“We regret that this happened and have discussed it with Paragon, which secured the matchup and handles the majority of our high school event scheduling. They have ensured us that they will take steps to prevent this kind of situation from happening moving forward.”
What was “this kind of situation”? Oh, just a national sports network televising a high school football game between one of the the top teams in the nation and a fake team fielded by a fake high school. That’s all.
On Sunday, ESPN broadcast a high school football game between featuring Florida’s IMG Academy, one of the top rated teams in the country, and Ohio’s Bishop Sycamore, an obscure high school with a team nobody has written about or paid much attention to. ESPN had been assured by Bishop Sycamore—schools get compensated when their teams’ games are televised– that its football squad was stacked with top players. Uh, no. This was a primetime match-up on ESPN, but nobody there did any due diligence to check on the juggernaut IMG Academy’s competition. IMG won by the heart-pounding score of 58-0. The broadcasters were reduced to telling funny stories and expressing concern that the Bishop Sycamore players were at risk of serious injury.
This has been more ethics drama than I could stand every week; I sure hope the rest of the year isn’t like this. First the Superbowl is won by an NFL team whose fans do the tomahawk chop. Then the Iowa Caususes self-destruct in an orgy of incompetence and finger-pointing as the Democrats blame white people and Trump. Nancy Pelosi makes Joe “You lie!” Wilson look civil, the Left has a conniption over Rush Limbaugh being honored, the Senate acquits the President, and most notable of all, the Boston Red Sox named Alex Cora’s bench coach, Ron Roenicke, its new manager.
Since the Sox are under investigation for their own alleged cheating scandal, this was a fascinating choice. The team must have done its due diligence, questioning Cora, Roenicke and others to be 100% sure that Roenicke had no hand in whatever it was the Red Sox were doing to steal signs in 2018, if they were. If they didn’t, they are, to be blunt, morons with a death wish.
1. OK, I’m getting paranoid now, but what the heck is up with the new voice of Tony the Tiger? After decades of the startling bass of voice artist Thurl Ravenscroft growling “They’re GRRRRREAT!” (Ravenscoft is the one who sings “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch!” in “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”), Tony now sounds like an accountant. If they wanted to find a tiger-like voice, or even a Ravenscoft imitator, Kelloggs easily could have, just as Warner Bros. has been able to find passable (though inferior) replacements for Mel Blanc. Am I being conspiratorial to think this is more woke cultural indoctrination by Madison Avenue, with the kinder, gentler, wimpier Tony avoiding toxic male aggressiveness? In the new Life cereal commercials, you know, “Mikey” is now a girl.
2. “Yet” arrives. In a post a couple of days ago, I wrote that the Democrats and news media hadn’t blamed the President for the Iowa Caucus implosion “yet.” Long time commenter Neil Doerr helpfully passed this along:
Supporters of President Donald Trump inundated a hotline used by Iowa caucus precinct leaders to report their tallies, contributing to significant delays in the final tally, Iowa Democratic Party officials said….NBC News reported on Thursday that the party’s hotline number was repeatedly posted on the online message board 4chan as voting took place on Monday night. Its users, who are anonymous and have trolled and harassed the president’s political opponents, urged others to call in. “Uh oh how unfortunate it would be for a bunch of mischief makers to start clogging the lines,” one user wrote, according to NBC.
4Chan is a pro-trolling progressives group. It is wants to promote chaos, not Trump. The callers were anonymous; they cannot be called “Trump supporters” just because they wish the Democrats ill. (Nobody knows this mind set better than I.) Moreover, the phone lines appear to have been the least of the Iowa Democrats problems. The DNC has even called for a do-over, and it is beginning to look like there will never be definitive and reliable results. This is the fault of the Democratic Party. Nobody else.
Meanwhile, Nicole Fleetwood, a Rutgers American studies and Art History professor, tweeted on the Night They Tore The Caucus Down, “Watching the Iowa Caucus is a sickening display of the over-representation of whiteness.”
That’s a irremediably racist statement. If the country is going to get proactive about eliminating ideological poisoning in our institutions of higher learning, insisting on the removal of unapologetic racists from faculties is a modest but necessary start. Continue reading →
Sometimes I worry about Ann Althouse. She’s often one of the most perceptive and objective bloggers on law and politics, but when she leaves her zone, we get things like her recent dismissive assessment of screenwriter/novelist William Goldman upon the news of his death.
Althouse admits that she hasn’t seen many of Goldman’s films, and I presume that she hasn’t read his novels, either. Nonetheless, she writes, “Goldman seems to have been a competent, successful, mainstream writer, and good for him, but I have no sense of him as original, profound, or speaking to me.”
Let me enlighten her. (And by the way, how could he “speak to her” if she didn’t read his novels or watch his best films?) Goldman was one of the very best, cleverest and reliably excellent screenwriter of his time, and probably any time. Althouse cherry-picks an interview in which he said in part,
“[P]ay attention to the audience. The great thing about audiences is, I believe they react exactly the same around the world at the same places in movies. They laugh, and they scream, and they’re bored. And when they’re bored it’s the writer’s fault.”
Incredibly, Althouse uses this endorsement of lively writing, which Goldman was a master at, to minimize and condemn him. “And that’s the attitude about movies that has taken over in the last 40 years and why I’m not interested in movies anymore. This grand effort to preemptively stomp out all boredom bores me,” she writes, whatever THAT means. Goldman isn’t talking about explosions, sex scenes or CGI dinosaurs. He’s talking about stories that go somewhere, avoiding cliches, and making an audience want to watch and listen. My approach to play direction embodies exactly the same philosophy. I learned a lot about drama and comedy from Goldman’s films.Continue reading →
Perhaps more than any other field of endeavor, advertising depends on the Secret of the Cognitive Dissonance Scale. But the scale abused is a jealous and angry mistress, as Chrysler/ Fiat discovered when its Super Bowl for Ram Trucks turned into a public relations disaster.
It must have seemed so simple! Brainstorming about how to promote Ram Trucks while appealing to a divided the country during the iconic NFL game, after a year in which pro football in particular was torn by strife over players, mostly black, kneeling during the National Anthem to protest something or other, depending on which helmeted social justice warrior you asked, some rising, present-day Mad Man, cynical to the core, drew Dr. Festinger’s scale on a white board as he shouted, “Eureka!”
“It’s perfect!” the fuzzy cheeked, rising young advertising genius cried, marking the diagram with the red marker. “I know how we drag our truck up the scale!”
“Ram is a powerful truck and a symbol of toxic manhood, when everyone’s talking about how men, and especially white men, are the source of all that’s rotten in Denmark! Well, not Denmark, but here. You know what I mean. Anyway, for some of our clients we’ve been using little, scrawny, androgynous guys as spokesmen, like the geek Lou dreamed up for Petsmart.
He’s not scary, and you know he must be a Hillary voter. But come on: this dork probably drives a Smartcar. We can’t use someone like him to promote a truck. No, Fred, we can’t use a sexy female model, either, like we used to. Sexy models are now below zero on the scale. They’d pull our trucks DOWN. Oh, a lot of men would still secretly love this stuff like we used to do,
but now their girl friends or wives or daughters would glare at them, and getting flack from women in the family is LOW on the scale. So sex is out. Sorry.
Now, the Petsmart geek does have a dog with him. Dogs are high on the scale, as we all know: Ralph, you were the one came up the ad with the Golden Retriever driving the Subaru, right?
Gold! But come on: kids and dogs have been done to death in Super Bowl ads. There will probably be all sorts of cute dog ads during the Super Bowl; there always are. [ Actually, there weren’t…] So think: we want a man’s voice, a manly man, but one that doesn’t scream white male patriarchy or Harvey Weinstein. We want someone the fans of those National Anthem protests and Black Lives Matter will have high on their Cognitive Dissonance Scale, so associating Ram Trucks with him will yank the trucks right up. We also want someone the fans who were getting sick of political grandstanding when they wanted to watch a football game also admire, someone who knew how and why to protest. And, at the same time, we want Ram to look socially conscious—you know, “woke.”
One figure, and only one, will do all that, from a position so high on the scale that we can’t lose! Martin Luther King!Heck, all of those blue collar workers just got a day off because of the guy; it’s fresh on their minds. They love him! A day-off pulls MLK right up the scale himself!
And look: I did some googling, and found this from some speech he gave: “If you want to be important, wonderful. If you want to be recognized, wonderful. If you want to be great, wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness. … By giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great. … You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know the theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”
Great stuff, right? There’s “greatness: for the MAGA crowd, and “love,” which is Scale magic, and we can fill the ad with heartwarming scenes—with kids!
—all leading up to our Dodge Trucks theme, ‘Ram trucks are built to serve‘!”
The cheering in the meeting room was deafening.
Today, that once rising ad exec starts his new job at Taco Bell.
Martin Luther King didn’t pull Dodge Trucks up the scale. Cynical exploitation of a civil rights icon and turning a black martyr into Morgan Freeman’s competition as a rival pitch man (Morgan was doing Mountain Dew) is so low on the Cognitive Dissonance Scale that it pulled the product’s rating right through the floor.
This is rank incompetence. If you are going to try to exploit the image and words of a dead hero, at least learn something about him. At the time of his death, King was getting ready to make a push for socialist reforms, which meant attacking capitalism. You also should read the whole speech you are cherry picking from; you can bet someone else will. Here’s a section from that same speech:
“…we are so often taken by advertisers. You know, those gentlemen of massive verbal persuasion. And they have a way of saying things to you that kind of gets you into buying. In order to be a man of distinction, you must drink this whiskey. In order to make your neighbors envious, you must drive this type of car. In order to be lovely to love you must wear this kind of lipstick or this kind of perfume. And you know, before you know it, you’re just buying that stuff. … I got to drive this car because it’s something about this car that makes my car a little better than my neighbor’s car. … I am sad to say that the nation in which we live is the supreme culprit. And I’m going to continue to say it to America.”
This means that using King’s voice and words to appear to endorse a truck ad seen by millions is a lie.
The King family’s greed and poor stewardship of King’s image also shares some of the blame for the fiasco. The King Center quickly went on Twitter to say that neither the organization nor the Rev. Bernice King, one of Dr. King’s daughters, was responsible for approving the offensive Super Bowl commercial. That’s not exactly true. Eric D. Tidwell, the managing director of Intellectual Properties Management, the licenser for the estate, said that Ram, as it must, came to them for permission to use King’s name, voice and words. “Once the final creative was presented for approval, it was reviewed to ensure it met our standard integrity clearances,” he said in a statement. “We found that the overall message of the ad embodied Dr. King’s philosophy that true greatness is achieved by serving others.”
Obviously the King family did not take proper steps to ensure that those who handle the family profit center depending on commercial uses of Dr. King’s legacy understand the difference between embodying Dr. King’s philosophy and cynically distorting it to sell stuff. Intellectual Properties Management is paid to take the PR hit, but I’d be willing to bet that such a high profile use of King was approved by the family itself. After all, King isn’t pulled down the scale by a foolish commercial. The controversy might even help King’s image, by sending people to read the speech. Maybe the King family knew the commercial would burn Ram, but was willing to take their fee and watch the fun, as the Cognitive Dissonance Scale wreaked its terrible vengeance on those who would abuse its power.
I had noticed last week that several supposedly respectable websites I check on had a news link that claimed that Michael Douglas had died. It was so pervasive I googled the news. Nope. Completely false. Total clickbait and a lie. Still, those fake headlines stayed up for days.
On The Daily Beast right now, looking exactly like one of the left-leaning news aggregator’s features, is a story headlined “Rush in Total Ruins.” Then we have the revelation that Facebook profited from accepting links to false stories, paid for by Russian organizations seeking to undermine public faith and trust in democratic institutions. Facebook also has delivered to my page death hoaxes involving Clint Eastwood, Tiger Woods, Diana Ross, Raquel Welch, and Brad Pitt among others. Many of these are phishing schemes.
Websites that claim to be trustworthy and credible cannot agree, for whatever price, to place lies under their banners. They have a duty of due diligence. If they breach it, they should be liable. Even if the law can’t punish them based on content, it should be able to punish such sites for aiding and abetting fraud for profit. How hard would it have been to check whether Michael Douglas was alive or not? How much time would it take to have an intern check to see whether Rush Limbaugh’s career is endangered? Newspapers have always excised discretion regarding ads, accepting their responsibility to keep their readers from being scammed. From what I am seeing now, websites accept no similar responsibility.
At a Hillary Clinton town hall yesterday in Haverford, Pennsylvania, a 15 year old girl was supposedly chosen at random to ask a question of her own devising. She delivered a carefully worded query that she read from a script:
“Hi Madam Secretary. I’m Brennan and I’m 15 years old. At my school, body image is a really big issue for girls my age. I see with my own eyes the damage Donald Trump does when he talks about women and how they look. As the first female president how would you undo some of that damage and help girls understand that they’re so much more than just what they look like?”
“I’m so proud of you for asking that question. You are right — my opponent has just taken this concern to a new level of difficulty and meanness. And, it’s shocking when women are called names and judged solely on the basis of physical attributes.* My opponent insulted Miss Universe. I mean, how do you get more acclaimed than that? But, it wasn’t good enough. So we can’t take any of this seriously any more. We need to laugh at it. We need to refute it. We need to ignore it. And we need to stand up to it.”
Investigation yielded the fact that that the “random” participant was child actress Brennan Leach Her father is Pennsylvania democratic State Senator Daylin Leach, a Hillary Clinton ally. Brennan has performed in her father’s campaign ads, and also in a commercial release: she has an entry in the Internet movie data base. Thus it was a lie to present the girl as a randomly chosen questioner, and it was a lie to create the illusion that Clinton was answering a spontaneous question.
Then the news media took the falsely presented episode and spread the lie far and wide as truth.
USA Today once was a mediocre newspaper that had one virtue: it was convenient for travelers, and sadly more useful for following non-locale news development than all but a handful of city publications. Now it isn’t a newspaper at all, but some hybrid monstrosity that is laid out like a website, has articles too short to be complete or helpful, and a product pandering to those with small vocabularies and attention spans that have been destroyed by the internet. But it’s often free, so on my latest (horrible, miserable, disaster-filled) seminar tour around Virginia, I had the pleasure of opening an edition and seeing what immediately struck me as the kind of feature no respectable journalistic enterprise would tolerate.
USA Today political writer Paul Singer thought newsworthy a ridiculous exercise that could only have sprung from a toxic mix of bias and silliness. It’s objective: let’s either prove that Republicans and conservatives are dumber than their Democrat, liberal counterparts, or prove that an accepted way of measuring intelligence is inaccurate for the purpose, because it doesn’t prove that Republicans are morons, and we all know they are. The feature was called “Democrats crush Republicans in grammar; Chafee on top.”
This is yet another self-rebutting exercise, as proven by the headline. Lincoln Chafee is a well-established boob, as they will tell you, if you ask, in his home base of Rhode Island. The man announced his Presidential run citing his primary cause as getting the U.S. to adopt the metric system. This immediately places him in the long and amusing line of wacko candidates, including…
Homer Aubrey Tomlinson, who was a New York City preacher that ran for the presidency under the banner of the Theocratic Party in five elections, from 1952 until his death in 1968. He wanted to replace taxation with tithing and promised to create a new cabinet post: Secretary of Righteousness. Later, Tomlinson declared himself King of the World and staged coronation ceremonies in 101 different countries, in which he appeared wearing a gold-plated crown, an inflatable globe and a folding chair as his throne. And…
California congressman John G. Schmitz, who was the American Independent Party candidate for president in 1972. He was expelled from the John Birch Society for “extremism,” which sort of says it all. Schmitz also endorsed the return of segregated schools, and later announced that he was rooting for a military coup. Mary Kay Letourneau is his daughter. Then there is…
HRM Caesar St. Augustine de Buonaparte, who is running now as The Absolute Dictator Party’s candidate. He says that all the major politicians are “niggers” and so is everyone else “because we all die on our death bed and watch our offspring fight over our money.” He pledges to replace any government employee who does not have an IQ of at least 150.
So if Chafee has the followers with the most facility with the language, what does it tell us about the usefulness of that factor in assessing, well, anything? It tells me that this was an inquiry designed to embarrass Republicans that failed, but USA Today decided to publish it anyway with big color graphics using up about half a page in a paper that typically has only a couple of pages as substance.
The stunt was the brainchild of some Marketing flack at Grammarly, a writing app that thought it might increase the number of people who ever heard of it from five to nineteen. According to a Grammarly release, using the app on the websites of presidential candidates’ Facebook pages showed that Democratic commenters made an average of 4.2 mistakes per 100 words compared to 8.7 mistakes for supporters of Republican candidates. The Democratic supporters also showed a larger vocabulary, using on average 300 unique words per 1,000 words, while Republicans used only 245. Here was the methodology:
We began by taking a large sample of Facebook comments containing at least fifteen words from each candidate’s official page between April, 2015 and August, 2015. Next, we created a set of guidelines to help limit (as much as possible) the subjectivity of categorizing the comments as positive or negative. Since the point of the study was to analyze the writing of each candidate’s supporters, we considered only obviously positive or neutral comments. Obviously negative or critical comments, as well as ambiguous or borderline negative comments, were disqualified.
We then randomly selected at least 180 of these positive and neutral comments (~6,000 words) to analyze for each candidate. Using Grammarly, we identified the errors in the comments, which were then verified and tallied by a team of live proofreaders. For the purposes of this study, we counted only black-and-white mistakes such as misspellings, wrong and missing punctuation, misused or missing words, and subject-verb disagreement. We ignored stylistic variations such as the use of common slang words, serial comma usage, and the use of numerals instead of spelled-out numbers.
Finally, we calculated the average number of mistakes per one hundred words by dividing the total word count of the comments by the total number of mistakes for each candidate.
There are many problems with this, of course, the primary one being “Who cares?,” followed by “How do you know that the same commenters aren’t writing on the walls of multiple candidates?” “Isn’t this another classist, pro-coastal, elitist exercise?” “Since when is Facebook spelling and grammar an accepted measure of anything?” “How about finding out how many supporters of each candidate read USA Today, or worse, trust it?”
Now there’s an intelligence test.
Why would people waste their time writing on campaign Facebook pages, when almost none of the candidates actually look at them? How do we know the smartest Democratic supporters waste their time on Facebook, while only the dumbest Republican supporters use is? But never mind all the problems with the methodology: Grammarly is a lousy app and doesn’t work.Continue reading →
Perusing the many ethics issues that have slopped into my inbox, I realized that a fascinating theme was developing: wanton, willful, inexcusable stupidity. Being stupid is not intrinsically unethical, for in many cases it is a malady, a Nature-dictated state like being short or bald, just one that is more limiting than most. Being stupid and allowing yourself to be placed in a position where your stupidity will harm others, however, is unethical.
Incompetence is not the same thing as stupidity necessarily, but it is a kind of stupidity and it generates stupidity: stupid risks, stupid decisions, stupid statements, stupid policies, stupid results. The recent Pew study showing that the two most common descriptions of President Obama were “good” and “incompetent” was intriguing on that issue. A man can be both “good” and “incompetent,” but a leader cannot. Obama can be a good man (though after hearing his defiant, dishonest, petulant and self-destructive State of the Union address, I find that hard to believe), but he cannot be a good leader while being an incompetent one.
The President is incompetent, and the incompetence has, as it always will with those serving under incompetent leadership, metastasized throughout his administration into incontrovertible stupidity of a sort that it is unethical for a leader to tolerate or allow to continue. Yet he does.
This brings us to the IRS. Believe it or not, just even months after federal officials fired the firm CGI Federal for its botched work on the Obamacare website Healthcare.gov, the IRS awarded these same bunglers a $4.5 million IT contract for its new Obamacare tax program.
How could this happen in a trustworthy institution?
The Washington Post reported this week that Robin Anthony Toogood II resigned as principal of Jennie Dean Elementary School, a job he had held since 2009. He also surrendered his Virginia teaching and administrative license. Toogood, who had worked as a teacher and administrator in Washington D.C. area public schools since 2000, had not only falsely claimed to have a doctorate in education, he also never received an undergraduate bachelor’s degree.
Manassas City officials never checked Toogood’s credentails when he was hired as principal five years ago. The fake degrees were only discovered because he applied to be an elementary school principal in neighboring Prince William County, where to his evident surprise, a proper background check followed. It revealed Toogood’s resume to be Toogood to be true.* He had falsified transcripts from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Trinity Washington University in the District and Regent University in Virginia. The County alerted Manassas schools, which confronted Toogood. He did not deny the findings and resigned.
He is also apparently a pastor. Manassas City discovered that Toogood also claimed to have earned a doctorate from Andover Theological Seminary and had not.
The Post reports that Toogood had previously been a teacher in D.C. public schools and held administrative positions at several D.C. public charter schools. D.C. public school officials confirmed to the Post that Toogood had taught there from 2000 to 2005, after which he was an administrator at Friendship Collegiate Academy from 2006 to 2007 , and principal of the Center City charter school from 2008 to 2009. The D.C. Public Charter School Board’s spokesperson told the Post “that the schools conduct their own background checks with board guidance.”
The almost lawyer, learning about the justice system…
Mauricio Celis, 42,was expelled from Northwestern Law School, just before he was due to graduate, for not telling the school when he applied that he was a former felon in Texas, convicted there for falsely holding himself out as a lawyer and also for impersonating a police officer. Northwestern confirmed that it never asked him to disclose any criminal history, but argued that Celis should have known that his criminal record was material.
The school didn’t check on his background; it didn’t even google him. If it had, it would have learned that Celis was infamous in Texas, and called “The Great Pretender.” A prosecutor called him “the biggest con man in the history of Nueces County.” He certainly was audacious, opening law offices in multiple cities, raking in fees, using his success as a fake lawyer to raise money for Democrats. Compared to his scam, Northwestern was timid. It just took his money, $76,000, and then expelled him without giving him a diploma.