Sunday Ethics Revelations, 8/26/18: The B List [Updated]


The death of John McCain is  one of many important ethics stories that came on the radar screen today, and several of them warrant solo posts. At the risk of not having time to get them up today at all—this is a work day at ProEthics, for ethics never sleeps—I’m going to keep the warm-up to the lesser stories, and keep my fingers crossed.

1. Miracle Whip, Florida. The town of Mayo, in Florida’s Panhandle, secretly made a deal with the Kraft-Heinz mayonnaise  alternative  Miracle Whip to change the hamlet’s name so videographers could capture the residents’ shock when they hear that the name of their town is now a corporate brand. The plan was for ad-makers to film faux efforts to get residents to remove mayonnaise from their homes. Street signs and the name on the water tower had been changed and the mayor lied in an interview with the Associated Press, insisting it would be a good idea to make the name change permanent, before residents were let in on the joke.

Mayo will get between $15,000 and $25,000 to con its own citizens. The money will be used for city beautification measures, so I guess that makes it OK.

The town should impeach the mayor and everyone involved with the scheme, which was almost certainly illegal, and clearly unethical.

But funny!

2. First Ma’amophobia, and nowThe Atlantic explores the controversy over using “guys” as a generic term for a group of mixed gender members, as in “hey, guys!” It’s an artificial controversy, and women who take offense when a boss says “you guys” when addressing the group knowing very well that no adverse intent was behind the wording should not be indulged, tolerated or “heard.” The problem is that overly sensitive superiors and others have given undo weight to similar contrived complaints through the years, with innocent and innocuous uses of  a whole dictionary of collective nouns and pronouns being declared near equivalents of racial or gender slurs.The confounding factor is that there are terms that need to be retired. The use of “girls” to describe adult women was part of societal marginalization, just as the use of “boy” for adult African American men was demeaning.  Eliminating the descriptive  distinction between “actors” and “actresses,” on the other hand, is based on a contrived offense.

What is objectionable is that any argument for declaring a term offensive is supposed to be per se decisive, without debate or analysis, if it’s offered by a so-called oppressed group. No group should have the privilege of not having to make its case. I will, for one, eat my foot before I submit to the rhetorical abortion that is “person of color.”

There is nothing necessarily wrong with calling a mixed group by the jocular “guys.” The alternatives all stink, in different ways. I will not use “y’all” and sound like a refugee from “Hee Haw.” “People” is imperious, and actually annoys me (though I would never complain about it). “Folks” is more informal (good) but rings phony (bad). “Friends” is presumptuous, speaking of John McCain, whose habit of addressing every group as “my friends” probably lost him a million votes in the 2008 election.

Communication shouldn’t be that hard, and definitely should not be dangerous. A little Golden Rule would go a long way toward eliminating this problem, guys.

3. More Aretha ethics…How many of you had the impression that Aretha Franklin wrote “Respect,” after reading all the post-mortem praise for her feminist bona fides?

To be fair, every single reference to that song should have been accompanied by credit for its writer…Otis Reading. Giving all the praise to Franklin for “Respect” to Aretha Franklin is like suggesting that Frank Sinatra wrote “New York, New York.”

Incidentally, Aretha didn’t write “Natural Woman,” either, though you wouldn’t know that from most of the tributes. That one was the inspiration of  Carole King and Gerry Goffin,

4. Ugh. Not THIS again…Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) will name  Sen. John McCain‘s  successor. Under Arizona state law, the Ducey-appointed replacement will fill the seat until 2020, when there will be a special election for the right to finish out the final two years of McCain’s term. Then there will be an election for a full six-year term in the 2022 election.

There is speculation Ducey will appoint McCain’s wife, Cindy McCain, to his seat. This is a lazy and incompetent solution that too many governors, in both parties, have succumbed to, almost always inflicting an unqualified, easily manipulated political tyro in an important job.

This is an old, deplorable practice that inflicts other nations as well, called “widow’s succession.” It should be outlawed.

Here is a complete list of the wives who have been handed their husband’s job upon his demise—eight in the Senate, and an embarrassing 39 in the House. Exactly one such widow went on to have a respectable career in Congress: Margaret Chase Smith. [ Correction: I neglected to put in the link originally; fixed now.]


32 thoughts on “Sunday Ethics Revelations, 8/26/18: The B List [Updated]

  1. “just as the use of “boy” for adult African American men was demeaning”
    mid-13c., boie “servant, commoner, knave” (generally young and male); c. 1300, “rascal, ruffian, knave; urchin,” mid-14c. as “male child before puberty
    So I presume people thought they were living back in the mid 13th Century as boy only took its present meaning a whole century later.

  2. At least Doug Ducey hasn’t floated Megan McCain’s name. A hostess from “The View” in the Senate for two years. Wouldn’t that be great. Ugh.

    Presumably, reason will prevail and Jon Kyl will get the temporary job.

  3. 1. I will admit to having gotten off I-25 to drive through all of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. No sign of Bob Barker (how was that for an apt name?).

    • Interesting — you inspired me to look up that name, even though I’d heard it a hundred times or more.
      Apparently this was pre Bob Barker Truth or Consequences – it was a 1950 contest for the radio show, hosted by Ralph Edwards. It would seem they still have an annual Fiesta in May, nearly 70 years later.

        • How about living in Pullman, Washington? I did for a while. I think I remember hearing that Pullman sent them $50 for this bit of inanity.

      • Yes, the re-naming was incentivized by the radio program. Which predated me. I watched the TV show as a kid. With Bob Barker hosting it, I’m pretty sure. What a slick guy. An icon, really. He could fake sincerity, so he really had something. But he knew he was putting it on and wasn’t afraid to let the audience in on the joke.

  4. I often use guys indiscriminately. Apparently gals is the complementary term, but I’m not a cowboy, so ….

    The other option would be Guys and Dolls. Who could go wrong with that?


  5. 1)The question is how much did the town get to change its name to Mayo? And what is its real name, or is that lost in the mists of time?
    2)How about, “Hey, persons of gender”

    • “Persons of gender” marginalizes the non-gendered among us. Unacceptable. Additionally, “persons” assumes that everyone in the room identifies as a human. What about the furries?

      I prefer a more inclusive phrase, such as, “Hey, you collection of beings, all of whom are equally valuable and have exactly equally valid perspectives (except for the white guys, whose very existence is a hate crime), let’s get this meeting started.”

      Man, I wish I lived in a world where everyone saw what I just wrote as completely absurd. Sadly, there are probably people who think it’s a pretty good start, but may need some fine-tuning with the “hey” part, which is probably a hate crime of some kind.

  6. 1. Well, Riverside, IA didn’t ditch the monument to being the future home to Captain Kirk after William Shatner pulled that elaborate practical joke on them all those years ago by pretending to shoot a sci-fi film there.

  7. “Y’all” is cool. Nothing wrong with it.
    It’s worthy of regular use by English speakers in 50 states and beyond.
    The Nation of Assholes would stink a LOT less, if y’all would use “y’all” more.

    I’ll take refuge in watching Hee Haw anytime over the current saturation-by-shit-sellapallooza. (But I’ll admit I laugh more when watching re-runs of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.)

      • I’ve got to get to Boston again, sooner the better, and test that arrest-and-exile threat. My time is running out; I’m almost too old and frail to do what I really most want to do there, which is to see the Red Sox play at Fenway. I’m not making a bet, but I am nursing a hunch that the Sox fans seated around me will come to love me over the course of one nine-inning stint of rooting for the Sox via my liberal and loud usage of “y’all” – as long as the Sox are not playing the Astros.

      • Does the potential for exile from Boston apply to anyone, or just to native Bostonians who might say “y’all? I have never felt unwelcome while visiting Boston, although almost certainly at least one “y’all” has escaped my lips during my time there. Maybe I was just fortunate that no one heard it or that if so, my friendly nature persuaded them not to turn me in. Perhaps they took pity on me as a probable “refugee from Hee Haw.” Down here in beautiful, mountainous southern Appalachia, “y’all” is used by people of many races and of all socio-economic levels to the offense of virtually no one. Just this month, a retired police officer from Tennessee told me about riding on a NYC subway recently and remarking to traveling companions that “y’all will love seeing the Statue of Liberty,” which brought all conversation in the car to a halt as though E.F. Hutton had spoken (to use a dated metaphor). Apparently he was not exiled from NYC, though. “Guys” or “you guys” has long sounded mid-western to my ear, due to hearing it incessantly from college classmates from the flatlands of Indiana and Illinois, but I certainly take no offense at the term. I agree that “folks” is rather innocuous but often sounds somewhat affected. To many Southerners like me, “folks” is generally synonymous with family, as in “How are your folks?”

        As for #2; highly rationalized conduct in any case, but at $25,000 the town officials sure sold short.

        Regarding #4, unless I misremember my history, Margaret Chase Smith was elected in her own right, after her husband’s death, rather than being appointed, although the “sympathy vote” is undeniably a big factor in such circumstances. She was an exceptional person in any event.

      • So, as a Bostonian who recoils at “y’all”, how do you feel about “ya-huh” meaning “yes”? That’s one Boston language quirk I refuse to accept.

  8. 4. Jack, you said, “Here is a complete list…” Did you mean to link to something? Forget to paste a big block of text? You gave numbers, which are compelling in themselves, but including a list would make your point so much stronger.

    I do agree with a ban on widow’s succession. Maybe TRUMP could jump-start nationwide interest in a constitutional amendment to enact that ban. I would gain 100 pounds on the popcorn I would munch while taking in all that his enemies would say against that proposed ban (and against TRUMP).

  9. 2) It’s funny, because I’ve had the “guys” discussion with someone from the opposite end of the political spectrum, who felt that it was blurring the lines between genders (which said person felt was bad.) I’m sure they’ll be BFFs with the person from The Atlantic!

    Then, as now, I was firmly on the “language changes, and nothing is lost if ‘guys’ becomes gender neutral” side of the argument.

  10. I will not use “y’all” and sound like a refugee from “Hee Haw.”

    As a semi-southerner I’m offended! 😉

    It is a fault of English that we don’t have a proper 2nd person plural. That’s why I say “you all” contracted to “y’all” is perfectly acceptable.

  11. ya’ll = you (usually plural, but sometimes singular if your mama worked in a slaughterhouse. Singular use is uneducated)
    all ya’ll = all of you
    ya’ll’s = yours
    ya’ll’re = you are
    ya’ll’ll = you will

    All of which are perfectly acceptable forms of address, if a bit rustic, in Texas.

    Those who think less of anyone using this time honored form of address have earned this: “Ya’ll BITE ME, y’hear?”

    All are more acceptable than ‘youze’ which implies your family works for the Mafia. Use of ‘youze guys’ is likely racist, given the current offensive status of ‘guys.’

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