Category Archives: Research and Scholarship

To Hell With Godwin’s Law: As The Cynical “GOP War On Women” Strategy Officially Adopts “Big Lie” Tactics, Who Will Have The Integrity To Call It What It Is?

Sometimes recalling Der Fuhrer is necessary to give credit where credit is due.

Sorry. Sometimes recalling Der Fuhrer is necessary to give credit where credit is due.

One thing one can’t deny about the “Big Lie,” it sure works.

An H. F. Elson from Bethesda, Maryland indignantly writes the editor of the Washington Post:

“The April 10 news article “Senate Republicans block wage-equality legislation” reported that Republicans “say that the bill is unnecessary because discrimination based on gender is already illegal.” Pardon my sarcasm, but existing laws have worked really well, haven’t they? Republicans fear the bill would increase civil lawsuits, but the threat of lawsuits is the only way to get these needed changes in compensation made. When are Republicans going to stop antagonizing thinking, intelligent women?”

Let’s see…it’s hard to write such an incompetent and irresponsible letter while simultaneously being snotty about it, but H.F. was up to the challenge:

1. Discrimination based on gender IS already illegal. The law in question was Democratic showboating with a bad bill that would permit lawsuits when no evidence of intentional gender discrimination exists.

2. Yes, H.F., the existing laws have worked very well indeed. The remaining differences in pay by gender are almost entirely due to factors other than discrimination.

3. The only way to get the changes made in compensation would be for women to behave exactly like men, and adopt the same priorities and career paths. Lawsuits, on the other hand, are just a way to increase the costs of doing business, lose jobs, and give more money to trial lawyers—who are overwhelmingly male, by the way.

4. “When are Republicans going to stop antagonizing thinking, intelligent women?”  The real question is when will “thinking, intelligent women” stop accepting on faith outright misrepresentations about gender pay inequities, and do some research before adopting partisan talking points and writing snotty letters to the editor?

There are virtually no serious analysts of this topic that accept the proposition that “women get paid only 77 cents on the dollar compared to men in the same jobs” as an accurate measure of discrimination in the workplace and gender inequity. The misleading nature of that statistic and similar ones has been thoroughly explained and vetted in scholarly documents and the news media for decades, yet whenever Democrats want to activate their “base,” which includes a disproportionate number of women, their candidates and leaders shamelessly use the same dishonest figures. Obama and Biden used this tactic during the 2012 sliming of Mitt Romney, for example, because, after all, the ends justify the means, and besides, mean old Romney kept all those poor women in binders.

I just about fell off of my chair when President Obama sank to this abysmal deceit again in his 2014 State of the Union message, when he intoned, Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society, Workplace

The Strange, Sad, Ominous Case Of College Student Julian Batts and His Wheel Of Fortune Disaster

The solution is obvious: colleges should teach "Wheel of Fortune" skills...

The solution is obvious: colleges should teach “Wheel of Fortune” skills…

The Indiana University press breathlessly proclaimed it as a cause for campus pride:

An Indiana University honors student fulfilled a lifelong dream of appearing on the iconic television game show “Wheel of Fortune.” Julian Batts, a Hudson and Holland Scholar, a Herbert Presidential Scholar and a Hutton Honors College student from Indianapolis, will appear on the show Friday, April 11, as part of its annual “College Week.” “I’ve watched it as long as I can remember,” he said of the game show, which has been on the air for more than 30 years. “I have always had that desire to be on the show and solve puzzles in front of a live audience.”

Batts traveled to Culver City, Calif., and taped the episode in February. Students from Indiana State and Purdue universities also were selected to participate in “College Week” matches. The Carmel High School graduate is majoring in business and Spanish. He is actively involved at Rose Avenue Residence Hall and as an usher at the IU Auditorium. He participated in IU’s Intensive Freshman Seminar program and the IU Beginnings program, which introduces a small group of students to recruiters from top companies that partner with the Kelley School of Business. He also is the third generation of his family to attend IU, and both of his parents earned IU degrees.

“This was an opportunity of a lifetime for Julian, and we’re happy that he has had this experience to add to the many wonderful experiences he’s enjoyed as an IU student,” said James Wimbush, IU vice president for diversity, equity and multicultural affairs and dean of the University Graduate School.

…On April 11, he looks forward to getting together with friends so they can see how well he did. “Regardless of whatever is aired on TV, I am glad I did it. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It was an experience I will never forget,” he said. A viewing party for Batts will begin at 6:45 p.m. in Room 150 of the Student Building on the IU Bloomington campus.

Do make a mental note of the last part. Even after the taping, Julian was proud of his performance, and was thrilled about a viewing party. This glowing story was written after the following fiasco occurred. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Education, Literature, Race, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society

On The Significance Of The AFA “Signups,” The First Of Many Other Shoes Drops

I am rushing out the door to remind D.C. lawyers about ethics, but I can’t let this pass:

  • Yesterday, James Taranto addressed some of the same issues that we covered on Ethics Alarms regarding the dishonest use of the ambiguous 7.1 million deadline sign-ups as a definitive measure of Obamacare’s success. Two of the culprits he quoted were E.J. Dionne and Paul Krugman, leading me to wonder why such performances don’t make it obvious even to knee-jerk Democrats that they are unreliable, biased, and dishonest to the core. Here’s Taranto on Dionne, for example:

It won’t surprise you to learn that Dionne did not demand accountability from Obama and the other politicians who sold ObamaCare on the fraudulent promise “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” Rather, he asserted that the administration’s claim of having “hit its original goal . . . of signing up more than 7 million people through its insurance exchanges” was a definitive refutation of any notion that ObamaCare is “doomed.” What about insurance cancellations, narrow networks, high deductibles, blown deadlines, work disincentives, adverse selection and the law’s continuing political unpopularity? Dionne dispenses with all these problems in one sentence: “To be sure, the law could still face other problems, blah, blah, blah.”

Why wouldn’t this kind of blind, manipulative, Jumbo-worthy partisanship annoy everyone?

  • Yesterday the Gallup people released this, an extensive survey that gives some perspective on what the 7.1 million really stands for. No surprises there, either, for anyone not in a Dionne-like mental state. From Fox:

“A major new Gallup survey suggests the ObamaCare sign-up numbers are not as soaring as the White House claims. The massive survey, released on Monday, shows the number of uninsured indeed has fallen to its lowest level in years, likely thanks to the Affordable Care Act. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index measured the share of adults without health insurance. That shrank from 17.1 percent at the end of last year to 15.6 percent for the first three months of 2014.The decline of 1.5 percentage points would translate roughly to more than 3.5 million people gaining coverage. But the numbers, released a week after the close of the health law’s first enrollment season, also suggest a far more modest impact on coverage than statistics cited by the Obama administration….”

The survey also shows that not enough young uninsured are signing up, a critical problem.

  • Whether the Gallup numbers are considered worthy of reporting by the other news media outlets should be a fascinating test of their depth of bias and lack of integrity. I’ll be watching…

No time for tags now—more later….

 

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Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Health and Medicine, Research and Scholarship

The Ethics Alarms List of Debate Cheats and Fallacies

fallacy

I realized it was time to post the definitive Ethics Alarms List of Debate Cheats and Fallacies after once again having to point out to an indignant commenter that calling  him a jerk based on a jerkish comment was not an ad hominem attack, and that saying idiotic things on-line carry that risk. Here, at last, is the current list, adapted from multiple sources. As with the Rationalizations List, with which this occasionally overlaps, I invite additions. Participants here should feel free to refer to the various fallacious arguments by number, and to apply critically them to my posts as well as the comments of others. Am I immune from occasionally falling into one or more of these bad debate techniques and rhetorical habits? No. The other reason I wanted to get the list up was to reinforce my own efforts to be persuasive without being manipulative.

 

1. Ad Hominem Attack

An ad hominem attack means that one is substituting the character or quality of an adversary’s thought for the argument the adversary is presenting. This is unfair, as well as misleading. “Your argument is invalid because you are a crook, a fool, an idiot” is an ad hominem attack. It is not an ad hominem attack to prove an argument idiotic, and conclude, on the basis of signature significance, (which requires that an  argument be so idiotic that no non-idiot would conceive such a thing and dare express it),that the one making the argument is an idiot, since only an idiot would make such an argument. Confusing the true ad hominem attack with the latter is a useful deflection by poor advocates of the fair consequence of their advocacy. Idiots can still hold valid positions, and disproving the position has nothing to do with proving they are idiots.

1 a. The Toxic Introduction.

A more subtle application of the ad hominem attack is The Toxic Introduction, where the argument of another is introduced by noting a negative quality about the individual. The effect is to undermine the argument before it has even been heard, by its association with a less than impressive advocate.

2. Butch’s Stratagem (The Straw Man)

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Filed under Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, History, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Rant: Here Is The Smoking Gun Proof That The Government Doesn’t Care How Much Money…”

Whatever anyone might think of Ethics Alarms, it can’t be accused of not being eclectic. Today’s Comment of the Day illustrates the point, with an impressive  and informative debut by new commenter Dave on the cost savings to be had based on choice of  printing fonts, and more. The original post used a sixth-graders science project conclusion that our federal and state governments could save hundreds of millions of dollars by simply conserving ink as a departure point for a general critique of government diligence, responsibility, and competence.

Here is his exposition, inspired by the post, Ethics Rant: Here Is The Smoking Gun Proof That The Government Doesn’t Care How Much Money It Wastes, Or, In The Alternative, That It Isn’t Run By Sufficiently Competent People To Be Trusted To Spend What It Does:

The most important aspect of the 14 year old’s study is valid. You can save money with a better font. How you get there is not important. So I support the hypothesis of the study. Of course, as in almost all studies, it requires more study. Adding paper to the mix makes it more hopeful.

I like his study for three reasons:

1. It puts ink and paper into the public discussion
2. It illustrates that really large numbers times really small numbers equals a big number.
3. It moves us ahead in our quest to the use of something other than Times New Roman. It’s a newspaper font!

First off, names are useless in discussing typefaces as they were trashed by the patent/copyright office many years ago. Garamond is one of dozens of great type families. Each has it’s unique features but most do not perform optimally in all applications. The criticism of using Garamond in the testing misses the point entirely. Successfully curtailing the weight of an optimized font, versus a newspaper font, to image on bond paper is likely. Let’s move on from nitpicking Garamond. 

Ink is measured in dimes with inkjet, nickels with toner and pennies with printer’s ink. Breaking down the imaging techniques of all government documents is a massive effort, census like. But, for now, let’s address word processed documents. This is probably the largest population of original documents. (We’re not going to make much headway in savings attacking the professional typeset material that is printed in the millions.)

Given we tune a font for ink/toner use, one of the last considerations influencing legibility and readability of a word processed document is typeface. Because MS Word is used exhaustively for this application, I would order the priorities leading to better legibility and readability as follows:

1. Word Spacing. You can see in the example used to trash the study (3rd line of Garamond) It’s like talking to someone who says “uh” every other word.

2. Serifs v. Sans Serif. This choice is more of a readability thing than a legibility thing.  I choose sans-serif for heads (eliminating the need for bold italic serif fonts) and serif for text  when I create a typical Word doc. Generally, type really doesn’t have to be serif if the document is short but the longer it gets….

3. Line Measure. This goes together with word spacing, the longer the measure the worse word spacing becomes with MS Word. And personally I have attention issues so I need a break more often.

4. Body leading. Otherwise known as line spacing in the world of glorified type writers; it’s like word spacing only in the vertical direction.

5. Letter-spacing. This is font design dependent but not typeface dependent. They can screw this up no matter how the the letters look. It’s one of MS Times New Roman most nasty offenses. It’s not only looks awful, it wastes paper.

6. Hyphenation and Justification (H&J). Justified type is lined up on both sides of the page. Word Processors are not good at this, MS is particularly bad at both H&J.  It’s an old requirement with setting type, but it helps readability with long documents. It generally saves paper to boot but it’s not worth botching up word spacing to get these advantages. (It’s not as critical with 1-2 page documents so that’s why it’s 6th on the list.)

7. Type Style. If we excel at all of the above, like professional design software, then the particular type design is a factor. Because we are focused on text, the theory is if we significantly adjust the design for 12 point and with word processing in mind we can do well here in ink savings.

8. Paper color. Office paper is very good here.

9. Type color. Anything other than black type can’t be discussed here but it is realistic to discuss grey. I exclusively  use draft mode on my inkjet printer and nobody notices.

10 . Room light. Using serifs or not and setting an appropriate type size is about wearing out your eyes with too little or too much light. Serifs on text cut back on light, while size impacts detail helping legibility. Sans serif type in headlines are not an issue because they are short and it provides contrast with the text.

So, the student’s focus on the smaller, most used type is appropriate. The focus on weight relative to ink usage is also appropriate. A focus on more sophisticated typography than MS offers today would significantly impact paper usage, even without using two sided features we have today.

TrueType, GX stuff, et al were all awesome in 1996, a big accomplishment. They are still relevant for designers, but here we are stuck with MS Word; Opentype features are wasted. Moving to a maybe more primitive technology but optimized for both savings and readability would be a good start towards the $400 million goal.

We are in a transition period, so it may be awhile. Saving money along the way to fully electronic isn’t a bad thing. These no valid reason to make trade offs during the transition. It will be complicated but in step with the transition. All ideas are worthwhile, there is no reason not to implement all of them.

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Comment of the Day, Government & Politics, Research and Scholarship, Workplace

Let’s Adopt Adam Weinstein’s Values And Arrest Adam Weinstein

For the dangerous crime of not agreeing with Adam Weinstein...

For the dangerous crime of not agreeing with Adam Weinstein…

In a jaw-dropping post on Gawker-–I would suspect link bait if this wasn’t a disturbing trend-– a supposedly (formerly?) reputable journalist argues that anyone who challenges global warming orthodoxy should be prosecuted as a criminal. Here is Adam Weinstein making a fool out of himself (actually, only a fool could write such crap), and doing it by quoting as an authority the absurd Prof Lawrence Torcello, whose earlier advocacy of punishing global warming skeptics I wrote about in this post. Weinstein:

Those denialists should face jail. They should face fines. They should face lawsuits from the classes of people whose lives and livelihoods are most threatened by denialist tactics. Let’s make a clear distinction here: I’m not talking about the man on the street who thinks Rush Limbaugh is right, and climate change is a socialist United Nations conspiracy foisted by a Muslim U.S. president on an unwitting public to erode its civil liberties. You all know that man. That man is an idiot. He is too stupid to do anything other than choke the earth’s atmosphere a little more with his Mr. Pibb burps and his F-150′s gassy exhaust. Few of us believers in climate change can do much more—or less—than he can.

Nor am I talking about simple skeptics, particularly the scientists who must constantly hypo-test our existing assumptions about the world in order to check their accuracy. That is part and parcel of the important public policy discussion about what we do next. But there is scientific skepticism… and there is a malicious, profiteering quietist agenda posturing as skepticism. There is uncertainty about whether man-made climate change can be stopped or reversed… and there is the body of purulent pundits, paid sponsors, and corporate grifters who exploit the smallest uncertainty at the edges of a settled science.

I’m talking about Rush and his multi-million-dollar ilk in the disinformation business. I’m talking about Americans for Prosperity and the businesses and billionaires who back its obfuscatory propaganda. I’m talking about public persons and organizations and corporations for whom denying a fundamental scientific fact is profitable, who encourage the acceleration of an anti-environment course of unregulated consumption and production that, frankly, will screw my son and your children and whatever progeny they manage to have.

Those malcontents must be punished and stopped.

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Filed under Around the World, Citizenship, Environment, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology

Spreading the Word: “The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit”

"Bottoms up!"

“Bottoms up!”

I am moved to re-post the early Ethics Alarms entry from 2010, titled “The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit,” for a few reasons.

It raises an important and shamefully under-reported topic, one that despite my exhortations then has yet to be adequately examined in the media. If one googles various combinations of “mouthwash,””Listerine,”‘alcoholism,” and “alcoholic,” the first result is, sadly, my post. Most people who are not afflicted with the disease of alcoholism have no idea that mouthwash is a popular stand-in for liquor, or that is used to deceive family members who think an addict is no longer using or intoxicated. None of the recommended policy changes I suggest in the post have been implemented, either.

Last week I chanced to mention the use of Listerine by alcoholics to a friend who is a doctor who treats alcoholics. He was shocked, and had no knowledge of this at all. “Eww!” he said. “Isn’t that poison? You can drink it? I had no idea.” And he is a professional who keeps up  with the literature. (But obviously doesn’t read his friend’s blog.)

Despite my frustration that what I regard as a true exposé that should have sparked an equivalent article in a more widely read forum has remained relatively unknown, I am encouraged by the effect it has had. Most posts have their greatest traffic around the time they are posted, but since 2010, the page views of this article have increased steadily every month. More importantly, it has drawn comments like this one, from yesterday:

“Am looking after my twin sister who is a chronic alcoholic. She has been three days sober and then she just walked in and I couldn’t work out what the hell happened. She was in a stupor , but there was no alcohol and I am dispensing the Valium for detox period and she smelt like mint!! Found three bottles of it !!! This is my last big push to help her and she pleaded innocent and no idea it had alcohol in it! Hasn’t had a shower for two days but keeps her month fresh and sweet !! Thanks for the information. Much appreciated XXX”

Most of all, I am revolted that what I increasingly have come to believe is an intentional, profit-motivated deception by manufacturers continues, despite their knowledge that their product is killing alcoholics and destroying families. I know proof would be difficult, but there have been successful class action lawsuits with millions in punitive damage settlements for less despicable conduct. Somewhere, there must be an employee or executive who acknowledges that the makers of mouthwash with alcohol know their product is being swallowed rather than swished, and are happy to profit from it.

Few had discovered Ethics Alarms by April of 201o. I hope that by re-publishing the post now, it might find its way to more social media pages and even be sent to some investigative reporters. As I ended the original post, spread the word. Mouthwash is killing your friends and family members, or if not yours, those of someone not far away.

Thus, for the second time and hoping for more impact than the first, here is “The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit.” Even if you read it the first time, refresh your memory.

People are killing themselves right under our noses, and we are being thrown of by the minty smell of their breath.

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Health and Medicine, Family, Research and Scholarship, Marketing and Advertising

KABOOM! “Discrimination In Portugal,” The Sequel

exploding_head

First I checked, double-checked and triple-checked to see if this was a hoax. Then, once I was confident that it was true, I allowed my head to explode.

The headline to today’s head-blasting post requires a bit of explanation.

As a senior at Arlington High School (Massachusetts), I was editorial editor of the school newspaper, The Arlington High Chronicle. I had to choose, edit and publish the best of the submissions from the staff, and usually wrote the lead editorial myself. Well, one week I was up against a deadline and had nothing to fill an empty space on the page except a dog’s breakfast of miserably written options. Desperate, I decided to turn the crisis into an opportunity. I took the worst of the articles, cut out each line, mixed them up in a bowl and picked them out at random. Then I retyped the incomprehensible result, adding capitals and punctuation, and headlined it “Discrimination in Portugal.” That was how it was published. I always suspected that nobody read the editorials; this was my chance to find out if my suspicions were correct.

Nobody said a word. The paper got one letter from a student saying that he disagreed with the piece, but other than that, there was no evidence that anyone noticed that one of the editorials was complete gibberish.

Now this, from Nature:

“The publishers Springer and IEEE are removing more than 120 papers from their subscription services after a French researcher discovered that the works were computer-generated nonsense.

“Over the past two years, computer scientist Cyril Labbé of Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France, has catalogued computer-generated papers that made it into more than 30 published conference proceedings between 2008 and 2013. Sixteen appeared in publications by Springer, which is headquartered in Heidelberg, Germany, and more than 100 were published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), based in New York. Both publishers, which were privately informed by Labbé, say that they are now removing the papers.” Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Kaboom!, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology

Comment of the Day: “More Interview Ethics: Janet Mock Ambushes Piers Morgan”

XY

Ethics Alarms encourages long form comments, especially when they are as carefully reasoned, authoritative and well-written as the one presented here, by zoebrain, the Ethics Alarms expert on all things trans, gendered, re-gendered and more.

The new, complex and divisive ethical issues arising from gender matters have appeared here with increasing frequency, most recently in the post that inspired this comment—actually two comments—that attempts to enlighten the cyssies among us. I think it is required reading for anyone who wants to understand this complex subject, which is certain to generate more ethics dilemmas and controversies. I am grateful for all comments, but I want to send special thanks to the author, who obviously spent a lot of time and thought on what follows.

Here is zoebrain’s Comment of the Day on the post, “More Interview Ethics: Janet Mock Ambushes Piers Morgan”...

First, I better say why this is important, why the distinction between “used to be a boy” and “used to look like a boy” isn’t just some sterile, trivial and pedantic squabble. Continue reading

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Filed under Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, Research and Scholarship, Romance and Relationships, Science & Technology

Good News On Business Ethics? Maybe: The Ethics Research Center’s 2014 National Business Ethics Survey

ERC surveyThe Ethics Resource Center, a distinguished Washington, D.C. based ethics research and consulting firm, performs a survey of business employees every two years to measure trends in workplace ethics. It’s 2013 survey and report was released last week, and appears to bear good tidings. Workplace misconduct is on the decline, the data says.  41 percent of employees observed misconduct in 2013, way down from 55 percent in 2007. Moreover, ERC’s “National Business Ethics Survey,” which polled 6,400 U.S. employees, found that only 9 percent of employees polled felt pressure to compromise their standards in 2013, down from 13 percent in the previous survey in 2011.

ERC Chairman Michael G. Oxley  (of Sarbanes-Oxley fame) said in a release,“The results of the survey are encouraging and show that companies are doing a better job of holding workers accountable, imposing discipline for misconduct, and letting it be known publicly that bad behavior will be punished.”

Among the survey’s intriguing findings:

  • “Over the last two years, observed misconduct fell in every one of the 26 specific categories we asked about in both NBES 2011 and NBES 2013.
  • “Pressure to compromise standards, often a leading indicator of future misconduct, also was down – falling from 13 percent in 2011 to nine percent in the latest survey.”

Less encouraging are these: Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society, Workplace