The Topless Stepmother Conundrum: When Ethics Work Better Than Laws

MOM?!

A lawyer for Utah’s chapter of the ACLU asked Utah Judge Kara Pettit to rule that the state’s lewdness law violates the Constitution by treating women differently than men and thus violating the Equal Protection Clause. The  statute makes it a crime to expose “the female breast below the top of the areola” in the presence of a child in a private place “under circumstances the person should know will likely cause affront or alarm.”

Tilli Buchanan, 27, faces imprisonment, fines and the requirement to register as a sex offender for 10 years if convicted of violating the law, which she certainly did. Buchanan and her husband had been installing drywall in the garage, and they had taken off their shirts that had become scratchy from the fibers, she told reporters.  When her stepchildren, aged 9, 10 and 13, walked in, she “explained she considers herself a feminist and wanted to make a point that everybody should be fine with walking around their house or elsewhere with skin showing,” her lawyers wrote in court documents. Here’s Tilli…

Just kidding.

Lawyer Leah Farrell of the ACLU says the law requires women to do a “mental calculation” about whether going topless would cause alarm. But men can go shirtless without violating the law and without making that calculation. “That really sets up an unequal and unfair dichotomy,” Farrell says.

Prosecutors say that Buchanan stripped in front of the children and  was under the influence of alcohol at the time. They also claim she said she would put her shirt back on if her husband showed her his penis.

Ick. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/18/19: Complainers…” (Item#4)

The first Ethics Alarms post on my new “Ideapad,” in a DoubleTree in Fairfield, New Jersey, at about 1 am,  after a miserable 4 and a half-hour drive. Fortunately for you and me, it is a Comment of the Day, in which johnburger213 has done all the thought. It’s a tale of multiple jerks and assholes, with a child involved and the news media turning into a across-the-internet controversy a matter that in bygone days wouldn’t have traveled a city block.

Here is johnburger’s Comment of the Day that is only incidentally on the post, “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/18/19: Complainers, Climate Hysterics, Tiny Tims And Fake News”:

Not exactly on point, but there is this story out of Texas: It seems a mom likes to put notes in her 5 year old son’s lunch kit* to remind him she loves him when he eats lunch at daycare. Well, as luck would have it, she put a note in his lunch, asking the daycare worker to tell her son she loves him very much. The daycare worker would have none of that nonsense, so he/she wrote the mother telling her to put her son on a diet instead. Here is a link to the story:

https://abcnews.go.com/US/day-care-worker-fat-shames-year-boy-leaving/story?id=67100183

Now, the daycare worker is a jerk and should be strung up by his/her thumbs for doing something so idiotic. I wonder what goes through the mind of someone who deals with youngsters at a daycare who would tell the mother that said daycare worker would, in fact, NOT tell the child that mommy loves him/her, and would do so by writing a note back to the mother, effectively telling the mother she is a bad parent. Seems cruel to me. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/18/19: Complainers, Climate Hysterics, Tiny Tims And Fake News

Good morning!

Good news! You won’t be thinking I’m dead any more, at least not until I am.  The combination of some complicated travel itineraries and the death of my laptop resulted in uncharacteristic interruptions of the dialogue here, twice causing soem readers to speculate on my demise, or at least incapacity. No, it was just that budgetary priorities made replacing the travel computer a bit less urgent than things like a new roof, a car that runs, things like that. Over the weekend I address the computer problem, and not a second too soon, as I will be setting off today on yet another New Jersey odyssey. Paul Morella and I will be presenting editions of our Clarence Darrow legal ethics program for N.J. lawyers in Brunswick and Fairfield,  sandwiched in between about 9 hours of driving, but I should be able to keep the ethics fires burning to some extent. Unless I’m dead, of course. As my fatalistic father liked to say cheerily , driving my morbid mom crazy, “You never know!”

1. God bless them, every one! This is one example of non-traditional casting I agree with: increasing numbers of “A Christmas Carol” productions are casting children with disabilities to play Tiny Tim. I would fight to the death for the right of a fully-able young actor to play the roles, as well as for the right of a director to cast one. However, the show presents such an ideal opportunity for a child who normally might not  have many chances to a play any  role on stage  because of his physical limitations that it seems like a shame to let it pass. I also agree with the directors who opine that having a genuinely challenged Tiny Tim gives some extra oomph to the show.

Is it exploitative? Sure, to some extent. That, however, is show business.

I draw the line, however, at casting Cratchit children who are different races than their parents, making it look like Mrs. Cratchit has been turning tricks to make ends meet, or “Tiny Tina.”

2.  Here’s another kind of “fake news”…Yahoo! News felt that an entire post was necessary to inform the world that the President had screened “Joker” at the White House. Why is this news, or even mildly interesting? It’s a big movie, with lots of buzz. Presidents have screened movies at the White House for decades, usually without comment from the news media. Now, if he had screened the original “Birth of a Nation,” like racist Woodrow Wilson, or “Tusk,” that might be worth a small news item.

Let’s see, what other fake news items (as in thins that don’t qualify as news) are there on Yahoo!? How about “Michelle Obama Looked Incredible in a Yellow Corseted Schiaparelli Gown at the American Portrait Gala”? For some reason, I thought the fawning over Michelle, which as always hyperbolic and excessive, might have abated since she left the White House, after all, the news media quit going bonkers over every Jackie Kennedy ensemble once she wasn’t First Lady any more. Then there’s the matter of the gown Yahoo! is raving about… Continue reading

And Now It’s Zombie James Dean…

From The Hollywood Reporter:

James Dean, who died in a 1955 car crash at the age of 24, is making an unexpected return to the big screen. The cultural icon, known for Rebel Without a Cause and East of Eden, has been posthumously cast in the Vietnam era action-drama Finding Jack.

Directed by Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh, the project comes from the filmmakers’ own recently launched production house Magic City Films, which obtained the rights to use Dean’s image from his family. Canadian VFX banner Imagine Engine will be working alongside South African VFX company MOI Worldwide to re-create what the filmmakers describe as “a realistic version of James Dean.”

We all saw this coming, didn’t we? Since this is about involuntarily resuscitating dead actors so greedy family members can put them to work doing whatever a director screenwriter wants them to do, I feel no need to write a new post, especially since my position hasn’t changed one bit from the other instances in which I looked at this issue. So here it is again, lightly edited… Continue reading

“I’m Baaaack….” Ethics Catch-Up, 11/1/2019: And Answer, A Rebuke, And A Shock

Rolled back into Alexandria last night, having had an uproarious response from the New Jersey Bar to the special Halloween edition of “Ethics Rock Extreme in Asbury Park seven hours earlier.  The group of lawyers demolished all previous groups for sing-along enthusiasm and prowess in the finale, “The Ethics Man,” a parody of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.” (My colleague, collaborator and friend Mike Messer gets credit for their verve, I think, for he was in top form, delivering the various songs in hilarious impressions of Joel, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, John Fogarty, and Bobby Pickett imitating Boris Karloff. among others.

I couldn’t get up the energy after the four-hour drive to get a post up last night, so the Ethics Alarms commentariat ended up holding down the metaphorical fort here for all of Halloween. I haven’t had a chance to read all of the comments, but thank-you, everyone. There were even some baseball ethics posts!

Still, there are a lot of ethics issues languishing in my absence. I’m fried, and there are also paying ethics jobs to do and promised to keep, so be patient with me, please.

1. An ethics answer to an ethics question. One Forum comment I did see was this one, from Sarah B.

I have an ethics question. The set up is a bit long, so please bear with me.

Imagine a small town where one out of every nine people works for the same company. Now, this company hires predominantly men, not because it is sexist, but because the work and positions available are more likely to be applied for by men. 9 out of every ten employees are male. In addition, it pays well enough that if a married man were to work in a salaried position, he could make enough money that his wife could stay home with the children if the couple displayed only a modicum of frugality. Thus, most stay-at-home mothers in the community have a husband who works for the same employer, usually in different stages of the chain of command.

Now, imagine that there was a low level supervisor and one of his subordinates. They are of similar ages and have similar values. Their wives are of similar ages and find each other to be enjoyable company. Their children are of similar ages and like to play together. Also, no one else in the supervisor’s area is of a similar age, value system, or time in their families. (No kids or college age kids)

Is it unethical for these two families to hang out socially? What if it is just the wives and kids, not the husbands? What about kids birthday parties, as the kids are friends?

I have heard both sides of this argument played out in my town, but often with both sides using some set of rationalizations from our host’s list. I’d like to hear a more educated opinion here.

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/30/2019: “Happy Birthday Little Sister!” Edition

Good Morning!

Today marks the birthday of my younger sister, whom I have referred to here frequently. Growing up with her and following her life and career imbued me with an early and ongoing appreciation of the effects of sexism and pro-male bias in society, and I’m indebted to her for that. She has always equaled or surpassed me in ability and enterprise, yet often watched me receive more credit or praise for the same things she could do and did without similar acclaim. I know she resented me for that (probably still does—she won’t read Ethics Alarms, for example), and it frequently bruised our relationship over the years. She also taught me about moral luck: in general, I have been persistently  lucky, and she has not, and the difference was so evident that I learned very early in life not to congratulate myself for how the dice fell. She is finally happy in retirement, is about to welcome the first grandchild for this generation of Marshalls, her two adult children are healthy and prospering, and her beloved Nationals just forced a Game 7 in the World Series. She will have a happy birthday. Good. She deserves it.

1. Tales of the double standard, and the imaginary double standard. MSNBC and much of the progressive noise machine has decided to paint Rep. Katie Hill as a victim of a “vast right wing conspiracy,” in Hillary’s immortal phrase, and a vicious husband. If he indeed was the one who shared the salacious photos of Hill involved in various sex acts,  vicious he certainly is. But how can anyone say, as lawyer Carrie Goldberg does, that  “Katie Hill was taken down by three things: an abusive ex, a misogynist far-right media apparatus, and a society that was gleeful about sexually humiliating a young woman in power…None of those elements would be here if it were a male victim. It is because she is female that this happened’? Nonsense, and deceptive nonsense.

Hill resigned because a House ethics investigation was underway regarding her admitted sexual affair with a Congressional staffer and an alleged affair with her legislative director. She was not going to be kicked out of Congress for either or both; she probably resigned in part because she knew the investigation was going to turn up more and worse. The Naked Congresswoman Principle also played a part, as I discussed here. Does anyone really believe that equivalent photos of a male member of Congress displaying his naughty bits in flagrante delicto (my late, great, law school roomie loved saying that phrase) with both sexes would be shrugged off by his constituents and the news media? Who are they kidding?

Hill was arrogant and reckless, and is paying the predictable price, though she was not smart enough to predict it. Trail-blazers—I’m not sure being the first openly bi-sexual member of Congress is much  of a trail to blaze, but never mind—are always under special scrutiny and have to avoid scandal at all costs. Did Hill ever hear of Jackie Robinson? Allowing those photos to come into existence showed terrible judgment; using her staff as a dating resource was hypocritical for a member of the  #MeToo party and workplace misconduct too.

The fact that she is being defended tells us all we need to know about the integrity of her  defenders. Continue reading

Now THIS Is Child Abuse—So Why Is A Texas Jury Enabling It?

That’s James’ father with him on the left, and his mother, after dressing James as “Luna,” on the right.

A jury in Dallas, Texas jjust ruled against Jeffrey Younger,  who is trying to stop his son’s’ mother, Dr. Anne Georgulas,  from “transitioning” him—his current name is James–into “Luna,” a female. Dr. Geogulas now can start the boy on puberty blockers and eventually cross-sex hormones.

Eleven of the twelve  jurors rejected James’ fathers petition to be granted sole conservatorship over his two sons. In this bitter custody fight, he argued that his ex-wife is “transitioning” James against the boy’s will.

I neglected to mention that James is seven years old. He cannot meaningfully consent to being chemically and eventually surgically transformed into a female at that age. It is astounding that this is legal in Texas or anywhere else. It is child abuse. It is an abuse of parental power. It is abuse that political agendas and cheerleading from the popular culture is inflicting on innocent children without adequate research or cause. Continue reading