Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/20/18: I Promise, I’m Looking Hard For Uplifting Ethics Stories For The Holidays. And Failing….

Good morning!

(If I don’t get the lights on the tree  today, I’m hurling myself into a pit of rabid reindeer…)

1. Open Forum report: Another intense, varied, and impressive performance by the Ethics Alarms crew in my absence yesterday. 23 different commenters raised and debated the following issues, many of which I haven’t touched yet, because I am wholly inadequate to my task. Among them:

  • The ethics of fighting a specious criminal charge,
  • Texas’ school districts for making employees sign a pledge not to boycott or advocate against Israel?
  • The bump stock ban
  • The plea deal of Jacob Walter Anderson
  • “The Innocent Man”
  • The Xmas package-snatcher trap.
  •  Stepha Velednitsky
  • “Without Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times” by Joel Richard Paul.
  • The yellow vest protests and the meager US coverage of them
  • Prada Monkey
  • Trump’s decision to  pull out of Syria

2.  Favorite dishonest and manipulative note out of many in the 12/18  Times:   Reporters Carl Hulse and Julie Davis write in“Tennessee Senator, A Proven Deal-Maker, Won’t Seek Re-election”…

Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and one of the last bridges to bipartisanship in the Senate, announced on Monday that he would not seek re-election in 2020…His decision to leave is more evidence that Washington has become less attractive to legislators interested in steering a middle course on seemingly intractable issues such as education and health care….

Fake news, and deliberate distortion. In fact, Alexander’s decision may have nothing to do with the job becoming “less attractive to legislators interested in steering a middle course,” and his own words, meaning his own stated reason for leaving, don’t suggest that at all. Alexander is 78. In 2020, he would be 80, meaning that by the end of a new term he would be 86, or sick, or dead. “I’ve had my turn,”  Alexander is quoted as saying. “Everything comes to an end sometime, and it is good to know when that should be.” He also said that he wants to leave the Senate “at the top of my game.”

The current U.S. news media is untrustworthy, dishonest, incompetent and despicable, and frankly, I am beginning to regard anyone who continues to deny this the same way.

3. Second favorite dishonest and manipulative note in the same edition:  The article is “Trump Parkland Panel Attacks Protections For Minority Students.” The online versions of many Times articles have headlines that are less partisan and misleading than the print editions. On-line, this piece is headlined Trump Officials Plan to Rescind Obama-Era School Discipline Policies.”

That’s a straight, informative headline. The print edition reflects the bias and tone of the article, which implied a racist motive behind the plan to  reverse the irresponsible and racialist Obama Education Department directive that schools had to pull back on disciplining African-American students because a “disproportionate” number were being suspended.  Here was the highlight, though:

“The commission’s focus was part of a broader effort to reject the previous administration’s race-conscious education efforts, which have included siding with Asian students suing Harvard to end affirmative action…”

Wow. Let’s pass over the illiterate composition—it should be “has,” not “have included,” since the subject is “a broader effort,” not “efforts”—and move right to the fact that supporting a race discrimination suit by Asian-American students (not “Asian”) is demonstrating hostility to the benign Obama era “race-consciousness,” which included, at least at Harvard, Princeton, and other “woke” schools, rejecting qualified Asian-American citizens because they aren’t the right color.

4. Yeah, but President Trump lied about the size of his Inauguration crowdTwo reports that the Senate Intelligence Committee published this week showed that Google, Twitter and Facebook “evaded” and “misrepresented” themselves and the extent of Russian activity on their sites. The companies were also criticized for not turning over complete sets of data about Russian manipulation to the Senate, concluding “Regrettably, it appears that the platforms may have misrepresented or evaded in some of their statements to Congress.”

That is to say, they lied under oath. Consequences?

5. How TV makes the public stupid, Chapter 16,895,943: For some reason I ended up watching ten excruciating minutes of “Deal of No Deal” last night. The contestant had one briefcase unopened, and two left to choose. The remaining amounts in the three briefcases were $400,000, $ a million dollars, and a hundred bucks. The dealer agreed to give her $500,000 for the briefcase she had chosen but not opened, ending the game. The woman and her family were ecstatic, but Howie Mandel, the host, cautioned: “Now wait. You don’t know if you made a good deal or not!” In other words, if the container she “sold” had the million inside (it didn’t), then she made a “bad deal.”

No, Howie, you idiot. This is another plea to consequentialism, the destructive but popular concept that whether a decision is right or wrong, ethical or unethical, wise of dumb depends on subsequent results or information that were unknown when the decision was made. The contestant’s decision was exactly the same whether the suitcase had just a hundred dollars or the million. Her deal was to accept a half-million dollars  in hand rather than risk a 66.6% chance of getting a lot less money. Put another way, she accepted $500,000 to surrender a one in three chance to win a million dollars, but also to avoid the same odds of just getting a hundred dollars.

It was a good deal no matter what was in the brief cases.

6. Oh, why not? Here’s yet another untrustworthy, dishonest, incompetent and despicable journalism note. Reporters Without Borders correctly reported that the U.S. had the fifth-most journalists killed in the line of duty in 2018, tied with India and behind Afghanistan, Syria, Mexico, and Yemen. So naturally this was how it was reported:

The grand total of journalists killed in the U.S. this year was six. (The global total was sixty-three.)  On June 28th, a lunatic who had a personal grudge with a local Maryland newspaper, Capital Gazette, killed four employees. It was the single worst attack on journalists in modern U.S. history, but it was also just one incident. The other two deaths were journalists covering Tropical Storm Alberto in North Carolina who were killed when a tree fell on the highway.

Alex Griswold points out, ” The Reporters Without Borders report also tracked the number of journalists imprisoned, taken hostage, or “disappeared” on the job. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. appears on none of those lists. By using only verified deaths as a metric for “danger,” countries like Turkey, China, Iran, and Egypt get a pass because they prefer to merely imprison and torture journalists.”

7. Hypocrisy on parade! New York State Senate Bill S2857A, sponsored by Kevin S. Parker, would “amend the insurance law, to require firearm owners, prior to such ownership, to obtain and continuously maintain a policy of liability insurance to cover any damages resulting from the use of such firearm.” I wonder how many advocates for this not-so-subtle effort to make accessing a constitutional right so burdensome that it would be impossible for most citizens protested indignantly efforts by states like Texas to impose burdens on abortion clinics and pre-abortion requirements on those seeking the procedure? My guess: almost all of them. Yet it’s the same illegal device, and one that the courts have routinely and rightly rejected.

Such people don’t care about or respect the Constitution. They just want to protect the rights they approve of.

Hypocrites.

32 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

32 responses to “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/20/18: I Promise, I’m Looking Hard For Uplifting Ethics Stories For The Holidays. And Failing….

  1. 1–Have you determined that none of the Open Forum contributors are in the same…um…Claas as a certain Herr Relotius?

  2. JP

    If the game wasn’t over yet and they still had the option to change their mind, as the host of Deal or No Deal, isn’t it his job to keep them playing? After all, the longer you play, the more likely you are to lose. If the game was already over, I suppose it doesn’t matter if they made a good deal or not. The fact that they were on the show in the first place was a good deal.

    • Howie is not the biggest brain you will ever meet, and nor are the purveyors of that show.

      Luck and a good understanding of statistics help win. And the ability to walk away when ‘enough is enough.’

    • Rusty Rebar

      Not really though. It would be if his goal was to get the contestant as little money as possible, but that is not the game he is playing. His job is to make the round a spectacle, not to save money for the show. The contestant is trying to make as much money as possible, but the show is just trying to sell advertising, the money they pay to contestants is just a write off, and far cheaper than having to pay a bunch of actors and script writers etc… If someone wins a million, that is just going to make for a popular episode, cause people to talk about it over the water cooler the next day, cause more people to watch the show next time so they can see it happen.

      In any event, I just so happened to have that channel on last night as well. They act like they are picking someone out of the crowd, but that is obviously not true. In this specific instance they brought out a friend of the contestant as a surprise… If it was a random choice, how did they know to bring this friend out from the other side of the country? In the next episode, they contestant wanted to give his wife the wedding that she wanted, but they were unable to afford so many years ago, plus she had lost her wedding ring… but somehow, the show had known this was going to happen, and just so happened to have a selection of engagement rings on hand for just such an occasion.. oddly they also had a mirror and razor on hand for when they would brow beat the contestant into shaving his beard that he “dearly loved” for an extra $10k.

      But none of that is important, it does not have to make sense, and the more winners the better, because the goal is to make money on advertisements, not to save money on contestants.

  3. 6) This is all to continue working the completely dishonest narrative that the Trump Administration is a nascent dictatorship who is starting by eliminating the ‘free’ press.

    A press that is literally undermining the Constitutional Republic with eagerness and the only consequences faced are toothless rantings from the President. A press that GETS TO RUN amok because Trump is NO totalitarian.

    Oh the vapors!

    • adimagejim

      Can we upgrade (downgrade) US journalism to “enemies of civilization” or at least “enemies of free thought”? With the evidence at hand, it feels like it is time.

  4. Aleksei

    #7 This Kevin Parker also wanted to introduce legislation that would make future NY gun permit applicants submit their social media for state review, to make sure they have right think. Somebody called him out on his use of a special parking pass, he tweeted to the lady to kill herself. I guess under his hypothetical law, he would be unfit for a gun permit! What a coinky-dink. I’m sure though if that law was a thing, he would just say it was a joke, a little harmless banter, no harm no foul, it’s not who I am, I’m not perfect, and so on.

  5. If it’s not too late to add another possible topic for ethical reflection, I’m wondering what Jack or anyone else thinks about the Brian Kolfage fundraising effort on gofundme to raise money for the border wall on the U.S./Mexico border. In three days they’ve raised $5 million from 80,000 donors. I think it is a terribly interesting phenomenon, with a lot more going on than meets the eye.

    • I donated today, and it was 3 million and only 60,000 donors this morning. I sent a pointer to Jack

      • Even if it raises the money, the actual construction would be a near impossibility as a private venture, thus would still require Congressional legislation to move forward.

        Is this not just a softer, kinder version of the “yellow jacket” riots in France that Macron capitulated too? Should this gofundme influence politicians similarly?

  6. In my humble opinion; game shows are a cancerous infection upon the broadcasting airways. I refuse to watch any of them under any circumstances; even when I personally knew a person that was a contestant (or whatever they call them) on Jeopardy I refused to watch it.

    • Wait…such a blanket assessment? Surely Jeopardy or even Wheel of Fortune bear distinctions from Deal or No Deal…?

      • Michael West wrote, “Wait…such a blanket assessment? Surely Jeopardy or even Wheel of Fortune bear distinctions from Deal or No Deal…?”

        Sure there are relevant distinctions between game shows, one big one in the list you provided is that Howie Mandel is part of Deal or No Deal and I won’t watch anything that he’s part of, I simply can’t stand his presence on camera.

        I think that game shows are a cancerous infection upon the broadcasting airways, but that’s just the ignorant opinion of one of those terrible people that’s shunned by pompous theatrical know-it-all’s because I don’t like the stage show Les Miserables.

  7. #6 It’s all about how you phrase the propaganda to get the desired emotional response.

  8. Glenn Logan

    2 Lamar Alexander – This is just one more example of the desire of the media to tell us what we should think in regular news pieces and not just in opinion articles. It’s shameful, violates the trust of their readers, and does a fair imitation of Pravda. In fact, Pravda may be ethically superior to the New York Times when it comes to reporting political news.

    Also, I’m proud of Alexander for not echo the likes of Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Nancy Pelosi by staying past the time when their faculties have begun to deteriorate. That shows the kind of self-awareness and devotion to competence every government official should emulate.

    4 Consequences? For Democrat-supporting tech companies? You jest, surely.

    5 Consequentialism

    No, Howie, you idiot. This is another plea to consequentialism, the destructive but popular concept that whether a decision is right or wrong, ethical or unethical, wise of dumb depends on subsequent results or information that were unknown when the decision was made.

    Bravo, Jack! I have tried to explain this to my wife a couple of times, and I think she gets it now. It was a good deal because she had a 33% chance of getting almost nothing. Had the next pick revealed the million dollar prize, another 33% chance, she would’ve had to settle for something around $250k, because only an insane, wealthy, or gamble-holic person would take a 50/50 chance at getting $100 bucks if offered that much. The lady made an excellent deal no matter what the case contained.

    7 Hypocrisy

    Based on a 2010 FBI report about household burglaries (the most recent I could find):

    Higher income households experienced lower rates of burglary
    Rates of household burglary were generally lower for higher income households than lower income households (table 3). Across all categories, the risk of burglary was higher for households living in rental properties. Households living in rental properties experienced higher rates of burglary when no one was home and while the residence was occupied than those who owned or were in the process of buying their homes.

    New York’s proposal would place more low-income people in jeopardy of being subjected to a burglary/home invasion without recourse to firearms for protection. Since they can’t afford the insurance anyway, they will be easier targets than the wealthy who can.

    And they say Democrats are for helping out the poor guy/gal. Not when it comes to things they hate, apparently.

  9. JimHodgson

    #2. Glenn Logan said,”…I’m proud of Alexander for not echo[ing] the likes of Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Nancy Pelosi by staying past the time when their faculties have begun to deteriorate. That shows the kind of self-awareness and devotion to competence every government official should emulate.”

    Well said! And, as a Tennessean who talks to a LOT of my fellow Tennesseans knowledgeable about politics, I haven’t encountered a single person who doesn’t believe Senator Alexander’s retirement decision to be for just the reasons he stated, and everyone I know appreciates his knowing when it is time to move on.

    • Glenn Logan

      Thanks for correcting my lousy grammar, or spelling, or whatever that epic fail of a sentence was. 🙂

      I have always been a fan of Alexander, and I liked his father as well. I’m originally from Tennessee (the Bristol area) although I can honestly claim roots in Kentucky and Virginia as well. So I kind of treat Tennessee as a co-home state.

  10. 1) Prada Monkey wasn’t discussed. Sad face.


  11. 7. Hypocrisy on parade! New York State Senate Bill S2857A, sponsored by Kevin S. Parker, would “amend the insurance law, to require firearm owners, prior to such ownership, to obtain and continuously maintain a policy of liability insurance to cover any damages resulting from the use of such firearm.”

    How is this going to guarantee those shot in gangland drive-bys will get financial compensation- let alone deter gangbangers from doing drive-bys in the first place?

    Does the bill require liability insurance companies to cover criminal acts?

    Let’s pass over the illiterate composition—it should be “has,” not “have included,” since the subject is “a broader effort,” not “efforts”—and move right to the fact that supporting a race discrimination suit by Asian-American students (not “Asian”) is demonstrating hostility to the benign Obama era “race-consciousness,” which included, at least at Harvard, Princeton, and other “woke” schools, rejecting qualified Asian-American citizens because they aren’t the right color.

    Has any defender of Harvard’s policies ever explained how this is better than that school rejecting Linda Brown’s application to enroll because she was not thew right color?

  12. … The woman and her family were ecstatic, but Howie Mandel, the host, cautioned: “Now wait. You don’t know if you made a good deal or not!” In other words, if the container she “sold” had the million inside (it didn’t), then she made a “bad deal.” … This is another plea to consequentialism, the destructive but popular concept that whether a decision is right or wrong, ethical or unethical, wise of dumb depends on subsequent results or information that were unknown when the decision was made.

    Now, hang on. You’re just guessing what was going through the host’s mind, and condemning him for that.

    It’s entirely possible that he was making a very sound and valid observation, that the player had not worked things through well enough, that it would be prudent to think harder even if the choice – through moral luck – was anyway the right one in the sense that it was what due thought would have come up with.

    I would have to know him far better to be that sure of his consequentialism.

    • Glenn Logan

      Well, no, Jack has watched the show before, and that shtick is always at the end of every game. Whether Howie actually believes it or not is irrelevant — he is spreading the disease of consequentialism.

      • Now who’s doing consequentialism?

        What the host believes is not irrelevant, and not only because chucking out mens rea like that also takes you yourself closer to consequentialism. It’s because there is that other possibility, that he is advocating prudence, thinking things through. If so, and even if the wrong message is heard, he himself is not a consequentialist. We would need other information than his consequences to show us that.

        Because guess what – if you are judging him for the wrong message being heard, for the hearers going all consequentialist instead of prudent, you are judging him for that effect – the consequence. (And the same goes for anyone who endorses your view with the Romany word for “dog”.) That is all the more so if – by chance rather than by design – they had already picked the best bet on the information available*, so that further thought could not have given them a better consequence.

        I did once hear of a foreigner on a train who had a poor grasp of idiomatic English. Someone saw him dangerously near an open window and shouted “look out!”, so he did – and the approaching bridge collected his head. Was that good advice or bad advice?

        * There are scenarios in which going for broke makes more sense than going for the greatest expected gain, say if someone needed enough to pay for an expensive and urgent operation, so that a sure thing for not enough was not as good as a smaller chance of enough. Half a loaf may be better than no bread, but half a lifeboat is just as bad as no lifeboat if only a whole one can get you to safety (just ask Captain Bligh).

    • PennAgain

      The “host” on game shows is in essentially an actor who drives a drama. Commenter Rusty Rebar at 12/20 12:19pm above explains it thoroughly. I will add that as an actor, he is required to express all the necessary emotions, including empathy and helpfulness, etc. that will, in short, make the viewers like him. If they didn’t think he was a nice, kind person deep down (which they have no way of knowing since when he is on stage; he is doing only what he is supposed to be doing) they would complain about it and he would be replaced. …. Now, I have to take that back. Complain, sue and join #MeToo, is what they’d do, today.

      There was a game show that had a host (I had to Search for both names since all I remembered was the host’s behavior): Richard Dawson hosted Family Feud 1976-85. As far as I know, he kissed every female contestant and put a waist-clutch that looked tighter than a girdle around every female finalist . This attitude quickly encouraged the women to take their turns on camera by coming on to him. Both the studio and home audiences loved it — or so some unofficial polls showed — and however uncomfortable and “assaulted” any of the “girls” might have felt, there were no lawsuits, and the company that had tried to get him to stop looked at the ratings, and let it slide for nine years.

      I thought it was pretty slimy, but most girls I knew then thought it was okay, and “wouldn’t mind” being fondled. The guys thought Dawson was a cretin and if he touched a female member of their family, from grandma on down, they’d … do all sorts of badass things to him.

      See what you think and whether you’d like to “get to know im better.”

  13. RE: The Xmas package-snatcher trap.

    The bad news: Those that enjoyed it got ​ punk’d!

    The good news: Those that got punk’d were by no means alone; “more than 38 million views in three days”

    • Your links never seem to work for me… using multiple platforms.

      • Mea maxima culpa; you’re not alone, slick, some (not all) of them don’t.

        https://gizmodo.com/viral-video-of-glitter-bomb-for-package-thieves-exposed-1831254130

        Me & my IT guy (Zoltar) are working on a resolution.

        Anywho, that some of them don’t work is not a reflection of who I really am, they were taken out of context, and I apologize to anyone whom I unintentionally offended; can’t you see I’m the victim here…?

        • PennAgain

          I feel for you Paul. On the other hand, you duped me into thinking that you had put up Real links and I kept hitting them and hitting them and hitti….. well, just like that baby that went viral because she kept hitting the pages in a (paper) magazine, trying to make it moooove. Anyway, can you not link by doing a copy/paste on the URL? (That will probably turn out to sound ridiculous because even my best friends call me computer-illiterate. … and chase me down the street shouting “cyberdummy, cyberdummy.”

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