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Let’s Be Cynical

Hypothetical question: Do you buy water in plastic bottles if you're really concerned about the environment?

My guess would have been no, but that's not the right answer.

Check out an astonishing ruling from a California Court of Appeal called Hill v. Roll International in which a concerned environmentalist filed a proposed class action because she said she was misled by a green drop.

It seems that Fiji water - in plastic bottles - is sold with a green drop on its labels and that made the plaintiff think the product was environmentally friendly.

Green is such a soothing color.

The plaintiff, said the ruling, claimed she wouldn't have bought Fiji water "had she known that the Green Drop was the creation of (defendants) ... and that Fiji bottled water was not environmentally friendly."

In plastic bottles.

OK, I'm harping on the plastic thing because, at least as far as I can tell, no one else has.

So what is a "reasonable consumer" to do?

Assuming you're not worried about plastic - maybe you religiously recycle - and you see a bottle with some green on it and a reference to a website called fijigreen.com, do you think there's some sort of environmental responsibility going on?

Or do you perhaps assume that the green (in name and color) is merely an aesthetic choice?

Here's what the appellate court said: "(N)o reasonable consumer would be misled to think that the green drop represents a third party organization's endorsement or that Fiji water is environmentally superior to that of the competition."

Reasonable consumers need to be cynical.

DEMOCRACY IN ACTION. Speaking of cynicism, here's another topic I'm cynical about: judicial elections.

The president of the State Bar of California in the May issue of California Bar Journal says he likes the idea of local bar associations responding to unfair and unfounded attacks on judges and the judicial system during election campaigns.

OK. Deciding what's unfair and unfounded should be interesting, but let's say it could be done without too much grief. Would it really matter?

Well-funded special interest group versus local bar association - who do you think wins?

Of course the real problem isn't the outside attacks - it's the judicial candidates themselves.

I have a vivid memory (and there's not that much memory left these days) of covering judicial elections for the old Los Angeles Herald-Examiner more than 30 years ago (sigh) and being astonished at how awful the candidates were.

In one race, both candidates accused each other of switching political parties to get votes - and, as far as I could tell, they both had.

In another race, a candidate tried to bribe me when I interviewed him. He was also rated unqualified by the county bar and he was running a smear campaign against his opponent (who sort of deserved it).

And, yes, he won the election.

Somehow, the awesome power of a local bar association wasn't quite enough to stop this guy getting onto the bench (although I have to admit the opponent was pretty awful too - just not quite as bad).

There is a much better solution to this attacks-on-the-judiciary and lousy candidates problem: stop electing judges.

If you can't take the money out of elections, take elections out of the money.

I suggest drawing lots to fill bench seats.

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