Category Archives: Business & Commercial

Ethics Alarms Encore: “Tom Yawkey’s Red Sox Racism, and How Not to Prove It”

Yawkey TributeEvery now and then a comment out of the blue reminds me of a post that I had forgotten. That was the case here. Reading it again for the first time in five years, I was struck by how the crux of the post is still relevant today (that crux has nothing to do with baseball), and indeed how the intervening five years have made what I thought was a bad trend a genuine political and cultural malady.

And the World Series is going on, and I feel badly about the Red Sox having such a miserable season. This post, which few read when it was first published as the blog was attracting (let’s see…) less than 200 views a day as opposed to nearly 4000 a day now, is a good one, and I enjoyed it.  That “self-professed ethicist” has his moments…. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, History, Journalism & Media, Race, Sports, Workplace

Supplemental Comments On The President’s Ordered Kiss

I’m in NYC for a law firm seminar, and expect to get back to Ethics Alarms late if at all, so I want to make a couple of clarifications lest the comments on yesterday’s Ethics Quiz go astray.

I am not blaming the President for what is a standard, culturally embedded demonstration of male dominance, presumed female submissiveness and abuse of power. He is part of the culture that tolerates this, and while it would be immensely beneficial if he used his influence as a role model to move us away from this conduct that is a major, if under-recognized, way that the glass ceiling is kept intact, I recognize that this is a lot to ask, and that he has other pressing matters to deal with.

Make no mistake, however, that the male power-hug, power-kiss is a stubborn remnant of the patriarchy. I know that astute feminists (and others, like me) know this, and the fact that they don’t have the integrity or the courage to condemn the conduct when it surface’s in  a political ally is disappointing if not surprising.

To those who (absurdly) claim that the woman’s response in the video was consensual, I only ask them to speculate what her alternative to submitting to the POTUS ordered smooch was. She knew the incident was on television. He is the leader of the free world, she is, by comparison and to the public, at least, nobody. Should she have embarrassed him by refusing? Should she reject the President of the United States when he his being “nice,” thus instantly making herself the center of a controversy? Of course not. This is why the position the President placed her in was unfair.

It is, however, incredibly, disturbingly common. From Richard Dawson’s mandatory kisses from female contestants on the original “Family Feud,” to the old lions of the plaintiffs bar trying to cop a feel with my young female staffers at an association convention, men in power, and men generally, feel they have a right to this culturally accepted invasion of a woman’s physical person, and women feel obligated to permit it. Every time they do, they do their little bit to keeping men in a step ahead of them.

That’s the real issue here, not sexual assault.

 

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Leadership, U.S. Society, Workplace

On Forced Acceptance Of Same-Sex Marriage: The Slippery Slope Stops Here

Hitching-Post-Idaho

Donald and Evelyn Knapp, pictured above, are ordained ministers who conduct weddings at their for-profit chapel in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, called “The Hitching Post.” After this year’s ruling by an Idaho federal judge that the state had to recognize  same-sex weddings, a City of Couer d’Alene deputy city attorney went on  local TV to say that for-profit wedding chapels could not legally turn away a gay couple without risking a misdemeanor citation. The Hitching Post, he noted, “would probably be considered a place of public accommodation that would be subject to the ordinance.” The Knapps say the the City Attorney’s office has made the same assertion in telephone conversations with them.

Now, the Volokh Conspiracy reports, the Knapps have moved for a temporary restraining order, arguing that applying the anti-discrimination ordinance to them would be unconstitutional and would also violate Idaho’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

They have to win. As Professor Volokh, a First Amendment authority of fame and renown, explains, Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Love, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

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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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, U.S. Society, Humor and Satire, Marketing and Advertising

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