Category Archives: Business & Commercial

Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/4/19: Super Bowl Hangover Edition

(Nice job, Gladys. Thanks)

New Rule:

I’m not saying “Good Morning!” until I can do it without coughing.

1. Is this hypocritical…or maybe just greed? Cardi B—if you don’t know who the singer is, then you are just hopelessly out of step— Cardi B refused to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show out of support for former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Then she showed up on the broadcast in a Pepsi ad.

Of course, the half-time gig doesn’t pay, and Pepsi does, but if you are boycotting the Super Bowl, how can you justify appearing in a Super Bowl ad? Well, performers tend not to be deep thinkers…

2. The Washington Post Super Bowl commercial…

Yes, the Post spent an estimated ten million dollars for pro-news media propaganda. Desperate and self-indicting, in my view. The best way for the Post and other mainstream news media to convince the public that they are trustworthy is for them to do their jobs ethically, and they obviously do not. This self-glorifying ad comes one week after the Post led the media attack on a 16-year old Catholic school student without checking the veracity of a deceptively edited videotape or talking with the student involved. The Post was indulging its anti-Trump bias by casting a kid wearing a MAGA hat as a racist. How did this disgusting and unethical performance embody the platitudes Tom Hanks mouthed in the ad—“There’s someone to gather the facts. To bring you the story. No matter the cost. Because knowing empowers us. Knowing helps us decide. Knowing keeps us free”? How about the Post actually doing those things, rather than spending millions to convince people that they are, when the evidence says otherwise?

Just as the ad was running yesterday, we learned of a 2004 sexual assault allegation against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax that the Post decided at the time wasn’t credible enough to report on.  Why? Well, theories abound. Maybe it wasn’t credible, but then, I thought the idea was to believe all women. How could it have been less credible than some of the accusations against Brett Kavanagh that the Post reported when it was trying to sink his nomination? Does the fact that Fairfax is a Democrat have anything to do with the Post’s “objective news judgment”? Might not Virginia voters have wanted to make up their own minds about the allegations, when Fairfax was running for Lt. Governor?

Tell us again about how “democracy dies in darkness,” Tom. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/1/2019: Dumb, Dumber, Fake, and Fakiest

At least this guy has hair

If I’m out of bed, it’s morning to me…

1. Update. Wow. My furious ex-Ethics Alarms commenter actually filed a motion to oppose my motion to extend the time to file a response brief to his rambling 70+ page, incoherent rant of an appellant brief, as he tries to get the dismissal of his defamation suit against me overturned. Such extensions are granted as a matter of course and courtesy, and real lawyers never oppose them, so a petty motion like that sends a strategically unwise signal to the court that this is not really a legal matter but an abuse of process to pursue a grudge. Of course, reading the brief itself makes that clear.

2. Incompetent Elected Official Of The Day: Rep. Jason Crow (D-Co), who tweeted about the President sending troops to the border,

This guy needs to be sent back to government kindergarten. Troops are almost always deployed for political reasons, both national and international. Does he remember when LBJ sent troops into Selma? How about Truman using troops to break the railroad worker’s strike? Commenter Tim Levier correctly notes, “What troop was ever deployed for a non-political agenda? They go where the politicians send them. And what better place than in their home country defending their actual borders for national defense?”

The  new class of Democratic representatives is one for the ages. What an idiot. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, Social Media, Sports

Open Forum, Sick Host Edition

The chair is empty.

I’m going to hand the blog over to you right now, since I am temporarily incapable of going two minutes without sneezing, coughing, gagging or sleeping. Maybe I’ll be able to catch up on posting some Comments of the Day as well, since that takes about a tenth as much time as a full post. Or maybe I’ll just crawl off into the snow and let nature take its course.

Yes, I’m feeling sorry for myself. Make me proud, ethics lovers…

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Bioethics, Business & Commercial, Character, Education, Environment, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

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

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Humor and Satire, language, Marketing and Advertising, U.S. Society

The Big Law Firm’s New Partners

In early December of last year, Paul, Weiss, one of the country’s largest and richest firms, announced its new partners: twelve young white lawyers, and one similarly hued woman.

Being that group identification is everything to certain well-placed people today, the announcement became an instant “public relations nightmare,” according to many media accounts. Sensitive to being sufficiently “woke,” many large companies had their  general counsels, sign an open letter  calling on law firms firms  “to reflect the diversity of the legal community” or they would send their business elsewhere.

What is the assumption underlying that letter? Is it that whites were chosen over better qualified minority lawyers as an act of bigotry and racism? Noooo, nobody’s suggesting that. Are the signatories to the letter really saying that less qualified lawyers of color should be advanced rather than these lawyers? It can’t be that, can it? I would say that a law firm that does not make every effort to have the very best lawyers available for the benefit of the clients is treading close to unethical behavior. A firm can’t prioritize diversity, whatever than means, over its own abilities to represent clients.

I nearly dropped Above the Law, but the reliably knee-jerk left and ethically obtuse online rag is great for these stories, and didn’t disappoint this time. Joe Patrice, the editor, wrote, Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Recent Ethics Thoughts On The Fyre Festival Fiasco

This Instagram photo of one of the “luxury gourmet meals being served to attendees of the 2017 Fyre Music Festival has come to symbolize the whole stunning debacle.

When Ethics Alarms last posted about the ridiculous Bahamas Fyre Festival  debacle, it was this, last July: “Remember the Frye Festival fiasco? Billy McFarland, the inept con man/idiot who set it up has been arrested and charged with fraud. Good!” Now more about that epic ethics fail is coming out. Two documentaries about the ridiculous scam/botch/whatever it was were released in January, one on Hulu and one on Netflix. I just saw the latter, and it’s pretty incredible. Here, to refresh your horror, was the original Ethics Alarms description:

Celebrities with ties to the organizers  tweeted and Instagrammed, building buzz about Fyre.  Ja Rule tweeted just a month ago, “This is where the cool kids will be April 27-30 May 5-8!!! #fyrefestival #fyre.” Ticket packages to experience the self-proclaimed “cultural event of the decade” included accommodations and chartered flights from Miami, with a low price of $900 and a luxury tag of $399,995 for access to the performers.  Days before the festival was to begin, @fyrefestival  was still ginning up anticipation.

Then the festival-goers arrived on the first day to find…nothing. Well, worse than nothing: chaos. Those who had  paid $500 apiece for what the festival’s promotion described as “villas” found that the only shelter provided were FEMA-style refugee tents. There was no food, except some hastily packaged cheese sandwiches. All of the scheduled performers canceled.

The festival-goers who hadn’t arrived by private yachts found themselves confused and stranded, with luggage but nowhere to sleep for the night. Some paid festival employees $100 to return them to the airport in a flatbed truck, but when they arrived at the airport gate, they were told that they couldn’t access the airport, requiring more bribes to get to a plane, if they were lucky. The stampede of shocked glitterati desperately trying to flee backed up the local airports, stranding many attendees in deplorable conditions, like understaffed kitchen tents with pots of uncooked food.

Subcontractors and suppliers went unpaid, Bahamian workers were stiffed, millions of dollars vanished.  The interviews with McFarland’s “team” are jaw-dropping. One fast-talking, ever-optimistic leader, McFarland, somehow convinced everyone, some who were experienced in event planning,  that he could pull off the impossible, even as the days counted down to zero hour and it was obvious that there would be no festival, just broken promised and angry rich people. There’s also an amazing coda to the Netflix documentary: while McFarland was out on bail, awaiting trial, he set up another scam, using the mailing list for the Fyre Festival to get some of the same suckers to buy phony event tickets.

Some new developments and thoughts: Continue reading

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Now THIS Is Gender Bias: The Undeserved And Dishonest Hyping Of Elaine May

BRILLIANT!

As someone who tried, often unsuccessfully, to promote female stage directors in Washington, D.C.’s professional theater scene, I am sympathetic to the cause of providing more opportunities  for women to direct at a high level, including Hollywood, as well as addressing directly the many and varied obstacles women face. One is a dearth of historical role models in the field. Quick, now, name five successful and respected female film directors. One just died, Penny Marshall. The pioneer in the field, actress Ida Lupino, always turns up on such lists, but which of her six films in the 50’s is a classic? “Hard, Fast and Beautiful?” “The Bigamist?” I’ve seen all of the films she directed, and she was a solid, professional director (and also an excellent actress). But Stanley Kubrick she wasn’t.  Katheryn Bigelow has to be on the list, and she’s directed several excellent films, including “The Hurt Locker,” which won a
“Best Picture” Oscar. But her resume would rank somewhere around 500 or so in a gender-blind list. Okay, that’s three.

The reasons for this are not merely discrimination in the show business industries, though that is certainly a major factor. However, as we have seen and continue to see among activists for other traditionally marginalized groups, admitting inconvenient truths that counter a group identify narrative is neither popular nor common. Unfortunately, such activists have a bad and unethical habit of hyping the accomplishments of members of their favored groups, perpetuating falsehood “for the common good” and making themselves less credible and respectable advocates as a result. In politics, we saw this repeatedly during the 2016 campaign when Hillary Clinton was described as being one of the “most qualified” Presidential candidates in American history, as assertion that is simply untrue by any objective standard. As with the Clinton hyping, it is particularly troubling when the talents and accomplishments of a an individual are hyped by journalists to advance an agenda. Journalists are not practicing their craft ethically when they intentionally try to deceive the public and distort the record, regardless of their supposedly good intentions.

Now, you might say, and I might be inclined to agree, that when current journalism standards have sunk as low as they are now, and when the news media appears to be capable of previously unimaginable deceptions in an effort to advance one political party over another, a New York Times female film critic’s efforts to bootstrap the cause of female directors by absurdly hyping the directing skills of Elaine May is small potatoes indeed. However, “The Marvelous Ms. Elaine May,” by chief Times film critic Manohla Dargis, is worthy of genuine alarm. In it, an accepted “authority” sets out to claim that black is white, that May has been an outstanding film director when she hasn’t even been a good one. She relies on the ignorance of her readers to make this argument, because May’s films—she’s directed four–have been such flops that the odds of a readers having seen all of them are daunting. Worse, I have to assume that Dargis is doing this for political reasons. Either that, or she is so gender-biased that she can’t see straight.

The article’s existence in the pages of the Times tells us that even arts reporting is now polluted beyond trust and recognition by political agendas and propaganda. Moreover, its goal is to intentionally misinform the public.

Let me note here that I admire the talents of Elaine May, whom I first encountered when she and her long-time partner Mike Nichols did a series of beer commercials tha ran during Red Sox games. She  was a deft sketch comedian, and also a sharp writer of satire. My theater company in Arlington, Virginia produced her most successful play, the Off-Broadway hit “Adaptation.” However, after the team of Nichols and May broke up, Nichols became on of the most critically-acclaimed and successful film directors of the last 50 years, and May didn’t. Dargis hints that sexism and discrimination were the culprits, because May was also a “brilliant” director. This is worse than claiming the Hillary was the most qualified candidate in history. It’s more like saying that she ran one of the best campaigns in history. I’ve watched all four of Elaine May’s movies.  Can’t fool me! Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media