The 8th Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2016: The Last Of The Worst

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Ethics Alarms wraps up the Worst in 2016 Ethics with the usual education and journalism breaches, Ethics Dunce of the Year, and more delights for the sadistic…

Unethical Government Fiasco Of The Year

The Flint, Michigan water crisisA failure of competence, diligence, responsibility and honesty, compounded by bureaucrats, elected officials, the city of Detroit, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and the EPA made people sick and cost billions.

Good job, everybody!

Scam of the Year

Sen.Ted Cruz’s fake “official” mailer before the Iowa Caucus. Cruz’s campaign  sent out mailers labeled in all capital letters, “ELECTION ALERT,” “VOTER VIOLATION,” “PUBLIC RECORD,” and “FURTHER ACTION NEEDED.” On the other side, the mailer said, in red letters at the top, “VOTING VIOLATION.” The text read:

You are receiving this election notice because of low expected voter turnout in your area. Your individual voting history as well as your neighbors’ are public record. Their scores are published below, and many of them will see your score as well. CAUCUS ON MONDAY TO IMPROVE YOUR SCORE and please encourage your neighbors to caucus as well. A follow-up notice may be issued following Monday’s caucuses.

This is why Trump’s nickname for Cruz, “Lyin’ Ted,” was crude but accurate.

Ethics Dunces Of The Year

All the social media users and others who ended Facebook friendships, genuine friendships and relationship over the 2016 election. Haven’t they ever seen “It’s A Wonderful Life”? Morons. Shame on all of them.

Weenies of the Year

The college students who demanded that exams be cancelled, therapists be available, safe spaces be found, puppies be summoned and cry-ins be organized because the awful candidate they supported in the Presidential election lost, as candidates often do.

How embarrassing.

Unethical University Of The Year 

Liberty University.  This is the most competitive of categories, with all the schools that railroaded male students based on questionable sexual assault claims while quailing in fear of the Dept. of Education’s “Dear Colleague Letter,” and all the schools that signaled that the results of a simple election justified PTSD treatment for their shattered charges, as well as making it clear to any students who dared to tilt Republican that they were persona non grata. Nonetheless, Liberty University takes the prize with its unique combination of greed, hypocrisy, and warped values. From the Ethics Alarms post:

Last week, with great fanfare, Liberty hired Ian McCaw as its new athletic director. “My vision for Liberty is to position it as a pre-eminent Christian athletic program in America,” McCaw said during a news conference.

This is his first paying assignment since May, when he left his job as the athletic director at Baylor, also a Christian university. His departure was made essential after a thorough investigation that found that those overseeing Baylor’s  football team as well as the management of  the athletic department—that is, McCaw— had been informed of multiple gang rapes and sexual assault by team members and had ignored it, as any good football-loving Christian would….especially when a star was involved.

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KABOOM! Just…KABOOM!

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Now I think understand why Ann Althouse, an intelligent, rational lawyer and law professor, has begun holding a “Most Loved Rat” contest on her blog to see which of her rat doodles are most popular. I’m less creative, I guess (though I also draw good rat cartoons!)—my head just explodes. It exploded last night.

It’s hard to explain exactly what did it.  Here I was, watching a series of baseball play-off games (since the Red Sox had been eliminated by the Cleveland Indians the day before), and Neil Patrick Harris appeared yet again to tell me that “Heineken Light makes it OK to flip another man’s meat.” (I wrote about the gratuitous vulgarity of this ad here. Apparently this makes me a homophobe.)

Wait…isn’t flipping another man’s meat sexual assault? What is the difference, in lack of respect and sexual assault ethics, between grabbing a woman by the pussy, as Donald Trump so eloquently put it, because you’re a rich celebrity, and flipping another man’s meat because…of beer? 
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“Flipping A Man’s Meat” Ethics

Is this what the culture has accomplished with its hard won respect for and acceptance of gay Americans? Really?

Neil Patrick Harris has done a series of quirky, benign spots  for Heineken Light, perhaps to lure us into a false sense of ease.  For in his most recent commercial,  Harris notes, as he stands next to a man grilling barbecue, that Heineken Light makes it OK “to flip another man’s meat.”

This is another in a long and growing list of TV ads based entirely on the assumption that adults think it’s hilarious to suggest obscene or vulgar innuendos. I’ve written about this phenomenon before, which is merely the normalization of crudeness in our discourse, nothing more, but nothing less either. So now we have gay sexual innuendo  by an openly gay actor to advertise beer. Isn’t that great? Boy, Heineken must be so proud.

The grill guy replies to the puckish—or flirtations?—former-Doogie that no man can do that, but late,  Harris asks him: “Can I flip your meat?”

Wow, that’s just hilarious! Why is it hilarious? Because it’s naughty? Because it’s daring? It’s certainly not clever, and if virtually defines the word “gratuitous.” It it a challenge to viewers, daring them to question the taste of joking about “flipping a man’s meat” when they routinely accept gross commercials with vulgar and gratuitous—you know, like this —heterosexual double entendres?  Is the assumption that gays will giggle, guffaw and slap each other on the back when they see this! “Good own, Neil!” Really? How insulting.

I can’t wait for the masturbation double-entendres in credit card and bank commercials. Continue reading

From The “When Ethics Alarms Don’t Work” Files: The 9-11 Mattress Sale Ad

How many people were involved with this ad for Miracle Mattress?? How did it get on the air without someone with a brain cell twitching pointing out that it was so offensive that it would spark significant, indeed company-threatening backlash on social media? The company owner has apologized abjectly, but this is a serious management botch. Unless he is lying in his apology and didn’t know about the ad or see it before it was launched, he has hired a bunch of incompetent who are given far too much power.

The woman who starred in the commercial is the San Antonio store’s manager. She, at very least, has proven herself to be an incompetent fool. It might help business recover if in addition to her being fired, her head was placed on a pike outside the store…but that would be wrong.

On the bright side, maybe Colin Kaepernick  will buy a mattress there.

CORRECTION! GEICO Ethics Dunce RETRACTED! It’s All Frank Sinatra’s Fault!

Emily Litella1There is apparently a diabolical law regarding Ethics Alarms that the more trivial a subject is, the more likely I will screw it up, or it will be a hoax, or something else. The previous post, chiding GEICO for allowing the lyrics of “You Make Me Feel So Young” to be massacred by Peter Pan in its current TV ad is an epic example.

First, I posted a video of Sinatra singing the song as an example of the right way. It is hard to find a video of anyone BUT Sinatra singing it, for he made it one of his standards. Then LoSonnambulo, a frequent commenter here, properly chides me for using a crooner who regularly changed lyrics as the paragon of lyrical certitude. Yes, that’s pretty stupid. Thus I resolve to change the embedded video, and what do I find? I find that the non-English, slangy abomination, “You make me feel so young, You make me feel so spring has sprung” did not originate with GEICO, or Peter Pan, but Frank Sinatra, who sang the polluted lyric in the earliest recording I could find. It appears to be his invention.

It gets worse. Because Frank sung it like that, everybody started doing it: Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney, Jack Jones, everybody.  It’s the wrong lyric, damn it!

But I can hardly blame GEICO for not fixing the version in its ad when most who are familiar with the Sinatra version think those are the lyrics.

Never Mind.

UPDATE (4:00 AM): ARRGH! I just woke up with the song in my head, and realized what Frank was doing, or thought he was doing, with this lyric change. Since I know the correct lyric, I assumed that substituting “so” for “as though” or “like” meant that “so” was supposed to mean “as though” or “like” and so doesn’t mean “as though” or “like,” which is why I also assumed this was some kind of Jersey slang. But no! Frank altered the lyrics more than I realized. What his version is, is a parallel construction comparison:

You make me feel so young,

You make me feel so “Spring has sprung!”

In Frank’s version, “Spring has sprung” is presented as a synonym for “young,” as it replaces “young.” In the original, “You make me feel as though Spring has sprung” is a related but separate thought, as it should be, because feeling young and feeling like it’s Spring are not the same thing. If they were, then so would make lyrical sense. For example, if I write the a song that goes,

You make me feel so old,

You make me feel so Spanish gold…

That works, because Spanish gold is old. But Spring springing isn’t young. It’s a bad lyric change. It makes the song worse.

Nonetheless, I suppose that a singer who didn’t know the real lyrics, and maybe even a listener, would hear the song as making sense, sort of.

There.

Maybe I can get back to sleep now.

Trivial Ethics Dunce That Is Driving Me Crazy Anyway So I Have To Mention It: GEICO

The current GEICO ad campaign, “It’s what you do,” has already scored an ethics foul; the latest one is less substantive. Nonetheless, it is in the increasingly common category of “They just didn’t care,” which is a subset of disrespect and lack of diligence. Besides, it involves a great American song.

In the GEICO ad featuring Peter Pan annoying former classmates at a high school reunion ( the kid playing Peter is terrific), the spot concludes with Peter entertaining the class while flying over their heads with a mike and singing, “You Make Me Feel So Young,” a 1946 classic composed by Josef Myrow, with lyrics written by Mack Gordon. It begins,

You make me feel so young.
You make me feel as though (alt. “like”) spring has sprung.
And every time I see you grin,
I’m such a happy individual.

But for some damn reason, Peter sings,

You make me feel so young.
You make me feel so spring has sprung..

..which isn’t even English, and definitely isn’t the lyric. How hard would it have been to fix this? GEICO just couldn’t be bothered, so the song is misrepresented in its first widespread media us in decades.

Here’s the song sung the right way, Peter, you little snot:

UPDATE: See here.

“Elfin’ Around,” Best Buy? Really?

bestbuy_logoBest Buy just became the latest TV advertiser to conclude that it’s astonishingly clever and hilarious to evoke “fuck” in a commercial, one that I just heard at 7:54 PM. The spot extolling Christmas shopping at Best Buy (it isn’t even Halloween yet) featured a cheery announcer pointing out that when you shop there, you won’t be “elfin’ around.” Get it? It sounds like “effin,” a cover-word that means “fucking,” and is meant to be heard as “fucking.”  But, see, it’s SO clever, see, because it’s NOT “effin’,” but “ELFin’,” and this is a Christmas ad! Wow! Christmas AND Fake Fuck in the same word! There must have been high fives all around when the writers came up with this one.

An ethical management would have told them to grow up, and fired the lot of them. This is 2015, however, a banner one in the coarsening of America, so Best Buy decided it was cool to join Verizon, Booking.com, CNN, and President Obama —you know, our national role model?— in following the lead of K-Mart’s disgusting  “ship my pants” ad in 2013. Continue reading