Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/20/18: Darrow, Damn Technology And Dunkin’ Donuts

Good Morning!

1. Shameless self-promotion Dept. Once again, I am presenting my three-hour Clarence Darrow and modern attorney ethics CLE program for the D.C. Bar, and later this summer, Virginia CLE will be sponsoring the same seminar in Richmond and Northern Virginia. As always, my partner and collaborator in All Things Darrow is esteemed D.C. actor (and American University law school instructor, and, I am proud to say, my friend) Paul Morella, who has been Darrowing since he premiered my one-man show about the great and flawed lawyer in 2000, for The American Century Theater. His website is here. This is Paul…

Paul is a lot taller, thinner and better looking than Darrow, and unlike Clarence, he also bathes regularly. It doesn’t matter. I can’t recommend his show, which he performs for bar associations and legal groups around the country, more highly, and would feel this way even if I hadn’t written it. Of course, any group that wants Continuing Legal Education credits can also book today’s seminar, which has many of Darrow’s greatest courtroom orations, but also legal ethics commentary from me.

2. Ah-HA! NOW I understand why I’m being sued for defamation!  This is in the “This comes as no surprise” category, but it still explains a lot. The Pew Research Center just released a survey that demonstrates that a large proportion of the public can’t distinguish facts from opinions. The main portion of the study  measured the public’s ability to distinguish between five factual statements and five opinion statements. Pew found

“…that a majority of Americans correctly identified at least three of the five statements in each set. But this result is only a little better than random guesses. Far fewer Americans got all five correct, and roughly a quarter got most or all wrong. Even more revealing is that certain Americans do far better at parsing through this content than others. Those with high political awareness, those who are very digitally savvy and those who place high levels of trust in the news media are better able than others to accurately identify news-related statements as factual or opinion.”

I challenge that last part. It may well be that those who place high levels of trust in the news media could distinguish between fact and opinion in those  ten statements, but it doesn’t change the fact (now this is my opinion, but I still believe it is demonstrably true) that the news media distorts what it represents as facts based on journalists’ biased opinions.

In fact, I’m interested in how this poll comes out:

3.  Once again: The Unibomber was right. This morning began with a panic, as my wife’s computer was suddenly taken over by a bellowing British woman and a fright screen “from Microsoft” telling her that a malign “pornography virus” had infected her computer, and that she had to address it immediately or the commuter would be shut down. The non-stop vocal warning on a loop made it hard to think straight, but of course this was a scam. My smart, savvy wife and business partner had downloaded a document from a new site, and this was the result. After about 30 minutes of both of us doing our best chicken-with-its-head-cut-off impression, we fixed the problem. Even then: how did we know that the free program we used to eliminate the virus wasn’t also a trick?

My wife has been using computers and the web for a long time. We are now completely defendant on technology that most of us do not sufficiently understand to use competently, and will never understand sufficiently to use competently. Is it ethical or sane to build modern society and commerce on a foundation that most of those dependent on it will not and cannot master?

4. Doh! That Ethics Alarm didn’t ring!  In Baltimore, a Dunkin’ Donuts store manager of the West 41st Street store posted the sign below  “based on her own personal judgment” to address a “customer service and satisfaction issue.”

The chain quickly determined the sign to be “inappropriate,” and the sign was removed.

How could the manager not realize that the sign would set off a public relations disaster and be interpreted as xenophobic prejudice? Is it all right for English speaking employees to shout in the store? Who shouts in a Dunkin’ Donuts store anyway?

Now watch: because of one idiot, Dunkin’ Donuts will have to hold company wide sensitivity trainings, and promise free donuts to foreign language speakers as penance.

Note also that this manager, like the Starbuck’s manager who called the cops on two African Americans for not immediately buying some coffee as they waited for a companion, is female. How odd. I thought women were inherently better managers than men…

5. What a coincidence! In related news, Starbucks announced that it will close 150 poorly performing company-operated stores next year, about three times as many as it typically closes. The doomed stores are located in mostly urban areas, which is to say, the places where the chain’s new “woke” policy of letting homeless people just gang out and use the bathrooms at will are likely to be especially burdensome. The unexpectedly high casualty list may also be related to the fact—this isn’t my opinion, now—that Starbuck’s corporate brain-washing effort in the wake (that’s woke in the wake, now) of the arrest fiasco cost, according to outgoing chairman Howard Schultz, “tens of millions” of dollars. The training also delayed the launch of Starbucks’ spring and summer marketing campaign by about two weeks.

I wonder how many completely innocent Starbucks employees, including African Americans, will lose their jobs because of the company’s hysterical over-reaction to the admitted mishandling of a single incident? I feel sorry for them. I do not feel sorry for Starbucks in the least.

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23 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/20/18: Darrow, Damn Technology And Dunkin’ Donuts

  1. the chain’s new “woke” policy of letting homeless people just gang out and use the bathrooms at will

    Sometimes I only read the Internet for typos. Thankfully I read this site for insight and only sometimes giggle at the typos.

  2. 2) Is this a byproduct of the current state of the media? Much of the mainstream media communications these days wildly mixes fact and opinion and presents it all as facts. Or fact presented in a biased or misleading way (see “yanking crying babies from the arms of loving parents “)

    • Good point on how even absolute factual statements can be used to shape the story-

      “Masked government agents took weeping children from their homes in an impoverished neighborhood” is technically just as factual as “Firefighters rescued terrified children from a blazing tenement building.”

  3. I’m disappointed with Pew for not being able to come up with five unequivocally “factual” statements. One of them is “Isis lost a significant portion of its territory in Iraq and Syria in 2017.”

    “Significant” is a red flag for opinion- do you mean they lost a large portion of their territory in square miles (and what % of that territory must have been lost to be significant)? Do you mean they lost one or more important cities (and again, how many cities, and how important, and how do you measure the importance of the city)? Did they lose useful territory, such that being driven out of it harms them, or did they consolidate and pull out of a large (whatever that means) chunk of useless desert pocked with small towns, making the loss visually impressive on a map but not a significant loss in terms of actual effect on ISIS operations?

    Without defining “significant,” the statement is at best someone’s interpretation of facts. A reasonable person could read the (factual) statement “ISIS lost over 25% of its claimed territory in 2017” and say “Wow, they lost a significant amount!”

    • The goals were to:

      Pull together statements that range across a variety of policy areas and current events

      Strive for statements that were clearly factual and clearly opinion in nature (as well as some that combined both factual and opinion elements, referred to here as “borderline”)

      Include an equal number of statements that appealed to the right and left, maintaining an overall ideological balance

      It appears it was precisely their goal to make that particular statement somewhat ambiguous.

      • Good catch, I read right past that line! I think they messed it up by hinging their sentence on “significant,” but at least I know they did it on purpose.

  4. 3. Perhaps the liberal bias of the mainstream news media distorts its perception of events, and that, in turn, results in distorted reporting. In other words, it may be true that they are not intentionally distorting the news to support their bias – their bias may distort the news before they even get around to reporting it.

  5. I’d like to see a list of facts that leftist don’t want to admit and see how well reporters could identify the facts. Off the top of my head:

    They key piece of evidence used to obtain the court order allowing the FBI to surveil the Trump campaign was a document generated by the Hillary campaign. True or opinion?

    Shuttering the San Onofere Nuclear plant offset all of the combined gains of 20 years of investment into wind and solar generation for the entire state of California. True or opinion?

    The US Senate ratified The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 32 years ago. It requires the US to return children brought to the US by one parent if the other parent contest so that the country of origin may adjudicate the custody agreement. True or opinion? (Several of the Facebook sob stories are about “escaping demistic violence. Not allowing children in these examples has nothing to do with the current rules. Example: Elion Gonzalez in 2000.)

    The New Colossus (Give us your tired, your poor huddled masses) is a poem and an inscription on the Statue of Liberty. It is not found in any part of the United States constitution not its amendments. True or opinion?

    Judicial review is not part of the US Constitution. It is a power taken by the US Supreme Court in deciding Marbury v. Madison, and was never contested. True or opinion?

    • The New Colossus (Give us your tired, your poor huddled masses) is a poem and an inscription on the Statue of Liberty. It is not found in any part of the United States constitution not its amendments. True or opinion?

      That is a bit of a straw man. The poem is part of the American ethos, and embodies our ideals. It’s like saying “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” is not in the Constitution – undisputed, but irrelevant.

      If a policy contradicts one of America’s ideals, it had better be at the service of another core purpose.

      • Come on Rich. It’s a poem. It was written by a poet. It has no official status. It referred to a different time and a different policy needs. Most of all, it is not an invitation to break our laws. That statue was part of the Ellis Island experience, and those immigrants were following law and procedures.

        That pro-illegal immigration advocates have to ever cite the poem shows their desperation and the absence of real arguments. The New Colossus This is like citing the words of “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful” to argue that the US should officially endorse the Judeo-Christian God, or The battle Hymn of the republic to justify a war. “The New Colossus” has no more legitimate relevance to 21st Century immigration policy than “The Highwayman.”

        • I would also point out that “Life, Liberty and The Pursuit Of Happiness” are not in the Constitution, they are in the Declaration Of Independence, as being among in(un)alienable rights. I’m pretty sure the Declaration is, in fact, a legal document.

          • I don’t understand your point.

            Actually, the Declaration is incorporated into the Constitution, being the Mission Statement for which the Constitution is the executing document. It’s only legal force is through the Constitution.

            But I hope you are not trying to say that those assertion of human rights mean “People from other countries have a right to violate our laws in pursuit of their happiness.” Because they don’t.

            • I think dragin’s point is that comparing the Lazarus poem to the Declaration of Independence as having equal weight in determining the “American Ethos”, as Rich puts it, is fallacious.

              The poem is NOTHING like the declaration in terms of establishing America’s values, and therefore it does NOT do what the Declaration does in terms of crafting our attitudes towards our laws.

              I think dragin actually reinforces your point.

              • Thanks, Michael. That’s exactly what I was trying to do. Sometimes I forget I’m writing, not speaking. I most assuredly do NOT support extending Constitutionally-guaranteed rights to non-citizens living here illegally.

          • Ever since Griswald v. Connecticut, the courts have interpreted the 9th and 10th to state essentially that “Life, Liberty and The Pursuit Of Happiness” is in the constitution, with the 14th amendment extending it to the states and their respective political divisions.

  6. (1) My own reading has supported Jack’s more than sufficient empirical evidence of both liberal bias and distortion of facts to serve it.

  7. 2. More subtly but more crucially, people are losing the ability to tell the difference between raw facts (that is, immediately measurable evidence that is “obvious) and interpreted facts (that is, conclusions we draw based on the evidence.

    Different people use different raw facts and different paradigms (which include assumptions, intuitions, and biases) to draw different conclusions, and they label them “facts”. They may be facts, but not the same type of fact that you can call someone insane for disputing. (I like Luke G’s example of two different ways to interpret the same situation, based on how you weight the raw facts.)

    By way of my own shameless self-promotion, I wrote an article which expands on the distinction between raw and interpreted facts as part of explaining my own approach to dealing with fake news. Since we all have strong feelings about fake news, I’m interested in what you all think of it.

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