Esurance Wants You To Know That Old People Are Ignorant And Pathetic

It was the Candy Crush commercial that did it. I nearly red-flagged Esurance for its commercial earlier this year showing “Lucille,” an elderly, technologically clueless auto insurance consumer whose version of a Facebook wall consisted of posting photographs on an actual wall in her home, but decided, “OK, maybe that’s just Lucille. After all, the ad shows another senior trying to put her straight.”  The recent Esurance ad featuring an elderly idiot who plays “Candy Crush” by hitting hard candies with a hammer was too much, though.

The dirty little secret of the political correctness culture is that the groups most associated with political conservatism—males, seniors, whites and Christians—are acceptable targets for bigotry, denigration and ridicule. Add to that the overweight, who are always fair game for derision today, and the double standard in mockery is clear. Continue reading

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Cruel Activism: The Gay Rights Attack On Cynthia and Robert Gifford

The-Gifford-Barn-in-Schaghticoke-NY

It is said that close cases make bad law, and they often make bad ethics too. Legally, the culpability of Cynthia and Robert Gifford is not at all certain. Ethically, however, as right as they may be on the law, the conduct of their persecutors, same-sex couple Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, has been unnecessary, without compassion, vindictive and cruel.

The Giffords are active Christians who own Liberty Ridge Farm, located in Schaghticoke in upstate New York. They supplement the farm’s revenue with attractions designed for kids and families, including a pumpkin patch, a corn stalk maze and a rustic barn for parties and weddings. That rustic barn has three stories. The Giffords reside on the top floor, with the bottom floor designed for events, and the second floor consisting of rooms for activities relating to their preparation and management.

When Cynthia Gifford received a phone call from Melissa McCarthy inquiring about having her wedding at the farm, Cynthia invited her to visit and assess the venue.In the follow-up phone call, McCarthy revealed for the first time that the affair would be a same-sex wedding. Cynthia explained that the family’s faith held that marriages can only be a union of a man and a woman, so they did not make their farm available for ceremonies. She said, however, that the couple was welcome to hold the wedding reception there.

Apparently expecting this response, Jennifer and Melissa surreptitiously recorded the phone call. Armed with the recording, they contacted the New York Civil Liberties Union who immediately filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Giffords on their behalf.

The Giffords argue that this was not a matter of discrimination, but religious practice. They had hosted events for gay clients before, and employed gays. “The Giffords’ objection was to hosting and participating in the wedding ceremony itself and not to providing service in general to lesbians,” their lawyer said.

They lost. Bronx administrative Law Judge Migdalia Pares rejected Giffords’ claim that the farm, which is also their home, is not a place of public accommodation and is therefore not subject to the anti-discrimination provisions of New York’s Human Rights Law. She ruled that Liberty Ridge qualifies as a public accommodation because it regularly collects fees for space, facilities, services and meals, so it cannot be considered “distinctly private.”  The fact that the Giffords reside at Gifford Barn does not render it private. The Giffords were ordered to pay $13,000 in fines and restitution.

The Giffords are appealing.

The Giffords, according to the judge, “unlawfully discriminated against complainants solely on the basis of their sexual orientation.” Another way of looking at it is that Jennifer and Melissa, now married, discriminated against the Giffords solely on the basis of their religious beliefs. Why couldn’t they agree to respect the Giffords’ religious beliefs, and use the property for the wedding reception only, having the actual ceremony elsewhere? Would that really be such a hardship, or a compromise in principles? Indeed, if the nation and committed progressives really aspire to tolerance, diversity and mutual compassion and understanding, why wouldn’t that be the ethical, desirable, reasonable compromise?

I know the response to that question, of course. This was a matter of principle. This would send a message. Crushing the Giffords was necessary to show that all opposition to same sex marriage would eventually be crushed under the advance of history. Never mind that these were not anti-gay bigots, and that they have as much right to practice their faith as a lesbian couple has a right to wed. This is a zero sum game, apparently. Besides the law—probably–supports McCarthy and Erwin.

I think the actions of Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin violate the Second Niggardly Principle, which is a rule of kindness, compromise and common sense. It holds…

“When an individual or group can accomplish its legitimate objectives without engaging in speech or conduct that will offend individuals whose basis for the supposed offense is emotional, mistaken or ignorant, but is not malicious and is based on well-established impulses of human nature, it is unethical to intentionally engage in such speech or conduct.”

The couple’s legitimate objectives in this case were to get married and celebrate the marriage in an attractive venue. I don’t think setting out to punish a couple for belonging to a religion that doesn’t accept same sex marriage is a legitimate objective, nor is turning their lives upside down, nor forcing them into the maw of litigation to bend them to their will. Does the gay rights movement really feel that all those who have not yet accepted the justice and inevitability of same-sex marriage must be exposed and made to suffer? It seems that this is McCarthy and  Erwin believe, and what this case will come to stand for.

If so, I think the story of the Giffords will do more harm than good, hardening opposition, confirming suspicion, undermining trust and ultimately making acceptance for gay couples harder, however it turns out in the courts. Just because you have the law on your side doesn’t mean you have to use it when doing so involves unnecessary harm to others. Gays want compassion, kindness, tolerance and fairness. It would help if they showed a willingness to give as well as receive.

______________________
Pointer: Steven Mark Pilling

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Charity, Citizenship, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

Pop Song Ethics Flashback: “Why Do They Always Say “No?” by Lawrence Cook and The Jim Dandies

It probably isn’t the winner in the Ethics Alarms quest to identify the most unethical pop songs, but the 1949 ditty “Why Do They Always Say No?” is one of the most instructive nominations. The fascinating and essential feature of ethics is that our understanding of right and wrong evolves, changing and advancing with wisdom, cultural debate and reflection. This song is a tuneful reminder, arriving at our attention just as the culture, especially on campus, is struggling over exactly the dilemma the song celebrated. In 1949, however, literally no one thought about romantic or sexual gamesmanship as an ethical issue, or at least not a momentous one.

Have a listen (It’s on the B side of the record pictured, and starts playing at the halfway mark):

The lyrics are credited to Harry Pease, Frank Davis, Ed G. Nelson and Billy Glason. Only the latter has much of a footprint on Google, and none of them rate a Wikipedia entry. I doubt that it took four guys to write this song: It’s not exactly “A Day in the Life.” Glason (b. 1904) was probably the author. He shows up in the Encyclopedia of Vaudeville as a “singing comedian,” known for devising new punchlines for ancient  jokes, such as

Q: “Who was that lady I saw you with last night at that sidewalk cafe?”

A: “That was no sidewalk cafe! That was our furniture!”

Pease, Davis, and Nelson were all musicians, though it’s also hard to imagine that the elemental tune required three collaborators. The lyrics are more disturbing read than heard:

Why do they always say no
When they know they mean yes all the time
You ask a girlie for a kiss or two
She’ll let you know that’s something I don’t do
How can they tell such a lie
And still look you straight in the eye
Whenever they say no to you go right ahead
Cause it’s 10 to 1 that they mean yes instead
Oh, why do they always say no
When you know they mean yes all the time

Why do they always say no
When you know they mean yes all the time
You start to love them and they pout and fret
Down in their hearts they want all they can get
What keeps them acting that way
They don’t mean a word that they say
A girl that said she’d never marry me
She’s the mother of my happy family
Why do they always say no
You know they mean yes all the time

Why do they always say no
When you know they mean yes all the time
You ask your girlie for a kiss or two
She’s lets you know that’s something I don’t do
How can they tell such a lie
And still look you straight in the eye
Whenever they say no to you go right ahead
Cause it’s 10 to 1 that they mean yes instead
Oh, why do they always say no
When you know they mean yes all the time

You know they mean yes all the time.

“You know they mean yes all the time.”

Sure you do.

_________________________

Special thanks to my volunteer scout Fred, whose wife found this piece of musical ethics archeology.

 

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Education, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, Popular Culture, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

Ebola Ethics Train Wreck Update

train wreck - b

Wow! THAT train wreck picked up passengers fast!

  • News Media Car: “Good Morning America” co-anchors Paula Faris and Dan Harris, who  told their audience members, thereby lowering their IQ’s, that a flight ban makes no sense since Ebola can only be passed via contact with bodily fluids. Well, let’s just let the infected fly, then! How much imagination does it take to think of ways passengers can get another passenger’s bodily fluids on themselves?  (HINT: bathrooms).  Faris and Harris also know that infected people can move around the country quickly using planes—hell, do they watch their own medium, television? Movies? Thomas Eric Duncan had no  symptoms when he boarded a plane to the US, where he infected at least two people before dying.  In a situation such as this, effective pubic education is one of the most critical functions of the news media. Choosing to blurt out spontaneous misinformation instead is incompetent and irresponsible.
  • Desperate Obama Defense Derangement Car: American Prospect blogger Paul Waldman, who in an Ebola-like outbreak of the DODD that he has been suffering from for years, issued a truly despicable post including vile statements like these:
Put a scary disease together with a new terrorist organization and the ever-present threat of undocumented immigrants sneaking over the border, and you’ve got yourself a putrid stew of fear-mongering, irrationality, conspiracy theories, and good old-fashioned Obama-hatred that they’re luxuriating in like it was a warm bath on a cold night…When people are afraid, they’re more likely to vote Republican, so it’s in Republicans’ interest to make them afraid. And you couldn’t come up with a better vehicle for creating that fear than a deadly disease coming from countries full of dark-skinned foreigners. So what if only two Americans, both health care workers caring for a dying man, have actually caught it? You don’t need facts to feed the fear. And they only need two and a half more weeks. 
Yes, when all else in your party’s government fails and is failing, blame it on racism. After all, nobody would be worried about a highly infectious, horrible, organ liquifying disease with no vaccine and a 70% fatality rate if it came from Asia or Europe. This is all because Republicans hate the black President. By all means, keep pushing that slander: maybe a real Rodney King-style riot can be launched in St. Louis! That should turn out the base! The fact that the Center For Disease Control that said trust us, we’ll stop this disease “in its tracks” was revealed to be a clown act has nothing to do with the criticism.

Continue reading

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Those Unethical Noncompete Clauses

noncompetesIt would not unseat the presumptive and early-declared winner of the 2014 Ethics Alarms Corporate Asshole  Of The Year Award (of which, by the way, there is new news: the consumer Comcast got fired for complaining about its lousy service is suing), but sandwich chain Jimmy John’s outrageous noncompete clause in its employee contracts puts it in an enviable position of strength to be runner-up Corporate Asshole, if that is its aspiration.

It must be. Non-compete clauses are roundly detested in the law, often illegal, and frequently struck down by courts as unconscionable. They are justified, if at all, when an employee has a management-level position in a high tech or sophisticated knowledge and innovation field, or when he or she is a prominent industry figure  who could instantly harm a company by leaving and launching direct competition. Increasingly, however, companies have been using tight job markets to foist noncompete provisions on lowly service employees too, as fine-print additions to contracts that the employee is unlikely to have thoroughly read or understand. The New York Times reported on a Massachusetts man who sprayed pesticides on lawns for a living, and who had to sign a two-year noncompete agreement to do it. A  standard textbook editor was required to sign an agreement banning him from working for another publisher for six-months if he left his position. A marketing firm pressured a newly-minted Boston University grad to sign a one-year noncompete pledge for an entry-level social media job, and a even summer interns at an electronics firm had to agree to a yearlong ban. Continue reading

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Pop Song Ethics, Part II (The Dark Side)

We are coming up on the anniversary of my post asking for nominations for the most ethical pop songs from past decades. Both here and in my office mail box, I received excellent suggestion—so many, that I have not been able to find the time to finish the project. However, I am determined to have the final list ready by the anniversary date, November 14, 2014.

So there is still time to get your nominations in. Meanwhile, as I was driving home from a Virginia Beach ethics seminar and keeping myself occupied during the three hour drive with the Sirius-XM 50s-60’s-70’s and 80’s stations, I heard this song, by Leslie Gore, from 1964:

With the domestic abuser ethics issue still percolating in my fevered brain, it occurred to me, as it had not before, what a vile message the song sent to teenaged girls. “What else can” Leslie do about her abusive boyfriend? Dump him, that’s what. I wonder if Janay Rice knows this song.

Or sang it. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Love, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

Introducing Rationalization #46: Zola’s Rejection, or “Don’t Point Fingers!”

fingers-pointing

J’accuse …!” ( “I accuse…!”) was a famous open letter to French president Félix Faure, published  January 13, 1898 in the newspaper L’Aurore by novelist Émile Zola. It accused the French Government anti-Semitism and a breach of justice in the prosecution and imprisonment of Alfred Dreyfus, a French Army General Staff officer sentenced to lifelong penal servitude for espionage. His well-argued accusation was the epitome of effective finger-pointing, and played a major role in bringing down a corrupt government.

Nonetheless, pointing fingers where they need to be pointed, when they need to be pointed, is inconvenient for the incompetents, miscreants, con artists, spinners and otherwise accountable parties so accused. Thus they and their allies often exploit this peculiar rationalization, which is better described, perhaps, as rationalization fertilizer, since it is a catalyst for the employment of many others, including the Biblical rationalizations. “Don’t point fingers!”, or its common variation, “Stop pointing fingers!” provides protection for the very people who most deserve to be pointed to, allowing them to deny culpability, avoid the just consequences of their failings, and best of all, divert appropriate attention from what they have done or not done to the supposed meanness and vindictiveness of critics who want to make sure the same mistakes don’t occur again, especially with the same officials in charge.

And, ironically, the cry “Don’t point fingers!” is often followed by those who cry it pointing fingers themselves, at others. It has unlocked, in such circumstances, the use of Rationalization #7, The Tit-For-Tat Excuse, which holds that one party’s unethical conduct justifies similar unethical conduct in return. Continue reading

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