Category Archives: Workplace

More On The Dangers Of Godwin’s Law

 

Mike Godwin

Mike Godwin

In correctly diagnosing the Obama Administration’s and the Democratic Party’s continued use of the misleading “77 cents” statistic, I rejected the application of Godwin’s Law as a bar to the evocation of the Bog Lie’s most accomplished practitioners and champions, Hitler and Goebbels. I want to expand a bit on what I wrote explaining why.

Godwin’s Law, to begin with, began as a joke. An early Usenet moderator (and attorney) named Mike Godwin coined the “rule” in 1990 as a tongue-in-cheek  method to detect when internet debates had gone on too long, stating that  “if you mention Adolf Hitler or Nazis within a discussion thread, you’ve automatically ended whatever discussion you were taking part in.” The Wikipedia entry, based on the original “law” posted by Godwin, says that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches —​ that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Hitler or Nazism.”

In the ensuing years, Godwin’s Law has been cited, but seriously, as a genuine discourse limitation; that it is somehow taboo to raise the Nazis or Hitler as comparisons or references in any serious debate, online or off. It is even cited as an absolute, frequently by people who haven’t given a second’s thought to why there should be such a “law.” This, of course, is classic morality reasoning. You can’t mention Hitler because an authority, “Godwin,” has decreed otherwise, and you blindly follow because, well, he says it’s right, so it is. I have wondered if anyone would take Godwin’s Law seriously if his name had been Mike Snotwelder, or something similar. Continue reading

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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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Ethics Observations On “The Kissing Congressman” Scandal

 

Passionate Kiss

Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La), a married freshman Republican congressman who campaigned by proclaiming his Christian, pro-family values, was seen  on leaked surveillance video from his district office embracing and kissing the Congressman’s 33-year-old  scheduler, also married, Melissa Anne Hixon Peacock.  McAllister apologized, saying

“There’s no doubt I’ve fallen short and I’m asking for forgiveness. I’m asking for forgiveness from God, my wife, my kids, my staff, and my constituents who elected me to serve. Trust is something I know has to be earned whether you’re a husband, a father, or a congressman. I promise to do everything I can to earn back the trust of everyone I’ve disappointed. From day one, I’ve always tried to be an honest man. I ran for Congress to make a difference and not to just be another politician. I don’t want to make a political statement on this, I would just simply like to say that I’m very sorry for what I’ve done.”

Meanwhile, Mrs. Peacock has been dismissed from her job, and reportedly her marriage is shattered.

Some ethics observations: Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: The “You Stink” Farewell Retirement Party Speech

retirement-pocket-watch

As reported by Bloomberg and Above the Law, James Kidney, an SEC enforcement lawyer who had worked at the agency since 1986 (with a four year hiatus in the private sector) favored his retirement party with a fiery speech telling his colleagues what a lousy job they do.

The SEC has become “an agency that polices the broken windows on the street level and rarely goes to the penthouse floors,” Kidney said“On the rare occasions when enforcement does go to the penthouse, good manners are paramount. Tough enforcement, risky enforcement, is subject to extensive negotiation and weakening.”

Kidney accused SEC manager of being  focused on getting high-paying jobs after their government service rather than on bringing difficult cases. “I have had bosses, and bosses of my bosses, whose names we all know, who made little secret that they were here to punch their ticket,” Kidney said. “They mouthed serious regard for the mission of the commission, but their actions were tentative and fearful in many instances.”

He accused his soon-to-be former employers of having little interest in “afflicting the comfortable and powerful,”and condemned the agency for massaging  statistics to burnish its reputation. There was more. We only know of Kidney’s comments from notes; there was no video or formal transcript.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz today:

Was Kidney’s farewell speech ethical?

Continue reading

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Ethical Quote Of The Week: Andrew Sullivan

You are dead to me, Firefox. Tell your mama.

You are dead to me, Firefox. Tell your mama.

“Will he now be forced to walk through the streets in shame? Why not the stocks? The whole episode disgusts me – as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society. If this is the gay rights movement today – hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else – then count me out. If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us”

—-Blogging pioneer and gay rights advocate Andrew Sullivan, writing yesterday about Mozilla’s craven capitulation to gay rights bullies who demanded the removal of new CEO Brendan Eich “who had the gall to express his First Amendment rights and favor Prop 8 in California by donating $1,000.”

Corporations, as the Duck Dynasty flap depressingly illustrated, tend to be spineless, irresolute and principle-free. This instance of that tendency, however, is more alarming and harmful than most. Capitulating to arrogant, self-righteous, power-hungry forces on the left or right only makes them more voracious: we will know who to thank first when boycotts abound demanding that anyone who questioned Al Gore’s climate change hysteria be sacked.

Thank you, Mozilla.

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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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OK, OK, He Steals Our Money Too. But I Still Hear Eric Holder’s One Hell Of A Guy….

But what really matters is whether he's better than Alberto Gonzalez, right?

But what really matters is whether he’s better than Alberto Gonzalez, right?

From the Washington Post:

The agency that tracks federal travel did not report hundreds of personal and other “nonmission” trips aboard government planes for senior Justice Department officials including Attorney General Eric Holder and former FBI Director Robert Mueller, according to a watchdog report.

Congress’s nonpartisan Government Accountability Office determined that the 395 flights cost taxpayers $7.8 million. But the General Services Administration, which oversees trips aboard federal jets, did not require documentation because of a GSA reporting exemption that covers intelligence agencies, even in cases of unclassified personal travel.

The GSA exemption contradicts decades-old executive-branch requirements, specifically guidelines established by President Bill Clinton and the Office of Management and Budget, according to the report. The report said GSA “has not provided a basis for deviating from executive branch requirements.”

The findings, released Thursday, came out nearly 19 months after Republican lawmakers began questioning Holder’s use of an FBI jet for travel unrelated to Justice Department work. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked the GAO to look into the matter.

In its report, the non-partisan Congressional GAO reprimands the GSA, noting that “GSA regulations that allow intelligence agencies not to report unclassified data on senior federal official travel for non-mission purposes are not consistent with executive branch requirements, and GSA has not provided a basis for deviating from these requirements.” Now the GSA is promising to rectify the non-mission exemption.

But never mind all that. The gravamen of the report is that Attorney General Holder and former FBI Director Robert Mueller spent $7.8 million dollars of taxpayer money for personal travel, and haven’t reimbursed it. What does this tell us? Nothing we shouldn’t have been able to figure out before:

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What Is An Ethical Tiger Lily?

Believe it or not, this is Disney's version of an Indian chief.

 Disney’s version of an Indian chief.

I recently watched the Disney “Peter Pan,” long my favorite of the classic animated films, which I had not seen from beginning to end in decades. I was genuinely shocked at the portrayal of the Indians, which would make the average movie Western seem politically correct and the Washington Redskins seem like a compliment. I know the story is a fantasy; I know that these are not supposed to represent real Native Americans, but a Victorian child’s visualization of the villains of their games. Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine the effect of such a film on a Native American child as being anything but devastating. The Neverland Indians, and their heroine, Tiger Lily, have been a human relations problem since at least the civil rights era, and the provocation is legitimate: did you recall (I had forgotten) that Tiger Lily belonged to the “Piccaninny tribe”? That James Barrie was a funny guy. Continue reading

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Ethics Observations On A Journalism Scandal

washington-post-logo

Shame.

Executive Summary: Washington Post reporters Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin wrote a story for the website’s Wonkblog headlined, “The biggest lease holder in Canada’s oil sands isn’t Exxon Mobil or Chevron. It’s the Koch brothers.” The story was essentially false. It was based on easily disproved data from a progressive activist organization. Eilperin has close ties to both the environmental advocates opposing the Keystone pipeline, and desperately trying to turn public opinion against it. She also has tied to the White House. John Hinderaker, on Powerline, his respected conservative politics blog, exposed the Post story as a blatant misinformation with a likely political motive. The reporters responded with a jaw-dropping rationalization, and are currently being excoriated by the Post’s readers online.

The Facts: The Post article by Mufson and Eilperin begins: Continue reading

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The Fundamental Attribution Error And The Gender Pay Gap: When We Say “Women Need To Learn To Negotiate,” We Meant “Learn To Negotiate WELL”

GenderGapIt isn’t 23 cents less than every dollar earned by men in the same jobs, as the President dishonestly claimed in the State of the Union address, but women’s compensation is not yet equal to what men earn. Part of the reason is the choices women make regarding child-bearing and career timing; part is indeed bias. Some of it is also attributable to the fact that women are less aggressive and perhaps less skilled in negotiation. They often get lower salaries because, unlike their male counterparts, they don’t ask for higher ones.

Now comes “W,” who writes into an academic blog to show that women are penalized for daring to negotiate. She claims she was offered a tenure-track philosophy position at Nazareth College, a liberal arts school in Rochester, N.Y.  She replied, she says, by emailing the selection committee:

“As you know, I am very enthusiastic about the possibility of coming to Nazareth. Granting some of the following provisions would make my decision easier: 1) An increase of my starting salary to $65,000, which is more in line with what assistant professors in philosophy have been getting in the last few years. 2) An official semester of maternity leave. 3) A pre-tenure sabbatical at some point during the bottom half of my tenure clock. 4) No more than three new class preps per year for the first three years. 5) A start date of academic year 2015 so I can complete my postdoc.

I know that some of these might be easier to grant than others. Let me know what you think.”

Let me pause here to point out that this is a terrible response, incompetent negotiation, and career self-sabotage. First, you do not negotiate in a potential employer-employee setting through e-mail. You talk. Then you can gauge how you are being received. She should have asked for an appointment. Continue reading

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