I was afraid of this: devoting the warm-up to Gettysburg left me with all of these noisy ethics stories hanging around my office and yelling at me. So here are some ethics stories and issues to unclog the drain…
- The Supreme Court denied certiorari in Arlene’s Flowers v. Washington, letting stand a 2019 decision by the Washington Supreme Court against florist Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers, for refusing to supply flowers for a same sex marriage. Upon reading the decision of the Washington Court, I was struck by the fact that the plaintiffs were not individuals who had made the request deliberately to force a confrontation with a vendor they knew had religious objections to same sex weddings. Robert Ingersoll had been a regular patron of Arlene’s Flowers for years, so it seemed natural for him to use the shop to supply the floral arrangements for his wedding to Curt Freed. Nor did their truncated conversation involve special requests for any particularly expressive arrangements. Florist Barronelle Stutzman just refused to sell any flowers to the couple for their wedding and reception, and that was it. The case was ruled one of discrimination in public accommodations, and the opinion went to great pains to say that no animus against the defendant’s religion was involved.
SCOTUS turns down cases for many reasons, and in contentious social matters, they often will reject a case that has too much gray, triggering the “hard cases make bad law” principle. Cakes, catering, photographs and flowers at weddings fall in various places along the “commodities/art” spectrum, depending on the specific facts of each case. This one is too close. The florist wasn’t asked to deliver the flowers or to participate in the marriage in any way. There’s got to be better case on this topic somewhere. The Court was wise to pass.
And the florist was the jerk here. I don’t have much sympathy for her. Selling flowers to a gay couple doesn’t entail an endorsement of gay marriage, kinky sex, or anything else.
- The mainstream media bias reached Poe’s Law levels with a Vogue slobber-piece over the current First Lady. The magazine adamantly refused to feature Melania Trump on its cover though previous FLOTUSes were automatically given the honor because..
…despite the obvious fact that she was the most cover-worthy of any White House hostess since Mrs. Cleveland. You would think that, in light of this petty and mean-spirited snub, the magazine would be a little restrained in celebrating Jill Biden, but no. The contrast was noticed all the way to Jerusalem, where a Jerusalem Post writer scoffed,
“[M]edia outlets don’t have to lie in order to cast aspersions on or present a figure in a less-than-flattering light. All they have to do is shift emphasis by highlighting one set of facts at the expense of another.But even the most blatant cases of this practice in the Hebrew press never reached the low level displayed in the latest issue of Vogue, America’s top fashion magazine. As if the title of its cover story – “A First Lady for All of Us: On the Road with Dr. Jill Biden” – wasn’t sufficiently sycophantic, its accompanying content reads like a parody of a totalitarian regime’s propaganda sheet….Those observing the current Orwellian climate in the United States no longer gasp at each new move by “progressives” to control society’s collective mind, but some take occasional breaks from tearing their hair out to laugh at the more egregious examples.”
A sample gush: “You generally hear her before you see her because she is often laughing. She is, quite simply, a joy multiplier…Part of what makes the Bidens’ right-out-of-the-gate successes so extraordinary is that they seem to have perfectly read the room. We have been through this enormous, collective trauma, and here’s a calm, experienced, empathetic president, and here’s a first lady who is driven, tireless, effortlessly popular, but also someone who reminds us of ourselves. She’s selling a new vision for how our most fundamental institutions ought to work – infrastructure, education, public health – even as she goes to extraordinary lengths to keep a real-world job, to stay in touch with what makes her human and what matters most.”
- Here’s a basic ethics guideline: if you are the CEO of an international communications firm that advises many of the world’s largest companies regarding how to burnish and maintain their public image, don’t show up at a charity party drunk as a skunk and in your stupor, harass multiple guests, male and female. Got that?
Yet that’s what Declan Kelly, the chief executive of Teneo and one of the firm’s founders, did on May 2, at a sparking affair after the Vax Live concert, hosted by Selena Gomez, with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle serving as chairs, featuring a video appearance by President Biden and live musical performances from celebrities like Jennifer Lopez. He has resigned.
- Arts Ethics, or the lack of them: As a the leader of a struggling small professional theater for 20 years and a long-time supporter of community theater in D.C., Virginia and Maryland, imagine my reaction to the news that “Hamilton” will receive at least $30 million and possibly as much as $50 million in federal bailout funds. It is already one of the most profitable musicals in American history, but the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program, a $15 billion portion of the $900 billion pandemic relief bill passed by Congress last December, will treat the production as “needy.” Each production affected by the pandemic was eligible for up to $10 million from the program, but “Hamilton” will get several times that total because the Broadway production and each of the show’s four touring shows are separately eligible. Tickets for “Hamilton” run well over $500, and the show is really an entertainment for the wealthy, but never mind. It’s just money. And because it’s just money, this disclaimer by Jeffrey Seller, show’s lead producer, is especially insulting to your intelligence. He assures us that the bailout money won’t go to the show’s producers or investors and in royalties to creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, but will be used to “remount those shuttered productions” and pay off bills that accumulated during the show’s pandemic-induced hiatus. But money is fungible, so help in paying those expenses naturally profits the various millionaires involved.
“How many community theaters could be saved with that same $50 million being showered on ‘Hamilton’?,” Reason’s Eric Boehm reasonably asks. Oh, I’d estimate about 50,000, across the country. That’s all.
- Oh, let’s kick around the Vice-President a little more. She deserves it. Politico reports that Harris’s office and staff are dysfunctional, rife with conflict, and generally miserable, and she’s the main reason. Exactly the same stories emanated out her Presidential campaign organization. This speaks to a basic lack of leadership and management skills.
So why is she a heartbeat from the Presidency, again? I still don’t understand. What does it say about the leader who placed someone without leadership skills in such a crucial position? [Pointer: Steve-O-in NJ]
- Time to starve Facebook by boycotting it, I fear. And it’s really the only way I can keep up with a lot of old friends and older relatives. Ugh. Yesterday Facebook, proving, as if there were lingering doubts, that it is totalitarian at heart, began testing notifications to users warning them about Facebook Friends who might be extremists. The notifications ask a user if they are concerned that they may know an “extremist,” or notify the user that they may have been exposed to extremist content. Facebook said the small test, which is being conducted in the U.S. on its main platform, was a pilot that would ultimately be used globally to prevent “extremism” on Facebook.
And who gets to define what constitutes “extremism”? Is “open borders” extreme? Defunding the police? The Green New Deal? Packing the Supreme Court? Banning guns?