Category Archives: Business & Commercial

Alleged Fraud And Corruption In Holder’s Justice Department: Why Isn’t This Considered News?

A drunken pumpkin riot! Now THAT'S News!

A drunken pumpkin riot! Now THAT’S News!

Possible answers to the question posed above:

1. Because everyone already knows that the Justice Department is corrupt and Eric Holder is an incompetent political hack.

2. There was a huge pumpkin festival riot in Keane, New Hampshire!

3. The news media is so biased that it will even treat an astounding judicial ruling as a made-up “conservative media” story.

4. It’s just more evidence of how abysmally the Obama administration is being run, and an election is coming up.

5. The world has gone mad.

I think any of them are plausible explanations.

Whichever it is, I guess I am honored to be able to help break some news, as it is not usually an Ethics Alarms function. This story has made it to exactly one news source as I write this, the New York Observor, though a few conservative blogs are noting it. Read the story itself and the links here.

Meanwhile, I’ll summarize:

Two former Assistant United States Attorneys say Holder ‘s Justice Department engaged in deceit and corruption  in pursuing  its litigation against Sierra Pacific Industries, a California lumber company. Responding to the allegations—and remember that false allegations of this magnitude would mean the end of these lawyers legal careers– Federal District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. has ordered the recusal of every federal judge in the Eastern District of California, on the theory that since the court may have been defrauded by the government,  an outside judge is needed to handle the matter to avoid a conflict of interest. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

Esurance Wants You To Know That Old People Are Ignorant And Pathetic

It was the Candy Crush commercial that did it. I nearly red-flagged Esurance for its commercial earlier this year showing “Lucille,” an elderly, technologically clueless auto insurance consumer whose version of a Facebook wall consisted of posting photographs on an actual wall in her home, but decided, “OK, maybe that’s just Lucille. After all, the ad shows another senior trying to put her straight.”  The recent Esurance ad featuring an elderly idiot who plays “Candy Crush” by hitting hard candies with a hammer was too much, though.

The dirty little secret of the political correctness culture is that the groups most associated with political conservatism—males, seniors, whites and Christians—are acceptable targets for bigotry, denigration and ridicule. Add to that the overweight, who are always fair game for derision today, and the double standard in mockery is clear. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Humor and Satire, Marketing and Advertising, U.S. Society

Cruel Activism: The Gay Rights Attack On Cynthia and Robert Gifford

The-Gifford-Barn-in-Schaghticoke-NY

It is said that close cases make bad law, and they often make bad ethics too. Legally, the culpability of Cynthia and Robert Gifford is not at all certain. Ethically, however, as right as they may be on the law, the conduct of their persecutors, same-sex couple Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, has been unnecessary, without compassion, vindictive and cruel.

The Giffords are active Christians who own Liberty Ridge Farm, located in Schaghticoke in upstate New York. They supplement the farm’s revenue with attractions designed for kids and families, including a pumpkin patch, a corn stalk maze and a rustic barn for parties and weddings. That rustic barn has three stories. The Giffords reside on the top floor, with the bottom floor designed for events, and the second floor consisting of rooms for activities relating to their preparation and management.

When Cynthia Gifford received a phone call from Melissa McCarthy inquiring about having her wedding at the farm, Cynthia invited her to visit and assess the venue.In the follow-up phone call, McCarthy revealed for the first time that the affair would be a same-sex wedding. Cynthia explained that the family’s faith held that marriages can only be a union of a man and a woman, so they did not make their farm available for ceremonies. She said, however, that the couple was welcome to hold the wedding reception there.

Apparently expecting this response, Jennifer and Melissa surreptitiously recorded the phone call. Armed with the recording, they contacted the New York Civil Liberties Union who immediately filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Giffords on their behalf.

The Giffords argue that this was not a matter of discrimination, but religious practice. They had hosted events for gay clients before, and employed gays. “The Giffords’ objection was to hosting and participating in the wedding ceremony itself and not to providing service in general to lesbians,” their lawyer said.

They lost. Bronx administrative Law Judge Migdalia Pares rejected Giffords’ claim that the farm, which is also their home, is not a place of public accommodation and is therefore not subject to the anti-discrimination provisions of New York’s Human Rights Law. She ruled that Liberty Ridge qualifies as a public accommodation because it regularly collects fees for space, facilities, services and meals, so it cannot be considered “distinctly private.”  The fact that the Giffords reside at Gifford Barn does not render it private. The Giffords were ordered to pay $13,000 in fines and restitution.

The Giffords are appealing.

The Giffords, according to the judge, “unlawfully discriminated against complainants solely on the basis of their sexual orientation.” Another way of looking at it is that Jennifer and Melissa, now married, discriminated against the Giffords solely on the basis of their religious beliefs. Why couldn’t they agree to respect the Giffords’ religious beliefs, and use the property for the wedding reception only, having the actual ceremony elsewhere? Would that really be such a hardship, or a compromise in principles? Indeed, if the nation and committed progressives really aspire to tolerance, diversity and mutual compassion and understanding, why wouldn’t that be the ethical, desirable, reasonable compromise?

I know the response to that question, of course. This was a matter of principle. This would send a message. Crushing the Giffords was necessary to show that all opposition to same sex marriage would eventually be crushed under the advance of history. Never mind that these were not anti-gay bigots, and that they have as much right to practice their faith as a lesbian couple has a right to wed. This is a zero sum game, apparently. Besides the law—probably–supports McCarthy and Erwin.

I think the actions of Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin violate the Second Niggardly Principle, which is a rule of kindness, compromise and common sense. It holds…

“When an individual or group can accomplish its legitimate objectives without engaging in speech or conduct that will offend individuals whose basis for the supposed offense is emotional, mistaken or ignorant, but is not malicious and is based on well-established impulses of human nature, it is unethical to intentionally engage in such speech or conduct.”

The couple’s legitimate objectives in this case were to get married and celebrate the marriage in an attractive venue. I don’t think setting out to punish a couple for belonging to a religion that doesn’t accept same sex marriage is a legitimate objective, nor is turning their lives upside down, nor forcing them into the maw of litigation to bend them to their will. Does the gay rights movement really feel that all those who have not yet accepted the justice and inevitability of same-sex marriage must be exposed and made to suffer? It seems that this is McCarthy and  Erwin believe, and what this case will come to stand for.

If so, I think the story of the Giffords will do more harm than good, hardening opposition, confirming suspicion, undermining trust and ultimately making acceptance for gay couples harder, however it turns out in the courts. Just because you have the law on your side doesn’t mean you have to use it when doing so involves unnecessary harm to others. Gays want compassion, kindness, tolerance and fairness. It would help if they showed a willingness to give as well as receive.

______________________
Pointer: Steven Mark Pilling

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Charity, Citizenship, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

Those Unethical Noncompete Clauses

noncompetesIt would not unseat the presumptive and early-declared winner of the 2014 Ethics Alarms Corporate Asshole  Of The Year Award (of which, by the way, there is new news: the consumer Comcast got fired for complaining about its lousy service is suing), but sandwich chain Jimmy John’s outrageous noncompete clause in its employee contracts puts it in an enviable position of strength to be runner-up Corporate Asshole, if that is its aspiration.

It must be. Non-compete clauses are roundly detested in the law, often illegal, and frequently struck down by courts as unconscionable. They are justified, if at all, when an employee has a management-level position in a high tech or sophisticated knowledge and innovation field, or when he or she is a prominent industry figure  who could instantly harm a company by leaving and launching direct competition. Increasingly, however, companies have been using tight job markets to foist noncompete provisions on lowly service employees too, as fine-print additions to contracts that the employee is unlikely to have thoroughly read or understand. The New York Times reported on a Massachusetts man who sprayed pesticides on lawns for a living, and who had to sign a two-year noncompete agreement to do it. A  standard textbook editor was required to sign an agreement banning him from working for another publisher for six-months if he left his position. A marketing firm pressured a newly-minted Boston University grad to sign a one-year noncompete pledge for an entry-level social media job, and a even summer interns at an electronics firm had to agree to a yearlong ban. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Workplace

Early Ethics Alarms 2014 Award: The Corporate Asshole Of The Year Is….Comcast

Yeah, just try getting Comcast to fix your service issues, and you may find out exactly what it cares about, when you get your severance paycheck...just ask Conal O"Roarke.

Yeah, just try getting Comcast to fix your service issues, and you may find out exactly what it cares about when you get your severance paycheck…just ask Conal O”Roarke.

I don’t want to spoil the suspense or anything, but when a company gives a customer horrible service, keeps botching its attempts to address it, and then calls the customer’s employer about the persistence of his complaints, getting him fired as a direct result, attention, as Mrs. Willy Loman memorably said, must be paid.

Here is the whole awful story, as first described in Consumerist.

Conal O’Rourke  subscribed to Comcast in early 2013.  The company charged him, he says, for set-top boxes that hadn’t been activated; some of his bills were not being delivered as well, because they had his name wrong on the account. He met with a Comcast rep in May who said all would be resolved. It wasn’t. The problems got worse. In addition to still being charged for unactivated devices in his house, Comcast charged him twice for an additional  modem he did not have.

He decided to to cancel his service from these bozos in Oct. 2013,  but says a Comcast rep convinced him that the billing issues would be resolved and that he would get free DVR service and The Movie Channel for three months as compensation. I’ve been there, with DirecTV…except that my satellite service actually did what it said it would. Not Comcast, apparently. It sent Conal O’Rourke about a dozen pieces of equipment that he never ordered and didn’t want–DVRs, modem, standard boxes other stuff—and billed him $1,820 for it. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Workplace

Ethics Hero: Mark Cuban

This is really stupid, but imagine if there's  a watch on it! Useful AND stupid at the same time! What a concept!

This is really stupid, but imagine if there’s a watch on it! Useful AND stupid at the same time! What a concept!

Billionaire Mark Cuban is an entrepreneur, investor, and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, but in one of his more trivial enterprises (sometimes it appears that he is aspiring to be the next Donald Trump—now why would anyone do that?), he serves as a “shark” investor on the ABC TV reality show “Shark Tank.” There investors and nascent entrepreneurs compete to justify their brilliant new ideas to investors, and there Cuban recently distinguished himself as well as served as a much-needed cultural role model by calling out a fraudulent product while attempting to educate a stubbornly ignorant public.

One contestant, Ryan Naylor, hoped to succeed with what he called “a fashion accessory with health benefits.” Esso Watches, he said, restore the body’s “energy field” and improve sense of balance. You’ve seen the bracelets and necklaces that athletes wear and that work on the same theory, the theory being magic, or, if you will “negative ion technology.” When Naylor handed out samples of his product to the judges, Cuban refused to even take one, saying, “No, I’m allergic to scams. Seriously, this is not new. It’s been disproven. What you saw is the placebo effect. There’s athletes that wear it. It’s a joke. It’s a scam. It’s not real. I’m out. Okay. Thank you.”  Then, having been emboldened, the rest of the judges piled on: there was blood in the water, and you know how sharks are.

In one of the filmed asides to the camera, a discouraged and bitter Naylor blamed his failure on Cuban, who, he suggested, was so emphatic about the fact that his watch’s health claims were nonsense that nobody would challenge him.

Good. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Heroes, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Science & Technology

Ethics Dunce: Skechers

Do you know who the very first Ethics Dunce was? It was Pete Rose. This was in January of 2004, on the newly launched Ethics Scoreboard, and Pete had just admitted that he did indeed bet on baseball while managing the Cincinnati Reds, even though he had been loudly denying it (and smearing the reputation of Bart Giamatti, the baseball commissioner who banned him from baseball and entry into the Hall of Fame for it) for 10 years.

Now another decade has past, and Pete still doesn’t really get it. Helping him make money for not getting it is the “relaxed fit footwear” people, Skechers, with  jaw-dropping TV spot showing Pete in his own home (supposedly), padding down a hallway festooned with his many trophies, Silver Bats and other symbols of his days as “Charley Hustle,” as he revels in the comfort of his Skechers and the joys of being in “the hall.” Then his wife or girlfriend (with Pete, it’s hard to keep up…if she’s his wife now, then someone else is his girlfriend)) sticks her head out of a doorway and tells him, “Pete, you know you’re not supposed to be in the hall!”

HAR! What a hoot it is, being disgraced in your own sport for undermining its integrity! Pete has never quite comprehended what all the fuss is about—after all, his bets were always in favor of his team, never against it, and never affected his management decisions! He says. And why wouldn’t everyone believe him about that, just because he knowingly broke baseball’s biggest taboo (Pete can tell you Shoeless Joe’s batting average down to the 5th decimal: believe me, he knows all about the Black Sox), lied about it everywhere and often, and got himself thrown in jail for cheating on his taxes?

What would make anyone, in any company, think that an unapologetic lifetime sleaze like Pete Rose being associated with their product would make people run out and buy it? Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Marketing and Advertising, Sports