Ethics Quiz: Positive Devlopment Or Slippery Slope?

This ad will run on the NBC Golden Globes Award broadcast:

A similar commercial had previously been rejected by ABC.

Cowabunga! Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:.

Is presenting this commercial on a prime time broadcast network a positive development for society?

Or, in the alternative, is it feminist grandstanding by NBC? Will it inevitably lead to graphic male enhancement ads?  If women can be topless in this commercial, on what basis will anyone be able to argue that breast-bearing shouldn’t be routine in entertainment programming?

Quasi-Apology Of The Month: Attorney John Morgan

Screen_Shot_2021_02_24_at_2.35.38_PM.6036aadd5594c

I’m not sure where this falls on the Ethic Alarms Apology Scale.

I admit that I’m never heard of John Morgan, but I am told he is a well known attorney in Orlando, Florida, and like so many trial attorneys, a character. Morgan keeps his name before the public in part by posting self-made videos on Twitter posted ( #Johnin60secs ) videos where he gives spontaneous running commentaries on life in general in the conversational and engaging style that makes him a successful litigator. It is a clever marketing approach: I’m pretty sure it gets around Florida’s strict lawyer advertising rules. For example, in one video he described his head as being “ the size of a watermelon,” which is obviously hyperbole. In a legal advertising, a lawyer can’t me make any false or misleading statement or one that can’t be verified.

But I digress. There is a danger any time anyone, no matter how glib or accustomed to speaking off-script, does so for public consumption, as the late Rush Limbaugh, acres of crushed”shockjocks,” Michael Richards and I, among others, can attest. And so it was that Morgan, in one of his videos, was riffing on fast food franchises, and said about Arby’s,

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/10/2021: Happy Birthday, Jimmy! [UPDATED!]

Jimmy Durante was born on this day in 1893 (“The Snozzola” died 87 years later, in 1980. He’s a semi-regular around here, because it’s Jimmy’s famous line from “Jumbo” (1935) (“Elephant? What elephant?”) that describes the Ethics Alarms offense of resolutely refusing to admit an ethic breach that cannot be denied.

My father was a lifetime admirer of Jimmy, and eventually I joined him: we had all of his albums, and as a stage director I often played his renditions of a ballad (like “I’ll Be Seeing You”) for singers to demonstrate the importance of phrasing and expression, both of which Durante excelled at despite having a distinctive but hardly euphonious voice. He also impressed me with his professionalism. When my father was handling marketing for a Boston banking association, he helped arrange for his organization to be one of the sponsors of Jimmy’s show, which came to the Prudential Center in Boston. The Snozz was over 70 then, but he always seemed ageless, and his energy in person was even more impressive than it was on TV (in fact, Durante had learned to tone down his enthusiasm on the small screen, because it became exhausting to watch). He made his entrance in the stage show rushing on from the wings while singing and flinging his fedora to the back of the stage, where it landed neatly on the head of his band’s bald drummer. My father managed to get our family backstage (though Jimmy was not available because he had a charity appearance right after the show) and I talked to the drummer. I asked him how often Jimmy landed the hat on his head. He replied, “He’s never missed.” He went on to say that his boss rehearsed that bit for hours every week and before every show. It was a split second grace note, but Jimmy insisted on doing it perfectly.

Durante had a stroke after a show when he was almost 80, and never fully recovered. My father, who was uncomfortable expressing emotion face to face but wrote beautiful and touching letters (I hated getting them because they always made me cry; still do), wrote Jimmy, who was then bedridden, a letter thanking him his long entertainment career and explained what his work had meant to Dad. Jimmy’s wife Margie wrote back to say she had read the letter to Jimmy, and he had mouthed the words “Thank you.”

1. Politicizing everything. UCLA’s star gymnast Nia Dennis is getting accolades for turning her floor routine into an ” exuberant and powerful celebration” of black culture. Says Slate, “This routine has everything. Dennis pays tribute to Colin Kaepernick (she kneels!), Tommie Smith and John Carlos (she raises a fist!), and Kamala Harris (like a soror, she strolls and she steps!).” That’s funny: the only way I would recognize a reference to Harris would be if Nia cackled and blathered nonsense. The routine is more dance than gymnastics, but it’s a diabolical gimmick (don’t blame Nia: she has a woke choreographer, Bjoya Das). Any judge that doesn’t give the routine the highest marks knows he or she will be cancelled as a virulent racist.

2. Then there’s the Jeep ad…I’m not going to bother with surveying the ethically dubious Super Bowl ads this year, since they all are unethical for supporting the NFL’s ongoing negligent homicide, but I can’t let Bruce Springsteen’s obnoxious Jeep ad pass. Here it is:

[Whoa! That video was pulled from YouTube shortly after I posted it! I also can’t find a link that has it.]

“To The ReUnited States Of America.” Right. Springsteen is hardly an honest advocate for “the middle,” as a vocal Democrat and anti-Trump shill. The country is supposedly “re-united” because a Democrat is President. The entire theme of the ad is a cynical exercise in Rationalization #64, “It isn’t what it is.” Donald Trump was “divisive” because Democrats decided to paint him as such. Enforcing immigration laws shouldn’t be divisive. Withdrawing from an unapproved treaty with no actual impact shouldn’t be divisive. Calling the biased news media what it is shouldn’t be divisive. Now, calling half the country racists , Nazis and morons IS divisive, and the party that just won control of Congress and the White House has been doing that for four years. Surveys show that that half of the country is more angry, alienated and distrustful than ever, and for some very good reasons, like the current unconstitutional impeachment trial. Got it, Bruce: when Republicans win a national election it’s divisive,and when Democrats win one, it’s unifying.

Update: Apparently Jeep has received so many complaints about Bruce that they decided it was a major gaffe. How can this happen? It happens when the entire company and its ad agency is so overloaded with Democrats and progressives that they can’t see what’s right in front of them.

Continue reading

A Harmonica, Mickey Mantle’s Practical Joke, And Moral Luck

Linz harmonica

Phil Linz died last month, and I meant to write about it but did not. He was a baseball player that only baseball fans remembered, and fewer as time went on, yet he was deemed worthy of a long obituary in the New York Times, among other publications. There is a reason, and the reason ultimately reduces to a favorite topic here, moral luck. That, of course, isn’t mentioned in any of the obituaries.

I saw Phil Linz play many times. His New York Yankees team was the perennial pennant winner that dominated the American League from 1961 to 1964; Linz joined the team in 1962. By current day standards he was a terrible hitter, but he could play many positions well, and those Yankee teams were hardly short of offense. Still, utility infielders with light bats are usually fungible and forgettable. Baseball Reference.com lists the most similar players to Linz as Robert Andino, Augie Ojeda, Manny Alexander, Clyde Beck and Rusty Peters.

Unlike any of those nonentities, however, Linz had a moment of fame. On the afternoon of Aug. 20, 1964, the Yankees were riding the team bus to O’Hare after losing four straight games to the White Sox. Yankee manager Yogi Berra, seated in the front, was in a foul mood: the team was looking like it might finish in second place, something just not tolerated by Yankee management. Linz had recently bought a harmonica, and was practicing in the back of the bus by playing “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” over and over. Yogi couldn’t stand it, and shouted from his seat to Linz, “Shove that harmonica up!” Between the harmonica and the other noise, Linz didn’t know what his manager had said, so he asked the teammate sitting by him, Mickey Mantle, what Yogi had shouted. The Mick, who was a practical joke aficionado, told him that Berra wanted him to play louder. So Linz did.

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/23/2020: Remembering Private Slovik

149326-The-Day-Before-Christmas-Eve

1. President Trump says will veto the so-called “stimulus bill.” He should. A nice, articulate Presidential veto statement about what’s wrong with a pork-loaded goody bag that will increase the National Debt even deeper into the red zone would be nice, but he hasn’t come up with more than a couple a nice, articulate statements in four years, so I rate the likelihood as slim.

But there is no downside at all of a Trump veto, even if Mitch McConnell gets the Senate to over-ride it. As Ethics Alarms commenter Humble Talent pointed out two days ago, the thing is a monstrosity and wildly irresponsible, never mind that virtually none of the elected representatives who voted for it knew what they were voting for.

Meanwhile, let’s give an Ethics Hero call-out to Rand Paul, who anyone could have predicted would have a head explosion over this bill, and he did not disappoint. Senator Paul excoriated his fellow Republican senators who voted for the multitrillion-dollar relief package and omnibus spending bills, saying that they abandoned their “soul” and their “fiscal integrity” for political expediency. Paul called the bill an example of the fantasy that “government can spend whatever it wants without the need to tax.” How can anyone seriously dispute his logic when he said,

“If free money was the answer … if money really did grow on trees, why not give more free money? Why not give it out all the time? Why stop at $600 a person? Why not $1,000? Why not $2,000? Maybe these new Free-Money Republicans should join the Everybody-Gets-A-Guaranteed-Income Caucus? Why not $20,000 a year for everybody, why not $30,000? If we can print out money with impunity, why not do it?”

In addition to Paul, only Republicans Rick Scott (FL), Marsha Blackburn (TN), Mike Lee (UT), Ron Johnson (WI) and Ted Cruz (TX) had the courage and integrity to vote “NO.”

Yahoo News, incidentally, really and truly has a story up titled, “Did Congress get it right with the new coronavirus stimulus?” It really does. Note that it doesn’t begin to cover all the junk that’s stuffed in the bill, because the reporter obviously hasn’t read the whole bill either.

Continue reading

Christmas Week Ethics Warm-Up, 12/21/2020: Clogging, Lying And Spinning

fireplace Xmas

Has anyone come up with a convincing theory about why there are more outside home decorations and Christmas lights than we have seen in a long while, if ever? Another trend, at least in my neighborhood: a welcome return to multi-colored lights after the (cold, boring) white lights appeared to take over years ago.

1. I finally figured out what’s been bothering me about that GEICO “clogging” ad. It’s racist. (In addition to being, you know, stupid.) I guess GEICO thinks that as long as it sticks an inter-racial couple in their ads, nobody will notice (Though according to Madison Avenue, almost every couple in America is inter-racial.)

Here’s the ad, if somehow you’ve missed it:

Ah, those weird white people and their weird activities! Now imagine if the noisy family upstairs was an African-American clan practicing their break-dancing. Or doing authentic African tribal dances.

2. Boy, those college administrators are quick. CNN was reporting this morning that a handful of colleges are finally reducing tuition. “A Princeton spokesperson said that the Covid conditions have “diminished the college experience.” Really? Not being on or near a campus, being isolated from classmates, not participating in clubs, social activities and late night “bull sessions,” not to mention only seeing one’s professors through a screen, isn’t as valuable as actually attending college?

I’m only speaking for myself, but I would have regarded my own college experience as little better than a correspondence course under today’s conditions. All colleges were ethically obligated to cut tuition substantially. They got away with not doing so because they are selling degrees, not education or personal growth.

3. With all the legitimate questions being raised about Hunter Biden, his apparent influence peddling abroad, and what his father’s role was, the Biden team allows him to be interviewed by…Stephen Colbert. Are even the most impenetrable Biden supporters not troubled by this? If not, do they even have ethics alarms any more? Even with a journalistic establishment filled with shameless pro-Democrat hacks, the toughest interview the President Elect was allowed to brave was by a comedian?

And not just any comedian, but a comedian who dedicated himself to anti-Trump, anti-Republican propganda for four years. Thus here is the type of question Joe had to answer—one that was phrased with the assumption that the Hunter Biden laptop matter was just another conservative conspiracy theory:

Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “’Miracle On 34th Street,’An Ethics Companion,Chapter 3: Kris Joins The Macy’s Family!” And An Explanatory Note On The Holiday Movie Ethics Guides

Grinch

As promised, I am finally completing the “’Miracle On 34th Street’ Ethics Companion,” which I began a year ago and took so long to complete that I ran out of 2019 holidays. As a refresher, I am also, in this post, presenting a Comment of the Day on Chapter Three from all the way back to January 1 of 2020, an excellent analysis of a feature of the story that I missed, by A.M. Golden.

Yesterday’s latest installment attracted some flack from commenters. “Wow, what a Christmas downer, Jack. Channeling Scrooge or the Grinch?” wrote one. “I suspect we could poke holes in any film with respect to morality and ethics if we wanted to.” On the last observation,

  • I want to, because it’s my job
  • Movies are excellent for tuning up ethics alarms
  • Christmas movies, which are seen by children, have a special obligation to teach the right lessons, both prominently and subliminally, and
  • No, in fact you can’t poke holes in any film, at least not fairly.

I suspect this will be the last of the traditional holiday film fare to get the ethics work-over, along with “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “White Christmas,” which will have the annual Christmas season re-posting with updated text up today. The three classics were chosen for different reasons. IAWL was designed as an ethics movie with very important and profound ethics messages, and the more one examines it, the more there is to think about. Nonetheless, its cheats on the way to its most important messages are pretty flagrant—justified, but flagrant—and deserve to be flagged. “White Christmas” is different: it’s a musical, for one thing, and musicals never make sense (why are these people singing?), but it also is story about ethics, so it is fair to examine it on that basis. Moreover, one doesn’t need to poke holes in it, the story is full of ethics holes. None of them bothered me before I became a full time ethicist: Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye are two of my favorite entertainers of all time, and the ending still moistens my eye. But the movie is almost impossible to watch now, with my ethics alarms on, and even with my brain on. I had an obligation to dissect it. As for “Miracle,” I accept it as a classic, but the story was constructed to reach the climactic trial gimmick, and scant attention was given to consistency or playing fair. Moreover, I am a legal ethics expert, after all. You can’t honestly expect me not to analyze a trial like that.

You will never see me try to “poke holes” in the greatest of all Christmas stories, and arguably the best ethics story period, “A Christmas Carol,” because it is pretty close to perfect. (AND I now see that the link to the text on the home page has gone bad; I’ll be fixing it ASAP!). “A Christmas Story” is off my list because it is seen through a child’s eyes, and ethics has nothing to do with it. Critiquing “Holiday Inn” would be like shooting ethics eels in a barrel, but it’s just not worth the trouble.

There are also holiday films and ethics films that are written superbly, and have few if any ethics holes to find. Among these are “Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo” (most of the Pixar movies, in fact), “Mary Poppins,” “The Sound of Music,” “Babe,” and even “Groundhog Day.” I’m not the Grinch, but if you set out to make an ethics movie, you had better pay attention to ethics.

Now here almost a year late, is A.M. Golden’s Comment of the Day on the post, “’Miracle On 34th Street,’An Ethics Companion, Continued…Chapter 3: Kris Joins The Macy’s Family!”

Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Insomnia, 11/29/2020: No Wonder I Can’t Sleep!

1. I hate 99.9% of the petitions offered at Change.org. but I’m signing this one . It reads,

Professor Dorian Abbot, a tenured faculty member in the Department of Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago, has recently come under attack from students and postdocs for a series of videos he posted to YouTube expressing his reservations about the way Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts have been discussed and implemented on campus.
In these videos Prof. Abbot raised several misgivings about DEI efforts and expressed concern that a climate of fear is “making it extremely difficult for people with dissenting viewpoints to voice their opinions.” The slides for each of Prof. Abbot’s videos can be found here, and his own account of events and his opinions can be found here. Nowhere in these materials does Prof. Abbot offer any opinion that a reasonable observer would consider to be hateful or otherwise offensive.

Shortly after uploading the videos, Abbot’s concerns were confirmed when 58 students and postdocs of the Department of Geophysical Sciences, and 71 other graduate students and postdocs from other University of Chicago departments, posted a letter containing the claim that Prof. Abbot’s opinions “threaten the safety and belonging of all underrepresented groups within the [Geophysical Sciences] department” and “represent an aggressive act” towards research and teaching communities.

[Pointer: Pennagain]

2. “Hello, Newman...” According to the Postal Service’s own records, more than 150,000 mail-in ballots were not delivered in time for them to be counted on election day. This is, of course, as I and anyone else who was paying attention expected and predicted, because the USPS is undependable

I am surprised that the number was that low.

Continue reading

Nestlé Clarifies Its Priorities, Or, In The Alternative, Is Run By Incompetents And Morons

Red Ripper

Now that the election is (probably) settled, we can get back to the business of flagrant corporate virtue signaling, groveling to the trace-bullies, and submitting to the political correctness police. Joe Biden was right! His election can restore normalcy to the world!

Nestlé, which owns candy giant Allen’s, will rename the candy brand known as “Red Skins” because because, you know, there’s that racist potato. Its crack marketing department, after doing its due-diligence, checking trademarks, employing focus groups and doing all the things we expect of international corporations, announced that the new, child-friendly, politically correct name of the candy would be “Red Ripper.”

The Washington, D.C. football team opted to change its popular, harmless nickname from “Redskins” to the far catchier moniker “Washington Football Team” as a desperate effort to join the George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck. You have to admit, “Washington Football Team” wouldn’t be a good name for a candy, but was it really a good idea for Nestlé to honor this guy…

-red-ripper-Andrei-Chikatilo

Andrei Chikatilo (that’s a more recent photo above the post) who sexually assaulted, murdered, and mutilated at least 52 women and children between 1978 and 1990 in Russia, the Ukraine, and Uzbek? He’s popularly known as “The Red Ripper”…

Continue reading

Business Ethics: Tales Of Two Partisan Dunces

grocery Discount

1. The Trump Supporter: Jose Colon, owner of the Fresh Food Supermarket in Oakdale, New York,

Mr. Colon, a legal immigrant  from the Dominican Republic and a naturalized citizen, advertised a discount for supporters of President Trump on the store’s Facebook page last week.

“Trump supporters get 20% off.  Mention at the cash register you are a Trump supporter to get discount. (Excludes beer),” it read, as you can see above.

The store was immediately inundated with threats and social media posts advocating a boycott. Colon says he’s puzzled. .“We’re supposed to live in a free country,” Colon told Fox News. “This is weird. It’s crazy…We live in a free country where we support democracy, where we can go both ways, we can support left, right — whatever you want. I decided to vote and support the best interest, I believe, for this country.”

He has responded by offering the same discount to Biden supporters, and is claiming that this was his intent all along, though he is a vocal supporter of the President.

Let me try to explain what this particular citizen doesn’t seem to understand about his free country. It’s not going to remain free if people and businesses withhold goods and services from citizens based on their political beliefs, just as it is destructive to discriminate based on other criteria. If you want to break the nation into armed camps, having special restaurants, bars, grocery stores and movie theaters restricted to those of certain political persuasions is an excellent way to do it. What Colon did was well-intentioned, but un-American. He deserved the blowback, though the social media messages quotes don’t demonstrate any more civic comprehension than the grocery store owner seems to posess: what’s wrong with the discount isn’t that “Orange Man Bad,” but that it is unethical  for businesses to reward customers for their political views, which is the same as penalizing other customers for their political views. What does Colon think he’s doing? Buying votes with his discount?

I wouldn’t organize a boycott against a store that did this, but I wouldn’t buy groceries there again.

Then Colon’s solution to this dilemma of his own making was to offer the same discount to Biden supporters, discriminating against those who want to vote for the Libertarian or Green Party candidates, or Kanye West. Or me. Wrong. This flunks the Golden Rule test, Kant’s Universality test, and simple utilitarianism. In short, it’s unethical, and there is no ethical or civic defense for what he did. To be fair, the conservative news sources I’ve checked on this story, like Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, don’t seem to comprehend the problem any more than Colon does.

Meanwhile, does anyone believe that Colon always intended to offer a 20% discount to both Trump and Biden supporters as he now says? This is another reason for amateurs to stay out of politics: the pros lie better.

Well, usually.

2. The Biden Supporter: David Barrett, CEO of the software company Expensify.

Continue reading