Category Archives: Marketing and Advertising

No, This Isn’t A Frivolous Lawsuit, Just A Really Dumb One That Makes People Hate Lawyers Even More Than They Already Do

In fact, it makes me hate lawyers, and just about everyone I know is a lawyer, including me. I am drowning in self-loathing.

Now pay attention. A class-action lawsuit filed in Fort Lauderdale federal court this month is based on the claims of Cynthia Kissne, and Leonard Werner that they shouldn’t have to pay for the cheese on their McDonald Quarter Pounders if the cheese is removed at their request. The lawsuit, filed by Andrew Lavin of the Miami-based Lavin Law Group, asks for 5 million dollars in damages for this injustice. The logic of the suit is that McDonald’s used to distinguish between the Quarter Pounder and the Quarter Pounder with Cheese, and charged a bit more for the latter. Now, however, the only version sold in the stores is the cheese version, but it is just called a Quarter Pounder. If you don’t want cheese, you say, “no cheese,” but you still pay the same price. The Horror. This is not an unusual practice in the industry, for obvious reasons. Burger King advertised that you could customize your Whopper, but removing stuff didn’t mean you paid less. Oddly, nobody sued. Continue reading

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Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/27/18: On Bullies, Dogs, Signs, Cheats, And The Worst WWII Movie Ever

Good morning.

1. BOY, is that a lazy and inaccurate movie! As usual, they are playing every war movie they can dig up on Memorial Day weekend. I just watched the tail end of  “The Battle of the Bulge,” the 1965 Cinerama Hollywood portrayal of the decisive 1944 WWII battle in the Ardennes that reminds me of my dad, buried in Arlington National Cemetery, more than any other war film, and not because it was in that battle that my father earned his Silver Star. No, the film reminds me of Dad because he hated it so much. He regarded it as an insult to the veterans who fought the battle, and  a cretinous distortion of history in every way. His name for the movie was “How Henry Fonda Won the Second World War.”

The most striking of the endless misrepresentations in the movie is the absence of snow. The battle’s major feature was that it was fought in freezing, winter conditions, on snow covered terrain sometimes up to two feet deep. Some battle scenes are shown being fought on flat and bare plain, about as distinct from the mountainous, thickly forested territory where the actual battle took place as one could imagine. My father also started complaining during the film, loudly, about the use of modern American tanks to portray the German Tiger tanks.

Former President (and, of course, former Allied Commander) Eisenhower came out of retirement to hold a press conference to denouncing “The Battle of the Bulge” for  its gross  inaccuracies. THAT made my father happy.

2. Funny! But…no, it’s just funny. Scott Campbell, the owner of the Pell City Fitness gym in Pell City, Alabama,  put up a sign that says “tired of being fat and ugly? Just be ugly!” City officials told him to take down the sign or be fined, saying it is too big and needs a permit, but other business owners told the local news media that they have never heard of the ordinance the city is citing being enforced. The suspicion is that Campbell is being singled out because some have complained that the sign is “insensitive.” No, it’s just funny…

This is the ethical problem with excessively restrictive laws, rules and regulations that are not consistently enforced. Prosecution can be used for ideological and partisan discrimination. Not only is the sign benign, it is not even original: that same language is on fitness company ads all over the country. So far, it looks like the community is supporting Pell and that the city will back down, but this is Alabama. Call me pessimistic, but I doubt the sign would be allowed to stand for long in Washington State or California if an ordinance could be found to justify pulling it down.

The First Amendment dies in increments. Continue reading

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Sun Day Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/20/2018: Bright Above, Dark Below…

What IS that thing???

Good Morning!

There is this big, white-yellow, ball-thing in the sky overhead..not sure what it is.

The sky is also this weird bluish color.

Very strange…

1. The news media actually calls this creep a moral authority...which itself is significant. On his late-night talk show, Jimmy Kimmel said, “President Trump said he is with the people of Santa Fe in this tragic hour and will be with them forever—except for when it comes time to do something. Then he will not be with them.”

Trump’s post shooting statement was standard issue President-after-tragedy stuff, neither unusual nor objectionable to anyone not seeking to manufacture offense.  “We grieve for the terrible loss of life, and send our support and love to everyone affected by this absolutely horrific attack,” Trump said. “To the students, families, teachers, and personnel at Santa Fe High: We’re with you in this tragic hour, and we will be with you forever. My administration is determined to do everything in our power to protect our students, secure our schools, and to keep weapons out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves and to others. Everyone must work together, at every level of government, to keep our children safe.”

Kimmel :“They care more about the support of the NRA than they do about children.”

Kimmel’s statement is signature significance for an ignorant, unscrupulous asshole, and one who either has never read the Constitution, or doesn’t care what it says. There is absolutely nothing that the President of The United States, (or “they”) could or can do to prevent school shootings like the one in Santa Fe.

2. Who wants to join me in a sit-in at Starbucks? It will have to be a lily-white sit-in to make the point. Starbucks’ desperate, pandering, virtue-signaling, deranged new policy that allows anyone to sit in its stores or use its restrooms, even if they don’t buy anything, immediately guarantees the Tragedy of the Commons, which the silly, social justice warrior-run company apparently felt was a preferable disaster than to be accused of racism for enforcing a reasonable and necessary rule when blacks were the violators. If all the tables and space are taken up by non-customers, loiterers and free-riders, Starbucks can’t do any business, but it is literally saying, “We don’t care!” Why? Well, even if they ordered white freeloaders to leave, every time the freeloader was black, Hispanic, gay or in a wheelchair, a YouTube video would appear, go viral, and Starbucks would be tarred as corporate bigots. The police could try this same strategy: announce that officers will not fire on any individual resisting arrest or threatening an officer’s life. I’m sure that will work out well too.

3.  Yes, this was the quality of the people running the country during the Obama years. Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan argued on Twitter that parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws. He really did. Let’s have a contest: List how many ways this suggestion is unethical. I’ll get you started: it is irredeemably stupid, and thus an abuse of influence, making the naive and easily gulled believe that because this man ran the Education Department, he is a respectable authority whose bone-headed utterances can be trusted and taken seriously. (I see at least five more.) Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/16/ 2018: The Fake Moussaka Edition

Gooood morning Pyongyang!

…and everyone else too, of course.

1. ” Winning.” How many in “the resistance” and the news media are rooting, secretly or openly, for the North Korean talks to fail? Based on the tone of some premature gloating on social media and news reports after North Korea threatened to pull out of talks, I think “many” is the fair answer. Other recent headlines and news stories also point in this direction, like “Improving Economy A Problem For Democrats.” (No, an improving economy is not a problem for any Americans, unless they care about their own power more than their country.)

This is especially revolting ( and hypocritical) from the same people who 1)  falsely attributed Rush Limbaugh’s indefensible statement in 2008 that he wanted Obama to fail to the entire Republican Party (I condemned Limbaugh’s statement at the time) and 2) used it to feed the narrative that conservatives who opposed that Presidents left-ward policies were doing so out of personal and racial antipathy.

A President’s success–as in “being proved correct” or “getting lucky,” it doesn’t matter which— makes it more likely that policies you don’t like will be continued? Suck it up and cheer like the good citizen you are. His accomplishments make it less likely that your favorite politician will get elected? Cry me a river: your duty is to care about your nation and fellow citizens first. That you are on record that—okay, still think that—this Presdent has crap for brains and you wouldn’t shake his hand without gloves makes you look less wise and prescient than you would have if he fell flat on his face? Cue the world’s smallest violin, have some integrity, and grow the hell up.

2. Ken Burns ethics, and FDR. In this post earlier this year, I scored documentary whiz Ken Burns for the hagiography of Franklin Roosevelt that marred his otherwise superb “The Roosevelts.”  “The smoking gun for me,” I wrote, “is that despite ten and half hours, Burns somehow never found time to highlight FDR’s internment of American citizens solely because they were of Japanese ancestry. The civil rights outrage is only alluded to in passing, as part of a list from a biographer preceding the nostrum, ‘All great leaders make mistakes.’” That critique stands, but it is slightly unfair, I subsequently discovered. Burns covered the internment of Japanese Americans extensively in an earlier, also excellent, PBS series, 2007′ s “The War.”  Even that section, however, avoided laying proper accountability for the debacle at President Roosevelt’s feet.  I watched the documentary over the past two days, and the deceit is really extraordinary.  The narration keeps referring to Executive Order 9066, without specifically saying whose order it was, like the thing appeared on its own. Here, Ken, let me fix this for you:

President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the imprisonment of tens of thousands of American citizens of Japanese ancestry and resident aliens from Japan in concentration camps (“internment” is a euphemism and a cover word, like “pro-choice”) with towers and guards with loaded rifles. Though some German-Americans and Italian-Americans were imprisoned as well, far fewer were taken. The risk they posed was not considered as great, because they were white.’

Executive Order 9066 wasn’t rescinded, incredibly, until February 19, 1976, by President Ford. The Supreme Court decision upholding the order, Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944),has never been overturned. In that case’s 6–3 decision approving the abrogation of American citizen rights with fear as the justification, six of FDR’s eight appointees—you know, the liberals—  sided with Roosevelt, and against the Bill of Rights. Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Month: New Mexico Congressional Candidate Pat Davis (Guess What Party!)

“Fuck the NRA!

—-Albuquerque City Council member Pat Davis, in a TV ad promoting his candidacy for Congress in the upcoming Democratic Party primary.

Nice.

That’s what we really need more of in the government: more incivility, vulgarity, cretinous rhetoric, and hate-mongering. Go Pat!

I suppose Davis is taking his cues from potty mouth DNC chair Tom Perez and putative Presidential candidate and California Senator Kamala Harris, both of whom have decided to jettison dignity and professionalism in pursuit of the rapidly devolving progressive base. These people are all ethics corrupters. I don’t care who they say to fuck, or what. If this their idea of leadership, they are a disgrace to the nation and whatever office they seek.

Of course Davis’s message is idiotic, regardless of his terminology. He says that the NRA’s ” pro-gun policies have resulted in dead children, dead mothers and dead fathers.”  If politicians like Davis want to repeal the right of citizens to own guns, then let them have the honesty and integrity to say so. Blaming the organization that is an advocate for the Second Amendment for crimes committed by those who abuse the right is intentionally dishonest as well as cowardly,  like blaming the ACLU for the proliferation of lowest common denominator demagogues who think “Fuck the NRA” is responsible political discourse and not merely the equivalent of a primal scream.

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Google And The Bail Bonds: When Virtue-Signaling Goes Horribly Wrong

..or, in the alternative, go ahead and BE evil, but make sure you’re pretending to be progressive while you’re doing it.

“With great power comes great responsibility not to be reckless and stupid.”

Google recently announced this policy change. See if you can spot what is wrong with it: I shouted, “What???” pretty much through the second paragraph.

At Google, we take seriously our responsibility to help create and sustain an advertising ecosystem that works for everyone. Our ads are meant to connect users with relevant businesses, products and services, and we have strict policies to keep misleading or harmful ads off of our platforms—in fact, we removed 3.2 billion bad ads last year alone. Today, we’re announcing a new policy to prohibit ads that promote bail bond services from our platforms. Studies show that for-profit bail bond providers make most of their revenue from communities of color and low income neighborhoods when they are at their most vulnerable, including through opaque financing offers that can keep people in debt for months or years. We made this decision based on our commitment to protect our users from deceptive or harmful products, but the issue of bail bond reform has drawn support from a wide range of groups and organizations who have shared their work and perspectives with us, including the Essie Justice Group, Koch Industries, Color of Change and many civil and human rights organizations who have worked on the reform of our criminal justice system for many years. According to Gina Clayton, executive director of the Essie Justice Group, “This is the largest step any corporation has taken on behalf of the millions of women who have loved ones in jails across this country. Google’s new policy is a call to action for all those in the private sector who profit off of mass incarceration. It is time to say ‘no more.’” Enforcement of this policy will begin in July 2018. This policy change is part of our ongoing efforts to protect users on our platforms.

Maybe this isn’t as stupid as it appears. Maybe Google is trying to protect its users by ensuring that potential predators accused of crime rot in jail while they are awaiting for trial because they don’t have access to bail.  Now that would be sinister and cruel, but not idiotic. Maybe? Perhaps?

No, this is just idiotic.

Prof. Alex Tabarrok, the Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics at the Mercatus Center and a professor of economics at George Mason University, explains:

Bail bonds are a legal service. Indeed, they are a necessary service for the legal system to function. It’s not surprising that bail bonds are used in communities of color and low income neighborhoods because it is in those neighborhoods that people most need to raise bail. We need not debate whether that is due to greater rates of crime or greater discrimination or both. Whatever the cause, preventing advertising doesn’t reduce the need to pay bail it simply makes it harder to find a lender. Restrictions on advertising in the bail industry, as elsewhere, are also likely to reduce competition and raise prices. Both of these effects mean that more people will find themselves in jail for longer.

And may I add, with respect, “Duh.” You don’t begin reforming the bail system by making it harder for people who need bail to get it….that is, you don’t do that unless you have a cranial vacuum.  Moreover, Prof. Tabbarrak has the same message based on his experience with bail bond companies as I did when I had criminal defendants as clients—and when I have had to help family members and friend deal with the bail system: Continue reading

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Unethical Website Of The Month: The Student Loan Report

Drew Cloud is known as a journalist who specializes in student-loan debt issues.  He has been quoted extensively  in  The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and CNBC, as well as by blogs and websites that cover student debt developments.  Cloud founded The Student Loan Report, an “independent, authoritative news outlet” covering all things student loans, “after he had difficulty finding the most recent student loan news and information all in one place.”

This week, the Chronicle of Higher Education revealed that there is no such person, and that the website was stealth marketing tool by a loan financing company, LendEDU.

“After The Chronicle spent more than a week trying to verify Cloud’s existence, the company that owns The Student Loan Report confirmed that Cloud was fake. “Drew Cloud is a pseudonym that a diverse group of authors at Student Loan Report, LLC use to share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face with funding their education,” wrote Nate Matherson, CEO of

After The Chronicle spent more than a week trying to verify Cloud’s existence, the company that owns The Student Loan Report confirmed that Cloud was fake. “Drew Cloud is a pseudonym that a diverse group of authors at Student Loan Report, LLC use to share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face with funding their education,” wrote Nate Matherson, CEO of LendEDU.

Before that admission, however, Cloud had corresponded at length with many journalists, pitching them stories and offering email interviews, many of which were published. When The Chronicle attempted to contact him through the address last week, Cloud said he was traveling and had limited access to his account. He didn’t respond to additional inquiries.

And on Monday, as The Chronicle continued to seek comment, Cloud suddenly evaporated. His once-prominent placement on The Student Loan Report had been removed. His bylines were replaced with “SLR Editor.” Matherson confirmed on Tuesday that Cloud was an invention.

Pressed on whether he regretted deceiving news organizations with a fake source, Matherson said Cloud “was created as a way to connect with our readers (ex. people struggling to repay student debt) and give us the technical ability to post content to the WordPress website.”

Two questions:

>Why would anyone trust a finance company that thinks this kind of dishonesty is acceptable conduct?

>And what does this tell us about the diligence, professionalism and trustworthiness of journalists, who would present as an expert an imaginary person who shills for a loan firm?

(That’s a rhetorical question.)

___________________________

Graphic: My informator

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