Category Archives: Business & Commercial

Cover Art Ethics: Sexism, “Rape Culture” or Just Marketing

If you had asked me thirty-five years ago whether we would still be debating what is the appropriate and ethical use of women as sex symbols—or “objectification,” if you like—in non-sex trade publications today, I would have answered, I think, “Are you kidding? By 2014 we will have hashed all this out. Either the combination of consensus  political correctness and the increased influence of women in business in general and publishing in particular will have reformed standards of acceptable practices, manners and taste, or emerging feminism will embrace the power of sexuality as a source of influence and power over the male of the species. The battles over this are too hot now to keep going on indefinitely! Either using sexy women and models in “take me” poses will be considered shameful and unappealing in 2014, or they will be accepted as part of an “anything goes” culture.”

No, I’m not very bright.

Case Study #1: The Golf Digest Cover

Paulina-Gretzky-on-cover-of-Golf-Digest

The cover of the latest issue of Golf Digest caused a stir by featuring Paulina Gretzky, who plays a little golf but who is primarily a model, and obviously there for other reasons. Until the Gretzky cover, the only woman to appear on the magazine’s cover without having won a pro or major amateur event was Golf Channel personality Holly Sonders, in May 2013. From the New York Times: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunces: Paula Deen and “Uncle Bubba”

uncle-bubba-s-oyster

Like breaking up via text message and telling your spouse you want a divorce in an e-mail, here’s a crummy use of technology that we should hope doesn’t catch on.

Uncle Bubba’s Seafood & Oyster House, a restaurant owned by Paula Deen and her younger brother, Earl W. “Bubba” Hiers Jr., told all of its employees that the place was going out of business on its Facebook page, and that was all. The message:

“Since its opening in 2004, Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House has been a destination for residents and tourists in Savannah, offering the region’s freshest seafood and oysters. However, the restaurant’s owner and operator, Bubba Heirs, has made the decision to close the restaurant in order to explore development options for the waterfront property on which the restaurant is located. At this point, no specific plans have been announced and a range of uses are under consideration in order realize the highest and best use for the property.The closing is effective today, Thursday, April 3, 2014. Employees will be provided with severance based on position and tenure with the restaurant. All effort will be made to find employees comparable employment with other Savannah restaurant organizations.”

Yechh.

Cruel, rude, impersonal, cowardly. Also callous, lazy and inefficient: how many employees were told by third parties about the announcement?

Well, at least Paula’s not a racist. I wonder if the Food Network fired Paula via Facebook? I’m pretty sure it didn’t.

_____________________

Pointer: Evil HR Lady

Facts: CBS

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, The Internet, Workplace

And The Answer Is: “Well, Talk Show Host Arthur King On Maine’s WGAN, For One…”

WGAN logoOne of several cantankerous commenters on the inexplicably contentious Julian Batts post wrote, in the course of his generalized abuse, “Who would ever book you? LOL.” (Those familiar with this forum know it was the “LOL” that got him banned more than the insult). The  rhetorical question was also secretly ironic, because I was booked that very day (yesterday) on an early morning talk show, by Arthur King, an occasional commenter here who has  me on South Portland, Maine’s WGAN as his guest occasionally.

You can listen to the segment here. Much thanks to Arthur, for both a professionally run interview and great timing.

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Education, Journalism & Media, U.S. Society

Selfie Ethics: Yes, Big Papi Exploited The President

Ortiz-Obama-Selfie.jpg

I wrote about this ethical breach when Ellen DeGeneris did it at the Oscars. The short version is this:

“It’s unethical to pretend that a selfie is a spontaneous  gesture of fun and friendship when you have a commercial agreement in place to use the photograph in a way that promotes the cell phone manufacturer.”

This is exploitation for commercial gain, and it’s wrong. It’s wrong when the victims are movie stars, and it’s wrong when the exploited party is President of the United States. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Etiquette and manners, Marketing and Advertising, The Internet, U.S. Society, Unethical Tweet

Clever! But Wrong: “Hoodies For Hobos”

Homeless advertisng

“Team ADD -A-BALL is proud to announce our new outreach program ‘Hoodies for Hobo’s’. All profits from sweatshirt and t-shirt sales go towards outfitting Seattle’s street people with some fresh gear. I will post a pic of every new bum we spruce up. Thanks everyone.”

—-Add-a-Ball owner Brad Johnsen, on his company’s Facebook page.

Yes, Brad, who casually refers to his walking billboards as “bums,” has what he sees as a perfect plan. Profits profits from all  T-shirt and apparel sales at Johnsen’s Seattle arcade will be used to outfit the city’s homeless “with some fresh gear,” all sporting the arcade’s name and logo. Everybody wins! He gets publicity and good will for this—wink, wink—”charity,” the homeless get spiffy new clothes, and he gets really cheap advertising.

So what if he robs the objects of his charity of their dignity, exploits them, and dehumanizes them into the equivalents of car bumpers? Hey, no plan is perfect! To his credit, sort of, Johnsen’s comments don’t exactly leave much room for doubts about his compassion and motives. “If it also encourages people to go play pinball and get drunk—all the better,” he says.

If he was interested in anything other than the cheap publicity…like, say, the welfare of the homeless, Johnsen would hand out clothes without the logo. I’m sure he wouldn’t understand why I say that. Or why paying the “bums’ who choose to wear the ones that advertise his business would be the ethical course, since it would compensate the homeless for their service and give them a sense of self-worth, rather than making them, in effect, unpaid sandwich-board wearers for the privilege of wearing a lousy hoodie.

I wonder how many people see nothing unethical Johnsen’s scheme. I’m a little afraid to find out.

[Addendum (4 PM 4/10/14): I should have mentioned in the original post that Kant would have agreed with me. This is a Categorical Imperative situation, using human beings as a means rather than an end: "Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end."  The fact that the cynical ploy can be represented as a one that aims at clothing the homeless makes the label a little shaky, and I admit that the "Ick Factor" looms large here.]

________________________________

Pointer:  Drudge

Facts: Vocative

 

 

 

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Marketing and Advertising, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity

Obamacare Game Plan: The Lies Worked, Now On To Deceit

gameplan

As President Obama was in the midst of his unseemly, unwise and typically unleaderlike victory lap over the Obamacare sign-up figures, Tonight Show comic Jimmy Fallon had the cheek to point out that it’s amazing how many people will sign up for something when the law says they have to. (In a slightly different version of the same point, Daily Standard editor Bill Kristol said on ABC today that this is like  saying, “…you’ve got to give the Soviet Union a lot of credit. 200 million people bought bread in their grocery stores. If it’s the only place you can buy health insurance, they’re going to get people to buy health insurance there.”)

Yes, that would be an example of the near constant spin and deception that the President and Democrats have been relentlessly throwing at the American public regarding the “success” of the Affordable Care Act.

The way I would put it, as indeed I did when I was shouting at the TV screen during the President’s statement in the wake of the final totals on March 31, is that how many people sign up for the Affordable Care Act doesn’t make the law successful. Whether the law accomplishes its goals at an acceptable cost will determine if the law is successful. Whether the government proves to be capable—as all evidence to date suggests it isn’t—of administering such a complex and wide-reaching law will determine if it’s successful. Most of all, the fact that the law almost certainly can’t be repealed now doesn’t make the Affordable Care Act a success, and any politician who thinks that way should be despised and distrusted.

No law should ever be beyond the possibility of rejection or repeal, if it becomes obvious that it was poorly conceived or that another approach would be better. I understand that’s not the way our busted system currently “works,” as horrible, expensive, corrupt, unworkable and wrongful laws routinely become imbedded in bureaucratic cement, and that the last large scale law to be repealed was probably Prohibition. This forward-ratcheting effect is one of the factors that makes our growing debt so frightening, as our leaders lack both the will and the means to stop anything, no matter how ill-considered, once it has a budget and a lobby. But for any national leader, especially the President, to celebrate this dangerous and dysfunctional feature of American lawmaking is profoundly disturbing, and demonstrates a preference for political warfare over governing. (This is perhaps, understandable in Obama’s case, as he is adept at the former and hopelessly inept at the latter.)

The goal, may I remind all participants, is to come up with policies that are good for the nation, not to “win” by inflicting laws that the other side can never remove. “HA! We won! Now you’ll never be able to repeal the lousy law we rammed down the country’s throat!” (of course, I’m paraphrasing) is unseemly, and shows toxic and unethical priorities .

Whether the verdict on the ACA law is ultimately positive or not—and despite what the pols say, the jury is obviously still out—it should never be forgotten or forgiven that its path has been paved with lies. Yet another one came to light this week. Leading up to March 31, press releases, tweets and blog posts from the Administration emphasized that the last day in March was the final opportunity to get health insurance in 2014, as in this White House blog post on the so-called “deadline”:

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, The Internet

Anderson Cooper’s Reflections on Inheritance: Not Unethical, Perhaps; Just Ignorant, Self-Serving and Presumptuous

I was going to let this go, but it kept gnawing at me, and nobody in the news media called out Anderson Cooper on his outrageous misrepresentation of history and human character. I guess it’s up to me.

gloria-vanderbilt-anderson-cooper

“Thanks for nothing, Mom!”

Cooper is the son of fashion designer Gloria Vanderbilt, and thus an heir to one of the most storied of American family fortunes. Apparently Cooper has known for some time that he’s getting none of his mother’s estimated 200 million dollar estate, and he told Howard Stern recently that he was fine about it, an had no bitterness or regrets.

“I don’t believe in inheriting money, ” he told Stern. “That’s a total fantasy … I think it’s an initiative-sucker, I think it’s a curse. Who’s inherited a lot of money who’s gone on to do things in their own life? If I felt that there was some pot of gold waiting for me, I don’t know that I would have been so motivated.”

As for his mother, who inherited many millions and who still made a name for herself by launching a  line of designer jeans, Cooper told Stern, “I think that’s an anomaly.”

Cooper is free to adopt whatever myths and rationalizations that help him get over the fact that his mother is cutting him off. He is not free to misinform the historically ignorant that a tendency exists which may describe his own mental state but which is far from the presumptive norm with others throughout the centuries. “Who’s inherited a lot of money who’s gone on to do things in their own life?” The answer to that question is “Too many to mention, Anderson. Are you kidding? Do you know anything about history?”

Just counting U.S. Presidents, which I think even in this period of reduced stature among White House occupants, would still qualify as “doing something with your life,” we have Washington, Madison and Monroe, all of whom inherited substantial property and assets from their families, as did William Henry Harrison and his grandson, Benjamin Harrison. Both Roosevelts inherited substantial wealth; so did William Howard Taft, whose family was (and is) one of the richest in the U.S. Both Bush’s managed not to let the curse of inherited wealth undermine their wills to succeed. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Family, Finance, Journalism & Media, U.S. Society

Ethical Quote Of The Week: Andrew Sullivan

You are dead to me, Firefox. Tell your mama.

You are dead to me, Firefox. Tell your mama.

“Will he now be forced to walk through the streets in shame? Why not the stocks? The whole episode disgusts me – as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society. If this is the gay rights movement today – hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else – then count me out. If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us”

—-Blogging pioneer and gay rights advocate Andrew Sullivan, writing yesterday about Mozilla’s craven capitulation to gay rights bullies who demanded the removal of new CEO Brendan Eich “who had the gall to express his First Amendment rights and favor Prop 8 in California by donating $1,000.”

Corporations, as the Duck Dynasty flap depressingly illustrated, tend to be spineless, irresolute and principle-free. This instance of that tendency, however, is more alarming and harmful than most. Capitulating to arrogant, self-righteous, power-hungry forces on the left or right only makes them more voracious: we will know who to thank first when boycotts abound demanding that anyone who questioned Al Gore’s climate change hysteria be sacked.

Thank you, Mozilla.

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Quotes, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, The Internet, U.S. Society, Workplace

Unethical Quote of the Month: OkCupid

Not OK...

Not OK…

“Hello there, Mozilla Firefox user. Pardon this interruption of your OkCupid experience. Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid. Politics is normally not the business of a website, and we all know there’s a lot more wrong with the world than misguided CEOs. So you might wonder why we’re asserting ourselves today. This is why: we’ve devoted the last ten years to bringing people—all people—together. If individuals like Mr. Eich had their way, then roughly 8% of the relationships we’ve worked so hard to bring about would be illegal. Equality for gay relationships is personally important to many of us here at OkCupid. But it’s professionally important to the entire company. OkCupid is for creating love. Those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame, and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure.”

-—Dating website OkCupid, calling for a boycott of Mozilla, including Firefox, its webserving software, because of the past political/social/religious views of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich

Full disclosure: 1) I use Firefox. 2) I detest boycotts,and 3) I am biased against them by nature, because they are almost always coercive, extortive, and unfair.

This statement, however, has more wrong with it than just its advocacy of a boycott.

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Comment of the Day: “Ethics Rant: Here Is The Smoking Gun Proof That The Government Doesn’t Care How Much Money…”

Whatever anyone might think of Ethics Alarms, it can’t be accused of not being eclectic. Today’s Comment of the Day illustrates the point, with an impressive  and informative debut by new commenter Dave on the cost savings to be had based on choice of  printing fonts, and more. The original post used a sixth-graders science project conclusion that our federal and state governments could save hundreds of millions of dollars by simply conserving ink as a departure point for a general critique of government diligence, responsibility, and competence.

Here is his exposition, inspired by the post, Ethics Rant: Here Is The Smoking Gun Proof That The Government Doesn’t Care How Much Money It Wastes, Or, In The Alternative, That It Isn’t Run By Sufficiently Competent People To Be Trusted To Spend What It Does:

The most important aspect of the 14 year old’s study is valid. You can save money with a better font. How you get there is not important. So I support the hypothesis of the study. Of course, as in almost all studies, it requires more study. Adding paper to the mix makes it more hopeful.

I like his study for three reasons:

1. It puts ink and paper into the public discussion
2. It illustrates that really large numbers times really small numbers equals a big number.
3. It moves us ahead in our quest to the use of something other than Times New Roman. It’s a newspaper font!

First off, names are useless in discussing typefaces as they were trashed by the patent/copyright office many years ago. Garamond is one of dozens of great type families. Each has it’s unique features but most do not perform optimally in all applications. The criticism of using Garamond in the testing misses the point entirely. Successfully curtailing the weight of an optimized font, versus a newspaper font, to image on bond paper is likely. Let’s move on from nitpicking Garamond. 

Ink is measured in dimes with inkjet, nickels with toner and pennies with printer’s ink. Breaking down the imaging techniques of all government documents is a massive effort, census like. But, for now, let’s address word processed documents. This is probably the largest population of original documents. (We’re not going to make much headway in savings attacking the professional typeset material that is printed in the millions.)

Given we tune a font for ink/toner use, one of the last considerations influencing legibility and readability of a word processed document is typeface. Because MS Word is used exhaustively for this application, I would order the priorities leading to better legibility and readability as follows:

1. Word Spacing. You can see in the example used to trash the study (3rd line of Garamond) It’s like talking to someone who says “uh” every other word.

2. Serifs v. Sans Serif. This choice is more of a readability thing than a legibility thing.  I choose sans-serif for heads (eliminating the need for bold italic serif fonts) and serif for text  when I create a typical Word doc. Generally, type really doesn’t have to be serif if the document is short but the longer it gets….

3. Line Measure. This goes together with word spacing, the longer the measure the worse word spacing becomes with MS Word. And personally I have attention issues so I need a break more often.

4. Body leading. Otherwise known as line spacing in the world of glorified type writers; it’s like word spacing only in the vertical direction.

5. Letter-spacing. This is font design dependent but not typeface dependent. They can screw this up no matter how the the letters look. It’s one of MS Times New Roman most nasty offenses. It’s not only looks awful, it wastes paper.

6. Hyphenation and Justification (H&J). Justified type is lined up on both sides of the page. Word Processors are not good at this, MS is particularly bad at both H&J.  It’s an old requirement with setting type, but it helps readability with long documents. It generally saves paper to boot but it’s not worth botching up word spacing to get these advantages. (It’s not as critical with 1-2 page documents so that’s why it’s 6th on the list.)

7. Type Style. If we excel at all of the above, like professional design software, then the particular type design is a factor. Because we are focused on text, the theory is if we significantly adjust the design for 12 point and with word processing in mind we can do well here in ink savings.

8. Paper color. Office paper is very good here.

9. Type color. Anything other than black type can’t be discussed here but it is realistic to discuss grey. I exclusively  use draft mode on my inkjet printer and nobody notices.

10 . Room light. Using serifs or not and setting an appropriate type size is about wearing out your eyes with too little or too much light. Serifs on text cut back on light, while size impacts detail helping legibility. Sans serif type in headlines are not an issue because they are short and it provides contrast with the text.

So, the student’s focus on the smaller, most used type is appropriate. The focus on weight relative to ink usage is also appropriate. A focus on more sophisticated typography than MS offers today would significantly impact paper usage, even without using two sided features we have today.

TrueType, GX stuff, et al were all awesome in 1996, a big accomplishment. They are still relevant for designers, but here we are stuck with MS Word; Opentype features are wasted. Moving to a maybe more primitive technology but optimized for both savings and readability would be a good start towards the $400 million goal.

We are in a transition period, so it may be awhile. Saving money along the way to fully electronic isn’t a bad thing. These no valid reason to make trade offs during the transition. It will be complicated but in step with the transition. All ideas are worthwhile, there is no reason not to implement all of them.

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