Lunch time Ethics Warm-Up, 3/19/19: Madea, Plan C, And More.

Yum yum!

Winging off to San Diego in a couple of hours, so be on the alert for an Open Forum while I’m in the air. It’s amazing: I’m going to spend two and a half days of air travel and hanging around a hotel and airports to give a 75 minute legal ethics presentation, albeit to a mob of over 600 lawyers.

1.  From the Ethics Alarms double standards files…

Let’s see: this film has gross black stereotypes and a man in drag, but not in a good, transgender way. I assume nobody will disagree that if this film was made by a white man, it would be received with horror and declared racist, and the white filmmaker would be apologizing to everyone and everything in sight.

2. The return of Plan C! As most recently noted here, Plan C is the obscure and outdated Emoluments Clause. In a series of tweets reviving the specious accusation  President Trump is violating the Constitution by owning businesses while he is President, something never anticipated by the Founders and an issue that was barely discussed by the news media during the campaign, Walter Shaub, a former director of the Office of Government Ethics who long ago declared himself a “resistance” ally,condemned the Embassy of Kuwait’s decision to celebrate its National Liberation Day at the hotel on Feb. 27. He wrote,

 “Kuwait got the message. Turkey got the message. Saudi Arabia got the message. The Philippines got the message. The question is: Which of our allies will stand with the American people, and which will seek to enrich our corrupt President? We will watch. We will remember.”

Oh, eat a bug. Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article 1, Section 9, Paragraph 8) stipulates that no federal officeholders “shall receive gifts or payments from foreign state or rulers without the consent of Congress.” But payments obviously means pay-offs, and payment for services isn’t a gift. Not are Trump organization receipts payments to the President. I note that Shaub is now a fellow at The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which I used to write about more before I got sick of it. It is the political equivalent of Media Matters, posing as an ethics watchdog when it’s agenda and biases are flagrantly partisan. I regard Shaub using his prior position as authority a breach of ethics: he’s posing as an objective analyst, and he’s not. Indeed, resorting to the silly Emoluments Clause to attack Trump is signature significance. Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/17/19: March Ethics Madness!

Good morning!

Any week that starts off with John Belushi’s immortal reflections on March just has to be a good week.

1. Connecticut: Judicial ethics and guns. Anti-gun fanatics are cheering this week’s ruling by the Connecticut Supreme Court  reversing  a lower court judge dismissing a lawsuit by the families of victims of the Sandy Hook shooting against Remington Arms Company, allowing the case to proceed. In the 4-3 decision the court  possibly created a path that other mass shooting victims can follow to get around the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, known as PLCAA, which has protected the manufacturers of the AR-15 assault rifle from lawsuits, thus setting the stage for a sensational “Runaway Jury”-type trial. The court’s reasoning is that the Sandy Hook families should have the opportunity to prove that Remington violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA) by marketing what it knew was a weapon designed for military use to civilians. The problem is that the ruling ignores the law, as John Hinderaker explains (but he’s not the only analyst trashing the decision):

“Firearms of all kinds have been ‘designed for military use.’,” he writes. “The 1911, designed by John Browning, was the standard U.S. military pistol for many years and remains one of the most popular pistol designs today. So what? There is no such exception in the Second Amendment…Under the Supremacy Clause, federal law will govern over state law. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act is intended to avoid precisely the result reached by the Connecticut Supreme Court. The PLCAA puts firearms manufacturers on the same plane with all others. If their products are not defective–if they do not malfunction–they are not liable. If someone stabs a victim to death with a knife, the victim’s heirs can’t sue the knife manufacturer. It is the same with firearms.”

Hinderaker correctly concludes that significance of the ruling is not that it opens a road for the Second Amendment to be constrained, or for ruinous liability to applied to gun-makers, but that it shows how courts will deliberately ignore the law to reach political goals. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Potpouri, 3/9/2019: Airlines, Trans Athletes, Mercy For Manafort, And More

Atlanta trip ethics musings…

1. Air Travel Ethics #1: Ethics Alarms has noted the ridiculous trend of air travelers imposing on their fellow passengers by exploiting the overly-permissive airlines polices of permitting emotional support animals on flights, resulting in innocent passengers having to share as aisle with  emotional support  toucans, sloths, goats and lizards. Finally, one airline has declared an end to the madness, or close to it. American Airlines updated its emotional support and service animal policies this week, and new “emotional support” companion  policies go into effect on April 1.
After that date, service animals will be limited to dogs, cats, and …all right, this is still nuts..,miniature horses. Only one emotional support animal per passenger will be allowed, and animals under the age of four months cannot fly.

GOOD!

2. Air Travel Ethics #2. This one is a bit more complicated ethically. Britain’s Virgin Atlantic airlines has eliminated the requirement that female flight attendants wear makeup, joining other major carriers that have loosened their dress and grooming standards  after complaints about turning female employees into sex objects.

Virgin Atlantic announced this week that female cabin crew members can skip the makeup if they choose, and also can wear pants instead of Virgin’s familiar red skirts.

“Not only do the new guidelines offer an increased level of comfort, they also provide our team with more choice on how they want to express themselves at work,” Virgin Atlantic Executive Vice President Mark Anderson said in a statement.

This has always been a strange area. There is nothing wrong, and a lot right, with any employer in a service industry requiring employees who deal with the public to meet reasonable standards of professionalism in their appearance. Are attractive, well groomed, neatly dressed employees a legitimate service enhancement? I believe so; on the other hand, what level of discrimination against the older, heavier and not so cute is acceptable? None? Some? The fact that women in the workplace wear make-up and men do not is automatically a cultural anomaly, but nonetheless, if all of the female attendants are wearing make-up and one isn’t, and looks like she just rolled out of bed, threw on some slacks and said, “The hell with it,” I’m not sure I trust that flight attendant.

The sex appeal aspect of flight attendants has always been one way, however, as if the only business flyers were still male, and National Air Lines was still using “I’m Cheryl! Fly me!” as a slogan. There is obviously no effort whatsoever to make male attendants attractive to female flyers: I estimate that more than half of all young male attendants are openly gay. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/3/2019: “Thing’s Are Seldom What They Seem…”

Good afternoon!

1. Today’s source of maximum irritation. Remember those California wildfires at the end of last year that the news media kept reporting as proof of climate change and that prompted Democrats and talking heads to sneer in disdain at anyone, especially President Trump, who suggested that electrical equipment just might have been the cause? From NPR:

Pacific Gas and Electric says it’s “probable” that its equipment caused the Camp Fire in Northern California, the deadliest and most destructive in the state’s history.

California has not finished its investigation into PG&E’s culpability in last November’s fire that killed at least 85 people, destroyed about 14,000 structures, displacing tens of thousands of people and destroying the town of Paradise. However, the state’s largest utility, which filed for bankruptcy last month, said Thursday it expects the investigation will find that its damaged infrastructure sparked the fire.

Please let Ethics Alarms know how many of the news shows this morning mention this development.

2. Spring Training ethics note: Good news! Ethics Alarms has been campaigning for robo-umps at home plate to call balls and strikes for several years. Now MLB announces that it has finalized a three-year deal with the independent Atlantic League to have the league test rules innovations and equipment for the Show. This will include computer calling of pitches. Not so good news: it will also reportedly include moving the mound back, which is heresy.

3. Concern for Popehat’s Ken White.  There is not a smarter, more passionate, better blogger on the planet than lawyer Ken White, and while we have had our disagreements, his commentary on law and justice especially is a blessing for all Americans, even though most don’t have the sense to benefit from it. One of many reasons I admire Ken is that he has been candid about his battle with depression, a killer illness that too many people don’t understand. That malady runs in my family (or as Mortimer Brewster says in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “Runs? It practically gallups!”), and has been responsible for more than one suicide. Popehat once was a collective, but now it’s almost entirely Ken, with occasional drop-ins from the acerbic Mark Randazza. The blog’s last entry was January 4, almost two months. I’m worried, as are most of Ken’s fans I’m sure, and I am officially sending Ethics Alarms best wishes and love to one of the really good people in multiple roles: lawyer, blogger, public educator. Get back as soon as you can, Ken. We need you. Continue reading

Show Business Ethics: Sorry, Nobody Feels “Safe” At Auditions

An actress named Ingrid Haas complained about a demeaning experience auditioning for the Super Bowl commercial advertising Bon and Viv Hard Seltzer. In a first-person essay published by Vice titled “My Bikini Audition From Hell Shows How Little Hollywood Has Change,” Haas wrote that she was embarrassed when a male casting employee told the women in the ad’s audition that they would have to dance in front of a camera for 30 seconds. When she asked why they had to dance, she wrote, the man responded: “Welcome to corporate America. This is how we sell stuff.” The actress says that she was proud of herself for refusing to dance, but the experience “humiliated and angered her.” And, of course, she did not get the job.

Anheuser-Busch, which makes the product, is now making politically correct noises and condemned the behavior that Haas described,  insincerely or ignorantly, though the first is more plausible, with Chelsea Phillips, vice president of the company’s Beyond Beer division, telling the media,

“The behavior described in the Vice article is completely unacceptable and goes against everything that our brand and company stand for. I regret that this individual had this experience. Anheuser-Busch does not tolerate any discriminatory or demeaning behavior. I reached out to the production company who produced the commercial, because we hold our business partners to this same standard.”

Baloney. The audition as described was neither atypical, unreasonable,  abusive, nor inappropriate. The ad’s producer’s CEO said,“Each actor was asked to dance at the beginning of their audition as this was a way to show one’s level of confidence.” This is not unusual or wrong. Then he too lapsed into politically correct nonsense: Continue reading

Why I Won’t Be Using Frank’s Red Hot No Matter How Good It Is

I know, I know. I’m like King Canute trying to command the seas, or Grandpa Simpson, shaking his fist and shouting at clouds.  I don’t care. If the culture and societyare going to allow America to be coarsened beyond all reason, at least I’ll be able to say that I wasn’t complicit.

All of my posts on this topic are basically the same; I know it. Here are a few…

[T]he Kraft Heinz Company’s newest frozen meals brand, Devour, has been advertising its products with a TV ad in which a boss catches his employee becoming sexually aroused by his lunch, to which he applies a sexy spank with his fork. The ad’s tagline: “Food You Want to Fork.”

Kraft says the ad is aimed at men aged 25-35, so I guess that’s okay then. Everyone knows that demographic is made up of assholes—is that the theory?—and the best way to please them is to make the kind of juvenile sexual innuendo that we had in naughty songs like “Shaving Cream” about when I was 12. It’s so hilarious when people use a word that sounds like a dirty word in a context where it is obviously intentional, but don’t really say the word, because, see, its, like, not polite.  Got it. My sides are splitting.

…Here is what Ethics Alarms said in response to Heineken’s gay-themed vulgar ad about “flipping another man’s meat”:

‘There is no justification for polluting television and the culture with such ick, and it is irresponsible and disrespectful to TV audiences to do it…the useful and natural filter we used to have on language has been shot full of holes by too many high profile boors to mention, although the fact that one Presidential candidate is one of them doesn’t help.”

On the general topic of giving up any efforts to keep public discourse within civil boundaries, a January 2016 post concluded,

Does everybody want to live in a society where everyone from executives, pundits and actors to nannies, athletes and bank tellers are routinely spewing cunt,fuck, suck and motherfucker like Samuel L. Jackson on a bad day? That’s where we’re heading, That’s where we’re heading, if enough people don’t have the guts and common sense to say, and fast,”Oh, stop it. Learn to speak like an adult.”

Wonderful Pistachios uses “nuts” as a sexual innuendo, Booking.com uses “booking” to code “fucking,” and K-Mart thinks it’s funny to use “ship” to suggest “shit,” because who doesn’t want to think about shit? We make our own culture in the end, and if we want to live in a cultural pig sty, then that’s where we will live. Apparently no one cares, or not enough of us, anyway.

In 2015,  a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups commercial featured the tags “Women want like to make it last…Men are done in seconds…Typical.”  I wrote,

“Who decided that gratuitous sexual innuendo is inherently hilarious and appropriate in every context, at every moment? Well, no one yet. Again, it is the boors in ad agencies and clods in corporate boardrooms who are pushing us down this uncivil, impolite, needlessly sleazy path.  We can remind them that there are limits dictated by taste and decorum, or we can just shrug it off, part of the irreversible ratchet process called “defining deviancy down.”

Two years later, Volkswagen has Dean Martin crooning about “The Birds and the Bees” (Dean’s version above is better, a joy)  while we see a VW bouncing up and down as the couples who own it engage in vigorous sexual intercourse.

Now Frank’s Red Hot is being praised for it’s new, catchy slogan, originally uttered by an elderly actress (because old people being vulgar is always hilarious, for some reason): “I put that [shit} on everything.” Continue reading