Category Archives: Business & Commercial

Jerks, Liars, Hypocrites, Fools and Hoosiers: 10 Ethics Observations On Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act Controversy

Indiana5

1. The law was passed to make discrimination against gays, trans individuals and especially same-sex couples seeking marriage if not easier, to at least seem easier. Anyone claiming otherwise is lying, or being intentionally obtuse. Would Indiana be passing this law without the Hobby Lobby decision or the various court rulings requiring photographers, bakers, and other businesses to provide the same products and services to gay couples that they do to heterosexuals? Yes, you say? Tell me another.

As GLAAD alertly pointed out, Governor Pence was surrounded by anti-gay activists when he signed the bill:

GLAAD Pence

This is res ipsa loquitur, and doesn’t speak well for the Governor’s candor or intelligence.

2. Context matters. The original laws of this sort (the Federal law signed by President Clinton is also called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act) were part of the left’s long range pro-drug strategy, like medical marijuana. It was essentially a hippie law designed to create a slippery slope to recreational drug legalization by allowing fringe religious groups, specifically Native American tribes, to use peyote in tribal ceremonies. Now you understand why Clinton signed the bill.

Oops. Excuse me if I enjoy the spectacle of the clever members of the Church of the Perpetually Stoned—including the ACLU, which once supported such laws as long as they pointed the way to their young lawyers being able to have their Saturday night joints legally but now opposes them—being hoisted on their own petard.

“When the federal government adopted a religious protection act in 1993, same-sex marriage was not on the horizon,” whines the New York Times. Well, competent, well-considered, properly drafted, responsibly passed laws don’t suddenly become unbearable, then fine, then unbearable again with every shift of the cultural winds. The intent of the law was never to protect mainstream religions, but cloaked itself in language that did. It backfired.

3. That being stipulated, the good states need to read their own laws before they start grandstanding. Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy just announced on Twitter that he plans to sign an executive order banning state travel to Indiana in response to its Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Yet Connecticut, hippie enclave and bedroom community of rich, white, liberal New Yorkers that it is, happily jumped on the religious freedom train with a law of its own, one that, as the Federalist points out, makes discrimination on the basis of religion easier than the Hoosier version, which only prohibits the government from substantially burdening religion. Connecticut’s law does not include the word “substantially,” meaning that all government-enacted burdens on religion are theoretically illegal.

I wonder how Malloy is going to ban government travel to Connecticut? Is the theory that the same law can be good when liberal states pass it and evil when those bad conservative states pass it? It is more likely that the governor hasn’t looked at his own state’s law.

4. The hysteria being stirred up over the supposed horribles Indiana’s law will lead to is irresponsible. Jonathan Adler explains on The Volokh Conspiracy: Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: What’s Fair Punishment For The Chick-Fil-A Video Vigilante?

Oresdtes thought the Furies were tough, but today's internet Furies never stop...

Orestes thought the Furies were tough, but today’s internet Furies never stop…

I previously wrote about Adam M. Smith, the ex-CFO of  a Tucson medical supplies manufacturer who filmed himself dressing down a Chick-fil-A drive-in employee and placed the video on YouTube. I said in part…

“He’s a vile bully and a jerk, who thinks it appropriate to embarrass and abuse an innocent employee of a restaurant because he happens not to agree with the politics and moral positions of the company’s owner…The video served to alert millions to beware of this rude, rabid and self-righteous champion of gay rights, who equates faith-based advocacy for the current law of the United States of America with “hate.”

I was more accurate than I knew. Now we learn that since that August, 2012 fiasco which cost him his job, Mr. Smith has fallen on hard times. His self-posted indictment of his own character has poisoned his reputation and career. When he found a new job, he was later fired for not alerting his employers about the incident. When he has raised the video to potential employers, they have declined to hire him. Where he was once earning a six-figure salary, had $1 million in stock options, and lived in a stylish home, he now lives in an RV with his wife and four children, and is existing on public assistance.

It all sounds like the plot of an Adam Sandler movie.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz today is…

Is Adam M. Smith the victim of excessive social media punishment for one ill-considered act?

Continue reading

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Go Ahead, Cheer March Madness, But Be Sure To Turn Off Your Ethics Alarms

NCAA

It is true that watching, rooting for, betting on and generally contributing to the perpetuation of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, March Madness, and thus big time college basketball generally, is not as unethical as supporting pro football…after all, as Rationalization #22 reminds us, at least we aren’t killing anyone. Still, the whole system is rotten to the core: it warps higher education priorities, it instills toxic values in students, it has nothing to do with student athletics, and it rewards deceit, bribery, and cheating. FACT: Colleges would be better and the culture would be healthier without it.

Unfortunately, that would require people like the President of the United States to show some restraint for the good of society and the education of our children, and say, “Nope. College is for education, and spending millions to create teams of mercenaries who are only interested in making the NBA is a disgraceful misapplication of resources as well as inherently corrupting.”

You doubt that description? Look at the University of Massachusetts, which announced that it will retire a jersey in honor of  John Calipari to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the university’s 1996 appearance in the men’s basketball Final Four, when he was the coach. Calipari, the university noted in the announcement, “catapulted” the university to “national prominence.” Well, that’s one description.  Because the N.C.A.A. eventually found out that Calipari’s star player, Marcus Camby, had accepted riches and, ah, “services” (prostitution services, for example), from sports agents, the university had to pay $151,000 in fines—how many indigent students’ tuition might that have paid for? At least one—and the Final Four appearance that Calipari is being honored for was wiped from the record books. Continue reading

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Tales of “The King’s Pass”: Pete Rose and Jeremy Clarkson

King

The King’s Pass has been much in the ethics news of late—Brian Williams, Bill O’Reilly, David Petraeus, Hillary. Let’s review, shall we?

11. The King’s Pass, The Star Syndrome, or “What Will We Do Without Him?”

One will often hear unethical behavior excused because the person involved is so important, so accomplished, and has done such great things for so many people that we should look the other way, just this once. This is a terribly dangerous mindset, because celebrities and powerful public figures come to depend on it. Their achievements, in their own minds and those of their supporters and fans, have earned them a more lenient ethical standard. This pass for bad behavior is as insidious as it is pervasive, and should be recognized and rejected whenever it raises its slimy head.  In fact, the more respectable and accomplished an individual is, the more damage he or she can do through unethical conduct, because such individuals engender great trust. Thus the corrupting influence on the individual of The King’s Pass leads to the corruption of others…

1. The BBC just demonstrated how the King’s Pass should be rejected—with courage and gusto.

Jeremy Clarkson, the main host of the popular BBC auto show “Top Gear,” spent March misbehaving. He got in a shoving match with a producer, verbally abused staff and was recorded trashing the network. When Clarkson topped it off with a physical altercation with a show staffer, the BBC decided not to renew his contract. BBC head Tony Hall said in a statement:

It is with great regret that I have told Jeremy Clarkson today that the BBC will not be renewing his contract. It is not a decision I have taken lightly. I have done so only after a very careful consideration of the facts…I take no pleasure in doing so. I am only making [the facts] public so people can better understand the background. I know how popular the programme is and I know that this decision will divide opinion. The main facts are not disputed by those involved.

The BBC is a broad church…We need distinctive and different voices but they cannot come at any price. Common to all at the BBC have to be standards of decency and respect. I cannot condone what has happened on this occasion. A member of staff – who is a completely innocent party – took himself to Accident and Emergency after a physical altercation accompanied by sustained and prolonged verbal abuse of an extreme nature. For me a line has been crossed. There cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another dictated by either rank, or public relations and commercial considerations… Obviously none of us wanted to find ourselves in this position. This decision should in no way detract from the extraordinary contribution that Jeremy Clarkson has made to the BBC. I have always personally been a great fan of his work and “Top Gear”…The BBC must now look to renew Top Gear for 2016. This will be a big challenge and there is no point in pretending otherwise. I have asked Kim Shillinglaw [Controller of BBC Two] to look at how best we might take this forward over the coming months. I have also asked her to look at how we put out the last programmes in the current series.

The show, without Clarkson, is toast, and Hall knows it. Nonetheless, he had the guts to do the necessary and ethical act: not allowing its indispensable star to abuse his power and popularity . Once Clarkson did that, “Top Gear” was doomed anyway; firing him now just minimizes the carnage. Although Hall has no responsibility to other networks and organizations, his decisive handling of the episode has saved other programs even as it destroys his own. It is a precedent and a role model for employers refusing to allow themselves to be turned into enablers  by stars assuming the King’s Pass works. When they say, “You can’t fire me, I’m irreplaceable! There’s no show without me!”, the response now can be, per the BBC: “If there’s no show without a jerk like you, then there’s no show. Bye!”

2. Once again, Pete Rose is sucking the ethics right out of people’s brains.

Ah, Pete Rose. He was the topic of the first ethics post I ever wrote, way back in 2004. Then, in 2007, he became my first and only Ethics Dunce Emeritus.

The Pete Rose case is simple. Baseball has an absolute, no exceptions rule that demands a lifetime ban of any player, coach or manager who gambles on major league baseball games. Such banned players can’t be hired by major league teams for any purpose, and cannot be considered for Hall of Fame membership., ever, even after they are dead. Everyone in baseball knows why this rule exists—baseball was nearly destroyed in 1919 when gamblers bribed the Chicago White Sox to throw the World Series—and the rule is posted in every clubhouse. Rose bet on baseball while a major league manager, and also bet on his own team. Thus he is banned.

The significance of the fact that he is, as a player, the all-time hits leader and was the face of the game is that it led Rose to believe that the game would never ban him, and that if caught, he would be treated with special leniency. His excellence on the playing field doesn’t mitigate his conduct, or justify minimizing the ban it earned, at all.

The New York Times published a story about Rose’s efforts to get baseball to lift the ban, now that a new Commissioner, Rob Manfred, is in office. You can read the article here, which is remarkable for the many jaw-droppingly unethical arguments put forth by the baseball people the article quotes, contrasted with the occasional quote that shows that a speaker comprehends the concepts of consequences, accountability, and why letting stars break the rules is suicidal to any culture. It would be an excellent ethics exam.

Here are the quotes; my comments follow in bold. Continue reading

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The Washington Post Editorial Board Demonstrates How Stupid Decisions Have Unprofessional Consequences

"As you can see, the logo and mascot are completely offensive. Well, you can see, but to let you see, you'd have to see it, and we won't take responsibility for letting you see it, because you shouldn't. Trust us."

“As you can see, the logo and mascot are completely offensive. Well, you can see, but to let you see, you’d have to see it, and we won’t take responsibility for letting you see it, because you shouldn’t. Trust us.”

Last August, the showboating Washington Post editors announced that they would no longer use the name of the city’s NFL team when writing about the city’s NFL team. It’s offensive you know. Well, to some. Well, to a theoretical some, those who want to make an ideological and philosophical point while forcing political correctness down the throats for the vast, vast majority of sports fans to whom “Washington Redskins” is the name of a well-loved (if lousy) football team, and nothing more or less, and no statement negative or positive about Native Americans at all.

In this the board is emulating the school that wouldn’t let a little deaf boy sign his own name, “Hunter,’ because the sign language designation was a hand-and-fingers approximation of a pistol, and pistols are offensive to even more people than politically incorrect team names are. This is really, really crazy stuff, even more for a newspaper than a school, in which it was just cruel. Newspapers are supposed to convey information clearly and unambiguously. Making symbolic stands requiring the self-censorship of words is a breach of professional duty and trust. The editors’ duty is to their readers, not to a theoretical Native American who reads a the footballs scores and has the vapors when he reads “Redskins.” (I still doubt that there are such people.)

Over the weekend the Post produced an embarrassing editorial that fulfilled all my dire predictions about the new policy: Continue reading

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Boycotting Dolce And Gabbana: Gays Becoming What They Once Hated Most

After centuries of oppression, Gays have finally achieved the right to openly be who they are as long as they don't piss of Elton John.

After centuries of oppression, Gays have finally achieved the right to openly be who they are as long as they don’t piss of Elton John.

Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce are Italian fashion design superstars, meaning that I pay no attention to them whatsoever, and don’t understand the priorities of anyone who does. Nonetheless, they have a rich and famous international clientele.. The two men were once romantic partners, but no longer; how they are just business and artistic partners, and continue to thrive.

Their thriving, however, has suffered from a self-inflicted setback. In an interview with the Italian magazine Panorama, the pair declared their lack of support for same-sex families with children created by in vitro fertilization.  “I am not convinced by those I call children of chemicals, synthetic children,” Dolce told the magazine. “Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog.” Gabbana added, “The family is not a fad. In it there is a supernatural sense of belonging.”

The Horror: a non-conforming opinion from prominent gay fashion icons! Can’t have that! Lapsed pop superstar Elton John, who has two sons through in vitro fertilization with his husband, David Furnish, took the remarks as a personal attack and proclaimed a boycott of the Gabbana & Dolce label. “How dare you refer to my beautiful children as ‘synthetic,’ ” Mr. John wrote on social media. “Shame on you for wagging your judgmental little fingers at I.V.F. Your archaic thinking is out of step with the times, just like your fashions. I shall never wear Dolce & Gabbana ever again.” Thus was born the hashtag #BoycottDolceGabbana.”
Continue reading

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I Suppose It Is Comforting To Know That I Wasn’t Unfair To Starbucks And Howard Schultz

Starbucks Quiz

If the Starbucks “Race Together” campaign had turned out to be carefully thought out, intelligent, sophisticated and responsible, and not  a facile, condescending and cynical effort to promote a brand while creating static and white noise in the midst of an important cultural discussion, I would be obligated to apologize for doubting CEO Howard Schultz’s wisdom and ethics. It would also have been an apology I would have enjoyed making.

Sadly, I was not only correct in my assessment that this was a fiasco in the making, I was more correct than I suspected. Above is the “Race Relations Reality Check ” quiz that Starbucks has reportedly been distributing. The questions indicate a bottom-of-the-well level of comprehension about race and racism, not to mention demographics, culture and the human species. It appears that Starbucks favors some kind of affirmative action program on personal friendships, and believes that one can measure racism or incipient bias by how many individuals of other races one has regular contact with. I don’t even want to have a discussion with someone this shallow. A whole corporation this shallow is a nauseating thing to contemplate. A corporation this shallow that presumes to lead a national discussion on race is, oh I don’t know—Risible? Sad? Dangerous?

Starbucks seems to be thinking like George Costanza, during the period where he was trying to acquire black friends and managed to annoy and insult every African-American he met. The presumptions here are staggering, and so directly contrary to life, logic and the realities of human existence that i get angry just reading them. I was at an ethics conference in Nigeria, and met some of the most intelligent, charming, passionate people I have ever encountered in my life. I would be honored and enriched to have any of them in my life, and would hope that I could develop close friendships with them—but I can’t, because I live in the U.S. and they live in about 15 African nations, and it’s just too darn expensive to dine at each others’ homes. I live in an area, Northern Virginia, that is overwhelmingly white, not because it is white, but because it is convenient to my work and we found a great deal on a house. I work in two fields, theater and ethics, that do not afford a lot of contact with African Americans. The last time we had anyone other than immediate family to dinner was a decade or more ago; the last time anyone other than family, black or white, had us to dinner was longer ago than that—and I am a delightful dinner companion. Continue reading

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