Tag Archives: competence

Noted: A Familiar Debate Over At Slate

battle-marvel

Those who participated in the epic, star-studded battle in February here, led by the departed Bruce Bartup, over what are acceptable levels of intensity and personal attack on Ethics Alarms, will experience some nostalgia reading this debate on Slate about the website’s policies. My favorite line: “…if someone is a dick, and we’ve explained that he’s a dick, why shouldn’t we also call him a dick? He’s earned it!”

If you missed Bruce’s Lament and the terrific donnybrook it generated (sadly, Bruce took his bruised feelings and went home to the British Isles, though I urged him to persevere) can read his Comment of the Day and the responses to it here.

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Graphic: kiss my wonder woman

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Filed under Etiquette and manners, Journalism & Media, The Internet

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.

Continue reading

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

“Can The Democrats Find The Right Message On Obamacare?” You Mean Other Than, “We Lied To You And Gave You A Law That Doesn’t Work Right But You Should Still Trust Us To Fix It”?

One more time....

One more time….

“Can Democrats find the right message on Obamacare?” asks the Washington Post’s “Wonkbook,” as it reviews various strategic options for threatened Democrats after the party’s “fix Obamacare” candidate lost a winnable Congressional race in Florida. The question, objectively interpreted, really means “Can Democrats fool voters into trusting them one more time?” That’s a good question, and the answer is far from certain. The use of the word “right,” however, is cynical.  The Post means “effective.” The right message, as in the ethical and honest one, would have to be based on these undeniable and unpleasant facts: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

Ethics Observations On The President’s “Funny or Die” Appearance.

You should watch the entire “Funny or Die” bit here.

1. As has been obvious from the beginning of his administration, President Obama has retained the most incompetent, tone-deaf, leadership-ignorant and inept advisors in recent history, and those advising his predecessors were nothing to be proud of. This means that President Obama has tolerated, and worse, followed the advice of such incompetent advisors. He also selected them. He is accountable.

2. For the President of the United States, in the middle of an international crisis in which his authority, power and stature is central, to submit himself as a prop in a comedy video is irresponsible, reckless, and shows abysmal priorities and judgment. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Humor and Satire, Leadership, Marketing and Advertising

Ethics Dunce: Howard Kurtz…One Way Or The Other

Radner as "Baba Wawa." Walters, oddly, never felt the need to respond...

Radner as “Baba Wawa.” Walters, oddly, never felt the need to respond…

Maybe the ethics component in the title is gilding the lily in this case. Fox’s Kurtz, in attacking what he perceives as the unfairness of Stephen Colbert’s barbs, certainly misunderstands the ethics of Colbert’s craft, but what he primarily proves is that he’s a dunce…what kind of dunce, it’s difficult to tell. Is he the kind of dunce who can’t take a joke? Or is he the kind of  dunce who doesn’t realize he should leave the gags to professionals?

The former media ethics watchdog for the Washington Post, CNN and the Daily Beast, now playing that role for Fox News (all oxymoron jokes gratefully accepted), says that he has finally had his fill of being mocked by Colbert, the Comedy Central satirist whose gimmick is playing a conservative fool in order to ridicule real ones.

“It’s about time someone took on Stephen Colbert,” Kurtz wrote in what is either  serious piece on Fox News Insider, or a criminally inept attempt at ironic humor. “This guy—a fake anchor if ever there was one—has been maligning hard-working journalists for too long. Journalists like me. In an effort to get a few cheap laughs, this Comedy Central clown took my work out of context and, worse, engaged in selective editing. It was nothing less than a deliberate attempt to mislead viewers.”

Uh, Howie? Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Dunces, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media

KABOOM! “Discrimination In Portugal,” The Sequel

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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

More “Is We Getting Dummer?” Horrors

dictionary

I was having a quick sandwich before my flight at Reagan Airport and could not avoid hearing in excruciating detail the conversation next to me. It appeared to be some kind of staff meeting among business colleagues traveling to a common destination. One of the young professionals, a man in his early 30s, must have said “That’s incredulous” or “I find that incredulous” four or five times. Nobody corrected him; maybe none of the other four mature, supposedly educated people at the table knew that he was misusing a high school vocabulary word, though that’s a horrible thought.

For a moment I entertained thoughts of pulling him aside, like old Biff in “Back to the Future 2″ encountering his younger self, whom he told “It’s ‘make like a tree and leave,’ not ‘make like a tree and get out of here’—you sound like an idiot when you say that!” Except that I would have said, “It’s incredible, not incredulous! People will lower their opinion of you when you misuse words. Pay attention! Read! Learn to speak properly!”

If schools won’t or can’t educate competently any more, and the culture is determined to make us dumber by the day, then it is up to us to help each other out. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Daily Life, Education, U.S. Society

Groupon Celebrates National Incompetence and Ignorance With A Presidents Day Double KABOOM!

Hamilton-exploding_head2

The Ethics Alarms KABOOM!—a special designation for ethics-related stories that make my head explode—has a new variation, thanks to Groupon: the repeating KABOOM!, triggered by two related KABOOMs in the same episode. My head has been exploding repeatedly since I learned about this late last night.

Hold on to your craniums, for here is a Groupon press release sent out earlier this week, the first of the KABOOM! twins:

Groupon Celebrates

Presidents Day

by Honoring

Alexander Hamilton!

Commemorate a man historically powerful enough to be on money with $10 towards $40 on a local purchase while they last!

CHICAGO, Feb 14, 2014 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Starting tomorrow, Groupon ( http://www.groupon.com ) (NASDAQ: GRPN) will be kicking off Presidents Day weekend by giving customers 10 dollars off 40 dollars when they purchase a deal for any local business. The $10 bill, as everyone knows, features President Alexander Hamiltonundeniably one of our greatest presidents and most widely recognized for establishing the country’s financial system.

Beginning Saturday, Feb. 15 at 9 am CST, shoppers will be able to redeem this offer by using the promo code “10OFF40LOCAL”, which isn’t very catchy, but neither was President Hamilton’s famous saying, “Nobody expects to trust his body overmuch after the age of fifty.”

President Hamilton is best known for the fiscal sensibilities that led him to author economic policies, establish a national bank and control taxes. Customers can honor our money-minded commander-in-chief and find deals by searching Groupon.com for local deals all through President’s Day weekend. Promo codes are limited, and more information can be found at: https://www.groupon.com/faq#faqs:content-269

The emphasis is mine, and I’m paying for every bit of it, let me tell you. My head is doing a terrific Dante’s Peak impression as I type this.

But that’s not all: here comes Groupon’s KABOOM! #2. Is the company embarassed? Chagrined? Are heads rolling? Oh, noooo! For when an enterprising American, one of the few who received a competent fourth grade education, was kind enough to alert Groupon to its unforgivable gaffe, this is what he received in return:

GOUPON IDIOTIt would all be hilarious if it were not so ominous….and unethical. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Family, Government & Politics, History, Kaboom!, Marketing and Advertising, The Internet, U.S. Society, Workplace

“Fuck the EU”

Victoria Nuland, meet Earl Butz.

Victoria Nuland, meet Earl Butz.

In today’s news, Victoria Nuland,  Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and the top American diplomat in Europe, is heard in a viral Youtube video saying “Fuck the EU,” meaning the European Union, meaning the United States’ allies in Europe, meaning the constituency it is her job to get along with,and not insult like a middle schooler.

A U.S. government competent in international diplomacy, serious about international affairs, and familiar with the concepts of damage control and accountability would sack the unfortunate Ms. Nuland immediately. Waiting until she becomes completely useless and the gaffe escalates into a serious international rift with substantive consequences would be incompetent, lazy and stupid. But this, remember, is the Barack Obama Amateur Diplomacy Era. Nuland has apologized for saying “Fuck the EU,” and that, for now, is the best the European Union will get, because the President Obama and his subordinates (fish-rots-head-down) doesn’t acknowledge the ethical principle of accountability, nor professionalism and competence, as far as I can see.

In its actions, if not its words, the administration has been saying “fuck the rest of the world” with some regularity.  Obama’s nominee for Ambassador of Argentina revealed in last week’s confirmation hearings that he has never been there, nor does he speak Spanish. Unlike the many other countries’ languages that our ambassadors assigned to them can’t understand, it really isn’t hard to find qualified diplomats who speak Spanish. Noah Bryson Mamet, however, wasn’t nominated to head the embassy in a major South American nation because he has a clue of how to do that job. He bundled $500,000 for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, you see, and no fewer than 23 such “bundlers” have received ambassador posts as their pay-off. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Leadership, Professions

Comment of the Day: “How People Rationalize Being Close-minded: A Case Study”

battle-marvel

The Ethics Alarms resident humanist, Bruce, has filed a passionate brief condemning the sometimes rough debate on Ethics Alarms, and, in some ways, the blog itself. This is the latest volley in an ongoing thread that has jumped around from multiple posts: my fault, because I keep raising the issue in various ways. I would normally append some reactions at the conclusion of such direct criticism, but it’s a busy day, so I’ll have to put them in the comments to Bruce’s post later, with this exception.

The Ethics Scoreboard, which was not a blog but a website, embodied Bruce’s suggestion of radically fewer posts, more carefully considered and proofread. I am proud of a lot of the work there, but the format was limiting. The goal of Ethics Alarms is to try to inject ethical considerations into the national analysis and discussion of daily events, including politics, that need them but hardly ever receive them, because, sadly, most commentators are either uninterested or incapable of it.  The reason I chose a blog format is that these issues are time-sensitive, and if I am to have even a wisp of a chance of elevating the discussion and encouraging valid analysis of right and wrong, I have to strike quickly, or I might as well be writing about the ethics of the Spanish American War.

Jeffrey Field, my favorite Occupier who often weighs in here, periodically sends me a note that says “Slow down!”  I appreciate that, and take it to heart. Nonetheless, when the news media was (lazily? maliciously?) misrepresenting the meaning of David Wildstein’s lawyers’ letter regarding Chris Christie’s involvement in the George Washington Bridge affair, and I could find nobody who was pointing out what miserably unethical journalism this was, I had to write about it immediately—and, frankly, Ethics Alarms readers were ahead of most of the public. A little later, the New York Times, for example, had to tune down its characterization of the document.

I know my analysis is not always air tight, but I’m not trying to end discussions, but begin them. I wish I could do ten posts a day.

Here’s Bruce, and his Comment of the Day on the post How People Rationalize Being Close-minded: A Case Study”: Continue reading

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Etiquette and manners, The Internet, U.S. Society