Category Archives: Government & Politics

Bias Check

Confirmation bias

Detecting and overcoming one’s own biases is one of the most important features of being ethical. “Bias makes you stupid,” after all, and stupidity can make you unethical. As the author of an ethics blog, this is of special concern to me, as I am constantly making choices that bias could seriously affect. Some of those choices include what issues and events have ethics components, which are most important to publicize, how should the ethical issues be analyzed, what conclusions are fair and reasonable, even how long a particular post should be, what authorities and references should be included, and what style—scholarly? humorous? bemused? indignant? outraged?—will best illustrate a point.

As regular readers here know, I can be harsh, often too harsh, when a commenter dismisses my commentary as partisan or ideologically motivated. First of all, it isn’t, and I resent the accusation. Second, it’s a cheap shot, essentially attacking my motives, objectivity and integrity rather than presenting substantive arguments. Third, it is a simpleminded approach to the world in general, and democracy in particular, and life, presuming that “there are two kinds of people,” and one type is always wrong, while the other type is always right. There is nobody I agree with all the time, and I am far from alone in that trait. People who agree with the same people all the time are not really thinking. They are just taking the easy route of picking sides, and letting others think for them.

Obviously, my approach to controversies, problems and ethical analysis are influenced by thousands of factors, including my parents,  my upbringing,  where I have lived,  teachers, friends, and family members, experiences, books, plays, movies and popular culture, interests  and passions (like leadership, American history, and baseball), what I’m good or successful at and I’m not, and so much else. These are not biases: once such influences mold your way of looking at the world and passing through life, they are, in fact, who you are. I’m comfortable with who I am. I just don’t want biases making me me stupider than I am.

Thus I am always interested in trying to identify where I stand on a the ideological scale. Some of my conservative friends think I’m liberal; all of my liberal friends think I’m conservative. Two sides again: I am confident that it is their place on the scale that leads to those perceptions. Today I encountered another test that supposedly divides liberals and conservatives sharply.  It comes from political scientist and philosopher James Burnham’s  1964 book “The Suicide of the West.” Burnham was one of those radical leftists who did a complete reversal in middle age and became an influential conservative theorist. You are asked to agree or disagree with these 39 statements, and the result reveals your ideological bent.

Here are the questions: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Government & Politics, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Quizzes, Race, Rights, U.S. Society, War and the Military, Workplace

Accountability Check: No, Sarah Wasn’t “Sacrificed” And She Has Nobody To Blame But Herself

Yeah, that's all you need, Sarah...

Yeah, that’s all you need, Sarah…

When one woman who drives me crazy sets out to defend another one using ethics-crushing illogic, I cannot withhold my hand.

Or gorge.

The wimpiest pseudo-conservative op-ed columnsit who ever roamed the Earth, Kathleen Parker, has delivered a column titled “The Sacrifice of Sarah Palin.” Its thesis? “Blame for her general collapse beginning in 2008 can be placed in large part upon her own party, which used her and cast her aside.”

Well, Parker proves with her fatuous essay that blame can be placed on Republicans, but she doesn’t prove that it should be. Sarah’s reputation is on life support after delivering a speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit that included passages like these… Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership

Ethics Dunce: Alabama State Rep. Patricia Todd (D)

How low will she go?

How low will she go?

Ms. Todd is Alabama’s only openly gay legislator, and now she’s an openly unethical legislator. She doesn’t like the political and social arguments some of her colleagues are making against gay marriage, so she’s going to extort them to  shut them up. Maybe she got the idea from “Citizen Kane.” Charles Foster Kane’s political career was ruined by similar extortion from a political opponent. Of course, the Orson Welles classic made it clear that James Gettys was a ruthless villain. So is Todd.

Her threat: if opponents use “family values” rhetoric as a reason to oppose marriage equality, she’ll start making rumors of their marital infidelities public. “I will not stand by and allow legislators to talk about ‘family values’ when they have affairs, and I know of many who are and have,” Alabama State Rep. Patricia Todd wrote on Facebook.  “I will call our elected officials who want to hide in the closet out…If certain people come out and start espousing this rhetoric about family values, then I will say, ‘Let’s talk about family values, because here’s what I heard.’ I don’t have direct knowledge, because obviously I’m not the other person involved in the affair. But one thing you would never hear about me is that I ever cheated on a partner or had an affair.” Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Gary Sinise

gary-sinise

“With all due respect, what the hell are you talking about?”

—Actor and Wounded Warrior ally Gary Senise, in an open letter responding to Howard Dean’s statement that the audience for “American Sniper” consisted of “angry people.”

Good question. What are the vicious and anti-military critics of Clint Eastwood’s box-office busting bio-pic about Navy Seal Chris Kyle talking about?

I saw the film yesterday. It’s not pro-war, pro-Iraq invasion, or political in any way. The various critics of the film out themselves as hateful and so biased against combat, the military and, I don’t know—life? Reality?—that they can’t even keep their minds open a crack for a thought-provoking piece of popular art. Dean had said, turning his review (I’ll bet anything that he hasn’t seen the film) into a gratuitous attack on tea party supporters:

“There’s a lot of anger in this country, and the people who go see this movie are people who are very angry. And this guy basically says ‘I’m going to fight on your side.’ … I bet you if you looked at a cross-section of the Tea Party and the people who go to see this movie, there’s a lot of intersection.”

In the same forum–his weekly HBO conservative-bashing fest–Bill Maher called Kyle a “psychopath patriot” (there is nothing whatsoever in the film that supports that diagnosis). Seth Rogen compared “American Sniper” to a Nazi propaganda film. Michael Moore used the film–which he couldn’t possibly have seen–to make the ridiculous observation that snipers were “cowards.” Kyle, the most effective sniper in U.S. military history, was wounded repeatedly and awarded two Silver Stars and five Bronze stars. For him to be smeared as a coward by the likes of Michael Moore is grotesque.

The film, among other things, shows just what kind of horror our service men and women endured in Iraq, how they suffered (and suffer still), what it did to them and their families, and accords them well-deserved compassion and respect. How sad, bitter and rotten inside someone must be to resent that. As I watched the film, it occurred to me that this was probably exactly what John Wayne wanted “The Green Berets” to be during Vietnam, but had neither the discipline to avoid agitprop and sentimentality, nor Clint’s directing skills to pull it off.

After expressing his disgust at Dean’s outburst in a tweet, the stage and screen star, whose foundation works to help and recognize the soldiers and veterans he calls our “defenders,” wrote,

To Howard Dean,

I saw American Sniper and would not consider myself to be an angry person. You certainly have a right to make stupid blanket statements, suggesting that all people who see this film are angry, but how is that helpful sir? Do you also suggest that everyone at Warner Brothers is angry because they released the film? That Clint Eastwood, Jason Hall, Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller and the rest of the cast and crew are angry because they made the film? Chris Kyle’s story deserved to be told. It tells a story of the stress that multiple deployments have on one military family, a family representative of thousands of military families. It helps to communicate the toll that the war on terror has taken on our defenders. Defenders and families who need our support. I will admit that perhaps somewhere among the masses of people who are going to see the film there may be a few that might have some anger or have been angry at some point in their lives, but, with all due respect, what the hell are you talking about?

My guess is that Dean is talking about his own estrangement from basic American values, its history, and its essential role in the world, including all the sacrifices, risks and difficult choices that role demands. He’s the angry one.

 

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Professions, U.S. Society, War and the Military

The Murderer and The Unethical Powerpoint

Powerpoint slide

Why didn’t I see this coming? The Washington Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Odies Walker for murder and other crimes in the slaying and robbery of an armored car guard because the  prosecutor’s PowerPoint presentation during his  closing argument constituted “flagrant, pervasive, and prejudicial”  prosecutoral misconduct. While lawyers “may use multimedia resources in closing arguments to summarize and highlight relevant evidence,” the court ruled, “advocacy has its limits.”

The  prosecutor presented a whopping 250 PowerPoint slides to the jury during the summation, including 100 with the caption “defendant Walker guilty of premeditated murder.” The slide above with the caption, “Money is more important than human life,” was typical of the problem assailed by the justices: it was never alleged that Walker said this, or even thought it. Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Science & Technology

Campus Rape: How Opposing The Use Of Fake Stats, Lies and False Narratives Became “Conservative”

fondo abstracto de tecnologia 3d.Lenguaje binario

I just don’t see how or why insisting on using objective and verifiable facts in policy-making and public discourse became “conservative bias.” I don’t recall the media’s interest in correcting fake combat statistics during the Vietnam war being regarded as “liberal bias.” I can’t bring myself to believe that only moderates and conservatives care about making sure that the public isn’t deceived into believing things that aren’t true.

But why does this stuff keep happening, and particularly, why does it keep happening under the supervision of Democrats and their supporters during the Obama years? I know I’ve been harping on “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” and the deification of Mike Brown as contrary to all evidence, common sense, fairness and rationality, but such cultural embrace of lies is objectively outrageous and dangerous. I also resent being called a “teabagger,” a racist, or a right-wing nut for pointing this out.

One reason resent it, perhaps the main one, is that I’m a lifetime iconoclast, curmudgeon and contrarian (just like Dad!) and while I know that having  people, even friends, angry at me never changed my opinions, words or behavior very much, most people are not like me. Most people, when they are called racists on Facebook or bombarded with dishonest Daily Kos internet memes or realize that their friends aren’t inviting them out for beer because they will object to the conventional liberal wisdom of the nonce, decide its more important to get along than to fight the good fight, so they just adopt the prevalent opinion of their “crowd.” Usually, personal growth and education on the issue stops about then: if you listen hard, you will hear the sound of a slamming door. Soon they’ll be calling others racists on Facebook.

The fake campus sexual assault issue is another area where this phenomenon is occurring. CBS’s Sunday Morning gave one of its gauzy features about it yesterday, beginning with the assumption that for some reason (the reason was already pre-programmed and injected directly into the Democratic Party’s second most reliable “base” group, young single women bloodstream, with its “war on women” convention theme in 2012) campus sexual assault is epidemic. On the show’s website, proving that this was propaganda rather than journalism, was this sentence: “According to the U.S. Justice Department, one in five college women will experience some kind of sexual assault while in school.” (It had been removed by this morning.) Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Education, The Internet, Research and Scholarship, Gender and Sex, Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks

STUPIDITY SATURDAY Continues: Anti-Vaxxers Resurrect Measles With An Assist From California

jenny_mccarthy

The anti-vaccination crowd, let by such worthies as professional bimbo Jenny McCarthy (above), endangers the public health and undermines child safety by relying on various conspiracy theories and quacks to avoid a proven program of eradicating infectious diseases. Now measles, once considered extinct, has returned with a vengeance, with more reported cases in 2014 than any time since 2000.The reason is that not enough children are being vaccinated against it. Jenny and her pals are why.

Before measles vaccines became routine in 1963, between three and four million Americans a year got the disease, with 400 to 500 dying from it annually. So this isn’t a matter of kids getting the sniffles. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Dunces, Law & Law Enforcement, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Childhood and children