Flashback By Popular Demand, From The Ethics Alarms Archive: “Vintage Fake News: The Ridiculous Doomsday Clock”

Doomsday clock showing 3 minutes to midnight

I had completely forgotten that today is the day the Barry McGwire Fan Club or whatever the scientists who maintain the so-called Doomsday Clock call themselves behind closed doors reveal how close we are to destruction this time. From the Hill:

The famed Doomsday Clock has been set at 100 seconds to midnight this year, the closest it’s ever been to the metaphorical point of the Earth’s destruction. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists unveiled this year’s setting for the clock at a news conference Wednesday morning at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

“Speaking of danger and destruction is never easy. If you speak the truth, people will not want to listen because it’s too awful. It makes you sound like a crackpot,” said former California Gov. Jerry Brown (D), executive chairman of the Bulletin.

“Today we live in a world of vast, deep and pervasive complacency,” Brown added. “Even if there is a one-in-100 chance that these men and women before you are correct and we are truly in a dangerous moment, you would never know that from the president, from Republican leadership and from Democratic leadership.”

What a great job for Jerry Brown! Anyway, I had also forgotten that I had posted about this silliness in 2017, not long after President Trump had been sworn in, but several readers had not, and I received several reminders today. I went back and read the post, and it seemed appropriate to re-post it.

One update: at the end, I note that WWII songstress Vera Lynn, whose iconic rendition of the ballad “We’ll Meet Again” accompanied atom bombs exploding at the end of “Dr. Strangelove,” was 100 years old, and still singing. Well, I’m thrilled to report that Vera is now 102 , and she’s STILL singing. Here she is:

Take THAT, Doomsday!

***

I’m sure you have noticed that the scary Doomsday Clock, which tells us how long we have until “midnight,” aka. nuclear Armageddon, has been on the move again.

NBC News recently announced that the dreaded Clock was ticking like the soundtrack of “24 Hours, proclaiming: “Thirty seconds closer to global annihilation!”   The New York Times, which now averages at least eight “President Trump is a menace to civilization!!! ARGGH!!!” columns, editorials or news stories every…single…day, duly announced, “Thanks to Trump, the Doomsday Clock Advances Toward Midnight.” Across the pond, the UK’s Independent stated as fact, “We’re closer to doom than any time since the Cold War!”

Why? Because the Doomsday Clock says so!

Can we officially make that “The Ridiculous Doomsday Clock?” This has to be the most useless and malfunctioning timepiece in recorded history.  Even a stopped clock is right twice a day: this damn thing is never right.

The Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists dreamed the gimmick up back in 1947 , and its initial setting was “seven minutes to midnight” as in…

What sense did it make to have a clock already set at seven minutes to 12? Why wasn’t it at least a seven-minute stopwatch? What was its setting during the Black Plague? Did the dinosaurs have a Doomsday Clock? Did a wise Diplodocus and a precocious Stegasaurus see a meteor coursing through the Jurassic skies and conclude, “Oh oh. Eventually one of those is going to land here, and we’re all toast. Move the Doomsday Clock to 80 million years before midnight, let’s settle our affairs, and tell the rest of the gang that the mammals are coming…”?

The group of egg-heads devising the clock explained that it symbolized ” the urgency of the nuclear dangers that the magazine’s founders—and the broader scientific community—are trying to convey to the public and political leaders around the world.” OK, I can see that as a minor, fear-mongering news item in 1947—kind of like the climate change hysteria is now—but I would also say that when a group describes a peril as urgent and it hasn’t urged in 70 years, that isn’t just old news, it isn’t newsworthy at all. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/23/2020: You Know, If People Keep Putting Impeachment Ethics Fouls In Front Of Me, I May Have To Comment On Them

Good Morning!

January 23 is a big day in ethics, good and bad. In 1964, poll taxes were finally banned via the 24th Amendment. In 1973, peace was finally declared in the Vietnam War (though it was hardly the “peace with honor” President Nixon called it.)In 1977, “Roots” debuted as a TV mini-series, helping to educate millions of Americans who knew very little about slavery.  In 1988, the Challenger exploded as a result of an engineering ethics breakdown. On this day in 1998, Bill Clinton looked America in the eye and denied having sex with Monica. Of course, he wasn’t lying, because he meant “sexual intercourse.” Sure. And finally, in 1989, Ted Bundy was electrocuted. Good.

1. Impeachment notes. I will not watch the trial, but these kinds of things that come to my attention cannot be ignored:

Instead, we are here today to consider a much more grave matter, and that is an attempt to use the powers of the presidency to cheat in an election. For precisely this reason, the President’s misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box—for we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won. In corruptly using his office to gain a political advantage, in abusing the powers of that office in such a way as to jeopardize our national security and the integrity of our elections, in obstructing the investigation into his own wrongdoing, the President has shown that he believes that he is above the law and scornful of constraint.

Good Lord. Continue reading

Unethical Tweet Of The Month, “Enemy Of The People” Division: CNN Reporter Joe Lockhart

Yup…a CNN journalist tweeted out a lie , let it go viral, then came back later and said he made it up, but we “know” it’s true.

A trustworthy news organization would fire a reporter who did this immediately. CNN has not and will not, because CNN is  not a trustworthy organization.

On a related track, Matt Laszlo, a journalist who works at The Daily Beast and NPR, tweeted, 
Continue reading

Late Morning Warm-Up, 1/22/2020, Because I Wasted Two Hours Arguing With Trump Deranged Lawyers On Facebook, And Yes, I’m An Idiot

That’s me. The bee is Facebook…

Bah!

A really low blow (among the other low blows, like the jerk who accused me of getting all of my ideas from Drudge) came from a former commenter here, who accused Ethics Alarms of being an “echo chamber.” That truly ticks me off. If the Trump Deranged don’t have the wits or open minds to test their biases where intelligent, informed, articulate adversaries are likely to  respond, that’s not my fault, and it’s exactly what the left side of the blog’s commentariat did. They didn’t rebut the position here, proven correct, that the Justice Department’s handling of The FISA warrants were part of a dangerous effort to undermine the Trump campaign and his election: they just accused me of “drinking the KoolAid” and quit, or were insulting. They never tried to argue away the smoking gun evidence of the soft coup plans A through S that I have meticulously documents since 2016, they just act as if the current impeachment excuse is justified and offered in good faith, when it is so clearly not. It’s all denial, spin, dishonesty and mob mentality. I ended up in today’s piranha tank by pointing out to a lawyer that the the fact that Trump was intemperate at a meeting of generals was not sufficient to trigger the 25th Amendment, and that lawyers, like her, shouldn’t be misleading the public by making such lame arguments. I posted the amendment, and said that “Unable” to perform the duties of the office doesn’t mean, as she and others are arguing, “Unable to perform the duties that way she and other would prefer them to be performed” and stating that approval polls do not reflect the degree to which the impeachment charade is helping to re-elect Trump.

These are the smart Deranged. Imagine what the others are like.

1. Resistance porn. “A Very Stable Genius” is the latest “tales out of school” anti-Trump book. In this it is no different from those that have gone before, from Omarosa’s tell-all on up the ethics evolutionary scale. This one was authored by Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, so naturally the news media is celebrating it as if it is somehow different. What it is a collection of mostly anonymous accounts of people who have axes to grind and scores to settle against Donald Trump, and are violating basic professional ethics to do it. Are all of the stories true? I’m sure some are, maybe most—they don’t sound out of line with what we knew about this President before he was elected. Yet they are by very nature distorted by the theme of the book and the presumed anti-Trump bias of the book’s audience. What is so alarming about Trump’s eagerness to have a meeting with Putin?  So what if he questions why U.S. businesses shouldn’t be allowed to engage in bribery abroad, when it is the accepted norm in many countries? There’s an answer to the question, but it’s not a dumb question; in fact, its one international ethicists still debate. And do you really think Trump saying to Indian prime minister Narendra Modi,  “It’s not like you’ve got China on your border” wasn’t a joke?  Taking it as otherwise is classic conformation bias and disrespect. It sure sounds like a typical Trump joke to me. Continue reading

Ruby Tuesday Ethics Round-Up, 1/21/2020: The Boy Scouts Are Going Down, Curtis Flowers Is Getting Out, And David Hogg Is Still An Ignorant Yutz

Good morning, everybody!

Good morning, Mick!

It’s disturbing how things get planted in my head: I couldn’t get the Rolling Stones out of it after someone commented, in reaction to an observation that we had another anti-Trump freakout looming when Justice Ginsberg dies, to the effect that she was the Keith Richards of the Supreme Court. Okay, but she has to leave us sometime,  as do we all, and I would bet that she cannot last another four years. I don’t even like to think about how low Democrats, the “resistance” and the news media will go to try to block the confirmation of a conservative replacement, or the hysteria that will follow.

1. The Lesson: organizations tend to act to protect themselves, not the victims of their misconduct. The Boy Scouts of America may face bankruptcy as lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by leaders and volunteers proliferate. The crisis is greatly aggravated by the loosening statutes of limitations across the country. The District of Columbia  eliminated the statute of limitations that restricted  the time for sexual abuse survivors to pursue civil litigation,  and created a two-year window for survivors under the age of 40 to file suit regardless of the date of the incident.  Accordingly,  Abused in Scouting filed suit in Washington, D.C., on behalf of eight men who say they were victimized as boys by Scout leaders and volunteers. The same process is going on in California, where similar suits are underway by 14 plaintiffs. California’s Assembly Bill 218 just kicked in on January 1, like D.C.’s law allowing victims of child sexual assault to file suit until age 40 and opening a three-year window for those abused as children to sue for past incidents.  Many more states have or soon will follow suit.

This appears to be ready to follow the awful path of the Catholic Church’s child molestation scandal, with similar evidence of cover-ups. The BSOA are a lot smaller than the Church, but they also have far less money to pay in multi-million dollar court settlements. It didn’t take a lot of imagination to see this coming, and the Scouts were already in trouble, with a blurring mission, falling membership and gender issues.

The Boy Scouts saved my father’s life, as I’ve related on Ethics Alarms elsewhere. I’m glad he didn’t live to see this. Continue reading

Martin Luther King Day Ethics Overview, 1/20/2020: Another Warren Lie, The Times’ Misandry, Doris Kearns Goodwin Gets Dorian Grayed, And More

Let us be grateful today for Rev. Martin Luther King.

I have no doubt that the nation would be a worse place today without the leadership of Martin Luther King, and I believe a holiday dedicated to honoring him is appropriate. He is also a symbol, perhaps, of the toxic hypocrisy dividing the nation, as well as the excesses and exploitation of the civil rights movement since his death.

From Jonathan Rauch’s review of Christopher Caldwell’s new book, “The Age of Entitlement”:

In Caldwell’s telling, the Civil Rights Act, which banned many forms of discrimination, was a swindle. Billed as a one-time correction that would end segregation and consign race consciousness to the past, it actually started an endless and escalating campaign of race-conscious social engineering. Imperialistically, civil rights expanded to include “people of color” and immigrants and gays and, in short, anyone who was not native-born, white and straight — all in service of “the task that civil rights laws were meant to carry out — the top-down management of various ethnic, regional and social groups.”

With civil rights as their bulldozer, in Caldwell’s view, progressive movements ran amok. They “could now, through the authority of civil rights law, override every barrier that democracy might seek to erect against them”; the law and rhetoric of civil rights “gave them an iron grip on the levers of state power.” And so, today, affirmative action discriminates against whites and then lies about it; public and private bureaucracies trample freedom of association; political correctness stigmatizes dissent and censors language and even thought; “every single state must now honor” Martin Luther King Jr., “and affirm its delight in doing so.”

1.  Senator Warren’s latest lie! The previous post about Warren lying omitted her most recent one, which came up while I was drafting it.

Campaigning in Iowa,  Warren was asked  when she plans on using presidential authority for some of her policy agenda instead of relying on Congress. She responded in part,

“Let me remind you, I think, I’m the only one running for president whose actually been on the executive side. Remember, after the consumer agency was passed into law, Barack Obama, President Obama, asked me to set it up. So I set up a federal agency. We effectively went from two employees the day I walked in the door to about 1000 and spent a year getting it up and operational.”

Now, as I did yesterday regarding an alleged Trump lie, the use of “I think” can be a defense to an accusation of lying, since it means, “I could be mistaken.” In Trump’s case, what he erroneously thought (that he had been on more TIME covers than anyone else) could have plausibly been caused by not knowing facts that were not well known or easily found. There is no way that Warren could have thought that her smidgen of executive experience exceeded that of her competition for the nomination. Joe Biden was Vice President, also on the “executive side,” and was in charge of more than helping to set up one tiny agency. Bernie Sanders was once mayor of Burlington, Vermont. Mayor Pete is, after all, a mayor. Mike Bloomberg was Mayor of New York City, which many regard as the equivalent of being a governor. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “The Many Species Of Fake News”

Few things make me happier than when a commenter relieves me of the duty of writing about a topic.

In 2017, after the New York Times published a spectacularly dishonest list of President Trump “lies” since his inauguration,  I wrote a post demonstrating just how outrageously the Times was warping the meaning of “lie,” and also applying a biased standard to Trump’s statements. I wrote,

In presenting this unethical project, the Times took unethical advantage of its readers’ confirmation bias. When the “Lie” list was printed, the Times made certain that it would require super-human dedication and extraordinary eyesight to read it, through the devices of listing every item and the Times commentary in horizontal sequence and in half the usual size type-face. (See above) This ensured that almost no readers would make the Herculean effort to read the whole thing , especially since the well-trained Times readers already “knows” that Donald Trump is a liar. In addition, the explosion of tiny words created the visceral response of “Wow! Look at all those lies!” which is exactly the effect the Times editors wanted.

But that isn’t reporting, and it isn’t journalism. The “list” was a page-size, visual, ad hominem attack. The Times wasn’t seeking close scrutiny of its list, nor was it interested in making any rebuttal easy or likely.

We have learned that the Times list was largely assembled from various fact-checker columns. That is a red flag, and explains many of the most embarrassing inclusions on the list. None of the fact-checkers are trustworthy. All of them are biased, Snopes and PolitiFact worst of all, and they consistently register opinions that the writer disagrees with as “false.” Many, many of the items on the Times list are in this category.

The entire exercise was an extension of #16 on the Fake News list, “Dishonest Factchecks. Here was a typical “lie” according to the Times, and its “proof”:

Jan. 21 “A reporter for Time magazine — and I have been on their cover 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine.”

Says the Times, “Trump was on the cover 11 times and Nixon appeared 55 times.”

Trump was making the general point that he had been on TIME’s cover a lot. He guessed that the number was 14 or 15; it was 11. That is what is known as a  non-material misrepresentation: it’s meaningless and harmless, and certainly not an intentional deception. (“Heh, heh…I’ll make those poor, gullible fools think I was on TIME”s cover 14 times when it was ONLY ELEVEN!! BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!) Then he said he “thinks” that’s a record. When someone says “I think” it means the speaker is acknowledging that he may be wrong. But Trump is not accorded the usual leeway given to everyone else, including other elected officials.

When a list includes something this clearly contrived, that list has no credibility. I found going through the Times list annoying, then shocking, and finally infuriating. So when the Washington Post pulled the same stunt, I kept putting off giving it the same treatment that I did the Times’ exercise in lies about lying.

Thus I was thrilled to receive this Comment of the Day from stalwart Steve Witherspoon, on the post, The Many Species Of Fake News: Continue reading