Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/25/2018: Parlor Games! [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

I know that’s a photo from last night’s Red Sox World Series victory, but thinking about this catch by Andrew Benintendi it has certainly brightened MY morning…

(Psst! Joe, you idiot: George Wallace was crippled for life by an attempted assassination.) Said Joe Biden at a political rally two days ago, “This president is more like George Wallace than George Washington!” Long before Trump came along, Joe told African Americans that Mitt Romney would but them back in chains. I know it’s unfair to focus on Simple Joe (or Hillary, or Maxine, or Elizabeth, or Nancy, or Keith…) to characterize Democrats, but according to polls, this guy is currently the party front-runner for the Presidential nomination. [Pointer: Ann Althouse, who rejoined, “Because he doesn’t own slaves?”] Joe really is a boob, but he makes for good parlor games. My favorite comments in the Althouse thread…

“He’s more like George Washington…they both got elected president.”

“Trump is more like Elizabeth Warren because they’re both not Indians.”

“Because he doesn’t own slaves?” No, because he worries about black unemployment. Washington never worried about that.

“Because Wallace was a Democrat, like Trump was his whole life until 15 minutes before he ran for president?”

2. Fake News. New York Times headline:Pipe Bombs Sent to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and CNN Offices.”

How much more dishonest can a single headline be? There were no “pipe bombs,” but hoax bombs, and the hoax bomb sent to “CNN offices” was addressed to John Brennan. The headline deceitfully aims to suggest that the target was the news media.

3. I figured this out when I was 17 years old. A new book called The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing, by Merve Emre, (Doubleday, 336 pages, $27.95) explains that the iconic personality test is junk science. I first took the test in high school, when my parents paid a psychologist to advise me where to apply to college. He complained that the battery of tests I took had contradictory results. Yes, that would be because it was so obvious how to manipulate them, and also how insulting they were, since any fool could see the little pigeon holes the tests were trying to stuff you into. Essentially, the test was designed to create bias on the part of employers. Writes Reason,

“This book is a useful study of how a dubious idea can gain traction if it arrives at the right time.”

There’s another parlor game: which dubious ideas are gaining traction now, supported by junk science, junk research, or false assumptions?

4. Why we can’t trust the government to spend our money, Exhibit 687, 342,091 billion: The Air Force used about $300,000 of the Defense Department budget to buy custom coffee mugs over for the 60th Aerial Port Squadron at Travis Air Force base in California. The metal mugs have the ability to reheat beverages while air refueling tankers are in flight. The cost of a single mug has doubled from $693 in 2016 to $1,280 in 2018.  Project On Government Oversight’s report said that the mugs’ intended purpose of aiding “the crew’s alertness by providing caffeine” could be similarly achieved “with a few cans of Red Bull.” Unfortunately, they also break easily.

5. Professor Turley’s round-up of attacks on individual rights (for our own good, of course.). Turley’s blog Res Ipsa Loquitur has a global bumper crop of disturbing but increasingly typical attacks from sensitive progressive bureaucrats, activists or government agencies against core individual liberties:

  • City officials in Oak Park, Michigan banned clown  costumes for Halloween to protect “people [with] phobias and anxiety about clowns.” The slippery slope from this well-intentioned idiocy to banning “hate speech,” offensive speech, or any speech anyone finds upsetting is more of a cliff than a slope. See suggested parlor game in #3.
  • An Ontario, Canada school board wants to ban “To Kill A Mockingbird” because “the use of racist texts as entry points into discussions about racism is hardly for the benefit of black students who already experience racism.This should give us pause — who does the use of these texts centre? Who does it serve? Why do we continue to teach them?…The idea that banning books is about censorship and that censorship limits free speech is often decried as a poor reason to keep the novel on schools’ reading lists as its racist themes make it violent and oppressive for black students.”
  • In France, legislation is nearing passage that would make mocking accents a crime.
  • England, meanwhile, is considering a measure to put a maximum calorie count* on pizzas, ready meals and sandwiches to combat obesity. Of course, this is what nationalized health care inevitably must lead to: if I have to pay for your lousy eating habits, I want my government to protect me by telling you what you can eat.

Let’s have a poll!


*In the original post, I left out “maximum” which apparently confused everyone. I’m sorry.

32 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/25/2018: Parlor Games! [UPDATED]

  1. 3: Didn’t know it was junk science till I was 19. In my defense, I didn’t know about the test till some grad student teaching an English class made us take it. One look at the results and a big nope.

    5: You’ll have to explain to me what exactly is wrong with having to show calorie count, Informed choices.

    To then refer to it in your quiz as a pizza ban, I believe Mr. Marshall, you frequently call such mischaracterizations fake news.

    • With respect, it appears you didn’t follow his link before calling him put on his “mischaracterization.” The proposal isn’t to force better communication of calories counts – it is, quite literally, a proposal to *cap* the allowed calories in popular food items, by law (no choices, rather than informed choices). While referring to it as a “ban” may be off the mark, neither is it quite as innocuous as you seem to perceive it.

    • It is just another needless regulation that stifles businesses and the economy. Imagine you start an Italian restaurant. You now have to have full nutritional information for all of your dishes. You can’t just guess, you will need to send them to a certified lab, and pay for the full suite of tests. If anything changes, you will have to resubmit the dishes for analysis. This is a small cost to a company such as McDonalds, since they only need to do it once and it is good for all 14,000 restaurants in the US. For your restaurant, however, it is a significant burden and will keep you from changing your menu too often, reducing your competitiveness, etc.

      In the US, the average small business spends $83,000 the first year just to comply with such regulations. They then spend over $10,000/year and 80 working hours each year to comply with such regulations. Imagine the burden on a business with 3 or 4 employees. In regulation-happy places like New York City, such costs may be 5-10 times more. For example, three separate agencies inspect each boiler in NYC each year and a small business may have to comply with the regulations from over 50 city agencies which may conflict.

  2. # 3 – My tester thought I was cheating the test to get the result I wanted. Some of my traits were very borderline.

    I didn’t know the system well at the time, but I was slotted into a supposedly rare type that lots of people on the internet seem to claim they are.

    This was a few years ago, and to be honest, the Myers-Briggs gave me a helpful framework for understanding how I relate to others and make decisions. But people don’t fit in boxes, let alone 16 flattering boxes.

  3. 3. A number of us gamed the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory when it was administered at the start of basic training. After determining that the test results showed our incoming group had a significant number of psychopaths in its ranks, the entire group that took the test that day was mustered out for extra PT under the supervision of a group of very angry upperclassmen and officers. We were told that we would be retaking the test and that a similar result would result in additional PT followed by screening for involuntary discharge by the appropriate medical staff. Apparently no one considered the fact that doing this would effectively screen the real psychopaths from being weeded out.
    With regard to your question, implicit bias, and its various permutations, would seem to fit nicely here.

    • Military service is one area a true psychopath can contribute to society without breaking laws, if they can discipline themselves enough to follow the rule set.

      I know of quite a few who did so, and the experience made them better citizens (able to control themselves better than before)

    • 77Zoomie, I’m not sure how far back you took the MMPI but I am stunned that that piece of garbage is still in use, much less to test the mental fitness of fighting men. It was debunked back in 1958 at the Stevens Institute Department of Psychometrics — the place where tests were tested against rigorous empirical evidence. I assume by the time you are talking about they had at least removed the most egregious examples which were useless except to frustrate the test-taker: “when did you stop beating your wife-“type questions like “who do you love more, your father or your mother?” As I recall, you were not permitted to leave a question unanswered.

  4. 3) I’ve been trashing the Meyers Brigs test since high school. Anyone who doesn’t recognize it’s just a regurgitation of the ancient Greek’s concept of the 4 Humors…just run through a rinse cycle of Master’s Thesis style wordcraft… needs to open their eyes.

    My favorite characterization I’ve read recently is that Meyers Briggs is just horoscopes for educated professionals.

  5. 4) Ridiculous. Luckily the Democrats have promised us they will renew oversight efforts if they win the House.

    They’ve promised a return to good governance via responsible oversight in four key areas of the Executive Branch’s day to day operations:

    a) Seeking an avenue to impeach Trump by scrutinizing his Tax Returns.
    b) Finding an avenue to impeach Trump via the Russia-Collusion hypothesis.
    c) Strongly considering impeaching the President.
    d) Finding a way to impeach Justice Kavanaugh.

    Oh. Did I use the word “oversight”? That’s my mistake… I was merely using the word the Democrats and NPR used. I should have said “vicious and spiteful partisan”.

    In other words the DNC doesn’t plan on even pretending at good governance, but rather operate on the notion that Trump has got to go. The end. No further conversation.

    Insurgent dummies. When do they line up the artillery outside of Fort Sumter?

  6. 3. That test always reminded me of astrology and its use in categorizing people. Apparently I was “rare” in the results however those 4 letters still didn’t really apply. A bit like assuming brown skin equals being a Democrat or needing to heal “racial wounds” as an SJW friend said yesterday.

    4. Our taxes pay for some really stupid things; war, abortions, and superfluous mugs apparently.

    5. Clowns are weird & creepy, and plastic surgery/botox faces give me the same feeling clowns do. Wouldn’t support a ban, but wouldn’t mind seeing both a lot less.

  7. Jack,
    2) What makes you call them “hoax bombs”? The devices themselves weren’t made from explosive material? They were, but were never meant to explode? That they were both fake and sent to liberal targets to make them appear under attack? All of the above? Sources? Please advise.

    • I don’t see much discussion of this online, but the phrase I heard was the design was “rudimentary, but functional.” Presumably, this means they were capable of exploding.

      I don’t know if they were all designed the same way or not, though.

      I don’t know if they are hoax bombs or not. Put another way, I don’t know if they were meant to explode. In either case, hoax or not, a crime was likely committed (anything from attempted murder to terroristic threats). Hoax or not, the FBI needs to track the person down. Hoax or not, these acts are destructive.

      • The one sent to CNN (or rather, in their general direction) was definitely inert, or so it’s been reported. I have a feeling that they all were, and were just someone’s crude attempt at creating fear.

        It’s passing strange we haven’t seen any real description of whether or not these “bombs” could’ve actually exploded. I’ve read that at least one of them contained some kind of explosive without any discussion of what kind of explosive we are talking about. Semtex? C-4? Gunpowder? Black powder? Baby powder?

        You’d think we would’ve heard by now, but no. Kind of makes you wonder.

      • That’s about right. But you can’t call them “pipe bombs” unless they explode, could explode, and were intended to explode. The Times and others called them unequivocally “pipe bombs.” Then we were told that the envelopes contained “what appeared to be pipe bombs.” But appearing to be a bomb isn’t the same as being a bomb. The Washington Times called what was sent “explosives.” That seems accurate. I’ve seen “potential bombs”…what is that? A can of gasoline is a potential bomb.

    • I just wrote about that. It looks like the elements of a bomb were sent to cause fear, and not to explode. I’ll stipulate that they all might nave been incompetently assembled, rendering “hoax” incorrect, and dud more accurate. I regard bonbs like accused judges: they are not bombs until they are proven to be bombs. These are being called bombs without proper proof.

      • If they were meant to be bombs and were simply not built right, surely that’s just moral luck? If a fleeing criminal grabs a gun – shaped lighter that a judge drops and tries to shoot his pursuers, it would be disingenuous to say “well it wasn’t really a murder attempt because the weapon couldn’t have done what he meant for it to do”

        Of course the hoax/ threat/ attempted bombing distinction requires knowing what the sender intended to happen, so you calling it them hoax bombs is just as imprecise as calling them attempted murder bombs. A plausible but unverified interpretation.

  8. #3. Utilized with skepticism, some psychological testing can be clinically useful. Most of it though, I value as highly as Lou Brown valued Dorne’s contract.

    #4. I used to fly 18 hour missions as a crew member on the RC-135. Coffee was vital. I just had a plain old coffee mug. The coffee would freeze solid if the mug was placed on the floor.

  9. The FBI described the bombs as “suspicious packages” and apparently just shipped them off to the lab for analysis. Someone also seems to have posed the bombs for pictures by hand BEFORE the analysis.

    It is my understanding that had there been an actual threat, the bomb squad would have been called in, the area evacuated, and the bombs immediately exploded/tested/defused and then whisked away. Chain of custody and all. My guess is that they will turn out to definitively be hoax bombs.

    I suppose there could be a crazed right-winger behind this (they do exist) but something about these bombs doesn’t sit right with the old BS meter.

    -It’s late October just before a heated midterm election, in which Republicans are, for the most part, “winning.” It’s hard to understand a right-wing bomber’s motive in light of that, unless the timing is just a coincidence.
    -The Republican strategy has been to point out unhinged and violent behavior among Democrats. This action, therefore, obviously hurts Republicans and helps Democrats, and it’s hard to envision a politically-obsessed person who wouldn’t see that.
    -The bombs, for the most part, aren’t even addressed to candidates in the elections, or to rising Democrat stars. The targets are basically a list of well-known or famous Democrat names, especially those disliked or criticized by Trump.
    -The whole thing seems…a bit too on the nose.
    -There has been a flood of verified fake hate crimes, perpetuated by the fake “victims” in order to implicate evil “Trump supporters.” The hoaxers are usually not exactly crazy, but are college students/activist types. This has been pretty uniquely a behavior of Leftists, and it has been on the increase ever since the 2016 election.

    If this were a Leftist hoax intended to counter the narrative that it’s mainly the Left that is violent and to re-frame them as victims…it wouldn’t qualify as a “false flag” or a “conspiracy” since it would probably be just some lone nut. I put the odds of that at about 51% right now. It would explain all of the odd features of this…terrorist threat.

    Hopefully we’ll know the truth soon because I can’t imagine that the Feds aren’t closing in on this clown as we speak.

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