket to LaGuardia, where I was told that my client’s limo service could pick me up and take me to my destination.(My program was to start at 9:00 am today.) I got on the plane, we left the gate, and waited. It was storming in New York City and environs. After two more hours, the plane returned to then gate, where we were told to wait around. If things started up at LaGuardia, we were going to have to seize the moment, get on the plane and take off. Never mind: after a half hour or so, that flight was cancelled too.

Thus I ended up at the end of a line of about a hundred travelers , while a single American Airlines agent tried to handle each crisis, a process which appeared to bid fair to last until Christmas before they would get to my urgent need to be in Springfield, N.J. in time to meet up with my colleague and perform a three hour musical ethics seminar for a paying audience of over a hundred lawyers. My ProEthics partner and spouse was simultaneously coordinating with Mike, the musician, on his way to the hotel from Brooklyn, the New Jersey Bar, and the airlines, trying to develop plans B (an early morning flight from Dulles or National and a mad dash to the seminar), C (an overnight train trip), D ( driving to New Jersey), and E (hiring someone to drive me, so I didn’t fall asleep at the wheel). Cancelling was never an option: I’m a show-biz guy, and the show must go on.

For some reason an American agent came over to the back of the endless line, and said, conspiratorially, “Who wants to go to JFK?” About 2o of us eagerly followed her to another gate, and I eventually found myself on a plane to JFK—which stalled on the tarmac, because JFK had halted take-offs and landings too. After an hour or so, the pilot announced that he had “timed out” along with the rest of the crew, and that we were returning to the gate, de-planing, and would wait for a fresh pilot who was en route, assuming his plane arrived.

Well, to cut out a lot more twists and turns, eventually I got to JFK, paid $250 to have a car take me to my hotel in New Providence, and got to bed at around 4 am,  with a scheduled pick-up by a limo service to take me and Mike to the venue at 8. The limo driver got lost, incidentally. Then it was a blur of a three-hour interactive seminar (Mike, as usual, was brilliant), back to the airport, more delays, and home by about 7 pm last night. I started this post around 9, found myself unable to think, and went to bed.

My friend Tom Fuller is fond of saying that if you have no options, you have no problem. I had no options, but I do regard not being able to get posts up in a timely fashion a big problem.

I was, however thinking about multiple ethics issues that arose during my odyssey–actually, a Cyclops and some Sirens, even Scylla and Charybdis,  would have been welcome diversions from Airport Hades—and will pass some of them along now: Continue reading

52 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Daily Life, Etiquette and manners, Professions, Workplace

Self-Driving Cars And The Hindenburg Phenomenon

In Tempe, Arizona, a homeless woman was pushing a bicycle carrying plastic shopping bags and walked from a center median into a lane of traffic. She was immediately  struck by a self-driving Uber car operating in autonomous mode.

The car was traveling 38 mph in a 35 mph zone, and never braked. Police say the tragedy wasn’t the car’s fault, but it doesn’t matter. Uber has suspended use of the self-driving cars, and history tells us that the devices may be on a road to oblivion due to an unavoidable collapse of public trust.

I’ve been expecting this. To be precise, I’ve been expecting the first fatality inside a self-driving car, and that will happen soon enough. When it does, I think it is a close call whether self-driving cars ever recover, especially if the fatal accident is especially gory, or involves children.

All it took, remember, to end airship travel forever was one spectacular accident, when the Hindenburg burst into flames and was captured in photographs and newsreels. Before that, airships had a good safety record. Another vivid example was the 1933 Dymaxion, a streamlined car on three wheels created by visionary Buckminster Fuller. All three wheels turned, giving  the Dymaxion the ability to pull into parking spaces in one move. But the design was unstable. Three were built, hailed by investors, the media and celebrities as a break-through, and then one crashed, killing the driver. And that was the end of the Dymaxion. It sure was cool, though… Continue reading

49 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, History, Science & Technology, U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/22/17: Uber, Thanksgiving Hate, Accountability, Trump’s Unavoidable Choice, And Ruing The Day That Changed Everything

Good Morning.

…But 54 years ago it seemed like a beautiful morning in Dealey Plaza…

1 “President Kennedy is dead…” I heard those word over my little black transistor radio that I mostly used to listen to Red Sox games. Let’s see how many news stories take note of the historical significance of today: the anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas. It is the date when a disturbed crypto-Communist radical took the fate and future of an entire nation and culture in his hands, and squeezed them to pulp—one of the three or four most unethical acts in U.S. history. As readers here know, I am not a Jack Kennedy admirer. Nonetheless, in “Back to the Future II” terms, it’s impossible to imagine what 2017 America would be like had Lee Harvey Oswald not shot the top of JFK’s head off in 1963, but it’s easy to imagine that we would be better. The assassination created a violent shift in the time/space continuum, and we never got back on track.

2. Bye-Bye Uber, you’re also dead to me. Uber is untrustworthy and unethical, and anyone who trusts the company going forward is a fool as well as an enabler of corporate misconduct. This is signature significance: the company revealed that hackers stole 57 million driver and rider accounts last year, yet Uber withheld that fact from the public until now after paying a $100,000 ransom to the hackers. Ethical, competent, trustworthy companies don’t operate this way.

It wasn’t just the company’s juvenile and piggish former CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick. The company he created inherited his ethical deficits like a lethal gene. Any company is obligated to reveal hacks of personal data to members of the public who might be harmed by them immediately.

If you use Uber after this, you’re an idiot. You’re also sending the message that an epic breach of trust by a corporation will be shrugged off via one or twenty rationalizations, like 19. The Perfection Diversion: “Nobody’s Perfect!” or “Everybody makes mistakes!”

Keep sending that message, and pretty soon they’ll be using 1. The Golden Rationalization, or “Everybody does it.”

3. More Tales of the Anti-Trump Deranged: This essay in the virulent Trump-hating CG is meant humorously, but also is serious in its nastiness. Joe Berkowitz’s call to good little resistance members and Hillary bitter-enders to “ruin thanksgiving” as their “civic duty” stands as a self-indictment of the ugly, divisive mindset that so much of the Left has descended into over the past year. In fact, with just a few tweaks, it could have been written by a conservative satirist—if there were such things.

One aspect of Trump’s election turning the U.S. into a “Nation of Assholes” that I did not see coming was progressives and Democrats feeling liberated to go full-asshole themselves. This article shows the phenomenon. In particular, Berkowitz demonstrates how the Left can no longer distinguish between legitimate policy disagreements and what should be a matter of non-partisan consensus. His argument for using Thanksgiving to punish Trump supporting relatives by turning a celebration of faith and family into a table-top Gettysburg goes like this:

They can’t stand idly by while President Deals tramples every other American tradition and yet somehow expect that Thanksgiving will be normal too. [Note: Supporting the elected President is one of those traditions, and a crucial one.]…Here are a few suggestions for how to ruin Thanksgiving, arranged by ascending order of righteous fury:

Don’t show up. For some parents, your absence will speak louder than any sodden arguments over the density of pumpkin pie. If you can’t even look them in the eye, they’ll know you mean business. [Note: Is he joking? I know many families who are eschewing family gatherings for exactly this reason. Yes, I put most of this on the Angry Left and Barack Obama, aided and abetted by late night TV comics and the news media. They have set out to divide the nation by race, gender, age, class and party, seeking to build metaphorical walls where once there were divisions that could be forgotten or ignored during recreation and the shared commonality of citizenship. .]

Show up and be kind of an asshole. No hugs; only stiff, formal handshakes. During the football game, talk about police brutality nonstop. Take any opportunity to emphasize just how much Bruce Springsteen and the entire E Street band loathes Trump….[Note: See?]

Scorched Earth. Not even a handshake; just stare, disgustedly, at their outstretched arms….[Note: Among the  inarguable outrages that the essayist claims justifies such treatment: not supporting an increase in the minimum wage, refusing to uncritically accept climate change propaganda, and the President speaking “almost exclusively in racist dog whistles and ‘locker room talk.'” You know, racist dogwhistles like opposing the tearing down statues of Robert E. Lee,  correctly stating that a white nationalist group has the same rights to assemble and protest as anyone else without being attacked,  or objecting to NFL players inflicting an incoherent protest on their captive audience. ]

I was asked for ethics advice regarding looming political disputes during Thanksgiving, and here it is: It is rude and unkind to raise a topic you know is emotional and painful for people at the table. So don’t do it, just as you wouldn’t (I hope) deliberately raise such topics as Cousin Cecile’s abortion, Jim Jr.’s arrest, or Uncle Ethan’s IRS problems. Continue reading

14 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Family, Government & Politics, History, Humor and Satire, Leadership, Rights, The Popeye

Ethics Lessons Of The Dallas Prosecutor-Uber Driver Confrontation

Dallas prosecutor Jody Warner was fired from her job in the Dallas District Attorney’s office for an ugly—and subtantially recorded—argument with an Uber driver.

“Although criminal charges have not been filed, her behavior is contrary to this office’s core principle of integrity, and it will not be tolerated,” the DA’s office said in a written statement. “As public servants, we represent the people of Dallas County and are examples of justice, professionalism, and ethical behavior both inside and outside of the courtroom.”

What happened?

Yikes.

Uber driver Shaun Platt said he picked up Warner, 32, at a Dallas bar. He knew pretty quickly that he had a drunk on his hands, as she yelled at friends out the window when she got in his car. Warner directed him to take a different route from the one his GPS suggested, and he got lost.

“I said, ‘Should I make a left up here?’ and she refused to answer me,” Platt said. “She said, ‘You can follow the fucking GPS’ and she became increasingly angry, even though I was just trying to get her home.” Warner continued berating him, and, he claims, slapped his shoulder. At that point, he pulled his car over, ended the Uber app, and ordered her out.

But the prosecutor refused, threatening that he was “never going to work again” and that she “knows people.”  “Who are they going to believe? I’m a district attorney,” Platt says she told him. (Unstated but understood: “And you’re just a dumb Uber driver!’) At that point he called 911 and started recording her comments on his cell phone.

Highlights:

  • “Oh, my God, you’re going to regret this so much.Just take me home, dude. … Either drop me off at my house, or we’ll wait for the cops because I’m not wrong.”
  • “You’re a fucking idiot.We’ll wait for the cops then if that’s what you think is appropriate.”
  • “Oh my God, you’re an idiot. You are a legitimate retard. I want to go home so badly but you’re so stupid I want the cops to come so that they can fuck you up, that’s what I want.”
  • “Dude, everything’s being reported.I’m an assistant district attorney so shut the fuck up.”
  • “I think this might be kidnapping right now, actually.”

After that statement, the non-lawyer Uber driver correctly made the salient legal point that since he had asked her to leave, and she was free to leave, “It’s not kidnapping, ma’am.”

She replied, “No, it is because there was an Uber that had a destination and you have not taken me to that destination. You’re holding me here, so please take me to that destination.”

Oh..huh? Continue reading

25 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Workplace

Unethical Quote Of The Day: Valerie Joseph, Wheelchair-Bound Uber User And Class Action Litigant

“I feel frustrated because I have to plan my day.I can’t do things on a whim. I have to plan it days in advance.”

Valerie Joseph, litigant in  class-action lawsuit accusing Uber of discriminating against New York City riders with disabilities by providing inadequate access to wheelchair-accessible cars .

Could there possibly be a better quote to exemplify the entitled mentality of so many Americans, and the unethical values they have somehow extracted from our political culture?

Yes, Valerie, you are handicapped. I’m sorry about that, but I’m not responsible for it. Nor are you entitled to make me, and businesses, and the government pay to ensure that society can mitigate every inconvenience created by your misfortune. You do not have the luxury of doing things “on a whim.” Neither do single mothers. Neither do small business entrepreneurs who have substantial debt. It’s your life, deal with it. I also have to plan my days because of circumstances beyond my control. It’s called adulthood. Grow the hell up.

The lawsuit Valerie champions, filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan by the non-profit Disability Rights Advocates is a classic. It is seeking to risk putting Uber out of business and remove its lower-cost transportation options for the vast, vast majority of the public by insisting on expensive retrofitting of the company’s cars that would benefit a tiny minority.

The Taxis for All Campaign filed a similar discrimination lawsuit over yellow taxis, virtual legal extortion that resulted in a settlement requiring half of all yellow taxis to be wheelchair accessible by 2020. Thus the litigants in the Uber suit already have an acceptable option: call a cab.  There are now 655 wheelchair accessible taxis in the New York city area.  I’d love to see statistics on how often they are used by the passengers they are designed to serve.  My guess: not that often. As much as anything else, this is an interest group power-play. It is discrimination, they insist,  if handicapped passengers have to wait longer than non-handicapped. New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has proposed broad new requirements for wheelchair-accessible service for the entire for-hire industry including Uber and the other ride-hail companies. Naturally: they want to put ride-sharing companies out of business, and this could do it. Continue reading

17 Comments

Filed under U.S. Society

Ethics Hero: Uber Driver Keith Avila

keithavila

Outside a house in Sacramento, California, two women got into Uber driver Keith Avila’s car with a girl who looked to him like she was just 12, wearing a short skirt.  One of them asked Avila to turn up the music as his car approached their destination, a Holiday Inn in Elk Grove. But Avila could still hear them.

“They were describing what they were going to do when they get there: ‘Check for guns. Get the money before you start touching up on the guy,’” Avila said on Facebook Live, minutes after he dropped off the passengers and had called police to report that the women seemed to be selling a child for sex. Though the girl was 16 and not 12, she was being sold for sex at the Holiday Inn.  Avila was correct. Continue reading

34 Comments

Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement

Oooooh, Sneaky, Uber!

fine-print

Fine print alert!

Uber, the controversial  ride-sharing giant, quietly changed its terms of service to foist mandatory arbitration on its users. This is a common tactic of large corporations lately, taking away consumers’ rights to sue when they are harmed due to negligence. Arbitration is often full of hidden biases, with a natural  financial motivation for less-than-ethical arbitrators to tilt in the direction of the companies that pay them.

The change means that a passenger injured in an Uber vehicle due to its driver’s negligence would be required to arbitrate any claims for personal injuries before the American Arbitration Association, because the passenger had technically agreed to the terms and conditions of the Uber contract every passenger must accept. How would  long-time customers know about the change from the original Uber conditions? They wouldn’t, unless they regularly cruised the company’s website.

On July 29, 2016, Judge Rakoff from the Southern District of New York ruled that the notice of Uber arbitration terms was not sufficient to let riders know that  they were waiving the right to sue, and thus the mandatory arbitration provision was unenforceable. Uber’s response was to send an email to its users, announcing that it was updating its terms effective November 21, 2016.  Uber also instructed its users to read the new Terms and stated it had “revised our arbitration agreement.”  Now they have you, because Uber users can no longer claim that they didn’t know about the new terms. When you use the service, you are stuck. You have waived the right to sue.

There is a large “but,” however.

An Uber user can still reject the November 21, 2016 Terms by providing Uber with written notice by mail, by hand delivery or by email within 30 days of November 21, 2016. Like many companies, Uber’s “notice” consists of a hard-to-find section on its website. The mechanics of rejecting the new terms information are virtually buried on Uber’s legal page, and read, Continue reading

11 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Law & Law Enforcement